Ubuntu and language packs

Colin Watson cjwatson at ubuntu.com
Sun Feb 8 23:22:44 UTC 2009

On Sun, Feb 08, 2009 at 11:56:50PM +0100, Martin Pitt wrote:
> Surfaz Gemon Meme [2009-02-03  0:06 +0100]:
> > * Why Ubuntu install English support by default, although I chose
> > Spanish support?
> AFAIR this is primarily for historical reasons. In fact I don't see a
> lot of reasons to install all English translations/support packages by
> default, except those which provide English help, since it's still
> better to have English help than none at all. This would be
> openoffice.org-help-en-us and gimp-help-en.
> Those two packages should be installed by default only, not the entire
> language-{pack,support}-en.
> Colin, do you remember another reason why these are currently
> installed by default?

Firstly, the original source of this was

It's useful in a few slightly arcane contexts (oem-config comes
immediately to mind) to have a UTF-8 locale that's guaranteed to exist
immediately after a fresh installation. C doesn't qualify, because it
doesn't define handling of non-ASCII characters, and for instance if you
run newt applications in LC_ALL=C you won't get any non-ASCII characters
displayed; it's somewhat useful for this kind of purpose that we always
generate en_US.UTF-8. (Yes, I know there are other roundabout answers,
but there is software in Ubuntu that depends on this at the moment.)

Making sure that we always have some help files is a useful property, as
Martin says, since this is *not* an area where the gettext properties
Paul Smith described apply (the language-pack-* packages themselves are
nice and simple, but the grottier edges of language-support-* certainly
aren't); and in general it is useful to have a fallback in the event
that the native support packages are insufficient. I know that English
isn't universally spoken, of course, but it does have rather wide
second- or third-language coverage and it has the more important
property that it tends to have very complete help files and the like,
since it's usually the language in which help files are originally

I don't think the installer has a reasonable way to perform the
substitution you suggest (only openoffice.org-help-en-us and
gimp-help-en). We have language-support-* for a reason; I wouldn't be
happy about having to dig around inside this abstraction in the

In short: yes, I have long been aware that the fact that we always
install English language support is suboptimal for various reasons. For
languages with very broad translation coverage, such as Spanish, it is
probably generally unwelcome; for languages with much narrower coverage
it is not clear that the same reaction would hold. The current state is
a compromise between various requirements, so I would rather not simply
revert it in favour of one extreme.

Perhaps we could do a finer-grained job of installing fallback packages,
maybe using the relatively new language-support-TYPE-LL packages, or
maybe with the aid of some additional metadata in those packages to
indicate whether they provide something reasonably complete.

Colin Watson                                       [cjwatson at ubuntu.com]

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