September 2008

Providing Local Language Support

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Sankarshan Mukhopadhyay

member
Red Hat
sankarshan.mukhopadhyay@redhat.com

Localisation is the representation of the specific set of cultural datapoints as viewed by the operating system. Thus, it makes for technological prudence to invest resources in providing, implementing and extending a standard technology framework for localisation. Such an effort includes providing appropriately licensed Open Type Indic fonts, working to put in place a robust input method framework like SCIM (Smart Common Input Method).

Localisation and the related term Internationalisation are important when talking about the concept of Native Language Support. Red Hat Enterprise Linux has included support for non English locales from Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 onwards. With the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4.0, the base Operating System also includes Indic language locales.

By localisation, one means the operation by which, in a set of programmes already internationalised, one gives the programme all needed information so that it can adapt itself to handle its input and output in a fashion which is correct for some native language and cultural habits. This is a particularisation process, by which generic methods already implemented in an internationalised programme are used in specific ways. The programming environment puts several functions to the programmers disposal which allow this runtime configuration. The formal description of specific set of cultural habits for some country, together with all associated translations targeted to the same native language, is called the locale for this language or country. Users achieve localisation of programmes by setting proper values to special environment variables, prior to executing those programmes, identifying which locale should be used.

In the current releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, when users log into a computer, they usually find a significant percentage of their programmes displaying messages in their native language. This is where Red Hat’s engineering investment into Indic Native Language Support becomes important. Red Hat views localisation as two inter linked components: content localisation and framework implementation.

Localisation is the representation of the specific set of cultural datapoints as viewed by the operating system. Thus, it makes for technological prudence to invest resources in providing, implementing and extending a standard technology framework for localisation. Such an effort includes providing appropriately licensed Open Type Indic fonts, working to put in place a robust input method framework like SCIM (Smart Common Input Method). Additionally, keyboard layouts that are intuitive, allow for an improved user experience when using the operating system in the local language. Red Hat is the upstream maintainer for the Lohit series of fonts for Indian languages. Red Hat’s engineers also contribute and develop enhancements for SCIM and the various keyboard layouts that ship by default with the operating system.

Working on the framework is an important investment as it is the underlying force multiplier for applications being developed on the platform. Thus, well documented and standard Application Programming Interface (APIs) are made available for application developers who wish to develop, distribute and deploy applications which are ‘language aware’. Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) developing applications for the web can take advantage of the standard compliant artifacts like Firefox (as a web browser), which is shipped with the operating system. This means that issues of display-rendering and printing for Indic language content is also handled without creating a glitch for the end-user. The ISVs requires to ensure that data is on the system encoded in Unicode.

It is observed that the real reason for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux to be ‘Indian language ready’ is the close adherence to the established standards. Hence, a significant quantum of the effort is directed towards ensuring components and their standards to be ‘Indic ready’. This translates into working towards having an accurate collation set for all the Indic locales, collaborating with existing language communities and standards bodies on sorting lexicon related issues.

In a recent development, Red Hat has come up with FUEL (Frequently Used Entries for Localisation), which is a defined set of steps blended into a process of standardising local language content. Languages are rapidly evolving entities and they undergo enhancement by coinage of new terms or, modification-transformation of existing phraseology. FUEL is a process-set that can be adopted by any community desiring to assess their readiness for localisation by providing a base register of words. Since FUEL is modular, it intends to become niche word registers for specific applications. Thus, ISVs now have a means to ensure that ‘standardisation of terms’ can be put in place. This is a step that would have a significant impact on e-Government projects, which are citizen-centric. Having a modular set of terms that can be mapped across languages leads to the creation of a glossary and a terminology register.

The other part of local language effort is content localisation. A Red Hat Enterprise Linux release is content-rich – there are user interfaces, user-oriented messages, documentation. The user interface is composed of a large number of applications which are typical to a citizen centric deployment or a Small Office Home Office (SOHO) kind of usage model. All such applications come with their modules, documentation. The requirement is to provide a consistency in the quality of translations and high quality of word selection and usage. Red Hat’s language maintainers collaborate with communities of language and Open Source projects outside of the company with the aim of ensuring such high level of localisation. In addition to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system and related documentation, the management tool like Red Hat Network is also available in a select sub-set of Indian languages.

To ensure that usage, administration and deployment of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system are easy, the language teams provide the user guide, installation guide and deployment guide in the local languages. This is a scalable and well accepted model for producing content in local language. Red Hat uses an Open Source tool chain called Publican to create, transform, produce and publish content in a variety of file formats. Publican allows documentation to have a consistent look-and-feel, proper branding and being available in a print-friendly as well as editable formats. Content Production Workflow is an aspect of Red Hat’s involvement in the production of local language content.

Red Hat’s view into localisation is based on providing an Open Standards compliant that can be built upon via a vendor indepedent, format indepedent manner. Open Standards and ‘collaborate to innovate’ have been the cornerstone of the Indic localisation efforts. Thus, Red Hat works in strong collaboration with Open Source communities, Open Source Software Projects, Language and Standards bodies at the state and local level.

UK Parliament to Introduce e-Petitions Soon

The Parliament’s Procedure Committee proposal for  e-Petitions will now be accepted through the parliamentary website, as announced the Government of United  Kingdom (UK).

“Electronic petitions will be hosted on the parliament’s website for a limited time to enable interested individuals to add their names. Signatories could also choose to receive updates on a petition’s progress,” according to the proposal.

This will ease the procedures for filing petitions.  e-Petitions will require the petitioners to state that they have taken some previous action to resolve their issue.

Speaking on the ocassion, the House of Commons Leader Harriet Harman said, “The government hopes that the House will endorse this way forward, allowing it to take a significant step forward in helping to promote better engagement with the public”.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) started accepting e-Petitions since November 2006.

If the proposal is passed by the Members of Parliament (MPs), then  the House of Commons would follow in the footsteps of the PMO.

SBI to Launch Mobile Banking Services

India’s state owned bank – State Bank of India (SBI)- has anounced that it will be offering mobile banking services to its customers very soon.

Speaking on the announcement, Shiv Kumar, Chief General Manager of SBI Lucknow circle said, “We have nearly completed our trials for launching the customer-friendly mobile banking services”.

The mobile banking services that would be initiated by the bank will offer a range of services such as balance inquiries, transaction alerts. Moreover, the mobile banking will also enable the customers to transfer funds of a limited amount, added Kumar.

The mobile banking services of SBI will be operational on all the mobile networks, the officials said.

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