Older blog entries for roozbeh (starting at number 104)

Fonts: Trivia question: “Dejavu fonts is the best free software font out there.” Right? Wrong!

The story is as short as this: They are now putting everything in. They even claim that “The users want that!” They are following the dark path Freefont went.

But to quote Behdad, “No, that is not users want. Users don't know what fontconfig is, users don't know how font selection is done, users don't know all these things. What users want is that their software works. If the simplest way to give them that for you, the font developer, is to stuff every glyphs somebody contributes into a single bin, this bug is the result, let everyone suffer it.”

The story in detail appears on gnome bug 334758 (continue and read all the comments), where Behdad and Owen, the pango maintainers, are trying to talk sense into the matter. Matthias even tries sticks and then spelling out the terms, but to no avail.

I didn’t know about this until it bit me today: I started to see ugly Persian fonts appear on my Persian GNOME desktop. Running $ fc-list :lang=fa was the answer. DejaVu Sans was there, while it shouldn’t have been. (I was even worried at first that some copyright-ignoring Iranian has contributed the glyphs, as they looked somehow Tahoma-like, but well, apparently they were original contributions by Ben Laenen).

It’s so sad. I just ran # yum remove dejavu-fonts.

18 Mar 2006 (updated 18 Mar 2006 at 14:49 UTC) »
Paul, as a non-mainline distributer who needed to chose between Epiphany and Firefox and has chosen Firefox, I feel obliged to answer why we did so.

The only really important reason was marketing. There is already a huge marketing force behind Firefox everywhere in the world (most of it free evangelism by journalists), it being the main rival of the MS/IE monopoly. With shipping Firefox (and mentioning it in our marketing material), we are building on that marketing wave. So many people have heard about Firefox these days that we will alienate the want-to-be-different users if we don’t ship that and ship some GNOME-y thing called Epiphany that they have not heard about. This also reminds me of a dialog with Anna in Stuttgart. She told me that (some of) the test subjects had no problem associating the firefox logo with a web browser: they had already seen it!

The same reasoning may apply to OpenOffice.org vs AbiWord and Gnumeric.

So in short, if you want a distributor to default to some piece of free software instead of another, apart from making sure that your preference is solid and usable, make sure people (not only the distributor) hear about it. Alternatively, go and help improve the most heard-about software in each category, so it will suck less.

PS: I miss the days that I used Epiphany: I am using Firefox now, because that’s what we are shipping and I am supposed to eat our own dog food.

Freedom of speech: Akbar Ganji (disclaimer: don’t trust Wikipedia on Iranian matters, it’s only good for a rough general idea of the subject) has been released from jail today. While I don’t agree with the guy’s strategy by doing a hunger strike instead of “co-operating”, I’m so glad to see his happy face.

I really believe no one should spend time in jail for his writing, specially when there has been no private complainant. I am not saying this as some idealist or anarchist who believes in freedom or whatever, I’m saying this as someone (like many people in the free software community) who has been abused and insulted several times by idiots or the jealous because of his open work on free software or the wikipedia, and has suffered because of the insults and the abuses. So when I say people should be able to criticize, I also mean these abusers (oh, the line that separates these is so thin).

Let everyone who feels offended come to the court and explain why he feels so, and why should the offender be jailed or fined, instead of getting people arrested because of possible “threats to the national security” or “collaborating with the foreign agencies”. If a panel presentation or an article in a newspaper are threats to Iran’s security, the Iranian government should improve on making the country more resistant to such threats (which may come from people that cannot be imprisoned), instead of putting them in jail.

8 Mar 2006 (updated 8 Mar 2006 at 02:23 UTC) »
Sharif Linux: The whole FarsiWeb team is smashing bugs left and right these days, to get us to a beta release of Sharif Linux, version 2, which will have a full Persian UI experience.

The interesting thing is that the general quality of the patches we create is getting higher each day, and the time to create the patch is getting lower with each bug. Not being able to rely on upstream developers (either Fedora or GNOME for either patches or reviews) actually makes us double check, do more peer reviews, and all that. I’m also looking forward to the day we are going to upstream all the bugs we have found.

Also, using the desktop in the RTL mode all the time, as I have been doing for more than a month now, really helps in finding and cleaning up the important bugs (vs the theoretical ones we've been pursuing previously). The bidi desktop is becoming a reality now, compared to a dream we once had.

It’s been more than six years since kind people like Pablo Saratxaga, Robert Brady, Erik van der Poel, Markus Kuhn, and Owen Taylor helped me enter the GNU/Linux internationalization and localization world. I feel this is getting somewhere after all.

OK, I’m getting over-romantic, but I can’t stop thinking of the people who are helping make this happen: Elnaz, my dear friend and wife who is taking care of both me and the company and is supporting me in all the hard steps, Yahya Tabesh who is our chairman now and has been a mentor and the main sponsor since we started the FarsiWeb project in early 1999, Behdad the once-apprentice who passed the master and has become an uber-hacker many envy, and the many special friend-colleagues, Hamed, Meelad, the two Behnams, Farzaneh, Hooman, Farzad, Alireza, and all the others who came and went. Thank you guys for helping me in realizing the dream. You rock.

22 Feb 2006 (updated 22 Feb 2006 at 22:26 UTC) »

OK, from now on, whenever you see some free software project requiring you to be not in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Cuba and other countries where us terrorists live, or require you to not give the software to terrorists such as us, it would be very helpful if you tell me (roozbeh at gmail dot com). I wish to make sure they know their software is not ‘Open Source’.

To copy clause 5 of The Open Source Definition, “[...] Some countries, including the United States, have export restrictions for certain types of software. An OSD-conformant license may warn licensees of applicable restrictions and remind them that they are obliged to obey the law; however, it may not incorporate such restrictions itself.”

A few free software projects do that (incorporate such restrictions), and have been doing it for a long while. I guess it can’t really get more explicit than what OSD says. I’m planning to go inform them one by one.

We may be from a country whose nationals are automatically considered suspicious for even thinking about visiting the United States (for whatever reason the US administration may have, that may think it can make life harder for the Iranian government by making it harder for Iranian nationals), but we can’t stand our “freedom-loving friends” doing the same to us through their lawyers.

BTW, how many of you have been fingerprinted using black ink, weighted, and photographed when you entered a country just because of your nationality? If yes, did that make you miss your connecting flight which had a three-hour safe margin? If yes, did they also photocopy all your airplane tickets and the boarding pass for the next flight and in the process lost the ticket? If yes, did that require you to stay the night in a city as large as Los Angeles with no hotel reservation and nobody to call in a country that you are visiting for the first time? Still yes? Who are you, North Korean or something?!

Wow! Apparently I share the same Chinese given name with Donald Knuth, one of my personal heroes. It is 德纳, or Dénà in Pinyin. I don't know if Hong knew about this.

(Thanks to Ming Hua, a self-described “Chinese GNOME user” for pointing me to the similarity.)

Well, I got my Chinese name back again, after an email from Hong Feng. This is a name he gave me in 2002 when I met him in Trivandrum.

The name is 普德纳. That’s U+666E U+5FB7 U+7EB3, and is pronounced somehow like “Pu DeNa” (my family name is Pournader).

The kDefinition field in the Unihan database gives respectively “universal, general, widespread”, “ethics, morality, virtue”, and “admit, take, receive, accept”. Back in India, Hong explained to me that to him it means something like someone who recieves virtue from different sources/people and then redistributes it. The “virtue” part is a reference to my first name.

The meaning interestingly resembles to what I’ve been doing for a few years now. I have tried to gather all those different and contradictory local requirements and the solutions the globalization technology provides for them, understand them, and then write them down or implement them (or get them implemented) in software.

The Iranian situations: I don’t know much about right and wrong according to divine beings, but something is utterly wrong when things like this happen:

Did these things happen in the same Tehran where I‘m living? Yes. Can I believe it? No.

For those who haven’t heard, that is the Iranian “independent students” putting the Danish embassy to fire and then occupying it for a while, last night.

Of course it can’t have any relation with, and is totally independent of, the Minister of Commerce’s announcement that they will not allow Danish goods to enter Iran anymore, and will not let Danish ships enter the Iranians seas.

Well, the way things go here in Iran, that’s just a little “warning”, of course. They rarely do this to foreigners, but well, ...

Hossein Derakhshan has interestingly written about the same thing that was eating me in this post of mine (United States helping Ahmadinejad get elected). The main difference is that it is published in New York times, while I write in Advogato.

So I recommend reading Democracy's Double Standard (registration is required).

22 Jan 2006 (updated 28 Jan 2006 at 11:33 UTC) »
Guardian’s Simon Jenkins: “Nor would the "coward's war" of economic sanctions be any more effective. Refusing to play against Iranian footballers (hated by the clerics), boycotting artists, ostracising academics, embargoing commerce, freezing foreign bank accounts - so-called smart sanctions - are as counterproductive as could be imagined. Such feelgood gestures drive the enemies of an embattled regime into silence, poverty or exile.”

One can’t be more right. Many of these have already been in effect of course, resulting in the empowerment of the government and the weakening of the general public.

As an small example, the commerce embargo means that most IT companies will not be able to outsource anything to Iran, resulting in the only viable business strategy of local companies to be selling to the government. Vendor monopolies are bad, sure, but guess how bad is a customer monopoly.

Silence, poverty, and exile? So accurate.

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