Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RIP! MS Win XP SP3 and OFFICE 2003 dead!

The Microsoft has finally announced the end of life support for Windows XP Operating System Service Pack 3 as well as their Office 2003 all versions by April, 8, 2014. The advisory is available at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/endofsupport.aspx. Based on this advisory, the Govt. of India, CERT-IN  has issued its advisory CERT-In Advisory CIAD-2013-0048 Dt. 25th June, 2013. Further, the  CERT-IN  has written to all the States with the following advisory:-
All the Departments and organizations in the Ministry/Departments using Windows XP have been advised to "immediately plan for upgradation to the latest available Operating System and test their software applications well before April, 2014". 

Now the question is that the CERT-In has given the advise unidirectional, where it an option to say that the Ministry/Departments are also advised to evaluate alternate Operating Systems such as GNU/Linux and test their applications well before, 2014.

With this advisory, the issues that actually arise are:-
  1. Who would bear the cost of upgradation to the latest available Operating System, indirectly meaning Windows & and Windows *. (I am sure you can guess that bit of encryption for security reasons, and bear with me)?
  2. Would the existing hardware available with large number of departments in the Govt actually support the latest Windows & and Windows *? Does it not mean that its not going to be a simple OS upgradation, and yet this specific advisory to the departments and ministries should also have warned them of additional expenditure that tehy would incur in either buying new hardware or upgrading their existing hardware.
  3. The advisory of the CERT-IN to the States is also incomplete. If you look at the link provided by Microsoft, it talks also of Office 2003. But, the Govt. advisory is totally silent on that.
  4. As a result, no one is even aware about it. Most of all, Imagine all those people in the Govt. using MS Office 2003(@))#) who would also have to switch to a higher version. Again what about the additional cost in terms of procurement of licenses and also extra cost of training and hand holding on the new software? These hidden costs have not been even referred to. 
  5. What is totally hidden is as to what would happen to the large number of third party proprietary application softwares that people would have been using on XP. What about people running AutoCAD 9, PhotoShop CS3. Who is going to pay for the upgrade costs of the third party packages?
  6. Imagine that you took the decision to upgrade to Windows 8 Operating System. And suddenly you discovered that some of your third party applications such as in the realm of GIS, imaging etc. are not even available. What does one do in such situations. 
  7. Then, is not the best option to forget the advisory and continue using XP?
However, before deciding on falling back on the option 7 mentioned above, please remember, there are still users of Windows 98 in our country. Some of these systems are even being taught in many schools in the country. The question is why should Windows be so indispensable that  you are bound to an archaic operating system.

Please think again. This is indeed a very good opportunity for you to bury Microsoft for good. Let it RIP. Switch over to GNU/Linux and enjoy Free Software.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Pledge for Document Freedom Day

Today is Document Freedom Day. Today is Phalgun Poornima, what we call in India the Festival of Colors, Holi. Today is the day when Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was born 500 years ago and spread the message of Krishna Consciousness. Today is also birthday of my wife Rachna (who has to often struggle with GNU/Linux) and my elder daughter Arundhati (who wonders why people do not use GNU/Linux and ODF?), and who was also born on Phalgun Poornima. Today is the birth of Amtron Informatics (India) Ltd, the entity which brought a new meaning to AMTRON in March, 2002 and paved the way for us to march on...

So many coincidences happen together once in decades.. So I thought why not write a pledge....

I, Mahendra Kumar Yadava IFS, do hereby solemnly resolve today on the holy day of the Document Freedom Day in the name of the 4 Freedoms (which for the uninitiated are Freedom 0 Freedom to use a software, Freedom 1 Freedom to change the source code of the software, Freedom 2 Freedom to distribute the software and Freedom 3 Freedom to distribute the software with changed code)

  • Pledge 0: That I shall always create editable documents only and only in ODF;
  • Pledge 1: That I shall always share editable documents with others only and   only in ODF ;
  • Pledge 2: That I shall persuade all those whom I know, to the fullest of my energy and conviction, to come on the virtuous path of the ODF and ODF alone;
  • Pledge 3: That I shall use in all situations under my control only and only GNU/Linux;
  • Pledge 4: That I shall persuade  all those whom I know, to the fullest of my energy and conviction, to  adopt in all their computing the all powerful GNU/Linux and only GNU/Linux;
  • Pledge 5: That I shall not touch even with a long pole anything unholy that is not ODF or not GNU/Linux.
May the 4 Freedoms that rule the Earth and Heaven keep the world free of all that is unholy that is not ODF or not GNU/Linux.

May the tribes of GNU/Linux rule the heart of all computing devices in all times to come...

Hail ODF!
Hail GNU/Linux!!
Hail Free Software Movement!!!

The Rules of the Pledge:
Rule 0:  The pledge will be administered by one who has pledged himself till Pledge 4
Rule 1:  The  person(s) taking the pledge must fully understand the intent and purpose of the pledge, and must be at least partially aware of the great powers of the 4 Freedoms and must be mentally prepared to tread the path of ODF and GNU/Linux
Rule 2:  The pledge can be administered publicly or in private
Rule 3:  The pledge can be freely translated in any language and dialect...
Rule 4:  The pledge can be administered on any day or night
Rule 5:  The pledge can be taken in parts starting from Pledge 0...
Rule 6:  Substitute " the holy day of the Document Freedom Day" by "this day of ......", as every day is auspicious to take pledge for ODF and GNU/Linux.
Rule 7:  Each one reciting the pledge may substitute "Mahendra Kumar Yadava IFS" with his/her name.
Rule 8: This pledge is released under GPL

Sunday, August 5, 2012

DeitY issues notification for ODF and other e-Gov Standards

The Government of India, Department of Information Technology, now rechristened as Department of Electronics and Information Technology, with a new acronym DeitY, issued its much awaited Policy on Open Standards vide Gazette Notification No. 2/32/2009/EG-II Dt. 10th November, 2010. In case you want to have a copy, please click here. However, the actual standards took lot more time to be notified. 

The long wait and the struggle by the FOSS community of India has definitely bore fruit when the DeitY notified the "Technical Standards for Interoperability Framework for E-Governance in India" on the 10th of May, 2012. In case you want to have a copy, please click here. Some of the standards which are of common interest to computer users are:
  1. ODF               (Editable Documents)
  2. PDF/A            (Scanned documents for storage/archival)
  3. JPEG              (Graphics Raster images- Lossy)
  4. PNG               (Graphics Raster images- Lossless)
  5. GIF89a           (Grahics Animation)
The most notable part of the notification is that ODF has been placed in the categories shown below:
  1. "O"    : Open Standard: Which meets the Mandatory Characteristics of the Policy
  2. "MC" : Matured and Current
  3. "M"   :  Mandatory/ MUST
The Standards document spells out in Para 2 that "The Technical Standards listed in the document shall  be used in all e-Governance applications by
  1. Project Teams of e-Governance applications in all Departments at Central / State Government level
  2. Contractual Policy framing agencies for e-Governance Applications
  3. All integrators / service providers of Indian e-Governance Applications"
This clearly indicated that ODF as a standard which is mandatory and must be followed  in all e-Government applications across India by all the Central Govt. departments and the States.

This is no doubt a very big achievement. However, adoption is very rare to be seen or heard (such species, in forestry, we call by the botanical name "Never seena never knowna"). Do we want ODF to become one such species? Who is responsible for it, and how should one go about approaching the issue? I have a few thoughts here for you all to ponder:
  1. All IT companies (the original culprits according to me, who have strong demonstration effect on humble and siple users and first timers in IT) who have anything to do with any Govt. or Govt owned body must (or must be made to) communicate or exchange documents only in ODF
  2. All Govt documents on websites must be converted back to ODF within a fixed time frame, else the Department and its IT wing should be brought to book (NIC should better watch out!)
  3. All the Central and State Govt Portals and Websites asking for upload of documents must change to accept only ODF. (Income Tax and MCA21 may watch out)
  4. All email attachments to and from any Govt agency (Central or State) carrying any editable document must only be in ODF.
  5. All tenders must be issued only in ODF by all agencies including PSUs.
  6. All educational institutions fully or partially supported by the central/ State Govts, and or their agencies, must also only use ODF. Infact, they must not only use free editors, but also  "Free" Software. Proprietary software should be used only in designated proprietary software labs.
However, all this would require lot of awareness, workshops, trainings and whole lot of "iron hands" in the Govt. simply to say no to  proprietary formats such as ".doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, .pptx".

Here the  biggest challenge in the way of adoption of ODF today is in the domain of mobiles and tablets. I am using Android based "Mobile Document Viewer" on my Samsung Galaxy Note ( I always say no to iPhones and iPads!!!) which has the capability now to view ODF files. However, capabilities in spreadsheet appear to be limited. An ODF editor is still lacking. Further, applications such as QuickOffice are sleeping for more than two years in providing any support for ODF. Shame on such applications!!!. Another reader on Android is "OpenOffice Document Reader".

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Species of 21st Century, Not evolving and Illiterate

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” is a great quote by Alvin Toffler, but I learnt of it in a recent eGov seminar at Guwahati, sponsored by NASSCOM and DIT during the capacity building presentation of Ms. Deepa Sanger of NeGD, and the quote was on the last slide, and “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” is another great quote by Charles Darwin,   which I could locate on the very first slide of the presentation. 

That left me wondering, how come the 21st century has got more than 90% of the educated guys actually illiterate, and equally strong number not fit for survival. Unfortunately, the organizers concerned who made the presentation also seemed to belong to this category of "unfit for survival" and "illiterate of 21st Century" kind; but I am thankful to Deepa Ma'm for giving me new insight.

I also learnt another word from my wife, Rachna, who is doing research on Carbon and Ecological Foot Print. The word is "Footprint". The bigger the footprint, the worse it is for society's survival. I could very easily relate it to the kind of footprint Microsoft is having in our pigmy minds that we are not able to come out of its shadow, rendering ourselves totally illiterate and unfit for survival. In all IT conferences I keep meeting members of such species in hordes, including the organizers. If the top educated echelons of the IT fraternity cannot switch over from Microsoft, and need thousand and one excuses for not using Free Software, God also probably cannot help (as He helps only those who help themselves)!!!

After having understood the meaning of each word of the two quotes mentioned above, I have come to this conclusion that if one cannot change over from Microsoft to Free software, one should count oneself as Illiterate of the 21st Century and should consider oneself a member of the species that are "Unfit for survival". 

Do you really want to get classified yourself as such, please think twice, nay ten times, nay many times. Alvin Toffler cannot be wrong, and Charles Darwin can never be wrong.  Please do not force me to say who is wrong, that would be quite impolite of me. 

Good luck, please switch over to Free Software...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Link to some of the best Office Productivity Suites

I have been requested by many to reinvent the wheel of links to the best office productivity suites. My favourite links are:

LibreOffice:         http://www.libreoffice.org          by the Document Foundation
CalligraSuite:      http://www.calligra-suite.org     by KDE based on Qt
OpenOffice.Org   http://www.openoffice.org         by Oracle

These are the most mature Desktop suites with equal or better offers than MS Office Suite.

On the web, the most robust one is ZOHO: http://www.zoho.com. Also you have GOOGLE DOCS which you get by default in your gmail account. However, it leaves lot more wanting.

On mobile platform, there are several prototypes. I have yet to come across a good one. That's one reason I am not buying any Tablets. There are some readers for android too! However, do not get fooled by names such as Quick Office etc. They do not support ODF.

Friday, February 11, 2011

May The tribe of Abdul Rahman, Hon'ble Member Parliament, increase!!!

It was on the 8th February, 2011 that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT visited Assam to review e-Governance and NeGP status in the State. In one of its first meetings chaired by Sri Jesudas Seelam, Hon'ble MP on the progress of e-Registration, a string of question and answers were going on. The Government of Assam was represented by Sri V. K. Pipersenia IAS, Principal Secretary, Revenue, Sri Niraj  Verma IAS, Commissioner & Secretary, IT and truly yours. It was also attended among others by Sri Deepak Goswami, SIO, NIC, Assam. Deepak himself is a FOSS enthusiast. Sri VK Pipersenia has the reputation of over-ruling purchase of Microsoft Office for the CLR (Computerization of Land Records) Project rolled out in 200+ Circle offices in the State last year. Due to his strong stand, we not only were able to push OpenOffice.Org in all the PCs supplied, but also gave training to the Revenue Staff in FOSS. Here I would mention that the Dharitri, which is otherwise a very good software prepared by NIC for Land Records, is in Client server model and is based on MS .Net. 

The reason why I am writing this Blog is that while the Standing Committee was sitting on one side of the conference table, and we on the other, among the several questions being bombarded by the Hon'ble Committee members, i heard one question and it got me floored, "Are you using open source? What is the platform of your application?" To this Deepak replied that It was on Microsoft .Net. Then another question, "Why you are not using open source?" to which Deepak promptly replied that they were migrating to FOSS in the third version of the Software. 

I never expected such a question from an MP in India in the first place. To have an MP who is so well versed and committed to FOSS was a news of life time. Who is this firebrand MP?

He is none other than Abdul Rahman, MP from DMK representing Vellore in Tamilnadu. His email ID is rahmanexec@yahoo.com. He is MA in Economics and holds Diploma in Computer Programing. he has been in IT for more than three decades. He deserves a big hand from all the FOSS enthusiasts of the country.

Later in the evening I showed him one of the papers submitted to the Committee outlining issues and challenges which mentioned among others, "Use and Promotion of Free and Open Source Software and Open Standards" which essentially talked of the following:-

"The Government of Assam has already adopted use of Free and Open Source Software in all its programmes and projects in the IT sector, as per the Policy guidelines of the Information Technology Policy of Assam, 2009 notified on the 4th August, 2009. Most of the programmes of the Government are being launched on GNU/Linux Operating Systems such as Ubuntu and use the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The Government is also implementing adoption of Open Standards.

It may be noted here that there DIT, Govt. of India has also come with adoption of Open Standards. However, there are no implementation guidelines, as a result of which most of the line Ministries are still toeing the proprietary software line such as that of Microsoft (which are against the Policy guidelines), resulting in a Non STANDARD implementation of operating systems, application development, capacity building and training. The Hon'ble Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT may recommend use of FOSS by all line Ministries and Departments of the Govt. of India and monitor enforcement of the Open Standards."

The FOSS community has now a  Messiah in the Parliament, and who also is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT. We should approach the Hon'ble Committee with a very good case as to why the Parliament ought to enforce the use of FOSS in e-Governance, schools and all walks of public life and make all the Ministers and officials accountable in this regard.

I solicit the views of the FOSS enthusiasts...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Open Letter to Student Awardees of the Anundoram Borooah Award 2010

On the 24th of December, 2010, the sixth year of the prestigious Anundoram Borooah Awards , given to students who secure 60% and higher marks in the 10th Standard in the State Board Examinations of the Government of Assam, ceremoniously launched by the Chief Minister of Assam. This ward has been instituted in the honour of the great Sanskrit Scholar, the 1st Assaemse, the 4th Indian ICS Officer & the 1st Indian Deputy Commissioner (in India), Anundoram Borooah (1850-1889) who in his short life span composed the Sanskrit-English dictionary. His brief life sketch is presented as a part of the citation to the awardees as a source of inspiration.

The award carries a Desktop computer, a citation and few booklets. So far 72000+ students have received these computers since 2005. This year the award carries a Laptop computer and 19300+ students would be directly benefited from the scheme. The Govt. of Assam has been providing these computing devices with Free and Open Source Software on GNU/Linux platform. The laptops (with Pentium P6100 2.0 GB Processor, 3 GB DDR3 RAM, 250 GB 7200 RPM HDD, DVD RW, 14" TFT (LED Backlight), wi-fi, bluetooth, Webcam... loaded with Ubuntu 10.04.1 OS). The configuration has been finalized by the AMTRON team headed by Mr. Monoj Baruah and okayed by Prof. Gautam Barua, Director, IIT Guwahati. The laptop has been loaded with educational application software, manuals and Spoken Tutorials (provided by IIT Bombay).

Along with the laptop, fe wbooklets also have been provided. The customized user manual of the laptop (featuring three brands Acer, HCL, & Wipro) contains an open letter from ME to the students. This letter is the focus of this BLOG:-

Dear Student,

Congratulations for winning the prestigious Anundoram Borooah Award. Now you are a proud owner of a world class laptop especially designed for you. To fulfill the promise made by Sri Tarun Gogoi, Hon'ble Chief Minister of Assam, the Education (Secondary) Department and the experts from IIT Guwahati and AMTRON have worked together to ensure the best quality in terms of hardware, software and service while selecting the laptop for you.

Your laptop comes with Ubuntu Operating System (http://www.ubuntu.com) pioneered by Canonical Ltd (http://canonical.com) driven by its founder Mark Richard Shuttleworth, a South African born entrepreneur, to create one of the best Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). According to Mark, “I believe that free software can become the de facto standard way the world builds and experiences all software...”. Ubuntu is a GNU/Linux operating system based on the Debian core, and is considered as the most popular operating system in the FOSS. Initiated in 2004 by Mark, the Ubuntu community releases upgrades of the operating system regularly in April (.04) and October (.10) every year. The Ubuntu loaded in your laptop is Long Term Support (LTS) version 10.04.

Along with Ubuntu, we at AMTRON have bundled a large bouquet of educational, office, graphics, multimedia and programming software, all with freedom and full rights for you to use, redistribute, modify and share with your friends and family members. This is to respect the basic 4 (four) freedoms of Software as defined by Richard Mathew Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation (http://www.fsf.org) and the chief architect of the GNU (http://www.gnu.org) project which is at the heart of the GNU/Linux systems. The 4 freedoms are Freedom 0 - Freedom to run the software as you wish, Freedom 1 – Freedom to study and change the source code of the program, Freedom 2- Freedom to redistribute the exact copies of the program to your friends and community and whomever you choose & Freedom 3 – Freedom to distribute copies of the source code that you modified. Whenever you want to use a software, please examine whether it meets the four freedom criteria or not, even if you have purchased a copy of it. If it does not meet the criteria of the 4 freedoms, please do not use that software.

Some of the packages included in your laptop are OpenOffice.Org to meet all your word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and graphics requirements. You can also use its formula editor to write mathematical equations. The GIMP Image editor, Inkscape Vector Graphics editor and Scribus can be used to create and manipulate images, graphics and compose newsletter and magazines. Your laptop comes loaded with a host of programming and scripting languages such as C/C++, mySQL, Perl, Python, pHp, GFortran, Gdb to mention a few. You can start writing your own bits of code by opening the Gedit text editor, or study the source codes of the programs loaded in your laptop to get an understanding as to how it works. You may explore source code in directories such as usr/src in the file system of your laptop.

In addition to this special booklet about your laptop, you have also been provided with two additional reading materials- “Getting started with Ubuntu” and “Introduction to GeoGebra”. While the first booklet teaches you the basics of the GNOME Desktop and Operating System, the GeoGebra book will help you to sharpen your skills in mathematics and geometry. Additionally, we are also providing you spoken tutorials on SCILAB, a great platform to learn mathematical modeling. The spoken tutorials have been brought to you in association with IIT Bombay. You can also attempt to make your own spoken tutorials on any of the software provided in your laptop, and if they are good, you may even get paid for it.

For any queries, please send an email to arbas2010@amtron.in.

With Best Wishes

(M. K. Yadava IFS)

Managing Director, AEDC Ltd.

Place: Guwahati

Date: 14/12/2010