Author Archive

Open source textbooks

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The Commonwealth of Virginia is getting into open textbooks (with a Creative Commons license).

Revealing errors

Monday, August 11th, 2008

An interesting project to make people aware of the technology they use, through the errors and constraints the technology produces.

Hope for font embedding on the web?..

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Since the dawn of the web (approximately) people have wanted to use specific fonts in their web page designs. Initially they rendered their text as graphics files (bad for download sizes, and often bad for accessibility), then there were a competing font embedding systems (which never really took off due to browser incompatibilities and limited tools), and then the Flash text-replacement tools (which do the job, but are pretty clunky) and SVG fonts (with limited browser support).

None of these really have the appeal of genuinely embedding your fonts in a website – which should allow better designs and font usage, be more efficient for the user, and easier for the developer than any of the above options.

The Microsoft IEBlog has recently posted about a new effort to get font embedding working. There’s an education effort, and – more importantly at this point – it appears that they are opening up their EOT embedding solution in a W3C submission. This is the same system as from 10 years ago, but opening it up will hopefully allow other browser makers take it up, and other developers make (decent) tools to create EOT.

HÃ¥kon Wium Lie advocates a different approach to the problem in August 2007, advocating plain TrueType web fonts, and this has been included to Safari 3.1. It doesn’t have the file size advantages of EOT, but looks like a workable approach for free fonts. Unfortunately it isn’t so good for commercial font creators, as they their licensing restrictions on font distribution could be trampled over with this system.

Of course, there is a downside should this actually work out – it’ll be desktop publishing with dozens of fonts per page, all over again. Still, if EOT becomes a freely implementable standard, with decent tools (preferably free software), this will be a win for the web…

By researcher, for researchers

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Zotero looks like an interesting looking tool for managing online research sources: lots of functions similar to EndNote integrated as a Firefox plugin, plus a bunch of online research community/collaboration stuff if you want it.

Google to Microsoft

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Interesting blog post where Sergey Solyanik talks about why he moved from Google to Microsoft. I don’t know anything about the culture inside Google, but the peer-based performance review model sounds like a good idea.

Stupid Windows

Monday, April 28th, 2008

So I’m working away on Windows XP, and suddenly everything starts shutting down. Hitting “Cancel” on a save/don’t save/cancel dialog doesn’t cancel, but closes the application. Without any warning, I’m logged out. What the?..

It turns out that the other Dave in the office has mistakenly logged into my PC via remote desktop, rather than the department “Terminal Sever” – and Windows just kicked me out with no warning or explanation, and then locked me out!

I’m not happy – asides from losing the work from that save/don’t save/cancel dialog, it was so rude. It warned Dave that he was going to log me out, but didn’t give me the same courtesy…

In brighter news, the new Ubuntu release (Hardy Heron) apparently has some support for incorporating Ubuntu desktops as members of a Windows domain (i.e. logging in using Active Directory), using a program called Likewise. If I can get that working, I’ll definitely try using Ubuntu as my primary desktop.

TV is too passive.

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Nice article by Clay Shirky: Gin, Television, and Social Surplus discussing the similar social roles of gin and TV, and how we’re at the start of a big social change from passive to active:

In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: “Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.”

At least they’re doing something.

Linux driver status

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman has posted a status update on the Linux Driver Project, which is an effort to help hardware manufacturers support Linux – even write the drivers for them – hopefully alleviating the hardware support problems I mentioned in a previous post.

Greg states:

Linux supports more different types of devices than any other operating system ever has in the history of computing.

…which I believe. However, there are a few factors which I think are key to the perception of poor driver support:

  1. The kernels included in distributions naturally lag behind the current kernel release. The change to regular 2-3 month releases must have improved this, but it is still a problem compared to the competition. Most hardware for Windows and Mac comes with a disk of drivers you can install, so it doesn’t matter how old your OS is (within reason) – you can get your new hardware running on it. The Linux approach prefers drivers to be part of the kernel release, for reason
  2. Lagging support for highly visible hardware. Things like wireless network adapters and video capture devices are increasingly common and (it seems slightly redundant to say this) hard to do without if you particularly wanted them.
  3. Support for printers is not a kernel driver issue, Greg notes, but is often perceived as such, because on competing platforms it appears to be a driver issue. Users don’t typically care about this distinction, they just want it to work.

All in all I think that the situation looks good, with some significant improvements (e.g. in wireless) in recent kernels to be included in distributions soon…

Linux Kernel Development – Who, what, how fast, and who’s paying.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Nice report from The Linux Foundation on Linux Kernel Development. A choice statistic:

…an impressive 3,621 lines added, 1,550 lines removed, and 1,425 lines changed every day for the past 2 1/2 years. That rate of change is larger than any other public software project of any size.

Photoshop on the web

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Adobe have released a Flash-based photo editing site Photoshop Express. The functionality is limited, and similar to other products like Picnik. Will probably be useful for casual snappers, but isn’t going to replace Photoshop or the GIMP.