Archæology

The assorted finds of Artefact Publishing

June 25, 2003

IPA Zounds released

Finally, it is done. IPA Zounds is released into the world. There is still work to be done, of course — before I announce the software to the conlang community, I want to build a Windows executable so that non-techies don’t have to download and install anything else.

So, having spent about a month on this project, what do I do once the executable is done? Well, there is a list of things to do for the next version, some of which have the potential to be interesting (some display matters, UI design of a rule and word builder, and internationalization). I may put the program to use for a long-standing (and long neglected) world-building project. I may do unrelated things, perhaps even projects which don’t involve computers.

Posted by jamie at 13:13+12:00 | Comments (4) | Permalink

June 24, 2003

Burglary by ruse and escalade

There is still wonder in the world: a burglar uses a secret passage to steal books from a monastery library, and does restoration work on them. There are articles at the Telegraph and the Guardian, and an update article at the Guardian.

Posted by jamie at 18:00+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

June 17, 2003

IPA Zounds update

Last week I decided that I wanted to release the first version of IPA Zounds this Friday. I don't know whether I’ll manage that, but in the words of a former co-worker, “progress is being made”. In fact, there are only two major bits of functionality that are currently unimplemented, and they were scheduled for the second release anyway. The trouble really lies with the data, not the code (though the GUI could be made more pretty). I am meeting with a professor of linguistics this week to discuss phonetic binary features, and I am hoping that will resolve all remaining issues with the data the application uses to make the correct alterations to the words it is given.

Apparently, not much work has been done in this area. I find this disheartening, as I’ve mentioned before, because it’s obvious that there are sets of features which map to characters in the IPA (voicing being one). It seems to me that there are three requirements for a set of binary phonetic features suitable for mapping the IPA:

The last rule points to the grouping that lies at the heart of the system, with a feature for voicing rather than a feature for each and every character.

In related news, I am getting into the swing of writing code for all of the little jobs this application involves. The documentation incudes a feature table generated from the data the application uses, and another script checks that the first two rules presented above hold true for that data. It is nice to knock such scripts off quickly and move on to real challenges.

Posted by jamie at 15:18+12:00 | Comments (1) | Permalink

Wishbringer

Yesterday, after about a year of contemplating, looking unsuccessfully for players, going overseas, and procrastinating, I started my Nobilis game, Wishbringer. The characters are the powers of Anger, Chance, Fear and Mischief. I’m sure they’ll create a lot of trouble.

Posted by jamie at 09:53+12:00 | Comments (0) | Permalink

June 11, 2003

Frustration

Remember how I was impatient with Unicode issues in software? How I said that once I’d resolved the issue of no Unicode support in the Debian GNU/Linux stable version of wxPython, I’d probably face font issues? Well, would that I had reached the stage of having font problems! (Except on my gnome-terminals, which suddenly changed to having unreadable fonts.) The saga goes something like this:

I try to get a bigger drive bay to put in a second hard disk, on which I will install the unstable Debian distribution. They don’t sell them separately from the cases, so instead I get a couple of bits of metal and some screws. With a bit of shoving, this fits, but the disk pokes out enough that the cover doesn’t go on, so I forego having the screw holes line up (and consequently foregoing using screws). I install unstable, and am horrified at Gnome2’s reincarnating desktop icons. I install the unstable wxPython packages, and learn that they aren’t compiled with Unicode support. I download the source package, change configuration options, and build my own packages.

At this point, my stupidity takes over for a while. I compile, it fails with an error after some thirty minutes, I get worried, and then discover that I’ve missed something in the configuration file, which I then change and run the build again. Repeat four or five times, with the amount of time before the build dies increasing each time. Finally I get to the point where it doesn’t look like a configuration problem, it looks like a brokenness I can’t do anything about. I email the Debian developer who looks after the package. The mail is not delivered. I subscribe to the wx-users mailing list, a process involving far too many emails, and send off my message. I get a bounce message, and the wx-users archive shows two copies of my message. No one (yet) replies.

I decide to just compile the thing from source, into its normal (non-Debian package) form. In fact, it’s just now finished compiling, and guess what? It works, and I don’t seem to have font issues! So I guess I can stop being frustrated.

Posted by jamie at 17:54+12:00 | Comments (1) | Permalink

June 06, 2003

It’s gone all curly (hopefully)

On learning that U+2019 ( ’ ) is the preferred Unicode character for the apostrophe, I have gone and changed all my ASCII apostrophe characters to that. For good measure, I changed the double quotation marks to “ and ” as well. This include specifying a content :before and :after the HTML Q element in the stylesheet.

So far I haven’t created a situation where the quotation marks produced by the Q element should be specific to a language which uses its own quotation symbols (for example French’s guillemets « and »). In such a case the Q element must be given its own language attribute, even if it occurs within an element which has the same language attribute set, which is just more work than should be necessary.

Anyway, I’m not convinced these new characters look better in my font, and they’ll cause problems for people whose fonts lack them, and it’s certainly slower and more error-prone writing ’ instead of '. However, I’ll put up with a lot for even a semi-spurious ideal of correctness.

Posted by jamie at 12:10+12:00 | Comments (11) | Permalink

June 02, 2003

Trial by chant

Here’s an amusing incident from my time in Thailand. I needed to renew my visa, which in this instance involved going to a town some 50 kilometres away from the wat and talking with the immigration people there. After an uneventful busride sitting next to a monk who carried money (tsk tsk!), I found myself having to convince a somewhat dubious official that I really was staying in a monastery and would continue to do so for the length of my stay in Thailand. Even though I was wearing the white robes of a pahkow (the transliterations of this Thai word are many and various — I’ve seen pakow and pakhow as well; the Pali term is anāgārika) and had no hair or eyebrows, still the suspicion was that I had done this just to get a visa extension and would soon be gallivanting around Thailand doing whatever it is unordained foreigners do there.

At one point the official, who had been away doing something behind closed doors, returned, said something which I didn’t catch, followed by “namo tassa” and an expectant look. A little startled, I managed to say “bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa”, and after that things went swimmingly. Obviously I’d proven my credentials as a proper Buddhist by knowing that opening phrase of veneration which occurs in so many chants.

Posted by jamie at 10:28+12:00 | Comments (3) | Permalink