If you are her man, give her a mouse.
She moves in mysterious ways. There she is. Online. Giggling to a funny video on YouTube, gossiping on Facebook, and as usual, addicted to online chat and e-mail. She’s the one, cajoling him to surf for romantic holidays and book travel tickets. She’s one in a million. Actually, one in around 12.32 million, according to a study by the Internet and Mobile Association of India [www.iami.in]. I expect those figures to be significantly higher, since the study is about three years old. Some more recent figures, published at internetworldstats.com, offer different figures: a total of 60 million Internet users in India, which is just 5.2 per cent of India’s population. Of these 60 million people, 85 per cent are males, as gleaned from several other sites. Hence the mystery. Only one thing is certain: there is a surge in the number of women embracing the Internet, even though the overall percentage is still low.
Ping for pink
In my personal observations, only a small percentage of women in India own a personal computer. They often share someone else’s computer at home, or use a cyber cafe. But if you love someone, you could set them free. Really surprise her this Valentine, by gifting her a personal netbook. These laptops are small enough to fit into a lady’s purse, and come in attractive colours. The good ones come pre-installed with GNU/Linux, and if you’re lucky, you may just find a majority of models between Rs 9,000 to Rs 21,000. I expect these prices to further fall down by a few thousand rupees through this year. Netbooks suit her lifestyle, too. These can be used anywhere, are more robust than regular laptops, and have less moving parts. She can use them to share photos from a connected digital camera; browse her music on her digital music player; for a little bit of college or office work; and of course, for all her socialising and shopping on the Net.
Surprisingly, the response to netbooks that I’ve noted among women is quite different and far more positive than those of men. You’d expect them to shirk away from pre-installed GNU/Linux. On the contrary, they just love the idea of not having to deal with viruses and crashes any more, and appreciate how its adoption drives the price down further for them. Try it. Take her to any of the new gadget shops dotting urban Indian malls, and let her play with one of these petite laptops.
Share the happiness
Don’t despair if you can’t gift her a netbook in this global meltdown. Buy her a USB thumbdrive with the highest capacity you can afford beyond 2 GB. These may cost you between Rs 400 to Rs 2,000, about the same as a date at a cafe, or a candlelight dinner at your favourite restaurant. Then head over to pendrivelinux.com, and install a bootable GNU/Linux system on the device. Load it up with all her personal data files, such as her favourite music, personal photos and movies. If she’s smart, she might just study the smile on your face and ask you: “Is that a USB thumbdrive in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”
That’s your cue to share your happiness. Show her how she can just plug in her new USB thumbdrive to any desktop or laptop computer and boot into her own personal GNU/Linux system. She has the freedom to do everything that she always wanted to do with her own personal laptop or desktop, without touching the data on the host computer’s hard-disk. She can also save all her data and files on her thumbdrive, so no one can snoop into her personal life, or accidentally delete her files.
When you really love someone deeply, the most precious thing you can share with each other is freedom. That is when you really discover the difference between true love and dependency-hell. Share with her the taste of freedom: give her the gift of GNU/Linux. For women have been the custodians of free knowledge and wisdom, in an unbroken chain lasting thousands of years from generation-to-generation. Happy Valentine’s Day!