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Archive for August, 2012

Failure of Windows 7 and Japanese IME

My wife’s notebook PC recently died on us (luckily we had backups!) so we went shopping for a new computer.  We considered tablets, but in the end we ended up going with an ultrabook (thin notebook PC).  We had a coupon for the Microsoft store, and in the end I think we got a rather good deal.  If only we had a student in the house, we could have received an xbox for free…not that I ever have the time to play any games.

We had considered ordering a laptop from Japan so that it would come with the Japanese version of Windows and a Japanese keyboard.  But doing so was out of our budget, and instead we decided to buy a US laptop and just use the Japanese IME from Microsoft.

After a few days now, my wife is frustrated with the American English keyboard layout, just as I was when I lived in Japan and had to search hard for the quote mark key and the “@” mark on a Japanese keyboard.  With time though, that annoyance goes away as you modify your muscle memory.  To make her computer more Japan-like, I configured the tilde or accent grave key as the language switching key in the top-left corner of a Japanese keyboard.  I could not completely make it Japan-like, however, due to a lazy Microsoft design flaw.

Windows 7 has a major flaw that does not appear fixable.  When switching to the Japanese IME, even if you have set “Hiragana” mode as the default, the IME always starts in Direct Input English mode.  After much searching, a Microsoft support rep appears to have said, in summary, that it will only revert to Hiragana mode if you have a Japanese keyboard, and there is no fix for this.  This is highly frustrating for anyone who has to switch between English and Japanese input.  Prior versions of Windows did not have this issue (e.g. Vista, XP).

The alternative appears to be setting non-unicode language default of the computer to Japanese, and then installing ATOK, the widely popular Japanese IME program in Japan.  Hopefully this issue will be fixed in Windows 8 when it comes out (we have an upgrade coupon for that) if ATOK does not work.

Every once in awhile I wonder if I ought to get off of Apple platforms and go back to Microsoft, especially because Apple computers cost about 33% more than Windows computers.  Also, Apple’s drive to sell software through AppStore also is a bit unnerving.  I like to direct download from the vendor, or better yet, have a CD or DVD with the software on it.  Yet issues like the one described above remind me of why I enjoy my MacBook–things just work.  I have had my MacBook for 4 years now, and though it runs slower with the new apps, it is still usable for me.  My previous computer, and Apple iBook, lasted 5.5 years.  So while Apple products may cost more than a PC, I have had good luck with getting a long life out of them.  Perhaps I have just been lucky though?  We shall see where this AppStore thing goes, and whether or not Microsoft decides to follow the idea…

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