ELIZABETH J PYATT: July 2009 Archives

Looking Forward to the Unicode 33 Conference

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This October I will be traveling to the Unicode 33 Conference in San Jose to present a tutorial and a paper. The organizers asked if I could feature it on my blog, so here is my honest "plug" for the conference.

I've already been once to Unicode 31, so I can be honestly say it really was the one of he best conference experiences of my career. They generally have an excellent range of programs for all levels and interests and this year is no exception.

If all you know is the term "Unicode" or "foreign language tech stuff", there are beginner pre-conference tutorials which assume you know little to nothing including an introduction to writing systems in general as well as a "grand tour of Unicode." If you know more, you can find tutorials and sessions aimed for die-hard programmers, font designers and project managers.

There will also be sessions on Unicode in Web 2.0 tools like Joomla and Twitter, several sessions focusing on Right-to-Left languages, math and East Asian languages (including Japanese cell phone emoji).

In addition to all the sessions, the major players will be there including presenters from the W3C, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Yahoo as well as people from other companies and universities. This is also a gathering spot for members of the Unicode committee, so who knows you may end up talking to in the hall.

If you are seriously interested in Unicode, then this is a great opportunity to learn both the basics and the cutting edge materials. As I said in the title, I am really looking forward to this.

New Features in Windows 7

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The Windows 7 blog from Microsoft recently posted information on new "global" features for the next version of Windows (which would be Windows 7). Most of the focus in terms of fonts is on languages from South Asia (India in particular) and Southeast Asia (including Lao and Khmer fonts).

Microsoft is also announcing enhancements for displaying Arabic script characters and a new Font control panel (which now include a font preview). Microsoft is also releasing pilots of new localization features.

I suspect a lot of people either skipped Vista or returned to Windows XP, so it is worth mentioning that Vista had already included substantial additions in its font and locale repertoire including Ethiopic support and several Indian languages.

I've heard a few good things about Windows 7 through the grapevine, so I am crossing my fingers. I will be anxious to test it in the Penn State environment.

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iPhone Support for Romanian (Sorin Sbarnea)

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This is sort of a guest column entrty. A while ago, I wrote about iPhone 3 Unicode support, and a reader Sorin Sbarnea sent me this following as a comment.


Sorin Sbarnea

I was interested in adding a comment to your article from http://www.personal.psu.edu/ejp10/blogs/gotunicode/2009/06/iphone-30-unicode-support-stil.html but I was not able to find any way of adding a comment on the page.

IPhone 3.0 does have full support for all Romanian characters, previous versions did not. In order to be able to enter special characters you need to use a Romanian keyboard. Due to ergonomics they decided to not include all character on one keyboard because it would be too hard to use. Also I want to say that the drag model is genuine and very practical - after few days you'll see that is much smarter and more precise than the old click model.

I remember that I submitted 3 bugs on Apple for Romanian support, they solved one in 2.1 and the rest in 3.0 - so all you have to do is to complain to them ;)

Just to give you an example: in the first implementation of the Romanian keyboard the Ă character was the last on the right of the list of accented A characters after characters that are not used in Romanian - I complained to them explaining the reasons and now they solved it. I don't know if I was the cause or the only one complaining but they solved it anyway. Also - I wasn't able to find *any* error in Romanian translation of the iPhone - this is something very good - let's say I wasn't expecting this level of quality for Romanian translation.


Comments

The lesson here is that Apple does listen...if you know where to send input. Still not convinced about dragging on the iPhone in general (except for solitaire), but I can be stubborn. I'm glad Sorin is a satisfied Apple customer.

As to the question about submitting comments - I disabled mine because about 99% of them were offers for land in Florida or pharmaceuticals I cannot use. For now, please feel free to contact me at ejp10@psu.edu. If I hear an outcry for commenting, I may change my mind.

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How Unicode Mattered in Iran

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As protesters expressed their anger with the Iranian presidential electoral process, the world marvelled at how Twitter, Facebook and other Internet outlets are re being used by Iranians to communicate with each other even as the government was sending out force to suppress the riots. The U.S. State department even requested that Twitter reschedule a fix so as not to interfere with the daylight hours of Iran.

Heady stuff for technologies we normally associate with most insipid of Internet messaging ("OMG - The Orioles lost again?!?"). I'm glad Facebook and Twitter were there, but I suspect that some of the most important messages were in Persian (Farsi) and were made possible by another less glamorous technology - Unicode. Both Facebook and Twitter have had underlying Unicode support in the beginning, so assuming your system had the right fonts, you could communicate in any language from Persian to Igbo and then some.

Although I am normally a symbol geek in my love for Unicode (goes well with my lifelong obsession with fonts, foreign language and exotic characters), at times like these I realize that Unicode is an important tool to the dream of the Internet enabling anyone, anywhere to speak out and be heard. If you are not a symbol geek, but wonder why Unicode is important...I think bloggers and Tweeters in Iran, China and everywhere can show you the answer. Unicode makes it possible for everyone to be heard...even if you haven't had the chance to learn English.

Postscript: English Digital Divide

In some countries there is a real digital divide based on language - that is those who have learned a major language such as English, French or Spanish or Chinese and Arabic are able to use the Internet while others who only know a relatively under supported language do not have little to zero access.

For instance, I asked a scholar at a Sri Lankan university how they computed in the Sinhala script, and his answer was that all computing was assumed to be in English (partly because Sri Lanka used to be the British colony Ceylon). I was a little startled, but it makes sense. Until recently, I suspect that only a few people or institutions in the upper economic tiers could have afforded computers and they were likely already educated in English. Since English support is built in, it might seem a waste to work in support for a "local" script. Still, I think a lot of people and organizations understand the importance of Unicode in increasing access (and preserving local languages) and are working to provide low-cost utilities for these communities.

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.

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