African open source projects gather steam

South African developers have made headway on a number of open-source projects, including an upgrade to a new version of Linux.

Developers in South Africa have installed the firewall component of the next version of a variant of Linux, called Impi 2, in a high-profile installation within the country, as the beta testing cycle for the software gets under way, according to the head of the project, Ross Addis. Addis would not make the installation public for security reasons.

Impi, a Zulu word for a group of warriors, is a free Linux package created by an alliance of developers. Private individuals, Cubit Accounting Software, MIP Holdings and other organizations are funding the Impi project.

Addis said there is no concrete timeframe for the release of Impi 2 but developers have almost finished with the base architecture of the Impi 2 system. Unlike Impi 1, released last year and based on the Debian Project's version of the operating system, Impi 2 has a new base, including a new package management system that utilizes XML, Addis said.

While Impi comes with the GNOME desktop window manager, Impi 2 will offer both GNOME and KDE, from the K Desktop Environment (KDE) Project, Addis said.

In the meanwhile, South African open source developers have released a chain of other applications.

Last month, a group of developers began offering a Kiswahili spell-checker. Kiswahili is one of the major languages spoken in the Southern African region. The new spell-checker follows the release of an Afrikaans spell-checker. Afrikaans is also a language spoken widely in South Africa.

The spell-checkers allow users writing documents in or composing an e-mail in Mozilla to check spelling as they type their document or e-mail. The spell-checkers work on Linux and Windows.

Dwayne Bailey of South Africa's, the open source development alliance that released the spell-checkers, said that judging from downloads of the products, there has been a lot of interest with the Kiswahili and Afrikaans spell-checkers.

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