There is a reason why the geek image has been stereotyped as a bespectacled IIT lad with a nervous smile on his face. Only the young have the time and the inclination to fiddle around with Operating System kernels and programme source codes just for the fun of it.

To promote such curiosity-driven self-learning among the young and to encourage the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) at the school level, the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Chennai, will be releasing an open source platform ‘EduBOSS’ soon.

Loaded with applications

BOSS stands for Bharat Operating System Solutions and is one of the key deliverables of the National Resource Centre for Free and Open Source Software (NRCFOSS) project funded by the Department of Information Technology .

EduBOSS, a variant of BOSS, was built primarily to cater to the needs of educational institutions. It is based on the Debian Linux distribution and comes preloaded with educational applications developed at C-DAC Chennai.

Official launch on Children’s Day

The open source, free to distribute and modify OS has already been implemented on a pilot basis in some schools in Kerala through the State’s IT@Schools programme. It will be officially launched on November 14 (Children’s Day) and the target group will be students between classes one and eight.

M.R. Rajagopalan, Director, C-DAC, Chennai, says the rationale behind the project is to encourage FOSS use at the school level so that students will be familiar with the work environment when they join the industry.

“Children these days get used to proprietary software when they are young. They are never exposed to open source applications and it is, therefore, difficult to adopt FOSS in an industry setting.”

He adds that open standards and formats will evolve only if there is a push towards FOSS.

The unique aspect about EduBOSS is that it adopts the Linux environment in an Indian setting. The Smart Common Input Method (SCIM) integrated into the OS offers support for 10 Indian languages.

Applications aimed at self-evaluation, a time-tracking tool and a variety of learning modules on physics, maths, etc. based on the CBSE syllabus comes preloaded with the OS.

“The hardware configuration required for the OS is minimal as many schools do not have high-end infrastructure,” says S. Srinivasan, Project Scientist, NRCFOSS, C-DAC, Chennai. The upfront licensing cost is also low because of the GNU/Linux licence.

Customisation

But the most important aspect is the degree of customisation and flexibility that comes with any open source package, according to Dr. Srinivasan.

“Anyone can tailor it to their needs. That is not possible with proprietary software. If you have to go to a surgeon for everything, it obviously costs more.”

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