Lib-Ray Video Standard: Handling Languages and Localization

I'm used to thinking of region codes as an unmitigated evil, but they do serve one useful purpose: they divide DVD editions up so that any given regional edition has fewer languages to support. It's uncommon to find a DVD with more than just three or four languages in subtitles or audio tracks. Early on in the concept for Lib-Ray, though, I decided to do away with region-coding, and instead allow for broader localization in the design. This means there's just one edition worldwide, which is very helpful, but it does also mean that the subtitle menu in particular can become very cumbersome to navigate. How will we solve this user interface design problem?

Creating a multilingual website with Smarty

Some time ago I was required to adapt a bespoke website application (which I had originally written) so it not only supported multiple languages but also multiple character sets. The website,, is a on-line community for families with disabled children run by the charity Contact a Family. It required "support" for four languages in addition the English it was currently in: Somali, Arabic, Farsi and Simplified Chinese. Yes, I know the latter is not actually a language but for these purposes the cap fitted.

I decided to do it using Smarty, the PHP-based templating engine. Whilst it was possible that a CMS or similar could do the job now, at the time I could find none which supported multiple character sets in the way I required. I've been meaning to write the process down for some time so here's how I did it.

Free Software and the State of the World

Today I want to talk about free and open source software in connection with the them and us feeling that I believe is widely felt all over the world.

Initially you might think that these two topics have nothing to do with each other but hopefully by the end of this post you will understand that these two topics are actually connected in many complex ways.

Free your mind — write some free software

Back when I got my first computer (a TRS-80 “Color Computer” with a whopping 32 kilobytes of RAM and Microsoft’s “MS-BASIC” in ROM), programming was something that computer users took for granted they’d have to do. That’s what you got a computer for! But something dark and sinister happened after that: a great divide opened up between the ‘developer’ lords and the ‘user’ serfs.

Fortunately, free software has liberated us from this digital feudalism, and revived a new middle class of ‘user-developers’.

Your comfort language

I've been programming in Perl for years - over ten now in fact - and I've written numerous books and articles on Perl and Perl programming. I've also worked with Python and written books and articles on Python programming, including a guide to migrating Perl applications to the Python language. For a while I really saw Python as an alternative to Perl, but after so many years and experience with Perl and what was possible with the language it is difficult to move on from the 'Perl comfort zone'.

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