GNU the balde   First off, we shouldn't confuse free programmes with open-source ones. What is meant by that is that you can get some computer programmes without having to pay for them (for instance, freeware downloads from internet) but their source is closed; an example of this would be Microsoft's navigation programmes (Internet Explorer). On the other hand, you can come across others that are not only normally available free of charge, but are also open-sourced. The programmer deliberately leaves the source that drive the programme, the guts of the thing, open. These types of programmes are known as GNU. This means that anybody with the knowhow can use these source to adopt the programmes to suit their needs. The most famous of these programmes is probably Linux. Nowadays, there are many programmes of this type being developed through internet. The net really makes this type of thing much easier to do. Gotzon Egia, headman at the Gipuzkoa County Council Basque Language Dept., shall endeavour to explain all of this to us. We can safely say that all kinds of applications are available in open-source format these days. You don't have to look any further than the Windows platform, that is to say your normal everyday tools used in ofimatics (fonts, calculating pages, data bases, etc.). All of these tools are available in open-source freeware form. You can find them all in OpenOffice, download them and install them in your computer and not pay a penny for it.
What about stuff in Basque? Can you get this kind of stuff in Basque? You won't find anything spectacular out there but it does seem that things are getting better. We got in touch with Code & Sintax, leaders in the field, and they say that there's still very little doing as far as Basque is concerned. This company produce, amongst things, software and applications for internet. They're divided up between systems that manage content (CMS - Content Management Systems in English), web pages and engineering applications designed to ensure the use of more than one language. They feel that multilinguism is certainly taken into consideration, but not in all projects and products. They add that it's often difficult to adapt certain software programmes to the parameters of certain languages.
All the same, there are far greater opportunities to develop applications for minor and major languages using open-sourced software than there is with close-sourced programmes. That, basically, is where we're at as regards stuff in Basque. There are a couple of Linux heads out there that, with the help of the odd subsidy, are trying to do big things in Basque (Mandrake Linux or OpenOffice). Code & Sintax have more humble objectives; "but ones we reckon are more effective. Instead of setting up complex structures in Basque, we prefer to develop the infrastructure we use (Zope) to set up systems in the language. We’ve proven that we can come up with the most up-to-date products in Basque: weblog, web browsers in Basque, sites that have no problems whatsoever using either Basque or Spanish..."
Here, at the home of The Balde, the company Eragin, also deep in the same field of work, say that the whole software business needs to be radically changed at the roots. They base their business and services on free software. As far as programming goes, free software uses top notch logic. You don't need to start from scratch to design a programme. You just build on what others have done. That way, you can come up with some top class stuff in a short period of time by using the many different options available. That's where the money comes from in programming; developing new systems and adapting them to concrete needs. Eragin state that closed-software owners' business is another ballgame altogether. "They design programmes and then try to sell them to as many people as possible.
The buyer has their hands tied from the start. They can't improve or adjust the programmes. The have to adapt themselves to the programmes. In open software, on the other hand, the service is constant. Both programmes and the users change. That means the software just has to be adjusted".
To finish off, Gotzon Egia underlines the fact that the different processes in motion have gone down two roads: either they've been totally private developments, a bunch a people working off their own backs (for instance, Visual IRC 97, the Basque version courtesy of Igor Aiestaran) or they've been done officially (such as most of Gnome that has been translated to Basque by UZEI and Elhuyar using Basque Autonomous Government funds). "I think there are limits and impossibilities on both sides: on the one hand, people can't do wonders on their own, and on the other, official subsidies can pull this kind of thing off. The thing is, so what if we have Gnome in Basque? Then what? What will the BAG achieve with that? Will they install Linux in state schools computers instead of Windows? I honestly feel that there's a whole lot of hazy ground there. We need open-source software, but only if we're going to use it! I mean, just what is the government playing at when, with one hand, it assists in the development of programmes like Linux in Basque, and with the other, it contracts licensed software to manage its administrative needs?"

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