Archive for the ‘Grumbling’ Category

Fewer choices than Gutenberg.

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, publisher and most importantly a printer. He  introduced moveable type into Europe and by doing so started the ‘Printing Revolution’

This invention is regarded as being the most important event of the modern era. It allowed books to be mass produced and empowered the average person to attain knowledge.

Gutenberg’s first publication was in 1439, a bible set in a German Blackletter font. The importance of his invention was quickly recognised and typographers very soon developed new typefaces to work with this groundbreaking technology.

Within a few years hundreds of type styles were available in movable fonts.

Today’s designers are able to choose from tens of thousands of fonts when they want to print conventionally (Ink on paper).

This isn’t the case with web design.

Due to the restrictions of HTML, the language that is used to program web pages, screen quality and computer platforms, the web designer is limited to a hand full of font styles.

Google Websafe Fonts are touted as the answer but even these are subject to vagaries of technology.

A font that works well on Safari looks like crap on Firefox.

Hayden and I had a discussion the other night that followed the usual banter between a programmer, who follows logic, and a dreamer, who just wants it to be the way they want it to be.

Here is a part of the transcript of that chat.

 

Bruce:

G’day

Hayden:

Hey

 

Bruce:

We seem to have issues with Google Fonts. They look different between the Mac and PC.

 

Hayden:

Hmmm. What browser is Thea using?

 

Bruce:

Firefox.

 

Hayden:

Right, don’t worry, that’s normal.

 

Bruce:

Thea is showing me how the Google Fonts don’t work on her monitor.

So what’s the answer – Times New Roman?

 

Hayden:

Helvetica, Verdana.

 

Bruce:

Bugger that, I thought that we had some creative flexibility.

 

Hayden:

Well, you do.

 

Bruce:

But not with the fonts I want.

 

Hayden:

The problem is crappy font support in some browsers on Windows by the look of it.

 

Bruce:

This sucks. I think we should go back to HTML websites (Sites that are not WordPress) where the designers have the say and the clients just have to pay for it.

 

Hayden:

But these are HTML websites.

The problem is that you don’t have control over the browser used to view the sites.

 

Bruce:

Well they should be done in InDesign.

The smarty that develops that interface will make a fortune.

 

Hayden:

You can’t design a proper website in InDesign. Because InDesign doesn’t move.

 

Bruce:

I am talking figuratively, in that we (Designers) need to have flexibility to design.

 

Hayden: 

Complain to Firefox, Microsoft, Google and Apple, plus the mobile manufacturers.

It’s due to incompatibility that there are so many issues.

 

Bruce:

If the computer industry hadn’t embraced film editor’s thinking when they designed editing software, we would still be doing it on a Steenbeck (old film editing machines that were first developed in the 1930s’).

 

Hayden:

Yes but every format has its limitations.

I am still sure that there must be a way to get better fonts on here. But I’m not sure how.

I mean Titanium (A  Google Websafe Font) looks okay, except on Chrome.

 

Bruce:

But isn’t Chrome a Google interface and if so why doesn’t it support Google Fonts?

 

Hayden:

I have no idea. At the end of the day the fonts are probably handled by the operating system.

 

Bruce:

It’s not your fault, it’s that the industry is still run by the geeks and and not by the designers. Once it’s controlled by the creatives, not the techos, it will improve. That’s just history.

 

Hayden:

I’m not sure. Because at the end of the day, you’re frustrated because you’re used to a different system.

Younger designers have grown up with the current limitations. In fact they’ve grown up with more restrictions than currently exist.

So, perhaps they’ll never know.

 

Bruce:

Ah, but there in lies the solution. Develop a system that has unlimited creative possibilities.

 

Hayden:

Technically impossible.

Look at Adobe products. They don’t allow unlimited creative possibilities and they’ve been in development for over 20 years.

 

Bruce:

I disagree, they allowed the designer to experiment with thousands of fonts, on as many layout options as they could imagine, and they did it all in a fraction of the time it took them to do it conventionally.

 

Hayden:

Perhaps I’m being pessimistic.

 

Bruce:

Remember I was there when there was only hot metal type and a layout pad…. 

it’s come a long way since then. 

 

Hayden:

Yes it has.

 

Bruce:

We should have this discussion in 5 years time. I think it will have changed a lot by then.

 

Hayden: 

And you’ll be complaining that you can’t do everything you want to. (-:

 

Bruce:

But that’s what it’s all about. If we don’t aspire to do it differently, it will never happen.

Letterset (Rub-down letters) came into existence because typographers couldn’t kern type tightly enough with hot metal. Then when computers took over Quark had a kerning option. The same thing will happen to web design, someone will come up with a better way, they always do.

So getting back to basics, I’m stuck with Helvetica? It’s a bit like being stuck in the 60s’

 

Hayden:

Well now. Google fonts should work okay. I don’t know why they don’t. Perhaps you could search for the best way to use a wide range on fonts on web sites.

I’ll have a look a bit later. But I’m in the middle of some IOS development at the moment.

 

Bruce:

It’s not your problem, it’s just that I thought that Google Fonts were the answer but apparently there are still many issues.

 

Hayden:

Well I’m the programmer for Caffeine Concepts, so it’s at least partly my responsibility.

 

Bruce:

Touche.

That’s the extent of my French, so I will leave you to earn a Euro/Dollar.

 

Hayden:

You missed out the accent I think.

Touché.

 

Bruce:

My French isn’t that good.

 

Hayden:

Neither is mine.

Democracy is failing us.

Monday, December 10th, 2012

“People are good, it’s the politicians who are the problem.”

We have heard this thought thoughout our travels, expressed by young and old alike.

The majority of people we have met have been honest and open, willing to listen and understand your point of view.

They all see political posturing as a hindrance to understanding and accepting our collective differences.

We heard this in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

We also heard the same thought expressed in Spain, Italy, France and the UK.

These are all countries that have gone through, or are going through, difficult times, of varying degrees.

Politicians polarise opinions and bipartisanism seems to be a strategy of the past.

As the Governator* put it,”…a worldview that put parties ahead of people…”

Political parties have become so partisan that they try to win favour with the voters by doggedly adhering to an extremist point of view.

Political leaders aren’t winning the popular vote by developing an enlightened vision for the future, but rather stagnating the system by offering the voters no real choice.

Immediately they get into power, even if it’s by the smallest margin, their primary goal is to remain there, while the opposition’s approach is to be obstructionist.

Australia, like the rest of the world, is stuck in this malaise. Our problem is that we are in dire need of ‘Big Vision Politics’.

While most of Europe struggles under the flip-flop of political ideals, they are fortunate in that the big thinking in infrastructure has been done and executed.

There is a network of Autobahns, Autostradas, Autoroutes, Autopistas and Motorways throughout Europe. Most largish cities have a highly developed underground or tramway sytem in place. They keep cars out of the city centers and encourage the tourists and locals alike to use public transport and then provide a sytem that will cope with it.

Many cities have a single charge for any trip taken within the hour.

Nuremberg and Bordeaux have an excellent tram and trolly bus sytem, Valencia has a Metro as does Lyon.

These are cities with populations ranging from 400,000 to 1.2 million.

Barcelona has a comprehensive underground, overground, tram and bus sytem. All to service a population of 5 million.

In 2020 Melbourne’s population is expected to reach that number.

It’s time for the politicians to stop talking about more public transport and start to put a plan, any plan, into action.

As the Victorian oposition spokesperson has said, you can’t catch a feasibility study to work.

Therein lies the problem, they had years to do something about it when they were in government and again all they did was talk.

There has to be a better system, the current one is broken.

*(Page 555) Total Recal by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Our Pythonesque experience.

Monday, September 24th, 2012

We are in Land’s End, Cornwall and have just had the most bizarre experience.

Over the last two nights we have booked dinner at the Land’s End Hotel restaurant. Each time we arrived at 8pm and the place was almost empty.

Tonight we arrived at 7:30 and not having booked, asked for a table. Like the previous two nights, there were far more empty tables than guests.

We were told that the next sitting wasn’t until 8:15 and we would have to wait, as the kitchen was overloaded and they were expecting a rush of guests at 7:45.

Come 7:45 the restaurant was still empty and we were still waiting.

I wonder if this was the place that inspired John Cleese to create Fawlty Towers?

Vodafone.

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

We cancelled our contract with Vodafone in Australia because of their poor performance and inability to deliver on their promises.

Vodafone consistently spend large media dollars in hyping up their services. They have adopted the approach that if you continually promote a fallacy, it will become fact.

Their inability to deliver has lead to a class action in Australia and a mass exodus of their clients.

They have now suspended their considerable media spend, while they attempt to improve their coverage and services.

We stupidly selected Vodafone to purchase a broadband ‘Módem USB Stick’ for coverage in Spain.

Apparently this corporate leopard doesn’t easily change its spots.

The connection was poor and there were problems in recharging our account online.

So much so that we had to drive back to where we purchased the key and get it manually recharged there.

Their explanation was that the online service wasn’t working today but would be ok, ‘mañana’.

It still isn’t working.

Marketing works well when the delivery lives up to the promise.

Vodafone in Spain are following the Australian or more possibly the international strategy of promise first then try and deliver later.

Advertising will only work when it’s based on truth, anything else is phoney.

 

Who killed the Bell Boy?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

We don’t stay in 5 star hotels, especially in Europe. Hotels with a 3 and 4 star rating seem to suit our needs and our budget.

Stairs not lifts seem to be the rule in most of these hotels. So at the end of a hard day, clambering over ruins or negotiating treacherous mountain bends, the last thing you need is to schlep your 18kg pack up four flights of narrow stairs.

In the past even these less salubrious establishments would have a spotty faced youth to carry your bags.

And you would reward him handsomely for his efforts.

I guess it’s a sign of the tight economic times but they are now an extinct species.

Also missing is the electric jug with your morning tea and coffee.

I wonder if the Bell Boys stole them as a parting gesture?

More opportunists than archeologists.

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I wonder how much better many ancient sites would be if they hadn’t been vandalised by the archeologists who stumbled upon them?

Three Egyptian obelisks, misnamed Cleopatra’s Needles, now stand erect in London, Paris and New York.

Large chunks the Parthenon in Athens were stolen by the 7th Earl of Elgin, then shipped to England. They are now the pride of the British Museum.

Heinrich Schlieman, a German archeologist and fortune hunter, smuggled Priam’s Treasure, said to come from ancient Troy, to Berlin.

In 1945 it was stolen again, this time by the Red Army and taken to Moscow. It’s now in the Pushkin Museum.

Did they remove these treasures for the sake of art history or to enhance their own wealth and reputations?

KISS.

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

The Keep It Simple Stupid strategy should have been adopted by the Victorian administration when they were deciding on a transport ticketing system.

Having just spent a week traveling around Istanbul I wonder why the Myki system has cost so much and been so long in coming.

In Istanbul every fare costs 2 Tukish Lire (AU$1), no matter where you travel or on what mode of transport you choose to use around the city.

They have trams, trains, busses, ferries and an underground.

You just buy a token from a machine and that’s it. This is brilliant for the tens of thousands of tourists that visit Istanbul each year.

There is also a pass system for the everyday commuter and this seems to work without a hitch.

There are no teams of Met Gorillas patrolling trams tops and stations, just one guy at each barrier. He is there to stop people sneaking through and more importantly, to help.

The system is simple and effective.

It works so well because of one ‘simple’ fact. You can’t get onto anything without first passing through a barrier and swiping your card or putting a token in the slot.

Simple.

Legislation or education?

Monday, August 1st, 2011

With the unfortunate death of another Victorian bike rider, concerned groups are asking for tougher legislation.

“People who drive less than a metre from cyclists should face harsh penalties, bike groups have said.” The Age, July 26, 2011.

This approach seems to be the only answer to so many ‘concerned groups’. This has led many to believe that Australia is becoming a Nanny Nation.

We now have calls for stricter controls on advertising to kids. Health warnings on alcohol and so many signs on our streets, telling us what to do and what not to do, that they have become a source of increased visual pollution.

Continuing on a theme of telling us what to do is Metro, the operator of the Melbourne rail system.

As well as subjecting us to a barrage of verbal warnings they have now plastered their escalators with more instructions on how to behave.

I wonder if the millions that it’s costing us, to introduce and enforce this new legislation and behavior, wouldn’t be better spent on educating people to think more for themselves.

Isn’t it better to know what is right rather than be told what is wrong?