Thu, 30 Mar 2006

Evolution and the new GLib in Debian testing

Last night, glib 2.8 and pango 1.12 entered testing, as a first step on the GNOME 2.14 quest. The bad news is that the fixed evolution & friends were not ready to go in as well, so now many etch users will be wondering why their evolution doesn't start up, or doesn't show any mail.

Until we manage to get a fixed evolution in testing, and it looks like it won't be trivial to get this done in the immediate future, Erich's recipe comes handy again:

My personal hero of the day is Gustavo Franco, for this email to debian-devel. He writes how to get your Gnome/Pango/Glib applications that don't work since yesterday's upgrade like evolution (#358071) working again:

$ G_SLICE=always-malloc evolution

And you should be able to read your email again.

Just FYI, and in case you missed it. :)

Mon, 27 Mar 2006

Ubuntu's “Langpacks” system, a solution for the OLPC project

Jim Gettys wrote about a problem regarding localisation that the OLPC project will face in the future.

The One Laptop Per Child project aims to provide the famous $100 laptop to children in the developing world. They are Free Software based, and as most GNU/Linux distributions, the bundled software will be available in a number of languages. For now, it'll only be ten or so, but as OLPC grows, the number will skyrocket... just think about the number of languages spoken only in Africa.

The $100 laptops don't have a hard drive. Instead, they have a 1 gigabyte of compact flash memory, which is enough to run the software, but it can't store that much extra data.

The most common way of internationalising and localising Free Software is to use GNU gettext, which provides an easy to handle text file format for translations, with a series of sentences and labels that the translators need to fill in in their language.

The applications ship these translations in .mo files, which are the same .PO files, in compiled binary format the gettext enabled programs can read. Each application installs one .mo file per language it is translated into. When the apps are big enough, these files can amount to several megabytes per application, which is a problem for embedded systems or projects like OLPC.

Ubuntu has been trying a different approach to the distribution of translations. Instead of packaging all the translation files with the applications .deb packages, they are stripped off from the packages, and provided by language packs.

Language packs offer the translations for all the applications and libraries of the main component of Ubuntu. This includes GNOME, KDE and many other popular applications. When you install Ubuntu, you select the main language of the interface, and the installer program will download the appropriate language pack, plus a selection of useful localisation-related packages like dictionaries, translated manuals, etc.

These language packs are generated periodically by Rosetta, a web-based translation portal which is sponsored by Canonical, Ubuntu's and's parent company. Rosetta offers a very easy to use translation infrastructure, and Ubuntu users can start translating the applications they are running with just two clicks on the application's interface.

With Rosetta lowering the barrier for people wanting to translate Free Software, Ubuntu can have, and is now having, lots of people improving the translations of not only the next version of the software, which is what translation groups have traditionally worked on, but also the version you are running at that same moment. There is no need to wait for the next version of Ubuntu to see your translations complete. Help your team translate whatever is missing, and wait for the next language pack update. Voilà!

If the OLPC project adopted the language pack scheme and Rosetta, they could install a raw OLPC laptop without translations, and only install the language packs that are needed in the target country or area. The langpacks are currently split into GNOME, KDE and “the rest”, but any derivative could fine-grain the components they wish to include. Furthermore, the system helps improving the localisation of the system after the laptops have been deployed. Just stick a USB drive to the laptop, and use your usual package manager to install the updated language packs contained in it. Or just use the Internet if it's available.

In environments where network access is completely impossible, making the availability of updated packs from a remote server a no-op, as well as online translation in the Rosetta server, other solutions could come in place. Generating langpacks from a set of local PO files should be pretty easy.

Fri, 24 Mar 2006

jdub's Cheerios fantasy

20:52 < fusibou> if jdub gets excited over edge flipping and window matching,
                 he's got a low threshold
20:52 < fusibou> XGL would probably send him into fatal seizures
Mon, 20 Mar 2006

GNOME 2.14 for Debian

The observant eyes will have noticed a few interesting uploads hitting unstable or incoming in the last few days. GNOME 2.14 is being uploaded to unstable in small chunks, in an attempt to let the buildd's do the compiling in a given order, so things can get sorted out in all architectures at the same time.

The libraries will take a few days to get in, and once most of them are in place, you can expect more mass uploads of end-user applications of the GNOME 2.14 suite.

As this time no big or complicated dependencies were introduced in the release, and there are no soname changes involved, it was easier to avoid the previous, and sometimes annoying experimental uploads.

Sat, 18 Mar 2006


I'm miraculously on my way back from London, after spending a week with daf, mvo and two guests, abel and thep, from Hong Kong and Thailand, working on improving some l10n aspects of the upcoming Ubuntu release, dapper.

The most visible result of the stuff that we've been doing is that if all goes well, users of the Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Bengali, Lao or Korean languages will get their required input methods, fonts and dictionaries Just Working as soon as their drives spit their dapper install CDs. We've learned quite a bit about the state of many of the Asian languages in the Free Software world today. Daf and I can certainly tell when an app renders Bengali or Thai correctly and when it doesn't, after closely comparing how different browsers do the job on various websites and font test pages.

We've learned more than we probably like about fontconfig, and thanks to mvo, there is now a mechanism to get custom fonts.conf snippets depending on the default language of the system set by language-selector, so users get the right fonts installed and used by default. Thep's and Abel's help to get this straight is invaluable.

On Friday, daf and I went to the ExCel Novotel where the Launchpad team is having a sprint, in order to lend a hand with the dapper translation import that is going on right now, but for a series of reasons we ended up working on l10n sprint stuff. At least I got to see the team again, and specially kiko, who greeted me with a "Qué pasa, hijo de puta!"

The real life side of this sprint has been less exciting than on other occasions, as due to being few in number and being quite tired, we haven't gone out of Earl's Court area until today. Still, our exploring around the hotel has yield some nice discoveries.

On Sunday, mvo and I were looking for a place to have dinner, and stumbled uppon the Troubadour a place which can either be a pub, a restaurant, a social club or a theatre, depending on your mood. The food was excellent, and the staff was really friendly. I found a Dictionary of Slang in one of the book shelves, and learned a few funny phrases.

Other days we've been to good Italian, Indian or Chinese restaurants, but we couldn't resist to go back to Trobadour again. On our last night, Mark took us to a place in the South Kesington area, with again was very good.

Abel left just after dinner as his flight was at 5AM from Stansted, and we hope he made it OK to the Netherlands, as at 00:30 or so he phoned us and seemed to be pretty lost somewhere. mvo left early in the morning, so daf, thep and I went to visit some bits of the city. My plane was at 16:45GMT, and we calculated that I should be leaving the K&K at 15:00 to be well on track for my flight. We went to Monument to see the tower, went up and enjoyed both the great views over London and the Thames river, as well as the really cold wind which made me swear once again about the %*@!# lack of Spring in the UK.

It was getting quite late for me, so we went to China Town for lunch. Despite the restaurant people being really quick, I only managed to leave the place at 14:50, but given my travel plan was pretty conservative, I was supposed to be safe still. Daf left me at the tube station entrance, and there I started my way too stressful journey back to València. If on our way to London Carlos and were quite close to find our flight closed, this time, I think I hit the limits.

I really don't know how daf and I arrived to the conclusion that leaving Earl's Court at 15:20 was acceptable to get in Heathrow on time. I ran up and down the tube stations, grabbed by luggage, and rushed back to the station, but I had just missed a train to Heathrow and that made me lose some precious 10 minutes. As stations passed by, it became clearer that we had fucked up somewhere when deciding at what time I needed to leave. At 15:35 I was still in the Hammersmith station, with half of the Picadilly line ahead before arriving to the aiport. I sent a message to daf, so he started to get prepared about me staying to sleep somewhere in London.

As soon as the train's doors opened, a number of people rushed out. Someone ahead of me fell when climbing the automatic staircase and I somehow managed to jump over him, with luggage and all. After a run that seemed like half an hour, I arrived at the Iberia desk and, panting, I could only articulate "Tarde para València?". The guy at the counter looked at me, and with a "this can't be true" expression in his face, he picked up a phone and asked "Is it already closed? [...] Can you open it for one more piece of luggage? Thanks."

In the meanwhile, I had been busy removing a 500 ml yoghourt from my bag, fearing having all my clothes smelling like strawberry back in València. The guy handed me a boarding pass, and gave me instructions about the "Iberia Room" near my gate. I asked him what that was about, and he says "oh, of course, you're in Business Class". For a second, I was reminded of stargirl's tricks to get free upgrades when flying, and immediately I was reminded that I was still in a hurry, and I should rush to my gate. And so I did, forgetting to thank the guy for being so kind. I left my yoghourt there though, so at least he could get some food if he was hungry.

The long line before the security check was exasperating, and when I finally went past it, I had to run all over terminal two to my gate, where everyone appeared to be waiting just for me. The doors closed as soon as I entered the aircraft, and I sat in the first row, got a free newspaper and a free meal. I couldn't believe my luck.

As I write this, we've gone over the Pyrenees, which are not as snowy as a month ago, but they still look beautiful from up here. I'm glad to be back in València.

Thu, 16 Mar 2006

GNOME 2.14, també en català

GNOME 2.14 was successfully released last night, and the release churning caught me in my hotel room in London, while preparing to go to bed. Knowing that the release notes were done in Catalan, but not uploaded, I decided to work on that for a while and ended up going to bed later than I would have wished. Congratulations to everyone involved in making 2.14 happen, it's exciting to watch GNOME maturing release after release.

As for the Catalan credits, again, I haven't been able to help much with GNOME 2.14 translations other than guidance and some tiny bit of coordination on our list. Thankfully, Josep, Xavi, Gil and Jordi, and not forgetting our new contributors like Maria, are always ready to carry most of the burden of the release. Again, this GNOME release is completely translated to our language, and I think we can highlight the polish of the translations, thanks to the ongoing review process.

Rock on, GNOME!

Sun, 12 Mar 2006

My non-vote for the GDFDL position statement

[ 1 ] Choice 1: GFDL-licensed works are unsuitable for main in all cases
[ 2 ] Choice 2: GFDL-licensed works without unmodifiable sections are free
[ 4 ] Choice 3: GFDL-licensed works are compatible with the DFSG [needs 3:1]
[ 3 ] Choice 4: Further discussion

And's reaction:

A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its
recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed:

  pipe to |echo vote is over; false
      generated by
      "echo" command not found for address_pipe transport

But I... I... only had two weeks to cast my vote! *sigh*, I suck.

Sat, 11 Mar 2006

Quant a Ubuntutu

Embarrasing enough, Ubuntu has shipped a Catalan translation for the very prominent About Ubuntu GNOME Panel menu entry which read “Quant a Ubuntutu”. It’s been there for so long that irazuzta and I really considered not fixing it at all for “hysterical raisins”.

Anyway, seb128 now has a patch to correct this at long last in Ubuntu’s gnome-panel. He promised to include it in monday's 2.14.0 upload… seb: DON’T FORGET!

In the meanwhile, Jordi Irazuzta and I just finished setting up the Ubuntu Catalan Translators team, with the mailing of some detailed instructions on how we want to get work done in the team.

It's been months of planning and designing a workflow to make a Ubuntu translation team and the openness that Rosetta offers to all the members of a team fit in Softcatalà’s high standards for the quality of the translations made by the organisation.

As soon as people start mailing back and get subscribed to the team’s mailing list, they'll get tasks assigned and we'll get the team kickstarted, with lots of work to be done before the Dapper release. The key for this team’s success is that we educate our volunteers to contribute their Ubuntu translations to the upstream projects or relevant Catalan teams, and that this is somehow coordinated. The experience will be quite good for me to identify some of the “social” problems with Rosetta, as many times people ask if their translations for Ubuntu will appear in other distributions as well.

The team is led, for now, by Jordi Irazuzta, lo noi de l'Ebre, and me.

If you're a Catalan Ubuntu user and want to lend a hand, you're more than welcome to join the mailing list to help, and become a Ubuntaire!

Sun, 05 Mar 2006

Catalan orthotypography

Ivan never has enough, and has gone ways further on his «Escriu bé» quest. Following up on my previous post on the X.Org Catalan changes, he has posted a list of characters that he still misses in our layout, in order to type really correct, orthotypograpically-wise, Catalan. Ivan, the king of nitpickers. :)

Toni also posted a mini-HOWTO on how to get your geminated l's look «aŀlucinants».

Sat, 04 Mar 2006

Buying a computer mouse

I've had the same mouse for probably 5 years, and I'm very happy with the result. Unfortunately, the batteries don't make good contact with the pins anymore and sometimes it takes ten minutes of delicate work to get it going again.

So today, I went to buy a mouse, and surprise, surprise, I had forgotten how much it sucks to be a left-handed when purchasing certain objects.

At the computer store, there were about 25 different mouse models, most of them featuring extra buttons, ergononic shape and other cool stuff. I was ready to buy something for even more than 20€ if it was worth it, but due to the non-simmetrical shape of most of them, again I could only go for the cheapest models.

I took a Creative optical mouse, and downgraded from a cordless mouse with 5 buttons + a wheel to a plain simple 3-button + wheel. At least it's USB... all the low end mice are still PS2.

When I was looking for a laptop, one of the requirements was that the touchpad wasn't slightly displaced to the left. So right-handed-ish...

I know there are shops with stuff for left-handed. Once, my mother bought me a pair of nail scissors designed for left-handed people. All that kind of stuff is generally very expensive and anecdotic, though. I wonder if we'll ever see laws that will force manufacturers to provide inverted items on demand. I want one of those cool mice.

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