Fri 09 Jan 2004 13:09:23 GMT

January 9, 2004

gettext and i18n

I was reading thomasvs‘s entry today and it reminded me of personal pain and fun with gconfd’s logging output.

If you’ve selected chinese, for example, from gdm and you login then gconfd outputs logs in chinese. This is fine, if you admin your own system and speak chinese or if your admin speaks chinese. However, if you’re in a large network and you’re not your own sysadmin and your sysadmin is not chinese then chinese logs:

1. don’t make any sense.

2. cause irritation to solving problems.

I run a network like this. I have a good number of users, many of them for whom english is a second language. I have no problem with their selection of their native language for their desktop. I do have a problem with logs coming to me in a language that is not my native language.

If any program written for a desktop or for any user interaction outputs to syslog it should obey the system-default locale. Not the user-selected locale.

We’ve run into lots of interesting problems like this on our network in physics with multiple, roaming, competing users of gnome desktops. We’ve tried to document some of them and even discussed some of them on the gnome-deployment-list. I’m not sure how much traction I’ve gotten, but I’m pretty sure there are people concerned about the problems. Time constraints are fairly serious, of course.

So, this is just a caveat to folks thinking about gettext’izing everything that they should keep in mind situations like the above. For a lot of academic and I’m sure corporate networks it is a very real, very common occurrence.

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