American Scientist promotes @font-face!

American Scientist just published a wonderful article about the state of science publishing on the web, and I am very happy to see that the author, Brian Hayes, recognises the huge potential of @font-face and free software fonts to change the business of type:

How will it all turn out? Will Web sites of the future be chock full of MathML, or will TeX and HTML continue to prevail? Or will something else altogether come along?

I have no answers for these questions, but I want to suggest an adjustment in the way the Web works—a small change that could improve any strategy for displaying mathematical notation. It has to do with where fonts come from.

Under the present rules, a Web author can request a particular font, and the reader’s browser will honor the request if the font is available on the client machine. If not, some default font is substituted. Wouldn’t it be more helpful if the author could supply the missing font, either by embedding it directly in the page or by referring the browser to a site where the font is available? Given such a mechanism, any font-based system for presenting mathematics could ensure that all the needed symbols are ready at hand.

This is not a new idea. A proposal for “Webfonts” was included in a draft CSS standard in 1998, and the idea was even implemented in a few browsers, including Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. But the proposal never caught on, and it was removed from later versions of the standard. Recently, Håkon Wium Lie of Opera Software has called for renewed consideration of the idea.

Much of the discussion centers on legal questions of interest to the owners of typeface copyrights. This doesn’t seem like an insuperable problem. It was solved in the case of PDF files, which do embed fonts. Even if proprietary typefaces were off limits, there are enough freely available fonts—including all those commonly used with TeX—to make the prospect attractive.

For a change of this kind to have any impact, all the browser makers would have to adopt it. Those are the same people who have so far resisted implementing MathML. Why would they treat the font proposal any differently? I think there is reason for optimism on this score, not because the mathematical community has much clout but because embedded fonts would be of value to other constituencies. Advertisers, in particular, would be pleased to gain greater control over Web typography.

Meanwhile, as I finish preparing this column for the press, I also face the task of helping to get my own penalty copy ready for publication on the American Scientist Web site. Those irksome equations and curious characters I’ve been writing about will somehow have to be made Web-friendly. I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do that, but I suspect some bicycles are going to be outfitted with spinnakers and jibs.

Hopefully I can do this before the monetary system breaks down.

(Via Karl Berry)

Eliot Spitzer is a hero of mine

Eliot Spitzer is a hero of mine: He is a public witness to the establishment’s principle agency in creating the financial collapse.

Back in February last year, he wrote in a US national paper about how Bush caused the housing collapse:

“Predatory Lenders’ Partner in Crime: How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers”

Next month, Bush had him busted for hiring Ashley Alexandra Dupré, a wannabe-pop-star prostitute.

Ashley Alexandra Dupré

Greg Palast wrote it up on his blog pretty well at the time.

So I’m very happy Spitzer has kept up writing dissident articles, like this one:

The Real AIG Scandal: It’s not the bonuses. It’s that AIG’s counterparties are getting paid back in full.

This latest article “speaks volumes about what is going on, and indirectly, if you follow the money, what happened to him. … What was all that bailout money for? Apparently to make sure that no one at Goldman or the other few top firms in the hand-out-line lost anything.”

The AIG bailout’s counterparties were paid because of the ‘sanctity of contract,’ but one of the conditions of the car bailout was that those employees’ contracts were ripped up, and their wages cut. “The question arises: are contracts with blue-collar workers less binding than those with highly-paid derivatives traders?”

(This soundbite from that article is tight: “[This is] the American dream in reverse. First they lose their jobs, then their health insurance, then their homes, then their hopes.”)

Over in Latvia, you get the secret police round for talking about the reality of the economic collapse. Since the UK has some really nice anti-terrorism laws, I wonder how long it will be until the same happens here.

Recent Gatto Speech

Here’s a nice blogpost about a recent (2009) Gatto speech. I wonder if there are any recordings…

Soundbites on free software business and culture

The idea that making free software is not a business model for an individual who is a talented programmer is not, I think, compatible with current data.

Eben Moglen, Part 2 of an interview from 2007 (part one here)

Microsoft still maintains strongly the view that its business model, which depends upon concealing source code from users, is a viable and important and necessary model. And as long as a company that sells a billion dollars a week in software is fundamentally still trying to [fight] the free way of doing things, Microsoft remains a very dangerous party. But Microsoft, too, has now fundamentally recognized that there is not another generation left in the proprietary software idea and [it is] trying to move to a world in which it can leverage the remaining value of its monopoly in a world of mixed free and unfree code. As Microsoft begins to move itself away from being the primary partisan of unfreedom, the second most important partisans of unfreedom slot into place and they are the owners of culture, the Disneys and the other major movie studios who have a great deal of image-making authority in the world — and a great deal to lose from the obliteration of their distribution mechanisms.

Eben Moglen, computerworld interview, 2007

The death of the newspaper industry in “a year or two”

Couple more nice pieces about the collapse of newspapers via the Backstage list:

Massive layoffs with no end in sight. Wave after wave of acquisitions and mergers fueled by the excesses of artificially cheap capital. Widespread fear that an entire industry and its contributions will stall or simply stop. This describes the news industry today, but it also described the high tech industry in the late eighties and early nineties. Read more…
There should have been a ten-year evolutionary process: the ecosystem steadily diversifying and establishing its complex relationships, the new business models evolving, the papers slowly transferring from print to digital, along with the advertisers. Instead, the financial meltdown – and some related over-leveraging by the newspaper companies themselves – has taken what should have been a decade-long process and crammed it down into a year or two. That is bad news for two reasons. First because it is going to inflict a lot of stress on people inside the industry who do great things, and who provide an important social good with their work. But it’s also bad news because it’s going to distract us from the long-term view; we’re going to spend so much time trying to figure out how to keep the old model on life support that we won’t be able to help invent a new model that actually might work better for everyone. Read more…

On the backstage list, the BBC has been proposed as a model for paying journalist’s wages, but it has been noted that there isn’t any other news organisation at the same scale anywhere else, ever. But I think there might be when the other large beehive organisations collapse in the depression, and popular support for the stomping jackboot evil emerges.

Anyway, to me, the solution for individuals looking to do journalism is, they get another job to keep the bills paid, learn how internet marketing really works (which ought not to be too hard for those already expert at writing), continue to do journalism about what they love, and work hard at being worth it.

They’ll have to accept that everyone else will call them a “blogger” “podcaster” or “video podcaster” or something else that fails to see past the media form to the actual activity, and will fail to pay the social dividend of “I work at Acme Media Corp.”

Plenty won’t like that social adjustment, and I expect they will also be the ones who have been recycling press releases instead of doing real investigation, and heaping scorn on their colleagues who were trying to keep up with the Internet. Like lawyers who got into law because they wanted to get rich, instead of believing in the rights of man, I won’t be sad to see them work another job and without continuing to do their “journalism.”

There have been plenty of professional bloggers during the last few years, and some were not lone individuals but small groups. Of all the ones I’ve paid for, my favourite was Gruber, who offered for money a full-text RSS feed with a T shirt. My hope is that we’ll get more stuff like MediaLens but outwards facing (who are also not traditionally funded, but who are indeed funded.)

My hope with the change is that we’ll get an answer to the questions MediaLens raise about the integrity of the profession.

“You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model.

In ordinary times, people who do no more than describe the world around them are seen as pragmatists, while those who imagine fabulous alternative futures are viewed as radicals. The last couple of decades haven’t been ordinary, however. Inside the newspapers, the pragmatists were the ones simply looking out the window and noticing that the real world was increasingly resembling the unthinkable scenario. These people were treated as if they were barking mad. … “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” … Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke. … It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem. … “You’re gonna miss us when we’re gone!” has never been much of a business model. Read more…

Clay Shirky is one of my favourite academics, and he has been making a habit of explaining why the newspaper industry is even more zombified than the car manufacturing industry. His latest piece in this series, “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” is one of his best essays, I think - although my personal top favourite is still “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.”

There will always be a need for people doing journalism, writing well-informed opinions, taking the right photos at the right time in the right place. But we don’t need other people to support us do these things any more. So as it gets harder to generate revenue from these activities, the people who support the activities and turn them into ‘work’ - which directly means, the organisations who support and employ the activity-participants - are collapsing in the vacuum.

The internet is changing the demand for “high quality content,” because it is changing the definition. “Sharable” and “modifiable” are now crucial parts of what make up “high quality,” and “HD quality broadcast footage” is facing stiff competition from “HD quality off-my-pocket-camera.”

The way to generate revenue is obvious, if you study the way the free software business community generates revenue :-)

(Via Sean Daly)

How Indiana Jones was thought up

A complete transcript of a intensive five 9-hour day meeting between George Lucas, Speilberg and the screenwriter has found its way onto the web.


Robothon reports

There’s a good set of links to reports on the Robothon over on Typophile

No change, I can believe it.

Obama is expanding the secret military-industrial-complex budget. Surprise.

Wikileaks to the rescue, though :-)

Android @font-face complex script support

Android uses Skia as a raster rendering engine, and like every other free software graphic program, for text display it uses FreeType2 for blitting pixels to screens.

Back in 2007 the Skia sourcecode was accidentally published, and “kickass type rendering” was one of the features mentioned. But I couldn’t find much more information about how Android text rendering work, other than it uses Freetype through Skia. So I posted a vague query on the skia-discuss mailing list, and was happy to get a great reply from the project lead, Mike Reed:

More android fonts would be excellent. Currently android does not enable the truetype instructions in freetype, as there are patent issues around that. Fortunately, the autohinter has done a good job for us when used a UI sizes. The browser is a special case, as it needs to have fractional positioning (for zoom). In that case we don’t hint in the horizontal direction at all (but do some light hinting in Y). This lets us draw the glyphs at subpixel positions in X. Complex script support is coming. We are looking at several libraries (pango, ICU layout, etc.). We intend to take advantage of opentype tables for shaping and cool ligature formation.

Which is excellent to know, especially about complex script support :-)

I read a nice interview with Mike a few months ago when I was researching Android, but I now can’t find it; it was quite funny though, he projected the Google vibe quite well, it was something like “Q, what are you working on next? A, Just simple engineering.” Shame I can’t find it now, but he is “a device software guru” and worked on the ill-fated QuickDraw GX and on font technology at Apple.

(This blog post explains to Android application developers how to use random fonts installed in an Android system.)

Best summary of peak oil

I think this is the shortest, sharpest summary of peak oil I’ve seen yet:

The Peak Oil story was never about running out of oil. It was about the collapse of complex systems in a world economy faced by the prospect of no further oil-fueled growth. It was something of a shock to many that the first complex system to fail would be banking, but the process is obvious: no more growth means no more ability to pay interest on credit.

@font-face on Android

@font-face on Android

Since the Koolu Android beta for OpenMoko FreeRunner, and NITDroid for Nokia N810 both have broken @font-face support, and I am behind on my studies and can not wait for these things to be fixed, I bought a HTC Dream/T-Mobile G1 handset on eBay for £205. After a bit of hacking, I have got rid of the Tivoisation - got full root access - and @font-face works great! See the photos.

It arrived this weekend, reset to factory settings, and so when it was turned on it required registration with Google using a Google Account. The kindly eBay seller included a T-Mobile PAYG SIM with 8p credit, so I had to top that up to £10.08, and then it registered fine. Well, at the cost of £1, which is the per-day cost of unlimited 3G data on T-Mobile PAYG; 11p for the first 14kb and then 89p for anything more than that, and because Android assumes an unlimited data plan (like the iPhone) then each day you turn the phone on, it rings out 11p (and perhaps more if you get a lot of email…) There are no free software data-connection-blockers.

It is possible to register using the wifi, but I had the RC8 version, so the RC7 “hidden root console” feature of the registration program had been removed.

Fortunately, its possible to downgrade the G1 to enable root access, thanks to the XDA-Developers Wiki (and the nicely photographed Gizmodo page about rooting a G1 is good to read too, as it this short summary.)

First run these two commands to get Android nicely detected on GNU/Linux:

echo 'SUBSYSTEM=="usb", SYSFS{idVendor}=="0bb4", MODE="0666"' | sudo tee /etc/udev/rules.d/50-android.rules;
sudo chmod a+rx /etc/udev/rules.d/50-android.rules;

Then connect phone to computer via USB, on phone bring down status menu from top of screen and click USB message and click “mount”. It should then be mounted automatically by GNU/Linux. Then download the 43Mb file and copy it to the SD card. Use “df -h” to see what /dev file the card has, in my case, /dev/sde

df -h;
umount /dev/sde;
sudo mkfs.vfat -Iv /dev/sde;
sudo mount /dev/sde /mnt;
cp DREAIMG.NBH /mnt/;
sudo umount /mnt;

Turn the G1 off, plug it into the charger, then hold Camera button and turn on. The bootloader mode start, with instructions to flash the phone with the update on the SD card. The scrollbar went across to 100% for me, and then paused there for ages, and then the text menu has “OK” appear for each line, and then it said to restart the phone. To do this, hit the trackball button and then press Call, Menu and End simultaneously.

When the phone boots up normally, to see the special root console, tap the desktop and type

    [enter] [enter] reboot [enter]

Ignore the address book that pops up; the phone will magically reboot :-)

Next up is to install a unrestricted boot loader to “de-tivoize” the phone, so it can be upgraded with any OS image.

Plug in the USB cable and let GNU/Linux mount the SDCard. Then grab and copy these files to the disk:

cp recovery.img /media/disk/;

Then eject the SD Disk, and reboot the phone. Then when it starts, tap the desktop and type

    [enter] [enter] telnetd [enter]

Then set up the Wifi, go to the market, and search for telnet, and install it. Then connect to “localhost” server and see the root prompt, “#” and then type these 5 commands:

mount -o remount,rw /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system;
cd /system;
cat /sdcard/recovery.img > recovery.img;
flash_image recovery recovery.img;

When the phone boots, shut down again, and then start up holding the Home button along with Power. Press Alt-L to see the menu, then Alt-S to apply the update, then Home and Back to reboot. The phone boots a couple times and comes up normally.

Now that’s done, the task is to find a nice version of Android to run. The JesusFreke releases seem well regarded on the forums, and I must keep an eye out for new releases on the forum - remember that the RC33 is for the USA and the RC8 is UK. Plug in the computer USB cable:

rm /media/disk/*;
cp /media/disk/;

Then turn off the phone, turn on holding home + power, see the yellow arrow icon, and then press alt+l to see the menu and alt+s to install the new OS.

When it boots, you’ll find a multitouch-zooming webbrowser and a Terminal application in which you can ‘su’ to get root access.

With this installed you can then install and use a “tethering” tool to connect to the net via 3G and then set up the phone’s wifi as a basestation for laptops and other computers to access the net over wifi. Installing programs is done with the “adb” tool:

chmod +x adb;
./adb install signed_andTether_0_90.apk;

Here are the free software Android tools I’ve installed so far:


Also, note that the above doesn’t unlock the SIM, so the handset is restricted to use on the T-Mobile network only. To unlock it, one needs to put in a different network SIM card and enter an unlocking code. is the cheapest I could see, providing unlock codes for USD$20; was next at USD$25. There are some rumours going around that this is discriminated against by network operators or Google, but they seem unsubstantiated. To use these services, just read the IMEA from under the battery, or via the Menu, Settings, About, Status page. I got mine after about 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon, and it worked perfectly. However, once the phone is SIM-unlocked, and using a different network, it needs to know the APN settings to access the net. UPDATE: mymodgphone has a worldwide list, but its settings were incorrect, and the correct ones are very simple.

To connect a unlocked G1 Android phone to Orange Internet, just enter these 4 settings from “Home Menu, Settings, Wireless Controls, Mobile Networks, Access Point Names, menu key, add new button”:

APN: orangeinternet

port:9201 MCC:234 MNC:33

Note that MMS won’t work, but I’ve used that about 3 times in my life, ever.

There are a lot of great android resources out there, so the wikis tend to have the best stuff from forums all collated together. in one place. Nice ones are and