A guide to setting up a working tamil linux environment

V. Venkataramanan
Surface and Interface Lab,
The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN)
Wako-shi, Saitama. Japan

email: venkat@tamillinux.org


KDE version 2.0 supports tamil as one of the languages for its user interface. All necessary files and locale support are available.  These are set up in TSCII fonts.  This enables a normal user to conduct most of his computer operations, like creating and editing a file, making simple drawings, composing and sending email, browsing the web, etc. possible with tamil.  It is also possible to do linux power operations like user and network administration and task scheduling with tamil interface.  This article provides a starter to set up a working tamil computer environment.

What is this article about:?

We brief an introduction to setting up a working linux environment.  The following topics are covered;

Obtaining Linux Mandrake 7.2
Install cares
Obtaining tamil fonts and installing them.
Choosing tamil locale
Choosing tamil fonts for GUI

What this article is not?

This is a very primitive article.  For example when we say install Mandrake linux 7.2, we do not explain how to do that.  We do not explain how to partition your hard disk. These instructions are available elsewhere.

So do not expect to get everything from this. This is only to jump start you to get a tamil linux PC.  You may have to expect a few hurdles here and there.  But that is what it is all about.  Rest assured from me  you will come rich in experience and knowledge.  The experience can be quite stimulating and rewarding.

Why we choose to explain Mandrake Linux?

There are two reasons; first mandrake is the first package which bundled kde2.0 (and tamil support for that, including locale files, etc.,); so as a token of appreciation we choose to write this with reference to their package.  Next, Mandrake is one of the easy to install linux, it is also easy to maintain it.  It has excellent graphic installer, xwin based configuration utilities, etc.  Also it has a good resource for localization (yes, it is possible to make all mandrake specific filed in tamil - this will even make the installation instructions in tamil.  If you are willing to do that, please let us know,  You need not know much about computers to do that!!)

Mandrake may not be the most stable of linux packages not it may be pleasing a puritan open source advocate, but it certainly has its virtues.

This article is targeted to novice users. (Read the two reasons again)

Obtaining Mandrake 7.2

You can buy Mandrake Linux 7.2 from many stores. Packaged with installation instruction (and later customer support).

Alternatively, you can get it free (it takes effort).  Go to Mandrake web site (http://www.mandrake.com).  Choose Products > Free Downloads

Choose a CD ROM iso image for i586 (or for other processors).  Choose a ftp site convenient to you.  Download the entire CD image (it is about a CD size, 640 MB) - so you need a stable internet connection (and/or an utility which will resume broken downloads).  Burn the image in to a CD (you need a CD writer)!!

Read the installation instruction thoroughly.  There are also other methods of installation (circumventing the necessity to burn a CD) for. example network installation from a ftp site.

Get to know about your PC (about what is the processor and its speed, what are the sound and graphics cards in it). Mandrake installation auto probes most of these, but a knowledge is quite useful.

Install Cares

There a few cares taken during installation (pertaining to your hardware) - as we said, we will not detail them here.  For more information read the Mandrake installation guide.

Make sure that you install KDE. As for the tamil language support - it does not come by default.  You need to choose it during installation.  Choose select individual packages.  Make sure that under KDE you select i18n (this stands for internationalization, i then 18 letters and n; the linux folk love such names). with tamil language support.  This will ask a question as to whether you want to have tamil locale support (a locale is a set of information pertaining to the language, for example to us it Tamil, we use rupees as our currency, we write date-month-year format unlike japanese who write year-month-date, a locale file make sure about such details).

At this point it is assumed that you have successfully installed a Mandrake 7.2 linux and have make sure about the availability of K desktop and tamil language files for it.

Congratulation - most of the work is done.

Getting tamil fonts and installing them.

So, you start your linux system, login and start xwindow.  Make sure that your K Desktop works fine. Most of the KDE window set up is very intuitive, if you are familiar with any other window based system (say microsoft windows) you will feel easily at home.  Only difference is that you are now under a very powerful and stable operating system.

There is an excellent How-to maintained by Anbumani on tamil fonts for linux.  Read it.  Follow the instructions there and get the tamil fonts installed.  Test it according to his prescriptions.

Choosing a tamil locale

From the stating, go to configuration > KDE > Personalization

Choose default (c) location (tamil/india is yet to be made available under countries/continents).

Choose language > other > tamil.  Accept this.  All changes will be activated (will work on all windows opened subsequently).

Your user interface is now set in tamil.  If you see some garbage on the window header etc., pat on yourself.  You are ready to see tamil.  Move on.

Choosing tamil fonts for GUI

Again, from start go to configuration > KDE > LooknFeel

You will see a set of fonts for most (this are the ones used in display).  Choose a tamil font instead for all these.  Accept.

Well done, you now see tamil everywhere in your desktop.  You are ready will a fully operational tamil system.


To type tamil texts, etc. you need to do a little more work.  We will present them in the coming articles.  If you have come this far, enjoy your tamil system and think about contributing to the tamil linux project.

Version 0.3 dated 9th Nov. 2000

Copyright V. Venkataramanan, 2000
under GNU Public License