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Janayugom, a Indian daily newspaper, has migrated completely to Free Software (poddery.com)
305 points by ognarb on Nov 11, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 39 comments

Great story with many details, including technical details.

As a summary,

* The migration involved 100 employees at 14 different offices at the state of Kerala.

* At the same time there was a migration from legacy text encodings to Unicode. They used a GUI program to convert text in legacy encoding to Unicode (language: Malayalam).

* It is a full software migration to free software, including the operating system.

* They use a Linux distribution based on Kubuntu

* The typesetting software is Scribus.

Other free software used include LibreOffice, GIMP and Inkscape

"legacy text encodings..." That sounds horrible !

They are particularly horrendous..I've had the misfortune to work with government-provided PDFs using custom font glyphs in lieu of proper encodings. In some cases this was the only way to encode particular languages/scripts before Unicode (Jawi was my personal experience). There are now better ways, but poorly-exposed operating system support means most people with these needs still have custom fonts as the entrenched method of text entry.

Some of the encodings were so esoteric we resorted to OCR instead to extract the embedded text. It was quite frustrating to know that somebody - somewhere - knew what each octet represented, but it wasn't remotely Google-able (in English, at any rate).

(Tamil was also problematic, and still is, even with Unicode, as I understand it)

Back in the 90s I assembled a binder of all the (not yet) legacy encodings then in use sourcing from ECMA and elsewhere. It was four inches thick double-sided. Unicode had just seen its initial release and it wasn't clear if that would be the universal text encoding or if it would be ISO-10646 which attempted to maintain a semblance of backwards compatibility with the morass of non-Latin/extended Latin text encodings then in use. There were five commonly used encodings covering different sets of Chinese characters alone (Japan, Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan all had their own encodings and selections of characters). Kids today with their UTF-8/16/32 don't know how good they have it.

Isn't the Unicode codepoint repertoire pretty much identical to ISO 10646? AIUI Unicode only differs by standardizing additional character properties and rulesets, but the encodings are supposed to be identical.

They weren't using Unicode at all. Instead they were using 'prehistoric' fonts patched by changing the glyphs in ASCII fonts(100s of them). This too without proper conventions. They way to convert these to Unicode is by creating character maps in a font-by-font fashion.

ISO 10646 does not work as you describe. I'm pretty sure most of the character encodings defined by creating a custom font were never standardized by ISO.

Back in the 90s, the leading Malayalam newspaper had us download an exe of a font installer, maybe only for IE5.

Not surprising as the FSF India is HQed in Kerala, one of the progressive states in India with a high HDI.



One of the longest serving democratically elected Communist parties leading the state as well.

Other than high literacy (which means able to sign your own name), I don't understand why Kerala is considered as good exmaple?

1. Due to communist style of functioning, setting up a business is near impossibility. I know friends who moved their business out of state since its marred with strikes.


2. It is fast becoming Islamic state of India.




3. Infrastructure seems to be dated (single lane road for most part of state) and floods wreak havoc every year.

Tagged as "God's own country" I expect much better from Kerala. However, I always find cliched "most educated" state remarks and self-pat on back without perusing its problems and what is happening to state.

I am not sure where you got that definition for high literacy.

High literacy in Kerala lead to:

Higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality rate. Higher standard of living, knowing your rights, demand for equal pay, women's empowerment & many more. In Kerala the male to female ratio is healthy unlike rest of India where female feticide is still a problem. Kerala is also way ahead in terms of health & sanitation than rest of India.

While the problems you listed is not unique to Kerala, let me also remind you that India's first IT park is in Kerala and it paved the way for the rest of IT parks in India.

The narrow roads are due to the geography of Kerala which has beautiful winding green mountains, the entire state is on a mountain slopes towards the Arabian sea.

The secular nature of Kerala is worth mentioning too. You will not find any other place in India where people of all faiths live in such harmony & peace. This secular nature of Kerala is one of the reasons why BJP political party is unable to have any headway in Kerala.



Yeah. See what you want to see and whine. Kerala has it's own problems but none of them isn't something alienated to all other states in India. But there are many things that can be called good attributes of this state that makes it an anomaly among all other states in India.

The Kerala model is indeed awesome, and Communist did great things there. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerala_model

From the wiki:

Kerala's unusual socioeconomic and demographic situation was summarized by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben:[26]

Kerala, a state in India, is a bizarre anomaly among developing nations, a place that offers real hope for the future of the Third World. Though not much larger than Maryland, Kerala has a population as big as California's and a per capita annual income of less than $300. But its infant mortality rate is very low, its literacy rate among the highest on Earth, and its birthrate below America's and falling faster. Kerala's residents live nearly as long as Americans or Europeans. Though mostly a land of paddy-covered plains, statistically Kerala stands out as the Mount Everest of social development; there's truly no place like it.[26]

"High levels of political participation and activism among ordinary people along with substantial numbers of dedicated leaders at all levels"

It's an interesting point. Political activism has been noted before as a plausible contributor to high social capital (especially as traditional social-capital-providing arrangements tend to recede in modern societies), which in turn is a significant contributor to high quality-of-life.

Of course things are not that great if that very same political activism leads to misguided policies which keep you stuck in the middle-income trap, as we see in so many places in South America. But it seems that a legacy of substantial educational achievement (which is lacking elsewhere) has helped Kerala escape that trap.

Note that Kerala, like the rest of India, is definitely middle income. It just has much better education rates, public health, etc, than most of India.

I grew up in Kerala in the 80s. When I go back I feel like we have walked backwards in many areas - religious conservatism and fundamentalism are out in the open. The internet had a huge role to play in that. Still better than many other states, but certainly not what it could have been.

There are certainly many good things the Communists did, but it has also been the most violent (by democratic standards, not on a North Korea scale). Now, that isn't surprising because that's been the case with communism throughout history. Back then Stalin posters were everywhere, and most of us were only exposed to one side of such people.

I was born in 1989 and even post-USSR we had lots of books in English and Malayalam translated from Russian. From Raduga publishers, I had an illustrated astronomy book narrated as a grandfather making his kids observe the night sky; a book about a Moscow kid going to the countryside where his father was stationed; a book about a girl who kept on her not-remote farm a tall deer, two wolves (one had offspring that was star of a military parade), a tiger (who died of a heart attack at a zoo) and a boring horse.

Very true. Most developed state in India

I didn't see a link to the actual newspaper in the article. I guess the layout of their homepage isn't done in Scribus, but there's an "epaper" version that looks like it's equivalent to the printed one: http://epaper.janayugomonline.com/

Scribus is for desktop publishing, not web pages

In this case, the webpage contains a pictures of the printed version.

https://janayugomonline.com/ I couldn't find that image here, am I missing something ?

Janayugom Online is the webversion It is done in wordpress. you can see the printed version in epaper.

Nvm, got it

As a Malayalee/Indian American, I was not familiar with Janayugom but had a sneaking suspicion that it was a Malayalee paper — this tiny Indian state has several newspapers with circulations that rival that of Japanese and European papers. Awesome article.

I amazes me that even the smallest Indian states are still enormous by global standards. Kerala's population is over 30 million!

For those unaware while reading the article, "mash" is a term of respect used for teachers/professors.

Scribus is amazing! I've used it for quite huge projects (like 200+ pages magazines) and it never let me down, especially if combined with LibreOffice, GIMP and Inkscape.

Wow that is very nice to see. I am member of dev team in Janayugom

My congratulations!

It's one of the few (probably only) indian states with an eye on the long term future. Rest have given to sound bytes.

It is such a great moment for India.

And at the same time GIMP still not migrated to GTK3...

Migration going on. Hopping a release on first quarter 2020

Amazing! I hope more small scale organizations in India migrate to Free Software and escape from the Microsoft OS Lock In.


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