Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Android and Workarounds for the Problem of Khmer Text

Despite lacking official support from the mobile operating system Android, Cambodian developers here could exploit the code released by Google to make Khmer-language websites readable, a high demand from mobile net users.
In a country like Cambodia, Google’s Android-powered smart phones could provide an alternative solution to most people, compared to higher-end phones like Blackberry or iPhone.
Based on the free and open source Linux, Android smart phones are currently the world’s best-selling.
Here, for the Android mobile platform, which doesn’t properly render the interchangeable Khmer text yet, a third-party app is an ideal solution. Recently released, the Radio Free Asia Khmer Reader app makes it possible for platform users to read RFA’s Khmer-language site.
Thim Chanrithy, the developer, told me that in order to make Khmer text readable, he has to hack the system. The app, version 0.4, is available for download for free.
Without this small software on Android-powered phones, readability is an issue facing Cambodian users. The text on the mobile devices appears unreadable.
These users, however, have already figured out a way to express the message content using Latin as a mean to represent Khmer characters and words. This is increasingly popular among young Cambodians to hit conversation when they’re on social networking sites like Facebook. A user wrote: “klean nas,but nov office leoy…:-( ” (“Hungry now, but still in the office.”)
Cambodia’s Android user group is an online discussion board where more than one hundred people are members actively discussing ways to develop tools as they “need Khmer language on Android,” which hasn’t officially supported by US company Google.
While Android platform users are lagging behind in terms of technical issues, there is good news for Apple users, for whom the newest operating system, Lion, has recently expanded native supports for Khmer Unicode.
This technical barrier goes back to as early as 2002 when a journalist for The Cambodia Daily humorously explained:
[block quote]
“A government minister asked the man who established the first e-mail system in Cambodia if he could send an e-mail in Khmer to his wife, who didn’t speak English. He was told he couldn’t. That’s still the answer, more or less, seven years after e-mail came to Cambodia and five years after the arrival of the Internet. The people who designed the early computers didn’t speak Khmer, so the computers don’t speak it either.”
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