Après plus de 10 ans sur Bépo en français et plus de vingt ans sur Dvorak en anglais, j’ai finalement décidé de basculer sur une nouvelle disposition de clavier : Optimot. Je ferai une entrée de blog complète plus tard, pour l’instant, je partage juste les bases de la disposition sur TypeMatrix :
Je suis en train de changer ma manière d’interagir avec les ordinateurs… tant en terme de souris que de clavier. Cela fera probablement l’objet d’autres posts, mais pour l’instant je poste juste la disposition bépo sur un clavier Typematrix (y compris les touches mortes, qui permettent au final de taper dans n’importe quelle langue utilisant une base latine), au cas où cela intéresse quelqu’un d’autre que moi.
Il y a des choses qui me déplaisent avec cette disposition, comme le simple fait que taper en anglais soit assez fastidieux (avec par exemple le placement du w et du h qui rendent les mots courants comme what, which… vraiment difficiles), et je prévois de tester prochainement l’Optimot qui est lui-aussi optimisé pour le français mais est moins pénible en anglais… à suivre.
As I’m switching to new input devices (mouse / trackball, keyboard), I’ll also make a change in the keyboard layout as I’ll switch to a split keyboard (I was using a hybrid of Dvorak / Bépo / Colemak until now on TypeMatrix – great keyboard by the way!), which will probably take some adapting, but it will be worth it on the long run.
For the record, I’m posting here the Bépo layout on a TypeMatrix keyboard, including dead keys (in red).
Yet another win against planned obsolescence, checkmate by the 3D printer. If you haven’t seen the previous parts of the series, here they are:
|Planned Obsolescence, 0 – 3D Printer, 1
|Broken Stuff 0 – 3D Printing 1
|Planned Obsolescence, 0 – 3D Printer, 2
|Planned Obsolescence 0 – 3D Printer 3
The failing device was a UV sterilizer. Its cover is held by two little plastic notches, which broke. Plastic.
Analyzing the problem
The problem is that, without that little piece of plastic, the whole thing doesn’t work. That’s because there is a little switch that is activated when the lid is closed, and that switch doesn’t get activated.
The tricky part here is that the missing plastic part is very small. It is basically 2mm thick and a few millimeters large. Besides, the hole is higher than the plastic pieces that are left. There is no way we can just put a screw directly inside the remaining plastic.
Additionally, 3D printed pieces have only a limited level of detail. And the less plastic there is, the less robust it is.
The main issue here is that we have to have something go inside this hole to hold the whole cover. There is no way a piece of plastic will handle that. It has to be a screw or bolt.
I also didn’t want to use any glue, so the holding piece should be held by another screw.
Designing the piece
I came up with a very simple design: a screw to hold the printed piece in place, and another screw that acts as a sort of hinge.
And the printed piece comes to life, notice how we are really reaching the edge of how much detail we can get:
Putting the piece in place
I first needed to drill the existing door’s plastic to fit the holding screw. Low tech drill here:
Time for truth: screwing the piece in place and testing it on the machine. In here, you can see the little switch that needs to be activated in order for the machine to work.
And the final result: a fully functional door again, and a working sterilizer.
3D printer, 4th object fixed without needing to trash things and replace them with new ones. Yay!
When installing software from non-official repositories in Debian-based distributions, you might come across “key problems”, such as:
The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY <key>
When it appears, you might scratch your head for quite some time.
There is a simple way of dealing with those. However, as I recently experienced while upgrading a machine, most tutorials are incomplete or even sometimes totally misleading.
First, let’s see what these keys are for.
When installing software from non-official repositories, Linux needs to download packages from those external sources. However, hackers may introduce malware inside the files that are on the servers of those external sources. This type of hack is not an easy one, since web administrators are watching those sites closely. However, when it succeeds, the attackers can automatically distribute their malware to a lot of computers at once. Consequently, everything should be put in place to avoid spreading Trojan horses this way.
This is why any file that can be downloaded is signed digitally by the actual provider of the source. If a hacker alters a file, the digital signature no longer matches the content of the file anymore. This way, your Linux distribution makes sure that anything it downloads is an unaltered original file as originally published by the source.
To verify the signature, it only needs the public key of the source. And that is why your distribution needs to keep a list of public keys of all the non-official sources.
The apt-key way (deprecated in Ubuntu 22)
Previously, one could import keys using a tool called “apt-key”. Such way is still generally mentioned in many tutorials, in the form:
apt-key adv --keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:80 --recv-keys <KEY>
Transitioning to GPG (the new way)
Ubuntu and other distributions are switching to a different, more secure way of storing keys – although actually still not secure, but it is what it is.
Keys are now stored with GPG. To transition, it is possible to import keys from apt-key to gpg. This is done in two steps:
- listing the existing keys with “apt-key list”, which gives the following type of result:
pub rsa4096 2022-01-31 [SC] [expires: 2024-01-31]
DF44 CF0E 1930 9195 C106 9AFE 6299 3C72 4218 647E
uid [ unknown] Vivaldi Package Composer KEY08 <email@example.com>
sub rsa4096 2022-01-31 [E] [expires: 2024-01-31
- importing those keys to gpg, using a command of the form:
apt-key export 4218647E | sudo gpg --dearmour -o /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/vivaldi.gpg
Importing directly into gpg
So, for new sources, rather than importing through apt-key, you should use gpg directly instead. The commands take the form of:
curl -fsSL https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu/gpg | sudo gpg --dearmor -o /etc/apt/keyrings/docker.gpg
Matching package source and gpg file
Now, here comes the trick. In the previous command above to import a gpg key for docker, the target file for the key was:
What actually happens when running “apt” is that it reads the package information in a file located in the directory:
For instance, you may have followed instructions to add the docker ppa using the following command:
echo "deb [arch=$(dpkg --print-architecture) signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/docker-archive-keyring.gpg] https://download.docker.com/linux/ubuntu $(lsb_release -cs) stable" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/docker.list > /dev/null
Note the “signed-by” part of the command, which specifically points to the following gpg file:
So that’s exactly where your gpg file should be. The confusing part is that some tutorials / recommendations prefer /etc/apt/keyrings while others use /usr/share/keyrings.
Once your gpg key is in the correct place, your problem is solved.
I hope this will help prevent some of you from scratching your heads over this.
Sometimes, things get in the way in our lives. And sometimes, it’s best to take advantage of otherwise displeasing situations. With creativity and a firm conviction that we can succeed, anything is always possible.
Our apartment building is almost 50 years old. After that much time, some things start falling apart. Like roller blinds.
Assessing the problem
The first time those things failed, almost 10 years ago, it was an easy fix. One central part of the mechanism is a plastic piece with a square hole, that receives the crank handle. That plastic piece got loose over the years until it burst open.
A simple sleeve clamp did the job of making the plastic hold the connector tightly, and had the whole thing running for another 10 years.
However, what came next was at a different level. The central piece of the mechanism, a piece with a ball bearing in it that rotates only when maneuvered by the crank handle, became stuck. For good. Of course, there are currently no replacements for this kind of piece.
So I had a shutter in perfect condition, except for that piece. I knew that calling a repairman for this would have me replace the whole shutter, “because it’s not compatible” (and additionally to maximize profit, spending time doing custom jobs is not efficient when it comes to money, which is sad because that’s exactly what we would need at a civilization level right now), etc. What a waste it would be!
Devising a solution with 3D printing
I figured that I could actually take advantage of the situation, and I could even put an electric engine in my roller. Many people laughed when I said I was planning to go electric on a failing manual mechanism.
I launched OpenScad and designed some pieces. I ordered an engine that I knew would handle the weight (100 kg, 50 Nm, less than 50 euros).
It so happens that today’s standards are very different from that time’s. At the time, they had large cylinders with a diameter of almost 10 cm. Nowadays, we have octagonal rollers that are about 6 cm large. So, today’s engines surely don’t fit into a 10 cm cylinder – well you can insert it in it, but having it secured inside is a challenge. This is especially true as all the force needed to raise the shutter is transferred there. Besides, the roller itself is impossible to disassemble. And it’s quite large and massive, difficult for one person to handle alone.
Besides, I had to take into account the weight of the whole shutter: it’s an old thing, and probably weighs around 50 kg, maybe a bit more. Besides, the roller itself probably weighs 20-30 kg on its own. Needless to say, my solution had better be strong. Fortunately, I’ve already had experience with plastic.
Plastic is generally viewed as fragile. After all, when a mechanical part fails, it is a piece of plastic 95% of the time. However, plastic, even PLA which is my preference because of its low environmental footprint, can be quite sturdy. People have even printed propellers with it:
My experience is that combining a plastic structure with metallic backbones is quite indestructible. Very small pieces can hold a lot of weight if designed properly. For instance, these shelf supports can hold a lot of weight. And I mean, a lot:
Note how the weight is actually mostly on the horizontal steel screw, the plastic is just a proxy in between, as well as having some extra support from those two other screws on the shelf – which is also a cubic structure so there is no angular pressure on the support.
First Failure – Design
As I didn’t want to damage the roller, I first thought of having the engine outside the roller and connecting it with gears but there were a couple of problems:
- there is very very little space for the engine when the shutter is totally rolled up,
- tightening the engine securely for the kind of forces at play would be challenging,
- I had doubts about the solidity of 3D printed gears, especially on the long run,
- the engine has two parts: one for traction, one for counting the number of turns in order to stop when the shutter is fully open or closed. Making that second part turn in sync with the first was not an easy thing to do in a reliable way with what I had in my toolbox.
After trying out several designs, I had to give up that path. Not that it was impossible, it would be feasible to squeeze that engine outside and fix some gears. But it involved many pieces and the risk of something failing sooner or later. I didn’t want to take the chance.
Second solution – and failure
So I had to cut the roller open to insert my engine inside. Reluctantly, I cut the end part of the roller:
I know, it doesn’t look pretty. I probably could have used an angle grinder. I burnt a couple of blades in the process:
Unfortunately, I had bad news: inside was a wall, very likely welded in, that I would certainly not be able to remove. I was stuck.
Getting back up
At that point, I figured I could as well cut the other end and see if I would be luckier… and I was! That side was definitely empty so I could resume the project. The next step was to measure and design the necessary 3D pieces:
- some holding piece on one end with a ball bearing for the whole thing to turn smoothly, and again, note how the plastic is just a proxy between metallic parts ; you can see the ball bearing encased in the plastic:
- on the engine’s side, fillers that would match the engine’s octagonal and somewhat weird shapes on the inside, and the cylinder on the outside,
- drilling holes in the shaft to host the holding screws:
- Fitting the pieces together:
Putting the external support in place:
This last piece has several functions.
- first, to hold the whole structure vertically: engine+roller. This is achieved thanks to the 4 horizontal screws, which actually are the ones taking all the weight.
- second, to enable rotating the whole structure while blocking on the hexagonal corners, this can be useful if the whole thing becomes stuck, for instance, otherwise you would be in trouble with a non-rotating shutter and no way of unscrewing it due to the lack of space,
- third, to have those 3 screws distribute the load of the rotational forces to the 4 horizontal screws. Again, the plastic is just a proxy here, it doesn’t actually hold anything by itself.
Finally, everything looks good:
The last step is the electric setup with a switch (notice the little 3D-printed box under it to hide the electric wiring):
Upon testing, everything works as expected. Hurray!
Just a final note to those of you who do have shutters like this: you *have* to lubricate the sliding parts regularly (at least twice a year) with silicone lubricant. It is the best way of giving a long life to your shutters. Any other solution I tried ended up either in disaster or with very unsatisfactory results.
L’importance des premiers contacts
En tant que parents, il paraît important de tenter d’inculquer un certain nombre de valeurs à nos enfants, et ce, dès leur plus jeune âge. C’est à ce moment que leurs cerveaux bâtissent les premières connexions, les premiers comportements. Autant qu’ils aillent dans la bonne direction tout de suite, car il est bien plus difficile de perdre une mauvaise habitude que de la prendre. Et les habitudes de pensée en particulier.
Bien sûr, les valeurs dépendent des croyances de chacun. Certains vont mettre en avant que, pour survivre dans le monde, il faut être costaud et prêt à donner tous les coups. Pour ma part, lorsque mon fils est né, je préférais qu’il fasse connaissance de l’empathie, la persévérance, l’espoir, et bien d’autres valeurs qui me sont chères. Mais dans tous les cas, la bienveillance est la plus grande des valeurs, de mon point de vue. Cela ne veut pas dire pour autant « naïveté », mais ne pas être naïf n’implique pas non plus de systématiquement écraser les autres.
Importance de la musique
Naturellement, j’ai voulu aussi le baigner de musique, puisque je suis musicien. La musique est extrêmement puissante : elle fait appel à l’émotion. Or, on grave nos souvenirs et expériences avec d’autant plus d’intensité qu’ils sont accompagnés de grandes émotions.
Il a eu droit à des petits instruments pour s’amuser, un xylophone, un tambourin, comme la plupart des enfants de son âge. Mais évidemment aussi, je voulais lui chanter des chansons. Non seulement pour la musique, mais pour partager l’héritage qui est le sien, par les comptines typiquement françaises. Dans ce contexte, les paroles étaient particulièrement importantes pour moi.
Curieusement, j’ai eu beau chercher dans ma mémoire, je ne me rappelais d’aucune comptine entièrement. Des débuts de chansons et des mélodies fredonnées, mais ça s’arrêtait très vite.
Premières surprises des origines
En farfouillant un peu sur le web, quelle n’a pas été ma surprise de découvrir tout de suite que beaucoup, pour ne pas dire la plupart, des comptines ont des sens cachés. À croire que nos ancêtres étaient de sacrés lascars…
Au clair de la lune, par exemple, est donc en réalité une comptine… très… adulte. Le pire, c’est que même les adultes qui les chantent ne s’en rendent même plus compte, car les expressions ont changé ou on a oublié le contexte et on ne comprend plus leur sens d’origine.
Mais soit. Si même les adultes ne comprennent pas, les enfants n’y verront que du feu, avec leur petit esprit tout innocent.
Mais non, ce n’est même pas ça. C’est beaucoup plus explicite. Je veux bien qu’on endurcisse nos petites têtes, mais quand même…
Contact avec la réalité
Je me suis donc procuré quelques petits livres de chansons, car je voulais les chanter moi-même. En fait, lorsqu’on passe un enregistrement, le contact avec bébé n’est pas du tout le même. C’est beaucoup plus impersonnel. Alors que, chanté par un être en chair et en os en face de soi, c’est beaucoup plus puissant. Mais du coup, j’ai pu m’intéresser directement aux paroles, ce que je n’aurais sans doute pas fait si j’avais simplement passé des enregistrements.
Je me rappelle l’une des toutes premières comptines : une souris verte. Je me rappelais de la mélodie, chantée très souvent dans mon enfance. Mais après quelques couplets, stupeur : « trempez-la dans l’huile, ça fera un escargot tout chaud ». Hein, quoi ? Pour transformer une souris en escargot… en la trempant dans l’huile bouillante, il faut y aller de bon cœur.
J’ai tourné la page très vite en me disant « bon, je vais éviter celle-là… suivante ». Je ne me rappelle plus exactement lesquelles furent les suivantes. Mais ce dont je me rappelle, c’est une succession de déconvenues. À chaque nouveau début, je me disais « ah oui, celle-là est bien ! ». Et passé quelques instants, stupeur voire horreur. J’ai fait toutes les chansons du premier livre une à une. Je n’en ai pas trouvé une seule avec un message de bienveillance qui aurait mérité d’être sauvée.
La Mère Michel… hum, sachant déjà que le chat perdu est en fait sa chatte, mais passons. Même en la prenant au premier degré, on a affaire à une prise d’otage de chat, et un très explicite exemple de chantage. Belle morale !
Alouette, gentille alouette… je te plumerai… sans commentaire.
Il était une bergère, ronron petit patapon… elle tua son p’tit chaton – et pour pénitence elle doit embrasser le curé !… et trouve que c’est bien agréable et recommencera !!! Et dire que j’en avais un bon souvenir, de cette comptine !
Il était un petit navire… à quelle sauce manger un humain – on envisage vraiment toutes les possibilités. Miam !
Maman les p’tits bateaux : harceler son bébé en le prenant pour un âne et en lui racontant des mensonges, rien de tel pour l’éduquer !
Au feu les pompiers… la maison brûlée… et c’est pas moi qui l’ai brûlée… (pyromanie, délation…)
Le petit cordonnier qui bat sa femme en rentrant bourré…
Et tant qu’à faire, une histoire de viol dans « à la pêche aux moules » même pas déguisée.
On veut marier Jeannette avec un prince mais elle veut se marier avec Pierre… qui est en prison (qu’a-t-il fait pour y être ?)… et qui sera pendouillé… et Jeannette veut être pendouillée avec… bah tiens on les pendouille tous les deux. Littéralement.
Toutes les comptines ne sont pas à jeter. J’en ai trouvé dans d’autres livres qui étaient acceptables et mignonnes. Mais toutes relativement peu intéressantes pour le développement d’un enfant. Pirouette, cacahuète. Frère Jacques. Il pleut, bergère. Et certaines à vocation éducative pour apprendre des mots de vocabulaire. Mais moi qui étais si excité à l’idée de pouvoir chanter des chansons, le moins qu’on puisse dire est que j’ai été sacrément déçu – et choqué.
Très vite, nous sommes passés à autre chose : les fables de La Fontaine. Même s’il ne comprenait pas au début, il ne s’en est jamais lassé.
In the previous part, we have seen that existing languages can be fairly complex. Besides, we cannot speak all languages spoken by others. Clearly, from the beginning of language, people needed to communicate with “others who don’t speak your own language”.
Many existing languages served as a common tongue between different civilizations. In fact, such languages emerged in history in every region that had enough trade going on, and where communication was necessary.
In the West, during the Middle Ages, traders around the Mediterranean spoke a language called “Lingua Franca”. The term now means “common language”: a language spoken by people who otherwise wouldn’t understand one another. All over the world, groups that had strong interactions used some variations of regional languages as “lingua franca”, such as Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Swahili, Latin, Quechua, and many others.
Vulgar Latin served as the “lingua franca” for the whole European continent for centuries. It is actually still in use in the scientific world, where Latin is the root of botanical and anatomical names.
After the Renaissance in Europe, there were many attempts to devise simplified languages, mostly for scientists from different countries who couldn’t communicate across Europe because they spoke different languages.
In the late 19th century, Schleyer, a German priest, created a language called Volapük, which he hoped would become an international language. His language gained big popularity very quickly, with over a million enthusiasts, but it was short-lived.
Among Schleyer’s followers, some wanted to make changes to the language. However, he wanted to keep it “pure and unmodified” – and also didn’t want the credit for creating the language to slip from his hands. As a result, many “unofficial” variants of the language appeared. Different factions started arguing and claiming that their version was “the best”.
Power is a treacherous thing. Every promoter of their own version fought with others. Many branches of the language appeared, and this is probably one of the main causes of the destruction of this language. I insist on this part of the story because it explains what followed with Esperanto, and is still visible to this day.
10 years after the creation of Volapük, a Polish ophthalmologist (he was actually born in the Russian Empire at the time), Zamenhof, published a book under the pseudonym “Doktoro Esperanto”, describing what would become the language “Esperanto”. He had been working on creating an international language for more than 15 years. Indeed, he believed that humanity needed a common language to be at peace. Many Esperantists (people who speak and promote Esperanto) still have this same goal in mind: a unifying language for the world.
I do admire the goal, and I absolutely share the vision. Not being able to understand one another creates division. And certainly, the “divide and rule” tactic is working partly because we all speak different languages.
Fear and rigidity
However, like many other people, I find that the Esperanto language is lacking. In fact, Zamenhof himself thought that his language could be improved. However, many Esperantists feared that modifying the original language would lead to a “Volapük schism” which would eventually destroy Esperanto. A large majority rejected Zamenhof’s own reform when he proposed improvements to the language. This fear is still felt by many Esperantists today.
Although I do understand the fear, I feel it is based on the wrong grounds. Volapük did not disappear because it was modified by others. It disappeared because Schleyer would not allow to modify it to make a better version – thus provoking the splitting which eventually led to its demise. The thing is: the inevitable obviously cannot be stopped. Trying to stop a natural evolution makes things worse, not better. From a shallow point of view, it looks like a schism destroyed Volapük. However, when looking deeper, the root cause was rigidity. I fear the same might happen with Esperanto.
Granted, some reforms did take place in Esperanto. But they are very minimal and insufficient, at least from my point of view. On the other hand, I do share the view of many Esperantists that an international language shouldn’t go through a reform every month. I also agree that “better” is often the enemy of “good”. However, what is clearly broken and/or creates strong negative emotional reactions cannot be widely adopted and creates resistance. Esperanto is the oldest of the current major surviving conlangs, it also benefited from a number of hypes over time. Yet, it never really took off and we’re very far today from it being a common international language.
Many, very early on in the life of Esperanto, shared the view that it needed some extra touch. Branches of the language appeared despite all the efforts from Esperantists to stop anyone from modifying the language in fear of a schism. Those branches separated forcefully from the main Esperanto speakers since there was no tolerance from their side. One of them is called Ido, a “revised Esperanto” (“ido” in Esperanto means “offspring”).
Frankly, I find that Ido feels like a patch. It does solve some of the problems I see in Esperanto, but it is still lacking. Quite a lot. We will see that in more detail in the next posts. It is an honest attempt at fixing many aspects of Esperanto that many people judge negatively, but I believe it is not sufficient. It is just like fixing a broken house with tape.
And indeed, the result is here: despite being around for quite a long time, Ido is at a standstill. In fact, it is far behind Esperanto in terms of the number of speakers. If it was as good as it claims, I believe it would have overtaken Esperanto by now.
In the middle of the Second World War, a scientist, Lancelot Hogben, devised the bases for an international language during his idle hours. He published a book called “Interglosa”, mostly aimed at language teachers, confident that people would pick up his language immediately. However, people at the time had other things on their minds, with the war going on. His introduction manual for the language never took any attention.
Almost 20 years later, another scientist, Ron Clark, found Hogben’s book in a second-hand bookshop. He read it and immediately found it fascinating. He was soon joined by Wendy Ashby, and they worked with Hogben, who was still alive, to improve the language. However, Hogben died in 1975. Clark and Ashby founded Glosa after some further modifications of the language.
I find Glosa much better than any previous attempts. After all, Hogben benefited from many failures before him, so he definitely had an advantage. Here are some of the core features of Glosa:
- it is fully phonetic, every single printed character is pronounced in one way, and vice versa,
- unlike Esperanto, words do not change, they can serve multiple purposes by the simple addition of prepositions. This feature eliminates complex inflections which makes it difficult for many people to speak and understand languages – people in general don’t think about what an adjective or an adverb is when they speak!
- the vocabulary is limited to 1000 words,
- the roots of the words are exclusively taken from Greek and Latin.
However, like Esperanto or Ido, Glosa is still not widespread. Granted, it is much younger and didn’t benefit from big hypes as Esperanto did.
There are many other constructed languages that aim to be international languages. It would be impossible to list them all. I’ll just present a last one, which is quite fun and intriguing.
Toki Pona was created by a Canadian, Sonja Lang, whose aim wasn’t exactly to create an international language, but rather a “minimalist” language. It was a tool to help organize her thoughts. Indeed, the official Toki Pona vocabulary contains no more than 120 words. Yes, you have read that correctly, a language with a total of one hundred and twenty words! In fact, the philosophy is close to Northern minimalism, which along with her pen name led me to believe for quite some time that Sonja Lang was a Swede!
Besides, I particularly like some of Toki Pona’s features. For instance, the sounds have been selected so that basically all people in the world can read, understand and pronounce the language easily. This is nice! Besides, it can be written in plain ASCII without any diacritics.
Minimalism comes at a price
However, minimalism comes at a price. Although a few root words may be sufficient to express very simple things, it becomes very challenging when you need to express more complex thoughts. You need to become extremely descriptive, like a 2-year-old child who doesn’t know his vocabulary yet.
The student learns history from the teacher
The one who studies learns the communicated chronology that passed from the person whose job is to instruct others.
As a primary tool for communication, this can become very tedious. Better than nothing, for sure. Indeed, the original creator’s intention is to develop creativity and imagination.
However, if we do want to be understood by other human beings, we need a consensus. Everyone must use the same metaphors to be understood. This in turn means that you have to learn vocabulary – or in this case idioms -, just like in any other language. If you don’t, you might scratch your head when someone mentions a “confident bird”. Could it possibly be one of the following?
Actually, it is the metaphor people generally use for an “eagle” in Toki Pona. But if you haven’t come across the expression yet, any one of those above could certainly qualify as a “confident bird”.
Besides, others would probably also scratch their heads when you mention a “confident bird from the Andes”, although that one could come very easily as a “condor” for someone who is familiar with the Andean culture.
Conlangs are also biased
Created languages, or “conlangs”, also suffer from the biases of their creator(s). Because someone created a language with “goodwill” doesn’t mean the language itself is good, easy, or even usable for communication. We’ll examine the ease of learning and communicating of existing conlangs in part 5.
Does a “lingua franca” replace local languages?
To conclude this post, I would like to address this very sensitive topic. Language is deeply connected to the culture of the people who speak it.
Languages politically forced on populations destroy dialects
This is a common fear, due to a very big misunderstanding of what a “lingua franca” should be. Since English has become the de facto international language, many believe that an international language always tries to force itself on people and aims to replace all languages.
In many countries where a common language was forcefully introduced as “the common lingo”, it has been the case.
In my native France, the French Republic has spent countless efforts in the last 250 years trying to kill all regional languages, forcing people to speak French and ditch their local language or dialect. All this in the name of “unity”. And this strong will to eradicate dialects is still very much alive within the Parisian administration today – and, sadly, it has succeeded quite well. In June 2021, it voted on a new law to restrict any teaching of regional languages at school. But that is a political agenda, not “goodwill” to “help people communicate”. Instead, it is a tool to control the population from a centralized authoritarian administration.
In the same way, some other languages did replace the local dialects. But in most cases, those were the results of military conquest. Indeed, Vulgar Latin replaced many local languages in Europe during the Middle Ages. But that was the result of the colonization of territory by the Romans. Similarly, the Incas pushed Quechua on the people they conquered. With the Spanish takeover of South America, it grew even more because the Spaniards didn’t want to have translators for every single local language. Again, it was a military invasion. And after all, the language of the conquerors, Spanish, replaced Quechua to some extent.
English also comes with the conquering American mentality. Conquering through music, a huge film industry, fast food, and many other aspects. It is not the language itself that endangers others, but the associated culture.
This is not what an international language is for.
Lingua francas don’t kill other languages
As I have mentioned, many “lingua francas” emerged naturally in history, and rarely ever replaced or killed other languages. The trading language of the Mediterranean called “Lingua Franca” never replaced other local languages or dialects. Chinese outside of China, Malay, and Swahili, while being widely understood well beyond the borders of their native speakers, didn’t replace local dialects.
The goal needs to be precise: a “lingua franca” is an “alternative means of communication”. Not a new “unified world” thing. By the way, another name for such a language is “international auxiliary language”. Auxiliary.
I actually make the point that providing a constructed language to the world as a lingua franca is actually saving languages rather than endangering them. If you are speaking Cherokee today, you could just learn the easy lingua franca along with Cherokee, rather than having to study English. Because of this, some countries like some parts of Switzerland as well as Finland are actually switching fully to English, ditching their own language. Which I personally find catastrophic. To keep the diversity, we need very easy access to the lingua franca.
Enough spoken of existing languages. In the next part, we will focus on constructed languages: conlangs.
There are more and more reports about shortages in the supply of electronic components during the past year. What are the causes and should we be concerned? Will it lead to increased prices and will it last?
Let’s review the causes and what we can make of it.
The demand in electronics has been constantly rising for the last decades. One example is the demand for batteries, which is quite telling:
Obviously, this means that the supply chain has to grow accordingly, which is not always a given. And electronics are not the only ones suffering from supply chain problems: plastics are also in a strange condition right now.
The “work from home” drill
One of the first reasons for the shortage is a higher demand from consumers. With the pandemic and everyone switching to remote working last year, people had to buy extra computers (at least one for every member of the family) or upgrade existing ones (think about a better camera, a better processor or graphics card to deal with the video live streams, a larger screen on your desk at home since it has become your semi-permanent office, etc.).
This sudden demand created a spike in an already congested industry, hence a shortage. The problem is that such a spike should be only temporary, but it looks like the situation is not going to be resolved anytime soon. What is going on?
Remember the toilet paper shortages? Well, that’s pretty much what is happening with the electronics industry right now. Because people started being aware of the shortage and the potential for it to become long term, they have acted exactly as they did with toilet paper. Buy more. As soon as possible. Before it is too late.
So the initial hit on the demand is also worsened by panic buying. Of course, buying an extra computer is not as easy for many people as buying toilet paper, due to the price difference. So while the effect is felt within days for toilet paper, the time frame is counted in months for electronics.
The car industry
The car industry is one of the most demanding in terms of electronics: our cars are getting stuffed more and more with those chips and gadgets, and it is getting to a point where the car industry is hit very badly by the shortage. It is currently causing very heavy losses in sales in that sector. Back to the first chart of this post above, we can see that batteries for electric-powered vehicles is mainly responsible for the demand to jump almost exponentially. Any shortage in those immediately results in slower production.
Accumulation of incidents
On top of that is the winter incident in Texas, which closed chip making factories for weeks.
In an already tense supply chain, any extra incident can bring a system to its knees. And the recovery is difficult since the supply was already not sufficient.
Note that the whole world depends on Taiwan for the supply of chips, which doesn’t make it very resilient.
Pandemic supply chain disruption
As I warned a year ago on my blog at the beginning of the pandemic, Covid also disrupts supply chains since productivity is impacted – when the industries don’t close altogether. People needing to stay at home at the first sign of illness, whereas before everyone was still going to work with a running nose. And of course, wearing masks, material needing disinfection, etc.
All this obviously slows down existing systems. And again, in a “just-in-time” production mode with rising demand, this can only cause shortages.
Raw material shortage
As we all know, our planet is not infinite. With such a growth in demand, there must mathematically be a point when this never-ending growing trend goes beyond the total resources of the planet.
Along with silicon, some rare metals are getting scarce, if not already at the point of exhaustion. Other metals and rare-earth elements will follow, without any doubt. There would be a lot to talk about on this topic, but I’m keeping it short for now. Recycling those rare metals is typically a very big challenge – some of them in electronic components can actually never be recycled since it would need going to the atomic level.
And the shortage for some metals is not so far away. Just look at “other industrial metals” in the following chart, there is a chance you’ll see the shortage of some of them in your lifetime. And what then?
Shortages to come – what next? Source: Visual Capitalist
The current shortage has many causes. Some of them may be temporary, but others will undoubtedly be felt on the long term. Hopefully, as the price of the rarest materials increase, alternative technological solutions will enable us to replace rare materials with more common ones. Or maybe we’ll find this missing Germanium or Palladium on the Moon or Mars…