Mar 29, 2016

How tight is your muzzle?

When applied today, the rules conceived to protect the weak from the powerful, provide shelter to multinationals like Capita, SOSi, and LionBridge who take advantage, with the blessing of some of our professional associations, of the legal ban to talk about fees and working conditions of professional interpreters and translators who are forced to negotiate with commercial, not professional, entities who take advantage of any circumstance they can use in their favor. 
But it does not need to be that way....

Read the full text of colleague Tony Rosado's post on the ATA's "revisitation" of its policies on rate discussions, et cetera, here.

Mar 17, 2016

Dynamic filtering with regular expressions in memoQ

Regular expressions (aka regex) are not a tool for everyone, though this is something that the nerdily inclined often fail to appreciate. For average users, a plain language query interface, perhaps with more limited options, is generally more accessible and used. However, sometimes it's nice to have such "shortcuts" available to select particular structures in a text for translation or editing, and the many people who complained for years that Kilgray did not provide a dynamic regex filter for the working translation grid - a feature of SDL Trados Studio for quite a while now - did have a point worth addressing in development. Now that has happened, though still a bit incompletely when considered in the full scope of memoQ's usual features for selecting text.

memoQ uses regex in a number of its modules, and Kilgray has several webinars which describe these applications, though they require some stamina to watch, and I expect that most people will become hopelessly confused if they try to take in more than one area of application in a single sitting. The uses of regex for segmentation rules, tagging, autotranslatables and text filtering on document import (with the Regex Text Filter) are very different in their approach, even though the underlying syntax of the regex is the same. However, all of these applications allow the configured rules to be saved and re-used, so one could ask an expert to create the settings needed and provide these in a resource file, and many users do exactly that. Thus as long as one understand that regex can be used for a particular problem, the details can be hired out.

This new application of regex for dynamically filtering, introduced in recent builds of memoQ 2015, is a little different (at present). Although the Find/Replace dialog will "remember" regex syntax in its dropdown menu of recent expressions, there is no way to store these expressions, and they must be entered manually to use them. This means that, for now, the average user will have to collect useful expressions like a tourist might scribble phrases in a notebook to use on holiday in a foreign country, and those with a little more sense of adventure might find themselves with a hovercraft full of eels and wonder why.

One such phrase might be the example in the screenshot above. I was translating some financial statements with several formats present for digits in account numbers, dates and monetary expressions. In order to work more systematically with these various formats, I used several different regex expressions to sort and separate them. In the example I was looking for instances where at least four digits were written together in a source segment. That isn't terribly selective, but most of these occurrences in my documents were account numbers, and this helpfully cleaned up the text a lot and allowed me to work a little faster. Other expressions were used to QA date formats and monetary expressions more specifically.

In the working grid for translation and editing, regular expressions can be used in one or both of the fields for the source and target text when the checkbox in the toolbar at the right is marked. Or the regular expressions option in the Find/Replace dialog can be used.

It is somewhat disappointing that regex cannot be used to create static views at the present time. While marking can be used in the Find dialog to enable one to go back and forth between the filter criteria and other configurations of the working grid, there is no way to make a permanent "record" of the filtered segments. For quite a few years, I have wished for the possibility to save the results of my filtering in the working grid in some sort of view, but I was always able at least to recreate the filtering criteria in the dialog to create a memoQ View, which could then be opened at any time or exported in various formats for clients and project collaborators. However, at the moment that is not possible with regex filtering. (There are workarounds involving a change in segment status, but these are often inconvenient in a project in progress.)

The addition of regex filtering to the working grid in memoQ is a welcome feature for many, which I hope will be expanded by Kilgray in the future to achieve more of its potential. But to take advantage of this potential in any way, the average user will indeed need a "phrase book" of sorts, and an efficient way of managing useful collected regex snippets (and naming them for easier re-use in searches and filtering) would be very desirable. If these "regex phrase books" for dynamic filtering and view creation were able to be saved as shareable light resources, it would be possible to build many useful collections to help users at all levels in the translation, editing and quality assurance tasks.

Feb 23, 2016

TeamViewer rocks when bandwidth sucks

In recent months, while this blog has been quiet, I've been spending a lot of time exploring the quirks of Kilgray's memoQ cloud service for a group project with challenging data volumes and other factors that make me thank the gods for doum palm tea. Expanded capacity at the secure data center in Germany early this year largely eliminated intermittent response time difficulties for memoQ cloud, so that I was able to work well during the week at my office with its outstanding Internet bandwidth. On weekends, however, work was a little more difficult.

I have an excellent 4G modem which I take with me around town and on trips within Portugal, and it allows me to work nearly as well as I can in my office with its 100/30 Mbps capacity. As luck would have it, however, at the home of a friend I visit on weekends, my provider has very little signal, usually middling 3G reception on a good day. While this might be considered normal in the heart of darkest Brandenburg, it is unusual for the technologically advanced country I now live in, but so it goes.

I had been dealing with the bandwidth difficulty by downloading the server project resources and using them in a completely local project, because 8 seconds to confirm a translation segment in the server-based is really not a good thing. I must emphasize this is not the fault of the server technology used or the capacity leased by Kilgray at the data center (any more), but rather my lousy bandwidth and probably also the fact that I travel with a crappy, low-end, low-RAM, disposable Asus laptop that isn't really good for much more than clicking through PowerPoint slides in a lecture. However, it still performs adequately for my purposes working in local memoQ projects as long as I don't do anything exotic like try to open a web browser at the same time.

Or so it was until something got corrupted and memoQ displayed its new "cascading error" feature, which causes a continuous loop of modal error dialogs in every open project and requires the Windows Task Manager to shoot down the application and make my escape. Not a good thing with impending deadlines.

Fortunately I usually leave TeamViewer running on my main working machine in the office in case I want to check mail on accounts I don't have set up in the mail client of my miserable road laptop or if I need to retrieve files or other small tasks. I do occasionally perform serious application work on the office machine from a remote system, but I am not in the habit of translating that way. This time, however, it was necessary to do so, because I really did not have time to troubleshoot the problems of my local CAT tool installation.

One reason I don't like to work on the remote office computer is that the resolution of the two screens on my work desk in the office is much higher than the screen resolution of my laptop. This means that even with good glasses I squint to make out details a lot. However, by changing the screen resolution in the Windows Control Panel of my remote system and setting it to more or less the same value as my laptop's resolution, the display of the remote system becomes much more comfortable to use.

After a few minutes in my new work mode, I was regretting not doing this before. My Internet bandwidth was entirely adequate for the remote connection, with no delays perceived for screen refreshes. And the remote system, with its excellent bandwidth in the office and better hardware (faster processor, eight times as much RAM and SSD drives for storage), performed far better than my laptop working with locally installed software. I finished my work in half the time I expected to.

This should be no surprise to the many people who work in a similar way with remote access tools. I've been aware of the possibilities myself for years and shown this way of working more than a few times in demonstrations, but it is still hard sometimes to overcome the feeling that "local is better", though in this case it clearly was not.

This same method can also be useful here for work in the summer, when outdoor temperatures near 50°C can render the office environment unfit for human activity; I can retreat to the cooler rooms of the house with a laptop and still enjoy the full power of my main working machine.

Something like this might be worth considering if you travel often and miss the power of a desktop system you leave behind, or if you prefer to use such a system from various locations. There are many remote connection alternatives to TeamViewer, such as the free Chrome Remote Desktop, with which I have also had very satisfactory experiences in tests of remote input by speech recognition in many languages on Android devices, for example. Explore the possibilities.


A further note on bandwidth: I spent a few days in the Algarve recently, at a location with the most miserable bandwidth I have seen in years. My 4G modem, which has performed well in many locations in the country where I live and even on travels in Spain and France, could do no better than a pokey 2G connection much of the time. Most web pages timed out with the attempt to view them. TeamViewer's screen refresh was slow - like a fade effect in a PowerPoint presentation - and the keyboard input lagged a bit, but it was still adequate for checking the status of various things on my computer back at the office.