Finally, Penguin Speaks Nepali

By Dinesh Wagle on December 22nd, 2005 in Wagle Street Journal

So does Windows. But when will we be able to say Computer for Nepali instead of Computer in Nepali?
penguin nepalinux holding nepali flag

Hey Kanchha, ho..ho: Penguin with Nepali flag means successful arrival of Linux in Nepali with the brandname Nepalinux. The Nepali avatar of the bird has the sweet name of Kanchha. Pic source MPP (many photos on this post wont display)

May be one advantage of being a third world citizen is that we can use highly expensive software for free. Bunch of proprietary software like Microsoft Windows and MS Office come installed with the machine (P4) that we can buy in New Road for as less as Rs. 30 thousands. It’s a different story that almost all of the programs are pirated. But people are talking about ethics and philosophy. If you are poor and can’t spend money, they say, why not become ethical and use freely available software. That is where comes Linux, with the face of the bird Penguin, and that is now available in Nepali. But the BIG question is: has the time come to say “Computer in Nepali”?

It’s the season of Nepali computing in Nepal. Everyone is talking about Computer aba Nepali ma (Computer in Nepali). Before jumping over to Linux or Nepalinux to be specific, let me talk something about Nepali Windows. On Nov. 28, Kathmandu based private company Unlimited made public the Nepali interface of Windows XP in a CD with an attractive slogan: Ma ta Windows Nepali ma prayog garchhu, tapai ni? (I use Windows in Nepali. How about you?) And today Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya released the Nepalinux CD with even more attractive and appealing slogan: Computer aba Nepali mai… (Now, Computer in Nepali).

A new responsibility for the man who gave us Internet:Kamal Mani Dixit, Chair of Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya handing over the Nepalinux CD to Sanjib Rajbhandari, Chief of ISP and IT company Mercantile for promotion of the free and opesource software in Nepali market. Rajbhandari is often credited for introducing Internet in Nepal. Pic source Nepalnews

Immediately after the release of Nepali Windows, people were asking a question worth a million-dollar: does this CD works in my computer that runs with pirated XP? Now the answer, worth a trillion-dollar of course is: YES! An official at Unlimited, the company that translated the interface of Windows XP into Nepali, told me a few days ago that in the beginning the company release the CD that wouldn’t work in pirated version of XP. “But we soon realized that our effort of publicizing Nepali Windows would be very very very very limited if we didn’t allow all computer users to use the CD. Now the CD works with all domains.” All domains here means pirated XP. So the translation program that begin with the official sanction of Bill Gates and company now runs with pirated XP. Isn’t that yet another advantage of being in Third World?

Nepalinux seems like this: A screenshot of the desktop. Pic by MPP

This is the Nepalinux that boasts: Aba Computer Nepali mai (Now, computer in Nepali). Pic by MPP

Let me now dwell into some serious problems. Both programs (Nepali Windows and Nepalinux) aim at widening the Nepali computing usage especially among the populatioin that is uncomfortable with English. Both efforts face mounting challenges of their own types. Many computers still have earlier versions of Windows, especially 98, and users seem to be just fine with that. Another important point to be noted is that many users haven’t been able to take their computers beyond typing. Many high-ranking officers are still occupied with the mentality that thinks only peons do the typing thing.

Two-bag full of Nepalinux: Himal Magazine and Nepali Times photojournalist Min Bajracharya bought two CDs of the software that he is now trying to keep safely inside his bag. Pic by Wagle

Plus, will the plain translation of the interface be helpful to widen the usage? A journalist recently told me, “What this all fuss about computer in Nepali? Does that make any serious differences? NO, I don’t think. Changing Start to Suru Garnus or Edit to Sampadan will not increase computer users because that is not barring many people from using the computer. The main thing is the access to the machine itself and the habit of using computer in everyday life. First, make easy access to Bhado (the machine), then talk about sacho (the key). ” His points, especially about the Bhado thing is very convincing. If the Bhado comes in the range of 10 thousand, the Nepali computing scenario would see dramatic changes. Then efforts like these would play important role to widen the computing arena. (Anyway the journalist also couldn’t disagree with the argument that clicking on “Suru garnus” instead of “Start” gives tremendous feeling of local taste.)

Explaining the Nepalinux: Two volunteers with MPP try to reply queries fired by eager Nepailnux users. Pic by Wagle.

Challenges of Nepali Linux (or Nepalinux as MPP prefers to name it. The Penguin that now understands Nepali also holds Nepali Flag. The bird’s Nepali avatar has cute Nepali name Kanchha or the youngest) are even bigger and difficult ones. To be frank, I hadn’t seen any computer in Kathmandu with Linux until last week when MPP organized a discussion program to show journalists how Nepalinux works. (But journalist Kunda Dixit’s laptop couldn’t run Power Point presentation in Nepalinux and he had to restart the machine in Windows mode to tell about IT to participating scribes.) Even the laptop of Kedar Sharma, coordinator of MPP’s Bhasha Sanchar Program that translated the Linux into Nepali, doesn’t run Nepalinux.

International Man: Richard Ishida, International Leader of WWW Consortium, talks with a person (not seen in the photo) after giving a presentation about the Internalization of computer language. Plateful of Khaja provided by MPP are seen in the background. Pic by Wagle.

Even those who have been using Linux for the last several years told me in the program venue today that Linux or Nepalinux doesn’t cater all the needs of a computer user. Many of those who enthusiastically or as part of fashion bought the Nepailnux CD were not sure about the real usage of the software. One person told me quite convincing answer. “Many people need to process Nepali texts and this will be helpful because Nepalinux is based on Unicode Nepali fonts.”

Tasty Khaja: Many people say that khaja provided in the programs organized by Madan Puraskar are also localized like computers and they are tasty like Nepailnux. Pic by Wagle

Still people are hopeful. Mercantile CEO and legendary IT personality Sanjibraj Rajbhandari, while receiving the Nepalinux CD from Kamal Mani Dixi of MPP, remarked: Now that we have translated the software, the government and ordinary Nepalis computer users should endorse it.” Rajbhandari, the owner of country’s pioneering ISP, compared Nepalinux with products GoogleEarth in terms of arousing excitement in him, will be promoting the open-source software in Nepali market.

Now the war of Windows and Penguin has begun in Nepali computing world. And Nepali users are really in difficult position to decide which oen is good for them.

Related Blog:
1. All About Pirated and ‘Rated’ Software

Related Links:
1. Download Nepalinux
2. Nepalinux Official Website
3. Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya support forum
4. Nepalinux Mailing List
5. NepaLinux Wiki
6. IRC for realtime queries (#nepalinux on irc.freenode.net)

Nepalinux CD could be bought from Madan Puraskar Pustakalya, Patandhoka at the cost of Rs. 190

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2005 at 11:50 pm and is filed under Wagle Street Journal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Finally, Penguin Speaks Nepali”
ram bdr Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:15 am
hey my eyes just focussed on ‘tasty khaja’- chiura, Gundruk, jery, saag—OMG really missing that! Dont care abt the Linux! Its not my job….

Hungry Penguin Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:19 am
Lau badhai chha hai Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya ra Unlimited lai pani. All the best wishes for the successful implementation of Nepalinux and Nepali Windows. I use Windows and haven’t used Linux yet.

By the way Wagle ji, how many plates of tasty khaja did you take today? I think the future success of Nepalinux depends on that number. I would have taken at least 5 plates. That seems great, man.

Anuj Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:24 am
This is indeed a great leap forward in Nepali computing. Its near revolutionary though not total. Computer in Nepali is very much necessary though, yes, it would have been even better to see Computer for Nepali. But Unicode based fonts have already enablaled us to process Nepali texts, for example in alphabetical orders and numbering etc etc. Now to see that operating system and office has arrived in our own language is a great news. I will also buy a CD and install that for a test use.

CSI-M Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:33 am
It’s not Penguin speaks Nepali, it’s Penguin understands Nepali. The computer understands Nepali after installing the softawere, I am sure, but the computer will not speak Nepali just by installing Nepalinux. I think Nepalinux, the operating system, hasn’t speech recognition software. First understand and then write, okay?

Kishor Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 6:51 am
Great work MPP.

LInux user Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 7:34 am
MPP has doen great job. I request all nepali computer user to try it once.
if you need basic knowledge or training Please click bellow link:

1. Beginner Lesson:

2. Intermediate level lesson

Bishnu Chetri Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 10:37 am
Great work done by MPP..best of luck..

freedomfighter.np Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 11:59 am
Cool!

freedomfighter.np Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:12 pm
Yeah! I would choose tasty khaja over nepalinux.

guillermo Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 12:50 pm
A big part of making Linux more usable and accessible in Nepali is developing a better font. The devanagiri font used in these screenshots is the same as used by many other Nepali newspaper sites, and IMHO it’s not very readable. Specially the “ikar” and “eekar” always appear on the wrong side of the consonant, and the half consonants appear very weird.

Still, this is a big step forward, and a very commendable effort. To use the power of computer in one’s native lanugage is always great for boosting the productivity of the workforce. I hope the open nature of Linux will encourage Nepali software engineers to collaborate towards improving the usability, specially with better fonts and translations of the English menu’s.

duke Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 1:01 pm
Great Job….

Wagle Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 1:16 pm
Hungry Penguin,

Ha…ha.

Well, I ate only one plate of khaja and that was enough to satisfy my hungry stomach. Than I drank three glasses full of paani. I knew that Chyura would swell in pani.

But I am hopeful about the success of Nepalinux provided MPP and other players involved in this cause make sure that every Nepali computer user knows about this software. As guillermo states in a comment above, Unicode based font still needs to be refined and I still don’t know why that font doesn’t work while tying in internet. For instance, I can’t type in Unicode font in this page.

Sanjib Rajbhandari told me yesterday, while having khaja of course, that we would be able to use devnagari fonts to request web browsers find a web address within one year. For example, type in Nepali blog.com.np instead of in English. That will also be interesting. Then we can also use email addresses in Nepali.

We all know we have a long way to go and this is a promising beginning…

[By the way, Khaja was suberb hai!]

Sarki ko choro Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 1:20 pm
Where can we get the CD from?

Wagle Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 2:08 pm
Nepalinux CD could be bought from Madan Puraskar Pustakalya, Patandhoka at the cost of Rs. 190

MPP say that they are also planning to distribute CDs in districts in collabaration with local organizations.

Programmer Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 9:05 pm
these are hard and free programs…keep it alive

Sarki ko choro Says:

December 23rd, 2005 at 10:42 pm
Thank you Wagle ji, but for those of us who are in “soodur paschimanchal” how can we get it? Is there any plan for it to be put in a website from which one could download it (by paying) somehow?

Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Nepal: OS in Nepali! Says:

December 24th, 2005 at 2:50 am
[…] Operating Systems become more accessible in Nepal says United We Blog! Both Windows XP and Linux now have Nepali versions. The post outlines the challenges in wider adoption of computing and the internet in Nepal. […]

Rana Jee Says:

December 24th, 2005 at 5:46 am
Q.do you know what is Madan Puraskar?

A. it is a group of brahmins in Kathmandu who [icd] the sampati of RANI Jagadamba. LOOK so aristos.! but they are no more that a hungry brhamin who will even not hesitate to [icd].

Programmer Says:

December 24th, 2005 at 1:13 pm
Rana Jee, you are rite, but why did you forget to kick them out when your grand pa’s reign ? shit

Antonio Montana Says:

December 25th, 2005 at 4:38 pm
�म�प�य��र भाषाला� न�पाल� स�थान��रण �र�न� सब�ला� म�र� पनि बधा� �।

I disagree with one point reported by blogger – “What difference would it make for the people just by changing ‘Start’ to ‘Suru’ or whatever..” If we notice the price of the computer is the recent days has drastically coming down. Five years ago I bought ‘modest’ machine for Rs. 65,000, today you get ‘modest’ machine at Rs. 25,000. We can still argue there are plethora of people who cannot afford to buy computer at this rate as well, may be not even Nicholas Negroponte $100 computer hit the market in few years of time. Yet, we can bridged ‘million miles’ of gap between the users and the computer. In plain language, computer has become affordable and essential commodity, it’s no longer a luxury item. But the still, among non-english community ‘last one meter’ divide between man and machine still persists. And the only answer to this is ‘localization’. I don’t think the goal of these two product is to focus computer literal, who feel comfortable using English interface. I am sure people would get messed up if they use Nepali interface of OS.

We can think of people who are capable of purchasing a computer but they won’t simply because they cannot interact with the machine. Simply because it is in English. How about parents or grandparents using computer to communicate with their children abroad. Won’t it make it easier for them. A people who can has ‘sadaran nepali ma lekhpad garna sakne chhamata’, won’t it be good for them. I think we should come out of preconceive notion that these products are for the people who had already been using computer. I personally, it isn’t their goal.

The great challege for these products is how would they strategize their propagation outside Kathmandu.

The war between properitary software and open source software has indeed began. But it’s not right time to fuss about. The aim of both the software is expand computing among non-English speaking Nepali. May be two-three years later, the licesing issue in Nepal would surface.

I am still using pirated version of WindowsXP and I feel comfortable with it. Yet, I should prepare myself switching to free/libre and open source software soon. We may be using pirated copies forever.

Antonio Montana Says:

December 25th, 2005 at 4:43 pm
Correction

We may not be using pirated copies forever.

SUSANKHYA Says:

December 25th, 2005 at 11:33 pm
Both of them have done really a greate job. But, if it is just a translation of “Start” to “Suru”, then the responsible people in this community (ICT community) should start thinking seriously because we should not let others laugh at ourselves.

Easy and equal access to BHADO is more important.

Wagle’s Web World » Blog Archive » Podcasting and Broadcasting Says:

December 26th, 2005 at 4:48 pm
[…] And then there was broadcasting. The traditional one. I was invited by Narayan Shrestha of Radio Sagarmatha to participate in a discussion program. He was talking with Kedar Sharma and Subir Pradhananga of Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya that translated Linux into Nepali recently. I don’t where they were talking from, but I couldn’t go to the Radio Sagarmatha studio. I participated in the discussion via telephone. I have very few things to say regarding Nepalinux and Nepali computing. I later knew from Deepak that Narayan and the team also talked about the article that I wrote in Kantipur the other day. What I said is that Nepalinux or Nepali Windows need more exposure. Plus, the computer should be available to more and more Nepalis in cheap price. I have already expressed my opinion on Nepali computing in this blog and this article. […]

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