Monday, July 25, 2005

Bad PR?

Well. One of the polish translators of Firefox published an unofficial build of Firefox (codename deerpark). It is a great way to humiliate the Qt/KDE community. While being mildy unfair, making fun of the gecko Qt port is easy. Wrong. It is just a nasty way to do bad PR for Qt/KDE. Another UPDATE, seems it was just a matter of sense of humor I didn't get. Apologies to marcoos (the polish translator), for not understanding this.

He writes in one of the comments (my translation):

The qt/mozilla project works like this
1. Someone says GTK is ugly (bullshit, but hey)
2. Somoene starts a qt port
3. Three months pass
4. A port appearts, it even compiles, still it remains unusable.
4. A year passes.
5. Port doesnt even compile now, because its been unmaintained for over 6 months
6. Someone removes the port, which at this point is out of sync, from the official mozilla branch
7. 10 months pass
8. GOTO 1.

UPDATE: Well at first I thought this was he has a damn point and although on one hand it is unfair to make fun of this, on the second couldn't Zack, or anyone, just finish it during the whole year? Many projects that get started in KDE are not finished. Its normal, but they mostly do not go outside the KDE repository. Those which do, could at least get finished and maintaned, for PR sake.

Well now that I talked a little more to other KDE developers, I am posting better remarks about this:

  1. Mozilla Foundation is not making it easier to maintain and develop this port, a sufficient argument is the time for Dirk Mueller to get SuperReview. I bet every project would welcome such a skilled and experienced developer like Dirk, without making all those troubles. Well, Mozilla is not an AOL/Netscape offspring for nothing, right?

  2. I would like to apologize to Dirk, for the earlier version of this post. The Mozilla/Qt and the Gecko/Konqueror integration are maintained and will be a subject of presentation at the KDE Akademy 2005.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Localization, now!

Localization, what an important domain of commercial project development it is. Unfortunately its often forgoten in the OpenSource world. This seems reasonable, since the OpenSource software does not aim to conquer national markets, vendors hardly ever do local marketing. It is important to distinguish localization from translation. The latter takes care of translating the user interface and documentation to the desired language, while localization is responsible for making sure that programs have the same functionality in different languages.

How important is localization? Imagine buying a ferrari only to learn that you can not speed greater than 60km/h with it outside Italy...

Websites providing content

This is about applications that use external websites to serve additional content. Two examples, both from amarok.

The information tab that uses Wikipedia to display information about the artist of currently played song. The information is searched in English Wikipedia, even if running with a Polish locale, amarok still chooses to search the English Wikipedia by default. Most of Polish artists are not available there. The user is informed that no page was found. While it is very probable that such a page exists in Polish Wikipedia (Pudelsi is an example band name). Absolute l10n no-go.

A much bigger failure in localization is the lyrics tab. Searching for most of Polish lyrics there is just a mistake. This desperately needs localization. Even the encoding of the artist name is broken by the search engine used on the Lyrics tab backend. This is of course much harder to localize, since this process would need coding skills. Still it remains a huge bug, I doubt a commercial vendor would release this feature on a non-English market with its current state.

Amarok is the first application that is using website providing contents to such extent and therefore it is only natural that the amarok team made those mistakes. I love amarok and I am full of respect for what the amarok folks wrote, please treat this article as a hint and not as a depreciation of amarok.

Speech synthesis

The speech synthesis via festival localization was beautifully done by the kttsd developers. One Polish voice (male) is present on the voices list. It seems there is one more Polish voice (female) for mbrola, but I can not check if it works with festival. Still kttsd has two issues. First when I checked the voices file, there was no non-European/USA voice listed. I could bet there were Arabic voices for festival. Quite an localization issue in a big part of the world. Second one is no predefined command plug-in synthesizers. In Polish there is one free synthesizer for linux - powiedz, command line tool. It could be supported by default too.

Translation service

Half of KDE applications use the famous babelfish and google translation services. From konqueror's addons, through kopete's translator plug-in to kbabel. For years no one noticed that translation services exist even for languages different than the several ones supported by those two translation engines. An example is: translantica - English<->Polish translation engine created by the academic workers from Polish Academy of Sciences. I am sure there exist similar languages for the Arabic languages. Even if there are no Spanish<->Polish or Japanese<->Polish services, one can still try doing Spanish<->English via babelfish or google and English<->Polish via translantica. It can be done for any language with bidirectional English translation engine. No localization whatsoever here.

Search providers

I have set the polish locale but I am using the English language. Now I want to google in Konqueror. Guess which google version does Konqueror load when using a search provider? Yes, the English one. It is impossible to describe how annoying this situation is. But wait there are more services like that (ex. wikipedia). Ofcourse this flaw is only partial, since with KDE with Polish translation should at least choose the Query[pl] URL over the Query one. Still what about the polish search providers? I have made collection of them for the PLD Linux I am working on and I will commit them once my todo for them is complete. Still I am completely astonished by the fact that no one else from the community did not submit such data. Two localization issue here then.

Thesauruses and dictionaries

The last localization aspect but how much underrated in the KDE community now. How many koffice thesauruses can you count? I have yet to see an non-European thesaurus for koffice. But the same goes for dictionaries, looking at the quality of Microsoft's dictionaries in the latest Office Suite, one will notice that there is no Polish dictionary with the support for punctuation and other advanced language rules around, even in commercial OpenOffice suites. But there is an open thesaurus project in Poland which provides koffice the thesaurus also in koffice format. Still what about non-European languages?


The situation is not perfect and while most Western European languages are not lacking good localization, the need for localization in the other languages is vast. There are two things to be done by two sides of KDE.


The developers need to create the localization possibility. Much of it already exists like thesauruses and kspell framework. But still there are things missing: a possibility to add translation engines and specify local equivalents of content-providing websites. One could dream about providing those possibilities without requiring the localization team to have programming skills.


Well it is up to users to generate localization teams, developers cannot know about every aspect of localizations. Hey, go for it!