Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Indian Language computing

Computing in Indian Languages made easy!

We were fooling ourselves till recently. We have devised some English (Repeat – English) fonts that appear as Indian Languages fonts, and we were happily using those fonts in applications and programs and felt proud to have worked in Indian Languages. There were issues involved as well. For example, in Hindi Language, since devising fonts are child’s play, every other party made their own fonts and keyboard, therefore there is no standardization. And, because of these, you can not use GIST – NaiDunia – Bhaskar fonts and keyboards interchangeably. These types of practices further bush back the progress and possibilities of computing in Indian languages. And top of it all, it was all true that while you fool yourself by typing in “English fonts” that “look-alike” Indian fonts, the basic interface along with working environment remains in English language. And, again, this was the situation for the country which has population that exceeds a billion and also with fact that this country alone has provided more computer professional to the world than many other countries put together.

Now, things are going a bit better, and we are near the point where we can stop fooling ourselves and work in true Indian language environment, at least in selected few Indian languages for a start. Linux has been released in Bangla and Hindi flavor and for other Indian languages, efforts are on at various levels and it is hoped that in a couple of year, Linux will be available for all common Indian languages. Issues like multiple keyboard – fonts etc. had already been addressed by wide spread acceptance of Unicode (UTF-8) standard compliant Indian fonts.

Linux in Hindi, Gujarati, Bangla, Tamil, Panjabi…

LiFY, the Linux Distribution from Linux For U (LFY), the sister publication has already distributed Hindi Linux to its reader long ago. Since then, some more work has been done and therefore, Hindi Linux has matured further. Most of the desktop environment for Gnome, KDE and Xfce has been done for Hindi since these all now support Indian Languages. Similarly, Linux in Bangla has been released thanks to a handful of team but filled with great enthusiasm involved in Bangla translation and localization effort. You can get latest Hindi version of Linux from http://www.indlinux.org. You can download entire image file that runs off bootable, live CD in Hindi. Alternately, for your existing Linux installation, you can also download source code of Hindi installer. Similarly, to get a flavor of Bangla Linux, go to http://ankurbangla.org.

Indian Windows

Windows XP has built in support for some major Indian Languages that includes Gujrati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Marathi, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. You can use these languages as base language environment for your all computing need. But the interface remains in English (or other supported languages, but not Indian Languages) as these were not available for Indian languages. The GUI, the menus etc. all were in English for Indian users hence it was of little use except inputting data in those languages. For taking Windows to the mass with their own language, the interface and the entire environment needs to be available in their own languages. Windows too has realized this and it is selectively releasing Language packs for different languages. Its Hindi pack has also been released that looks and works wonderful in true Hindi Language environment.

Hindi Language pack for WindowsXP

The Hindi language pack is a 5 MB, single, executable, installer file named LIPSETUP.MSI from Microsoft which is available for free download at is web site: http://download.microsoft.com/download/c/4/f/c4fd43f5-5630-42b8-b2d3-515fe2f74e7e/Readme.htm . The Hindi interface works with 32 bit WindowsXP Home/professional version with Service pack 1 installed. It works in only 96 DPI resolution modes. To set proper resolution for Hindi, Right click on Desktop, click on Advanced tab on the window that appears. In its child window that appears again, select General tab. Under Display section, there is drop down menu- DPI setting – set this value to Normal 96 DPI and click OK to apply settings. Now run the installer file LIPSETUP.MSI that you had downloaded from the above mentioned site. But be sure that you had installed Windows XP Service Pack1 on your Windows XP machine. Hindi pack will install in a few minute and when you reboot your machine, AAREE WAH ! its pure Hindi! From Login “SUSWAGATAM” to “NIYANTRAN KAKSHA” (that damn Control Panel, in Hindi) all the interface, and not only work environment, are in Hindi. Menus, Dropdown menus and other things were also in Hindi as well. It is claimed that 20% of base translation has been done for this pack that covers 80 % of Windows use. Remaining stuff like Help files and error messages are under translation since they are seldom used and therefore have less priority.

You can see Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, Wordpad and Notepad etc.– all having Hindi interface in its menus. But some applications like MSN Explorer, Net Meeting etc. does not have Hindi interface in them. Similarly, in start menu, you may find entries in English languages as well. Well, translations involved huge work and things can only be taken selectively and as work progresses, improvement will be made. There are some translation errors and spelling / language errors have crept-in in both Linux and Windows. But since all kinds of software take time and versions to evolve, these errors can safely be ignored. Similarly, pure linguists may make hue and cry for use of impure and practical language in translation, but this again may safely be ignored since to reach to the mass, the language should be practical. Now Indianization of Computing Environment has PRARAMBH therefore you are going to feel real THANDA while working on true Indian Language environment. Recently, WindowsXP starter edition has been launched which gives you to choose complete windows environment from any of these language - Hindi, Tamil or English.

Screenshot descriptions:

  1. Hindi1 WindowsXP login window in Hindi
  2. Hindi2 The PRARAMBH (Start) menu in WindowsXP
  3. Hindi3 The Control Panel or Niyantran Kaksha – the language has practical flavour instead of being pure translation.
  4. Hindi4 Your Internet Explorer in true, real Hindi.
  5. Hindi5 The Hindi NotePad
  6. Hindi6 You can save/copy/move with Hindi file names.
  7. Hindi7 Various settings window etc. are also in Hindi
  8. Hindi8 Command shell is not available for Local language presently in Windows. Whereas, in Linux, you can work in terminal in your own language with simple aliases.
  9. Hindi9 Linux in Hindi- commendable and comparable with its counterpart Windows XP in Hindi.

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