Adding Japanese support to the Eee PC

With a name like “Denki-Guy”, you can well imagine that I am a big fan of Japan and things Japanese.  One of the first things I do when I get a new PC is enable Japanese language support.  Now that I have had my Eee PC for a week, it was time to make my Netbook Japanese friendly.

My new Eee PC 900 came pre-loaded with Linux rather than Windows.  The lack of a Windows license fee certainly helped the maker ASUS keep their costs down but there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.  The cost is the added complexity of configuring and managing the software.  In the case of Windows, Japanese language support is already built in but,  the Japanese language support I want for the Eee PC 900 requires software not bundled with the resident Linux.

The Linux release that ships with the Eee PC 900 includes an input method platform called gcin which is focused primarily on traditional Chinese.  The writeup implies that gcin can support Japanese input also but I want to use SCIM-anthy for my Japanese input method.  I found a  good writeup in English on getting started with SCIM-anthy.  This document describes the required software modules and more importantly, how to use the input method.

When I turned to the web for some help, the Denki-Guy learned that he is not the only person who wants to use Japanese on his US version Eee PC.  Try searching on “Eee PC Japanese Language Support” to see for yourself.  Once again, the fourms on EeeUser.com are very helpful.  The Roseta Stone for me was a post from AngryJohn.  Even with this information I wasn’t ready to blindly type in commands and cross my fingers.  I need to understand what is going on first.  After a few additional hours of research, I was confident that AngryJohn had the right approach.  If you want to quickly add Japanese support to your Linux version Eee PC, follow the steps from AngryJohn.  If you want a more detailed explanation of the process, read on.

From the home page, press Ctrl Alt t to open a terminal window.  Next type the command suand enter the root password in response to the prompt.  The su command will grant the terminal window SuperUserstatus.   All of the commands below must be executed from the SuperUser terminal.

  1. The first step is to tell the package manager, APT, where it can find scim-anthy and the other related packages.  This is done via the sources.list file.  To use xedit to update the file, type the command:  xedit /etc/apt/sources.list.  Add the following entry to the bottom of the list:
    deb http://http.us.debian.org/debian etch main contrib non-free
    Save the changes and close the window.  This entry gives APT a URL where it can look for packages and specifies the “etch” distribution, sections “main”, “contrib” and “non-free”.  More details can be found in the APT HOWTO.
  2. Next we need to tell APT to read the package list from the debian server.  To do this, type the command: apt-get update from the command line.  Don’t worry if you get some warning messages during this process.
  3. Now that APT knows where to find the packages we want, it is time to install components.  The component I installed first was the Japanese font.  This was done by typing: apt-get install ttf-kochi-gothic from the command line.
  4. The next step was to install the Japanese input method components.  The command for this is:
    apt-get install anthy scim-anthy im-switch kasumi
    APT will also install scim since it is required by scim-anthy.
  5. Since we will be using the scim-anthy, we can remove the old input method.  The command to remove gcin is:
    apt-get remove --purge gcin
  6. We can now reconfigure the Locales to tell Linux we will be using this computer in English and Japanese.  Type the command: dpkg-reconfigure locales to launch a GUI which allows you to specify the supported languages.  Select: en_US.UTF-8 UTF-8, ja_JP.EUC-JP EUC-JP and ja-UTF-8 UTF-8.  Deselect any other locales that may be checked.  On the next page of the package configuration GUI, I kept US English (en_US.UTF-8) as the default locale.
  7. The final step is to configure im-switch to use.  Type the command: im-switch -cto run a program which allows you to choose an alternative input method.  Choose the option for scim.  Close the terminal window and reboot.

To test your Japanese input method, open a browser window and press Ctrl Space.  The scim-anthy control bar will appear.  At this point, you should be able to convert Romaji to Hiragana to Kanji. 

Please let me know if these instructions were helpful by filing a comment.

The Denki-Guy

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