Apr 30, 2009

SDL Trados freelance license issue to be resolved?

This morning I got a message from Nick at SDL regarding Trados licensing. Not Old Nick as one might expect, but Nick Edwards, the product manager responsible for SDL Trados Studio and the upcoming release. He noted that the misunderstanding regarding prices for upgrades (or prices for new Freelance licenses for that matter) has been resolved but that questions regarding the use of multiple freelance licenses on a network remained. Well, for the current version of Trados, there is no question - the answer is clear: you can't do it! I was, however, curious whether this particular injustice would persist. He asked specifically
"...can [you] tell me about how your team are setup such as the size of the team, what sort of network are you on (Workgroup? Domain based?)?"
To which I responded in my usual verbose way:
Thanks for the response. You ought to be familiar with this issue by now; it's been an albatross around the neck of Trados freelance users for years. I bought my original Trados license back in version 3 days (about 8 or 9 years ago I think it was), not because I intended to use the product, which I found to be too buggy, but more as a "thank you" for all the business I got from referrals through the translationzone.com site. I did the real work in Déjà Vu 3 in those days. It wasn't until v5 of Trados was released that I felt the product was stable enough for my purposes and I began to use it regularly for Siemens projects involving Teamworks and other cases. I also do a lot of complementary workflows for projects where neither Trados nor Déjà Vu alone would do the job, and a combination of tools is required. At some point I bought an SDLX license, because my ex-wife was using the product and was very happy with it, but I never got the hang of that format painting nonsense and the license was soon ignored. Some time later I was joined by my current partner, and we needed an extra Trados license for our work. This was shortly after the merger with SDL, and at the time we were getting spammed constantly with upgrade offers for the SDLX license to get a Trados license out of it. A good deal it seemed, so we bought the upgrade. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the two licenses could not operate at the same time on the LAN in our apartment. I went ballistic and posted a note on ProZ with a title something like "Trados Licensing is Evil", where I discovered that this was a known problem. The same evening I got a call from Mike Kidd, who was still with the company at that time, and he explained the rationale behind the restriction and admitted that it was a bit unfair for situations like ours. Moreover, the fact that I was constantly pestered to upgrade to a license I could not use infuriated me no end. Mike kindly arranged to have a modified Workbench.exe file sent the following week, which allows us to operate multiple Trados licenses on our network. That's one reason I never upgraded the second license I own past Trados 2006: I would lose the ability to use both licenses concurrently.

We are not an LSP. We are a partnership of two translators working on a small home network. Occasionally a colleague with Trados will visit us and stay for a few days or a week and need to use his/her license too. The concerns of the company about corporate users trying to save a few euros do not apply here in any way whatsoever. We have our network configured so that we are all part of the same workgroup and use a DSL modem and router for our Internet connection. None of the domains we own are hosted in-house.

If this licensing issue for freelancers has already been resolved in the new Trados 2009 version, that is news that will be greatly welcomed by the user community, including yours truly. Though I use other tools for most of my work, there are still particular tasks where SDL Trados products play an important role, and if it were not for the insulting, condescending approach that the company often takes to marketing (the "amnesty" campaign was not well received generally, and it was one of the better ones I've seen), I could probably overlook the bad support and not find much to complain about if TagEditor stops crashing when I try to re-export complex Word documents :-) But seriously, what I've seen in the beta of the new software looks rather good on the whole, and I welcome the move toward better standards compliance. If SDL does something about this stupid licensing issue that makes the company appear unreasonable and greedy, a lot of goodwill will be gained among your users.
The response to this included the following statement, which appears to be quite good news for small offices like ours that would like to use multiple Trados freelance licenses on the same network:
I am happy to be able to tell you that with SDL Trados Studio 2009 we have come up with a solution which allows use of multiple freelance licenses on a workgroup based network but will prevent freelance licenses from working on a domain based network. I believe this should solve the issue you and others in a similar situation are having.
Well, if that is true, then hats off to SDL for doing the right thing at last. (Those who are a bit hazy on the differences between a workgroup-based network and a domain-based one can find an explanation here.) This licensing issue has been a problem for many people for a long time, and the response to the problem for most users has been completely inadequate up to now.

Apr 29, 2009

I am not alone

I got an interesting note and link from Nick Rosenthal (Oversetter blog) regarding his experiences with MemoQ and the Kilgray team. There are so many points of similarity with my own experience and the positive stories I heard from LSPs and corporate users at the conference in Budapest that I wanted to share this post with you: "Good customer service is a wonderful thing...."

Not much more to say. Version 3.5 of MemoQ crossed the threshold of usability for most of my purposes, and I am now using the product whenever I can and loving it. I am amazed that I became more productive with it after a few hours of use than with DVX, which I have used since 2000 (or maybe 2001, I don't remember any more). All I want now is the exportable/importable tables with comments....

Apr 28, 2009

Get a clue!

A few days ago I sent the following e-mail to SDL to inquire about the cost of a maintenance & support contract:
What would a maintenance contract to cover my Trados 2007 Suite license cost?

Best regards,

Kevin Lossner
Simmer-Lossner Translations & Consulting GbR
Specialist translators for German -> English
Dorastrasse 9, 16540 Hohen Neuendorf, Germany
And after a mere day and a half I received the following reply, which landed - quite appropriately - in my junk mail folder:
Dear Mr Simmer,

Thank you for your E-Mail regarding PSMA.

We offer two levels of PSMA, which I have outlined below for you.

A PSMA offers you unlimited support both online and via telephone, (you receive a telephone nr after you have a logged a case online)

Also part of a PSMA package, are all of your upgrades, updates and service packs absolutely free of charge.

Level 1 gives you: 159€
1. hotline telephone support
2. response time to support requests by next business day
3. 1 designated representative who will be flagged as having a support contract when they put a request into the support centre

4. FREE upgrades, updates and service packs for the whole year

Level 2 has the following benefits: 198.75€
1. hotline telephone support

2. response time to support requests within 3 business hours if the request is critical

3. up to 4 designated representatives who will be flagged as having a support contract when they put a request into the support centre

4. FREE upgrades, updates and service packs for the whole year

Please do not forget that holders of a valid PSMA become automatically SDL TRADOS 2009 STUDIO FREE OF CHARGE after the release in June

Please go to www.translationzone.com for more details regarding this exciting release.

Please do not hesitate to get in contact, if you have any questions at all,

Kind regards


Steven Whale | Contracts & Renewals Executive SDL TRADOS Technologies | (T) +44 1628 417227 | (F) +44 1628 417 298 | swhale@sdl.com
This is the sort of personalized service that I have come to know and love from SDL. They can't even get my name right. I have no idea what the heck PSMA actually stands for, though I suppose the SMA part might be something like "service and maintenance agreement". It's a good think I understand German, because this letter reeks of Teutonic competence in English. I hadn't realized that an agreement with SDL would transform me into SDL Trados 2009 Studio at no cost. I think I'd rather be turned into a frog, thank you - at least I might have a chance of getting kissed by a pretty girl.

However, if I do understand this awful letter correctly, my partner's ex-husband can sign a Level 1 agreement and get the Trados upgrade cheaper as well as some alleged support. What a deal. Too bad he doesn't have a Trados license.

Apr 27, 2009

Clarification on the new Trados pricing

In an earlier post I mentioned my shock at discovering the new prices for the version of Trados about to be released. Well, it seems there was a bit of a misunderstanding brought about in part by lack of attention to detail in the SDL Trados marketing efforts. Compare the following two screenshots:

Which one says it's for the Freelance version? Which one says it's for the Professional version? The screens that follow provide clues in this respect, but these can be overlooked if one is already expecting something else, and in my case I'm used to another product calling the equivalent of the Trados Freelance version the "Professional" version. I keep forgetting that to SDL we freelancers simply aren't professional ;-) Or maybe just those of us who can't guess which ad is which are not.

Apparently there are two different banner ads on ProZ currently. As the images flashed by my eyes on the ProZ page, it wasn't at all obvious that what I clicked on for information would take me to the "lspzone" site instead of the "translationzone" site. Mea culpa. I guess I need to look more closely at the URLs when I'm dealing with information from SDL. Or at the screens. Up near the top it does say LSPzone, but I was so focused on finding out about the new version pricing that I had eyes only for the ad display. Too bad SDL left off the relevant designations there.

So anyway, the price issue seems to be settled, and here are the relevant prices I'll be confronted with for the two freelance licenses I own:

I can live with € 175 and € 355 respectively. But wait... there's another problem... if I were actually using those Trados licenses all the time I couldn't. Why not? Because Trados (at least in the current and past versions) is designed so that multiple freelance licenses cannot be operated on the same network. I once posted an angry note about this on ProZ when I discovered it (said note has quietly disappeared in the meantime), which prompted a late night call from a Trados VP who explained the rationale behind that "feature" and the fact that an upgrade to the "Professional" version was required, then kindly arranged to have a specially modified EXE file for Trados 2006 Freelance sent to me the next week so that I would not have to put up with that bullshit. The squeaky wheel gets the grease I suppose, but thousands of other freelancers were left to suffer or shell out major cash.

Competitive programs like Atril's Déjà Vu have equivalent versions for individuals and LSPs (DVX Professional and DVX Workgroup, for example), but there are no hassles running multiple freelance versions on one network. If you want the advantages of using the same TM on a server without screwing up your data you have to upgrade to the premium version, but that decision is left up to the user. But the Trados folks look at the world a little differently it seems, so one finds innumerable threads on the translators' forums in which possible workarounds for the problem of multiple Freelance versions on networks are discussed.

Now I do not know whether this licensing issue will persist in the new 2009 version of Trados. It would be quite useful to find out. If it does, then the competition will continue to have the advantage for small teams like mine. If the limitation will be scrapped, then hats off to the folks at SDL for doing the right thing at last.

Apr 26, 2009

Goodbye to Budapest

My flight back to Berlin will leave in a few hours, and I'm relaxing in the top floor café of the Alexandra bookstore, one block away from the בית הכנסת הגדול של בודפשט (how cool - the blog's text editor is bidirectional!). This is a great place to hang out, drink coffee and get work done in a cheery skylit room with lots of comfortable seating. And there's a fine wine shop on the ground floor of the bookstore. Very classy.

Before leaving, I had a look at the double rooms at the Danube Guest House where I stayed: very nice I think. It's a great place for single travellers or couples looking for budget accommodations that are spotless and offer friendly, first-class value. But I didn't choose the place for it's price. The location is hard to beat. I'm five minutes walking distance from the metro station where lines 1, 2 and 3 (yellow, red and blue) intersect. Getting around doesn't get much easier.

It's been a fantastic week, not only because I met a lot of great people and learned a lot about technologies which I think will play an important role in the language industry in the coming years, but also because I've been able to discover a new favorite city. I'll be back.

SDL Trados Studio 2009: BOHICA

For those of you not familiar with the acronym in the title, click here for an explanation. But for anyone who has been abused for years by the costs of maintaining Trados licenses, that won't be necessary. The feeling is all too familiar. Now where's that tube of Preparation H®? Actually, I won't be needing it: this is the end of the line for me with SDL products.

At the MemoQ Fest 2009 conference I heard some contradictory things about the pricing of the upcoming Trados release. I've done a bit of testing with it, and overall I felt positive about its features and the fact that Trados has finally gone over to an interface similar to the one used by the real technology leaders (as opposed to market share leader) in the industry. Hey, SDL has even admitted that an interface like the one used by Atril's Déjà Vu and Kilgray's MemoQ (and to be fair, SDLX) is about 20% more efficient with regard to translation speed that the various Trados interfaces. Took them long enough to admit it - I measured my own productivity with columnar tools 7 or 8 years ago and figured out that I could work 20 to 30% faster. You don't have to be a genius to figure out what that means in terms of income or extra time for other stuff.

In any case, when I saw a little banner ad on ProZ that reminded me I'd been ignoring the pre-release spam from SDL, I clicked on it to see what's up. And I looked at the prices for a new Trados package and the upgrades. Holy shit. Sit down before you read this:

SDL Trados Studio 2009, the ground-breaking release from the market-leading translation software provider, launches in June 09. Pre-order SDL Trados Studio 2009 at 10% off: Get SDL Trados 2007 Suite now + receive the new version on launch!
Regularly €2,995, now €2,695 (node-locked)

SDL Trados 2007 Suite Professional to
SDL Trados Studio 2009 Professional

€795, now €715

SDL Trados 2007 Professional to
SDL Trados Studio 2009 Professional
Regularly €995, now €895
And that's for a technology that is less mature than Kilgray's MemoQ. For 1000 euros more than the list price for a single license of the new Trados, you can have a server version of MemoQ with five licenses. Or just get a regular MemoQ license and go on a great vacation with all the money you save. Or for a good bit less than the new Trados price you can have DVX Workgroup, which still can't be beat for many things.

Sorry, but I just don't think this is worth it. There are better ways and better places to invest your money. Check out the competition unless you are the type to light your cigars with 100 euro notes.

Apr 25, 2009

E Pluribus Unicum

Out of more than 40 different herbs the Hungarian bitter Unicum is produced, and while the claims of toxicity from the Time Out guide review are wildly exaggerated, I did finally figure out that the sinus headache I've had for the last few days has little to do with my sinuses. Having survived more of that wonderful concoction at the MemoQ Fest party Thursday night than I'll ever publicly admit, I figure there's not much that can kill me in the range of consumables.

Last night after the official program ended, most of those who didn't have to travel home immediately got together for one last dinner. Like every other event this week, it was enormously fun. One thing I appreciate a lot about the Kilgray crowd: this young company has top-notch technology that is now being copied by more "established" market players, and now that it's quite clear that they may very soon be a force to be reckoned with in the industry, with a response to come from some of the competition that should probably not be expected to be gentle, but rather more like heavy artillery. But some of the big SDL guns may be trained back on the perhaps-not-to-remain market leader: I was very surprised to see some of the top trainers and marketing people who used to be part of the SDL Trados world in Germany here at the conference taking a strong interest in promoting and supporting MemoQ. Among them were Claudia Fricke, the head of marketing responsible for Passolo from its beginnings and Angelika Zerfass, a trainer and language technology consultant who needs no introduction in the German-speaking Trados world. Jost Zetzsche, a noted independent consultant and reviewer of translation technologies whose work is highly valued by far more people that the 15,000 or so who subscribe to his Tool Kit newsletter came all the way out from Oregon - not something one would do for a technology that does not seem poised to play a major role in the industry. There were others of equal stature whom I don't know personally, but overall it's clear that the course Kilgray has set is winning the kind of valuable allies needed for success.

This morning (Saturday), a number of conference attendees gathered again at the hotel venue and set off on a walking tour of Budapest lasting more than five hours and competently guided by Kilgray's COO István Lengyel. I was suspicious about what a good job he was doing taking us around and explaining everything, and when cornered with a question, he admitted that he was also a trained tour guide. A damned good one too I think, though I hope he sticks to the good job he is doing promoting his company's products. Still, I really appreciated him showing us the Buda Castle district (especially the statues of the dogs) and other wonderful sights in the city. Gábor Ugray also kindly pointed out the bronze statue of Hadik András, mounted on a horse whose testicles generations of Hungarian students have polished for luck before their exams. I was particularly fascinated by the majolica tiled roofs of many of the buildings in the castle district.

Afterward I had the good fortune to meet the owner of the CSŐVÁRBERKI Magyar Vizsla Kennel where the mother of my dog Aristos comes from and where the grandparents of his Danish mate Wagga live. I met a lot of wonderful dogs and had the opportunity to observe a lesson in the field for a "problem dog" that the Ms. Noveczki was retraining for a local hunter over the past two months. It was quite interesting talking to her about her training methods and her diploma thesis on Wire-haired Vizslas for her degree in Hunting Engineering (yes, there is such a thing - I was surprised). I hope she will get it translated into German or English; it would probably be a valuable expansion of the information on those dogs available outside of Hungary.

At the end of this very long day I dragged myself back to the hotel, then went out again for dinner at a delightful Italian restaurant in the neighborhood: Osteria at Dohány utca 5 (www.osteria.hu). The service by the waiter, Kereskényi Csaba, was absolutely superb, and the food (cream of pumpkin soup, goose liver risotto, an excellent wine, chocolate mousse) was absolutely first class and surprisingly inexpensive. Things are actually not cheap here in Budapest, but are very much on part with the cost of living in Berlin in most respects (so the translators here obviously should not be asked to work for peanuts!), but I really would have paid twice as much in Berlin for the same quality, except at one little French place I was lucky to discover. The total bill including tip was less than 22 euros (and included several things I didn't bother to mention).

Whether you come to Budapest on the excuse of checking out MemoQ or Kilgray's other products (a good idea) or come because it's probably the finest city in Europe doesn't matter. Just come, you won't regret it.

Apr 24, 2009

Live from MemoQ Fest 2009: Day 2, afternoon session & wrap-up

The afternoon session of MemoQ featured three presentations, all of which dealt with various aspects of integration in the business of language services. Angela Starkmann, an independent consultant, project manager and translator from Bavaria discussed "Integrated communication tools for translation professionals". Gábor Faragó explored the difficult choices facing small multiple language vendors with regard to translation management systems. Daniel Rejtö followed with the last poresentation of the day on the integrated future of translation projects. There was a lot of good information in the talks, but general tiredness from last night's celebration impeded my concentration and comprehension, and I hope to get hold of some of the presentation slides off the web site for the event or elsewhere, because there is information there I would like to review and share with some of my clients.

The official event ended with a Q&A session with the Kilgray management board moderated by Jost Zetzsche. There were a lot of tough questions and a lot of good answers, reinforcing my impression that the company is very open to the concerns of its users and interested in information exchange. Given the deafening silence from Atril (the company which publishes my favorite TEnT tool, DVX), this is a great relief and inspires a lot of confidence in the future of the company and its products. I particularly liked István Lengyel's comment that he and the other two company founders "eat their own dog food", i.e. they still actively work as translators and use their own technology to do so. When I was a systems consultant for EASY Software AG, one of the major stumbling blocks to the improvement of the company's products in my opinion (shared by many others in the company) was the fact that the product was hardly used internally.

Overall, I've been enormously impressed by everything I've learned about the Kilgray team and its product plans in the past few days. None of us know what the translation landscape will look like in five years, but I won't be at all surprised if Kilgray is a major landmark in it.

MemoQ: the product name pronunciation resolved!

After protests and suggestions by native English speakers that the product name "MemoQ" be pronounced in three syllables (me-mo-cue) instead of two (mem-ock, rhymes with "cock"), a vote was held during the final Q&A session at the MemoQ Fest 2009, and the majority of attendees chose the three syllable variant. As a result, the management board of Kilgray committed to re-learning how to pronounce their own product name and ceremoniously signed an official declaration in front of a room full of witnesses....

Live from MemoQ Fest 2009: Day 2, morning session

The morning session today had two presentations discussing "integration" of MemoQ, though the definition of integration in one case was very loose (import of file analyses from MemoQ for quoting and invoicing purposes). The more interesting of them was from Benoit Desjardins of beetext in Canada who discussed the integration of their translation workflow management solution with MemoQ. I was still a bit groggy from last night's revelry and the long trip back to my hotel (the metro closes at 11:30 pm - oops!), and French accents tire me despite the fact I like them, so I actually fell asleep and almost out of my chair for that talk. But it was valuable information for LSPs looking for integrated solutions like that. I would love to see a comparison and contrast with the LTC Worx integration with MemoQ. LTC is a sponsor of the conference, and several staff from that company are attending, but there hasn't been any discussion of the integrated solution so far. Benoit tells me that a German implementation of the interfaces for customers, translators and project managers may be coming soon. When and if it in fact does come, it may be worthwhile for some of my customers to have a look.

Juliet Macan of Ic.doc gave a fine expert presentation on translation challenges and translation environment tools (TEnTs). I was quite impressed by the thorough, professional approach of the company as it was presented as well as their approach to training freelance translators in their team, which went as far in one case as flying Polish translators down to Italy for a week of training. Not many LSPs out there willing to invest in their human resources to that extent. Her analysis of the issues was extremely clear and well-organized and if I had to speak on the same topic, I'd probably shamelessly swipe content from her slides.

Gábor Ugray discussed Kilgray's development roadmap, strategies, team, release policies and other related issues. Like his presentation yesterday, the message was clear and the delivery was good and kept me wide awake. That's quite an accomplishment today.

The highlight of the morning for me was Daniel Goldschmidt's humorous presentation "No one ever got sacked for buying SDL" with role play segments involving Kilgray partner Peter Reynolds. It was a bit chaotic, and it probably had less content than I think it did, but it kept me awake and laughing, and Daniel made some bullseye shots regarding innovation and marketing tactics involving FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt - a favorite tactic of IBM and SDL). The talk was more inspirational than informative, but it was a great part of the program.

And now the afternoon session is about to begin....

Upcoming in MemoQ: external views

One of the few remaining gripe points I have with MemoQ as a TEnT solution is the inability to export comments and other selected portions of the project data (source and target text) in a RTF table for review by customers or correction by another translator working without TEnT tools. During a break in this morning's MemoQ Fest conference, I cornered Gábor Ugray after his excellent presentation on MemoQ development and asked him for a timeframe for this feature, which I have been told by other Kilgray staff is "in the works" and will "be there soon".

Gábor said "most likely by the end of this year". I'll choose to interpret that as "this year" and I look forward to seeing it at least in a beta version by December 31, 2009. Thank you, Gábor.

Live from MemoQ Fest 2009: the morning after Day 1

Don't believe a thing the Time Out Guide tells you about Unicum, aka "black death in a bottle". I think I had 5 or 6 shots of it in the evening party at Kilgray's offices after the first day of the conference, and I was completely coherent, not even tipsy, when I caught a taxi back to the hotel around midnight. (I discovered that the metro shuts down in Budapest at 11:30 pm, so I'll have to keep that in mind for future carousing. I would have made it, but I stood outside the metro station for 40 minutes on the phone with my partner, telling her about the excellent day I had, how much I had learned and how I think that MemoQ may very well become a heavyweight contender in the TEnT arena. I hope so: these people are real pros and aren't afraid of hard questions about the product either.

Without external views like I get from DVX, my workflows would be too restricted to use MemoQ for many of my client projects, but frankly most people work very differently and care about other things, so I'll probably have to recommend this tool, especially for LSPs looking for alternatives to worshiping the SDL Beast. Don't even mention Across - that's a poisoned chalice of incompatibility. Kilgray is committed to open standards, and I trust the team to get it right. There were a lot of little clues I picked up at the party, like the bookshelf full of standard programming works translated (or perhaps written in some cases) by some of the partners that made it clear that they know their stuff better than any development team I've had the pleasure to know in over 30 years. But it's the attitude that counts, and the Kilgray team has the right one in my opinion. In the middle of yesterday's sessions I started sending e-mails to a few LSPs I really like who are looking for better solutions, and I do not do this lightly.

The second day of the conference will start in a bit more than an hour, so I'm off to wander the neighborhood near the most beautiful synagogue I've ever seen and catch the yellow line up to where the action is. The agenda for the day looks good, and I expect to learn a lot more.

Apr 23, 2009

Live from MemoQ Fest 2009: Day 1

The conference is off to a great start, and I think I'll probably have a number of follow-up posts just based on what I've learned this morning. Things are moving in a very positive direction at Kilgray. The morning started out with Managing Director Balázs Kis presenting an overview of the company and using the word "illustrious" a bit too often to describe some of the excellent presenters to follow. He and Peter Reynolds, the new fourth partner at Kilgray, presented an encouraging picture of a dynamic company growing with its own resources, not with a noose of venture capital around its neck. Let's hope that the company maintains its independence and creativity and doesn't get swallowed and choked like Idiom after the SDL buyout.

Jost Zetzsche followed the welcome and progess report with an excellent presentation on "The Brave New Post-Trados World". He's not predicting a dominance of MemoQ or any other tool in the future but is of the opinion that the impending changes in SDL Trados Suite 2009 will open up and flatten out the market, with no one tool playing the dominant role that Trados does today. At the same time he expects consolidation on the "back end" with greater emphasis on common data formats (standards). Jost had so many useful things to say that I'll have to cover them in a separate blog post.

Bob Donaldson continued with a presentation on "Integration Challenges", showing how his company (an LSP) has integrated MemoQ server technology in a very sophisticated workflow which integrates a number of different vendor's solutions. Fascinating. I wish some of my agency clients had been there to hear it. (One was, but he already does stuff like that with MemoQ.)

Balázs Kis then presented an overview of Kilgray's new (as yet unreleased) product, the TM Repository, which promises to be a very sophisticated solution for managing TM material from diverse sources. Although many of the aspects of meta tagging he discussed are already part of my DVX workflows, this is much more sophisticated and scalable, designed to handle volumes up to hundreds of millions of TUs in server farms, etc. The solution is now available for beta testing. The big negative I see at this point is the lack of an integrated editor, but that will be dealt with in future development. Aspects like generating matrix resources, such as producing a Japanese to German project TM from EN-JP and DE-EN material could be quite useful. It will be interesting to see where this one goes.

After a rather nice break in the hotel venue, the group split into presentations and two specialist workshops focusing on regular expressions and terminology. I went for the workshops. The regular expressions discussion by Gábor Ugray, Kilgray's head of development, was quite interesting and gave me a better idea of the potential of regular expressions for autotranslatables and segmentation control. I might have got a lot of this by reading the manual, but then again probably not. Hearing and seeing it live has a lot of value. The terminology session by Douglas McCarthy had some very interesting points, including the results of a survey on termbase use, but technical difficulties derailed a big part of that hour. Too bad, because he had a lot of useful things to say. I hope to see the session again in the future with a better tie-in to the TEnT tool.

After a short coffee break, things resumed with a presentation by a corporate customer, Carsten Peters of BAUR, an Austrian electronics firm. He described how his company took control of its translation processes with MemoQ and increased its translations from 3 or 4 languages to 20 with better quality and transparency without exploding costs. I particularly appreciated his attitude toward the freelance translators he works with. This guy must be a great customer.

Eduardo Chacón followed with a description of how his French LSP standardized on MemoQ with excellent results. Although I was very disturbed at hearing that his company occasionally uses the homogeneity analysis of MemoQ to try to cut translators' rates even worse that a typical Trados scale would (something I've been waiting for), his description of the processes and challenges was very good and would have been quite valuable for many of my customers to hear.

The final presentation of the day was from Phil McConnel of LTC/Agile, talking about changes in the industry and his company. It was a short talk (15 minutes) that provided useful background on that company'sa recent reorganization as well as trends observable in the industry.

Overall it's been a great day. I'm glad I came.

Apr 22, 2009

Live from Budapest: MemoQ Fest 2009

Budapest is without a doubt the most beautiful city I have ever visited. It's a good thing I never visited the place in the 1980's - I might have defected, and life was strange enough with East/West politics back then. The two day Kilgray conference focusing on their rapidly developing translation solutions begins tomorrow; today there were various workshops offered which I did not attend for lack of time. Instead I chose to orient myself a bit in the city, catch up on translations and enjoy the evening social program with dinner and a short boat cruise.

I think most of the conference attendees are staying at the event venue (Hotel Benczúr), but I wanted to pinch a few pennies and stay closer to the city center, so I've chosen to stay at a little place that my partner researched for me: the Danube Guest House. What a great find - superb value, spotless and close to lots of great sights. The hosts, Zoltan and Bob are very kind and helpful, and I felt instantly at home here. My room is about the size of a monastic cell, but it is super-clean, has a comfortable bed, a working shelf/desk and WLAN. I'm a 5 minute walk from the synagogue, great book shops (including a second hand English bookstore I discovered, where I found a nice dictionary of Scots English) and a lot of other things that matter to me personally. The material pampering at the Danube Guest House is modest, but that's the way I like it most of the time. I feel very comfortable here, and I look forward to the opportunity to return for business or pleasure.

The dinner before the cruise was quite interesting and enjoyable. Waiting in a square for various conference participants to show up, I finally had the opportunity to meet one of my customers from Berlin, whom I recognized from the picture in his XING profile. It's funny that we're so close but had to come to Budapest to meet. He's the guy that suggested I have a look at MemoQ more than a year ago. The improvement I have seen in the product since then has been impressive, but I am still waiting for certain features that will allow me to work in certain ways that right now are possibly only with DVX external RTF table views, but there are strong hints that the wait will not be in vain. Given Kilgray's record so far, I'll be surprised if they don't deliver. One fellow in the dinner discussion has a few ideas that might offer a shortcut now, and I am very curious to see if he's right. If he is, there will be a very excited blog post to follow, and Kilgray will get an order for two MemoQ licenses.

Apr 21, 2009

Risk considerations for translating patents

Martin Cross, president of Patent Translations Inc. and co-author of the American Translator Association's Patent Translator's Handbook maintains the blog Translating Patents, which, though infrequent in its posts, often has excellent information. Martin published an article last autumn on IPToday.com discussing the management of patent translation risks, which is very worthwhile to read whether you are a translator or an individual possibly in need of patent translation services.

In the article, Mr. Cross discusses strategies for determining where one can save on translation costs and where doing so could be a disaster. Importantly, he also repeatedly mentions that patent translations which are most reliable and are of the highest quality are inevitably those reviewed by at least a second person competent in the language and subject matter. No surprise there, but it is depressing to see how seldom this principle is applied effectively. Review by persons who do not have competence in the subject and language is also of limited value: since the beginning of the year I have been asked on a number of occasions to review chemical patents which I know have been checked by two good translators and an attorney, and I have found serious linguistic and terminological issues with every one of these. Two Germans and a French person, none of whom are chemists, just can't ensure the accuracy that a native English-speaking chemist can for a patent translated into English. No way. They can find omissions and typographical errors and question apparent inconsistencies, but I wouldn't push it beyond that.

Obviously there are many people who disagree with me on this point, and one often finds translations - especially of patent abstracts - on the Internet which are drawn straight from the sewer of competence. If these are used as sources of terminology one should be very, very careful.

Mr. Cross also wrote a relevant essay describing the joys of producing bad text in translation: "Their worst work is my best work". It's a fun and useful read for those not familiar with the quirks odf patent translation.

Apr 19, 2009

Dogs in Translation

As some of you may have noticed, dogs play a pretty big role in my daily routine. When I'm not translating stacks of technical documentation, patents, etc. I'm often off in the woods with my dog doing tracking exercises, watching him play with other dogs or running off to a training session. It's a fairly international preoccupation too, as we try to glean the information we need from sources in many countries around the world. For the past week we've been in Denmark for a breeding appointment set up by a Dutch enthusiast, next week I hope to visit a Hungarian kennel after the MemoQ Fest is over and much of the week I've been trying to digest training literature and information in five languages (which gives me indigestion, as I've only mastered two of them).

As a way of keeping track of all the useful multilingual and international information we've been gathering for our hunting dogs, my partner and I have launched another blog focusing on our dog-related activities. It uses Wordpress, so this is also a good excuse for me to practice with that tool for a possible migration of this blog in the future or the launching of a possible German translation blog later this year. A few months ago I set up an account in Germany with the provider ALL-INKL.COM after it was recommended by some BDÜ colleagues. I have been using a domain there to test a new template for a relaunch of our business site, and I have been very pleased with the service. Today I was even more pleased when the new domain for the dog blog was up and running in less than ten minutes. I was quite shocked at how efficiently everything worked. And the Wordpress software is so straightforward that I don't think I'll have to provide much technical support to my other half for administration, which pleases me enormously.

In any case, I am very grateful to those who recommended ALL-INKL.COM. I really couldn't ask for better hosting service, and I gladly endorse it for anyone in Germany who is looking for a good place to host a business or personal web site.

Apr 17, 2009

Crossing segment boundaries

One of the basic rules I learned early on when using Déjà Vu to do Trados projects was that one must be very, very careful about messing with the codes ("tags" to you Trados users), and deleting codes for Trados segment boundaries was strictly off limits. On those rare occasions when I did so accidentally in a presegmented MS Word or RTF file, the result was a disaster - an asynchronous mess like this:Consequently I always avoided changing the default segmentation when doing the Trados/DVX workflow (or adjusted it manually in Word or TagEditor - a time-consuming process). I would combine segments in the DVX environment but leave in the code for the transition between the two Trados segments. This sometimes resulted in some very odd "trash" segments in the Trados TMs, but these didn't worry me much, because my DVX TM had a "complete", sensible segment, albeit with a silly code embedded in it. Not a problem, really, since no one ever complained about the trash in the Trados TM: agencies are used to incompetent segmentation by translators inexperienced with Trados, and some even insist that the default segmentation never be altered (thus compelling translators to produce trash segments).

Well, yesterday a client did complain. He tried to demand that I stick to the original German segmentation or at least re-adjust it so that the segments made sense in a concordance. I understand his concern, as these trash segments really do bother me, but I wasn't about to abandon my DVX workflow and lose time working in TagEditor. I was also rather grumpy after another night of abbreviated sleep, and my response to his request was less than gracious, mostly taking the "high ground" as a native speaker who knows what's better for the structure of an English sentence. In fact, I was a real jerk.

Then I slept on it. For a few hours at least. And I realized that the problem, of course, was technical, not linguistic, and my intuition told me that there is in fact a solution that contradicts what I had thought to be true about deleting segmentation codes for Trados files in DVX. I'm sure others have noticed this before and mentioned it in various public forums, but I was so fixated on the disaster of deleting segmentation codes for MS Word and RTF files pre-segmented with Trados that I never considered trying it with a TTX. And guess what? It works like a charm!

I ran an experiment with three types of files: a Word document, an Excel document and an HTML document. In all three I was able to combine segments in DVX and delete the codes on the left side to change the segment boundaries in Trados and still have a valid TTX file as my export! And in every case I was able to generate valid target files, even ones with paragraphs combined.

Here is what the source column in DVX looks like after the TTX segments are combined, before and after the codes are deleted:



This represents a huge advance in the way I use Déjà Vu X for doing Trados jobs.

Apr 16, 2009

Things to come with SDL Trados 2009

The Translator's Shack blog just posted a nice little summary of some of the features and changes expected in the upcoming version of SDL Trados. Jost Zetsche also reviewed the product in The 136th Tool Kit - Premium Edition (click here for information on this useful newsletter for translators).

Although I'm part of the beta test group for SDL Trados 2009, my workload has prevented me from looking at the package as I would like to, especially exploring its potential for interoperability with other tools. There are huge implications for the changes ahead, and I think it will be fascinating to see how they play out on the market. The switch to XLIFF as the basic working file format should especially open things up for users of other tools, including Open Source ones like OmegaT.

MemoQ 3.5: the march of progress continues!

Since I'm heading off to Budapest next week for the MemoQ Fest 2009, I was very pleased to see Jost Zetzsche's review of the latest MemoQ release in his very useful Translators ToolKit newsletter a few weeks ago. Here it is republished with his permission for the benefit of those looking for flexible new options in translation assistance technology. I am particularly excited by the new filter for doing Star Transit projects; although I have been using Déjà Vu X and occasionally Trados to translate the target XML files in a PXF project package, Kilgray's approach represents a huge step forward in functionality and user-friendliness. This is a tool worth watching!


Rememo Me?
(republished from The 137th Tool Kit - Premium Edition
© 2009 International Writers' Group)

For the last few months I have been keeping tabs on MemoQ's latest releases, which have come out with refreshing regularity. Every so often there was enough interesting material to write about, but I always held out. Until now.

This last week MemoQ 3.5 was released, and here are the new features according to Kilgray (the Hungarian company behind MemoQ):

· Longest substring concordance

· Wildcard concordance and wildcard in terms

· STAR Transit filter

· Bi-directional language enhancements

· Horizontal edit view

· XML preview feature

· PowerPoint 2007 filter

· Drastic server speed improvements

I downloaded the new version and specifically looked at the first three features, which I found truly ground-breaking.

Let's start with the first feature first, the oddly named "longest substring concordance" (or, just as odd: LSC). This is an attempt to automate concordance searches according to user-defined parameters (under Tools> Options> Subsegment leverage you can set the minimum number of concordance hits and/or the minimum number in words/letters/characters) and without interrupting the workflow. In the Translation results pane there are now not only translation memory matches, terminology matches, and assembled rows (available since version 3.2) but also ominous-looking matches of subsets of the string that needs to be translated with empty targets. These are the LSC matches. Clicking on them will produce the Concordance dialog, which will list all (or a predefined number of) the appearances of that particular substring in the translation memory within the context of the complete strings in the TM.


Imagine you have this (real-life) sentence:

The starter motor rotates the engine during the start sequence, by driving it through the reduction gear unit assembly.

MemoQ might find that "the reduction gear unit" is a worthwhile subsegment and will display this in the Translation results pane with an empty target. Double-clicking on it would bring up the Concordance dialog with these options:

The starter motor rotates the engine during the start sequence, by driving it through the reduction gear unit assembly.

A coupling assembly mechanically connects the main output drive shaft of the reduction gear unit to the driven unit.

Individual accessory drive pads for the main lube oil pump are also incorporated on the reduction gear unit.

with their respective translations. If you wanted to use any of those, you would just need to highlight the part of the translation you want to use and select Insert selected.

I really like this feature because it offers a new granularity to TM materials without being obtrusive (the program does not slow you down by displaying an additional dialog like a comparable feature in Trados, plus you are free to use the displayed option or not), it enables easy paste access to the desired translation, and MemoQ's superior search-and-lookup speed allows it to operate without even seeming to slow down the search process too much.

Speaking of the Concordance dialog, that same dialog is also used for the enhanced concordance features. (A "concordance search" is the process of manually highlighting one term or phrase in the source segment, pressing a shortcut key -- in the case of MemoQ, it's Ctrl+K -- and accessing all occurrences of that in the TM.) What makes MemoQ's concordance feature attractive is the possible automatic addition of a wildcard character. In the Concordance dialog you can select the option Add wildcard to selected text, and for the current and next search(es) MemoQ automatically adds an asterisk (*) to each of the terms. This will make MemoQ look for 0 or more additional characters to the term in question, something that is particularly helpful for languages with heavy flexion. (Plus, I really like this because I always forget where the asterisk is on the German keyboard and I get tired of switching back to the English keyboard to enter it manually.)

The last feature that really caught my interest was the Transit compatibility feature. Now, Transit is a great program, but it's really different, and many folks just don't want to spend the time to learn to use the free Satellite edition (even if they might miss out on something). For those, this feature will be very useful. It allows you to import a PXF file -- this is a Transit-specific package file with the translation files, reference material (i.e., TM), and glossary data -- extract the translation files as well as the TM content, translate it, and then send it back to your client as a TXF file -- Transit's return package format.

In general it works very well. There are a few glitches -- a couple of strings (out of a few thousand in a test run) were unduly protected as tags, and I had to switch my import mode to get all my data, but it's impressive that the MemoQ developers were able to use Transit logic to "harvest" reference material that is readily available in the TM you selected when you started translating. What this feature is not able to do is automatically import the TermStar glossaries. This is somewhat unfortunate because Transit projects tend to be very terminology-heavy because of its excellent terminology tool.

Here are some other caveats with the new version: Word 2007 is still not supported -- though PowerPoint and Excel 2007 are -- and TBX, the termbase exchange standard, is also not supported yet.

This morning I had a chance to talk with the owner of a translation agency who has been using the server edition of MemoQ for a while, just to get an idea of what his take on performance and user acceptance was. He was very positive overall. Compared to other server-based products (Idiom WorldServer, Logoport, and Across) he reported equal or better server response times. He also liked the option for translators to check out resources to work offline or the online document storage. This last feature allows translators not only to share translation memories and terminology databases, but also the actual documents, which -- optionally -- can be server-based as well. Thus, multiple users can have access to large documents that can be translated and edited at the same time for faster turnaround. His assessment of that process was kind of interesting: He ran into problems with translators not working successively from top to bottom through documents, creating havoc for the poor editors; however, that seems to be less a technical limitation than an organizational one.

As far as user acceptance, he acknowledged that not all his translators were super-eager to adopt a new tool at the drop of a hat, but it helped that they did not have to pay for the program. With MemoQ's mobile licensing concept, he is able to assign temporary full licenses to his users. Interestingly -- and he was not the first to mention it -- Déjà Vu users in particular are struggling with the idea of using a different tool.

Speaking of licensing, I am interested to see how MemoQ's licensing scheme will be adopted once it's time for it. Last fall Kilgray adopted a new system in which all upgrades are free for a year after purchase, no matter how major or minor they might be; after that year, a 20% annual fee is applicable for further upgrades. This is certainly not an uncommon practice in the software industry in general, but as far as I know it is unusual for the individual user sector in our industry. We'll see what happens come fall of 2009.