Digital Resources for Buddhist Studies

Archive for October, 2009

Using UTF-8 in Virtual eLearning

Posted by billmagee on 2009/10/26

In a previous posting here and in a video there I described a method for writing and displaying Tibetan based on numerous panels each containing the entire character set and a method for writing and displaying Tibetan that uses a server-side PHP script to communicate with the parcel media url.

These are useful insofar as they are generic methods for displaying Tibetan that require no setup on the part of the student. However, for the instructor, the multi-panel build and server-side LaTex installation are relatively difficult to construct, requiring assembly and programming knowledge. Therefore, we need an easily implemented method for writing and displaying the Buddhist canonical languages in the metaverse.

Luckily, such a method is already available in the Virtual Worlds of Second Life and OpenSim: these platforms support Unicode UTF-8 encoding both in scripts and in the chat interface.

Unicode is a computing standard allowing computers to represent most of the world’s writing systems. Unicode can be implemented by a variety of character encodings, most commonly UTF-8 (8-bit UCS/Unicode Transformation Format), a variable-length character encoding for Unicode. It is able to represent any character in the Unicode standard.

UTF-8 encoded characters can be represented in-world, but to view them one must have a unicode font for that language installed on one’s own computer.

These three images show Tibetan, Devanagari, and Chinese being displayed in the Dharma Drum Buddhist College OpenSim:

Tibetan UTF-8

Tibetan UTF-8

Devanagari UTF-8

Devanagari UTF-8

Chinese UTF-8

Chinese UTF-8

The UTF-8 strings were easily typed on my Ubuntu computer using Scim, a multi-language parsing tool that provides a wide range of input methods covering over thirty languages. Input methods are available for your operating system also. Consult your favorite search engine for details.

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The TeXTibetan Whiteboard

Posted by billmagee on 2009/10/24

The Dharma Drum Buddhist College Tibetan Classroom in Second Life now boasts an innovative new eLearning tool: the TeXTibetan Whiteboard.

Developed on Dharma Drum Mountain by Bill Magee and Simon Wiles, the TeXTibetan Whiteboard was inspired by Professor David Wood’s SLaTeX Math Viewer, which renders LaTeX-formatted math equations from the Second Life chat-line. The TeXTibetan Whiteboard works on the same principle as the SLaTeX Math Viewer. It accepts LaTeX-formatted text directly from the chat-line — in this case, Wylie transliterated Tibetan. The Wylie text is sent to a server-side PHP script, where it is parsed into Tibetan characters and rendered as a PNG image file. The graphical image is sent back into Second Life where it can be displayed on any surface wearing the designated media texture.

LaTeX is a powerful page-formatting macro package based on the TeX processor. Currently, the TeXTibetan Whiteboard can be used to display Tibetan as well as Roman text with diacritical marks and, of course, math equations. The TeXTibetan Whiteboard’s functionality can easily be expanded to include Devanagari and Chinese fonts. If a script can be parsed by TeX, it can be installed onto the server and displayed on the TeXTibetan Whiteboard.

Here are a few examples of how to use the TexTibetan Whiteboard:

/111 \tib chos

/111 \chos

/111 \tib sangs rgyas \\ chos dang \\ mchog gi tshogs

/111 \tib sangs rgyas \\ chos dang} \\ mchog gi tshogs

/111 \tib \om ma, nxi pa\V{de}{ma} \hung

/111 \tib \om ma, nxi pa\V{de}{ma} \hung

/111 This is math: $X^{2y}$ \\ This is not: \tib rlung

/111 This is math: $X^{2y} \\ This is not: \tib rlung

A complete guide to using Tibetan with Latex exists here.

Try the TeXTibetan Whiteboard at the DDBC Tibetan Classroom in Second Life: Catocala (171,115,623).

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OpenSim Running at DDBC

Posted by billmagee on 2009/10/11

Bill Magee and Simon Wiles of the Library and Information Center at Dharma Drum Buddhist College have established an OpenSim virtual campus behind the DDBC firewall.
OpenSim is a BSD Licensed Open Source virtual world capable of supporting standalone or grid-structured servers. We are currently using the Diva distribution of OS. Our sim is running on an Ubuntu 9.04 platform with 4 mb RAM. Installation of the software under Ubuntu requires Mono 2.4 and MySQL. OpenSims can be viewed with the Second Life viewer, but Open Source clients such as Hippo and Meerkat offer advanced cross-sim functionality.
DDBC has had an educational presence in the virtual world of Second Life since 2007. However, OpenSim has numerous advantages over the Second Life platform. Site administrators have complete control over all aspects of the sim. There are no corporate-imposed limitations on build size or number of prims allowed in-world. Entire regions can be backed up in XML format to the local hard drive for archival purposes or public distribution. Because it runs locally, it is private and free of mature content. Upgrades are handled seamlessly by the Diva distro. Since the software is cross-platform, an instance of OpenSim can be installed on almost any machine with two or more gigabites of RAM (Bill’s laptop runs a clone of the DDBC sim). Most importantly, it is Open Source and completely free.
Since current releases of OpenSim are still experimental, there are disadvantages as well. For instance, OS users must rely on forums and chat rooms (and on Simon) to resolve perplexing installation and LSL scripting problems. Certain SL communications protocols and LSL scripting functions are still unavailable. Despite these issues, OpenSim is quite usable now, as DDBC students have shown, and looks to become fully functional in future releases.
Our DDBC sim currently hosts Bill’s OpenSim Tibetan Classroom. The Cube of Tibetan Consonants and the Tibetan Numbers and Grammar Puzzle are up and running. The Tibetan Debate Simulator and the Wall of WylieWriters will be available soon. Bill is also constructing a full-scale walk-in model of DDM’s Great Buddha Hall. Daily OAR archives are freely available to anyone. If you have an OpenSim running and would like to have your own copy of the OpenSim Tibetan Classroom, please write to Bill at billmagee@ddbc.edu.tw.
Future plans include opening our sim to outside users, connecting our OpenSim to the OSGrid archipelago, expanding its size beyond its current four regions, and hosting classes, conferences, and visiting dignitaries at our mountainous virtual campus.
Download the <a href=”http://github.com/diva/diva-distribution/downloads”>Diva distribution.</a>
Read about the <a href=”http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/”>OSGrid Open Metaverse.</a>

Bill Magee, assistant professor of Tibetan Studies, and Simon Wiles of the Library and Information Center at Dharma Drum Buddhist College, have established an OpenSim virtual campus behind the DDBC firewall.

OpenSim is a BSD Licensed Open Source virtual-world software capable of supporting standalone or grid-structured servers. We are currently using the Diva distribution of OS [Note: we are now running OpenSim-0.6.7 release. See my blog about installing this release on your own computer at http://billmagee.wordpress.com.%5D. Our sim is running on an Ubuntu 9.04 platform with 4 mb RAM. Installation of the software under Ubuntu requires Mono 2.4 and MySQL. OpenSims can be viewed with the Second Life viewer, but Open Source clients such as Hippo and Meerkat offer advanced cross-sim functionality.

DDBC has had an educational presence in the virtual world of Second Life since 2007. However, OpenSim has numerous advantages over the Second Life platform. Site administrators have complete control over all aspects of the sim. There are no corporate-imposed limitations on build size or number of prims allowed in-world. Entire regions can be backed up in XML format to the local hard drive for archival purposes or public distribution. Because it runs locally, it is private and free of mature content. Upgrades are handled seamlessly by the Diva distro. Since the software is cross-platform, an instance of OpenSim can be installed on almost any machine with two or more gigabites of RAM (Bill’s laptop runs a clone of the DDBC sim). Most importantly, it is Open Source and completely free.

Since current releases of OpenSim are still experimental, there are disadvantages as well. For instance, OS users must rely on forums and chat rooms (and on Simon) to resolve perplexing installation and LSL scripting problems. Certain SL communications protocols and LSL scripting functions are still unavailable. Despite these issues, OpenSim is quite usable now, as DDBC students have shown, and looks to become fully functional in future releases.

Our DDBC sim currently hosts Bill’s Tibetan OpenSim Classroom. The Cube of Tibetan Consonants and the Tibetan Numbers and Grammar Puzzle are up and running. The Tibetan Debate Simulator and the Wall of WylieWriters will be available soon. Bill is also constructing a full-scale walk-in model of DDM’s Great Buddha Hall. Daily OAR archives are freely available to anyone. If you have an OpenSim running and would like to have your own copy of the OpenSim Tibetan Classroom, please write to Bill at billmagee@ddbc.edu.tw.

The Tibetan OpenSim Classroom at DDBC

The Tibetan OpenSim Classroom at DDBC

Future plans include opening our sim to outside users, connecting our OpenSim to the OSGrid archipelago, expanding its size beyond its current four regions, and hosting classes, conferences, and visiting dignitaries at our mountainous virtual campus.

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republican era buddhist journals 2

Posted by marcus.bingenheimer on 2009/10/06

The bibliographical database of  articles from Buddhist journals from the Republican era has been moved to its stable location at:

http://buddhistinformatics.ddbc.edu.tw/minguofojiaoqikan/

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