Freshmeat: Linux Internationalization Problems

Linux continues its march to the desktop, strengthened by
the arrival of Open Office and other non-hacker applications, but
what good are these apps to you if they don’t speak your
In today’s editorial, Juraj Bednar asks that the
community not forget localization if it wants Linux to be an
alternative for the non-English-speaking world.”

“In this article, I would like to explain the basic issues with
Central European languages and how to avoid making mistakes. The
first step in making Linux “your-language-friendly” is to create a
locale for your language. A locale is a set of definitions of how
to represent and process various data types like time, date,
monetary symbols, special characters, and so on. One of the
important parts of a locale is the so-called message translation
definition, a set of files which define how certain messages are
translated to that particular language. There’s usually one such
file for an application, a hash table which contains all the
application’s messages, so it’s generally the translation of the
program’s user interface.”

“The problem is not related to including these locales in
certain distributions (they’re part of glibc, and it’s quite easy
to add to glibc if you want to). The problem is with setting the
locale parameters for each user. This is what almost no
distribution considers when setting up users. There should not be a
system-wide default, because Linux is a multiuser environment. Each
user should be able to set his own language variables. If he wants
to do it now, he has to edit his .bashrc or similar file to have
the proper values set. This is not very user-friendly.”


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