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Creating a Russian Extended Keyboard Layout

In my spare time I am currently working on a Chuvash-Tatar phrasebook. I have used the Chuvash and Tatar keyboard layout on Linux. They work fine, but switching between them takes time. So I decided to add Tatar letters (right Alt + combinations) to my Chuvash keyboard layout. While adding it I found a combined Russian-Ukranian United keyboard layout and I thought:

  • What if I create a new keyboard layout for Russian that will have almost all additional Cyrillic letters? A Russian Extended keyboard layout could be based on the Russian keyboard layout and have other non-Russian letters.

This is what I have come up to so far. The definition can be found on my project at github: russian-extended-kbd. I will update it more and provide more info about how it is organized and how to install it. I’ll also try to implement it for Windows and maybe for Mac (I doubt it, everything is so locked-down there).

rux-xkb-kbd

This is just a proof-of-concept so far. It only works on Linux (with xkb). Nevertheless, some key characteristics of this layout:

  • It has all the letters of Russian, Erzya, Moksha, Chuvash, Udmurt, Mari (Meadow and Hill Mari), Bashkir, Tatar and other languages of the Russian Federation and other countries.
  • It provides powerful dead keys for (breve, diaeresis, double acute, macron) for composing multiple Cyrillic non-Russian letters
  • It is not as quick as “native” keyboard layouts, but you can type text in many languages without switching the keyboard layout.
  • It has many other characters that are not present in the Russian standard keyboard layout for editing in wiki, markdown and other formats: [ ] { } ~, mathematical symbols: ≈ ÷ ∞ ° ‰ ≤ < > ≥ × •
  • It leaves the numbers. Compared too many other keyboard layouts (see below), this layout does not “steal” the number row. You still can type numbers as usual.

Dead keys

As I mentioned above, dead keys is a powerful feature for composing letters. It is harder to write, but the layout can cover many letters.

These dead keys work

diaeresis ӱ ӥ ӓ ӟ ӝ ӹ ӧ ӵ ӛ ё ї ӫ
double acute ӳ
breve ӑ ӗ ў й
macron ӣ ӯ

These do not work for now (but maybe in future):

cedilla ҫ ҙ
bar ғ ұ
hook ң ҳ қ

So many variants of similar letters

A big challenge in creating a Russian Extended keyboard layout is the fact that languages use different letters for the same sounds (meaning similar sounds).

  • /œ/ is ө (Tatar, Bashkir, Sakha…), and ӧ in (Altay, Udmurt, Mari…)
  • /y/ is ӳ (Chuvash), ӱ (Mari, Altay, Khakas), ү (Tatar, Bashkir, Sakha)
  • /ŋ/ is ҥ (Altay, Sakha, Mari), and ң (Tatar, Bashkir, Khakas, Khanty)

Well, the sounds are not the same, but they are similar. The Swedish Ä is not the same as the German Ä either. If we had a more united Cyrillic script, it would be easier to create a keyboard layout and to read and learn each others’ languages.

The letters from different languages are compare in my Google document.

Some “Native” keyboard layouts of the minority languages of the Russian Federation

chuvash-xkb-kbd

udmurt-xkb-kbd

mari-xkb-kbd

komi-xkb-kbd

kalmyk-xkb-kbd

bashkir-xkb-kbd

ossetian-xkb-kbd

sakha-xkb-kbd

tatar-xkb-kbd

 

 

Other Cyrillic keyboard layouts (outside the Russian Federation)

ukrainian-xkb-kbd

belarusian-xkb-kbd

tajik-xkb-kbd

bulgarian-xkb-kbd

kazakh-xkb-kbd

mongol-xkb-kbd

 

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It is time to standardize the Chuvash Keyboard Layout

Proto-Bulgarian Runes. Wonder if they are supported in Unicode :)

Proto-Bulgarian Runes (Chuvash language is the closest language to the Proto-Bulgar language). Wonder if they are supported in Unicode 🙂

The Chuvash Computer Keyboard layouts have existed since 2001, but due to the lack for Unicode support we were forced to use the look-alike letters  from other latin-based keyboard layouts. On Linux The Chuvash keyboard layout was added in 2007 and Linux is still the only operating system that has a native keyboard layout for Chuvash language. On Windows we have used the Keyboard Layout Creator and distributed it as an executable file.

Today, when Windows XP is not supported anymore, the majority of users now have full support for the correct Chuvash letters from the Extended Cyrillic table. These four Chuvash letters are “additional” to the Russian alphabet: ӐӖҪ and Ӳ.

Now when new “keyboards” appear on Android, in web browser (they use the standardized letters) and hopefully in Windows and iOS, we have to consider put the correct letters into the keyboard layouts. For Linux the /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ru file has to be updated:

// Chuvash language layout
// Anatoly Mironov @mirontoli
partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols "cv" {
    include "ru(winkeys)"

    name[Group1]= "Chuvash";

    key.type[group1]="FOUR_LEVEL";

    key        <AD03> {        [      Cyrillic_u,	Cyrillic_U,
                            0x010004f3,    0x010004f2      ]       };
    key        <AD05> {        [      Cyrillic_ie,     Cyrillic_IE,
                       0x010004d7,	0x010004d6     ]       };
    key        <AC04> {        [      Cyrillic_a,	Cyrillic_A,
                          0x010004d1,  0x010004d0      ]       };
    key        <AB03> {        [      Cyrillic_es,     Cyrillic_ES,
                            0x010004ab,    0x010004aa      ]       };

    include "level3(ralt_switch)"
};

Impact

This switch will have a huge impact on the Chuvash language. Much of content on forums, websites and Chuvash Wikipedia will be hardly searchable. But we have to do it, to standardize and prepare for the future. The Chuvash language Committee is not against it, despite it has not been updated the guidelines for using letters from 2009.

Edit 2014-04-30

The bug in the freedesktop bugzilla was solved very quickly. In fact, in the new Ubuntu 14.04 you’ll find a correct keyboard layout:

chuvash-keyboard-map

Here is the source code:
chuvash-keyboard-xkb

partial alphanumeric_keys
xkb_symbols "cv" {
    include "ru(winkeys)"

    name[Group1]= "Chuvash";

    key.type[group1]="FOUR_LEVEL";

    key        <AD03> {        [      Cyrillic_u,	Cyrillic_U,
                          U04F3,    U04F2      ]       };
    key        <AD05> {        [      Cyrillic_ie,     Cyrillic_IE,
                          U04D7,    U04D6     ]       };
    key        <AC04> {        [      Cyrillic_a,	Cyrillic_A,
                          U04D1,    U04D0      ]       };
    key        <AB03> {        [      Cyrillic_es,     Cyrillic_ES,
                          U04AB,    U04AA      ]       };

    include "level3(ralt_switch)"
};

Update 2015-01-01

Today chuvash.org has switched to Cyrillic letters. I also submitted a pull request in momentjs to update the labels.

On Windows keyboard layouts for minority languages in Russia

keyboard-bak-tat-sak

I can’t write in Chuvash in Windows 8 (and all the previous Windows releases). Chuvash is a minority language in Russian Federation. In this blog post I want to summarize the status of the keyboard layout support of the minority languages of Russia and find a way to improve this situation.

Languages and Microsoft

There are thousands of languages. Of course it is hard to support them all. As per 2012-02-21 Windows 8 supports 109 (!) languages. In december 2012 the support for Cheerokee language was added.

Display language, locale and keyboard layout

In Windows 8, when you go to Language preferences – Add a language, you’ll get “a language”. Behind this general word there are three parts which have to be distinguished in this post:

  • Display language (labels, messages and other user interface in the particular language)
  • Locale (a set of preferences for a particular language and region/country like currency, point or comma as a decimal delimiter, ltr vs rtl, encoding and much more)
  • Keyboard layout (just an arrangement of keys, their placement, can be specific for a language or country, can have different systems like Dvorak)

This blog post is about the keyboard layouts, the easiest part of the “language” support in an operating system.

Russian Federation minorities

There are 160 ethnic groups in Russia speaking over 100 minority languages. The most of ethnic groups ar so called stateless nations meaning there is no main country for this nation (e.g. Sami people in Sweden, but not Germans in the USA).

In Russia there are 21 republics which have their own official languages alongside Russian and their purpose is to be home for ethnic groups. I’ll focus mostly on the official languages in these republics in this blog post, but it would be interesting to investigate smaller languages as well.

Allmost all of the minority languages of stateless nations use the Cyrillic alphabet (often with additional letters). So it makes it pretty simple to see how many languages are supported in Windows 8. Just Go to the Language preferences -> Add a language and group them by writing system. See the screenshot above. There are only three minority keyboard layouts which are supported:

  • Bashkir (1,45 millions speakers)
  • Sakha (Yakut, 360 native speakers)
  • Tatar (4,3 millions speakers)

The funny thing is that all the three are Turkic languages.
There are two additional language keyboard layouts which are implicitly supported:

These two languages (which are co-official languages in the republic of Mordovia) don’t use any additional letters. That’s it. So they can write using only the standard Russian keyboard layout.

Keyboard layouts in Linux

Just a little comparison. In Linux distributions there are more minority languages from Russian Federation represented. The supported ones can be found in the /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols/ru file:

  • Tatar / tt
  • Ossetian / os
  • Chuvash / cv
  • Udmurt / udm
  • Komi / kom
  • Sakha (Yakut) / sah
  • Kalmyk / xal
  • Bashkir / bak
  • Mari / chm

All these keyboard layouts were added by the community. I personally sent the Chuvash and Kalmyk fragments of that file to Sergey Udaltsov who created patch files and pushed it to freedesktop.

keyboard-xal

Windows 8 keyboard layouts and Touch mode

When I tried these three supported minority language keyboard layouts of Russia in touch mode, only one worked! It was the Tatar keyboard layout.
tatar-keyboard-layout-in-touch

The tatars can type all their additional letters in touch mode as well.

Bashkir and Sakha keyboard layouts use the row above qwerty: 12345… Here is the preview for the classic Sakha keyboard layout:

sakha-preview

And what about the virtual touch keyboard layout for Sakha language?

sakha-touch

As you can see there are no keys for the additional letters for Sakha language (ҕ ҥ ө һ).

Summary

Many minority languages of Russian Federation (the most of them already endangered) miss the native keyboard layout support in Microsoft Windows 8 and Windows 7. Windows is a prevalent operating system in Russia. The support for minority language keyboard layout would help people to use their languages and give more chances for languages to survive. For now there are only 3 languages (besides Russian and implicitly some others like Moksha and Erzya) which are supported in Windows 8 with a physical keyboard: Tatar, Bashkir and Sakha. And only one of them (!) works even in touch mode: Tatar.

The purpose of this post is only to identify the status for Russian Federation minority language keyboard layout support in Windows 8. Microsoft Local Language Program (LLP) seems very promising. I hope we will see more languages of Russia and other countries available in “Add language” menu in Microsoft Windows 8.

Long tap and additional letters in Windows 8 (update 2013-03-16)

After I wrote this post I discovered some additional letters available when you long-tap the buttons on the virtual keyboard. Here is an excerpt from the Microsoft Blog about the “press-and-hold”-letters:

There is an interesting counter example in press-and-hold behavior. On a physical keyboard, when you press and hold a character, it repeats. On our touch keyboard when you press and hold, we show alternate characters or symbols. This is something a touch keyboard can do well and a physical keyboard can’t. If you don’t know the specific key combination to show ñ or é or š, for example, it’s painful to type on a physical keyboard. It’s easy to find on the touch keyboard. Practically no one has complained about this departure from convention. We built on it, in fact. You might discover that you can simply swipe from a key in the direction of the secondary key, and that character will be entered, without an explicit selection from the menu. So if you use accented characters a lot, you can get pretty fast with this.

I appreciate this. Here come all the letters I found in the Russian keyboard layout:

Flyout letters Main letter Additional letters
long-tap-u у ү   ұ
long-tap-k к ҡ   қ
long-tap-n н ң   ҥ
long-tap-g г ғ   ҕ
long-tap-z з ҙ
long-tap-h х һ
long-tap-o о ө
long-tap-e э ә
long-tap-s с ҫ
long-tap-i и і

Here is the full list of the Cyrillic additional letters:

ү Cyrillic Ue Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Buryat, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Mongolian
ұ Straight U with stroke Kazakh
ҡ Bashkir Qa Bashkir
қ Ka with descender Kazakh, Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik, Abkhaz
ң En with descender Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Dungan, Kalmyk, Khakas, Kyrgyz , Turkmen, Tuvan, Uyghur
ҥ En-ghe (Cyrillic) Sakha, Meadow Mari, Altai, Aleut
ғ Ge with stroke Bashkir, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tofa, Tajik
ҕ Ge with middle hook Sakha, Abkhaz
ҙ Ze with descender Bashkir
һ Shha Bashkir, Sakha, Tatar, Kazakh Buryat Kalmyk Kildin Sami
ө Barred O (Oe) Bashkir, Sakha, Kazakh, Buryat, Kalmyk, Kyrgyz, Mongolian
ә Cyrillic Schwa Bashkir, Tatar, Kazakh, Abkhaz, Dungan, Itelmen, Kalmyk, Kurdish
ҫ Cyrillic The Bashkir, Chuvash
і Dotted i Kazakh, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Khakas, Komi, Rusyn

Those are missing: ӑ ӳ

ӗ E breve Chuvash
ӑ A breve Chuvash
ӳ U with double acute Chuvash
ӝ Zhe with diaeresis Udmurt
ӟ Ze with diaeresis Udmurt
ӥ I with diaeresis Udmurt
ӧ O with diaeresis Udmurt, Meadow Mari, Hill Mari
ӵ Che with diaeresis Udmurt
ӓ A with diaeresis Hill Mari
ӱ U with diaeresis Meadow Mari, Hill Mari
ӹ Yery with diaeresis Hill Mari

Here we have four fully functional language keyboard layouts if you are okay with long-tapping:

Bashkir ғ ҡ ҙ ҫ ң һ ә ө ү
Sakha ҕ ҥ ө һ ү
Tuvan ң ү ө
Buryat ө ү һ

Bashkir and Sakha, I suppose, were considered whilst designing the keyboard layout, and Tuvan and Buryat language letters only happen to be within the Bashkir and Sakha letters range.

Tatar letters aren’t complete in the standard Russian keyboard layout, the reason for that must be, as I mentioned above, the full functional virtual keyboard for Tatar (where is no need for long-tapping).

There is another language which contains all the letters through long-tapping. Kazakh is absolutely a minority language of Russia, but it doesn’t represent a stateless nation.

Kazakh ғ ә қ ң ө ү ұ і һ

Long-tapping technique could be a solution for many minority languages of Russia:

Language Existing letters To be added
Chuvash ҫ ӗ ӑ ӳ
Udmurt ӝ ӟ ӥ ӧ ӵ
Meadow Mari ҥ ö ӱ
Hill Mari ä ö ӱ ӹ
Komi і ö
Altay ҥ ј ӧ ӱ

Hello world in node.js

I know, node.js has been present for a while. But I actually had no time to try it. I was surprised that now it is very straight forward to start with node.js. Allright, everything begins with Hello world. Eventhough it is available for allmost all combinations of operating systems and servers, the easiest way to test it was actually Ubuntu. To install just run:

sudo apt-get install nodejs

Then make a new directory and create the hello.js:

mkdir hello
cd hello
vi hello.js

The javascript code creates a server, instructs what to send back as a response and says to node to listen to port 40113 (what a weird number 🙂 )

var http = require('http');
http.createServer(function(req, res) {
  res.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': 'text/plain; charset=utf-8' });
  res.end('Salam tĕnce!');
}).listen(40113);

After that, just start the node process:

node hello.js

Very simple. Now go to localhost:40113 and see the result!

node.js on c9.io (Cloud9 IDE)

Even simpler way to try node.js is to create an app in Cloud9 IDE. Begin with a hello-world app.

That’s it.

Now some other useful links for starting with node.js:

Update:

If you want to get the latest node package, you shouldn’t install nodejs from apt. Just clone the node git repo, compile and update the PATH. npm package is preinstalled then:

git clone git:github.com/joyent/node.git
cd node
./configure
make
sudo make install
export PATH=${PATH}:/usr/local/bin

Or add a new repository to get the latest stable version of node.js

sudo apt-get install python-software-properties
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chris-lea/node.js
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nodejs npm
node.js and SharePoint

Luc Stakenborg has developed a node.js package for retrieving data from SharePoint. To use it, install two packages:

npm install xml2js
npm install sharepoint

Then create a js file with this content:

var SP = require('sharepoint'),
    site = 'http://yourdomain.sharepoint.com/teamsite',
    username = 'yourusername',
    password = 'yourpassword';

var client = new SP.RestService(site),
    posts = client.list('Posts');

var showResponse = function (err, data) {
    console.log(data);	
}

client.signin(username, password, function () {
    posts.get(showResponse)
});

javascript console in Powershell

It can’t be easier. If node is installed, just fire up PowerShell and type node:

MongoDB shell, learn directly in browser

Are you also curious about NoSQL databases. Well, MongoDB is one of the most known ones. MongoDB has a javascript syntax (json), I like it. Try out the interactive shell at the mongodb site.

MongoDB_interactive_shell

Quickstart on Ubuntu

To test it on Ubuntu, just install an existing apt-package:

sudo apt-get install mongodb

Create the default folder and change permissions:

sudo mkdir -p /data/db/
sudo chown `id -u` /data/db

Then jump directly into mongo db shell:

mongo

Here are some useful and self explaining commands:

show dbs
show collections
show users
use <db-name>
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