Status of Ethiopian support

Bernardo Innocenti bernie at
Tue Sep 11 22:13:05 EDT 2007

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Some of the packages I mention below are available from my
experimental repository:

  cd /etc/yum.repos.d/

 * sysconfig

   To enable the Amharic Ethiopian locale, the /etc/sysconfig/i18n
   file needs to contain:


   To alleviate boot overhead with UTF-8 locales, we'd like to
   move this setting to a later point in the boot process.
   olpc-dm would be a good candidate.

   AI: I'm going to make some tests and report back.

 * glibc

   F7 glibc does not even boot when am_ET is enabled, but it's not
   obvious why.  Suffice to say that the output of ls comes out
   sorted by strlen() when am_ET is enabled!!!

   glibc-2.6 from F8 is ok, but I can't find an obvious patch to
   backport.  The only recent addition to the am_ET locale has
   been to discard accents in string comparisons.

   Moreover, the glibc-2.6 rpm post-install scriptlet fails silently
   on jffs2, corrupting the locale archive.   It happens because
   the build-locale-archive tool tries to use a shared writable
   file map which is not supported.

   The glibc-2.6 rpm is available from bernie-olpc.

   AI: Of course we don't want to upgrade to 2.6 at this time,
   so I'm asking the glibc hackers for insight.

 * Fonts

   A good candidate that provides high-quality Ethiopian glyphs is the
   Abyssinica-SIL.ttf, which is not packaged in Fedora.

   I grabbed the TTF file from the Debian package ttf-sil-abyssinica-1.0
   and temporarily installed it in /home/olpc/.fonts/

   I'm not sure the font license is acceptable for Fedora or even us.
   Someone with better understanding should check.

   AI: I could easily create an RPM once we decide this is the font
   we want to use.

 * ET keyboard layout

   The updated xkeyboard-config RPM shipped with latest builds
   already contains the "et" keyboard layout.

   This can set in xorg.conf, or loaded for testing like so:

      setxkbmap -v -model olpc et

   The "=" key is not working in current builds, but Sergey
   has already fixed it upstream and we'll pick it up with
   the next update.

   AI: I'll send a new olpc patch upstream to resync
   AI: I'll update our RPM from a CVS snapshot of xkeyboard-config

 * libX11

   Sergey's Compose file for am_ET is already upstream, and it
   is required for XIM-baded composition to work in all applications.

   I prepared an updated RPM and staged in olpc-bernie.

   Even with this new RPM installed, XIM does not appear to
   work in Abiword and other utilities I tried.

   Furthermore, the Compose works by pressing a vowel, followed
   by a consonant, which seems to be a less convenient way
   of producing glyphs (see below)

   AI: Sergey said he'll check if CONSONANT+VOWEL is possible
   with XIM.


   GTK contains an Amharic input method which is currently outdated.
   I'm in contact with the author, Daniel Yacob, who'll soon port
   his latest patch to the current version of GTK.
   This probably means we'll have to fork the gtk2 package too.
   I'm unable to tell how important these changes would be for users.

   Lidet Tilahun, a professor of Ethiopian at Harvard, tried typing
   on the XO with this IM and confirmed that this would be the
   preferred method.  It's basically CONSONANT+VOWEL, with a way
   to switch in a CONSONANT-only mode.

   Additionally, it seems this IM requires the "us" keyboard.
   I couldn't get it to work with the "et" keyboard loaded.
   Daniel says it shouldn't happen.

   AI: waiting for a patch.  Progress is being tracked here:

 * Write.activity

   We couldn't get glyph composing to give correct visual
   feedback on the XO.

   On F7, Abiword works fine, but it's an old version that still
   used Xft directly.  The version we use now switched to pango
   and apparently regressed on this.

   I asked uwog about it and he suggested me to file a bug
   upstream.  Without this fix, the IM is still usable, but
   very unfriendly.

   AI: I will file the bug upstream.

 * Other Gtk applications

   I tried installing gedit on an XO, and I couldn't get
   neither the Amharic, nor the XIM input methods to work
   with it.

   Works fine on F7.

   AI: Needs investigation.

 * Other issues

   System stability appears to be somewhat compromised when all
   the above changes are enabled.

   I've seen activities crashing randomly and funny rendering

   AI: Before we even start filing bugs on this, I'd prefer to
   see some of the above components land in the builds, otherwise
   we might be chasing bugs that are even harder to reproduce.

   //  Bernardo Innocenti -
 \X/ One Laptop Per Child -

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