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Itches to Scratch
Mar 30th, 2014 by miki

“Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.”

Eric S. Raymond, “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” (@Goodreads)

The above quotes the first lesson from Eric S. Raymond‘s (ESR) essay/book “The Cathedral and the Bazaar (link to full book, summary at Wikipedia), which has become a kind of bible within the FOSS ecosystem (also nicknamed CatB). In his text Eric investigates motivations and social organisation of free and open source software projects. Itches are known initiators of many both large projects and minor changes to FOSS software. Itches, and the scratching of those by developers in the FOSS community, highlights a FOSS software user’s right to access, modify and redistribute the source codes behind FOSS software. With access to the underlying source code of FOSS software, a developer is able to scratch an itch, and is usually very motivated by this, because it often is a very personal itch.

You can listen to an audio recording of Eric elaborating about the central topics of CatB in a recording from a talk at Linux Kongress all the way back to May 22th 1997 17:15 CEST (48k MP3, 96k MP3):

My Itches

I’ve long been trying to keep a list of itches I want to scratch in free software projects/products. Realizing that most of these were lost in transit in the chaotic neuron mess of my brain, my intention now is to, also,  keep track of them textually using the mechanisms of this site.

This effort will be an ongoing, and probably ever expanding, mix of my private personal itches and itches related to and spun-off from my software development work done as a professional embedded developer, but still personal itches.

You can head over to the static page at mikini.dk/what/itches and take a look at my past and present itches.

EDIT 2021-08-24: add prominent quote source, add GR quote link, add CatB main page link, add para. with audio recording, minor copyediting

Text globalisation != unattended search’n’replace
Mar 24th, 2014 by miki

Scouring the net looking for data and specifications of Google’s Nexus 7 tablet (wanting to try out the Ubuntu Touch Developer Preview) , I got myself into the Nexus 5 smartphone specifications too. Here I noticed a peculiar grammatical difference  in how the specs is presented, which also exists in the specs for other products (at least the Nexus 7 also).

The issue is a result of internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) of the specification texts as presented to users in different regions of the globe. I’m a native Dane, so my search ended correctly (helped by my browser language setting and Google geo-ip) up on the Danish Google page at http://www.google.dk/nexus/5/.

In accordance to Danish grammatical rules, the localization of the text had led to the use of a comma (“,”) instead of punctuation mark (“.”) as decimal point in the specification of the phone processor’s clock frequency, presenting the English text

  • Snapdragon™ 800, 2.26GHz processor

in Danish as:

  • Snapdragon™ 800, 2,26GHz processor

This changes the meaning of the sentence in Danish to a listing of three features, namely “Snapdragon™ 800”, “2” and “26GHz processor” which is both incorrect, incomprehensible and ambiguous.

From my grammatical point of view, a better solution in both English and Danish would be to parenthesize the clock frequency, which is in reality a sub-specification to the actual processor model:

  • Snapdragon™ 800 (2,26GHz processor)

This text doesn’t hit my abomination trigger, and also better models the information’s true inheritance as being not side-ordered, but a sub specification to the the processor model.

How and if this kind of subtle difference between locales and languages should be handled in internationalization systems I can’t really comprehend. It’s a complex task even without this, but this example clearly emphasizes the need for proofreading by an actual native speaker of all languages, before completeness and non-ambiguity  can be guaranteed.

(An even more peculiar fact, is that the textual similar Android revision reference “Android™ 4.4, KitKat®” is not localized, and thus in the Danish localized text is identical to the English.)

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