As a Romanian and IT fanatic, I've watched the rise of Linux and open source from a different point of view than most. Romania went through a revolution in December 1989, and since then many things have changed, including computers and the way they are perceived by a country that is better known for its Dracula figure than its IT involvement. We have our professionals -- people that are hired by foreign companies to work in different sectors of the computer industry. We have our software firms that produce quality software, such as BitDefender. Last but not least, we have our Linux user groups, and now a magazine dedicated to Linux and open source software.
I work for the press, monitoring IT news and writing about Linux in general, and I believe the way Linux is represented in the Romanian press could use a little more polishing. There are several Romanian IT and computing magazines in my country, but Linux-related articles are scarce. I have vowed to change this. Working for an IT magazine has its advantages, so I managed to convince my employer that since there is no magazine in Romania dealing exclusively with Linux, that we should start one.
In a week from the time of this writing, our readers will be able to read more about Linux in a printed form. Until this project -- MyLINUX -- even came to mind, Linux Magazine had been around for several months, printed in the Romanian language, for Romanians. Then in October of last year, the magazine vanished and no one heard anything from it again. Other magazines still printed an article or two about SUSE or Fedora Core once every few months, but that wasn't enough. So the users took things into their own hands.
There are many Linux communities in Romania, but they fit into three main categories: commercial, user-supported groups, and Linux Fests. The commercial communities have a money-influenced backbone and are driven by profit. The the user groups, Web sites, and forums are supported by regular users. Thirdly, we have actual meetings between Linux users -- so-called "Linux Fests."
We have a Linux Fest in my natal town of Oradea every two or three weeks. Similar meetings take place in other cities in Romania: Sibiu, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Iasi, and Timisoara. The attendees are all Linux enthusiasts who want to learn more from one another. We gather in the basement of a non-profit organization that helps young people organize meetings of any kind for free. What better place for an open source get-together? We exchange Linux distributions and generally help the newcomers and beginners get acquainted with Linux and open source software. We exchange pictures on the Internet and try to keep contact through the biggest Romanian Linux forum: Linux360. We call it that because we try to cover all 360 degrees of Linux. The forum is the place to ask questions if you want to learn about open source software. Linux360 is also the name of a free, community-authored online Linux magazine delivered in PDF format on an infrequent basis. There are other, more subjective forums for Romanian fans of Debian, Mandriva, and Gentoo, as well as the Linux.ro forums and the MyLINUX forums.
Apart from the monthly meetings, there is a special event that takes place once a year in Romania: Linux Open Alternative Days (LOAD). It's the perfect occasion to make new friends and meet Romanian companies and organizations that deal with Linux.
Believe it or not, we also have our own Linux distributions. One of the biggest is Darkstar Linux, a Slackware-based distro that is maintained by a few enthusiasts and targets new Linux users. Another is Vision, a Fedora Core-based distribution started by the Linux360 team. And Decebal Linux got its name from an ancient ruler of the Dacs, from which the Romanian nation came into being. Lastly, ROSLIMS is based on a localized version of Knoppix.
Speaking of localization, I know of two people that have made efforts in making a good, functional Romanian keyboard layout for Linux systems. There are also many efforts being made to translate several open source projects into Romanian, including KDE, GNOME and Xfce. The Debian documentation is constantly being improved and translated into Romanian by the Romanian Linux Users Group (RLUG). Lastly, many of the Quanta developers are Romanian.
Like many other European countries, Romania has caught a glimpse of what Linux can do for your business or your spare time. We do our best in helping the community, if not with development, at least with translations and ideas. We hope our government will realize one day that instead of wasting money on proprietary products, it can not only improve the functionality of institutions but also use open source software as a way to direct those funds to other more important issues.
Razvan T. Coloja is the editor-in-chief of MyLINUX.