Theppitak Karoonboonyanan (theppitak) wrote,
Theppitak Karoonboonyanan

Myanmar Visit

Quite a belated English blog (after the Thai version), due to busy personal life lately.

I had visited Yangon during 4-11 Sep. to give some talks and tutorials on Debian packaging and mirroring. And I've shared some information with community.

The visit was initiated by Ngwe Tun and the Myanmar L10N team. I found later that a Facebook event had been created for this.


The first day was a comparison between Myanmar and Thai supports in GNU/Linux, in which I briefed the status on Thai side, and Thura Hlaing on Myanmar side. It was nice that we had the Myanmar Computer Federation (MCF) director presiding the meeting til the end. That means GNU/Linux support has been awared at executive level.

According to Thura, Burmese has gained support in GNU/Linux quite well. On the rendering side, all the reordering for the logical order is normally done with pure GSUB in the fonts, without special processing on the rendering engine. This is suboptimal in principle, but it's the most effective way, as Windows redering engine itself does not yet support Myanmar, either.

For input method, Myanmar XKB map has been available in xkb-data for a long time, but to serve users' familarity with visual order typing, some reordering input methods have been developed, based on keymagic and ibus. But all are not context-sensitive like what's done for Thai in other frameworks. Fortunately, with the surrounding text API recently added to ibus, this has become possible.

One unusual requirement for Myanmar script editing is the caret movements. It needs to move syllable-wise, not character-wise nor cluster-wise. So, I suggested them to have a look on UAX #29 to see how it should be amended.

Myanmar locales are already done, both for GNU C library and CLDR. And even a GNOME applet for Myanmar lunar calendar is also available. This latter thing is what Thai can learn from.

Burmese word segmentation is not supported in general. But R&D works have been done for this in its NLP lab.

A serious issue left to solve is the existing abuses of Unicode. In Myanmar, there exist at least 14 variations of font hacks, abusing some free slots in Unicode charts as pre-composed clusters for information interchange (not for font internals), making plain text interchange impossible without the proper font for rendering.

For program translation, the new Myanmar L10N team is trying to request for a mass submission to the current GNOME team. And for Debian, Thura Hlaing and Ngwe Tun has already started the translation process with Christian's help.

Along my stay, I could see the team actively discussing on the IT glossary, trying to settle down the translated terms. This looked very fun.


Then, the next three days were a workshop on Debian packaging, where I have presented the basics of Debian package building, uploading, quality-controlling, modifying, creating and delivering. This aimed toward the development of a local distribution based on Debian.

Each day in the afternoon was the time for setting up a Debian mirror, not only for convenient local distro developement, but also for general users. This is important because internet penetration is still low in Myanmar. The main media for software distribution is CD/DVD, which means only stable version of Debian can be spread, which is not good for desktop users. Having a mirror should improve the situation somehow. It should make dist-upgrading to testing/unstable easier. And it should make CD snapshotting using local distributions easier, too.

For this, I also presented another quick slide on Debian mirroring & caching.

In the last day, I was introduced to the staffs of Myanmar NLP Lab and their projects, which include Myanmar OCR (based on tesseract), information retrieval, machine translation, and other lingustic resources like dictionary, lexicon and text corpus.

Furthermore, I was also offerred technical helps on developing a Lao/Esaan Tham font for a Lao and North Eastern Thailand variation of Tham script, which is Mon-based and is closely related to Myanmar script. (See some sample transliterations if you are curious how it looks like. It was part of my hacking during DebConf11 travelling.) Currently, its OpenType support is quite sufficient, but it still renders poorly on Mac OSX. To cope with this, I was given a Mac Mini as a present from Myanmar for its development, as well as some explanations on AAT features from a Myanmar font developer. And I am very grateful for that.

Tags: debian, localization

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