Writing Japanese on a Mac

The easiest way to write Japanese on the Mac is to utilize the build-in Japanese keyboard, where you can enter words ‘phonetically’ and it maps them to words as you type, allowing you to select options if there are multiple.

The somewhat better option is Google IME, which is fairly popular and generally has better suggestions.

Whichever one you use, the biggest hassle for people who write another language besides Japanese is to switch between the keyboard layouts efficiently. On actual Japanese keyboards you can use a key to switch quickly between latin based input and kana/phonetic input. On the Mac you can select a similar option in your keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch between layouts. The choice of a shortcut, however, can be somewhat difficult if you think about it.

A nicer option in my opinion is to use KeyRemap4MacBook, which allows you to reprogram certain keys to the task that you normally can’t use that way. An obvious choice would be caps lock, which few people really care too much for. Since I already remapped it to be a control/escape combo in my setup, I chose the right command key to be my keyboard switch. For shortcuts I really only use the left one anyway, so the right one is just never used anyway. Plus it’s very easily accessible.

But hey, KeyRemap4MacBook even allows for combo mode (which I used for caps lock lock as well): If you press the key with a shortcut, it works like normal. If you press it by itself, it works as a keyboard switch. Just search for “command_r” in the settings and look for the KANA option.

Screen Shot 2014-02-02 at 05.08.32 pm

Setting up Anki for Learning Japanese

In this article I am going to go over how I set up Anki, a fairly commonly used application used by people learning Japanese. It is based on a so-called SRS (Spaced Repetition System) that is supposed to help people remember lots of information in an efficient way.

The first step you should do when you are working with Anki is read the manual. It’s comprehensive and details a lot of things that people are commonly wondering about when working with it for the first time. I am just going to assume from this point on that you did just that and won’t go over any of the basics. Afterwards, go install the Japanese Support add-on.

It has a few different features most of which I either never used or I never got to work (like Kanji stats). None of them are really important at all. The part of it that I use is furigana support. To use furigana, all you have to do is when entering your vocabulary, you enter it like this:

私[わたし]の 名前[なま]はパトリックです。

As you can see the reading of the kanji I used is written directly after it in square brackets. In front of each kanji segment that has furigana for it (e.g. 名前 here), you must also take care to insert a space. If there was no space here, the furigana would have been written on top of の名前 instead. After the brackets, however, a space is not required.

Now in your card settings you normally insert content like this: {{Field}}. If the field contains tags featuring furigana, you can now use {{Kanji:Field}} to show just the kanji without furigana, {{Furigana:Field}} to show them with furigana and even {{Kana:Field}} to just show the text with the furigana replacing the kanji.

This really is everything you need to get going, but as a bonus, I will also showcase how to apply my Anki design if you want to have it look a bit nicer than it does by default.

First, however, my setup: I only have a single card type that is basically a renamed version of the ‘Basic’ one that comes with Anki extended by quite a few fields. In there I have a collection of sentences (I only learn in complete sentences).

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 10.39.10 pm

Most of them are as you can see quite unnecessary. They are, however, a result of my backend that I used to export the data for it (which I won’t go into in this). The ‘ID’ is a unique number for each card that allows me to quickly reference them in the backend. ‘Japanese’ is the Japanese text with furigana as detailed above. ‘Japanese Kanji’ is the Japanese text without furigana. The reason for having it is that my backend automatically tries to insert furigana, but sometimes fails. Then I have this field for quick reference. ‘English’ is a translation of the sentence. ‘Audio’ is a sound reference to an Audio file that reads the Japanese sentence.

Now for the card setup:

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 10.44.54 pm

I have uploaded the content of the styling fields to github. All you need to do to use it yourself, all you have to do is adjusting the names of the fields (only ‘Japanese’, ‘English’ and ‘Audio’ are referenced).

Fix Steam Downloads constantly being suspended

This is a repost of a blog post from my previous blog, for which I still get quite a bit of hits from google. Hopefully it is still helpful for people:

Almost every Steam User knows it: Suspended Downloads which just won’t finish. Here are my 2 cents on how to fix them in almost any situation:

  • Downloads will be suspended when you launch a game. If that’s what you did, then just pause them and unpause them. The download should then continue.
  • The Steam folder or some subdirectories are set to “Read Only”. Uncheck that option for the Steam folder. (This should be the number one thing on Windows at least)
    • (The Mac equivalent of sort is to Repair Permissions on your root drive. Just to be save you can check the read-only thing as well using “Get Info” on the steam folder in ~/Library/Application Support and checking if it says “Read & Write” next to your username in the permission section. I’ve never seen permission change by themselves on the Mac thought, seems to be only with the Windows version of Steam.)
  • If you are using a non-english Operating System you can try to set your Unicode Language Setting to “English” (suggestion by a guy named Elvis in the comments of the previous post).
  • Exit Steam, go to the Steam-Folder and delete the “ClientRegistry.blob” file. Now restart Steam (you will have to enter your password again even if you checked to save it).
  • Verify the game cache (this option is found in the Properties of the game in the Steam Interface).
  • Delete a bunch of already downloaded files and reverify the cache.
  • If nothing helps: Delete everything and redownload

Those are pretty much the options in the order in which they should be applied.

If everything else fails and you find out how to fix it, please leave me a comment so I can add it to the list.