The day before Scouts gets a Linux insight...

Tomorrow will be an exciting day for me. Its the first time I will be talking to a bunch of scouts consisting of school children ranging from about age 8 to 18, on GNU/Linux. I am very excited and at the same time slightly nervous, after all I've never talked to a kids gathering before. Remembering my self, growing up at the age of 8 - 13 back in Michigan, calmed me down and made me feel somewhat comfortable.

The event was organized by the British Computer Society , Sri Lankan section (BCS) and I got involved accidentally. Both Ruwan Fonseka and Anuradha Ratnaweera had done most of the ground work for setting up the event on behalf of LKLUG , but were unable to attend due to other commitments. Ruwan had translated part of the presentation that was to be done by Ruwan Mali of the BCS, into Sinhala using a Unicode font. The idea was to display the English slide followed by the Sinhala slide on a GNU/Linux platfor using OpenOffice.

Since OpenOffice support for sinhala is incomplete at the moment, I spend the whole of yesterday getting that imported to work with Koffice (or rather kpresentor), which is based on KDE and thus supports Sinhala Unicode rendering. At the same time I was pushing the idea of adding Sinhala rendering support to OpenOffice, to Harsha, who had previously patched ICU for Sinhala unicode support.

At about two or three in the evening, Harsha sent me a message asking me whether I'd like to work with him on patching up ICU, the screen rendering library used by OpenOffice. Unfortunately the previous patch he did was lost but nevertheless Harsha sounded confident about porting the current Pango patch to ICU, since the Indic rendering part of Pango was actually borrowed from ICU in the first place. This was a risky move at the time, especially considering I had a lot of organizing work left to do and the event required me to be at the venue (Royal College) on or before 9AM. Nevertheless if we could complete this task it would help the Sinhala Linux initiative to leap forward from its current status so we agreed to meet at the Narada center after work to hack OpenOffice the code base.

Back at office it was a busy day with other commitments on my part, and it was only about 8PM my self and Harsha were able to meet at the Narada center. Deep also joined the fun, since he had nothing better to do and came there later. I had the OpenOffice source code with me, but my hard disk was quite full so finding space, meant deleting files, backing up to slow USB hard drives etc. Anyway finally we started going through the code, patching it and then compiling it a few times. We met a few stumbling blocks along the way such as trying to get the LKLUG font to show up in OpenOffice only to discover that it probably didn't have the necessary truetype outlines that was required for inclusion (for a reason - thanks Harsha for pointing this out). Anyway after spending some time and ending up replacing with another font that Ven Mettavihari had developed, we hit our ultimate stumbling block, also known as TIME. It was 3 AM now and I still couldn't prepare for tomorrow's (well its today now) presentation.

Deep and Harsha who were now tired went home as I discovered that I didn't even have a copy of the latest presentation that I spent a long time preparing and importing to Koffice. Unfortunately while I was rushing out of office, I hadn't properly copied it to my notebook. With time against me, next I installed Sinhala Linux, since it had the KDE input method working, but later found that it didn't have Kpresenter needed to show the presentation. Trying to install kpresenter broke KDE altogether.

Dawn was breaking and there wasn't much time left. My eyes were also beginning to shut on me. It was now about 6:00 AM, so I decide it was too late to keep experimenting. I rushed out of the Narada center and headed to Virtusa to pickup my presentation. There was about three slides that also needed translating and so I got down and translated one of them, while I scratched my head to figure out the correct Sinhala wordings/grammer at 7 in the morning, after an all niter.

I rushed home, took a 5 min shower and rushed off again while struggling to explain why I didn't come home for the night and why and where I'm running off to again. The three guys at Narada had already prepared all the material we needed to take, and so we rushed to Royal College where we met up with Pradeepr, Suchetha and Deependra.

Stay tuned to the next blog for how things went!

To be continued...


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