SMC mentoring for GSoC 2014 too

Swathanthra Malayalam Computing is a free software collective engaged in language computing, development, localization, standardization and popularization of various Free and Open Source Softwares in Malayalam language. SMC developers have contributed to various Indian language computing efforts including fonts, spell checkers, hyphenation patterns (used by TeX, Libreoffice, Firefox), input methods etc. Last year, SMC was selected as a mentor for Google Summer of Code program and we successfully mentored 3 student projects – a web application to store and process bibliography data of books with i8n support, port SILPA into Flask application and restructure into standalone modules and Automated Shaping&Rendering testing, primarily for HarfBuzz.

Together with Santhosh, I have mentored the Automated Shaping&Rendering testing framework which we use to test Malayalam font changes against HarfBuzz. It can also be used to test Uniscribe shaping engine if compiled in Windows, or used against HarfBuzz with Uniscribe backend.

SMC is selected as an organization to mentor for GSoC again this year. If you are a student who wants to work on interesting problems, look at our project ideas. One of the problems I am particularly interested and to mentor is adding Indic shaping support to ConTeXt. Apart from the listed ideas, you can propose other ideas as well. Read the FAQ, you can reach us by mailing list or via IRC #smc-project on freenode.net.

SMC Malayalam fonts updated versions released

The Unicode fonts for Malayalam maintained by Swathanthra Malayalam Computing were last updated almost 2 years ago. They all were supporting just the v1 Indic opentype spec. But there were rendering problems with the fonts under Harfbuzz.

I was fortunate to attend the Open Source Language Summit 2012 (last year!) organized by Wikimedia Foundation and Red Hat (thank you, guys!) where many of the Indic language experts came together to work on issues at hand. The 2-days workshop helped me greatly to get much more insight into fonts, opentype spec and Harfbuzz in general. Since then I have been spending a lot of effort in updating and fixing the Malayalam fonts and also testing git snapshots of Harfbuzz and reporting issues to harfbuzz development list.

In the meantime, Harfbuzz matured enough and fixed many rendering issues. Thanks to the last Udupi hackfest by Behdad and Jonathan Kew, all known issues with Malayalam shaping has been addressed. And we were busy updating the fonts, opentype lookup rules and fixing bugs to work with old shapers (old pango, Qt, ICU Layout Engine, Windows XP) as well as the new ones (Harfbuzz, Uniscribe, Adobe). The v1 Indic opentype spec was a mess due to ‘undesirable’ Halant reordering (Consonant+Halant forms were ligated while it should have been Halant+Consonant). It has caused a lot of grief on the font developers and shaping engine developers side. With the v2 spec (mlm2 script tag for Malayalam), this has been changed and there is no need to perform Halant shifting anymore by shaping engines. I was leading the effort of porting to mlm2 spec of Malayalam fonts. We could port only Meera and Rachana for now, and RaghuMalayalam taken care by a few sed scripts.

During the 12th anniversary celebrations of Swathanthra Malayalam Computing group, the new version of fonts (5.1 supporting old shapers and 6.0 supporting new shapers) were released. See the email to smc-discuss for details. Remaining fonts also need to be updated, there is interest from community to collaborate on that. The new release will show up in Fedora 20.

In the process, I have learned quite some intricacies of the Indic opentype spec and would try to document them in a series of posts.