Thursday, April 28, 2011

Free Chinese language lunar calendar app

One of my coworkers told me about this free Chinese language lunar calendar app (has ads):

万年历免费版 (wànniánlì miǎnfèibǎn; 10,000 year calendar - free edition)
(萬年曆免費版 in traditional characters)

You can find it at the App Store by searching for "Chinese calendar".

Although the app's name is in simplified characters, it has a setting for traditional characters, which is what I use (although the "quality control" on simplified versus traditional characters is not always perfect). I also chose holiday and vacation settings for Taiwan; China (the default), Hong Kong, Singapore, and USA are other choices.

Now, I cannot read Chinese quickly enough to rapidly absorb all the Chinese text that introduces the app.  However, aside from the fact that my coworker was already using it, I felt "safe enough" that Apple is a "large enough" company   :-)   to have reviewed the app, including its instructions, before making it available in the App Store, and I installed it. While certainly some bad apples (pun intended) could get through their review process, there should at least be more supervision there than at the Android Market, about which news stories like this 6/13/11 one already seem a bit too common.

As my coworker said, this app provides yet another opportunity to learn a little more Chinese, even if you are not big on consulting the lunar calendar for, e.g., good days to get married or what have you.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

iPod RAM

Apple does not advertise the amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) in the iPod (or iPhone or iPad). On computers, memory normally refers to RAM. However, common (Apple-promoted) usage of the word memory in the iOS device context refers to what is typically known as storage on computers (hard drive or solid state drive capacity).

Some folks typically take apart each new Apple device to find out how much RAM it has, then post their findings on the web. Based on that information, my 3rd generation iPod has 256 MB. In practice the question of whether your iOS device has enough RAM probably boils down to, "Does it do what you need it to do?"

In my earlier experimentation, I was loading 4 Chinese dictionary apps. That, plus being in the midst of watching a movie on Netflix and loading multiple pages in Safari may have been the most demanding usage I was making on my iPod's RAM. In any case, I began experiencing performance delays.

Entering my Passcode, there would be a delay between when I tapped the screen and the (normal) black dots showed up. When I wrote Chinese characters using strokes, there would be a delay before the strokes actually appeared on screen.

I also started experiencing crashes in Safari. On the iPod, restarting Safari is pretty quick, so that didn't really put me into a tizzy. I also experienced one crash in Notespark while editing a note that was entirely in Chinese.

I eventually concluded which of the 4 Chinese dictionary apps met my needs best, so I no longer needed to access the others with any frequency. After 2 longish "intermissions", I also finally finished watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Netflix. That allowed me to release the RAM those apps might have been holding.

After double-pressing the Home button to show recently used apps, tap-hold any of the app icons until a red "minus" circle appears in the left corner of each icon (the icons also start jiggling). Tapping on the red minus circle of one of those recently used apps should release any RAM it has been holding onto.

Reducing the number of apps in that recently used set, and keeping fewer pages open in Safari seem to have largely eliminated my iPod RAM issues. It would be swell if my iPod had the 512 MB RAM that the iPhone 4 and iPad 2 have, but managing my app usage a little more tightly seems to have eliminated practical issues.

Someday I may go back to using apps with wild abandon, without explicitly freeing RAM as described above, to see if any issues surface, now that I'm largely done testing those 4 Chinese dictionary apps. After all, ideally a consumer need not concern himself overly much with RAM issues. If I find anything of interest, I will try to update this entry.
4/27/11: Forget that wild abandon. Slow performance in Safari showed up almost immediately.

8/26/12: On my (now) 4th generation iPod running iOS 5.1.1, I had more apps open than I realized, and was surprised to discover that it was so low on available RAM that it couldn't send Camera Roll pictures out via e-mail, and within the Mail app, the Outbox messages did not even show the images.

10/22/12: Once again, I had more apps open than I realized, and found that the Mail app could update neither the iPod's mail message counts, nor mail messages for activity (e.g., deletion) that had already occurred on the multiple mail servers I use. Because of my 8/26/12 experience, I quickly realized what the problem likely was, and quit other apps to free up RAM, and things worked again as desired.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Brought to you by the letter R

I find it interesting that the general sound associated with the letter R in English, when present in any of the languages which I've studied, is qualitatively different from the English sound.
  • Chinese: Something of a cross between R and a very light G as in rouge (a word which itself has French origins), an example being 日 (rì; sun, day). The sole exception I know of is when the R is followed by UI (Pinyin) in, e.g., 瑞 (ruì; lucky, auspicious), when there is no very light rouge-G sound; in this specific Pinyin context only, it seems very much like an English R to me.
  • French: Comes with an "airy" H sound, i.e., R is aspirated, as in rural (rural), one of the French words I find most difficult to pronounce smoothly (though the U doesn't make it any easier!). When double-checking on "aspirated", I saw that P in pie is given as an example of an aspirated letter; I wasn't particularly aware of that aspiration as a native speaker.
  • Japanese: A cross between an R and an L, e.g., in this romaji (Roman letter) rendering: arigato (thank you).
  • Spanish: R is "rolling" (along the tongue), and there is also RR, which is even more rolling, as in borrador (chalkboard eraser). Keep those two sounds straight for pero (but) and perro (dog)....
  • Taiwanese: There is no R-type sound, as my former Taiwanese teacher confirmed. (A Cantonese-speaking friend also said Cantonese has no R-type sound.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Calculator on iPod and Palm

One thing I was very pleased to see on the iPod Calculator was the fact that if you entered, e.g., 2 + 3, the + button would have an "illuminated" border around it after being pressed. I like having an indicator that shows if the last button you pressed was an arithmetic operator. This may be more important to me since I normally set the iPod to not make any sound when I tap a key, so I get no auditory confirmation. Along with that, Apple chose to not let multiple consecutive presses of the same arithmetic operator change the running total. If you were entering, e.g., 5 + 5, on the iPod, you could never do inadvertent additions by hitting the + key more than once in a row (e.g., if you couldn't remember whether you had last pressed 5 or +, you might press + a second time), as would occur in the Palm Calc application.

In Palm's defense, if you hide the Graffiti section of the screen, you can see a display of entries like you might see on an adding machine, which could help you prevent inadvertently changing your running total (I just learned this now, as I am leaving the Palm platform!). As far as I can remember, in all my years of (periodic) usage of the Palm Calc application, I always had the Graffiti section of the screen visible, because I normally had it visible when doing other things, so it remained visible when I invoked Calc. Perhaps Palm should have hidden the Graffiti section of the screen by default when the Calc application was started. What user is going to prefer to use Graffiti software to enter digits when Calc already gives you nice big buttons for each?

The iPod Calculator's "clear" button's label is AC initially (All Clear, i.e., reset running total to zero), which is the same function as C on the Palm. After you enter a number, it changes to C (clear entry), which is done by the CE button on the Palm. It changes back to AC after you press C. After mistyping a digit on a multi-digit number which was not the first in a sequence of numbers I was adding, I was briefly put out when, looking at the C button, I mistakenly thought there was no clear entry functionality -- I hadn't noticed that that same button was labeled AC at the start.

Note also that after entering a sequence like 6 + 7 + 8, if you press C to clear the entry of 8, the + sign remains illuminated as a helpful indicator about what you've pressed. So in that case, your running total of 13 is still active, although 0 is displayed because it's waiting for you to enter the next addend.

The iPod Calculator has an m- (memory minus) button which Palm lacks, which might be useful. It will probably be more useful than the % and √ (square root) keys the Palm has but which the iPod lacks.

Winner: iPod.

The Android calculator apparently shows math operations horizontally in the display, e.g., 1+2+3 shows exactly like that, not just as 1, then 2, then 3, as would be the case on iPod or Palm. Press = to see the total. Presumably it follows My Dear Aunt Sally's rule of Multiplication & Division operations first, then Addition & Subtraction operations, if there were a mix of the two types.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tips for editing text on the iPod

Most of the tips below were initially tested on iOS 4.2.1. Most or all of them likely work under higher versions of the iOS.

The purely technical content below is likely all in the iPod touch User Guide, a link to which is initially provided in iPod Safari. Apple has apparently replaced the previous iOS 4.2 PDF file with one for iOS 4.3, and another for iOS 5.1 is available (as of 8/25/12, anyway).

See Settings > General > Keyboard for some of the following. I changed some of my settings, and no longer remember exactly which ones were the factory defaults. Experience-based comments below are mine. I use many of these techniques frequently.
  • When editing text, to bring up the choice of Select / Select All / Paste, two quick taps after the end of the line, before the next line (if applicable), is faster than tap-hold; if you're in the search bar, there is no next line. If you are replying to an e-mail message, two quick taps before the body text of the e-mail to which you are replying may do the trick (it did for me in Yahoo! mail). Cut or copied text survives even turning the iPod off (by holding the button down for several seconds and doing a slide to power off); if you've never cut or copied text, presumably Paste is not an option.
  • Double-tap on a word to bring up Cut / Copy / Paste / Replace. Replace will offer suggestions if it can.
  • To select the text from the left margin (after a hard return, if you are not at the top of the file) until the next hard return, use two fingers simultaneously, with space between them, to tap the text. Not easy to do on a short line of text, where the alternate, equivalent-effect technique of rapid quadruple-tap should work better.  Quadruple-tap is also helpful if you have only one finger to spare for such text selection, e.g., if you are holding the iPod with one hand and even using a finger from the same hand to do various actions.
  • If you have Auto-Capitalization enabled in Settings > General > Keyboard, the pronoun I and some words like English can be entered lower case; iOS will capitalize them.
  • After existing text, tap space twice to get a period and a space. It's common to want a period and a space. You can of course then delete the space, if it's extraneous. This technique is efficient for things like "p." (page). It works perfectly for things like "St. John" because the first letter after the period is capitalized, so you could just type S-t-space-space-j-o-h-n, i.e., you don't have to tap Shift to get a capital J.
  • Many contractions such as can't and won't can be typed without entering the apostrophe; iOS will put the apostrophe in.
  • If you want to undo the typing (pasting) you've just done, shake the iPod. You'll be given the choice to Undo Typing (Undo Paste) or Cancel. If you choose the Undo X option, shake the iPod again to additionally get a Redo Typing (Redo Paste) option, and be presented with another level of Undo. Not sure how many levels you can get. An interesting practical difference between the iPod and iPad; here's a thread on shake/undo for the iPad. Not every operation is easier on the iPad!
  • Analogous to the previous tip, Undo Delete is also possible with a shake. I usually need this when I am editing a longer piece of text in an input box (like Title for a Calendar event or Safari's search bar), and my finger comes close to the X delete-circle-icon, and I accidentally touch it, inadvertently deleting my text.
  • I previously wrote about getting Special characters in French and Spanish, and I just learned from that the analogous technique applies to getting a web address suffix different from the .com, like .net or .org. Presumably it's because I have a traditional Chinese keyboard enabled that I can also get .台灣 (.Taiwan).
  • When using either the letter or number keyboard, you can get a single character from the other keyboard by tapping and holding the "123" or "ABC" key (whichever is available), then drag your finger to the desired character, finally lifting your finger from the screen. After that, you will return to the keyboard from which you started. (This behavior is not applicable to the "#+=" keyboard which is accessible from the number keyboard.) This can be useful for things like "e.g." and website names (aaa.bbb.ccc).
    This technique saves typing for text with intermixed letters and numbers (and/or punctuation, like the "h-j-k-l" I needed to write a couple of times). Punctuation using a matched pair of characters, e.g., parentheses, single quotes, and double quotes, can be much more efficiently entered. Chess writers like myself will find this technique (and the next one) beneficial for typing game moves such as "1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 f6?? 3 Nxe5!".
  • When using the letter keyboard, you can capitalize a letter which wouldn't otherwise be capitalized (e.g., the a in apple if you wanted to refer to the company) by tapping and holding the "shift" (up arrow) key, then dragging your finger to the desired character, finally lifting your finger from the screen. This may be faster than tapping shift, then tapping the letter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

English idiosyncracies

Did you ever notice that the stress is on the first syllable in preview, but on the second syllable in review?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Special characters in French and Spanish

When I was in college, one of my roommates had one of those newfangled (at the time) Apple Macintosh computers. He let me use it for a French paper, and I was ecstatic that I could enter accented characters like é simply by pressing a key combination, a feat totally outside the capabilities of the typewriter I'd been using for papers. Apple got it way back then, and they still got it.

I previously wrote on my first (much less active) blog about how OpenOffice 3.1 [is] markedly less convenient than Microsoft Word 2007 for common accent marks in French. Microsoft got it, too. OpenOffice...not so much.

It is even easier to input special characters in French and Spanish in iOS. Instead of just tapping a letter (or character), tap-and-hold, then slide your finger to select from any alternate choices that appear, and "let go" (lift your finger from the screen). You can even get œ (tap-and-hold o), which is not in the "Western European Latin Alphabet #1", as I'd previously written. For Spanish, it is also possible to get the upside down question mark (¿) and exclamation point (¡).

If you're working primarily in English with a dab of French or Spanish here and there, there's no need to add the French or Spanish virtual keyboards, just tap-and-hold and choose the character variant as described above.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Podcasts for advanced French lessons

7/8/12: Click for my blog entry about (later abandoned) complementary usage of the iOS 5.1 Podcasts app.

Having just been jarred awake about getting podcasts "over the air" onto my iPod using the Music app, here are my candidates for working on improving my French (I may update this list over time):
  • French Podcast ("Linguistic 360: News in Slow French". Around 30 minutes each until episode 141 (released 11/8/13), after which free episode content ends after about 7 minutes; within PC iTunes it appears this shortening of free content (perhaps for streaming use) occurred earlier, after episode 136 (released 10/4/13). I normally download (instead of stream) over wifi to my iPod, and episode 142 is my first short one. Probably the slowest speed French of these 3 podcasts, as befits its name. Acknowledging the difficulty in getting used to larger numbers in French, the hosts typically repeat them twice; a grammar and idiomatic expressions [e.g., poser un lapin, to stand someone up, not to give someone a rabbit] segment comes at the end of each program. Text included: summary; outline of news; outline of grammar and idiomatic expression topics.) The primary host Rylan describes the podcast as intermediate in episode 163, and probably in others as well. While it's admittedly News in Slow French, the vast majority of the content is entirely in French, which to me seems fairly categorized as advanced.
  • Learn French with (Around 5 minutes each. Mix of normal and slower speed French, depending on the episode. Words and expressions are routinely repeated to assist listener learning. Spelling tips for words are often given. Occasional dictation exercises, which can be checked at the website. Text included: ~3-4 lines introducing the lesson content, typically ending in "...".)
    8/22/11: I wonder if there is some hidden internal number for each podcast episode, or some other issue at play. I had (have) episodes 835-1212 showing sequentially from top to bottom on my iPod, but subsequent episodes, starting from 1213, are loading (sequentially) at the top (before 835). Not a particular problem, but odd.
    10/24/11: After a sync with my PC, the sorting was corrected for all the episodes I had. However, episodes 1213 and on had their playing times changed to 0:00, and their "album art" was lost. Newly downloaded episodes are coming with the album art and proper playing times, but they are regrettably loading at the top of the list, just like 1213 and on did previously.
    10/29/11: I think it was another subsequent sync with my PC which ended up eliminating the album art from the main listing of episodes in the Music app (which is actually good, since more of each episode's title is now visible in that list), and the sorted the episodes properly again. We'll see what happens after future episode downloads and syncs with PC iTunes....
    9/22/12: Episode 1453 was for a long time sitting incorrectly at the end of the list, out of order. Today I deleted it, then downloaded it again, and Voilà! It (and, I think, all the episodes) are all in the correct order!
  • One thing in a French day (Around 3 minutes each. Normal "gentle" speed French. Until 6/4/13, the FULL TEXT, minus standard introduction and closing, of podcast is included!! After that, only the first third of the text is included -- the 6/4/13 episode ["Le podcast évolue"] explaining this format change is how I learned that (le) tiers means "third". The full text is available to paid subscribers of her newsletter. When the full text was available within the iOS 5 Music app, everything was together in one place, available without needing wifi as long as a podcast episode had been downloaded in advance. That's more significant to iPod users, who are less often connected to the Internet, but even subscribers with iPhones may find the separation of the components inconvenient.)

I found the longer News in Slow French nice to listen to during hands-full cooking. Some listeners may object that one of the hosts is not a native French speaker (probably an American, I would guess; don't know if he ever states where he's from), but he has good style and carries on lively dialogue with the other host (hostess, usually; a few different women during the time I've been listening).

I previously listened to my old friend Louis (Learn French with on the Zune during quiet lunches, when it was convenient to replay things for review. Louis explains many words and expressions. Dialogues are at normal "unfettered" speed; he explains selected content, and then you hear the dialogue a second time.

I was beaming for quite some time when I accidentally tapped the iPod screen and discovered that text is included with these podcasts (associated text may be available at the websites, too, but I don't normally go to those, I just listen on the iPod). I happened to be listening to One thing in a French day, which, as noted above, included the full text until 6/4/13, so this discovery was particularly exciting. That text gives me an option to just have some French reading practice, if I'm ever in a situation where listening to the podcast is inconvenient or undesirable. Because of its format, One thing in a French day lends itself well to (potentially) including the entire text (swipe up and down to scroll). The other two podcasts have lengthier content, so it's perhaps less practical for those creators to include the full text.

All of these podcasts are wonderful, and in just a couple of days of listening, I feel I have already learned good stuff. Did you know the (or at least some) French say arobase for the @ in e-mail addresses? Laetitia (One thing in a French day) includes that in each episode's closing, so I looked up what I incorrectly imagined was a robase. Common name for a cell phone? That's portable, which I know now from Rylan (French Podcast). Louis (Learn French with taught me that I had the wrong impression of how to pronounced suggérer (to suggest) -- I didn't think there was a (brief) hard g sound in it at all.

There may be other similarly wonderful advanced French podcasts, but these showed up first on iTunes in my search (real estate's "Location, location, location!" is analogous to the value assigned by Google's Page Rank), but I doubt I'll look further as long as these creators continue to produce more, similar quality episodes.

Occasional episodes from Learn French with (e.g., 1270 - Real Life French: un attroupement) and from One thing in a French day (e.g., Le parc de Couzieu) report that they "cannot be played on this iPod" when I try to download them. I'm not sure why, but it is not a big deal if I miss an episode here or there.

While some podcasts have little value after having been listened to, I always wished that I could mark a podcast series as one whose episodes should not be deleted by Zune sync-with-PC operations. I never found an option in the PC Zune software to do that.

I am so pleased that retention of podcasts on an iPod is totally under the user's control (some info from Apple discussions). I no longer have to fear that my French (or other) podcasts will be deleted against my wishes during such synchronization.

Previously, on my 3rd generation iPod Touch running iOS 4.3.5 (10/18/12: I've actually been on a 4th generation iPod Touch running iOS 5.1.1 for some time now), processing a long list of podcast episodes does take a significant amount of time:
  • When the Music app displays the list of my ~300 and growing episodes from Learn French with
  • Directly switching from the Music app to the podcast source in the iTunes app as I describe here is also slow. On 10/29/11, that podcast lists 293 episodes.
In the iTunes app on 10/29/11, Linguistic 360: News in Slow French has 35 total (lifetime) episodes, and One thing in a French day has 20, which Laetitia has presumably chosen as the maximum to show there at one time.

After syncing to a PC, in the left panel under Devices > (your device name) > Podcasts, you can see how many times you've listened to a particular episode, which may be of interest.

Although I often use the White Noise app to help drown out external noise when trying to sleep, on quieter (too quiet?) nights, I have sometimes found it helpful to fall asleep to some One thing in a French day episodes (perhaps excluding those involving excited children ;-) ), though I doubt that is greatly strengthening my French....

11/26/11: Under iOS 5.0.1 (I used iOS 4 when I first wrote this entry), I recently noticed that after tapping the FREE button for an episode, it turns into DOWNLOAD for some podcasts, but into GET EPISODE for others (only Learn French with of the above three podcasts). DOWNLOAD doesn't get redrawn on the iPod when tapped, which speeds up the process of queuing for download, particularly helpful when you're downloading many episodes. Maybe the GET EPISODE button has some benefit for podcast producers?

10/18/12: Under iOS 5.1.1 on my 4th generation iPod Touch, which is now loaded with over 800 French podcast episodes, I try to quit all other apps before loading new episodes. For Learn French with, of which I have 512 episodes, I try not to queue up more than one at a time for downloading, to minimize the risk of iTunes crashing, based on unpleasant experience.

4/27/13: I rarely use Spotlight Search for anything, but I just realized that if you allow it to search Podcasts (in Settings > General > Spotlight Search), you can search podcast episode titles, which could help you do word(s)-focused review. I just did such a search for Grève (strike), and 5 episodes from Learn French with came up. Spotlight Search is apparently a case-insensitive "and" search, so if you enter "soleil du" or "du soleil" you will only get episode titles having both of those words (anywhere), and not those having only one of those words.

You mean I can play music on my iPod?

I'm one of those people who doesn't have a great need for new music.  I've been largely content with my CD collection for years, which I ripped to my PC and also transferred to my Zune, a gift from a relative who had no need for it. The only artist whose works I almost always buy is Jackson Browne, and it's only as I prepared this blog entry that I learned from this jackson browne discography, maintained by another fan, that I've missed two(!) albums since 2008.

My iPod's port hardware is unreliable to the point of the iPod generally not showing up within my PC's iTunes after connecting iPod and PC with the USB cord. Since that type of connection is how I would copy my music collection to my iPod, I had expected not to put any music on the iPod.

However, after opening the Music app ("You have no songs", or something like that), I was guided by Apple's savvy to the iTunes app. I had previously put the iTunes app into an "Entertainment" group, which I had largely forgotten about given my other (happy) use of the iPod.

In iPod iTunes, I downloaded the 4 free songs currently being promoted. I subsequently discovered that I wouldn't be able to delete them from the iPod since I lack access (reliable access, in any case) to my iPod though my PC's iTunes. Okay, so no more wild downloading of free songs -- who needs additional clutter?
(8/1/11: With some cable fiddling I got my iPod to be recognized by my PC's iTunes, after which a second pair of hands helped me delete those songs. If I released my awkward hold on the cable, my iPod would immediately disappear from within my PC's iTunes. Right before that, I was also finally able to update my iOS to 4.3.5 from 4.2.1 using the same type of cable fiddling.)

However, podcasts can be deleted directly from the iPod, and that is a whole 'nother thing (and future blog entry).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

iPod is a dream device for practicing Chinese

For years I have kept notes of assorted Chinese vocabulary to which I have been exposed and which I seek to remember. Most of those notes are on paper, but occasionally they are in electronic form, like in Palm Note Pad, which allowed drawing of anything, e.g., Chinese characters, as graphics.

With the iPod, I finally have a take-everywhere combined reference and repository to lookup (via dictionary apps, such as these) and record (using Notespark) things. I am manually transferring some of my Palm Note Pad Chinese vocabulary to the iPod, and perhaps will similarly transfer some of my old paper entries.

Within Notespark, I have a 中文 生詞 (Chinese vocabulary) Tag. Each note labeled with that tag typically gets the "triplet" of English + Chinese character + Pinyin, e.g.:

paper clip 迴紋針 huíwénzhēn

Limiting a note to a single vocabulary item allows me to see a list of the items I've entered for easy review, even if the entire triplet (which becomes the note's title), is not immediately visible. If I want to record a date or some other piece of information with a vocabulary note (e.g., because it helps me think of associated circumstances), I put it on the first line, which makes it the note's title instead. The triplet still shows up underneath the title, in a smaller font size, and in gray instead of in black.

Originally I labeled these vocabulary notes with a 中文 (Chinese) Tag, but I now use that Tag strictly for notes which contain Chinese but are not intended as vocabulary records.

Since the iPod supports entering Chinese characters via strokes, I am able to practice my character writing skills, instead of just exercising my phonetic memory of words to generate characters using Pinyin, the typical computer method. Using Chinese this way in notes, e-mail, and blog posts is fun with the iPod!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tone sandhi, particularly in names

One of the things that makes Chinese challenging to learn is the tone in which a syllable needs to be spoken in order to convey the correct meaning. There are 5 such tones; 4 primary ones, plus a "neutral" tone, the 5th (I will generally not put any number after a neutral tone Pinyin syllable).

There are also tone sandhi, rules which dictate if a tone needs to change to a different tone because of the tone of the following syllable.

And then, there are the inevitable inconsistencies. Here are some among names used to address people.

Bruce Lee's Chinese name is 李小龍. In Pinyin those individual syllables are Li3 Xiao3 long2, but tone sandhi dictates that two third tones in a row should be pronounced as a 2nd and a 3rd tone, respectively.  Thus, his full name is pronounced Li2 Xiao3long2.

That's the same tone sandhi rule that says that if you hear Xu2 Lao3shi1, you cannot know if that is, e.g., 許老師 (Xu3 Lao3shi1) or 徐老師 (Xu2 Lao3shi1), because both names are pronounced the same way due to tone sandhi effects on the former.

However, it seems to be that if a two-syllable word which follows a last name is already two 3rd tones, then you don't apply this tone sandhi rule.  So for 3-character names, you may have to know the tones of the second and third characters to know how you should pronounce the first.

The individual syllables of Yo-Yo Ma's Chinese name 馬友友 are each 3rd tones: Ma3 You3 you3.  However his "given name" of 友友 in some ways is a unit on its own, and tone sandhi already changes it to be pronounced You2you3.  For his name, that renders moot the idea of tone sandhi for 馬, which is now followed by a 2nd tone, not by a 3rd tone.

This same pattern repeats for President Ma of Taiwan: 馬總統 is Ma3 Zong3tong3, which is pronounced Ma3 Zong2tong3. This would also be the case for any random "Boss Ma", 馬老闆: Ma3 Lao3ban3 would change from tone sandhi to be pronounced Ma3 Lao2ban3. (Woo, I must have forgotten how 闆 is written, that feels a bit odd.)

Tone sandhi applies to the name of Confucius, 孔子, whose individual syllables are Kong3 Zi3, but which is pronounced Kong2 Zi3. Of course, when I first encountered his name that was not obvious to me, since most or all the words I'd encountered with 子 in it did not have it pronounced as zi3, but as zi (neutral tone), e.g., 孩子 (hai2 zi; child),兒子 (er2 zi; son). I consequently mistakenly thought it was pronounced Kong3 zi. Probably 子 is always pronounced Zi3 when it is part of someone's name.

In English the indefinite article a changes to an when followed by a vowel, e.g., an apple. Tone sandhi is vaguely like that, but rather more difficult.  The tone sandhi rule I described above is one of the most striking, but there are other tone sandhi rules, too.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Converting Palm Calendar to iPod

4/8/11: Stop the blog presses, I eventually concluded there were too many problems and other issues with the data conversion I tried (some details below). I exported the partially messed-up data I had from Google Calendar, then imported that into a different Google account. Next I deleted the (original) linked iPod-Google Calendar from each end, and remade my Google Calendar from scratch, using selective Windows Copy and Paste operations between the two Google Calendar accounts using different browsers (and occasionally copying text from Palm Desktop), doing various modifications along the way. The result is a much cleaner set of events, without historical event record baggage (and any associated performance hit when syncing).

If you have a need to keep your historical events and/or you sync more than just your own calendar, good luck -- based on my experience, you are going to need it, if you hope to have your data "properly" converted.
5/20/11: It turns out you may need good luck even to sync your own calendar (see below), although my problem with deleting events may have been fixed with my upgrade from iOS 4.2.1 to 4.3.5. Some pre-4.3.5 version higher than 4.2.1 may have fixed it, but I have no idea which one, if so.


After reviewing this thread (82 replies to original query as of 4/3/11) and (read all tabs on that page, currently Setup/Sync Calendars/Known Issues), I used PdbConverter (, whose author kindly made it available for free. The process involves converting your Palm DateBook.mdb file to an iCalendar file, then uploading that to a Google Calendar account and synching that with your iPod's Calendar app.

Years ago I synched my Palm Calendar with PC MeetingMaker, but after multiple instances of data corruption (some apparently related to Daylight Saving Time), I gave up that synching. My Palm Calendar data has long been maintained and accessed solely by me, manually. I hope I encounter few, if any, data glitches from the synching that I'll now be doing with Google Calendar. (4/8/11: So much for that hope.)

I generally don't keep or care about historical records on my Palm Calendar. According to my recollection, I had deleted many (all?) of the non-repeating historical ones on the Palm prior to this conversion, intending to reduce unimportant data baggage. However, when I made one last pre-conversion backup of my Palm data to my PC using Palm's HotSync Manager, I think I forgot to change the settings to Handheld overwrites Desktop, so the default of Synchronize the files applied, horribly effectively undoing my deletion of historical records.

I never had any need to use Palm Categories (e.g., Business, Personal) for Calendar records, so that simplified my data conversion.

In some of my other app research, someone suggested simply using Google's free calendar app. I want as much of my iPod functionality to be available even when I'm not online, so I rejected that option.

  • Calendar search is available at the top of the List view. Both the List view entries and search results are limited to records going back one year (as I see from repeating events); see I largely use the Calendar for future events, so that search limitation probably won't hamper my usage.
  • Google Calendar apparently defaulted all my converted events to send me e-mail 10 minutes beforehand. I quickly changed my settings to put a stop to that, and to other unwanted e-mail notifications.
  • When logging into this gmail account using the Google app, I was asked whether to allow the app to use 10 more MB on my iPod, to which I agreed. That was presumably related to the calendar conversion.
  • If you turn off the iPod when Calendar is running as the foreground application, when you turn the iPod back on, regardless of whether you are in the List/Day/Month view, you will be taken to today's date (and the current time) (4/9/11: This behavior does not seem consistent; I don't know what the deal is.). That does not happen if you close the Calendar and reopen it later, even if you turn the iPod off in between. If I am looking at a future (or past) date, that unstoppable go-to-today behavior is counterintuitive and undesirable -- it means I have to do more work to get back to that date, which I may not have finished dealing with when I turned the iPod off. There is already a Today button which can accomplish the same thing but only at the user's request (tap). The obvious workaround is to always close the Calendar before turning off the iPod, but we shouldn't have to do or remember that.
  • To keep data cleaner (e.g., to avoid spurious results in searches), delete repeating events through Google Calendar, which allows deletion of All events in the series. The iPod Calendar can only Delete This Event Only ( = Google's Only this instance) or Delete All Future Events ( = Google's All following). I had tried to limit repeating events to one month in the past on the iPod in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Calendars > Sync, but that doesn't seem to have applied to the initial retrieval of calendar data from Google. Depending on your intended change, you might also want to modify repeating events through Google Calendar.
  • Although on the iPod, you cannot enter an Xth Y-day of the month repeating event, e.g., the first Friday of the month, you can do so in Google Calendar and let that sync with your iPod
    (5/7/11: Some subsequent iPod modification of such an event apparently caused it to later show on the iPod under Repeat > Custom as "Every month on the (null) Friday", which in practice meant EVERY Friday, so this workaround isn't perfect. I almost never use my Google Calendar except for the add/delete "tricks" I write about in this blog entry, so I'm pretty certain the problem originated from iPod event modification(s). I can't reproduce this problem now with a new event and a few simple test modifications, though. I'll likely keep using this technique, since the apparent potential downside is limited.).
    Don't overlook using Google Calendar's strengths; the iPod can "understand" more options than it allows you to use natively. Perhaps more options will be available in future iOS versions.
  • 5/16/11: Ugh, that makes twice (!) today that about a month's worth of past events (back to 4/11/11) which I had previously deleted from the iPod abruptly reappeared, and had to be deleted for a second and third time. This bad behavior might be reproduced by flicking backwards in the List view too quickly (?) -- I know I have a tendency to do that. The associated Google Calendar account showed a 4/12/11 instance of a repeating event, which was apparently resurrected each time.  The 2nd time the iPod calendar went wacko on me I also found two more instances of a different repeating event on 4/22/11 and 4/23/11 in Google Calendar. Anyway, I delete the bad events wherever they are found, and hope for better behavior in the future. When I get more time I will search to see if others have experienced similar problems, and if there is a recommended solution. I switched Calendars > Sync to the minimum of 2 weeks back instead of the 1 Month Back which it had been set on. I also got rid of a rarely-used Google Mail account which I had recently added for Mail only -- maybe that was interfering with the other Google account which I am using via Exchange for Contacts and Calendar? Perhaps not allowing "over the air" syncing to finish before exiting Calendar causes problems?
    5/20/11: Argh, once again, many of the same events have returned on the iPod from the land of the already-deleted, dating from 4/12/11. Four events similarly returned on the Google Calendar side, dating from 4/12/11.
    (Man, I miss my Palm Calendar!)
    6/2/11: Yet again, events dating from 4/12/11 which I'd previously deleted have reappeared. I was just deleting events from 6/2/11 and 6/3/11 when the event List temporarily displayed only those two days, I got this bad sinking feeling, and bam, long-deleted events were back again, yet again.
    8/27/11: I am cautiously optimistic that my earlier deleted events are finally staying deleted. I deleted them on the iPod very patiently (i.e., I waited for the "throbber" icon to stop rotating after every delete operation before starting the next one, to avoid possible data processing "race condition" errors), and they actually seem to be truly gone now. Perhaps it was a bug in iOS 4.2.1? I was only able to upgrade to 4.3.5 earlier this month; maybe that fixed this problem.
    10/7/11: Ugh, cautiously was the right adverb for optimistic. Quite a number of my previously deleted events from as far back as 4/2011 are back again. Maybe iOS 5 will fix this, but I am not sanguine about such prospects.

Free Spanish dictionary apps: Span¡shD¡Ct

Parent blog entry:

  • Word Game is fun for someone with my level of Spanish knowledge (I have to make educated guesses relatively often). A Spanish word is presented (with definite article if a noun) along with audio pronunciation, and you choose between 4 English translation choices. The exercises get harder if you get more correct answers, and easier if you make mistakes.
  • Word Game: English misspellings (e.g., fourty instead of forty, lightening instead of lightning).
  • Word Game: Spanish word(s?) inadvertently included in English translation choices (mapa).
  • Ads.

11/26/11: For a free Spanish-Spanish dictionary, see this blog entry.

Free Spanish dictionary apps

Below are the free Spanish-English dictionary apps I'm trying out. Each one also gets its own separate blog entry, into which incremental updates will flow over time. If I ever feel those entries are sufficiently mature, I may make a chart comparing all of these apps.
One or more (all?) of these apps have more powerful paid versions, but for now I don't have a need for capabilities beyond what I've found in the free versions.

11/26/11: For a free Spanish-Spanish dictionary, see this blog entry.

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Converting" Palm Contacts to iPod

In my Palm Contacts, I generally only kept basic information on a small set of people and organizations with whom I connected more frequently. I transferred that data to my iPod primarily by using the iPod's Exchange account capabilities in its Mail, Contacts, Calendars area, using a gmail account as a contacts conduit. I don't actually use that gmail account to e-mail anyone; its primary utility to me is to provide a web interface into, and to serve as a backup repository for, my iPod contacts.

As I had done with my Palm Tasks, I used my PC to transfer some data using copy and paste between Palm Desktop and gmail's web interface. I entered some data on the iPod, through which I could enter, e.g., a person's Chinese character name as "Nickname" using "Add Field". Gmail's Add dropdown list allows you to add a nickname (or other fields, e.g., Title and Company), but I couldn't conveniently add Chinese characters from my PC.

Google now provides the capability of restoring contact data from within the past 30 days, which could certainly be useful if, e.g., you mistakenly delete some:
Thanks, Google! You're an even better backup buddy now!

Miscellaneous notes about the process follow.  Any item here may no longer be relevant in the future, and it's always possible I misremembered or misrecorded something, but maybe these will be helpful. I only rechecked some of these before adding them here.
  • "Google Sync for iOS devices is still in beta" (as of 4/2/11), per Google's note under the "Known Issues" tab on (same link as given above). Prospective users of this method should read
  • Do not double-click on a Windows .vcf file (a Contacts transfer avenue out of Palm Desktop that I investigated, but in the end did not use) that contains lots of records, as you will be forced to manually close each one of them.
  • The order of phones entered in gmail is significant. The iPod's order is work/work/home/mobile/pager; the default type for input is mobile.
  • "Other" or "Main" as a phone type from gmail will not sync to the iPod as phone.
  • 3 different phones and 2 different e-mails seemed to be the most that would come over from gmail for a given contact via a sync operation.
  • iPod entry does not allow for 2+ home phone numbers or 3+ generic work numbers.
  • Gmail defaults to sorting by first name, but you can change that to last name (which would match the iPod).
  • Gmail data entry work/home distinction of e-mail gets lost in the sync to the iPod.
  • It doesn't seem possible to turn off synching (with the idea of only periodically re-enabling such temporarily) without losing all contacts stored on the iPod, so there will be ongoing synching and concurrent battery-draining (except when in Airplane Mode). Even though I quite rarely update my iPod Contacts, at least I'm protected from forgetting to sync, and consequently finding my iPod and gmail contacts out of sync (but see important 7/31/11 note below).
4/3/11: jmcrsb wrote "from palm desktop v6.2.1 exporting all the contacts as Vcard format allowed nearly perfect import into gmail contacts" in this Google discussion thread, but I'm already done with my Contacts "conversion".

I misunderstood exactly which iPod contacts get synced to Google. I have occasionally entered new contacts from scratch on the iPod. I mistakenly thought that that contact data was syncing to Google, but it wasn't. The reason I was confused is because if I had originally entered a contact on Google, then iPod updates to that contact's data would get synced to Google. However, totally new entries on the iPod get no link to the Google account, UNLESS they are entered under the Exchange group under Contacts, which I didn't do.
(8/28/11: If you press and hold on, e.g., a phone number in an e-mail message, you are prompted with a choice to Create New Contact or Add to Existing Contact. Following along with what I wrote above, Create New Contact will only add the entry on the iPod, not on Google. So for my purposes for new contacts, it's better to copy the phone number text and paste it in while manually creating the new contact under the Exchange group.)

As I have mentioned in other blog entries, my iPod has a hardware problem; I have no regularly reliable way of backing up my iPod's contact data through my PC's iTunes connection, so instead rely on Google for such backup. To correct this just-discovered data problem, I manually created duplicates of these iPod-entered contacts, some in my Google account, and some on the iPod but this time under the Exchange group under Contacts. That gave me the Google backup that I mistakenly thought I was already getting.

Then I deleted the original data for each of those contacts, data which was only on my iPod. In some cases, I no longer needed a contact's data to be on the iPod, so those I simply deleted without first duplicating them on Google. I had one contact entry which is merely one of my own e-mail accounts, which I don't need or want synced elsewhere, and it serves as a little reminder to me about where to enter new contacts on the iPod when I want them backed up to Google.

Presuming you sync your iPod Contacts to Google as I describe above, then when you lack WiFi access to the Internet, I strongly recommend you switch the iPod to Airplane Mode before accessing Contacts. Twice when away from home (and consequently away from my usual WiFi) I failed to do that, and my iPod seemed to have gone into continuous overdrive trying to find WiFi access, presumably in order to synchronize my Contacts data with Google's. The iPod got hotter than I remember it ever getting on any other occasion (8/22/11: Hmm, queueing up multiple podcasts to load at one time also heats the iPod up significantly.). In one case, I completely powered down the iPod until I could get it to WiFi access again, although other solutions might also have been able to get it to cool down.