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Old 08-24-2011, 01:35 PM
Hadmut Danisch
Default Language chooser at login (comment from an upset ubuntu user)


I was testing oneiric alpha releases, found several problems with
keyboard maps and locale settings, tried to report them as bugs, and
ran against a wall of ignorance, probably errected by
ubuntu/canonical. I then came to bug #803858 and to this mailing
list discussion.

Reading this discussion really upsets me.

Ubuntu once was a stable, reliable, usable, robust linux
distribution. But for about 1-2 years, ubuntu is degenerating and
worsening, suffering from a strategy to invent silly and ideological
desktop design ideas. What really shocks me is not just the loss of
quality. It is the sheer ignorance and arrogancy of the guys
enforcing those questionable design decisions.

Worst of all are the comments from Robert Ancell. It is more than
obvious that this guy has an awful anglo-americo-centric view of the
world, not knowing much about multilanguage environments, and
rigorously enforces his wrong assumptions.

@Robert: Just some of your statements from
that appear arbitrary and taken from thin air:

1. Users who set the system language at install/first
boot time, and

never change it (the vast majority)

2. English as a second language users, who switch between their

language and English (this is a class of user I don't understand

I think the reason for this is because the translations are not

good enough?¬* Is this a power user feature?

These are wrong assumptions. It shows that you do not really know
much about language and locale settings. Maybe not the best base for
such important design decisions.

And I'd expect these users to use their preferred
language and not need

to change it at all.¬* We need to work out what "the group that

appreciate an opportunity to change language at login" are trying

achieve.¬* The multi-lingual users I've talked to do not change

language settings frequently.

Sorry to say that, but this is nonsense. This is the point of view
of a one-languaged user, demanding the rest of the world to act
exactly like him, who obviously has never changed between different

I'll explain just some of the reasons why language and keyboard
options need to remain in the login screen:

It is wrong (and naive) to assume, that users once choose
their ‚Äěpreferred language‚ÄĚ and then never change it. The
preferred language is not a static value. It depends on the
context. E.g. when writing software, when communicating with
english speaking users (like I am doing right now), when
travelling or working in a country with english language, or
when debugging software or reading manuals, a user might prefer
the english language. There is almost no chance to google
comments for bugs and errors if you enter the german, french,
italian, chinese translation of error messages. If you work with
a german locale, debugging is pointless in many cases, since you
need the english messages.

Furthermore and beyond computers, I sometimes change my prefered

It is not just a matter of the personal language preferences.
Many programs behave differently depending on the locale
settings. E.g. you cannot use OpenOffice/LibreOffice with the
wrong locale, because with english locale it does not show
dates, currencies, numbers properly with the wrong locale. So if
writing for german purposes I need a german locale. When writing
for english purposes, I need the english locale.

Same with spell checking.

Assuming that a user once and finally chooses his prefered
language is nonsense.

As a consultant, I have to change between the language the
customer uses to have his problems and bugs, and the language
used by the distribution/provider/...¬*¬* E.g. if a german user
complains about a problem, and the distributor expects english
bug reports (e.g. ubuntu), I have to change between settings

It might surprise you, but this even happens with keyboards.
When writing in german, you need a german keyboard with
characters like √∂√§√ľ.

On the other hand, writing software is much easier with a us
keyboard, because characters like {}[] are difficult to reach on
german keyboards. And people often travelling between countries,
who are forced to use US keyboards in other countries, usually
hate to use different keyboards. Many of my friends and
collegues therefore sometimes use US keyboards, even
when in Germany. But not all the time.

Are you aware that there are at least three different settings
for german? (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, there are sometimes
even more countries, ISO-8859-1 or UTF encoding, old or new
spelling,...) Even if one conforms to your assumption to never
change his preferred language, he still might need to change
between the different flavours.

This is not america, where there is just english, ASCII, and one

Logging in, and out, and in again just to change the locale
settings is nonsense. Especially since Ubuntu has jammed its
desktops so much that it takes them significant time to come up.

Changing the locale in the desktop is unlogical. How should
one find the program to change the locale if he doesn't
understand the language of the menues?

Changing the locale in the desktop is complicted, because it
works differently (if at all) for the different desktops.

Not all people are using ‚Äědesktops‚ÄĚ. Some are still using the
old fashioned X11 session with xsession and a plain old window

Changing the locale in the desktop does not work.

Usually scripts like ~/.profile and ~/.xsession are run
(although I am not sure how these are executed by ubuntu right
now). Usually these scripts are run in processes that are not
children of the desktop process and thus do not inherit the
locale settings from the desktop. Therefore, setting the locale
in the desktop is just incomplete.

It might surprise you even more, but in many cases I even set
all these LC_... variables to different values, e.g. to use
english messages with german date and number formats, while
changing the time zone frequently to where I am when travelling
around or beeing on a business trip.

Therefore the options to be chosen in the login screen should not
only be kept, but even extended:

Locale setting
Keyboard map
Time Zone

So these design decisions to remove all that options from the login
screen are just wrong.

For a long time I considered Ubuntu/Canonical as the savior of Linux
in common and Debian in particular. But for about 1-2 years now, I
do consider Ubuntu/Canonical more as a threat, since it enforces
more and more of crappy desktops.



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