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Ubuntu Thong Spotted on BBC website – Oh, and Bill Clinton talks about Ubuntu September 29, 2006

Posted by Carthik in commentary, news, ubuntu.

Imagine my surprise when I find a picture of the Ubuntu thong on BBC.

Ubuntu. That was what Bill Clinton told the Labour party conference it needed to remember this week. “Society is important because of Ubuntu.”

But what is it? Left-leaning sudoku? U2’s latest album? Fish-friendly sushi?

No, it’s a word describing an African worldview, which translates as “I am because you are,” and which means that individuals need other people to be fulfilled.

The operating system I love gets a brief mention (besides the thong, that is). It is good to see how the word (and hopefully the philosophy) is gaining currency. Ubuntu the OS has very high ideals to aim for, and very high standards to maintain.

Kerala is Open Country September 25, 2006

Posted by Carthik in commentary, news, ubuntu.

This is probably old news to those of you who follow news of Linux gaining new ground. The state of Kerala in India is promoting the use of Linux in government schools (also at Yahoo! News).

Old news, yes, but something that makes me really proud. I am from Kerala, and have lost count of the number of times I have had to explain how we occassionally have a deomcratically elected communist government (we were the first state in the world to have an elected communist government), or how we’re so industrially backward despite having the highest literacy rate in India. Blame it on (or thank) the Kerala Model of development. I owe a lot to the educational system in my state. A third of the population of Kerala emigrate, and there is a popular joke that no matter where (in the world) you go, you will definitely find a tea-shop with a Keralite running it.

What makes me write about this now is the mention of my sister’s school, Cotton Hill Girls’ High School, in this recent BusinessWeek article that refers to the Kerala-adopts-Open Source story, and, among other things, a new breed of students who say, “Windows?, Never heard of it.” Cotton Hill has (or had, I can’t find a citation) the distinction of being the school with the largest number of students in all of Asia.

The government hasn’t “banned” Microsoft – far from it, schools still can choose what they want. The state ideologically encourages the use of Open Source, and stands to benefit financially from it. More importantly the students will definitely benefit more by getting exposed to free culture and open source early, since I have a feeling that the future is going to be “open”.

Lifehacker Gets on the Bandwagon August 24, 2006

Posted by Carthik in applications, commentary, ubuntu.

Lifehacker has a post describing the top 10 apps for Ubuntu. I have issues with the first one on the list, but I tend to avoid controversy and will say no more than that sometimes, getting things done yourself is a lot more fun, and informative. So it is that I have never used Automatix or EasyUbuntu, but instead just maintain a list of packages I like to install and install them myselves. Some of the settings I modify regularly are also modified manually. Why?, because fewer things go wrong real bad when a person attends to making the changes, and you change or deviate from the “base” system (which works admirably well) no more than you need to, and every person needs different things. I have known people without DVD drives adding the ability to decrypt DVDs – how that would be useful beats my mind, but the reason?, “Well, I just used Automatix, and it was an option, so there!” This is not meant to disparage the tool in any way, but please do choose to get your hands dirty, learn, and live fully 🙂 There is nothing either of these tools does that is not easy to figure out on one’s own. In any case, it is easier to figure out than figuring out how to enable support to play some wierd (wicked?) codecs in Windows’ Media Player (from what I remember).

I also don’t have (or haven’t done) 8 of the 10 things that are on the LifeHacker list. I haven’t, for sure, had to install Firefox – it’s already installed, LifeHacker!! Also, I prefer mplayer over VLC, and so on… So while you have to take the “Top 10 Apps for Ubuntu” title, and the list of software/steps recommended with a grain of salt, it is always good to see Ubuntu catching on, and being mentioned in popular online media.

Ubuntu Featured on Wikipedia August 7, 2006

Posted by Carthik in commentary, news, ubuntu.

WorldChanging is a forward looking, optimistic weblog that I read regularly, and it was on WorldChanging that I first read about the Ubuntu wikipedia article being the featured article on August 5th, displayed prominently on the front page of Wikipedia. Congratulations to Ubuntu! Seeing a post entitled “Ubuntu” on World Changing was a nice surprise, but I guess it is obvious that Ubuntu can be World Changing.

The WorldChanging article on Ubuntu mentions a post that questions whether free software is really such a good deal for Africa (Ethiopia in particular). The point he makes is:

But this assumes that the choice for African computer users is between expensive proprietary software and free opensource software. The reality is that they have a third choice – cracked, pirated proprietary software.

He then goes on to quote ridiculously cheap prices in the the Ethiopian market for cracked and pirated software.

This so wrong, on so many levels. The “free” is not just related to the price, it has more to do with a liberating, enriching, world changing feeling. Doing the right thing, or sticking with the underdog is never easy.

To quote Benjamin Mako Hill:

…principled positions are sometimes inconvenient. Free software is no exception. It’s frequently different, sometimes incompatible and a bit more work. In some situations (dare I say it?), it’s not as good as the proprietary alternatives.

It might be inconvenient in the short term, but the long term benefits and a nation free of the guilt of using pirated software is well worth the short term inconveniences.