Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mac Malayalam

The promised Mac Malayalam font is available here for your reading pleasure.

It all (re)started when my brother recently bought a macbook pro. Used to the luxury of reading flawlessly rendered Malayalam unicode in Windows and Linux, the Mac experience must have been a little disappointing. The trouble is that Mac OS X doesn't fully support the advanced typography features in OpenType fonts, but instead expects you to use AAT fonts. Unfortunately, the only Unicode Malayalam fonts around (so far) have been all only OpenType.

Now, unlike in 2005, there's a little more information online about how to go about fixing the situation. If you have an (OpenType) font with all the requisite glyphs, then you just need to create a morph input file (MIF), and use tools provided by Apple to merge it into the original font and get an AAT font. Creating the MIF, with the documentation available online, seemed feasible. In particular, we came across Kedage, which suggested that it shouldn't be too hard to do it over a weekend.

Our first idea was to work with Kevin's pioneering Unicode font Anjali. Unfortunately, it turned out that Anjali doesn't explicitly contain all the glyphs it needs, but instead creates most of them by appropriately combining pairs of glyphs. It wasn't clear how to get that working with AAT. So we turned to Rachana (which thankfully was released under the GNU GPL a few years back). (In fact Anjali itself was based on Rachana, from before it became a Unicode font.) The new font RachanaMac.ttf is also, of course, under the GPL.

Finally, we took this opportunity to revive the old Malayalam keyboard. As it turned out, the keyboard was in great shape, and there was not much to alter (except for adding a GPL notice). We used inkscape to put together an icon (though the 16x16 version doesn't look that great) for the Malayalam keyboard. The above logo for the macmalayalam webpage was also created using inkscape.

[Update (Oct 14, 2009): I just came across another font via a Wikipedia article. From a quick look, their font does seem to work quite well, but it doesn't have nearly as many glyphs as Rachana has. So, our font effort is not entirely wasted :) ]

[Update (Jun 24, 2010): Apple recently released OS X 10.6.4 and it seems like it comes with a Malayalam unicode font! Unfortunately it is a bit buggy, and not the most beautiful of fonts.

But I am told that the iPhone withe new iOS4 renders it much better.]

[Update (Feb 25, 2011): Another set of fonts from Apple, for a variety of Indic languages including Malayalam, is available now (via m10lmac). While the Malayalam font doesn't have as many glyphs as Rachana (it has some conjuncts, but leaves out several including ones involving the "u" vowel symbol), it has a bold version.]

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Malayalam font for Mac

So, after all these years, we have a Malayalam font that works in Apple's macs. Well, almost. My brother and I have been working on getting Rachana to work, and it looks quite good now. The goal has been to make a font that can use every glyph provided by Rachana. You can see in the screen capture that it seems to work quite well in Firefox, but not so well in Safari (where the kind of chillu usage in wikipedia is causing some trouble).

Update (Sep 7, 2009): You can find the alpha version of the font here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


I had to look up "obscurantism" on wikipedia. That is what came to mind on reading how a new auspicious day for buying gold has become en vogue in South India. More here. Of course, I'd imagine that for some of the costumers it is just another festive occasion, with apparent discounts and such. Or they are just following an emerging tradition. But I'd also imagine that many really consider it auspicious.

Turns out, obscurantism is probably not the right word, going by wikipedia. But it comes close. What would be a word for deliberately manufacturing superstition?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Power outage

1. There is a power outage on campus. I hope nothing melts down/blows up. But on the brighter side, if you'd excuse the pun, we will save some energy, I suppose.

2. I tend to listen to the regional news broadcast by All India Radio, Thiruvananthapuram, online. In these days of power shortage (there), what with all the summer and heat and drying up rivers, load shedding is the way to go. Not surprisingly, they have an interesting public service announcement that they run half way through the news bulletin, exhorting everyone to switch off their refrigerators in the evening peak hours. (Or, maybe it is a little surprising?)

Interestingly, the only thing that forces the state to suspend the load shedding is the high school exams (SSLC), as they have done again this year. I wonder if it reflects right priorities (kids, education) or a misplaced one (exams).

3. The last power outage I experienced (enjoyed?) was when my parents were here last summer. Everything was fine, except that I had to let a large load of laundry soak overnight, and the parents had to make do with a cold breakfast.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


A few small updates.

First the Germany trip (December first week).

The morning after Obama won the elections I was in Chicago, to get a German visa. It was quick and painless and got over in the morning. My return train was not until later in the afternoon. So I walked around looking for a cafe, and trying to pick up a newspaper on the way. Well, it wasn't easy. But finally I did manage to get one before heading back, at a crowded corner (and certainly looked odd in that crowd, buying less than four copies).

My first conversation in Germany (not counting the one at the railway ticket counter) was at the hotel check-in: "You are from... (looking at the computer monitor), ah, USA. So, how do you like Obama?" and later in the elevator (with another hotel staff member, on being told that I'm coming from the US, but I'm from India): "Oh, that means you can't become the president of USA."

My photo-activity (no, I don't quite mean that) seemed to be in for a revival, with the crowded Christmas markets at Frankfurt and Mainz. Until, I tried downloading all the photos on to my laptop using the USB cable and drained the battery. (Buying a charger didn't seem an exciting option.) So for the rest of my days in Germany I didn't have to continually worry that I'm under-utilizing photo opportunities.

After Christmas I was at UCLA for over a week. Nice and warm. I suppose I shouldn't be complaining that those were not the coldest days in Champaign. As always I did lug my camera along, and didn't use it much at all. Until my brother (who decided to come along, to escape a cold and lonely winter) and I visited the Getty Villa. Here's a random selection.

A few more photos are here.

And finally, today's news is that the little server in my office has been hacked into. It was a spam injection into the RSS feed of my somewhat dormant wordpress blog. Possibly sometime around Christmas (modification date on some files was Dec 28). Thanks to the folks at REN-ISAC for catching it. Not sure what all damage has been caused, but I did spend some time updating wordpress and removing an apparently new root user from my MySQL server. (I know, sounds bad!) In any case, for now, I'm not offering deals from an "online Canadian pharmacy."