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Hacking in another language

I recently had the opportunity to do some hacking in the Czech language. It turned out to be very worthwhile even though I couldn't achieve what I wanted.

We had some guests staying with us from the Czech Republic. One, who brought their laptop along, spoke only a little English. Hence we had some fun trying to get their laptop connected to our network and then the Internet.

First, there was the Czech keyboard. Some letters are in different locations. So when you're typing passwords you type the wrong thing without knowing it.

Then there's the error messages. In a foreign language, it's very hard to even guess what they're about, despite having context and icons. Google Translate helps, but only so much.

Then there's icons themselves. They don't always convey a lot of meaning across languages. I found the Czech version of Windows surprisingly confusing.

Overall, I'm pretty sure we got the laptop connected to the network, but we couldn't get Firefox to connect to the Internet. Not sure why in the end - the error messages wouldn't translate.

Still it was fun - mostly. And a valuable lesson. I've been cognisant of i18n and l10n when programming for a decade now. But I've never used a translated version of my software, or watched a native use such a version. I think that more of this would be very useful in improving usability.