Archive for April, 2008

For your ear’s pleasure: japanesepod101.com

2008 April 30

The useless background narrative

I’m 3 years late, but here it is…

There are indeed chance meetings that are just wonderful. Meetings which upon reflection would make you think, “I couldn’t imagine how things would work out without it!”. A perfect example is when I was hotspotting in Puskom UGM with Karnan and met Adit there. Adit is a fellow Ilkomer, and I had chatted with him through IM about studying kanji. I had told him that I want to copy his study materials some time.

And what a time indeed! After copying the kanji-related files, I was shown quite a lot of mp3s on his Nihongo folder. Not anime soundtracks or jpop whatnots, mind you, but Japanese language lessons! Adit said that you can turn it on and enjoy it while having your Morning Coffee. (or was it another drink?)

My focus was, and probably still, on reading. Therefore I thought some audio learning materials would be a great boon to enhance one of my weakest Japanese skills, listening. I happily copied it.

Most of them were japanesepod101.com podcasts and some nihongojuku. I listened to some of them, and indeed thought it was very great. However, in the end I didn’t have enough yaruki to do a full-fledged and regular listening of it. Probably because a lot of the episodes are missing. I like to study a certain thing thoroughly, from back to back, so those podcasts look like a book with lots of torn and missing pages. Not very appetizing.

Until one day I stayed at a relative’s house in Jakarta with ultra-blazing Internet connection. I wisely utilized it to download jpod101’s audio files (nihongojuku was dead). Collecting all the links and feeding it to Flashget took me well beyond midnight.

The first episode was in 2005. So yes, I was years late and was faced with a 4 GiB pile of digitalized sinusoidal waves. But no worry! They release like 1 episode per day, so one can definitely catch up just by listening to 31 podcasts a month.

About the podcast itself

The essence is simple: The free podcast teaches you Japanese using English. The teachers are Peter-san who is a native English speaker and at least a native Japanese speaker. After a short intro, you will be given a short dialog, then that dialog again in slo-mo, and finally the dialog with the English translation inserted in-between. Vocabulary is given after that dialog parade. Then finally the grammar points.

What’s so captivating about it? Probably because Peter-san is such a skillful and mesmerizing teacher. He gives lots of insights, interesting anecdotes, and Peter-style jokes in the explanation. Or maybe it’s because of the many nihonjin casts with their unique personality. From Yoshi the cool guy to Takase the tough girl. Or is it because the stories are genuinely interesting and most of the time hilarious?

No matter what your level is, if you’re learning Japanese then you should try to tune in to japanesepod101.com. They have a fine gradation of level ranging from newbie to upper intermediate. For those interested in the Japanese culture, they also have weekly Japanese Culture Class podcasts with topics from superstitions to marriage. Advanced students can even enjoy Miki-sama‘s full-Japanese audio blog. (the link points to the wrong person, but their nickname are actually same) And if that isn’t enough to assure you, they even have 1 lesson with Morning Musume as the topic!

Currently I try to listen to 2 podcasts per day. I’ve covered 300+ lessons so now my ears can even differentiate the voices of Yoshi, Jun, Natsuko, Sakura, Hatsumi, Naomi, Takase, Chigusa, and others. I’m quite surprised that I found lots of new words even in the Survival and Newbie series because I was well beyond my 3rd year of studying Japanese.

It certainly increased my listening comprehension significantly. Probably my speaking skill too, because I often repeated after the dialogs. At any rate, I’m looking forward for the day I can catch up with the latest episodes.

Closing words

I probably should send Adit a DVD as my gratitude. Oh, and anyway, upon leaving Puskom that day I carelessly left my student card and had to travel all the way from Milan

And lastly, are you a japanesepod101 listener too?

n program yang paling sering kupakai

2008 April 18

Beberapa waktu yang lalu di Planet Ubuntu tersebar mim “Inilah 10 program yang paling sering kupakai”. Contohnya ini. Caranya sangat mudah, yaitu mengetikkan suatu perintah konsol kompleks tertentu.

Ikut-ikutan ah…

C:\Documents and Settings\Agro>history | awk '{a[$2]++}END{for(i in a){print a[i] " " i}}' | sort -rn | head
'history' is not recognized as an internal or external command,
operable program or batch file.

C:\Documents and Settings\Agro>

Aduh! Lupa aku!

Damn, now I can’t invite just about anyone to Mixi!

2008 April 17

Probably because of my previous post advertising free Mixi invites, the staff decided to take a measure!

Now to register as a new Mixi user, you need to enter that thing called “handphone mail address”. Simple, except that I don’t even know what it is. I have a handphone, and all I get with it is the “phone number”. You can’t let the field empty. You can’t fill it with a gmail or yahoo address either.

With some chittery-chat on 2ch irc (#japanese), I got someone to tell me that one valid such address is something@ezweb.ne.jp. I put a random “something”, and it did succeed.

Until I realized that other than confirming from your normal email, you need to confirm from that dreaded “handphone mail address”.

In the end, I only managed to invite 1 person to Mixi… He was lucky to sign up fast.

Configuring the correct Japanese fonts for Windows GTK applications

2008 April 13

On a previous blog, I discussed how win32 GTK/GTK+ programs are smart enough to choose a Japanese translation by default if your system’s language is set to Japanese. However, there’s one big shame that I concealed: it will not choose the fonts correctly.

Related to this problem is how the Unicode standard handles Japanese and Chinese characters. You see, the characters knows as kanji, used in Japan, historically comes from China. In fact, kanji literally means Han characters. But that happened more than a thousand years ago. Time always brings change, and now many characters are drawn differently in each countries.

On the image below, you can see how some Japanese characters (black) differs from the Chinese counterpart (blue):

Difference between Japanese and Chinese kanji glyphs

You can see that even the stroke count can differ!

Unicode, in its effort called Han Unification, insisted that Japanese, traditional Chinese, and Korean characters which historically were same must only get a codepoint. So there can’t be one Unicode character for the Japanese version of ‘close’ and another for the Chinese version. Any differences then must be achieved by fonts. So yes, in the screenshot above, the Japanese and Chinese characters are actually the same Unicode character, but rendered in OpenOffice.org with different fonts. And yes, that means you can’t display both Chinese and Japanese text in a simple text document (which can only use one font for the whole file), unless you happen to use only the characters which are country invariant.

Now, back to GTK. GTK programs use a configuration file called pango.aliases to select its fonts. Here’s a sample line:

sans = "arial,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic"

Now that line means that, if a character must be drawn on screen as a Sans-serif character (“sans”), then try to display it using the “arial” font which is first in the list. If the character isn’t on the system’s Arial font, then try “browallia new”. If it fails, try the next one, “mingliu”. And so on.

Problem comes when a static list like that meets the intricacies of Unicode’s Han unification. For probably a random reason, the configuration file of Windows GTK programs put Chinese fonts (mingliu etc.) before Japanese fonts (ms gothic etc.). So there you have it, a user interface of Japanese translation displayed using “Chinese” characters:

Inkscape using Japanese translation but Chinese characters!

If you’re like me, then that extra dot stroke on “chikai” will really get on your nerve.

The solution is a simple exercise of find and replace. Now find all files named pango.aliases on your hard drive, which most probably will be inside your Program Files folder. Each installed GTK program can have one, but they can also use the “shared” GTK’s. If you already know where your GTK programs are, the file is actually located in the etc\pango subfolder. Once found, replace the content with my hand-crafted version:

courier = "courier new,MS Mincho" 

tahoma = "tahoma,MS PGothic,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
sans = "arial,MS PGothic,browallia new,mingliu,simhei,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
serif = "times new roman,MS PMincho,angsana new,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
mono = "courier new,MS Mincho,courier monothai,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"
monospace = "courier new,MS Mincho,courier monothai,mingliu,simsun,gulimche,ms gothic,kartika,latha,mangal"

Now your configuration will prefer Japanese fonts rather than Chinese ones. Talk about font discrimination! Here’s the result:

Inkscape using Japanese translation and the correct fonts

Ah, Japanese translation in Japanese fonts. No more wrong fonts. That feels better.

Pemblokiran situs oleh pemerintah Indonesia

2008 April 10

Buka Pidgin, tiba-tiba aja dapet pesan offline dari teman saya Ferdi. Dikasih link untuk berpartisipasi dalam petisi yang menolak pemblokiran situs-situs tertentu, termasuk YouTube, oleh pemerintah Republik Indonesia.

“Apa pula ini?”, pikirku…

Kausalitas mengharuskan kejadian ini memiliki sebab tertentu. Aku menduga ini pasti gara-gara film yang namanya Fitna itu. Judul itu pertama kali kudengar dari adikku yang di Jakarta beberapa waktu lalu. Udah nonton di YouTube katanya. Selanjutnya nggak sengaja kudengar di radio saat berada di dalam mobil. Berikutnya, ngeliat judul itu di headline sebuah tabloid, entah apa namanya, yang tergeletak di rumah. Terakhir, adikku yang di ITB juga bilang udah nonton, dikasih temennya lewat fasilitas transfer berkas Y!M.

Kutanya temenku yang lagi online, ternyata bener Fitnalah penyebabnya :).

Ah, sepertinya Fitna memang sedang menjadi wadai. Aku sendiri… waktu luangku tidak terlalu banyak untuk menyempatkan mencari atau menonton film tersebut.

Banyak hal yang bisa dibahas tentang topik ini, cuma aku hanya ingin menyampaikan pendapatku tentang pemblokirannya: Sangat tidak setuju! Penyensoran internet tidak sepantasnya dilakukan pemerintah. Memblokir halaman tertentu saja aku tidak setuju, lebih bodoh lagi kalau yang diblokir adalah satu situs penuh! Apa yang pantas dibuka, dan apa yang tidak ingin dilihat, biarkan diserahkan kepada individu masing-masing.

Jangan sampai pemerintahan kita jadi seperti China, yang bahkan membuat Google terpaksa mensensor hasil pencariannya agar sesuai dengan sudut pandang pemerintah.

2,500 kanji and counting :)

2008 April 9

This post has been moved to singularity.agronesia.net: “2,500 kanji and counting :)”. Please visit the new server.

Multilanguage support in Windows programs

2008 April 6

This post has been moved to singularity.agronesia.net: “Multilanguage support in Windows programs”. Please visit the new server.