Monday 4 January 2016

Fashion advice from cartoon characters

When the Chinese speak of ugliness, the term for it (难看 ) literally means “difficult to look (at)”. Our eyes decide our focus of attention and therefore our thoughts and our cognitive load. As a biological remnant from prehistory, they are not just guided by our intelligent thoughts and ideas, but by our base survival instincts; by threats; by movements; and by bright colours. There are cliché anecdotes about beauty requiring symmetry or colour contrast, but these are just two of many ways of facilitating the guidance of the eye. Symmetry is beautiful because it accelerates our analysis of our surroundings. In this article, we shall explore the more nuanced ways of how the eye is guided and we shall even see examples of where beauty exists despite a lack of symmetry.
"To gaze is to think" − Dalí

Cartoons' physiological model

Readers may be familiar with the idea of the sensory homunculus − a distorted drawing of a person where the body parts are sized in proportion to their sensory receptiveness. A cartoon character is in the same vein as the homunculus − it is a drawing where the human form is sized in a way where body parts are proportional to a viewer's sensitivity to them. Let's use Titeuf as an example.
We can see here that viewers must be focusing on the nose, the mouth and especially the eyes. Look at the massive gap between Titeuf's eyes and his eyebrows. Extra entropy outside these regions would be a distraction, but inside these areas, they aren't so bad and can even be beneficial. We can see this effect with Cindy Crawford and Dita Von Teese. Moles are generally hated, but these two women still look good despite the moles, since they occur in areas where viewers are already looking. Fun fact: Dita's is actually a tattoo.

Consider as well these images, before I explain the point:

The mutations here aren't as noticeable as the bad teeth, as indeed was hypothethised in the cartoon images. We begin to feel ugliness because our eye keeps being drawn back to the teeth even when our eyes want to wander around the face, appreciating all aspects. Notice too that when we're looking around at the image, we don't just see the mutated face, we also see other people, which leads us to the next important point.


When our eyes glance around an image, we see at three different scales: the bust; the body; and the mob. Do you remember for instance if Dita Von Teese was wearing a bra or a dress? Our eyes stop paying attention by that point and hence it makes sense that she cuts off her portrait there. In proving the theory of the first scale, I can't cite cartoons, but I can cite the prominence of the bust statue as proof that this is how the face is regarded. It could've just been a head or it could've been half a body. In justifying the mob as another scale, we can simply look to the consistency of cartoons: all the characters are drawn in the same style. We can see the same effect in the Colgate commercials: all of them feature bland, white Americans, rather than the bad-teeth bloke matched with eg a black drag queen, because that would be distracting.

In thinking about the mob scale, we can also consider group photos − they're often arranged as a height pyramid, with the tallest people in the rear middle. The mob scale also explains the cheerleader effect; that someone can look better when pictured in a group of similar people.
Beneficiaries of the cheerleader effect?
"Do you want the truth or something beautiful? I am happy to deceive you" − Paloma Faith


Notice that in any cartoon, the fashions are very conservative and that the colour of clothes always fits with the palette of the cartoon; it is very rare for a character to wear a unique colour.
Colours are therefore not just expressive of a persona, but a culture. Before we get to that; one other point about cartoon colour is the contrast. People often talk about how colours are meant to contrast, by using colour wheels or by checking the HSV coordinates, but be aware that these tools are lies. The scale of computer colours is typically not perceptually uniform. Brown should be a narrow region for instance and blue should be a huge region. To see the proper range of each colour, consult a rainbow.
Another complication of colour perception is language. Just as with wine-tasting, having a bigger vocabulary for colours allows specific colours to be perceived more readily and remembered more easily, even if not done consciously. One may also notice that even though a translator might tell you for instance that "rouge" means "red", these concepts might in fact refer to different wavelenghts of light. Asians favour a more crimson red than Western red for instance and I would argue that the concept “赤” is therefore different to “red”.

Minnie Mouse
red casino
The concept of vocabulary in fashion doesn't just apply to colour, but also to text on shirts. The trend of Asians wearing nonsensical English was possible because fashion is about expressing identity, not actually spreading any ideas, so it's not as though anyone was actually meant to read the words being said.

One final problem affecting the choice of colours is that human eyes perceive some colours more easily than others. Chartreuse yellow is seen most readily and this is the main reason why it's used for "safety" contexts. Chartreuse yellow is visually offensive. It is the visual equivalent of shouting at passers-by. Society accepts that sound can be offensive and, as discussed in another article, A Good Citizen is Ignorant of the Law, this causes the mob to make it illegal in such contexts as disturbing neighbours who were too old and cynical to be invited to the party. Unfortunately though, the understanding of sight is not sufficiently widespread, so governments are unable to create fashion police.
How are we supposed to see the stock when we're distracted by your vest? Source
Visual distractions increase cognitive load and contribute to rendering city residents stupid. The ugly vests do not suit the rest of the outfit and hence it becomes harder to distinguish that it's being worn by a person. The net effect on the worksite is that workers become stupid and they see their workmates as distracting blobs, rather than as people. No wonder they see female passers-by as objects too.

The effective use of colour is to create a visually comprehensible palette. It helps the eye move around the whole scene at the three different scales without being jerked around by distractions akin to someone shouting "hey, look over there!" Black-and-white photographs can be appealing in that they help to keep the palette consistent and suppress distraction. The eye is permitted to wander and appreciate the details, rather than being jerked away.
Effective use of a palette. Source


Besides teaching us about fashion and beauty, films such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Beauty and the Beast also touch on the important topic of discrimination. Western society goes too far in its praise for beauty, to the point that ugly people, especially women, are regarded as less human. This discrimination is subconsciously encouraged by misappropriating "beautiful" to non-visual or irrelevant contexts. Saying for instance that someone's good deed makes them a "beautiful person"; or saying that a "beautiful 8-year-old girl is missing" encourages the idea that their beauty is some kind of symbol of their innocence or perhaps their status as a human. Villains in film are typically ugly, as it plays on the discriminatory tendency to believe that ugliness and malice are inherently linked.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit ©

Beauty-based discrimination is rarely addressed, but one such instance was the fuss about Facebook's "feeling fat" emoji. It was framed that Facebook was the guilty party here, but I would argue that the offended people were the guilty party, as they're the ones who made the leap from "fat" to "sub-human". In some cultures, being fat is acceptable or even desirable.

I didn't bother making the distinction between "beauty" and "fashion", as thanks to plastic surgery and hair dye, the two terms have now become more interchangeable. In pondering the future of beauty discrimination, Tyra Banks also backs me up with this questionable optimism: "Because beauty will be so readily accessible, and skin color and features will be similar, prejudices based on physical features will be nearly eradicated. Prejudice will be socioeconomically based.”

Monday 6 July 2015

On the Divinity of Recommender Systems

Knowledge is limited and knowledge is power. To be omniscient then, typically one is granted a position in the realm of gods, philosophers or psychics. There's a caveat though that the friend who might know a lot about beer and Xena, Warrior Princess isn't also included in this category − to be divine, the knowledge must be about humans, since humans are created in the divine image.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are − Jean Brillat-Savarin
When an angel appeared to Mary, prophesying the surprise that she would have a baby and that Joseph was to take the role of father, it has resounding similarities to the girl who was sent product recommendations for nappies from Target before she even knew she was pregnant. The angry father must have been worried not just about the insinuations about his daughter, but the immense cognitive power of this store. He just thought of them as the place where he buys junk, not as the mirror into his soul.

People turn to their religion for guidance, but recommender systems can go one step further: they can anticipate not just the answer to the question, but the question itself. The thought of seeking guidance therefore never arises and recommender systems can supplant religion. They could choose the right TV for you before you even thought that you should buy a TV. They could suggest a suitable white-noise generator before you even knew it was a thing and before your biased-noise sleep gave you nightmares featuring angels and God's too-little, too-late recommendations.

Tacky watches, blunts and adult DVDs − recommendations that anger users and gods?

All religious views including atheism regard divine interactions as often subtle and this subtlety is typically characterised as a way of testing one’s faith. It is here that recommenders can have the most influence over religion: recommenders allow themselves to be very blunt. “I think you should buy a fire alarm” barely compares to a vague hint like seeing a nun drop a packet of matches. The gratitude for the recommendation will strengthen the user’s love of the shopping service and deny the gratitude from being granted to the divine power. One might suggest that perhaps people would attribute divine influence over the recommender, but in practice, divine powers are not credited with influencing anything computer-related. Computational thought is characterised by thieving poker machines or crash-prone Windows computers and God doesn't want to touch those. God is only credited with healing people and appearing on toast; any technological marvels are “magic”.

Recommender systems choose new items for users based on their previous purchases and hence, their current inventory. Giving up all one’s earthly possessions and leaving nothing for comparison would mean that the recommender is unable to understand the user anymore and would be unable to make recommendations. Users therefore have a choice − they don't have to let recommender systems supplant their god. Buddhism, Christianity and probably some other religions advocate living in poverty. Is this because God knew about how powerful the recommender systems could become?

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Robots Will Also Replace Androids

Rosie, the Jetsons' maid © Hanna-Barbera
Humanoid robots (including androids), loveable they might be, are a quaint and inaccurate sci-fi portrayal that realistically have a minuscule chance of being economically justifiable before the singularity. Unfortunately, it will be boring robots that will do, and already do, the tasks required of these anthropomorphic idols.

In his seminal work, The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov posits that humanoid robots were made because they would obviously be suitable to an environment created to suit humans. The reality though is that since intelligent thought need not be tied to a humanoid form, each task can be done by a machine that is specialised to conquer just its relevant environment.

One of the required tasks of a complete "personal robot" is to pour coffee for instance, yet there are already coffee "machines" where a button is pushed and the coffee is poured. If there was an arm that moved the tap over the coffee cup, we would suddenly have a "coffee robot". Even better if the arm tilted a jug of coffee.
An advanced food processor marketed as Thermomix (a machine) in some countries or as Bimby (a robot) in others.
When developing a machine, characterising it as a robot can only lead to disappointment, as users will have expectations akin to a humanoid robot. Characterising it as a machine will lead to lower expectations from users and they will be willing to accommodate its mistakes. While many people might feel indifference, I feel abhorrence to automatic doors mispredicting my movements; self-service checkouts arbitrarily forcing me to place my single item in the bagging area; and car lights that must be explicitly switched off by me when I leave.

Customer service is not quite about doing everything the customer wants, but rather, anticipating their needs and satisfying those. As Sun Tzu points out, the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy before fighting is even necessary. Just as the patron’s wine could be topped up before they ask for more, many household tasks could be done before a humanoid robot is necessary.

A robotic dog that falls short of its implied abilities. Source.
If we had a robotic dog, we wouldn’t need a humanoid robot that cleans up the hair; or buries the corpse when the short-lived creature eventually passes. Being able to better anticipate the problems will prevent challenging, humanoid-resolvable, physical environments from eventuating.

Prediction systems could make significant progress in terms of anticipation, by deducing when users want to eat, what they’ll want to eat and what kind of nutrients should be contained. So much food is currently wasted because housewives (or non-sexist equivalent characters) don’t know what food to buy and just make guesses. Expired food and left-overs are symptoms of an inefficient process. In terms of interaction paradigms, the whole idea of a pantry is just the best current way of resolving factors topped by the guesses of the housewife (what food will my dependents and I want to eat in the next few days?) and the guesses of the manufacturers (how much of our product do people want to buy on this occasion?).

There are many food and beverage brands that already make containers of different sizes; the required changes in the supply chain would really not need to be much more adaptable than what currently exists. In the extreme case, imagine what would be possible if containers could be ordered from the factory at any size. We would not need a fancy humanoid that carefully measured out 150g of flour from the packet; we could just order a 150g bag from the factory and pour the whole thing into the pan (I’m not a chef).

Many humanoid-robot tasks are already being done by smart phones, using their sensors, actuators and brains in a way that technically counts as a robot, but the mobile phone is not regarded as a robot for philosophical reasons. Humanoid robots will only ever be seen applied to problems that could have been “better” solved some other way, but where the stakeholders desire the humanoid form for reasons of empathy, décor, or equivalently, feng shui.
A noodle-slicing arm given a humanoid form for no good reason. Source.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Robots Have Eyes of Innocence

Imagine a young lady in a crowd, being followed with an intentional, focused stare as she goes about her day, unaware of what thoughts are going on in the head of her pursuer, a social outcast with poor social skills and an unnatural demeanour. Imagine again if this character is a robot and its eyes are the surveillance system around the woman.

The TV program A Current Affair revealed the inevitable and unsurprising story that at one particular shopping centre, security guards were perving on women by watching what the surveillance cameras were seeing, sometimes even saving the images. The outrage was one side of the story, but there was an elephant in the room − how is this any different to the security guard walking out of his office (he because I’m presuming the security guard fits the Hollywood cliché of being a bureaucratic, lazy, heterosexual man) and following the woman himself? A Current Affair even showed an incident of this happening, but left it at that without discussing the implications.
Paul Blart, Mall Cop − a typical security guard? © Columbia Pictures
Society accepts the inevitability that attractive women walking through a public place are going to catch the eyes of heterosexual men. In Western society, this view and its associated appreciation are deemed acceptable, as long as it stops there. Men have moral bounds imposed on any potential escalation, as well as laws involving rape, stalking and photographing. Islamic countries also place bounds on this scenario, with participation from the women.

Digital pictures have long been ignored by the law and even society’s demand for new laws. This is perhaps because the lack of physical presence prevents many of the potential bad scenarios. There is less intimidation from a creepy old man flashing his penis online vs in a park. Ideally though, these inconsistencies should not be accepted by society. A pervert flashing his penis or stalking a woman via cameras should be treated no differently to a pervert doing it in meatspace.

The terrible state of society’s perception of cameras is largely because they’re not aware of what’s possible. The state of the art is not just the recognition of faces, but the 3D reconstruction of visible objects and the recognition of meaningful activities, like people falling over, beer being drunk or bags being left unattended. The footage of you is useful to your robotic personal assistants. By being able to watch you, robotic assistants could measure how much alcohol you’ve drunk; they could track your mood throughout the day; or they could command doors to open for you as you approach.

Imperfect, corruptible humans are not actually all that necessary for overseeing security cameras. Computer vision can handle most tasks of a surveillance system and can alter the images appropriately if humans become necessary. Cameras watching the eyes of the guards could determine where they’re watching, give them a glance at a person, then blur that person out. The glance only needs to be long enough to get an impression of the person and to perhaps recognise them from earlier in the guard’s life. If they need a second look, brain scanners (eg) could detect that they want a look and could detect if the reason is simply to ogle. The event could also be logged.

You should realistically have easy access to all images and video of yourself. In fact, I would argue that all people in your user group should have access to images and video of you. Regardless if it was a human or robotic eye, parents should for instance be able to see their children in a hallway; diners should be able to see other diners in the restaurant at the same time as them; people in a public square should be visible to police and citizens; and you should be able to see yourself in the mirror. This is arguably what society has already deemed socially acceptable when applied to phone footage: there are popular paradigms like “stop filming and following me”, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and “we’re allowed to film police officers”. Not all cameras, but certainly all surveillance systems, should be forced to make their footage available with great ease to anyone with permission to see it.


The easy access to images by those entitled to see it would not just enhance the ability of robotic assistants, but would assist those who already eventually get access to the images. In the NSW Coroner’s report on the death of Roberto Laudisio Curti for instance, Jeremy Gormly submitted, "it is hard to avoid commenting on the enormous value to this investigation of the various electronic recording systems, particularly CCTV, throughout the city, installed both by the City of Sydney Council and by a very large number of businesses. The cameras, despite at times showing only fleeting images, enabled Roberto’s route and the timing of his movements to be determined. The time saved has been remarkable, but the greatest benefit was to be able to establish precisely places, times and actions which might otherwise have remained speculative."

Roberto Curti being chased by police. Source
The government has been placed responsible for managing stalkers, so it is the one that has the obligation here to act. The government is grossly failing to take advantage of progress in computer science and in regards to surveillance, the government is the logical middleman for handling user groups of permission and the granting of access to surveillance footage. In the restaurant example for instance, the restaurant could detect the MAC address of a diner’s phone and submit that to the government, along with the surveillance footage. The diner, their robotic assistants and others in the diner’s permitted user group could then access a version of the footage, for example one with everyone else’s identity blurred.

Imagine if the Lindt café had been using such an access control system for its surveillance footage − the police could’ve seen all the footage live and quickly determined that there was no second gunman and that there probably wasn’t a bomb in his bag.

Some would be uneasy about increasing people’s rights to digital images, especially on the basis of perversion. It must be remembered though that we can’t stop people with a photographic memory from drawing a picture of what they saw. We can also not stop someone with a bionic eye from saving a clear image of exactly what they saw. Mozart for instance transcribed the pope’s secret song after hearing it. Enabling greater access to imagery would significantly enhance the abilities of our robotic assistants (or enhance the machine portion of our cyborg selves, depending on one’s philosophical point of view).

Monday 27 October 2014

Are You a Suspected Paedophile?

Is this how people picture you? Getty ©
Any time a man has dealings with a young child who isn’t a family member, it seems that he is instantly labelled as a potential paedophile. In the last few days in Sydney, an 11-year-old girl was missing. One would think that relief would be the main emotion expressed upon finding her, but instead, it was suspicion. Initial reports (since revised) revealed that a 24-year-old man had been voluntarily harbouring the girl for two nights, so the media and the general public repaid him by casting aspersions as to his motives.

One could have labelled this man as a “Good Samaritan”. He might even be called a “caring man” or just a “man”, but instead, many people labelled him as a “stranger” and were suspicious of him. The father of the girl was quoted as saying that he was happy she was sheltered and fed rather than sleeping rough. That’s certainly not a glowing endorsement of the Good Samaritan.

Missing girl, Michelle Levy, who was cared for by a Good Samaritan or a potential paedohphile. Photo: NSW Police.

The girl’s mother issued a statement thanking everyone who helped look for the girl, including the police. Strangely though, she didn’t thank the man who actually harboured her daughter.

My suspicion all along was that the girl was probably right to run away − perhaps not for two nights, but at least for a bit. She wasn’t running away because she couldn’t get a new Barbie − this girl was 11. The Good Samaritan was obviously told by the girl that she didn’t want to return home and she probably explained why. This would explain why the man kept quiet about it. Any suspicion regarding her home situation was quashed due to the immediate public sentiment that we must all find this girl and return her to her parents.

The story has since been revised and the Good Samaritan is this time aged in his 50s, but it has thankfully been revealed that the police aren’t suspicious of him. Of course, this piece of information was still worded in a way as though he couldn’t be trusted − the Sydney Morning Herald had the title “Man who let runaway Michelle Levy stay for two nights released without charge”. This is not just a man who has left the police station after he finished talking to police; he is a potential criminal who didn’t end up being charged.

Children with potential plaintiffs. Photo: Newsday / Ana Gutierrez
With Halloween coming up in a few days, we must all be mindful that many of these children will have parents with them. When the children come to your door asking for sweets, they will most often have mothers either right there or back at the street, their eyes fixed on you, suspicious of what you might do to their child. Imagine what would happen if you invited the children inside, maybe to come to the kitchen with you to get said sweets − the parents would probably run over to you, banging on the door and demanding to know what you were doing.

Would you let a child travel with this man? © Uber
Giving a child a ride in a car is almost unthinkable now − even if a driver saw a child struggling along with a bleeding leg, offering a ride to the child would likely come with a response of "no way". Even if the child accepted the offer, it may not be worth it, since there is always going to be a cloud of suspicion from the parents.

Uber drivers have it the toughest. A taxi driver taking a child passenger would probably be seen as not such a big deal, since that's their job and they're on camera. Uber is viewed as a taxi alternative though people may ask, "Why would the child get in that car when there were other options available?" There's also the fact that, at least for Uber X, the drivers are typically doing it just as a side job. A child refusing to travel in an Uber car is apparently not as guilty of demonising the livelihood of this driver.

Unfortunately, the result of the suspicion is that many businesses refuse to do business with unaccompanied children. This doesn't just infringe the rights of the children, it legitimises the accusations of paedophilia that are so easily thrown around. If you're doing business with a company that bans unaccompanied children for no good reason, are you endorsing people to suspect you of being a paedophile?

Saturday 25 October 2014

Converting to a Bépo keyboard

There are so many keyboard layouts, why limit yourself to QWERTY? Here will be discussed the disadvantages of QWERTY and the method to switch to bépo.
Conspiracy theorist keyboard − another possible layout?


It's well-known that QWERTY keyboards were created to minimise the likelihood for typewriters to jam − not the absolute slowest, but still one of the slower ways of typing. Good interaction between humans and computers gives a sense of mastery to the user and enables them to fulfill their goals smoothly. The QWERTY keyboard is oppressive design not just to its users, but also to anyone reading the words written by the individual users.


English doesn't just rely on the "English alphabet" of 26 letters − it also uses symbols; the Arabic numbers; and many European accents. A common view is that é is not part of English and therefore doesn't need to be on a keyboard. It may not be part of the "English alphabet", but anyone who knows English is expected to be familiar with terms such as café, déjà vu, résumé, fiancé and née. A keyboard without all the letters of English therefore enforces the designer's view that those missing letters should not be part of English. The English language is being actively oppressed.

Naturally, users are interacting with their keyboards as intended and they are passively purging the "foreign characters" from English. In a similar way to how people are nominally replacing BC and AD with BCE and CE to try undoing Christianity's massive effect on Western culture (or at least to pretend it didn't happen), QWERTY-keyboard users are undoing Europe's influence on our language.

The effect upon English is spreading elsewhere − it's creating difficulty for foreigners to type their own language and it's spreading out of keyboards to make the experience difficult elsewhere for English-speaking users. In order to be maximally compatible with user expectations and various software, the usual keyboard in France for instance is AZERTY. It has been awkwardly modified and there remains difficulty in typing accented characters, even though é occurs at a rate of 2.13% compared to w which rates at only 0.04%.

I even received an email from a Sinéad who was signing off her emails as "Sinead" despite writing it accented in an image signature. After I addressed her as Sinéad, she curiously changed her habit and started including the accent.

QWERTY's cultural sabotage sometimes doesn't manage to escape from computers. Source.


In software, there are still plenty of programs and websites that only accept ASCII characters − a character set devised in the early days by Americans with QWERTY keyboards. A bank of mine for instance used to support accents (it allows me to create stronger passwords), then one day changed their login page so the page refused my correct password. I left that bank for a few months due to that. The extra characters on a bépo keyboard could realistically grant immunity from a dictionary attack.

In software development, despite the fact that an algorithm will be at the same contextual scope as a mathematical function, it is usually incompatible for Greek letters to be written in the program itself and sometimes they aren't even permitted in the comments. Furthermore, the lack of the × and ÷ signs on QWERTY keyboards led to the awkward, universal phenomenon of * and / being used as replacements. A warning to programmers − the space bar of the bépo keyboard can be used to type 4 different kinds of space, only one of which is typically registered as a space by compilers.


Many see QWERTY's only problem as being the slow speed, so if someone changes, they often change to DVORAK, which is optimised for speed when typing the subset of English that only includes the characters from the QWERTY keyboard. To legitimise this wilful ignorance, popular typing tests only choose passages that don't include accents. The bépo layout has been optimised for speed when typing French. Although I'm typing English, the letter frequencies and combinations are very similar and therefore the layout is still probably faster than QWERTY.

Besides the speed, I found bépo to offer the best selection of keys. There are plenty of combination keys, so there are intuitive ways of typing all official languages of the European Union, as well as Greek. Typing foreign accents is common on many keyboards, but users are typically required to reach for awkward, unintuitive buttons like "2". There are plenty of extra symbols for mathematics, currency and correct pronunciation.

bépo keyboard layout


I should mention that after changing over, it took me around two months until I could type reasonably. I used to touch-type QWERTY English at 90 words/minute and after two months, I could type complete English at perhaps 40 words / minute and was no longer frustrated by having to type something. The point of no return is after perhaps 3 weeks − some say that it's possible to maintain touch-typing ability on both keyboards, but I didn't find that to be feasible. I was having to actively practice typing so that I wouldn't become stuck at a point where I couldn't type with either keyboard.

If you can't touch-type, the worry about the change-over period is a moot point.

PKL presents an on-screen keyboard that changes as you start a combination.
PKL on-screen keyboard after starting a combination with /
Since most typing programs only teach QWERTY English instead of complete English, I recommend downloading TypeFaster and customising it for bépo, as explained.


  • You could buy a physical bépo keyboard
  • You can buy stickers to put on a keyboard.
  • The bépo keyboard has extra buttons, so for full effect, I recommend purchasing a French-Canadian keyboard (ISO 105-key). Ç will be positioned awkwardly and the Ê button won't be present if you use a QWERTY keyboard.
  • Your government will probably allow you to count this as a work expense.

Installing Drivers

Users of Ubuntu can find bépo as one of the existing available layouts for French. Windows users are required to go to more effort:
  • Download bepo.exe here and run it.
  • Go to the Control Panel → Change keyboards or other input methods → Change keyboards…; then move bépo to the top to make it the default language. The icon can be changed by getting it from bepo.exe.
  • The drivers packaged with bepo.exe don't implement all of the keyboard combinations. Download Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator. If you experience problems with this program, try enabling all components of .NET in Windows.
  • The interface for Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator (MSKLC) defers to kbdutool.exe for processing the klc files and silently strips out some of the extended combinations, so one must instead run kbdutool from the command line.
  • Checkout the latest klc file here using SVN. If you don't have an SVN client already, find the [possibly outdated probably current] file here or download Tortoise SVN. Put the klc file in the same folder as kbdutool.exe.
  • Run kbdutool to compile the klc file and create DLLs for your system, then put them in the appropriate system folder. For Windows 7 x64, I put the amd64 version in \Windows\System32 and the syswow64 version (necessary for 32-bit programs) in \Windows\syswow64. Notice that bepo.exe already placed files here with the same name, but without the full functionality.
I tried to take an intermediary step with kdbutool by compiling .c and .h source files, manually changing them, then compiling the DLLs. Windows implements an AltGr key-press as Ctrl+Alt, which can activate various keyboard short-cuts in international-unfriendly programs. Manually changing the source files allows AltGr to be replaced with Kana (described here). The compiler cl.exe (presumably the one supplied with MSKLC) couldn't find the source files though, even after I added the folder to the path (StackOverflow link).

I tried compiling the source files using the Windows Driver Kit my generated DLL files wouldn't work and I wasn't 100% sure that I was targeting the right platform.