devnagari script kiddies

This news at Linux Delhi's site made me chuckle:

Two school students, Avneesh Chhabra (15) and Shivaas Gulati (15) designed a Hindi Devanagri font for an inter-school contest. They won the event, received assurances from Microsoft that the Seattle-based company may be interested in licensing the fonts from them, and then, on 25 November 2002, decided nevertheless to publish the fonts under the freedom-based Lesser Gnu Public License (LGPL).

The Inter-School contest was MODEM 2002 - I was there to conduct a quiz. The Font Design event was being held for the first time. The objective was to make an ITRANS mapped Unicode Hindi Font and it was quite exciting to see the entries, and the approaches used. Some guys had actually scanned and vectorized Hindi characters written with pencil on paper. Some entries looked like hacks of presently available stuff.

I remember these guys with their winning font - it was a simple, clean sans-serif. When they were told about this offer from MS, they were like "Sure, why not?" I guess he must've changed his mind later.

MODEM's been sponsored by Microsoft for years now, and it's a very unique scene. The quizzes(atleast the last 2 years that I've been doing them) are full of BSD, Linux and Sun questions, with the only Microsoft questions being things like a screenshot of the hilarious Windows 1.0 and a movie clip of Bill Gates being hit by a pie in the face. The group discussions are all about Free Software and related things, and the message that the participating kids convey is clear and simple: 1) No one likes an imposing monopoly; and 2) Quality comes first.

Then why does Microsoft still sponsor it? I don't know, but my guess is that they're using this to learn from what these kids are saying. And working towards making stuff that the kids would like to use. The new .Net hullabaloo that they're cooking up does not, atleast at first whiff, smell of the distinctive yearning for total world domination that Microsoft aspired to achieve before. Maybe they're pouring a fraction of the 40 billion dollar cashpile into areas where it matters - on reliability, and ease of use. And it's working quite well, I think. They had a programming event in MODEM, and kids were asked to make an image editor using all the latest MS tools. They came up with really cool stuff - complete with shapes, brushes, cut-copy-paste, file saving, the works. Very neat, professional, well made. I once made an image editor in TC++ - took me a week to build just the basic, shabby thing. How much time did they take to make it? 1 hour.

About the author:

Arnab Nandi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him here.


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