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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamilnation >   Tamil Digital Renaissance  zha Kanini Project for an All Tamil Computer

TAMILS & THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION

zha Kanini Project for an All-Tamil Computer

"Free in open source means freedom, and not free-of-cost.. Since the ongoing Internationalization process was going at a sluggish pace, it was the need of the hour to integrate resources from various fronts to accelerate and keep Tamil ahead".


zhaKanini Project is aimed at providing a 100% Tamil desktop PC with open source applications to the Tamil community. A person without knowledge of English and prior computer skills will be able to buy and use such a PC. In order to bring the benefits of open source Tamil computing efforts to the non-tech savvy, non-English speaking Tamil population, zha kanini group was formed. After more than a year of work, a zha-kaNini materialised. The mission of the zha-kanini team is to bring out an easy-to-use all-Tamil computer to benefit the Tamil masses without English knowledge and Computer literacy. The team which set out its journey as TamilPC team has branded its product 'zha-kanini' named after the special alphabet 'zha' in Tamil (kanini is the Tamil word for Computer).
The Team Members of the project include major Tamil writer Sujatha Rangarajan, Ma SivaKumar, BSG LeatherLink, N Jayaradha, Dishnet DSL, C K ShanthaKumar, ICICI Bank  and K M Leena, Sterling Infotech . They work on the Project as volunteers. On the open invitation of Writer Sujatha through his weekly column in the Ananda Vikatan  about 45 persons volunteered to translate on Sundays. DishnetDSL Ltd. allotted twenty computers at one of their browsing centers solely for the translation work. Students of MOP Vaishnava College volunteered for one week, translating KDE applications.The bulk of the translation was done by students of Loyola College. They spent their vacation in Dec 2003 and again in May 2004 to translate KDE, Red Hat and a part of GNOME. Over 100,000 strings have been translated in the past 6 months. Volunteers have done all the translations till date. An initial CD release was made in Feb 2004 that included localized version of OpenOffice.org, KDE & the Tamil keyboard driver. The contents of the CD can be accessed from here
Please see contributors for a full list. For more information about the project please see FAQ
 

From the Press Release for  zha-kanini introduction function on 01 February 2004, at Loyola College Hall, Chennai, TamilNadu:

Will a Tamil PC Sell? Is there a real need for a TamilPC or is it just hype? Can I afford it? Is English knowledge a prerequisite to own a PC? Would a not-so-computer-savvy person like me find it easy? Attendees of zha-kanini introduction function on 01 February 2004, came with dozens of such questions in their minds. Lawrence Sundaram Hall at Loyola College Chennai was filled with curious faces from diverse backgrounds. They had assembled to witness the launch of Zha Kanini, a Linux-based all-Tamil PC developed by TamilPC Team, Chennai.

Many of the 250-strong attendees had come on the open invitation of Writer Sujatha Rangarajan in Ananda Vikatan, a popular Tamil weekly, to have a look at zha-kanini. Zha kanini is an answer to the computing needs of not-so-computer-savvy, non-English-speaking value-conscious segment of the Tamil population. A good number of student enthusiasts, press people also attended the meeting.

The agenda of the meeting was to showcase the 95%-complete Tamil version of Linux KDE Desktop and to gauge the response levels of various segments to such a product, apart from seeking funds for further development. With the help of volunteers from various fields, Zha-kanini Team has managed to accelerate the translation process which was collaboratively done by various individuals and groups across the globe at a slow pace.

Mr Ma Sivakumar explained the concept of Open Source and how developing countries can leverage on this. "Free in open source means freedom, and not free-of-cost", he clarified. "Since the ongoing Internationalization process was going at a sluggish pace, it was the need of the hour to integrate resources from various fronts to accelerate and keep Tamil ahead".

Ms Jayaradha, of the zha-kanini team welcomed the audience with a brief introduction to the product. She had spearheaded the accelerated translation process by running a series of translathons by Tamil & Linux enthusiasts and roping in MOP Vaishnav & Loyola College students into the task.

Mr Rangarajan (better known as Sujatha), who has been pivotal in the entire project, explained about the product and its scope. He began his speech describing how it all started from his article in Vikatan 'Dollar bait by Bill Gates'. He explained how the translation team had worked on intuition and user-friendliness than translating verbatim. The mammoth task of translating 70,000 strings was made possible due to his able guidance and tireless efforts of volunteers.

The mission of the zha-kanini team is to bring out an easy-to-use all-Tamil computer to benefit the Tamil masses without English knowledge and Computer literacy. The team which set out its journey as TamilPC team has branded its product 'zha-kanini' named after the special alphabet 'zha' in Tamil (kanini is the Tamil word for Computer).

Mr Shanthakumar outlined the roadmap for zha discussing the market potential for Tamil Computers. IDC predicting a whopping 30 Lakhs PC Sales for the year and 52% expected to be in non-metros, there is huge market potential for a low-cost, all-Tamil computer, he illustrated. Zha team solicited active or passive investment support from companies with interest in Tamil, Computing or Philanthropy. State/Central Governments are also welcome, Shanthakumar added.

The question & answer session that followed the presentations was an eye-opener breaking several apprehensions of users. Queries relating to technical aspects of Linux, Tamil fonts, usage, translation bugs were also answered.

Mr Hariram demonstrated zha kanini. A browser, a mail-client, OpenOffice suite and a few games were shown. In its current form, zha is nothing but a completely localised KDE desktop. But the team is planning for simplification of the Desktop so that a layperson without computer knowledge can find it intuitive and easy.

Mrs Leena explained the CD-based installation procedure. She demonstrated installation of Zha KDE, Zha OpenOffice, and Zha Keyboard. The CD is just an interim solution till zha evolves further. The team is planning for factory integration of Hardware-OS, as Apple does (Sun is also planning for the same).

The zha-kanini CD was released by Mr Sujatha Rangarajan and the first copy was received by Professor Krishnamurthy. The team also felicitated the students and management of MOP Vaishnav College and Loyola College for their contribution.

At the end of the function, many people were seen buying CDs to try out zha kanini KDE. The crowd dissolving after the function seemed convinced that zha is their dream machine: an affordable, easy-to-use, intuitive and yes, all-Tamil Computer.
 

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