RISC OS in JapanBy Chris Williams. Published: 11th Apr 2005, 14:08:23 | Permalink | Printable
Who, where, what, when, how?Previously, 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.
These 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'."
Internationalising RISC OS
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