Open Source Translation Database: Interview with Andrew Smith

Globe, close-up

As any developer can tell you, translating your software into different languages can be a pain. Even if you manage to track down willing volunteer translators for all the different languages you want your program to be in, you still need to work with people who you may end up having trouble communicating with. Difficulty in securing and communicating with translators all over the world can be a serious impediment to getting open source programs translated, and often, results in no translation at all.

But the Open Source Translation Database (OSTD) aims to change all that, by offering up a vast library of pre-translated strings from some of the worlds most popular open source programs. A developer simply needs to upload their language files, or search for a specific string, and the results are returned in dozens of different languages.

We caught up with OSTD’s developer, Andrew Smith, to talk about his latest project.

Open Source Experience

The Powerbase: Andrew, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To begin, could you tell us a bit about your background?

Andrew: I’ve always been technically minded but only got into programming at Seneca College, where I went to find a better career. In the first year I joined the Linux Club and quickly became a fan of open source. Since then I’ve worked on numerous open source projects and several organisations (creating or using OSS) both as a volunteer and as an employee.

Asunder Banner
Asunder, an open source CD ripper

The Powerbase: You’re no stranger to open source projects, having put out Asunder and ISOMaster in the past. What’s the experience been like for you developing open source software?

Andrew: ISO Master was my first success, I started it as a student, when I barely knew what I was doing, and was allowed to work on it as a school project (that’s a whole different and fascinating story). Asunder I picked up when I was looking for a new interesting project (it was like an abandoned puppy looking for love). And don’t forget the Seneca Freedom Toaster! I’m pretty proud of that one too – it’s been up and running for 5 years now.

I love making useful things. Working on open source allows me to help out tens of thousands of people around the world (millions with my Mozilla work). If it’s good – people will use it. If it’s not – than I won’t spend a lot of time on it. Quite different from working on proprietary software, where years of work get periodically thrown out for political and other unfortunate reasons.

When I was a student – it helped me learn more than anything else, and put me ahead of my peers when looking for my first job. Now I still work on it when I find some time (not often enough) because I enjoy getting emails from strangers saying thank you for doing this, and learning in software engineering is a lifelong committment anyway.

The Powerbase: ISOMaster is an interesting case, since it is open source and free to download on Linux and BSD, but closed source pay software on Windows. What made you go with this kind of distribution? Did it work out for you in the end?

Andrew: The proprietary windows version was an experiment. I’ve put about 3 weeks of full time work into it, wanting to see what it’s like to try and sell software. I made enough money to pay me for the porting work, but after that it can barely pay for the tea from the coffee shop. Just as an illustration of how experimental this was: I got really excited when I found a crack for ISO Master on Bit Torrent, and I even posted the NFO file on my blog.

I’ve been recently considering pulling it from the internet completely. I have no desire to maintain it (it’s about 5 versions behind the open source Linux version) and I’ve learned all I cared to learn about the business side of things. The one thing that’s holding me back is the website graphics that are made in Photoshop (also by Seneca students) – I don’t have the time to redo them, and remove the Windows download button.

The Powerbase: How was that handled from a licensing standpoint? ISOMaster on Linux and BSD is licensed under the GPLv2, is the Windows version a completely different codebase?

Andrew: It’s quite simple, though I get this question now and then. I’m the only author and copyright holder of the code, and I can release it under any licence I choose. I could not do the same for a piece of software I didn’t hold 100% of the copyright for.

About Tom Nardi

Tom is a Network Engineer with focus on GNU/Linux and open source software. He is a frequent submitter to "2600", and maintains a personal site of his projects and areas of research at: .