Friday, June 29, 2001

An Urdu Notepad & A Website for Mangoes

Urdu Notepad? Action Requested from Readers!

Once again, the local press has re-reported the GOP notification of the Urdu Code Plate. As a nation, we took a long time to wake up to the worldwide boom of IT sector. And no wonder why before 2000 we did not have an approved, standardized Urdu Code Plate. A code plate is a standard that dictates how would characters be represented in computers. In the absence of such a standard, the software developers used their own, non-standard way of representing regional language characters in computers. While a few commercial Urdu (and other regional language software) did appear - and were even employed commercially by the local print media industry - the only casualty of this non-standardization was the common computer user.

Think of it like this - more than a million people who can speak and understand Urdu (I am including computer literate people (of South Asian origin) in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Gulf and even the States - who do not have a decent, open source, freely distributable, notepad-like utility to write and exchange notes written in Urdu. Since Pakistan sports Urdu as its national language, it should shoulder the major chunk of the responsibility for arranging such a software for the masses. Would the people in the active-these-days MoST (Ministry of Science & Technology) take note of this? The idea is remarkably simple: The ministry should ask the handful of Urdu Software Developers to develop, and maintain for a couple of years, a simple Urdu word processing application for MS Windows for a certain price. The terms and conditions should allow the MoST to distribute the source code of the application to the Internet to further its development. The end result: We, the common computer users, will have access to a decent, open source, freely distributable Urdu word processing application.

If you think this seems like a doable idea, and on top of everything, is a necessity, click here to send a small note to the kind minister to let him know about the issue.

Wanted: A Pakistan Mango Portal

Okay, I admit. I am fond of mangoes. The exotic fruit, not very well known in most parts of the world, is more of a celebration in Pakistan. There are simply more species of mangoes than of any other fruit and there are more than one way of eating mangoes. During the season, one can see the streets crowded with fruit mongers carrying cartful of mango loads and a remarkable enthusiasm with which the consumers buy the celebrated fruit. There are so many varieties of fruit with so confusing names that at least I always tend to confirm my guess before buying a bagful. So how do these mangoes fit in this Internet-plagued column? The answer: My inability to find a decent, Pakistani mango site. My wish list for such a mango portal includes names for the different varieties of mangoes, their characteristics, their market invasion timelines, recommended ways of eating, information about places where mangoes are grown etc. Anybody?