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BANGLA is one of the most spoken tongues in the world. But till recently, there was a glaring absence of Bangla in the world of technology. Now, though, in the 21st Century the brilliance of Bangladeshis have taken the language to hi tech like never before.

Keyboard and Bangla
At the beginning, the major challenge for software specialists was to make the computer speak our language. Most deemed it impossible. Well it was quite a difficult task indeed. Unlike the English characters, the Bangla alphabets contained unique “Juktakhhors”, meaning conjoined letters. Not to mention the over whelming number of characters which seemed difficult to set out in a typical keyboard. The other challenge was to set a unicode standard for the characters mapped to the keyboard. Unicode is a standard that ensures that no matter what font you use, all the writings will remain same. But slowly the talented programmers solved this problem. Devising a standard keyboard, Bangla fonts were created, and solved a problem for conjoined characters. Now you can use Bangla to browse Bangla web-sites and even operating systems have Bangla interface. Special regard should go to Ubuntu as it is an open source operating system and has already been converted to full-fledged Bengali.

Bangla word processing
The next evolutionary step was to improve the Bangla word processing for both business and printing purpose. developing fonts and keyboard system had made it easy, but still Bangla remained quite out of reach for casual users. Bijoy, software that facilitates the process became available. Keyboards were made that showed Bangla characters on its layout. Even for those very casual users, systems were designed where you can simply write in English the Bangla phrase and the computer would automatically convert the writing to Bangla. Last but not least, the Bangla dictionary was developed along with Bangla spell checkers. The amazing thing is that, most of the software was designed by students with a passion for their mother tongue.

Bangla on the web
Although the technology of web had spent quite a considerable time from its early inception, quite surprisingly, Bangla had been absent there too until very recently. Much of that was due to the lack of standard Unicode Bangla keyboard. But where there is a will there is a way. Initially some pioneering newspaper sites put up Bangla by converting the news text as image files or PDF files with built-in fonts. But that's not real web. Soon the Internet was integrated and it became possible to read Bangla in true font from any computer. Now Google, the largest web search engine in the world has a Bangla interface.

Not only that the web sites have become Bangla, chatting programs like MSN can now also accept Bangla. So you can chat in your heart’s language with your friend from anywhere in the world. Bangla email has become quite common. Until recently, the web featured Bangla php sites like Bangla forum with dynamic logins and you can even have your email address in Bangla. Ain’t that cool!

Bangla goes mobile
Now that we have conquered the web, its now turn to the air waves. For a very long time, the mobile phones had only English interfaces. Then makers started to produce Chinese enabled phones. So talented developers started to work towards a Bangla platform for mobiles. Soon large mobile companies started to make mobiles that speak Bangla. So finally we can sms in Bangla as well. But the whole mobile technology isn't just limited to Bangla interface and sms, the language that is in our hearts are reflected by ringtones, caller tunes and other mobile related functions.

Bangla multimedia
Although a costly process, pioneering animators in Bangladesh have already started developing 2D animations in Bangla, following the footsteps of Meena, a very popular cartoon which was basically translated from Hindi, but worked by eminent Bangladeshi artists in the design phase. There are various firms which are operating to get the 2D animation out-sourcing market. The next big thing should be a full fledged 3D animated motion picture. 3D animation is a costly process requiring big budget and costly hardware, but some hobby inspirational artists are developing multimedia CD for children learning in full 3D which are available in market. Although the quality is not top notch like Pixar, it is only a matter of time.

The next step
The next step, as many Bangladeshi computer scientists are thinking, is the developing of a Bangla programming language platform. If it becomes possible, it would become much easier to write programs for people like us, as the emphasis will go on writing programs much like one speaks, using verbs and nouns, but in Bangla.

There is still much to do for Bangla on the tech side, but developers programmers and gadgeteers are at it. That day is not long when you will be sporing your very own Bangla iPod developed and made entirely in Bangladesh.

(The word Bangla has been used 40 times in this article!)

By Monty Python

Ideal career

IT is a room with four walls (white), a floor and a chair. There's a bed, too, but we're not taking that in consideration.

Oh, yes. There's me. And me being me, I don't engage in any productive activity. I sit in a chair. I type. I am served all my meals in my room. I eat sitting in front of my computer. Occasionally I have to scrub out bits of rice from between the keys on the keyboard. Not an altogether pleasant task.

I don't go to school. I haven't gone to school in two years. Education bores me.

I sleep eight hours a day. Eating takes up another two hours. That leaves fourteen hours. Those fourteen hours I spend in front of my PC. I watch movies. I listen to music. I chat with the hundred and something people on my WLM contacts list. Sometimes they amuse me. Sometimes they don't. And sometimes they annoy me with the question, 'what do you do all day?'

Eat, I reply. Eat, sleep, and sit in front of the PC.

Yep, that's the routine of my life.

My parents have given up on me. There was a time when they'd sit me down to have serious discussions about life and goals and ambitions. 'Don't you want to do something when you grow up?' they'd ask me. I saw the hope in their eyes. Doctor, they envisioned me to be. Or an engineer. At
least an economist.

They saw me graduating from an Ivy League university. They saw me sitting at the head of a multinational company, or delivering speeches at school foundation days and writing hard hitting papers on the merits (or demerits) of biotechnology. They wanted to see me as a trophy child, and I don't blame them. Parents have dreams. Unfortunately their dreams are not my dreams.

Of all the things I do, I don't think of a career. A career bores me. When I see myself in the future, I'm pretty much doing what I do now. And that is to eat, sleep, and sit in front of the PC.

Maybe one day I'll have a brainwave and develop software that will put Microsoft out of business.

But not today. Not tomorrow.

Tomorrow, and maybe even three years from tomorrow, I'll probably be sitting in my room. The walls will still be there (maybe I could paint them maroon, a DIY project?), the floor with the threadbare carpet I've planned on setting fire to on more than one occasion will still hide the speckled linoleum. My pc might be replaced by something sleeker, better. So might my chair.

I'll probably still be here. In my twenties, not doing anything productive. Sitting in front of my PC, taking my meals here, occasionally sending some of my work to newspapers and magazines. Oh, and chatting with my hundred and something contacts on WLM.

Maybe then, once I'm bored of this sedentary and generally unproductive life, I'll consider an 'ideal career'.

But not today.

By Shehtaz Huq

Disclaimer: This is a fiction piece. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead (or Emil) is purely coincidental.

For gud time call me

SO there I was, sitting in a jam packed bus with nothing to read when I noticed a brief but carefully written note in front of me. Now, a past experience in a public restroom taught me better than to read invitations written in public places. But as luck would have it, I was stuck in a bus with the invitation right in front of me, and curiosity got the better of me. It read and I quote, “For gud time call me”. Beneath it was the name of the author and what seemed to be his cell phone number.

Judging from the name I could tell that the person was a guy. This got me thinking. Who is this guy? Is he lonely or is this how he socializes? To whom was he writing? Was it a general invitation for anyone who wanted to have a good time? Maybe he was joking, and there really was no good time to be had at all, nothing that sounds that promising can be true.

But what if it is true? In that case how does this whole thing work? Does “good time sequence” get initiated as soon as I call him up? Then is my subscription to good times perpetual, or is there some catch? Moreover, is it free?

Now to the most important question, what does he actually mean by good time? I mean the term has

Different meanings to different folks. As for me, if I were to call some weird guy for good times then he damn well better have a PS3 and let me play with it. Some guys I know will never have a good time unless they can watch football and argue about it. I wonder whether he can arrange that.
There wasn't any time stamp on the note either. Now that raises another valid question- for how long is this offer valid? What if I don't call now, instead call a year later, or maybe two years? Will he still be there providing good times? In that case he must be a really noble person, as he doesn't have any life for the sole purpose of providing good times for others.

Maybe I have been looking at it from a wrong angle. Maybe he ain't the friendly guy I thought him to be. Maybe just maybe, he is advertising for a rival bus service and when I call him up he will explain to me how much of a good time I can have by traveling in his company's bus service. But then again, how much better can a bus ride be? They probably serve some refreshments, maybe something like those little wieners wrapped in a bun; or maybe they show those lame movies like they do in planes. That’s not my idea of a good time, trust me.

Then suddenly I remembered a guy for whom having a good time was the same as getting high. Then it hit me, it's so obvious, the guy is most likely a drug dealer who is looking for potential customers to get some hot property off his hand. Maybe I should inform the cops or the RAB…wait a second…could it be? Oh…now it seems all so clear. What if the guy with the invitation is part of RAB, and the whole thing is a sting operation to fish out guys looking for drugs? Touché RAB, touché.

But for now let's just assume that the guy isn't from a rival bus company, a drug dealer or a RAB official. Still isn't it a bit presumptuous on his part to assume that if I called I would be having a good time. What if it turns out that he only has a PS2? I wouldn't be having a good time then; or even worse, what if he tries to sell me stuff?

I guess I'll never find the answer to these questions. Someone later told me that guys who write stuff like that are lonely losers. But I say if these guys are really looking to help people just like they say and also make friends then bless their souls.

By Sadman Alvi

Dead souls

SYLVIA Plath once wrote an essay describing what she felt was the difference between the poet and the novelist. She envies the novelist's license to use a wealth of mundane details in all their ordinariness to flesh out her story, whereas, at least in the poetry she wrote, every object she mentioned took on a special significance, dominating the poem.

The mundane details are what makes Ian Rankin such a great read, though. Dead Souls, the tenth book in his Inspector Rebus Series, takes place before the administrative changes made in The Falls. The story opens with Rebus botching up a surveillance assignment at a zoo, where they were trying to trap a poisoner, by running after a paedophile on parole instead. His suspicious nature, somewhat influenced by the recent death of a respected colleague, gets the best of him, and he raises a stink that he will later come to regret. Around the same time, he receives a call from the past; an old friend needs his help. With all the stress and the doubts that have been plaguing him since his colleague died, Rebus is starting to crack, and into this mess comes a convicted serial killer, recently deported from the US, who wants to play mind games.

Dead Souls provides a rather disturbing insight into the world of paedophiles, and shows how a personal bias can make a bad thing worse. In terms of Rebus' personal story, we also get a glimpse of the young Johnny Rebus as he was before he went away and joined the army.

The strength of Rankin's novels is that he manages to capture the canvas of the character's lives. His protagonists aren't armchair detectives who solve the crime over a glass of port. Rebus, and Siobhan and just about any policeman from Lothian and Borders have a number of assignments and cases at hand at any given time. Added to this are the nitty-gritty of their personal lives, relationships, personal prejudices et al, and you have a story that is rich in detail and feels real.

Rebus is a character that's believable because he doesn't fall into the stereotype of the renegade do-it-yourself copper who's always breaking the law. He's prepared to do the plodding if that will bring him results.

Another cool thing about this book, and some of the others in the series is the music that Rankin weaves into it. My friend Tareq and I have been downloading the songs he mentions, and the Dead Souls soundtrack makes some fine listening indeed. So if you're looking for a book that engages your attention and makes you live the story, this is the one for you.

By Sabrina F Ahmad



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