Monday, 31 October 2011

Google Translate with SDL Trados Connection Problems

Firstly, let me say that I hate Google Translate most of the time. For the kind of Technical Chinese to English translations I do, the results are usually hilarious (unintentionally) and not the slightest bit useful. However, on some occasions, it can be handy. For example, if I come across a list of chemical elements, for the heavier elements, all I would normally do is google them and find the Chinese name, there's no way I could memorize the heavier stuff. Google Translate can do that for me, saving the trouble. The problem is that the Google Translate doesn't seem to care about the quality of the source website and does occasionally get it wrong (so I have to double and triple check everything). Anyway, for some jobs it can be handy to use Google Translation, but it has to be used only in rare circumstances.

Thus, there are two important points to take into account. Firstly, the fact is that Goolge Translate has "HORRIBLE" licensing agreements. There has been a lot of writing about this on the web recently, you can see  an example of of critical blog article here. Basically, Google keeps everything you do and can do whatever they want with it. For that reason, virutally no clients allow you to use Google Translate on their projects, but as I said, it can still have its uses in certain circumstances.

For that reason, it was a real problem when google recently started charging from the use of Google Translate (as mentioned on their blog here). This means that you have to register with "Google Checkout" and you will be billed for using Google Translate. You can argue about whether it's a good thing to be charged, but I guess it's up to them. The problem is that this change suddenly caused a problem to Trados Studio 2009.  A quick look around the translation blogs will show that people were furious with SDL about that.

The only solution seemed to offer was to upgrade to Studio 2011 and then to WAIT until they release another service pack. The main rivals to SDL seemed to catch on a lot quicker, for example MemoQ has already updated its code, and so have a couple of the other TM providers.

Thus, a workaround was needed  for SDL translate. Luckily, Translator's Corner came to the rescue. The solution is as follows. Trados Studio sends a call to the Google Translate system. We download some software (Fiddler) that allows us to "catch" the call and modify it. When then modify the call to the settings that work with the new paid version of the Google Translate system. When it comes back we catch the response and send it back to Trados as required.

Go over to Translator's Corner to see exactly how it works and get all the necessary code etc. It's worth using, but don't go using Google Translate unless you really know what you are doing.

Sunday, 16 October 2011


I hate writing invoices. As a freelance Chinese to English translator, I have to write invoices for each individual job I do. This month I've already written more than 10 invoices. I thought about adopting another on-line solution such as Fresh Books, and I did some research into the possibility.

So the first thing I needed to know was, how much time do I spend writing invoices. That was easy enough to determine. I took an average over 10 invoices and discovered that they take "x" minutes each (I don't want to give out the exact number due to client confidentiality agreements).

Next step would to work out the cost of doing the same using a website. I logged onto the website for Fresh Books one of the many online companies with similiar services. Next step was to look through the pricing and try to work out the cost for sending an invoice. With the websites, the initial time would be rather high, but once it was up and running, the main costs would just be fees. Let's call that price "y".

So now comes the easy maths. If x is more than y, then it would be worth my time to move to y. And x was considerably less than y. In fact I did some work and found that in order to justify paying even the just the fees (not taking into account the time and trouble to log on etc). I would need something like 30-50 invoices per month.

My conclusion is that at this point, using a website to do my invoicing would save time, make my life easier, and allow me to focus more on my work, but since the main reason I'm not earning more money is a lack of clients (ideally I'd have work to do for 8 hours every day all year round), rather than a lack of time, it's not worth doing anything like that at this point.

Other translator's I've spoken to usually do their own invoicing as I do. Some use a bookkeeper. I think it depends on the language combination. Germans/French/Spanish/Italian etc seem to get as much work as they can handle, so it might be worth doing it for them. More unusual languages like Chinese will mostly have at least a few hours per week to catch up with their invoicing for free. Link

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Backup Computers

In order to do my Chinese to English technical translation job and ensure that I'm ready for anything, I decided a while ago to keep two identical laptops. I figure that if one laptop goes wrong the other can be used right away. Seems like a good idea? Here's what happened.

Two identical Acer Aspire laptops

The day I purchased my second Acer Aspire 4752 two things happened. Firstly I noticed that the new laptop only had the Intel i3 Core chip while my original one (black in the picture above) had the i5. They cost the same amount and came from the same store (Dixons in Ealing, West London), but I guess I should have checked that beforehand. Other than that they seemed identical so I was happy to let it go. The i3 was to be my backup machine anyway.

While I was turning on the new machine for its first use, I plugged my old computer into my TV to watch a TV show while I was waiting (new series of True Blood - crap by the way). Suddently my computer went BANG and turned off. I waited a couple of days and then turned it back on. It kept dying midway through the bootup.

So now I've got a dead "old" laptop. And a "new" laptop which I've more or less made usable from my external hard drive backup, I lost about a days work in the process. I also had to purchase a new SDL Trados license to use the second machine (I'll write about that in more detail at some point) because it wasn't letting me install it on another machine.

I decided the best thing would be to take out the hard drive of my "old" laptop. Back it up, and then format the machine. So I opened it up and took out the hard drive.

My old laptop opened up with the hard drive showing

Next step was take out the hard drive (which takes a bit of skill) and then plug it into my external case, which is USB powered. The idea being that it then becomes an external drive and I can copy all my data from that. (Although I do keep backups, they are not totally all-inclusive and I wanted to save as much data as possible - a lesson there perhaps).

The hard drive removed and in an external casing

After a bit of messing about I was able to copy all the data from that drive (my old computer) and so I didn't lose any data. I did lose a lot of time with all the messing around and trying to figure out what I'm doing. Now I know you're going to say I'm mad, but I swear I looked and looked, and there were some screws left over after I put the hard drive back in the "old" (broken) laptop.

Screws left over after putting everything back together!

So now the memory from the broken laptop is restored I decided to restore the factory settings. That's what I do and it works for a couple of days before breaking again. Then I tried another factory reset and it kept getting stuck.

Laptop stuck on system restore process

The old laptop was still only a six months old so I phoned Dixon's support. After some messing around I was put through to a company called Know How, the lady on the phone tried to get me to run a system restore, but I kept explaining that it was definately a hardware error. She agreed that they would come and collect the laptop from my home, repair it and then return it.

They took the laptop and agree to return it a week later. Close to the return date, I got a job overseas so I had to go away for 2 weeks. I phoned Know How and told them to delay the delivery until I got back. After that I got 17 calls from them ranging from "Yeah Mr David, I'm outside your house with your new laptop as agreed", to "you missed the agreed delivery today, when will you be available? I'll rearrange for tomorrow".

Eventually I got back home and got the laptop back in working order. A bit of a long story, but I thought it might be interesting. My main lessons from the experience were:

1. Always keep receipts (otherwise returning goods is a nightmare)
2. Backup everything (not just urgent or important, but everything). Also keep disks for ALL programs installed on the computer.
3. I'm not really happy with Acer. Both laptops seem a bit buggy to use, and a laptop shouldn't die within 6 months like that. In future I'll pay a bit more for an IBM or Lenovo which I hear have better keyboards anyway.
4. Keeping the two identical laptops is difficult (have to install everything on two machines/possible license issues/bugs need to be fixed twice). It might be better to think about a network of somekind?

What do you guys do for backups? Can you recommend any good solutions? I hate having to double my effort running installers etc just for the 1% chance that something might go wrong. Is there any other way???