22 June 2006

Dzongkhalinux - a Himalayan Operating System

Somehow I missed this post on LWN.net about the launch of Dzongkhalinux. Dzongkha, in case you are wondering, is the national language of Bhutan, and a language from the Sino-Tibetan family. As the article explains:

Recent laws in the country have enforced the use of the national language in all official events and all official communication. Therefore, even though all the (free for everybody) education system is bilingual in English/Dzongkha, it is very important for the country to be able to use the Dzongkha language on computers.

After a quite deceptive attempt with Microsoft to include support for Dzongkha in Microsoft operating systems ($523,000 have been thrown in this attempt), the Ministry of Information and Communication launched the DzongkhaLinux project 2.5 years ago.

And it's not just a truly Himalayan operating system (in all senses), since the project has also produced

a complete set of Dzongkha-localised applications, namely the Gnome environment, the OpenOffice suite, the Mozilla web browser, the Evolution mail reader and GAIM as instant messaging application.

This illustrates a number of points.

First, that Microsoft just doesn't care about smaller markets. Second, that open source really is about giving users the freedom to do what they need to do. And third, that there are good open source applications covering all the main areas these days.

There's more about the project here, and even a glimpse of a suitably monkish Tux, swathed in scarlet robes; there's the same information on the Bhutan-based Department of Information Technology site (just love that URL - http://www.dit.gov.bt/), but the connection's understandably slow, and probably best left clear.

There doesn't seem to be a direct link to the Bhutanese distro (again, probably just as well in terms of leaving the connection free); I suppose while I'm waiting for a torrent, I could always start learning Dzongkha....

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