Thursday, August 30, 2007


Some of the earliest writing that has been preserved for us is written on stone, or in baked clay. The writing system used in what was called Mesopotamia, is called the cuneiform script. Much of these clay tablets can be found in museums, collections and in archaeological sites.

Today I came across a really nice website called VirtualSecrets, it provides you with a tool that allows you to translate English into Assyrian/Babylonian, Sumerian and Egyptian. It is a really nice tool and I get the idea that it should be good because museums use this tool as well.

Soldiers of many nations are currently in Mesopotamia, they are bound to bring souvenirs home. Some of them will be original clay tablets. Much of these tablets will be useless without the context where they came from. But given a machine translator, it would be possible to have a text translated from photos.

Photos from the clay tablets in an archive, would make a digital collection. The texts can be translated and with an ever increasing amount of material in such a repository, individual tablets that are currently out of context may fall into place after all.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Music and languages, the sound of it

It seems obvious that a language can be associated with its culture. Particularly music provides a nice window on both language and culture. It is really good fun to listen to music from all different parts of the world. With Sabine I have listened and seen much music on youtube. There has been much that I would otherwise never have heard of.

Not knowing the language, you listen to the sound. The language in the music that I heard from Berto, Piedmontese, is so different from Neapolitan. The Neapolitan sounds more like Spanish and Piedmontese is more like what I associate with Tirol. Knowing the geography and some history it makes some sense.

At this moment I really like I Musicatoria. Have a listen, I think you will like it :)


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Language support in applications

When an application says it supports certain languages, it often means that the application has been localised in these languages. This difference is significant, because many applications are able to support all the languages that have Unicode support.

One of the problems that people have that want to use one of these "other" languages is the ability to just state that they are writing in their own language. The Unicode enabled applications should have a list of all the languages that are supported in Unicode and thereby provide the most basic level of support. This way people are enabled to enrich their document with the right meta data for their language.

Many people would expect that all the official languages of the world are supported in Unicode. This is sadly not the fact. Brianna informed me that several official Indian languages are not fully supported in Unicode.

In order for applications to know what languages they can support on this most basic level, there is a need for a public database that keeps this information up to date. Yes, it would be great if it also includes a link to a font that is needed as well.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

French sign language in Togo

As so often I am working on completing the ISO 639-3 coverage in OmegaWiki. This time I added fsl or French Sign Language. In the information on Ethnologue it says that it is taught in one school in Togo.

Given the information on Togo, it is the only sign language known. There are no other sign languages that have been recognised and, if this is the case, French Sign Language is certainly as good as any other. However, I can not help but wonder if there are no other sign languages. It seems odd to me that deaf people do not have their own sign language.

When there is a native sign language, it may be that because of the French Sign Language being taught at school this language is marginalised. When however the local language is strong, it may be that this French language is isolated ...

Really, languages are a really interesting subject. :)


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Inspiration for working on content in OmegaWiki

When you are working on a wiki, you want to make sure that the work you do has relevance. Certainly when there is much content to be added, it is not difficult to find more to add. When you add the right words, the content gains relevancy for some constituency of a project.

At Wikimania I showed that we are supporting with real time semantic support for Wikipedia. The information that it uses is content that exist in all the databases of OmegaWiki. This means that when you look in one of the articles in this dump of the English language Wikipedia, you will find many concepts that do not yet exist. When you add these concepts, the Semantic Support will only become better once we have the process of updating the new terminology implemented.

Another way it is stimulating is that the existing concepts exist mostly in the UMLS database. In order to start providing Semantic Support for other languages, we need translations. This is done by creating a DefinedMeaning in the Community Database and linking it to the UMLS database.

It turns out that we already have a number of languages that are really doing well considering that we have mapped almost 4% of the records of the Community Database.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Erik Moeller wrote on his blog " & paying for free culture". In many ways it is a really nice idea. All the Micropledge projects as they currently listed have one big failing, they do not state how much money is needed for any of the projects.

Erik proposed and probably pledged some money for a project called "RSS extension for namespaces with smart quality filtering". Twenty dollars have been pledged (US / Canadian / Taiwan it does not say..) and two people bothered to comment on the project .. they like it :) . I however would not pledge money to it as it is completely unclear how much money is needed for this job.

Micropledge is a young project and it deserves a chance. So I asked the CTO of Open Progress to come up with a budget that would allow an expensive developer to do the job. Some money would also be set aside for the necessary overhead. The point is not that Open Progress wants to do this job, the point is that there will be at least one Micropledge project that has a target amount associated with it.

In many projects like Rentacoder, you can post a project and developers can bid for the project. I sincerely hope that a good developer will want to do the job and will do it for less then the amount we will post. Bidding for projects is however not something that Micropledge caters for at this moment in time.

When in the end it turns out that enough money has been pledged, Open Progress will do the job. For us it is an experiment as well. Will posting a realistic amount of money get more pledges, will we in the end be asked to do the job ??


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights! Novell has right to waive!

Groklaw reports some of the best news. We owe a debt of gratitude to Novell for defending the GPL and for fighting the shameless opportunism of the people that came new to SCO.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Equipment for an Internet traveller on the cheap

So you get on a plane and land somewhere outlandish. You have your instructions on how to get to your hotel and then what.. Well, you get want to get back on the Internet. You brought your power adapter, and an extension block and all the stuff you need to load the battery of your phone, your PDA and what not.

Your PC does not pick up a network, so you get out your Meraki router and with the extra long distance antenna you have you find a Fon network. A Ethernet cable is welcome, it allows you to reconfigure the Meraki if need be. When you are in luck, the hotel provides you with WIFI but with you own router, you can connect to your preconfigured network and connect a bit more securely to your own network and move from there.

Before you leave the hotel, you check again the position of the hotel on your GPS system, you take your directions and move to your destination. With some luck you have the GPS location of your destination and off you go. The good news of the GPS is that even when you cannot read the street signs, you know have a tool that tells you if you are getting closer or getting further away from your destination, it beats getting a cab to get to your destination.

Typically you do not bring a T-shirt to sleep in, when you are really lucky you have a new clean one for every night of your stay.. T-shirt, proof of: “been there, done that”.