[vlc-devel] Re: Summary of VLC and unicode

Jean-Paul Saman jean-paul.saman at planet.nl
Thu Nov 16 22:15:59 CET 2006

Rémi Denis-Courmont wrote:
> 	Hello everyone,
> It's over a year than libVLC was switched to UTF-8 internally, and it's 
> now getting kind of useable again. Still, there's been quite many 
> changes since the last summary, so let's make a new one.

May I suggest to also put this e-mail on the developers website? It is a 
good overview of the functions and purpose of this unicode API.

Jean-Paul Saman.

> As a general rules, all character strings passed to LibVLC should be in 
> UTF-8. This includes but is far from limited to the playlist, and all 
> the "chain" from the input/access to the outputs. We pretty much needed 
> Unicode anyway; the only options were UTF-8 and wide char. We poke 
> UTF-8 because, as disruptive as it has been, it remains much less 
> disruptive than wide characters. Also wide characters means different 
> things on different platforms (e.g. UCS2LE on old Windows, UTF-16LE on 
> modern Windows, UTF-32 on glibc), are a pain to use in POSIX 
> environment (including Mac OS X and Linux which most of the devs are 
> using), and might have needed lots of libc replacements wc* functions 
> on some platforms.
> The original approach has been to rely on ToLocale, FromLocale and 
> LocaleFree (and ToLocaleDup, FromLocaleDup and free) whenever a 
> character string in the OS native representation was needed. It turned 
> out to be a big mistake on Windows, which uses no less than three 
> different representations internally: UTF-16 in the kernel and file 
> system (Unicode/wide), ACP (ANSI Code Page) which is a locale-dependant 
> 8-bit character set (CP1252 in the West), and even "OEM" (cp437 in the 
> US, cp850 in Western Europe). Unfortunately, (To|From)Locale were using 
> ACP, which prevents usage of Unicode code points outside the range of 
> the local charset, while the filesystem and native Win32 supports them. 
> This means VLC cannot "reach" some files.
> So we now a comprehensive (but not fully yet) set of higher-level 
> wrappers that accept UTF-8 character string to represent filenames, or 
> text to be outputted to the console. At the time of writing, trunk 
> includes:
> * utf8_open, utf8_fopen, utf8_stat, utf8_lstat, utf8_mkdir, 
> utf8_opendir, utf8_readdir, utf8_scandir for file system operation,
> * utf8_fprintf, utf8_vfprintf for console output (or actually output in 
> any file who needs local charset).
> All of these functions behave like their non "utf8_"-prefixed equivalent 
> with the exceptions that they expect UTF-8 character strings.
> We also have EnsureUTF8 that force a string into UTF-8 (replaces invalid 
> character sequences with '?') and IsUTF8 that checks if the string is 
> valid UTF-8 (returns NULL if not). These are useful when reading UTF-8 
> from untrusted sources, such as the network, before injecting the data 
> into VLC.
> ToLocale and FromLocale should NEVER be used for filesystem operations 
> anymore, except on code that is not aimed at Windows. And even then 
> it's better to use wrappers; for instance, Mac OS X has some conversion 
> logic for its directory listing. When using the Win32 API manually, 
> always use the Unicode version (the one ending with 'W' instead 
> of 'A'). If you need to convert to UTF-8 for use in LibVLC, you can use 
> FromWide (Win32 only!). Of course, it's better to resort to the 
> wrappers otherwise you always need a specific Windows implementations. 
> Please refer to the various pieces of code using Win32 
> SHFolderGetPath() for reference implementations.
> Now for the good (?) news: in trunk, the only parts that still uses the 
> *Locale VLC API are:
> - ncurses (if you are brave, you can try porting to wide ncurses...)
> - GnomeVFS (which is not aimed at Win32 anyway)
> - GnuTLS (not support from GnuTLS library :( )
> - skins2
> - WxWidgets (only on non-Win32)
> I have however only checked the core and plugins, so there might be 
> problems with browser plugins and bindings. Also, if you intend to 
> write new plugins, please keep this in mind.
> In addition to this, I remind you that we now have the 
> GetFallbackEncoding() API that returns the ANSI code page used by 
> Windows for the given locale, to be passed to iconv. For instance, if 
> your system is configured to run in German, it returns "CP1252". This 
> is convenient when handling subtitles or various kind of texts that are 
> typically aimed at Windows users.

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