Dear Microsoft,

You know, I’ve grown so accustomed to operating systems with native Unicode support that I’m still getting over the shock that Windows 7 still has I18N holes you could drive a truck through. And this time I’m not talking about the deep-seated belief that all USB keyboards have the same layout.

It would be one thing if you’d just chosen a different encoding, but no, the file system is UTF-16, text files open in UTF-8, and cmd.exe opens in ISO-Latin-1. I can switch cmd into UTF-8 with /u and manually change the output mapping with chcp 65001, but since I can’t select a font containing kanji, that’s of limited utility.

Thanks to the beta Console2 application, I can verify that it’s possible to get, say, a Perl script or a sqlite session to print kanji from cmd.exe, but since Console2’s developers circular-filed a bug pointing out that their app would be completely compatible with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean if the redraw code just counted characters instead of bytes, I don’t expect things to improve any time soon.

(Windows PowerShell, for all its apparent shell power, still runs in a window that can’t seem to display anything but basic missionary-position Western European characters)

I don’t want to layer Cygwin or Ubuntu on top of Windows, for obvious reasons, so I’m forced to resort to Emacs shell-mode to see gorgeous anti-aliased kanji on a bare-bones command-line (well, after I spent 45 minutes deciphering the poor documentation for the arcane font-mapping elisp commands…). Stone knives and bearskins, when any Mac or modern Linux distro supports nine billion languages out of the box.

Amusing note: did you know someone out there is trying to sell a C Shell port for $350 a seat? No, seriously. I’d have choked on my beer if I drank beer.

[and why am I trying to hack Japanese with Perl and SQLite on Windows when I have a perfectly good Mac or six, and a perfectly functional EeePC running Fedora12? Because the Lenovo S12 won’t melt flesh when the CPU gets busy, has a very nice screen and keyboard, and Win7 is in most other respects an excellent desktop operating system. I wasn’t kidding a while back when I said that Perl and Emacs are the difference between a computer and a toy; iPad enthusiasts take note…]