Wednesday, September 29, 2004


egilh project #9: Windows 95

What: I started translating but passed through managing external translation vendors before I ended up doing what I liked best; technical specialist. The way we translated Windows 95 was drastically different from the previous translation work; instead of editing include and resource files, we modified the resource sections in the final English version (i.e. directly in the .dll or .exe). Translating the resource files gave fast turn-around as the change was visible immediately. It was also a mess some times as some times the word "Desktop" should be translated, other times it’s the internal name in Windows for the desktop and everything boke if you translated it.

The tools for translating were, as usual, pretty bad so I spent some time writing tools that automated the process (more posts later on these later).

When: mid 90s :-)

Lessons learned:

  • Installing and using Windows 95 "blindfolded". Seeing the characters doesn't really make much of a difference when you try to troubleshoot a problem in Greek, Russian and Turkish….

  • Patience. I did a lot, but a lot, of builds of Windows 95. It came in tons of flavors; 5 1/4 floppies, 3 1/2 floppies (small and large build), CDs, ... Each build took the best part of the day as the new .CAB building tool optimized the organization of the files etc. In the few weeks after the US team RTMed I worked nights (and days) to build the most critical languages (French/Spanish)

  • Work smarter not harder:  You can do a lot of stuff if you mange your "dead time" well. The next bunch of projects are internal projects I worked on while installing/building etc

  • Working 2 years  on a "never ending" project is not for me. I hope it is better working in the Redmond dev team or I feel really sorry for the Longhorn developers

  • Brad Silverberg sounds a lot like "Brat Silverberg" (a -very- good friend almost made the mistake to his face)

  • Microsoft really knows how to throw a release party. I had the pleasure of attending both the internal one and the public one with Jay Leno.

  • The Windows 95 T-shirts are incredibly strong. I still have, and use, a few of them while working on the house/garden.

  • Writing software that can be translated/localized. The string "%s printing on %s" should have been translated to "Printing %s on %s" in some languages but it was impossible in Windows 95 (which explains the funny wording in some localized versions). This is one of the things they got right in .NET. Format strings now use positionsl, so "%1 printing  %2" can -finally- be translated to "Printing %2 on %1" without changing the software

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