Even Apple Messes Up Sometimes

January 29th, 2012 joconner No comments

You have to respect Apple. They have excellent products that are known worldwide for their quality and ease-of-use. Part of that ease-of-use comes from their commitment to producing internationalized, world-ready products. However, even the best companies and employees make mistakes.

Recently I purchased a new iMac 27″ computer for my family. Of course, they don’t believe it is for them since I spend the most time using it. But I’m going to stick with my story…it’s the new family computer. Anyway, I immediately noticed that Apple is pushing their iCloud service. During setup and first run of things like iPhoto, I was prompted to choose whether I wanted to use iCloud for backups, etc.

Of course, I had to try out the iCloud service, so I entered all my personal details — name, account id, etc. The service works as expected, and I have nothing interesting to report on that.

To make iCloud clearly available and visible, Apple puts the iCloud service settings into the System Preferences application.

icloud settings

Clicking on the iCloud icon brings up the iCloud settings of course. Again, not much to say there. You have all the typical iCloud-able apps to choose from: Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Photo Stream, etc. However, I did quickly notice that iCloud had a little trouble with my name. Instead of showing my full name as John O’Conner, the iCloud app prominently displayed it as John O'Conner. Oops.

Icloud name

I admit that this is not the first time I have seen my name displayed in this way. Web forms sometimes mistakenly store my name using character entity references. Apparently the apostrophe sends bank and medical systems into fits of confused stupor. However, I’m surprised that it trips up Apple in this way.

It just goes to show you that even some of the best companies can make mistakes with how they handle and display text data. It’s common to normalize text when putting it into a database. However, I don’t think a character entity reference is the right thing to put into your db. If you do, you certainly should remember to decode it when you display it to your user.


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Providing a Language Selection List

January 14th, 2012 joconner No comments

Lang listThe questions pop up often enough in internationalization circles so I’ll address them here:

1. how should I localize a language selection list?
2. how should I sort it?

Localized Language Lists

Customers use a language selection list to change languages. You must assume that the currently selected language is inappropriate for some reason. One possible reason is that the user cannot read the page content. This means that a localized language list that displays all target language options in the language of my current page probably won’t be understood. For example, let’s pretend that I speak English but am on a Japanese web site. Presenting me with language options that include ” 英語” will not help me if I don’t read Japanese. I can’t be expected to know that those characters mean “English” to a Japanese person. This option is unhelpful. What is helpful?

The right way to represent any language selection list is to display languages in their own language and script. For example, English should be English, Spanish should be Español, Japanese is 日本語, etc. You don’t need to localize this list into every language. One list using the target language’s own language and script for each language choice is both sufficient and optimal. This guarantees that I’ll be able to read and select my target language regardless of the current page’s language setting. This is the most universal option you have, and I consider this a best practice for creating language selection lists.

Sort Order

I don’t know how better to prepare you for my answer…so here it is. The actual sort order is less important than consistency. Two points make this obvious to me:

1. if your customer wants to choose a different language, they probably don’t speak the current one, and the current language’s sort rules won’t be particularly useful anyway.
2. you can’t accurately guess what language rules you should use because you don’t know which language the user will select.

With these points in mind, I don’t think the sort order matters. Correct linguistic sorts for this list are not critical, and anything you choose will be inconvenient to someone. For this reason, I think you simply have to choose a sort order and be consistent every time you show the language list. My suggestion is that you simply order the list in U.S. English order if you consider U.S. English to be the base language of your product. If you consider your base language to be something else, use that. My point is that it doesn’t matter. Sure, you’ll be tempted to provide this list in the sorted order of the language of the current page or host OS setting. Sure that’s an option, but it’ll be incorrect more often than correct when it’s needed. Save your sanity. Choose an order. Be consistent. Don’t worry about localizing this order.

So this sort issue is bothering you still? You just can’t accept it? Ok, that’s fine, but consider this. The solution I’ve described is already used by some pretty big players. Since I just finished evaluating Facebook, let’s use it as an example. Regardless of which localized site I visit, regardless of my browser language preferences, Facebook shows the same list of languages in the same sort order. They don’t even use a US English sort. Their choice is something different, something almost like a US English sort, but maybe using the Romanized version of the target language? Here’s an example — Japanese is sorted with other languages that start with an “N” sound. The Japanese pronunciation is romanized as “nihongo”. So, “nihongo” starts with an n and sorts with other languages that start with n? I can’t quite figure the sort rules out BUT that’s my point…it doesn’t matter. Its consistent every time I go to the page, and it works. Here’s a shot of that Facebook page:

Fb lang selection


Providing a language selection list for your multilingual product is a great idea. It lets customers conveniently change the UI language of the product. Don’t over-think this problem. You can provide this feature without spending countless hours of debate. Follow my suggestions:

  1. Provide a single language selection list in which each entry is translated into the target language and script.
  2. Choose a sort order, any order. Be consistent in displaying this order.

Have a suggestion or comment? I’d enjoy hearing from you.




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Job Post: Localization Engineer in San Jose, CA

January 4th, 2012 joconner No comments

Please comment on this post or email me if you are interested in this localization engineer position. I’ll put you in contact with the recruiter.

Direct from the recruiter:

The requirement is for a Localization Engineer in San Jose working for one of the leading Web Commerce companies.  They are looking for more than the typical Localization Engineer as they need someone who has done some programming, not just scripting.   I have attached a description and also listed below some things the manager said they have been missing in the candidates so far.

What I’ve been missing so far in candidates is

-        Experience with web localization (more a focus on i18n engineering, but then without real coding skills), and enterprise localization tools (e.g. WorldServer)

-        Significant modern coding skills (going beyond a simple VBA macro or Perl script), e.g. ability to write some Java application, understand/fix/enhance existing code, or a simple plug-in against a documented SDK (more than just passive knowledge of Java, etc)

-        Ability to clearly articulate concepts or thoughts, describe processes


If this sounds like a good fit, I can email you more details. Good luck!



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Job Post: Sr International Product Manager

January 4th, 2012 joconner No comments

Recently a recruiter let me know about this position. If you are interested, please email me (john at joconner dot com) or leave a comment. I’ll send you all the contact information and details. Or of course, you could just go straight to the web site yourself…either way. But, in my opinion, it always helps if you have an internal lead!

Here’s the job description, straight from the internal recruiter:

We are currently looking for a Sr International Product Managers for our Cobalt (www.cobalt.com ) office in the Seattle area.

The selected candidate will lead the efforts around globalizing our core automotive platform and requires

- Strong internationalization, globalization, and localization experience
- International rollout and deployment experience
- Experience in a B2C environment
- Experience working across countries and cultures

This is a FULL TIME with benefits that start day one.

Good luck!



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Sharing an iTunes Library Across Multiple Accounts on Same Machine

December 27th, 2011 joconner No comments

Itunes logoSharing an iTunes library across multiple accounts on the same computer isn’t difficult…once you know the trick. And that’s the problem, the trick isn’t obvious. If you have a large family with lots of music, you might want to try this.

Creating a Family Account

First thing I did was create a “family” group on my iMac. As an admin on the machine, go to your System Preferences->Users & Groups. Create the “family” group and add all your family member accounts to it.

Create the Shared Folder

In your Finder, press <Shift>+<Command>+G. Enter /Users/Shared. This takes you to a shared user account that I just discovered. Create a Media folder here. Now copy or move your old Music folder (that contains your ITunes folder) to this /Users/Shared/Media folder. See image below:



Click on the Media folder and allow your family to have read+write access to it. Select the folder, press <CTRL>+I for information on the folder. You will be able to add your family group to the folder and add read/write permissions for this group. The image below shows the access portion of the information screen:


Click the + button to add the family group. Then change the Privilege to Read & Write. Then you might need to click on the lock icon to unlock the next option. I applied the privilege to this and all enclosed items, which conveniently provides the same access privileges to the iTunes content. You may want or need finer control on access, but we want everyone to be able to update the library.

Point iTunes to the Shared Library

Now that you have a shared library, you need to perform the repetitive task of pointing each user’s iTunes to this shared library. You can do this by logging into each user account and doing the following:

  1. While holding the <ALT/OPTION> key, click on the iTunes application.
  2. iTunes will open and ask you choose an iTunes library. Navigate to and select the shared iTunes folder you created previously.
    Choose library

That’s it. Now all your family members have access to the same iTunes library. Whether this is a good thing, I don’t know yet. If someone accidentally deletes my music collection, I’ll have to rethink this strategy.

(The iTunes logo is no doubt a trademarked image of Apple Inc., and hopefully I’m using it correctly. If not, please let me know.)

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Installing the Android SDK: My first steps

December 23rd, 2011 joconner No comments

AndroidToday marks the first day of my official, end-of-year, get-caught-up on Android learning tour. And the first step is to install the SDK. Since I want to use Eclipse, I’ll need to install whatever Eclipse plugins/addons are available too. Let’s get started.


Installing the SDK

The Android SDK is on the Google Android Developer site. The SDK is a little difficult to understand. WIth enough reading over and over, I finally understand that the SDK has at least two parts:

  1. A general SDK that is platform independent
  2. A set of platform-specific tools.

If you don’t have the SDK at all, the best way to get both of these SDK pieces is to download and install the “Starter” SDK. After downloading it, unzip or install it into any convenient directory. Just make sure you have read/write access to this install directory. I installed these initial SDK files into ~/bin/android-sdk-macosx. Once you’ve done this, you will have both parts of the SDK, the general SDK and the platform-specific tools.

Updating the SDK

Apparently you can update the platform-specific tools without affecting other parts of the SDK. I have not done this yet because I am installing for the first time. When I do update, I’ll let you know the results.

Installing the Eclipse Plugin

This is probably the easiest part of the installation. Open your Eclipse IDE and open your menus selection Help->Install New Software. You can then add the Google Eclipse Plugin repository as shown below. Type in https://dl-ssl.google.com/android/eclipse/ for the software repository address.

Screen Shot 2011 12 22 at 11 45 27 PM

You’ll see a list of software tools including the Android SDK plugin. Follow the rest of the onscreen instructions to install. Soon you’ll have everything you need to begin developing on the Android platform:

  1. The JDK
  2. Eclipse
  3. The Android SDK
  4. The Eclipse plugin for Android development (ADT)

I think there may be one more step…creating a target Android device for the emulator, but that may have to wait until the next blog.


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Chrome begins to lead in browser share

December 21st, 2011 joconner No comments

Chrome share

Today I noticed that the Chrome browser is currently leading in the market share wars…at least on my site, which is the most important indicator. :)


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Roundtrip conversion: From Kanji to romaji and back again

December 16th, 2011 joconner No comments


Recently a friend asked me this question:

Can you do roundtrip conversions from Japanese characters to Latin text (romaji) and then back to Japanese characters?

The frustrating answer is that it depends…

Converting from Japanese text in any script (kanji, hiragana, or katakana) to romaji/latin text is easy actually. Every kanji has a relatively trivial mapping to a hiragana or even katakana representation. Also, we have well-known and simple conversion maps from hiragana and katakana to Latin characters (romaji).

Converting from romaji back to hiragana or katakana is also trivial.

The difficult conversion that almost always requires human intervention is going from romaji/hiragana/katakana to kanji. That’s what input method editors (IME) do, but usually with human interaction. Human interaction is usually needed because the conversion from kana or romaji to kanji is a 1:M relationship. That is, many kanji have the same hiragana representation. You could say that many kanji are “homophones”. I am not a linguist, so I can’t for certain say that “homophone” is the correct term for this. However, I can most definitely say that many kanji have the same hiragana representation and are pronounced the same.

Converting from kanji to romaji loses meaning and retains only the sound of the original word. Because there are many, many homophones, converting from romaji or even hiragana to kanji requires some help from a person…or your algorithm will inevitably convert to the wrong kanji out of a list of many homophones.

That said, there are many open-source libraries for doing this conversion, and these are usually part of input method editors (IME). One such library is WNN:

(Thanks to Ken Lunde, Twitter @ken_lunde, for help determining the correct Kanji to use for my lead-in image)


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On Sale Already?

December 14th, 2011 joconner No comments

What, already on sale at Amazon? And it’s not even published yet! Java 7 Recipes will release sometime late December 2011.


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Deconstructing BCP 47

November 29th, 2011 joconner No comments

BCP 47 stands for Best Common Practice 47, and even without the acronym, the name alone means almost nothing. So, what is BCP 47?

BCP 47 is the current best practice for creating language codes. A language code is a text identifier that specifies a specific human language, and the code provides the means to define the language in terms of a basic language, a script used to write that language, and even a particular region in which the language is used. BCP 47 prescribes the code and its parts with enough precision to uniquely identify a natural, human language and distinguish it from other languages.

BCP 47 is a standard that uses other standards, and it prescribes how to combine those standards together to create a language code. BCP 47 is a combination of at least the following existing standards:

Why is this important to you in the internationalization or localization business? It is important because our industry requires common standards and agreement for how to communicate, transfer, and exchange language data. A BCP 47 tag is necessary to accurately identify language text across different applications and tools.

Lots of existing applications, tools, and platforms already use BCP 47:

This is not an exhaustive list, but hopefully it gives you a sense of the importance of this standard. When you need to tag data with a language identifier, you should seriously consider BCP 47 instead of any home-grown convention.

Having provided plenty of links in this post, I hope you’ll take some time to familiarize yourself with this important language tagging standard. Happy reading!



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