Dochula Pass, Bhutan

Greenland by r12a
Greenland, a photo by r12a on Flickr.

I’ve been processing some photos that have been lying around since last year. This is one of a few pictures of Greenland, taken as i flew over on the way to the Unicode Conference. Amazing glacier flows!

See similar photos in lightbox view.

Characters in the Unicode Balinese block.

I just uploaded an initial draft of an article Balinese Script Notes. It lists the Unicode characters used to represent Balinese text, and briefly describes their use. It starts with brief notes on general script features and discussions about which Unicode characters are most appropriate when there is a choice.

The script type is abugida – consonants carry an inherent vowel. It’s a complex script derived from Brahmi, and has lots of contextual shaping and positioning going on. Text runs left-to-right, and words are not separated by spaces.

I think it’s one of the most attractive scripts in Unicode, and for that reason I’ve been wanting to learn more about it for some time now.

>> Read it

Picture of the page in action.

>> Use it

This picker contains characters from the Unicode Balinese block needed for writing the Balinese language. Characters needed for Sasak are also available in the Advanced section. Balinese musical notation characters are not included.

About the tool: Pickers allow you to quickly create phrases in a script by clicking on Unicode characters arranged in a way that aids their identification. Pickers are likely to be most useful if you don’t know a script well enough to use the native keyboard. The arrangement of characters also makes it much more usable than a regular character map utility.

About this picker: Characters are grouped to aid input. The consonant block includes characters needed for Kawi and Sanskrit as well as the native Balinese characters, all arranged according to the Brahmi pronunciation grid.

The picker has only a default view and a font grid view. It’s difficult to put in the time for the shape-based, keyboard-based, and various transcription-based views in some other pickers. In a new departure, however, I have included a list of Latin characters on the default view to assist in writing transcriptions alongside Balinese text.

There is, however, a significant issue with this picker, due to the lack of support for Balinese as a script in computers. The only Unicode-based Balinese font I know of is Aksara Bali, but that font seems to only work as expected in Firefox on Mac OS X. Furthermore, the Aksara Bali font doesn’t handle ra repa as described in the Unicode Standard. The sequence <consonant , adeg-adeg, ra repa> produces a visible adeg-adeg, rather than the post-fixed form of ra repa. The sequence <consonant , vowel sign ra repa> produces the post-fixed form of ra repa, rather than the subjoined form. You can produce the post-fixed form with this font by using <consonant , vowel sign ra repa> and the subjoined form by using <consonant , adeg-adeg, ra, pepet>, but these sequences will produce content that cannot be matched against sequences using the Unicode approach, and content that may fail with other Unicode-compliant fonts in the future.

Hopefully some new, fully Unicode-compliant fonts will come along soon. This is one of the most beautiful scripts I have come across.

(Btw, I’m working on a set of notes for Balinese characters, linked from UniView, with some feature innovations to get around the font issue. Look out for that later. And I’m thinking I should develop a Javanese picker to go with this one. Just need a bit of time…)

For the curious, here’s the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as typed in the Balinese picker. Translation by Tri Ediwan (reproduced from Omniglot).