Kategoriarkiv: Chuvash

It is time to standardize the Chuvash Keyboard Layout

Proto-Bulgarian Runes. Wonder if they are supported in Unicode :)

Proto-Bulgarian Runes (Chuvash language is the closest language to the Proto-Bulgar language). Wonder if they are supported in Unicode :)

The Chuvash Computer Keyboard layouts have existed since 2001, but due to the lack for Unicode support we were forced to use the look-alike letters  from other latin-based keyboard layouts. On Linux The Chuvash keyboard layout was added in 2007 and Linux is still the only operating system that has a native keyboard layout for Chuvash language. On Windows we have used the Keyboard Layout Creator and distributed it as an executable file.

Today, when Windows XP is not supported anymore, the majority of users now have full support for the correct Chuvash letters from the Extended Cyrillic table. These four Chuvash letters are “additional” to the Russian alphabet: ӐӖҪ and Ӳ.

Now when new “keyboards” appear on Android, in web browser (they use the standardized letters) and hopefully in Windows and iOS, we have to consider put the correct letters into the keyboard layouts. For Linux the /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ru file has to be updated:

Impact

This switch will have a huge impact on the Chuvash language. Much of content on forums, websites and Chuvash Wikipedia will be hardly searchable. But we have to do it, to standardize and prepare for the future. The Chuvash language Committee is not against it, despite it has not been updated the guidelines for using letters from 2009.

Edit 2014-04-30

The bug in the freedesktop bugzilla was solved very quickly. In fact, in the new Ubuntu 14.04 you’ll find a correct keyboard layout:

chuvash-keyboard-map

Here is the source code:
chuvash-keyboard-xkb

Pragmatic Responsive Design

I have been curious about the responsive design but have not had time to try it out. To learn more I decided to make an existing website more responsive. A friend of mine drives a Chuvash Dictionary website: samah.chv.su. Today it looks like this in a mobile browser:

Before responsiveThe site is a classic 1000px-ish centered page with header and two columns. The left column is for the main content and the right column for additional “aside” information. Can it be more classic? This current version works, you can still use the dictionary on a mobile phone. But there are several improvements that can be done:

  • Avoid scaling to be able to read text
  • Avoid scrolling back and forth to read every line
  • Move the right column down, it is better to use the space for the main content.
  • Hide the quick links to the individual letters
  • Shrink unused space in the header.



What I wanted was to provide some easy steps to make it more responsive. The steps had to be pragmatic: some easy-to-implement steps that would make a difference, and with very little impact on existing markup.

I created a copy of this page and made it available publicly, because I wanted to access from everywhere and test it on so many devices and resolutions as possible. I used Github Pages to get the version control too, even though a public folder on Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive could give the same result.

Here is my list of what I did to make it more responsive:

Don’t do anything for larger resolutions

Just leave it as it is, unless you want to redesign your site.

Create the css file for responsive design

Just create a file and call it responsive.css. Reference this file inside your site in a usual way.

Set witdh 100% when a scroll appears

Find the “break point” where your site gets a horizontal scroll. To do so, just fire the Chrome Dev Tools, dock it to the right, and resize your page. In my case it was 1016px. Now it is time to do a change. Create a media query for that and try to remove all the hard-coded width values by setting width:100%. Well something towards this “very responsive site”.

Let the columns disappear

Find the width where two columns become ugly and impractical. Create a media query for that and just style the columns so they do not float. In my case the original site uses table-row layout. I set display:block and the right column went down.

Prevent scaling in mobiles

Now your page is more responsive in a desktop browser, but it is still unreadable in a mobile. The reason is the mobile browser that scales it for us. Let’s disable it. Just put this meta tag in the head session of your page:

Hide rarely used elements

In a mobile we want to see the most important things, the actual content. Hide menus and remove empty spaces. In my case I hid the letters that took to much place and the language switcher. They can be shown in another menu (see below).

Make a responsive navigation menu

It is not complicated at all. You can google it. There are many tips and jQuery plugins. I did in a very easy way. I added a new div to my html:

I also added this css style and hid this div for bigger resolutions:

Here is the tiny javascript click event listener:

Here is the result. There are still some improvements that can be done, but here is the result of the my changes.

samah-004 samah-003

Add a website icon

Improve the user experience by adding a website icon. It will be used when an iPhone, iPad and Android user will save your page as a bookmark (and it will be placed on the screen and look like any app). Here is how I did:

  1. I created a 74 x 74 px png image and saved it as apple-touch-icon.png. I placed it in the “root folder”.
  2. In the page markup I added this line inside the head element:

That’s it. So now when someone saves the website as a bookmark, it looks like this:

photo samahsar-001 Screenshot_2014-03-25-23-30-02

Then on the mobile screen it looks like any other app. It works even on Android devices (even though the icon is an apple-touch-icon).

 

UPDATE 2014-03-25

Now these changes are implemented on the real site: samah.chv.su

UPDATE 2014-05-12

I discovered a blog post about how to adjust a web app for best experience in iOS. This gist is a perfect example what you can add for properties.

On Windows keyboard layouts for minority languages in Russia

keyboard-bak-tat-sak

I can’t write in Chuvash in Windows 8 (and all the previous Windows releases). Chuvash is a minority language in Russian Federation. In this blog post I want to summarize the status of the keyboard layout support of the minority languages of Russia and find a way to improve this situation.

Languages and Microsoft

There are thousands of languages. Of course it is hard to support them all. As per 2012-02-21 Windows 8 supports 109 (!) languages. In december 2012 the support for Cheerokee language was added.

Display language, locale and keyboard layout

In Windows 8, when you go to Language preferences – Add a language, you’ll get “a language”. Behind this general word there are three parts which have to be distinguished in this post:

  • Display language (labels, messages and other user interface in the particular language)
  • Locale (a set of preferences for a particular language and region/country like currency, point or comma as a decimal delimiter, ltr vs rtl, encoding and much more)
  • Keyboard layout (just an arrangement of keys, their placement, can be specific for a language or country, can have different systems like Dvorak)

This blog post is about the keyboard layouts, the easiest part of the “language” support in an operating system.

Russian Federation minorities

There are 160 ethnic groups in Russia speaking over 100 minority languages. The most of ethnic groups ar so called stateless nations meaning there is no main country for this nation (e.g. Sami people in Sweden, but not Germans in the USA).

In Russia there are 21 republics which have their own official languages alongside Russian and their purpose is to be home for ethnic groups. I’ll focus mostly on the official languages in these republics in this blog post, but it would be interesting to investigate smaller languages as well.

Allmost all of the minority languages of stateless nations use the Cyrillic alphabet (often with additional letters). So it makes it pretty simple to see how many languages are supported in Windows 8. Just Go to the Language preferences -> Add a language and group them by writing system. See the screenshot above. There are only three minority keyboard layouts which are supported:

  • Bashkir (1,45 millions speakers)
  • Sakha (Yakut, 360 native speakers)
  • Tatar (4,3 millions speakers)

The funny thing is that all the three are Turkic languages.
There are two additional language keyboard layouts which are implicitly supported:

These two languages (which are co-official languages in the republic of Mordovia) don’t use any additional letters. That’s it. So they can write using only the standard Russian keyboard layout.

Keyboard layouts in Linux

Just a little comparison. In Linux distributions there are more minority languages from Russian Federation represented. The supported ones can be found in the /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ru file:

  • Tatar / tt
  • Ossetian / os
  • Chuvash / cv
  • Udmurt / udm
  • Komi / kom
  • Sakha (Yakut) / sah
  • Kalmyk / xal
  • Bashkir / bak
  • Mari / chm

All these keyboard layouts were added by the community. I personally sent the Chuvash and Kalmyk fragments of that file to Sergey Udaltsov who created patch files and pushed it to freedesktop.

keyboard-xal

Windows 8 keyboard layouts and Touch mode

When I tried these three supported minority language keyboard layouts of Russia in touch mode, only one worked! It was the Tatar keyboard layout.
tatar-keyboard-layout-in-touch

The tatars can type all their additional letters in touch mode as well.

Bashkir and Sakha keyboard layouts use the row above qwerty: 12345… Here is the preview for the classic Sakha keyboard layout:

sakha-preview

And what about the virtual touch keyboard layout for Sakha language?

sakha-touch

As you can see there are no keys for the additional letters for Sakha language (ҕ ҥ ө һ).

Summary

Many minority languages of Russian Federation (the most of them already endangered) miss the native keyboard layout support in Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows 7. Windows is a prevalent operating system in Russia. The support for minority language keyboard layout would help people to use their languages and give more chances for languages to survive. For now there are only 3 languages (besides Russian and implicitly some others like Moksha and Erzya) which are supported in Windows 8 with a physical keyboard: Tatar, Bashkir and Sakha. And only one of them (!) works even in touch mode: Tatar.

The purpose of this post is only to identify the status for Russian Federation minority language keyboard layout support in Windows 8. Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP) seems very promising. I hope we will see more languages of Russia and other countries available in “Add language” menu in Microsoft Windows 8.

Long tap and additional letters in Windows 8 (update 2013-03-16)

After I wrote this post I discovered some additional letters available when you long-tap the buttons on the virtual keyboard. Here is an excerpt from the Microsoft Blog about the “press-and-hold”-letters:

There is an interesting counter example in press-and-hold behavior. On a physical keyboard, when you press and hold a character, it repeats. On our touch keyboard when you press and hold, we show alternate characters or symbols. This is something a touch keyboard can do well and a physical keyboard can’t. If you don’t know the specific key combination to show ñ or é or š, for example, it’s painful to type on a physical keyboard. It’s easy to find on the touch keyboard. Practically no one has complained about this departure from convention. We built on it, in fact. You might discover that you can simply swipe from a key in the direction of the secondary key, and that character will be entered, without an explicit selection from the menu. So if you use accented characters a lot, you can get pretty fast with this.

I appreciate this. Here come all the letters I found in the Russian keyboard layout:

Flyout letters Main letter Additional letters
long-tap-u у ү ұ
long-tap-k к ҡ қ
long-tap-n н ң ҥ
long-tap-g г ғ ҕ
long-tap-z з ҙ
long-tap-h х һ
long-tap-o о ө
long-tap-e э ә
long-tap-s с ҫ
long-tap-i и і

Here is the full list of the Cyrillic additional letters:

ү Cyrillic Ue Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Buryat, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Mongolian
ұ Straight U with stroke Kazakh
ҡ Bashkir Qa Bashkir
қ Ka with descender Kazakh, Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik, Abkhaz
ң En with descender Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Dungan, Kalmyk, Khakas, Kyrgyz , Turkmen, Tuvan, Uyghur
ҥ En-ghe (Cyrillic) Sakha, Meadow Mari, Altai, Aleut
ғ Ge with stroke Bashkir, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tofa, Tajik
ҕ Ge with middle hook Sakha, Abkhaz
ҙ Ze with descender Bashkir
һ Shha Bashkir, Sakha, Tatar, Kazakh Buryat Kalmyk Kildin Sami
ө Barred O (Oe) Bashkir, Sakha, Kazakh, Buryat, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Mongolian
ә Cyrillic Schwa Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Abkhaz, Dungan, Itelmen, Kalmyk, Kurdish
ҫ Cyrillic The Bashkir, Chuvash
і Dotted i Kazakh, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Khakas, Komi, Rusyn

Here we have three fully functional language keyboard layouts if you are okay with long-tapping:

Bashkir ғ ҡ ҙ ҫ ң һ ә ө ү
Sakha ҕ ҥ ө һ ү
Tuvan ң ү ө

Bashkir and Sakha, I suppose, were considered whilst designing the keyboard layout, and Tuvan language letters only happen to be within the Bashkir and Sakha letters range.

Tatar letters aren’t complete in the standard Russian keyboard layout, the reason for that must be, as I mentioned above, the full functional virtual keyboard for Tatar (where is no need for long-tapping).

There is another language which contains all the letters through long-tapping. Kazakh is absolutely a minority language of Russia, but it doesn’t represent a stateless nation.

Kazakh ғ ә қ ң ө ү ұ і һ

Long-tapping technique could be a solution for many minority languages of Russia:

Language Existing letters To be added
Chuvash ҫ ӗ ӑ ӳ
Udmurt   ӝ ӟ ӥ ӧ ӵ
Meadow Mari ҥ ö ӱ
Hill Mari   ä ö ӱ ӹ