[Fsf-friends] Indianisation of GNU/Linux

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Sat, 17 Aug 2002 00:28:31 +0530 (IST)

I was fishing around for some information on the possible Indianisation of
GNU/Linux. As Ms Mita puts it, Edward Cherlin's info (via the Simputer
mailing list on yahoogroups) appears to be mind-boggling. What do others
on this list think of it? Any feedback? FN

On Fri, 16 Aug 2002, Mita wrote:

> Dear Edward,
> What an excellent and valuable input! Thank you!  By the way, you don't
> sound like a generalist at all, more like a specialist!
> Checked out both the sites you recommend; one was rather technical, but
> the sil.org site is really great.
> So did you go to the presentation of the Simputer there in California?
> Did anybody on this list go?  Please do tell us first hand how it was!
> Did the simputer live up to all your expectations?
> Cheers
> Mita
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Edward Cherlin [mailto:cherlin@pacbell.net] 
> Sent: Wednesday, August 14, 2002 9:29 PM
> To: simputer@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: Re: [simputer] [OFFTOPIC] Request for some inputs for an
> article
> On Tuesday 13 August 2002 02:06 am, Frederick Noronha wrote:
> > Dear friends,
> >
> > I am thinking of doing a piece on the challenges posed by plans for
> > Indianisation of GNU/Linux.
> >
> > If you could give me some additional insights into the following
> > issues (in a language that a simple reader would follow), I'd be
> > very grateful. If you could send me the replies in a day or two,
> > I'd be even more grateful.
> >
> > For my side, I will circulate the article among all before the
> > Bangalor meeting. Thanks again. Frederick
> You're welcome. Where will this be published?
> > PS: Issues I need information on:
> >
> > What is your reading of:
> >
> > * Demand for Indian-language computers
> Although I have met a few engineers from India who speak only 
> English,  the answer is that the demand for Indian-language computers 
> equals the demand for computers in India, plus a bit for places like 
> the UK, Pakistan and Bangla Desh that do significant business with 
> India or have significant Indian minorities. You can find current 
> sales and installed base numbers on the Net. If you need help with 
> this, e-mail me offline.
> > * Main languages which could be tackled at this stage
> By next year, the Pango project should support all nine official 
> Indic scripts, so the answer is "All of them."
> > * Which languages would pose greater difficulties
> Languages that are traditionally not written, or are written in 
> non-standard variants of the standard scripts. Talk to Peter 
> Constable at SIL.org about this.
> > * Applications that are needed to be run in Indian languages
> Everything. Don't take "No" for an answer. On Linux, you can 
> volunteer to Indicize any application. In the future, when font 
> management and rendering are standardized, all applications will run 
> in Indian languages for input and output without further ado, and 
> anyone will be able to create a localization file to customize the 
> user interface. Volunteers are also needed to translate documentation.
> > * Lack of support in other OSs
> Indic and other South Asian scripts are the final challenge to 
> computer vendors for full I18n support. Progress is slow at Microsoft 
> and Apple. Linux should pass them by the end of the year, or early in 
> 2003.
> > * Technical challenges in supporting Indian languages
> The principal problem is rendering conjuncts without proper rendering 
> engines and properly encoded fonts. Users want to type a sequence of 
> characters, and not concern themselves with the details of rendering. 
> This requires fonts with appropriate tables giving the possible 
> character sequences and the glyphs for rendering each, and an engine 
> that knows to read the tables.
> Apple and Microsoft are not willing simply to support typing, 
> display, and printing. They will not release language and writing 
> system support until they have complete locales built, preferably 
> including a dictionary and spelling checker. Linux is under no such 
> constraints.
> >   X
> The Free Standards Group together with Li18nux.org are proposing to 
> rationalize and simplify I18n support under X, including a common 
> rendering engine, shared font paths, and other standards that will 
> greatly simplify the business of supporting all writing systems and 
> all languages.
> >   Toolkits
> Dozens. Write to me off-list and tell me what tasks you want tools 
> for. 
> Fonts? Check out pfaedit.
> Keyboards? Unix keyboard files can be prepared in any text editor. 
> Rendering? Pango, Graphite
> Software localization? IBM ICU, GTK, various languages...
> Multilingual editing? Yudit and emacs both support several Indic 
> scripts, and could be extended with only moderate effort on the part 
> of a few experts. I have not tested vim, the other Unix Unicode 
> editor. Most other Unix applications accept some Indic input.
> Mandrake Linux includes Bengali, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Hindi 
> Devanagari, and Tamil out of the box. That leaves Oriya, Malayalam, 
> Telugu, and Kannada still to be done, along with the Indic-derived 
> Lao, Sinhala, Myanmar, and Khmer. Tibetan and Thai are moderately 
> well supported. 
> >   Fonts?
> There are two projects to create a complete rendering engine: Pango 
> (Pango.org, Li18nux.org) and Graphite (sil.org). They also have plans 
> for complete sets of Unicode fonts (including not just the Unicode 
> characters, but also all of the non-character glyphs for rendering 
> Indic scripts.
> >   Voice synthesis and recognition?
> IBM and several other companies have projects to support 40 or more 
> languages each. I can put you in contact with a voice engineer in 
> Silicon Valley, and you of course have access to the voice engineers 
> involved in the Simputer design.
> >   Any right-to-left languages?
> Arabic and Hebrew are officially supported on Windows, Mac, and Unix. 
> Other languages in the same scripts (Urdu, Pashto, Farsi/Dari, etc.; 
> Yiddish, Ladino, etc.) can be typed but do not have full support. 
> Syriac (once used to write Malayalam) is included in Unicode but not 
> well supported. Thaana, used for Dhivehi in the Republic of Maldives, 
> is similarly encoded but not well supported. I can provide more 
> details, or put you in contact with experts on any of these.
> >   What other challenges do Indian languages pose?
> That's it. We have them all in hand. Well, dictionaries and spelling 
> checkers, of course. Word-breaking doesn't operate the same way in 
> Indic scripts as in the Latin alphabet. Fine typography, which you 
> don't find in consumer or office applications in any language. And 
> the sheer number. There are more than 800 languages spoken in India.
> > * Projects that are currently underway, and which are interesting,
> > in your opinion.
> As I said, Pango, Graphite, Li18nux, Free Standards. Mandrake Linux 
> emphasizes multilingual support, and welcomes offers of help. And of 
> course Simputer.