Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Amazon Search

You may have heard that Amazon now lets you search for particular words in the full text of many recent books, and view excerpts. This is an amazing service, turning up books I would never have found otherwise. A search for "Simputer" turns up the following items.

Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development -- Chad Holliday, et al; Hardcover

Excerpt from page 199: "... a battery-powered device called the Simputer, short for 'simple computer', used ..."
See more references to simputer in this book.

Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution -- Glyn Moody; Hardcover

Excerpt from page 318: "... open source project called the Simputer-from SIMPle compUTER-succeeds. As a ..."

The Global Information Technology Report 2002-2003: Readiness for the Networked World -- Soumitra Dutta (Editor), et al; Paperback

Excerpt from page 180: "... that inventions such as the Simputer and corDECT offer enormous potential ..."

This service isn't perfect. If you go to the first hit, you get a graphic of the page, often in type too small to read. If you click on the link to see more references, you get short text snippets, which are easier to read but less informative overall.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Free Unicode Font Listing

My brother is sufficiently fluent in French so that he and his wife were once mistaken for Belgians in Paris. My brother was of course highly gratified, but his wife was incensed, she being Parisian.

My relationship with languages is different. I went for breadth rather than depth, working at one time or another on Hebrew, Latin, Russian, Swahili, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Sanskrit, Chinese, Spanish, Yiddish, and Classical Greek, and noodling around with dozens of others. For example, in the Slavyanka Russian Chorus we sang in Russian, Church Slavonic (old Bulgarian), Ukrainian, Macedonian, Georgian, and Armenian, but we didn't always learn what the words meant. I also worked in mathematics, music, and APL (A Programming Language with its own character set), so I was a natural to get involved with Unicode, the single character set for all languages, and everything else besides.

Of the 31 national writing systems in modern use, the Linux software on my computer supports 25, omitting Tibetan, Sinhala, Ethiopic, Cambodian, Thaana, and Cherokee. Of these, the Yudit Unicode editor supports Tibetan, Ethiopic, and Cherokee. As it happens, I have a need for Sinhala right now, and no obvious way to fill it short of organizing a Linux localization project for Sinhala among my friends in the Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka. (Yes, I must go do that. Good idea.) I can view Sinhala in the Firefox browser and in several text editing and word processing programs, but I can't really edit it or practice writing.

Anyway, I have an unusual need for large Unicode fonts covering many writing systems, and small Unicode fonts covering whatever is missing from the big ones. There is a new resource for finding such fonts, the Unicode Font Guide For Free/Libre Open Source Operating Systems Web page. It lists two Sinhala fonts, so now I just need a keyboard layout.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Natalie Portman in Village Banking

Visiting FINCA loan recipient in Uganda One of the smartest people in Hollywood, Harvard graduate Natalie Portman is apparently also the most enclued, as in having a clue what's important in the world. For over a year now she has been working as the Ambassador of Hope for the Foundation for International Community Assistance a village banking organization with operations in 23 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. (Bono, the other most enclued celebrity, is not in Hollywood, but is also working with FINCA.)

Here we see her visiting Nayima Umaru, a formerly desperately poor single mother of seven in Uganda. They are in the kitchen of a small restaurant that Umaru was able to start with a loan from a FINCA-organized village bank.

Parade Magazine had an article on Portman and FINCA in their Nov. 28, 2004 issue, and have just put it up on the Web site a week later, as is their usual practice.

Now I have a complaint about all of this. Why didn't I hear about it for a whole year? But the lack of communication among the organizations and people working on global poverty is a topic for another day.

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