Internationalisation question

Alexander E. Patrakov patrakov at
Thu Dec 30 09:01:21 PST 2004

Declan Moriarty wrote:

> I may shortly need a pc with several different character sets, and
> locales. A full plethora of them.
> Has anyone done this? Is it easy?

It's easy when you know what to do.
> I was thinking of approaching it with a user for each locale, but
> beyond that I hadn't thought it through very well. What should I read
> up on?

Everything is already in the book: keyboard layout, fonts and the LANG
variable. You just want them to be selectable by the user.

A reasonably simple way of achieving this is as follows.

1) Forget about Linux console (i.e. rm /etc/sysconfig/console). Given that
the user has a shell, he or she can run the needed "loadkeys" and "setfont"
commands, and export LANG manually (or do that from his/her
~/.bash_profile). Of course that will be inconvenient for German people the
first time, because they have to type the "y" letter in the word
"loadkeys", and it is not in the same position as painted. But they surely
know that and can type it once.

2) Install GDM, not KDM, as a display manager. The reason is that GDM allows
you to select the language (in fact the LANG variable), and does it almost
correctly. Don't forget to read the second comment on this bug:

3) Forget about apps that don't use Xft (i.e., all Xaw, Motif and gtk1
apps). They need individual configuration.

4) If you install KDE, be aware that the default keyboard layout switching
applet is far from ideal (e.g. hotkeys for switching the layouts don't
work). kkbswitch is better, but it, unlike the stock applet, requires
properly configured keyboard layouts in xorg.conf (something that you
probably can't afford).

5) Install Microsoft fonts and FreeFont. Test the installation by running

6) Install either Amarok or (better) Beep-Media-Player. They are the only
MP3 players that can adapt for different encodings in ID3 tags.

Alexander E. Patrakov

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