Meric Mara is currently CEO and CTO of 8layer Technologies, makers of KahelOS, a ‘Filipino-friendly’ operating system based on Linux.
Linux or GNU/Linux, unlike Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS, is a free and open source software operating system for computers. The operating system is a collection of the basic instructions that tell the electronic parts of the computer what to do and how to work.
Free and open source software (FOSS) means that everyone has the freedom to use it, see how it works, and change it.
There is a lot of software for Linux, and since Linux is free software, it means that none of the software will put any license restrictions on users. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people, especially IT professionals, like to use Linux.
Meric considers himself a hardcore Linux enthusiast, and he is an active advocate for various open source projects and initiatives.
It was during his college days that Meric got deep into programming, while looking for ways to make his work easier. This kind of mindset led him to eventually find ways to make software more user-friendly.
Open Source means Sharing
As current CEO/CTO of 8layer Technologies, he considers his job role as more of giving direction to the company, planning expansion programs and doing the research and development.
Unlike typical commercial outfits, Meric believes in sharing knowledge to everyone. Every time his company discovers new technologies, they make it a point to share knowledge to Filipino students.
The most basic business strategy with open source technology involves making the operating system available to users. The OS already has essential programs such as a word processor, an office suite, a web browser, and media players.
The user can then have the option to buy affordable software add-ins from the company if he wants to expand and enhance his use of the OS.
Meric believes that more and more young Filipinos have the potential to get into open source technology. He knows that the open source movement is very progressive and the low cost of building computer technologies based on the system is just right for a developing country like the Philippines.
As far as experience is concerned, Meric has more than a decade’s worth of work in various IT fields. His leadership style and know-how led him to clients who are impressed with his expertise.
Meric spearheads various projects that involve designing specialized software for the government, power companies, oil mills, retail and distribution, gaming, telcos and BPOs, among so many others.
Local IT industry leader
Even before he worked full-time for 8layer, he has already established himself in the local IT industry. For one, he has founded the sites sysads.org and philbug.org for programmers, web developers, and system administrators who want to collaborate in finding solutions to technical problems.
Meric has also held critical and management positions in various companies in the past, which includes Ecommsite Solutions, Unionbank of the Philippines, IDS Finance, and Philworld Online.
Under his direction, 8layer has grown to become one of the country’s trusted IT companies. The group has partnered and worked with Intel, PLDT, IBM and Digium.
The first Pinoy-friendly OS
Together with 8layer colleagues Deng Silorio, Jasper Tomas, and Lariz Santos, Meric helped develop what is now known as the first operating system that caters to the needs of the average Filipino computer user.
Based on the Linux operating system created by open source pioneer Linus Torvalds, the ‘KahelOS’, qualified for the top ten list of Distrowatch.com, an online site that charts and monitors Linux distributions, or distros, worldwide, upon its release.
The first version of KahelOS was developed with no funding years ago. The team acknowledges that it was through sheer passion for innovation and love of sharing.
Another thing that motivated the 8layer group was that they wanted to create an operating system that will both cater to Pinoy sensibilities and represent the Philippines in the global open source community.
At the same time, the team also wants KahelOS to be something that everyone can use for free, even if they are not Filipino.
Unlike some Linux distros that are difficult to use, KahelOS has a user-friendly interface that allows for easy, quick, and friendly installation.
To further promote the OS, its developers have created a mascot named ‘Mulat’ (wide-eyed or awakened in Tagalog). It was patterned after the endangered tarsier of Bohol, and the developers want Mulat to represent openness and awareness.
Although the OS was developed mainly by 8layer Technologies, it was improved upon by online volunteers from the open source community who tested the software and checked for coding errors.
Meric and his colleagues are very appreciative of the fact that other Filipino and international contributors have shared in 8layer’s vision.
The 8layer team hopes that the Filipino community “would not put this noble, passionate and useful innovation to waste.” KahelOS has already earned international accolades since its early development, and it would be ironic if Pinoys disregard something that many computer users worldwide consider very useful software.
As Meric’s colleague Deng would say, “We are sure that there are thousands, if not millions, of benefits and savings we can derive in using this free operating system in our schools and government offices,” she said.
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