Open Source Hero Proves The Power Of Tux

by Julia Fernandes    Sep 27, 2004

This is a story of guts and glory - a classic tale of a lone software developer who attempted the unimaginable. Faced with an extreme challenge, he was attacked from almost every possible angle - Be it vicious taunts from senior officials or putting up at a mosquito-infested accommodation; you name it, he endured it.

The hero of our story is Vishal Kashyap, who single-handedly weathering all these storms, delivered an open source solution for Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS), located in the remote regions of Himachal Pradesh.

Sharing this trail blazing initiative with CXOtoday, Vishal Kashyap, lead software developer, Sai Hertz & Control Systems Pvt Ltd., said, “SaiPACS not only addresses the needs of PACS, for whom this solution has been developed, but has also rendered community service by eliminating piracy which is highly prevalent, due to high-cost proprietary solutions (Read Microsoft).”

Reminiscing about how it all started, Kashyap narrated, “In the winter of 2002, I received a request from the secretary of Kotla Agriculture Credit Society for developing a software for PACS. Keeping in mind their needs, I knew that open source was the only route through which I could meet their needs while keeping my investment minimal.”

“On December 19, 2002, in a distant village called Amjar in district Una of Himachal Pradesh, I began writing the code, with one computer, which had a configuration of 700 Mhz, 40 GB, 128 MB SDRAM, running Red Hat Linux 9.0. However, I was not alone. The stench of cow dung and the presence of mosquitoes completed the picture, ensuring that I got disgusted in every possible way,” chuckled Kashyap.

According to Kashyap, while the backend has around 60 to 70K lines of code (including tables and other functionalities) the front end comprises of several small files.

Speaking about the complexities involved in developing the solution, Kashyap a BE in Electronics and Telecommunication, said, “Co-operative banks are small-sized units organized in the co-operative sector financing small borrowers in industrial and trade sectors besides professional and salary classes. The challenge lied in integrating their banking operations with their PDS (Public Distribution System) operations.”

In terms of the cost of developing the solution, Kashyap reiterated that while money was not a big issue, it was sheer guts and mental strength in terms of the price he paid.

Kashyap is particularly grateful to the open source community who helped him understand one thread, on which he was stuck. Says Kashyap, “I lacked understanding in IEEE 754 specification, which defines how a decimal point has be to be handled. The open source community not only directed me but they also sent me the specification paper which helped in resolving my predicament.”

In terms of user training, Kashyap maintained that since most of them were unfamiliar in Windows environment, there was no process of unlearning for them. The applications they were familiar with were legacy ones like Foxpro and Clipper.

Apart from Kotla, Ambehra Co-operative credit society and Amlehar Jadid Co-operative credit society too has deployed the solution.

SaiPACS is a management tool, specifically designed for primary agriculture credit and co-operative societies, based on open source components, such as PostgreSQL as its database. The solution caters to the typical functions of PACS, right from maintenance of shareholders list, savings, FD, LTDR down to MIS, loans, transactions in the above mentioned accounts, etc.

The solution is compatible with Linux, BeOS, QNX, SCO Unix and Solaris and in the Windows family it can run on Windows NT 4.0, 2000 Professional Server and XP Professional Server.

India may not have the millions to start an automation apocalypse that will eliminate the book keeping era. But there’s one thing that the country has managed to harvest, and that’s sheer determination. With the likes of Kashyap exploiting Open Source technologies to the fullest, all this country needs is a few more Linux musketeers with a will to succeed. Watch out world, here we come.

Tags: Linux