September 2, 2003

Open Asia: Open source in Burma, Cambodia, and China

- by Frederick Noronha -
We continue our country-by-country survey of the availability of open source software across Asian countries with a look at developments in Burma (also known as Myanmar), Cambodia, and China.

Burma (Myanmar)

The PeguNC-Linux distribution, aimed at Myanmar, is intended to encourage native data processing. According to a message in the Myanmar Linux Users Club Yahoo! group, Myanmar has just a font, but no language support with sorting and searching. Byteklay, a member of the project, says, "(We) started with a so-called PeguNC-linux project at . When I couldn't continue mmlinux, friends from mm carried that project on, a site developed and maintained by Ko Wiston [Compunut]."

Myanmar LUG has set up special interest groups focusing
on computer control systems, databases, e-commerce, GIS, Internet, IT
professionals, Java, language technology and standardization, multimedia,
software engineering, and Web technologies. Another Myanmar Linux resource is .


Norbert Klein of the Open Forum of Cambodia
says its email system -- the first connection to
the Internet from Cambodia, which he set up in 1994 initially using a DOS/UNIX
dial-up program -- has been running on SuSE Linux since 1996.

The Cambodian language is written in Khmer script, which was developed
almost 1,000 years ago from Devanagiri, the script used in north India. But
Khmer has developed some structural differences in the meantime. The Cambodian government-sponsored national working group on Khmer/UNICODE,
after quite a struggle, has reached an agreement with UNICODE, and Klein is
hoping for a GNU/Linux implementation. "The problem is, of course, not just to have the glyphs, but to have an
'intelligent' input and display engine which puts the many different glyph
parts together," according to Klein.


China's government sees FLOSS as promising for reasons of cost and 'security concerns.' Most recently, China's State Council mandated that all ministries buy only locally produced software, such as Redflag Linux, which is suited to local language and other needs, and BluePoint, which is optimized for the Chinese user and Internet.

The Chinese government's move was the latest and most explicit example of a trend toward local software usage. In December 2001, the
Beijing municipal government awarded contracts to six local software
vendors, including Red Flag, and rejected the seventh bidder -- Microsoft. The contracts covered
office automation, antivirus, and operating software. The Globewide Network Academy's Open Source China page also notes
twoarticles about plans for China to build its own functional equivalent of Windows 98.

Network World reported last year that a study found that developers in
China have been increasingly "embrac(ing) Linux". The survey asked 1,000 applications developers based in China questions on
trends in programming and technology being used there. It was found that 44%
of the developers said they had written code for the Linux operating system,
while 65% said they expected to write a Linux application in the next year.

FLOSS is also making inroads into servers in China. According to Evans Data,
11% of Chinese developers said they will use Linux servers this year, as
opposed to only 4% who used GNU/Linux servers last year.

Some interesting FLOSS products are coming out from China. Michael Dunham reports on Shaolin Microsystems, which offers products such as Aptus, a
network-based GNU/Linux middleware for desktops, and CogoFS, a compressed
file system for GNU/Linux.

Hong Feng, who publishes the Free Software Magazine's international English-based edition out of China, suggests visiting and for more China-related GNU/Linux information. Xiaofeng Cai, a student at the Shenzhen
, points to links such as and


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