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Ionic Column -- November 1997

David Parry

Englishman David Parry lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a TPC member from 1986. A frequent contributor to the AJ, he was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990 and began the Ionic Column in 1992. This column has won a prize and an honorable mention in newsletter awards. To the Tokyo BBS community, he now lives in virtual cyberspace and teleports textually over the ether. On the physical level, he currently lives and works in Düsseldorf, that part of Germany that most resembles Japan.

Installing Clean; Translation

This column is written under time pressure, which also means that I don't have any scintillating tales of new hardware or software. The ISDN card sits forlornly, awaiting reinstallation, there are a few programs such as Kai's Power Goo to be installed, and Windows itself could use a reinstallation to clean up dead ends and eliminate some odd quirks. Over-zealous use of Microhelp Uninstaller removed one of the programs related to the Windows help system, and Excel begs plaintively for a missing module every time I load it.

A clean sweep

Somebody on the BBS, possibly Todd Boyle, suggested keeping all the various program installation files in sub-directories on your hard disk. This obviously only applies to diskettes, since CD-ROM installations are quite fast. My 8X CD-ROM is perfectly adequate for program installation, and has been trouble-free. The problems with the former 12X drive make me wary of the 20X and 24X speed demons on sale now, even though I happened to have a bad 'un; they take a while to get up to speed and are not all that fast on short jobs. The obvious way to store such files is on the Jaz drive.

More Jaz

Concerning Jaz drives I note that there is now a 2 GB model, but I don't miss it. SyQuest already had a 1.5 GB drive, and the smaller drives fit better with the usual partition sizes. I only have 1 GB drives at the moment, and these are partitioned to reduce the cluster size. From memory, I regained around 40-50 KB when I squeezed down to half-gig partitions with PowerMagic.

A lack of drive

The Quantum Tempest SCSI drive has gone, but any ASPI driver refuses to coexist with the Netroom memory manager (Helix Software) on my main PC. It looks as if I will have to go back to HIMEM.SYS. The next thing is to haul out the 1 GB drive from the second PC once I have found another drive for that system of 1 - 2 GB, and then I will be back to a PC with two 1 GB drives. That is progress, of a sort.

Sturm und Drang nach Osten

Back to the world of translation. Western and Asian companies are busily trying to sell in the eastern Europe countries, which are also trying to export. The net result is a stream of correspondence of various kinds and a need for translation. It used to be that the Soviet bloc could be covered by Russian, Polish, Czech and Hungarian, but now there is a demand for the likes of Slovenian and Lithuanian, and the "Velvet Revolution" in Czechoslovakia led to a political and linguistic split. These days the Slovaks want their text to reflect the differences from Czech, including a slightly different character set. An agency that I work with discovered this fact the hard way at the end of a large order.

Translation agencies dealing with the eastern European languages have frequent problems with the character sets, especially between languages that are very close. Windows does have character sets and keyboard layouts for virtually every European language, but it is never much fun using a keyboard that does not match the one mapped in software. This was something I experienced when using XyWrite on German or Japanese keyboards, and also if one forgot to load COUNTRY.SYS when using a German keyboard and North American DOS, or vice versa.

The eastern European languages generally only require about eight to ten new characters to be defined. A better way for occasional use is to define the new keys as a kind of macro, using hot-key combinations. Recently I did a translation for a product of this kind from Siemens, which allow these combinations to be used in any Windows program. This is better than just creating macros in Word for Windows or another word processor, since you have the same facility for DTP programs and databases and so on. The drivers can be loaded or unloaded much more easily than going through the Control Panel.

Still waiting for St. Cyril

One of the projects awaiting a quiet and relatively work-free period is to set another copy of Windows in a separate partition to use the Russian fonts and keyboard drivers that I bought over a year ago. At the moment I do not get much Russian translation; indeed, I am surprised that I get any at all, since agencies from the economically-benighted Rodina (Motherland) constantly advertise rock-bottom translation rates to and from Russian. As far as I know, Russian computing is schizophrenic concerning the Cyrillic character set, since various systems utilize either the standard ASCII range (up to ASCII 127) or else the "high ASCII" range from 128 to 256 for Cyrillic. Only the second option allows Roman and Cyrillic text to be typed on the same system-and this is frequently required when names are included.

Global translation

The Internet means that translation work can be sent around the world to be done in the country that is the cheapest, which has a number of pros and cons. The good thing is that a translator can live almost anywhere, as long as the phone costs are reasonable. It is an option that I would like to make use of, but long-distance phone calls are still not cheap. Hopefully, the lower costs offered by Internet telephony will force the PTTs to bring their rates down in a hurry. The disadvantage is that my kind of work disappears from the wealthier countries. This was something that I had already noticed in Japan in the last two or three years that I was there.

For the moment I am truly glad that there is no Third World German-speaking country with a bankrupt economy and a well-educated population, otherwise I would have reason to be worried. As it is, a certain amount of translation work goes overseas to Britain and the USA. The latter is less of a problem than I had expected. US translators quote a range of prices "depending on difficulty" and everything seems to fall into the higher end, bringing them on a par with German rates. There is also the problem of the time difference, which makes it difficult to contact people during office hours, even on the East Coast. This is not a problem that can be solved.

The world becomes more international, and the agencies have to deal with requests for "exotic" languages. In many cases this requires working with agencies in the country in question. I quote selectively from a fax from a translation company working in India. The agency over here wanted an EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) file for typesetting, this being the normal method of producing a file for processing by a Linotronic or similar. TrueType files do not provide top-quality results when typesetting, but not everyone has PostScript fonts available, either because of price or because they are not available. Hindi has an alphabetic character set and can thus be processed with a normal single-byte operating system.

"The .EPS file created by V-Tech's Hindi editing software seems to need the V-Tech fonts. This is the reason why you were not able to open the file. I have confirmed the same from V-Tech's technical support. I know this is ridiculous, but since there is no other software which handles Hindu scripts, we were not able to give you any kind of softcopy (sic) of the same. The V-Tech's software is accompanied by its own protective hardware and these fonts are embedded into the hardware & not as software, hence these fonts can not be copied."

The author of this fax, who neglected to find out at the beginning that a German typesetter cannot work with Hindi if no suitable fonts are available, is not a beginner to this kind of work, despite what you might think from the text above. I would have thought that Hindi fonts existed somewhere in shareware, but evidently not. The German client was getting desperate enough to accept almost anything short of dot-matrix output. V-Tech's use of a hardware font card and a dongle to stop software piracy takes me back a decade, at least. Once again, I am struck by the tremendous convenience of TrueType fonts and the wide variety available. But no Hindi?

Comments or feedback or more information? Contact me on Compuserve on 100575,2573 (or DAParry@compuserve.com) or http//www.core-ad.co.jp/parry.


© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

November, 1997

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor


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