April 1, 2012
This week’s issue of The Economist has an amusing article on the suitability of different languages for short message services, like the micro-blogging site Twitter. Twitter limits “tweets” to 140 characters, but the amount of information that can be incorporated varies significantly with the language used.
This 78-character tweet in English would be only 24 characters long in Chinese.
This is largely due, of course, to the use of logograms in written Chinese, rather than an (approximately) phonetic alphabet. Japanese, which uses the Chinese characters (called Kanji) as a part of its writing system, is also quite succinct. Arabic works well, too, because vowels are customarily omitted in the written language. And, as the illustration accompanying the article suggests, hieroglyphics might have worked a treat. European languages, especially Romance languages, with their many inflected forms, tend to produce long messages by comparison.
A chart accompanying the article gives the average change in length when translating a 1000-character English message into various other languages. The changes range from a reduction in length of more than 60% when translating to Chinese to an increase of about 40% when translating to Spanish.
Of course, people do not generally use formal language for their text messages or Twitter, and informal English more than holds its own. As with the language itself, we use a hodge-podge of abbreviations, homophones (‘4’ in place of ‘for’, ‘U’ for ‘you), and other shortcuts; and we muddle along quite nicely.
April 1, 2012
Last week, Adobe released a new version, 220.127.116.11, of its popular Flash Player browser plugin for all platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Adobe has also announced that this will be the last new version of the plugin to be released for Linux, except for the version that comes bundled with Google’s Chrome browser.
The stated reason for the change (which is discussed further in the Flash Roadmap) is a move to a more modern plugin API, developed by Google, called “Pepper”:
… Adobe has been working closely with Google to develop a single modern API for hosting plugins within the browser (one which could replace the current Netscape plugin API being used by the Flash Player). The PPAPI, code-named “Pepper” aims to provide a layer between the plugin and browser that abstracts away differences between browser and operating system implementations.
The PPAPI is part of Google’s Native Client technology, which I discussed briefly last summer.
There is no doubt that the Netscape API is getting a bit long in the tooth, being nearly twenty years old, and that the PPAPI has some worthwhile improvements, including support for “sandboxing”, and easier access to HTML 5 capabilities. However, Microsoft’s Active X interface, used in Internet Explorer, has essentially the same problems as the Netscape API, yet Adobe will continue to provide new versions for it. But then no one should be surprised that these decisions are not made strictly on technical issues.
Adobe has said, to its credit, that it will continue to provide security updates for the Linux plugin, version 11.2, for five years.