dimanche 13 février 2011

Adding Scribus and OmegaT to the infrastructure

Set off on the latest job expecting to meander: and duly did, getting somewhat bogged down in software issues, rather than Just Doing The Work.

The job, through an agency, was delivered as reasonable photocopies of the paper originals as the source text for the job. And at the weekend, and by hand, no less. Searching around on the internet for guidance (for example), it seems that delivering a reasonable facsimile of the original layout to ease later official scrutiny seems to be the way to go.

Of course, if all we had were a manual typewriter we could do a reasonable job, providing the font sizes in our original were more or less congruent with what our typewriter could do, and we had a pasteup board, T-squares and set squares, metal rule, craft knife, cowgum et cetera to hand.

But please! This is the second decade of the twenty-first century: surely we can do a little better than that?

Well, of course you can. Running Ubuntu 10.10 on a 380 euro netbook (it's an ASUS EEEPC1015N which is already a nice start, with (a first ever, in my humble experience with the Ubuntu install since ~5.x) scan/print/text/openoffice/ all JustWorking(TM) straight off the default+latest_updates install.

Well, if I was using the Mac for this about 1995, I would have certainly used either PageMaker or Quark on Mac OS 7.x (with a laserwriter available), but the final artwork would have been camera-ready, possibly still with some pasted (physically, with Pritt(TM)) elements on the original. This means mounting it on board, which adds to the longterm storage and archiving problems.

Now, with Scribus and OmegaT both readily available for GNU/Linux (with a bit of googling, and the goodness of apt-get) there seemed no very good reason not to plunge in, and try to use both for the translation task in hand.

Ahem! I am afraid I am that both inexperienced and impatient user that they're looking for :-)

Still, it seemed reasonable to file a bug report when a preferences dialog ignored users of 10 inch screens. The Scribus project follows best practice in the free software community in enabling bug reporting and tracking in a completely open way.

Well, as is so often the way when we seek the goodness and wisdom of gnu, time passes pleasantly and copiously while you check versions and updates and reviews online in preparation for your big splashy launch. And after all, if you can set up something that's nice to use that is completely free, that is a considerable saving in annual overheads, in comparison with signing a license agreement for the proprietary software (Trados, Wordfast, etc etc) and paying handsomely for the privilege. Wouldn't it, I thought, be nice if I could actually (i) solve all the install problems, and (ii) get the first page (of ten) actually done. By five.

I had high hopes. The morning came and went. I cooked for my lovelies, but then got straight back to the office as they siesta'd after lunch. Fortunately Trevor was rockin' online.

By four, it was obvious we were going to crack it. Well, the Scribus part of the equation. But the technique is apparently to deliver up all the text to Scribus already formatted in OpenOffice (any 3.x should be OK, I run the Oracle branded 3.2 that was the default in Maverick Meerkat 10.10), and then import the text at the last minute. Along the way we sucked our teeth at the lack of undo in the built-in text editor, though that feature's apparently on its way.

So I still haven't translated a line, but it was Sunday after all, and you've got to sharpen the saw.

vendredi 11 février 2011

That final quarter

So far, work's been arriving through local networks rather than online. Recent efforts: 4 hours of coaching for an academic bound across the Atlantic to give a talk at a conference in Florida, editing a major paper in bio-inspired robotics for an international journal, and a fire notice. The latter was the trickiest, and payment for that will be only in kind, but it was also quite fun.

I have updated my CV and registered with proz.com and translatorscafe.com. I've sent off a few responses to job offers posted there, if they seem relevant to my interests, but so far I've had only one response, which merely indicated they were keeping my CV on file. There's not so much work out there, and where the rate negotiations are opened by the potential client, rates of about $0.04-0.05 seem prevalent, so I guess I'm always losing the auctions. That's fine though: I haven't seen any jobs going there by that are so interesting I'd think about doing them for free: most often it's dismal financial documents, or bizarrely obscure software manuals.

The next step is to translate all this material I have assembled in English into something coherent in French. Once that is done I'll contact local agencies, and some contacts I have at the medical faculty. I have an idea for a seminar on using the internet for translation which should aid the development of relevant networks locally.