Unicode-based FreeBSD

Svavar Lúthersson admin at stuff.is
Mon Aug 25 11:05:47 UTC 2008

Alexander Churanov wrote:
> 2008/8/24 Tz-Huan Huang <tzhuan at csie.org>
>> I'm a Chinese living in Taiwan and I am probably sure that Unicode is
>> larger
>> than any other Chinese character sets (including traditional and simplified
>> Chinese). The UTF-8 support in FreeBSD/Xorg is good enough for me.
>> I can read/type all Unicode 4.0 characters (including CJKV extension A/B)
>> in Firefox or any gtk/qt programs if I have the needed font; I can produce
>> documents with any Unicode characters by LaTeX+CJK package.
>> It's much better than MS IE and Word because IE and Word only support
>> Unicode 2.0 (or maybe 3.0, I'm not so sure).
>> There are two reasons to use any character sets other than UTF-8:
>> 1. compatibility for old programs/services or other OS.
>> 2. the old man wrote the document when Unicode was not so popular and
>> newbies read the old document.
>> UTF-8 is more and more popular in Chinese, at least in Taiwan.
>> Almost everything works well in my daily jobs (of course under the X).
>> The major missing part is the kiconv UTF-8 support -- currently the kiconv
>> doesn't support more than two bytes character conversion so there
>> is no UTF-8 support for Chinese (most Chinese characters are 3-byte or
>> more). I should mount msdosfs/cd9660 in zh_TW.Big5 and convert the
>> filename to UTF-8 by lint or screen.
>> IMHO, If I need Chinese support, I'll go into X. I have no reason to use
>> Chinese under console even if I can read/type in Chinese. I prefer Firefox
>> rather than w3m or links. :-)
>> Regards,
>> Tz-Huan
>> _______________________________________________
>> freebsd-current at freebsd.org mailing list
>> http://lists.freebsd.org/mailman/listinfo/freebsd-current
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> Tz-Huan,
> Working with Chinese text is the hard part of my solution (described in full
> in freebsd-current at freebsd.org). In brief it's about moving FreeBSD to UTF-8
> completely and making syscons map UTF-8 to selected 8-bit charset for
> displaying (a failsafe solution). It seems that this makes syscons somewhat
> more usable for some people, but not for from East Asia, am I right?
> I was thinking of how to make working with Chinese filenames possible under
> syscons, but the help of a native speaker/writer would help much, because I
> know only basic facts about that matter.
> I see two alternatives of displaying unicode code points that do not fit
> into selected 8-bit display charset:
> 1) Substituting with some character, like '?'. This is very affordable
> solutiuon, but makes inconvenient working with files having names that do
> not fit into selected charset.
> 2) Substituting with encoded code point value like "#1234;". This is more
> complex solutuon, if correct baskspacing and things like that are required.
> I am not ready to implement it.
> In any case, it would be  nice to have some "magic" implemented: if copying
> a text with substitued code points and then pasting it would case the
> original UTF-8 sequence to be inserted.
> For all folks I'd like to explain again that I'm not discussing correct
> rendering of non-latin scripts. It's not possible to render Devanagari in
> character mode. And approach that Linux console takes is partial. The cost
> of full solution is like X, freetype, freebidi and so on.
> Tz-Huan, could you comment on the proposed solution? From your point of
> view, are proposed changes in syscons useful?
> Again, this does not affect X, Firefox, etc, but would make possible to have
> the whole system using UTF-8 out of box.
> Alexander Churanov
> _______________________________________________
> freebsd-current at freebsd.org mailing list
> http://lists.freebsd.org/mailman/listinfo/freebsd-current
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First time poster so be nice, please.

I am not an expert in Unicode but I am Icelandic and need to manage 
filenames which have some "special characters" in the Latin alphabet. 
Like á, ð, é, í, ó, ú, þ, æ and ö. Even though these characters are 
defined in ISO-8859-1 and -15, they cannot be directly typed (by 
default) in the console in FreeBSD (also applies to Debian Linux). This 
means I have to resort to other programs - under certain circumstances - 
if I want to rename, copy or delete files which have these 
aforementioned alphabetic characters. For me it is an annoying situation 
and I would gladly support ideas to fix that and especially those who 
enable one to type and display most Unicode characters in the console.

On to my point... My suggestion is to go as far as possible with the 
proposed solution. There should be UTF-32, UTF-16 and UTF-8 support and 
the first-mentioned should be the primary charset with the others as 
fallback. I think only enabling UTF-8 is not going far enough and 
therefore I do not support Churanov's ideas to obscure non-displayable 
characters with other symbols. We should take future needs into account 
and have UTF-32 and UTF-16 solutions already available instead of having 
to take on a yet another rewrite when it is needed. I do not know much 
about other system components but the same should apply to them. I think 
there should be total Unicode support in FreeBSD as soon as possible. It 
might take some time for those ISO-8859 charsets to die out but it 
should not delay the transfer to Unicode. But again, I am not the most 
knowledgeable about Unicode.

I suggest that the FreeBSD Foundation set a policy which states that 
every new component must have Unicode support (if applicable) and 
support projects to bring in Unicode support where there is none or only 
partial. In FreeBSD 9 or 10, we might start seeing pretty reliable 
Unicode support and maybe, just maybe, be able to migrate everything 
from other charsets to Unicode and keep it as the default. This is the 
chicken and the egg problem. FreeBSD does not have a good enough Unicode 
support because hardly anybody uses it and hardly anybody uses it 
because the support is not good enough. To break out of this circle, we 
need to acknowledge the problem and solve it.

Með kveðju / With regards,
Svavar Kjarrval (svavar at kjarrval.is)
s. 863-9900

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