Microsoft hits language barrier

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By  Published  December 8, 2006

The last thing Microsoft needs as it gears up for some very high-profile, some would say critical, releases is a legal spat. However, news reaches us that the software giant is currently embroiled in a dispute — this time over a minority language.

Microsoft has recently released a language pack of its Windows XP operating system (OS) in Mapuzugun — the language spoken by the Mapuche Indians in Chile.

The native tongue of around 400,000 members, or two-thirds, of the Mapuche tribe, they are actually happy with the conversion. The problem they have with Microsoft is one of respect.

It appears they are offended by Microsoft’s alleged failure to consult with the Mapuche’s tribal leaders over the prod- uction of the pack.

While it is certain that some Mapuches or people fluent in their language, were involved in the creation of the pack, the tribe claims they did not act in the tribe’s best interests —and overlooked their leaders.

Angry at this percieved snub, they are taking Microsoft to the courts, claiming they should have control of their language and how it is used. A tough call that — how do you copyright a language?

It is hard not to feel a little sympathy for Microsoft who, no doubt, felt they were doing the Mapuches a favour by releasing a Mapuzugun version of XP.

The Mapuches meanwhile have a political agenda of their own — they want their language, spoken by just 4% of the Chile population, to be recognised as Chile’s second language.


Bond is beaten

Pity Daniel Craig. His battle with the internet community is far from over. Despite rave reviews for his performance as James Bond in the latest 007 caper Casino Royale, Craig was beaten to the top spot in the list of most searched celebrity figures in the UK last month.

The victor was Faith Brown, a contestant on a TV reality show featuring minor celebrities, which says a lot about internet users in the UK.

Craig can count himself a tad unlucky. He would have taken top spot but for users who typed in ‘daniel craig naked’ instead. Again, this says a lot about
internet users in UK. But we’ll move swiftly on...

School’s out

The twin topics of personal digital devices and controversial website YouTube have come together in shocking circumstances recently.

At the Ecole Secondaire Mont-Bleu, a school in Quebec, Canada, footage of a male school teacher yelling at a girl student in a classroom was posted on the website.

The incident was captured secretly by a fellow girl student — a friend of the girl in the footage — and posted online, broadcaster CBC reported.

Since the circumstances or context behind the clip isn’t known, the school has taken
the strongest measures it canin support of the teacher.

It has responded by banning personal electronic devices, suspended the girls and is standing by the teacher who has taken a stress leave from work. His colleagues are also standing by him.

“The teacher will be the master of his class — a closed class and confidential,” Abdu Mansouri, a spokesman for the region’s teachers’ union, told the CBC.


A saur point

Remember Sony’s Aibo? This robotic dog was introduced to great fanfare, but only about 150,000 units were sold in the six years it was on the market.

So robot manufacturers have gone back to the prehistoric age in an effort to win mass appeal for the latest robotic toy.

The toy is robotic dinosaur called Pleo that, its manufact-urer Ugobe claims, “reacts em- otionally to its environment.”

Ugobe says Pleo becomes more responsive as you coo at him, by wagging its tail and offering to shake hands. However, if you are abrupt, it can display signs of depression — its back slumps, it emits a mooing sound and drags its tail.

Pleo can also imitate real-life behaviour such as yawning, sighing, snoring and sneezing.
It cannot recognise spoken commands but it can recognise tone. There is a camera in the robot’s nostrils to let it ‘see’ and it has multiple sensors under its feet and skin that can respond to touch.

As Bob Christopher, CEO at Ugobe, remarked to CNet: “We’re kind of putting psych- ology back into robots.”

Ugobe believes it has a hit on his hands. The company does have previous form. Its founder Caleb Chung, co-created the best-selling, if annoying, Furby toy.

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