Personal Media Corporation began marketing on Friday, July 7, the latest version of its 32-bit, BTRON3-specification operating system for IBM-PC/AT compatibles. The new operating system, B-right/V R2.5, is called Cho Kanji 2 (Ultra Kanji 2) in the Japanese market, since it is the second version of this operating system with unabridged kanji [Chinese character] processing capability. Compared to the previous version of B-right/V, Release 2, which could process any of 128,400 characters, Release 2.5 can process any of 134,567 characters, which includes the 4,344 characters of JIS levels 3 and 4. These newly created kanji character sets were easily added to the operating system, since B-right/V R2.5 has a character processing framework with the capacity to handle a total of 1.5 million characters.
In addition to an increase in the number of characters that it can process, B-right/V R2.5 adds a new way to write and print them. In response to popular demand, Personal Media has added a vertical input and layout system so that Japanese language documents can be written as they traditionally were--vertically. This function will also be useful in the future when expanding the operating system to process languages that are only written vertically, such as Manchu and Mongolian when written with their traditional scripts. As for processing other languages, B-right/V R2.5 includes 20 modules for directly inputting from the keyboard other languages of the world. These modules are for Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean, Ainu, and European languages (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Slovenian, Turkish, Russian, and Greek).
As a result of incorporating new kanji into the operating system, the Character Search function has been expanded to help users locate JIS levels 3 and 4 characters. The characters of the former are color coded in light blue, and the characters of the latter are color coded in dark green. Furthermore, it is now possible to search for related Chinese characters that are used in China (simplified), Korea, and Taiwan (traditional), and it has also become possible to search for related characters among symbols and embellished numerals. On the hardware side, Personal Media has added support for two low-cost, high-resolution Hewlett-Packard color ink jet printers, the HP DeskJet 970Cxi and 955C, plus WACOM Co. Ltd.'s FAVO tablet. FAVO is a small tablet about the size of a mouse pad with a batteryless mouse and pen that is used for inputting handwriting and graphic data into computer documents. Finally, Personal Media is including an introductory video inside every package along with the software media and documentation in order to make it easier to learn how to use B-right/V R2.5.
B-right/V R2.5 is being marketed without a manufacturer's suggested retail price. The street price is in the Akihabara electronics district of Tokyo, however, comes to about 10,000 yen, sales tax included. Sales of the operating system in it first month on the market have been surprisingly strong. The previous version of the operating system hit the sales chart at tenth place and went down from there. B-right/V R2.5 hit the sales chart at sixth place and then went up to fifth place before falling. Accordingly, it seems that new users are beginning to purchase the operating system for its many advanced features, in particular its unabridged kanji processing capability. Other factors for these strong sales appear to be that the TRON Project in general, and the BTRON-specification operating system in particular, have been drawing the attention of Japanese news media, and that Personal Media is gaining a reputation for reliability. As the chart below shows, Personal Media has been developing and marketing BTRON-specification operating systems for 10 years, so it is obvious to users that "these guys and their technology" are going to be around for a long time.
|16-bit Intel MPUs||32-bit TRONCHIP||32-bit IBM-PC/AT Compatibles||32-bit NEC (V810) MPU|
|1990||2B (so-called "pure BTRON" running on Gmicro series MPUs)|
|1991||1B/Note (Matsushita laptop; not IBM-PC/AT compatible)|
|1994||1B/V1 (IBM-PC/AT compatibles)|
|1995||1B/V2 (IBM-PC/AT compatibles)|
|1996||1B/V3 (IBM-PC/AT compatibles)|
|1997||B-right (micro-BTRON for BrainPad TiPO PDA)|
|1998||B-right/V (multilingual system based on a single character plane)|
|1999||B-right/V R2 ("Ultra Kanji" with true BTRON multilingual system)|
|2000||B-right/V R2.5 ("Ultra Kanji 2" with JIS levels 3 and 4)|
As a footnote, it should be pointed out that the number of freeware applications for BTRON continues to climb. Take a look at this Japanese-language link. There are 100 freeware applications in the following categories: Internet (5); image/music (8); text (4); utilities/accessories (15); data conversion (8); operating environment (5); desktop environment (5); input environment (12); dictionaries (8); development and consoles (11); games and things to read (9); data (8); and peripherals, hardware system, and drivers (2).
Access Co. Ltd., a Tokyo-based supplier of software for TRON-based systems such as i-mode cell-phones and µBTRON-based personal digital assistants (PDAs), announced it has developed a real-time operating system (RTOS) based on the standard profile of the µITRON4.0 Specification. The new RTOS, µMore v4.0, is aimed at mobile embedded applications, such as cell-phones. For that reason, it includes an advanced power saving function called "Easy Power Save" and a TCP/IP protocol stack optimized for embedded applications called "AVE-TCP." This RTOS plus the TCP/IP protocol stack can be combined with the firm's "NetFront" and "Compact NetFront" microbrowsers, which have become the standard browsers for cell-phone and other low-powered consumer appliances for personal productivity in Japan.
Access said that the target processors for the new RTOS are Hitachi's SH-3 and versions of the ARM, both of which are low power microprocessors aimed at consumer appliances and handheld devices. However, the company is also offering a beta version for evaluation purposes that runs in emulation on IBM-PC/AT compatibles via its Japanese-language Web site. (The company's English-language Web site is here.) Access commenced deliveries of µMore v3.0, which is based on the µITRON3.0 Specification, on March 1, 2000. The company said it plans to begin deliveries of a µMore v4.0 a system development kit for developing and porting applications to µMore v4.0 in the third quarter of this year. The price will be 3 million yen, and source code will be provided on a royalty free basis.
The TRON Association's "JCG Project," which is a project to develop middleware for information appliances using a JTRON (Java on ITRON) processing platform, CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture), and GUI (Graphical User Interface) parts and managers, has reached completion and the results have been released to the public free of charge in the form of a CD-ROM. JCG Project CD-ROMs were distributed at both the TRON Association's general meeting held in Toranomon on May 30, and at the Information-technology Promotion Agency, Japan's meeting held in the Akasaka Prince Hotel on June 1 to promulgate and display research results.
The JCG Project middleware distributed in the CD-ROM runs on on top of an IBM-PC/AT-compatible processor (x86 hardware) and a µITRON3.0-specification real-time kernel, plus a Java Virtual Machine (JavaVM) and a TCP/IP protocol stack with a LAN driver. Control applications for embedded devices are built above the middleware using the Java Development Kit (JDK, which is not include in the CD-ROM) and the GNU-based development environment for the BTRON3-specification B-right/V R2.5 operating system, which is also called the JCG development environment. The CD-ROM includes HTML-based documentation (project outline and explanations of how to use the programs), JCG source programs, JCG object programs that run on IBM-PC/AT compatibles, Hewlett-Packard's ChaiVM for test runs of JTRON, the JCG development environment, and sample applications for test and evaluation.
Personal Media Corporation has created a BTRON-based animation program that shows an application of the JCG software. The animation depicts a person with a cell-phone using the cell-phone as a remote control device for home appliances. Control programs for these home appliances are sent from the individual appliances to the cell-phone via a wireless link, thus alleviating the need for individual remote control devices. Moreover, since the cell-phone is on all the time, the computerized environment is able to track the user from one room to another so as to change the available remote control programs, and even supply new ones in the event that a new home appliance has been added. Naturally, for this vision of the future to come to pass, both cell-phone makers and home appliance makers with have to develop interoperable products based on JCG software and guidelines.
Those who are interested in obtaining a copy of the JCG Project CD-ROM and/or further information should contact the TRON Association's Research and Development Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be aware that the information on the CD-ROM is in Japanese.
The University of Tokyo's GT Mincho project, a project to develop an unabridged kanji [Chinese character] character set, finally announced the completion of its work on July 28. Prof. Takashi Tamura, the project's representative, announced the character set of 66,773 characters, which has been loaded onto a CD-ROM and distributed free of charge to interested persons. The main advantages of the new font are said to be its coding system, which includes such information as the number of strokes, and the fact that leading Japanese publishing companies and font makers are said to be lining up behind it. Also, there is a GT Mincho subproject that has used the new character set to create a database of ancient Japanese documents in the University of Tokyo's library collection.
The GT Mincho project gets its name from the fact that it is a joint project between the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science [Nihon Gakujutsu Shinkookai] and the University of Tokyo [Toodai]. It began in 1995 under the supervision of Chuo University Prof. Akiho Yamaguchi, and it has also received input from TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura, who teaches at the University of Tokyo and is officially listed as a member of the project. However, the GT Mincho character set is only the latest in a number of unabridged kanji character sets that have appeared in Japan. In addition, there is Konjaku Mojikyo project, the eKanji project, the JIS character sets (levels 1, 2, 3, and 4, plus JIS auxiliary kanji), and, of course, Unicode. Moreover, both the Konjaku Mojikyo and eKanji character sets are currently being used to digitally archive materials internationally.
Westerners who live in the world of the Latin alphabet with its 26 letters probably couldn't conceive of the idea of an "unabridged kanji character set war," but it appears that is what is on the horizon. So which character set is going to win and become the standard in Japan? For starters, Unicode proposed by U.S. computer manufacturers is inadequate for writing Japanese personal and place names, so it is automatically out of the running. In fact, all of the slots for Chinese characters in the limited Unicode standard have yet to be filled. To date, the Konjaku Mojikyo character set seems to be in greatest use among the public in Japan, but what will probably be decisive are the individual choices made by public and private organizations that have to make up large lists of personal names and addresses. These organizations include administrative organs of government at the local and national levels, banks and other financial service companies, and, of course, the telephone company.
However, from the point of view of the TRON Project, whether one character set becomes supreme or whether they all manage to survive, it really won't matter, since the BTRON3-specification computer has a character framework that can currently handle 1.5 million characters. The latest version on the market, B-right/V R2.5, comes equipped with the Konjaku Mojikyo character set and all of the JIS character sets, and the next version, (B-right/V R3.0?), will mostly likely have the GT Mincho character set added to these. More importantly though, because the BTRON3-specification computer handles the characters of these unabridged character sets as intrinsic elements of the operating system rather than extensions at the font level, it is the ideal platform for carrying out data searches and mapping and converting data from one character set to the other.