re: Linux & Unicode

From: Glen (
Date: Thu Dec 03 1998 - 16:52:23 EST

Thanks, Tague, for the status report and the GTK+ whitepaper pointer.

Both, unfortunately, confirmed my suspicions about Linux & Unicode. It
appears as though the GNOME project, not even feature frozen yet and still
free of backward compatibility problems, is bound and determined to make
sure that Unicode gets retrofitted as a "fifth wheel", rather than being
integral to the project from the very first version. As retrofits seldom
work as smoothly as what was designed in from the start, they're also
planning a number of options for allowing developers to disable, eliminate,
or otherwise work around Unicode once it finally does show up.

It's astounding to me that, here at the dawn of the 21st century,
technically savvy people are forging brand-new single-byte balls-and-chains
for themselves and their clients to drag for a few more decades, completely
ignoring the hard lessons that most major organizations have learned in the
1990's. It certainly has to be good news for Microsoft and Sun.

Sorry. I guess now I'm preaching to the choir.... ;-)

Thanks for the status report and pointer,


Glen :-

I think one of the problems is that you are bringing up a hot-button
issue for the Linux community. Linux is going through the same
acceptance-phase that many other communities (standards bodies, other
platforms) went through several years ago -- it's just comming much
later to the Linux community. There is alot of resistance to adopting
Unicode (particularly UTF-8 for the file system) because some people see
their file sizes growing by x3.

In general, I would say the grass roots Linux community is mostly
opposed to the adoption of Unicode and that the push is comming from
commerical vendors like the folks from Troll Tech (Qt) and Red Hat (Gtk
work). Linux is still a "hacker" OS and the internationalization
support, while there for some languages, is still very imature in
comparison to other platforms. Linux is in the stage that the MacOS or
Windows *.* was several years ago -- and "they" are still learning the
leasons that many of us have already learned.

Unlike a commerical company, Linux really has no cetral architect or
product requirements to "force" these changes. Because linux is
opensource, no one can just change the system to Unicode, you have to
have an existing Unicode distribution that is winning people over. Linux
is a conglomerate of different organizations each with their own agenda
-- often supporting mutliple platforms which not all may support
Unicode. Also, remember that alot of Linux is comming from
non-professional developers which might explain some of the strange
responses you are getting, but we get them on the Unicode list as well.

As far as Red Hat and GTk, I've found them to be pretty helpful. You
might want to look at, it talks
about GTK's plan for supporting Unicode. Once GTK supports it, GNOME as
a derivative should pick it up.


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