I’m planning to go to Beijing on holiday at the end of the month, and one thing that I need to do is to get a visa. It’s not a complicated process: fill in a form, pay a fee, and come back in a few days, based on my previous experience. If I’ve already filled in the form before I get there, it saves a bit of time.

I downloaded the PDF of the application form on my Mac OS X computer at work, and tried to print it. It’s a bilingual English/Chinese form.

It came out with the English OK, but the Chinese text was garbled, appearing as dollar signs and other random punctuation. Sure, that doesn’t actually stop me filling it in, but it’s not exactly going to endear me to the embassy staff, is it? I mean, show a little respect!

So I tried printing it to the other printer. This time, the Chinese text came out beautifully. But the English words had disappeared entirely. How odd.

On a whim, I tried it on my Eee PC running Ubuntu Linux. It took very little time to find and configure the printer through the GUI, and I sent the job off. It printed out perfectly.

I was a bit surprised, to be honest: my general experience of Mac OS X has always been that it has peerless multilingual capabilities. It’s a sign of how much Linux on the desktop has come on that it’s Linux that Just Works. But then, that’s why I use it as my operating system of choice these days!

Whilst looking for the form, I was amused to see the fee schedule for visas. British citizens have to pay £30, but it costs US citizens £65!

However, Brits who are feeling smug at this point should stop smiling. Everyone else pays only £20.

I’m all right, Jack.