Raising i18n awareness among developers

Timo Jyrinki timo.jyrinki at iki.fi
Thu Aug 30 15:34:18 UTC 2007


I'd like to raise some internationalization issues Ubuntu has faced and
is facing currently. As a translator and user of Ubuntu in my native
language I've sometimes felt that it would be useful to have better
awareness of i18n issues among the developers in general. I hope this
will help people to remember that when doing any new stuff, keep i18n in
mind and tested.

I also hope this will help finding people to fix not just the bugs
(which are usually not _that_ bad) but the wider issues I describe
towards the end of this post. Maybe there'd even be some hired person(s)
specifically looking at these kind of issues in the future.

Contents of this post: History, Gutsy, Wider Issues

== History ==

As some history, we've, for example, had a bug in Rosetta preventing
complete translations at a release time until edgy [1], and several bugs
in each released version about non-complete i18n of applications and
various other aspects like installer. For example at least [2], [3],
[4], [5], [6] in Feisty (Feisty is better than any release before,
though!). Also Ubuntu documentation translation updates haven't yet been
done for Feisty, they were supposed to be done because there was so
little time to translate documentation for Feisty. Hopefully the
problems [7] can be resolved quickly (there's reportedly a problem with
generating the docs).

[1] https://bugs.launchpad.net/rosetta/+bug/102382
[2] https://bugs.launchpad.net/rosetta/+bug/106756
[4] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/python-apt/+bug/103917
[5] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/bluez-gnome/+bug/95796
[6] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubiquity/+bug/45741
[7] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubuntu-docs/+bug/123963

== Gutsy ==

Currently we have some problems with gutsy, besides the fact the
installer is not translatable yet at all which is being fixed. Hopefully
[8] too, which is also in Feisty. The installer currently doesn't
install support for any language besides English [9], plus both on the
live CD and in an installed Ubuntu "Examples" folder isn't translated
[10]. The new xdg-user-dirs currently also works suboptimally [11], of
which there's going to be further investigation indeed before the
release (thanks!), I hope that it will work in an optimal way in the

I'm currently not seeing any actual applications that couldn't be
translated at all, besides problems with Rosetta lagging behind badly
and missing a feature to keep restricted manager translated at the
moment [12]. I do believe they'll be solved near/after the string freeze
and before release this time. For an example about a new Ubuntu program,
displayconfig-gtk seems very properly translatable though currently
translations have to be sent to the bzr repository until Rosetta catches up.

As a whole, gutsy is looking better than feisty again, which is great,
but there are big issues still left, read more below.

[8] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubiquity/+bug/103925
[9] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/ubiquity/+bug/131294
[10] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/example-content/+bug/45489
[11] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/xdg-user-dirs/+bug/123435
[12] https://bugs.launchpad.net/rosetta/+bug/130138

== Wider Issues ==

I don't doubt the automatic language support downloading wouldn't be
fixed to some extent soon, but most probably not optimally. That brings
me to the bigger problem of the difficulty of having Ubuntu in one's
native language:

(0. the Win32 part of the live cd doesn't have translations)

1. When starting Ubuntu from the live CD, it starts in English unless
the user (let's suppose a newbie) strikes "F2" in the boot menu

2. When the desktop shows, even if the person chose non-English
language, generally support for any other language is not on the CD
(more languages are needed to be dropped in each release), and besides
the installer which includes all translations most stuff is in English

3. In the installer, it's not indicated that the person should _really_
have network connection enabled for the language support to be
downloaded, plus even with the connection it's currently broken like
stated ([[9])

4. Before or after installation, if the user happens to find Language
Selector, and has the default language as one's native language (ie.
selected in the boot menu or in the installer if already installed), the
selector does not suggest installing support for the Default Language
selected if there was no network connection during installation [13]

[13] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/language-selector/+bug/135752

To fix the numbered problems, besides including instructions for 1. and
3. in our ubuntu-fi.org's installation guide [14] that hopefully some
Finnish people read before installing, I've done one blueprint [15] to
collect ideas and other blueprints.

The blueprint was briefly discussed during Sevilla, though concentrating
on the issue of fitting more languages on the CD via higher compression.
There's basically two sides of the problem discussed in that one spec,
and the better compression (LZMA) should possibly be separated into a
spec of its own.

a) Above else, in my spec I continued on the idea presented in another
spec [16] that we really should eliminate 1., 2. and 3. by having a
proper "Welcome" / "Select Language" dialog when the graphical desktop
first starts, before installation. It should detect if a network
connection / repositories is not available, guide the person to enable
network and make sure the whole support for the selected language is
downloaded, after which an automatic log out / log in is done to have
all the translations in use.

b) In order to make some more stuff to fit on the CD, there's the aspect
of more tight compression discussed in my spec and in Sevilla [14],
though I don't know much about that myself. In other related specs, we
should really have a DVD image available with complete language support
without any network connection needed [17], and maybe the documentation
translations could be separated into language packs too [18] again to
help the smaller CD images.

[14] http://wiki.ubuntu-fi.org/Wiki/Asentaminen
[17] https://blueprints.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+spec/larger-livefs

An educated guess that I haven't done much regarding the wider issues
themselves besides collecting information would be correct. Currently I
don't have resources to propose code on the language selector myself and
avoid burning out in open source ([19] is a good read for many of us!)
at the same time. I just hope that this subject would raise interest in
some people to fix some or all of the issues at some point.

[19] http://www.progbox.co.uk/wordpress/?p=268

In the end, I'd just like to thank everyone for creating the best
localized and internationalized free software distribution there is.
There are problems as indicated, but I hope the goal is to reach even


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