Sunday, October 29, 2006

The state of regional languages in computing

Following a new Firefox setup for my father, I thought of adding some fancy features to impress him. The first thing that hit me was the Tamil language support for Gnome. Installed language-pack-gnome-ta and set Tamil as the default language for my father. I logged in to my fathers account. There were some glitches in the display - I opened the font preference and selected the font Terminus for fixed width and Serif for the rest. Sans-serif fonts don't seem to be having good glyphs for Tamil. Everything was fine except that the translation was not complete and there were many English texts. This is when I became more interested in local language computing. Google revealed some interesting tools and facts.

SCIM was were appealing - it is an input method supporting many languages including Tamil. I decided to install and give it a try. To make things easy Ubuntu already ships with scim - installing was a breeze. I setup scim to input in English when C-1 is pressed and in Tamil when C-2 is pressed and use C-Space to toggle. For Tamil I selected the Phonetic method - this maps a key compination to a letter in tamil:
So pressing:
t ==> ட்
ta ==> ட
tha ==> த
This phonetic mapping made entering Tamil characters easy for users like me without knowledge of Tamil keyboard layouts.

கல்தோன்றி மண் தோன்றாக் காலத்து முன் தோன்றிய மூத்தக் குடி தமிழ்க் குடி

To make SCIM the default input type. I created a symbolic link ~/.xinput.d/default pointing to /etc/X11/xinit/xinput.d/scim.

Now, I decided to translated some of the basic things that my father will be using to Tamil. Google pointed me to a nice and simple tutorial on native language support. Now to add the missing parts all I need to do is replace the file /usr/share/locale-langpack/ta/LC_MESSAGES/ with a new one. This file cannot be edited directly, this one is an optimised file generated after compiling the original 'po' files. The po files are generated from the source. This time google pointed me to Rosetta - A web based system developed by Canonical to translate open source software. This is a very nice interface making things easy for people contributing towards translation. Quickly found the link to gnome-panel and downloaded the po file. Added the missing translations and compiled it to mo file using msgfmt.
The end result is a pleasing desktop in தமிழ்:

When Opera ditched and Firefox came to the rescue

On Friday, my father complained that he had some troubles with Opera. He had been using computers for around two years now. His initial browsing experience started with Firefox but the rendering of Tamil fonts in the early versions of Firefox were not good enough and Opera did that way better and impressed him - ever since he had been a loyal Opera user. To see what the trouble was with opera, I logged in to his account and launched opera, clicked a bookmark and was annoyed to see a lot of popups (I don't know why opera didn't stop them). For the actual problem - the tabs didn't close when the close button is pressed and was totally disobedient. In additions there were other annoyances in websites that he normally visits. If this was firefox, a simple Greasemonkey script would have removed much of the annoyance. A quick search found that there was an equivalent called user scripts in Opera. But I couldn't stop the popups and the original problem at hand. I was hearing good things about Pango support in Firefox and a quick search revealed some screen shots that showed good rendering of Tamil fonts. Now I decided to set him up Firefox instead of solving the Opera problem - As I myself use Firefox, I could rest with managing one software instead of two.

I was already using Bon Echo (Firefox v2) but pango wasn't enabled, so I downloaded the source and built it with pango support. Building was easy - create a .mozconfig with required options and follow the the standard ./configure;make;make install; procedure. I was really impressed with the quality of the rendered output - simply nice. I tested it with the sites that my father frequents:
  • It did a good job in blocking unwanted pop ups, I also disabled the notification about the pop up being blocked.
  • There were some sites with annoying behaviors - Installed Greasemonkey and wrote some scripts to remove them.
  • Some sites were using dynamic fonts - Installed padma.
The end result is a shining high quality browser that impressed my father.

Now, If you can't read the statement below, go and get yourself a better browser
தோன்றின் புகழொடு தோன்றுக அஃதிலார்
தோன்றலின் தோன்றாமை நன்று.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Not updating to Breezy

I am a happy Dapper user - my system is now perfectly setup to do all my daily business and to watch DVDs. I am not yet updating to Breezy, though curiosity dragged my to try out a preview release. The new upstart init daemon looks promising - I only tried the live cd and didn't play much with it.

So my shell will not seen an "apt-get dist-upgrade" in the near future.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Ubuntu rocks - Already waiting to see how The Feisty Fawn will look.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Google's customized search engine

Google has rolled out a search engine that can be customized to individual needs.
Here's a sample search engine to search for information relating to pets:

New look blog

Finally changed the template to my satisfaction. Waiting for the new features to be rolled out on this blog, especially, the labelling thing.

I hate my obsession for perfection

I did that once more - I was trying to review my blog and was not satisfied with the old template, tried tweaking some existing template and wasted the entire night. It happens time and again and I waste way too much time concentrating on perfection where the time actually should be spent on the task at hand. Hopefully this is the last time :-(

Monday, October 23, 2006

Another blog from Writely:




and a separator

Schön gut.

also with lists:
  1. a numbered list
  2. two
  3. three

  • Bulleted list
  • dot
  • dot

but where is the title?
Written using Writely.