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Q and A with Dmitri Popov

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Corinne McKayDmitri Popov works as a technical translator from English and Danish to Russian, as well as a freelance contributor to major European and US computer magazines and websites. His articles cover open source software including desktop and web-based applications and tools. Recently, Dmitri released the book Hands on Open Source, which provides a practical introduction to the best open source applications.

Open Source Update: Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in translation.
Dmitri Popov: I hold a degree in Russian language and computer linguistics as well as technical translation from English to Russian. Since around 1994 I've been teaching Russian and translation theory at Aarhus University, Denmark and working as a technical translator. The last five years, however, I have mainly worked as a freelance contributor to Danish and US computer magazines and websites.

OSU: How did you get interested in open source, and the possibilities of combining open source and translation?
DP: My interest in Open Source started with OpenOffice.org, which I've been using since version 1.0 or even earlier. Later I joined OpenOffice.org's Quality Assurance project helping to test development versions of the application and reporting bugs. About a year ago I discovered OmegaT, which immediately became my translation tool of choice. It's a great tool that allows users to deliver professional services while maintaining compatibility with proprietary tools. Although I don't contribute to the OmegaT project, I do my best to spread the word about it.

OSU: What led you to write your newly released book, "Hands on Open Source"? Who is the target reader for this book?
DP: I've written quite a few articles about open-source alternatives to commercial closed source software. During my research I stumbled upon some really great open-source applications like GanttProject, Lucane, Grisbi, and, of course, OmegaT. At some point I realized that virtually any computing task I face in my daily work can be carried out using open-source software. The book is actually a result of this realization: no matter what you use your computer for, it's almost certain that there is an open-source application that can do the job. Personal finance management, translation, online collaboration, project management, even gaming-Open Source's got it covered. The book attempts to provide answers to the most common questions such as "What can I use open-source software for?" "Are there alternatives to the commercial closed source applications I'm currently using?" "How do I get started with open-source software?" If you've ever asked yourself these questions, you're likely to find the book useful.

OSU: What do you feel is standing between the translation industry and widespread use of open source software?
DP: In many respects, the translation industry is no different from any other industry, and the reasons for slow adoption of open-source software are universal. In many cases companies are reluctant to consider open-source alternatives because they have already invested huge amounts of money in, for example, TRADOS. Understandably, the idea of discarding thousands of dollars spent on TRADOS and trying something else instead is not all that appealing. Another concern is that migration from one tool to another can often affect not only the translation company itself, but also its customers. Who wants to risk his or her customers' good will for the sake of trying something new? Introducing a new tool also requires time. Many freelancers are busy enough to even consider spending hours on installing, configuring and learning new software.

OSU: What open source software do you use on daily basis?
DP: The OpenOffice.org office suite, Firefox browser, and Thunderbird e-mail client are three applications I use most of the time. There are also quite a few utilities that I find indispensable; Notepad++, Rainy's Calendar, WordNet, and RSS Owl are among them.

OSU: How does this software compare to proprietary alternatives?
DP: It may sound surprising, but I rarely compare the open-source applications I use with proprietary alternatives. The key question for me is "Does this program do what I need?" As long as the application does what I want and does it well, I have no reason to compare it with other programs. Also, some open-source doesn't have proprietary counterparts, like WordNet, for example.

OSU: What effect do you think that SDL's acquisition of Trados will have on the market for a commercially supported open source CAT tool?
DP: Any changes in status quo give an opportunity for companies and freelancers to evaluate their current software setups and take a closer look at alternatives. I hope that the acquisition will give companies and translators a chance to examine the open-source options available on the market.

OSU: If you could create a new open source application for the translation industry, what would it be?
DP: I'd like to see a version of OmegaT integrated into OpenOffice.org, something like the TRADOS and Word combo. The difference would be, of course, that OmegaT can still be used as a stand-alone translation software.

OSU: What piece of advice would you offer to people who work as volunteers on open source projects?
DP: Keep up the good work!

OSU: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you're planning?
DP: I currently spend most of my time promoting my book and gathering material for the second edition. I also spend a lot of time on my website www.nothickmanuals.info and developing OpenOffice.org samples and templates (some of them are already available under (L)GPL on the website). If you have a good idea for a template or an OpenOffice.org-based solution, feel free to contact me

OSU: Dmitri, thanks a lot for taking the time to share your experiences with Open Source Update's readers.
DP: Thank you, Corinne. Good luck with your work and the Open Source Update newsletter!

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