The OLPC and Greek

(oh, I am writing this through a lousy Net connection; thanks Engelados)

I tried out the latest OLPC image, specifically build 218, on Qemu and my aim was to get Greek support configured, if it was not there already.

The OLPC does not currently come with a good set of Greek fonts; you will need to install a set of fonts such as DejaVu or GFS Didot.
Installing means adding the font files in the directory /usr/share/fonts/. The current font configuration files in the OLPC favour Bitstream Vera, therefore you would need to move the bitstream subdirectory outside the fonts directory. DejaVu is based on Bitstream Vera and therefore you will not notice any change once you upgrade. Also, Fedora Core 6 and Ubuntu Linux are based on DejaVu. You need DejaVu, as Bitstream Vera does not currently support Greek. Both DejaVu and GFS Didot are free and open-source fonts.

Note: This screenshot shows DejaVu Sans, not GFS Didot. Sorry for the typo.
This is the OLPC running the cut-down version of the Abiword wordprocessor. Click on the image to view the full size.

This is the OLPC showing the same document above with GFS Didot. The font looks quite nice and similar to old greek textbooks. There is a small issue however, it does not have the character coverage of DejaVu. For example, notice that the Euro sign is missing from GFS Didot. Also, other glyphs such as fancy bullet characters are missing as well. Normally, the OLPC software should replace those missing characters with the correct characters from another font. Apparently something is wrong here and needs further investigation.

Writing support for the Greek language has to be configured separately in the OLPC. The case with other languages appears to be that the default layout is that of the language; apparently there is no need to switch between Brazilian Portuguese and English. For the Greek language it appears that it is good to be able to switch between Greek and English.

There are several places that you can add Greek writing support. The most common is in /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Having gone through the configuration files, I think that /etc/X11/Xkbmap is also a good place and saves us from touching the core Xorg configuration file.

To write the full set of Greek letters, one needs to set the extended variant for the Greek layout, and also try to set the Compose key (for ano teleia). These things should be simplified…

I am not sure how the OLPC looks like (the only photos I saw where not focusing on the keyboard). Perhaps it would be useful to have a test machine at my disposal (hint, hint).
Jim Gettys wrote at his blog about the different languages that the first generation of the OLPC should support. Both Kinyarwanda and Kiswahili use the latin alphabet, therefore there are no significant issues with font support or writing support.

Greece will carry out a pilot with OLPC laptops next September.


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