December 6th, 2009 § § permalink
In an unguarded moment of misguided enthusiasm (and, there is no other way to put it) I volunteered to translate a couple of my favorite TED talks. The idea was simple – challenging myself enough to learn the literary side of translating whole pieces of text would allow me to get to the innards of the language that is my mother tongue and, I use for conversation. Turns out that there was an area that I never factored in.
Talks have transcripts and, they are whole blocks of dialogue which have a different feel when undergoing translations than the User Interface artifacts that make of the components of the software I translate. In some kind of confusion I turned to the person who does this so often that she’s real good at poking holes in any theory I propound. In reality, it was my turn to be shocked. When she does translations of documents, Runa faces problems far deeper than what I faced during the translation of transcripts. And, her current toolset is woefully inadequate because they are tuned to the software translation way of doing things rather than document/transcript/pieces of text translation.
In a nutshell, the problem relates to the breaking of text into chunks that are malleable for translation. More often than not, if the complete text is a paragraph or, at least a couple of sentences – the underlying grammar and the construction are built to project a particular line of thought – a single idea. Chunking causes that seamless thread to be broken. Additionally, when using our standard tools viz. Lokalize/KBabel, Virtaal, Lotte, Pootle, such chunks of text make coherent translation more difficult because of the need to fit things within tags.
Here’s an example from the TED talk by Alan Kay. It is not representative, but would suffice to provide an idea. If you consider it as a complete paragraph expressing a single idea, you could look at something like:
So let's take a look now at how we might use the computer for some of this. And, so the first idea here is just to how you the kind of things that children can do. I am using the software that we're putting on the 100 dollar laptop. So, I'd like to draw a little car here. I'll just do this very quickly. And put a big tire on him. And I get a little object here, and I can look inside this object. I'll call it a car. And here's a little behavior car forward. Each time I click it, car turn. If I want to make a little script to do this over and over again, I just drag these guys out and set them going.”
Do you see what is happening ? If you read the entire text as a block, and, if you are grasping the idea, the context based translation that can present the same thing lucidly in your target language starts taking shape.
Now, check what happens if we chunk it in the way TED does it for translation.
So let's take a look now at how we might use the computer for some of this.
And, so the first idea here is
just to how you the kind of things that children can do.
I am using the software that we're putting on the 100 dollar laptop.
So, I'd like to draw a little car here.
I'll just do this very quickly. And put a big tire on him.
And I get a little object here, and I can look inside this object.
I'll call it a car. And here's a little behavior car forward.
Each time I click it, car turn.
If I want to make a little script to do this over and over again,
I just drag these guys out and set them going.
Get them out of context and, it does make threading the idea together somewhat difficult. At least, it seems difficult for me. So, what’s the deal here ? How do other languages deal with similar issues ? I am assuming you just will not be considering the entire paragraph, translating accordingly and then slicing and dicing according to the chunks. That is difficult isn’t it ?
On a side note, the TED folks could start looking at an easier interface to allow translation. I could not figure out how one could translate and save as draft, and, return again to pick up from where one left off. It looks like it mandates a single session sitdown-deliver mode of work. That isn’t how I am used to doing translations in the FOSS world that it makes it awkward. Integrating translation memories which would be helpful for languages with substantial work and, auto translation tools would be sweet too. Plus, they need to create a forum to ask questions – the email address seems to be unresponsive at best.
December 4th, 2009 § § permalink
It looks like watching the Ninja Assassin hasn’t done Shreyank any good. Else, he would have figured out that it is easy-peasy for a Founder and Chief Ninja like Dimitris Glezos (who is also known as DeltaGamma) to be at Bangalore and, elsewhere. Dimitris paid a surprise visit to Pune yesterday and it was fun. It isn’t always that you get a CEO of a startup provide you with an in-person repeat of his keynote with added wisecracks and side-talks that are too scandalous for a “keynote” And, that too, at a fairly crowded Barista. It was awesome.
In fact I wanted to talk with him about how massive the momentum built up by Transifex has been. Just two years ago, in 2007, Tx was a GSoC project within The Fedora Project aimed at looking at managing translations from a developer’s perspective. Today, it is a start-up which is hiring employees, relocating to newer offices, has a foot-print across a significant portion of upstream community projects and, most importantly, has clients willing to pay for customization services and, developer services. Tx isn’t only helping translation communities by allowing them to craft their work in peace – it is keeping developer sanity with the fire-n-forget model of the architecture. I hear that PulseAudio, PackageKit developers are strong supporters of Tx. That is tremendous news. The provocative nature of Tx is also based on the charm that it has been bootstrapped. That should provide hope to developers thinking along the “product” route.
I would say that these two years have done Dimitris good. His focus on the road Tx should take has become more vivid and, he has a deeper insight into the changes he wants to bring about via Indifex. There’s nothing more exciting than keeping a close watch on his team and his company for news that would come up soon. Tx is coming up with a killer set of features in the upcoming releases. That should get the attention of a couple of clients too.
Throughout the afternoon we ended up talking about getting youngsters up to speed to think beyond patches as contributions and, starting tuning their thoughts to products. Dimitris opines that patches are excellent jump-off points but in order to become a valuable contributor, one must start thinking about “architecture”, “design”, “roadmap”, “milestones” and all such issues that form part of the theory classes but never see implementation in real-life scenarios. In addition, there is also the need to inculcate the “CC thinking” in everyday work of creativity – be it code or, content or even be it hardware and standards (the “CC thinking” is a fancy short-hand towards thinking about Open Standards, Open Protocols and so forth. In a somewhat twitter-ish way, we compressed it to a meta-statement we both could relate to and agree with).
Dinner and post-dinner with a couple of us was another story. Having a bunch of hard-core “Fedora” folks in the room creates a passion. Sitting back to savor the flames of discussions and, interjecting with a leading viewpoint to keep the debate flowing is the best way to get action items resolved. Nothing wasn’t touched upon – from the way to get best out of *SCos to mundane stuff like getting feature requests into Tx, OLPC and Sugar, or, talking about the general issues within the IT development community in Greece. And of course, the frequent checks on Wikipedia to validate various points in the argument. We could have done with an offline Wiki Reader yesterday
I think I finally went to sleep at something around 0200 today – which is impossibly past my standard time. There are photos aplenty, though I don’t know who will be uploading them. There was food, there was coffee, cakes, and, there were friends – in short, a nice day.
November 28th, 2009 § § permalink
As a general case, my experience with most of the FOSS projects whose products I consume or, contribute to, have been very pleasant. Feedback has generally been well received, requests listened to. So, what I am going to write is not very special. But, they are striking by themselves.
Sometime ago, I was shopping for an off-line translation tool. I was fed up with Lokalize’s issues and, the fact that it wasn’t letting me do what I wanted to do at that point in time – translate. Additionally, I wasn’t in the mood to actually install a translation content management system to do stuff. Face it, I am an individual translator and, calling in the heavy shots to get the job done was a bit silly. So, I turned to virtaal. Actually, I think I was goaded into giving it a try by Runa.
Virtaal was, at that point in time, not really a good tool And, you can figure from the blog link above that I wasn’t interested in it too much. However, since I ended up giving it a chance (you cannot simply ignore a recommendation from her) I ended up running into two issues. One was predominantly more annoying than the other and, in effect was what was putting me off the tool. However, the developers took interest to get it fixed and, in the latest release have resolved it.
The other bug was resolved in an even more interesting way – over IRC with hand-holding to obtain the appropriate debug information and, then on to editing the file to put in the fix. At the end, the fix might be trivial. But the level of interest and care taken by the team to listen to their users is what makes me happy. In this aspect, the other development crew I can mention is Transifex. I haven’t met most of them and yet they keep taking suggestions, reports via every communication channel they are on – blogs, micro-blogs, IMs, IRC and trac. That makes them visible, gets them into the shoes of the users and, I am sure it earns them invaluable karma points.
Yesterday, while helping (I just did the file editing while Walter did all the brain muscling) to close the other bug, I felt incredibly happy to be part of a system where it isn’t important who you are or, where you are from. What is important that you have a real desire to develop better software and, make useful artifacts for all.
As it goes – “Your mother was right, it is better to share” link to video.
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October 21st, 2009 § § permalink
- Recently, I had the chance to use Lotte to translate and, it simply blows me away. The Transifex crew deserve some well earned applause for including elements that make it incredibly helpful for those involved in the work of translations. There is a slight annoyance which has now been turned into a ticket.
- Read off Planet Sugar that “several weeks ago”, activities.sugarlabs.org has exceeded 1 million downloads of activities. That’s just too awesome not to talk more about. As is mentioned in this tweet, imagine an activity developer who sees a steady increase in download and consumption going up to 20000 downloads. That’s just so amazingly sweet.
- The thread here looks to be an interesting one with regards to securing professional translations and, getting an open source project translated via community building. Should be good to see how it pans out.
- From the time I micro-blogged this, the thread has gone ahead and had more discussions. And, reading it early in the morning, it does appear to be a good thing to have. Those who are coming on to a Desktop Spin from other OS should have an easier way to adapt to and adopt the desktop. Good stuff.
- In other news, here’s a picture from our diwali celebrations this year
October 14th, 2009 § § permalink
আমি কান পেতে রই ও আমার আপন হৃদয়গহন-দ্বারে বারে বারে
কোন গোপনবাসীর কান্নাহাসির গোপন কথা শুনিবারে — বারে বারে ।।
ভ্রমর সেথা হয় বিবাগি নিভৃত নীল পদ্ম লাগি রে,
কোন রাতের পাখি গায় একাকী সঙ্গীবিহীন অন্ধকারে বারে বারে ।।
কে সে মোর কেই বা জানে, কিছু তার দেখি আভা ।
কিছু পাই অনুমানে, কিছু তার বুঝি না বা ।
মাঝে মাঝে তার বারতা আমার ভাষায় পায় কি কথা রে,
ও সে আমায় জানি পাঠায় বাণী গানের তানে লুকিয়ে তারে বারে বারে ।।
কী পাই নি তারি হিসাব মিলাতে মন মোর নহে রাজি ।
আজ হৃদয়ের ছায়াতে আলোতে বাঁশরি উঠেছে বাজি ।।
ভালোবেসেছিনু এই ধরণীরে সেই স্মৃতি মনে আসে ফিরে ফিরে,
কত বসন্তে দখিনসমীরে ভরেছে আমারি সাজি ।।
নয়নের জল গভীরে গহনে আছে হৃদয়ের স্তরে,
বেদনার রসে গোপনে গোপনে সাধনা সফল করে ।
মাঝে মাঝে বটে ছিঁড়েছিল তার, তাই নিয়ে কেবা করে হাহাকার –
সুর তবু লেগেছিল বারে-বার মনে পড়ে তাই আজি ।।
I realized that I had nearly worn down the LP during my childhood listening to the above two songs along with this song. In fact, my favoritism to Debabrata “George” Biswas’s songs came immediately after this phase. These days, every trip to Kolkata is a hunt for the CD versions of my favorite LPs. Sadly, not all of them are available. Which is a shame really. Not that the current crop of singers aren’t good. Just that one tends to hang on to those singers one grew up with.
September 14th, 2009 § § permalink
Around 4 days back, I had an interesting conversation over micro-blogs with a friend. When he was at Pune, we spent a small part of the evening talking about education, educators and, the process of educating as observed here and elsewhere. It did boil down to a (somewhat idle) lament that “the system isn’t performing according to expectations”. I thought over this over the weekend and, while I am not an educator, I am a “person interested in education”, and, it makes sense to attempt to try and see what the expectations are.
Any functional education system has to provide the participants with the tools and constructs that allow them to have independent streams of thought. While it teaches the formal discipline and rigor needed to pursue new topics, its scope should ideally encourage original thought. More importantly, it should encourage creativity, be intolerant of casual approach and, be ruthless in demanding excellence.
The problem is that reality isn’t always like that. There are a significantly high number of education institutes, some of them of past repute, who are sliding down the slippery slope of mediocrity. This fall is aided by the fact that the “education system” doesn’t lend itself well towards measuring the quantum of knowledge passed on to the students by the educators. And, it is compounded by the sad truth that the prolific growth of institutes have encouraged a somewhat exponential fall in the quality of the staff. The final nail in the coffin is the datum that the system of measuring “education” is around the results of an examination. The fact that the examination pattern does not encourage “thinking” is somewhat of a greater problem.
It is true that the better educators have not involved themselves within the system as much as hoped for. It is also true that the students have been lax in bringing themselves up to speed. The refusal to be aware of whom to benchmark themselves leads to a sort of navel gazing that is self-destructive at best and, a society-exploder at worst. With the current trend of public-funded schools not getting the number of teaching posts at the expense of wider inflow of private education (both at primary and, higher education levels), it does mean that the situation is possibly going to take a larger turn for the worse – a significantly higher section of the school-ready population is going to be unable to get decently functional education.
I don’t have any solution. That rankles. I do observe with rising alarm the somewhat inevitable slide. That needs to change.
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September 7th, 2009 § § permalink
July 3rd, 2009 § § permalink
I had submitted a talk for the GUADEC which was accepted. However, in light of this blog entry, my decidedly infrequent contributions to GNOME and, an inability to travel using my own finances, I decided that there was no glory in asking for travel+lodging assistance. So, once again, I am not going to be at GUADEC ! Some day I will make it though.
One of the reasons that GCDS was interesting for me was the chance to talk about localization in terms of improving the context of the localization-ready content. During translations, one often encounters sentence construction which does not have context and, providing a means to overcome the issue in a gradual manner would make for much nicer localized UIs. Additionally, learning about improvements to the GNOME L10n infrastructure was a secondary goal. The ulterior motive was also to know about the project’s plans to outreach to groups of students beyond the obvious GSoC and, how to use the project’s knowledge to teach open source.
Meanwhile, let me go back to doing some more translations. They seem to be improving my vocabulary by leaps and bounds. Although, my reviewer says that my spelling is atrocious
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June 28th, 2009 § § permalink
Yesterday a couple of us (well, 11 of us actually) took a trail organized by Trek’Di to the Tamhini Forest. It was something I have not done before and, the completely different nature of sounds within the forest took me by surprise. Some photographs are here. There were elements of fun as well which is bound to happen in a diverse group of folks. The photographs have been from mobile phone cameras mostly, an indication of showers (which were heavy) did not encourage me to take the usual point-n-shoot along
June 24th, 2009 § § permalink
It struck me this morning that I end up using too many browsers. For example, at this precise moment, I have Firefox, Chromium, Seamonkey, Epiphany and Opera being used for all the content that I need to take a peek at. Which is a far cry from the days of having shell access and, using the console to browse. These days, I tend to complain about the browser experience on my e71 more than on the Maemo. Which says a lot about what I am using to be online.
And, all because at some point in time I had a kickstart that pulled in Firefox, Epiphany and Seamonkey. Chromium looks to be a decent enough browser in spite of that annoying bit about not being able to handle Complex Text Layout. Remember to read this fine blog post if you want to set it up for Leonidas/Fedora 11.
Speaking of Firefox, at some point recently, I was using a boatload of add-ons to aid my browsing habits. The one that did come in handy was the Tree Style Tab add-on. It did reveal interesting patterns in the paths that I follow while browsing. Another nifty add-on is the Split Browser one, couple it with Tabs Open Relative and, you have a much more intuitive experience while browsing.
Update: The comments led me to Feedly, which I find to be awesome.