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RISC OS in Japan

By Chris Williams. Published: 11th Apr 2005, 14:08:23 | Permalink | Printable

Who, where, what, when, how?

International RISC OSPreviously, we've covered RISC OS activities in Australia, and now we move even further afield. Like other countries, Japan is no stranger to RISC OS, although it probably doesn't know it: we gather RISC OS is used a lot in Pace DSL4000 set top boxes for video on demand services, hotel room terminals and, also in TV production.

So how does RISC OS fare on the desktop in countries that use non-Latin alphabets?

"Unfortunately RISC OS is of limited use as a desktop OS in Japan due to the lack of fully featured (or indeed any) Japanese support, although most of the low-level groundwork for this was done for the Internet TV and STB products (which support Japanese fonts and input), and is present in RISC OS 5", explained James Byrne. James, who is currently in Japan but can otherwise be found in Cambridge, works for the company that was once Acorn's agent for Japan.

Japanese writingThese limitations haven't deterred some desktop users, though. Takayoshi Sasano, a software engineer, owns a Kinetic RiscPC and has translated a number of documents to Japanese. Takayoshi first came across Acorn computers in a magazine for the TRON project, and became interested in RISC OS due to its similarities to TRON OS - which is now believed to be used in millions of embedded devices worldwide.

The cost of RISC OS hardware and the lack of documentation in non-English languages are the biggest problems faced by Takayoshi. He told us: "If parts that are hard to find in Japan have broken, I must ask Castle Technology in England to repair or order new one.

"Many news sources tell us what is happening in the RISC OS scene, but of course all the articles are written in English. Even if I can read them, reading any English text takes longer than Japanese ones. So it is very difficult to check all the news."

He added: "I heard that RISC OS5 supports a UTF-8 character set and someone created Japanese territory module. I want to try them, but I don't have Iyonix."

Whilst living in New Zealand, British-born Michael Poole used RISC OS in a small business environment, mainly with Fireworkz Pro. Now that he's living in Sanda City, Japan, his RISC OS computer is used for email and web surfing, happily avoiding Windows viruses and other nasties lurking on the Internet.

He told us: "RISC OS has a particularly good GUI. It's not as flash as Apple's latest offering, but in some ways it is more intuitive. Having at least the core of the OS and some basic utilities in ROM is a big bonus, especially for a home user 9,500km from the nearest dealer. It can't be broken, so when I really screwed up the boot sequence one time, I still got a GUI and !Edit, so was able to go in and repair my mistake from within a familiar environment.

"Probably the biggest drawback of RISC OS is with modern peripherals not being well supported. That's why I supported and now have Martin Wuerthner's version of Gimp-Print. I don't use it much, but at least I know that if I have to replace my printer with a modern one, I stand some chance of finding one I can drive using it."

RISC OS 3.6 on Michael's RiscPC doesn't support Unicode at all, although he reads emails using APDL's !Kanji application but struggles to write Japanese text on the computer. Communicating with the English speaking world is not a problem, of course, and Michael says he can fall back to an Apple Powerbook running Japanese Mac OS 9 in case of problems.

Despite the low number of desktop users in Asia, which would likely place them low down the priority list of Western RISC OS companies, Michael still has hopes for Japanese support.

"Although an Iyonix might be starting to get to the stage where it could support Japanese, it's significantly more expensive than an iMac, so I might be forced by economics to go that way, although I would prefer not to," he commented, adding that Microsoft Windows is "not an option".

"In any case, I rather suspect that even if RISC OS 5 ends up with Unicode support, the applications would be unlikely to support Japanese, especially for keyboard input, for which a Japanese-specific IME (Input Method Engine) is essential."

Update at 12:03 12/4/2005
A little history now, as an aside from recent RISC OS developments: Here's a page from a 1994 journal on TRON. The text says: "In England, the personal computer is widely used in primary/secondary schools. The name of machine is the Acorn, and it uses an ARM CPU and RISC OS. Due to the success of ARM chip, Apple's Newton and 3DO's REAL products decided to use the chip. It is natural for governmental strategy to not adopt a 'global Standard'."

Links

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Discussion

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It's nice to hear that RISC OS is being used enthusiastically all across the globe, even if it's only by a few people.

But I'm not sure what impresses me more: that RISC OS is being used in Japan, or that drobe managed to find out! ;) A really well researched article.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 11/4/05 4:33PM
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Yeah, I'm surprised and impressed by this article. When I was living in Japan last year I looked into the "Chuditch" Iyonix project but never took up the offer in the end.

As to modernising RISC OS, full Japanese input support would be several times harder to implement than supporting Unicode, the character set and the necessary fonts, as the article suggests.

On Windows the Japanese IME is very fully featured - I enter text in romaji on a standard UK keyboard which it then converts into hiragana as I type, and then substitutes the correct kanji after I press Return. To tell the IME that I am entering katakana (e.g. for my name) I'd have to go into the IME and switch to Katakana. Japanese users would do things differently with hiragana symbols on each key on their keyboards, saving the first stage of the conversion process, and pressing the hankaku/zenkaku/kanji key (usually located just under Escape) to toggle between half-width/full-width and kanji characters, and using Shift to enter katakana. Sometimes there are twenty or more conversion options for a given hiragana entry and to be effective the IME must present the most commonly-used options first - it is a pretty complex beast! At the end of a year of typing Japanese almost daily and still didn't understand all the options available in the Windows IME.

It looks like we are well on the way to having Unicode, the character set (UTF-8, although most Japanese emails I receive are iso-2022-jp) and hopefully the necessary fonts, on RISC OS 5 at least. That should result in the ability to read emails in Japanese and view Japanese webpages on RISC OS at some stage in the future.

これを読めますか?

I wonder how well the Drobe Comments system copes with Japanese text ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usergovind on 11/4/05 8:58PM
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It displays correctly (at least in Firefox on Windows) ;-) すごい!

 is a RISC OS Usergovind on 11/4/05 10:22PM
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Displays nicely, or at least plausibly, here in NetSurf on RISC OS 5. Japanese support in RISC OS 5 is documented here: [link]

 is a RISC OS Userjamesp on 11/4/05 11:20PM
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NetSurf is just displaying 4-digit hex codes here on my Iyonix :-(

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 12/4/05 12:24AM
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tamias> Make sure you have the Iconv module installed and a suitable font (Cyberbit/Code2000 IIRC).

 is a RISC OS Useradrianl on 12/4/05 12:36AM
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I'm hoping someone will carry out the required work in ChoX11. This will enable international font display (using the same technology as NetSurf) in Firefox and other ported applications.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 12/4/05 8:26AM
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Ok, I've found the Iconv module on the NetSurf downloads page and Googled for a copy of Code2000. What do you then do to install this font? (It's TrueType).

 is a RISC OS Usertamias on 12/4/05 11:23AM
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tamias: I'd advise using Cyberbit for Japanese, myself. Grab [link] and follow the instructions.

 is a RISC OS Userjmb on 12/4/05 5:22PM
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govind> As hinted at in the article, a Japanese IME already exists for RISC OS (for use orginally in an Internet TV box). While not as fully featured as the Windows IME it does a perfectly acceptable job. Much as I'd like to see this properly integrated into the desktop one day, the fact that the number of people who could find a use for it could probably be counted on my fingers means that this is more than somewhat unlikely.

 is a RISC OS Userjbyrne on 12/4/05 11:34PM
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What is APDL's !Kanji application?

The APDL website is poor, to say the least, and I can find neither hide nor hair of it in google, apart from the link to this page.

 is a RISC OS Userrichcheng on 13/4/05 1:56PM
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Unicode support would make a difference not only to Japanese language, but also Traditional and Simplified Chinese. My colleagues at work have to work with both within Dreamweaver, and for some reason (I think it's Dreamweaver's support - or lack - of Asian language) they must use Chinese Star software to convert between Simplified and Traditional Chinese codes.

Since China and Taiwan are huge markets, it would make sense for RISC OS to make a presence there, even if its through set-top boxes...interesting article though, thanks Drobe!

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 14/4/05 2:36AM
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Certainly huge markets for RISC OS in Asia, I can't wait to see RISC OS internationalised.

Me me, internationalising RISC OS is the next best thing after the Browser issue.

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 14/4/05 10:01PM
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