Heading over to India, for a bit

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/01/16 07:01 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2008/01/16/7101598.aspx

The folks in Tamil Nadu really wanted more time to talk to people on the Unicode side -- a technical meeting of the UTC South Asia Subcommittee of the Unicode Consortium on issues relating to encoding of Tamil characters.

As a colleague stated in describing this meeting: "...to understand the practical problems that are encountered with Tamil (and other Indic scripts), and what the consortium can do to help with those problems. It is also to help the Tamil participants understand what the constraints on Unicode are, and the ways in which the Unicode encoding is used to deal with Tamil text."

So some people are traveling from the West coast of the United States to Chennai, to have that conversation, and together continue to determine how best to make sure that the needs of the script and of the language are met. It is never a bad idea to have smart people discuss problems. :-)

I am one of the people who was asked whether I could be there, in light of my past work [with|in|for|on] Tamil.

Interestingly, some of the reasons for the problem is more than a little to do with Microsoft's implementation of Tamil support (even when Unicode is blamed) -- in particular:

Now this trip to India is not being funded by Microsoft in any way whatsoever -- not for the plane ticket, not even for the hours spent (I am taking it as vacation time) as the meeting "doesn’t have enough business justifications to send over a person representing Microsoft... ...and it is [therefore] considered as a personal trip."

So despite Microsoft's implicit connection to some small part the problem, a trip to talk to the people tasked to investigate, understand, and solve the issues related to Tamil and Unicode is not considered part of the job.

And so it goes -- the sophistries of large corporations. :-(

Feh, I say. And Feh again....

But this trip is important, in my opinion. So I am going to go, and use a little of my vacation time.

Since I don't make it to India very often, and since I spent my last vacation sick at home, I am going to take some actual vacation while I am there (since it is being labeled personal time anyway!).

Perhaps this is also partially to make up for a trip I made to Malaysia several years ago right around the Windows XP ship date for a presentation at Tamil Internet 2001 -- where I spent more time in the air traveling to and from the conference than I did on the ground in Kuala Lumpur, all to help meet a ship date....

Plus while I am in TN perhaps lunch or dinner with long time INFITT colleagues and a few others. That is personal time, but worth the time, I think.

I don't think I'll make it to Calcutta this trip (something I have been wanting to do for a long time, in fact one of three places I have wanted to visit in that part of the world but have not managed to yet). I'll have to figure out how to get it done another time, on another visit....

This has got to be the best time of year for me to be in India, climate wise -- which is a very pleasant coincidence that I will do my best to enjoy. :-)

I will not take any time spent at various Microsoft spots giving presentations, etc. as vacation time, for obvious reasons. But that is worthwhile, too.

It could be worse; Microsoft really had trouble with that Malaysia trip in 2001 and it was only the fact that I was not a full-time employee at the time that kept them from requiring me to send my regrets to the conference organizers back then -- something I regret to this day considering that a mere 11 days later I was in LA a mere 14 days later 9/11 happened and the likelihood of a return trip was sharply curbed. amd a year later I became a full-time employee....

Though to make sure there are no misunderstandings, I have neither intent nor inclination to speak "for Microsoft" while I am there -- I am there as someone who wishes to be helpful seriously discussing Tamil.

If I had a Tamil Linux distro up and running on my MacBook Pro I could easily have planned to spend the trip doing comparative evaluations of Windows vs. Linux in Tamil and other Indic languages, which is definitely outside the charter of my work. This is personal time, after all! :-)

I'm heading out on the 21st of January and I'll probably be heading back to Redmond on the 1st of February. If you work for Microsoft and are in Chennai or Bangalore or Delhi or Hyderabad or a few other places than I may see you while I'm there (and if you want to increase the odds then be sure to send me email or use the Contact link!).

In the meantime, while I am gone you may see a lot of pre-recorded blog posts, including:

For the latter, what better could I do for people who care about the Tamil language than an attempt at a solution using built-in technologies in Vista that Microsoft could simply decide to put in-box in a future version of Windows or maybe even as an optional download before that? :-)


This post brought to you by(U+0be7, aka TAMIL DIGIT ONE)

# Ben Bryant on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 12:58 PM:

I'm from Canada/USA and I lived in Chennai in January '87 and let me tell you it was *sweltering*. But it should still be a wonderful experience and I look forward to hearing about your trip. I was in Bangalore and parts south 6 weeks ago and it was beautiful. An amazing place to visit.

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:01 PM:

Ah, but it is not nearly so sweltering in January. :-)

# Reeve Fritchman on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:01 PM:

Hi Michael-

I flew to Chennai from the East Coast in August 2003.  It's a long flight (Tampa-Cincinnati-Paris-Mubai) and I overnighted in Mumbai (Bombay) before continuing to Chennai on a domestic airline.  Advice: if you have airline miles, use them to upgrade out of tourist class: you'll be able to sleep, work, and eat better.

I was contracting for Wipro Technologies and stayed for two weeks at a nice resort-y place south of the city.  Take your camera-the area is visually overlading.  Hotels and offices are usually okay for 110VAC power but I suggest taking a power conversion kit anyway (in case the hotel has a limited number of 110VAC outlets).

Unfortunately, my sightseeing weekend was cut out of the plan: I had to leave a week early because my house in Florida was in the path of a threatening hurricane (I solved that problem by moving here, thus trading hurricanes for earthquakes and reliance on the Washington State Ferry system).

Everybody I met was very nice-remants of British civility!  I'm not a big fan of Indian food, so I probably missed several adventures.  You'll have a blast and I'd go back in a heartbeat.  I'm settling for a solo trip to Hawai'i in March-aloha!

# Reeve Fritchman on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:05 PM:

Follow-up: when I asked my Tamil Nadu friends about the weather, they provided the answer: depending upon the season, it's "hot, hotter, hottest!"

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 1:11 PM:

From Wikipedia's article on Chennai's climate:


Chennai lies on the thermal equator and is also coastal, which prevents extreme variation in seasonal temperature. For most of the year, the weather is hot and humid. The hottest part of the year is late May and early June, known locally as Agni Nakshatram ("fire star") or as Kathiri Veyyil,[26] with maximum temperatures around 38–42 °C (100–107 °F). The coolest part of the year is January, with minimum temperatures around 19–20 °C (66–68 °F). The lowest temperature recorded is 15.8 °C (60.44 °F) and highest 45 °C (113 °F).[27][28] The average annual rainfall is about 1,300 mm (51 inches). The city gets most of its seasonal rainfall from the north-east monsoon winds, from mid-September to mid-December. Cyclones in the Bay of Bengal sometimes hit the city. Highest annual rainfall recorded is 2,570 mm (101 in) in 2005.[29] The most prevailing winds in Chennai are the South-westerly between May and September and the North-easterly during the rest of the year.


So if I will be there this looks like the best possible time (remembering my summers in Philadelphia with the 90 degree, 99% humidity weeks!)....


# Tom Gewecke on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 3:09 PM:

I'd be curious if you hear any negative or positive comments about Apple's Tamil IM's and Font (InaiMathi) in OS X 10.4 and 10.5.  There is a bug in 10.5 discussed here:


# Tom Gewecke on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 4:12 PM:

PS I've seen that Mac Office 2008 includes Tamil on its list of supported languages (but not Devanagari).  Is that for real?

# Michael S. Kaplan on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 5:02 PM:

I would believe it -- I even showed examples that prove it in the earlier post answering your questions. Tamil is easier to support than Devanagari, at least when it comes to "full" support....

# Phylyp on Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:48 AM:

I'm a Tamilian settled and working in Bangalore. So, welcome to both Bangalore and Chennai!

# abhinaba on Monday, January 21, 2008 12:08 AM:

" don't think I'll make it to Calcutta this trip (something I have been wanting to do for a long time, in fact one of three places I have wanted to visit in that part of the world but have not managed to yet). "

But why :) ?

This is interesting as I'm from Kolkata (thats what Calcutta is known as now).

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, January 21, 2008 1:52 AM:

Interesting that I want to go there?

Or interesting that I can't on this trip? :-)

# Abhinaba on Monday, February 04, 2008 12:43 AM:

Interesting that you want to go there :)

Just trying to guess what interests the Unicode-guy in Kolkata....

# Michael S. Kaplan on Monday, February 04, 2008 1:42 AM:

Its many descriptions I have read in literature and heard from people who have both lived there and visited there. I just realized it was a place I would have to be, have to see at some point....

referenced by

2008/06/30 Thirdly, aka Forty two, aka Understanding the answer can require a properly defined question

2008/02/13 Canada isn't Kannada, ay (ಎ)?

2008/02/07 Taking Lufthansa's Ark across the universe in search of my own Kobayashi Maru: The Sandalwood Bunny, aka Much ado about scooter

2008/01/27 Bangalore Sans Scooter, aka Counting backward from ten in Sanskrit

2008/01/26 To Err is human, but to Geek is divine

2008/01/19 SiaO @ B.NET

2008/01/18 It is exciting when at least half the people in the room have a more interesting/compelling story than you do

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