Monday, June 30, 2008

Why most entrepreneurs can't get funding

After over a year of attempting to generate investor interest in my startup business, emailing, calling, presenting and attending conferences with business angels and venture capitalists, I finally noticed this message that seems to appear whenever I'm thinking about new ways of raising capital:

This probably helps to explain why so many entrepreneurs have trouble financing their first companies. Fortunately Microsoft provides instructions for unblocking startup programs, so hopefully I'm now well on my way to taking my business to the next step!

Friday, June 6, 2008

You want me to translate _what_?

In today's German-to-English translation work, I came across the optimistic statement that Dieses Feld muss ausgefühlt werden, literally, this field (in a form) has to be felt out. LOL!

It's often hard to prevent the odd howler from creeping into a translation, especially when the pressure is on. That's why professional translations, in addition to being prepared by a native speaker of the target language with experience in the subject matter, are always checked by another experienced native speaker. Unless it's been cooling off for much longer than any deadlines allow these days, it's virtually impossible to check through your own work without admiring what a good job you've done and overlooking the odd mistake. But in addition to watching out for your own mistakes, you've also got to cast a critical eye on the source to make sure it actually makes sense in the given context. Fortunately in the above case, the spelling error and is obvious, and I could go ahead and translate what the author wanted to say instead of what he wrote. But it reminded me that translation errors can indeed have different "sources".

The story could have ended a bit differently, though, if my customer had decided to rely on machine translation for this job. When I tell people I do translation work, they invariably tell me about some amazing new machine translation program they've seen or heard about, and ask me what I think. My response is, until computers actually start doing research, writing documents and discussing them intelligibly, it's unlikely that they'll be able to deliver a flawless translation under all circumstances. Case in point: when trying to approach Rura Penthe in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, the crew of the Enterprise has to resort to phrasebooks to pass themselves off as a cargo vessel, as the Klingons would notice right away if they tried to use the universal translator. And they still manage to come up with some excellent howlers.

Not to say I wouldn't recommend a good translation memory tool like Snowball for a professional translator to use wisely, but isn't it interesting that the crew considers reliable machine translation to be science fiction, even in their own scifi age of faster-than-light travel?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Taking (back) ownership from Vista

It started with what was supposed to be a simple update to Thunderbird on my Vista system. I'm just starting to learn about Google sites, and I was unable to edit anything with my current version of Firefox.While I was updating, I thought I'd check for updates to Thunderbird, and sure enough, there was a new version. No problem, I thought, download, install, and back to work. But no, the install kept stopping at writing to a file called mozMapi32.dll, and no matter how many different permission buttons I clicked, it wasn't going to budge. Nor could I manually delete or rename the file, even as an Administrator*. By now I was going to get that Thunderbird update installed one way or another, so I googled around for deleting files on Vista, and found this promising post: Add “Take Ownership” Option to the Windows Vista Context Menu. What a relief! After installing this little fix, all I had to do was Shift-right-click the offending file and select "Take ownership". I renamed the file instead of deleting it, just to be on the safe side, restarted the Thunderbird update, and now I'm back in business. Thanks to Santosh for pointing this out!

*By the way, I log on to Vista as an Administrator every day; it's my only account. Some may liken this to driving without a safety belt, but my response is that if I'm forced to take something off every time I want to signal a lane change or put on the brakes, it hardly has anything to do with safety, does it? And yes, I buckle up before starting the car, and I clip on before going up on deck. And I back up to two separate external hard drives, automatically, every day.