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Our planet Earth consists of people and countries networked together, speaking different languages, reading and writing different symbols. A long time ago we lived in one place, spoke one language, and never met people from a foreign land. In this time of isolation, computers operated in a single language, English and used a single mathematical language, ASCII.

For the computer, the letters abcdefg are represented as numbers. This style of numerical notation is none as the character encoding method. ASCII is the American standard and became the defacto world standard.

Computer technology spread around the world, and the technologies to display the languages of the world developed. The first wave of applications and operating systems were localized for each new country and language. Localization refers to the process of adding local country language, date, currency and time support to a program or operating system. A Japanese localized editor such as Nemacs supports Japanese and English. Localization is often abbreviated as L10N. The word Localization consists of the first letter, L, the last letter, N, and 10 letters in between the L and the N.

Japanese Linux distributions have traditionally concentrated on localizing Linux for the Japanese Linux user. Linux grew out of the Internet and spread to countries and people around the world as the Internet spread. It would be difficult to redesign Linux every time it was introduced to a new country. Fortunately, Linux has the foundations to become more than just a system that is localized for each country. Linux is based on UNIX and X11R6 standards and has the potential to become an internationalized system. A system with InternationalizatioN (I18N) support has the ability to display multiple languages, currencies, dates, and times. Under Linux, this is controlled with the Locale model. Setting the Locale environment to Japanese will result in your system suddenly changing into a Japanese. Setting the Locale environment Chinese will change your Linux system into a Chinese system.

MultilingualizatioN (M17N) refers to that the language area of the internationalization process.

Although Linux has the potential to become a far superior system with internationalization support than Windows and the Macintosh, it takes a bit of effort to get a Linux system running smoothly. Linux technology is still under developed and a fully Japanese Linux system consists of a mix of localized and internationalized programs.

This document explains the configuration of Japanese support under Linux with the goal of eventually configuring an internationalized Linux system. Instead of explaining the installation of Japanese Linux distributions, this document will explain how to choose, install, and configure those components that a Linux user needs to reach their Japanese processing needs.

Almost all members of TLUG use either the Slackware, RedHat, or Debian distributions. The Japanese Extension (JE) distribution often has outdated programs and the full distribution is not required by most people. Japanese programs have higher memory requirements due to Kanji compatibility overheads. Non-Japanese users are also hampered by Japanese error messages, Japanese titles, and documents originally written in English and translated into Japanese. The basic reason for these problems is that most Japanese Linux distributions are designed for Japanese people developing a Japanese system, not a multilingual system for a citizen of the world.

  A multilingual system is different from a Japanese system. There are many Linux distributions for creating a Japanese system: Debian-JP, Japanese RPM for RedHat, the JE distribution built on Slackware. These distributions are excellent. However, a Japanese system does not fully meet the needs of some Linux users that take part in the development of Linux and GNU software. A Linux system is always changing, always in development. Most of this development is done in English. Japanese support often lags behind English support and the Linux user that wants the newest, often has a mix of a Japanese distribution and an English assortment of programs. Even Linux users that don't do development often find themselves in an English environment.

The approaches explained in this document will concentrate on the configuration of a multilingual Linux system with Japanese support added as incremental modules to meet the Linux community member's needs. It is assumed that the Linux user focuses on one of five approaches.

Installation of a standard Japanese Linux distribution involves installing the full English distribution, then installing the Japanese distribution over it. This document concentrates on the configuration necessary to allow the desired level of Japanese support without forcing the user to install the entire Japanese distribution.

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Next: Linux and People Up: Linux-Nihongo Previous: Contents
Craig Toshio Oda