2013 Flock To Fedora

These are live blog notes from the Flock to Fedora event, held at Charleston University South Carolina, USA. http://flocktofedora.org/

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me immediately (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or post a comment. Thanks!


You know PhoneGap, that takes a HTML5 app and turns it into a iOS/Android app.

NodeWebKit does the same thing for desktops.

I’m from Jack Russel Software, we build mobile and web apps for Healthcare IT.

What is it?

You have ChromeFrame, the Chrome browser, and its event loop is melded to the event loop in NodeJS.

Build an app with HTML/CSS and JS – anything you can do in HTML5 on the client and NodeJS on the server. It tacks a little packaging file for the manifest and it puts them together into a “NW.zip” zip archive.

NodeJS has over 30k packages, and you can also use ‘GYP’ to use native libraries as well as JS libraries.

Node-Webkit is **fully** cross platform – you can run package the same app for Mac and Windows and any UNIX platform that Chromium runs on.

With HTML5 you get WebRTC, WebGL, and all the other good stuff – you can make your own personal Skype with WebRTC. Its powerful.

One catch is, with GNU+Linux, you need the right codecs installed; some versions don’t have them pre-installed (h264 and MP3)

Web Cams work, the HTML5 File API means you can drag and drop files into the window. There are NPAPI plugins that can work with it too.


There are several other things out there that do roughly the same thing.

1. Its all HTML5, there is no app-specific API like Adobe AIR – which they killed support for on GNU+Linux – and that had a proprietary API.

2. Combining the event loops of NodeJS and Chrome means that you run the server code at the same time as the client code.

3. Its easy and fun!

This is good for GAMES. The project founder made it for this reason. You can make apps and you don’t have to set up hosting for them; you can share the download bundle so people can use your software without a full cloud infrastructure.

When you are used to making Windows things, you make something that does what they need, bundle it, send it to them, and it runs your script 🙂

4. Cross platform.

There are 3 platform parts. You make a NW zip file, and you cat that together with the platform part. On GNU+Linux you have the NW zip and the binary that concatenate together. On Mac OS X you put it into the normal app bundle and put it into a DMG file system image.

On Windows, you make a ZIP that contains the NW.zip+binary and some DLLs. You make the Zip a ‘executable ZIP’ that will unpack it and run it, or you can package it with a ns-installer or similar to put it in c:\program files\app-name

Setting up your dev environment in Fedora

Get curl

$ sudo yum install -y curl

# get the node webkit package


# on recent GNU+Linux distributions (Fedora and Ubuntu) you need to symlink the libudev library to where Chromium expects it:

$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib64/libudev.so.1 /usr/lib64/libudev.so.0

# then put nw in your path 🙂

$ echo ‘$PATH:/path/to/nw’ >> ~/.bash_profile
$ source ~/.bash_profile

$ nw

Then you should see a browser window showing some ASCII art, and it has the normal Chromium dev tools.

So lets create a Hello World.

You need an index.html and then a package.json, and that JSON will set the name – window title – the html page to load on start – and if the toolbar should be displayed.

$ touch index.html
$ touch package.json
$ edit package.json
‘name’: ‘Help World’,
‘main’: ‘index.html’
$ edit index.html
<h1>Hello World</h1>
$ nw .

And we see it 🙂

We have all NodeJS method available:

$ edit index.html
<h1>Hello World</h1>

$ edit index.html
<h1>Hello World</h1>
var http = require(‘http’);
http.createServer(function(req, res) {

So you can use this to show a web app to an end user, and this runs your web app locally in a self container server-client bundle.

Live Code a simple application

We could do a TODO app….

$ mkdir todo;
$ cd todo;
$ npm install bower -g;

but lets look at a simple chat app

$ cd ~/src
$ git clone git://github.com/twilson63/flockChat.git;
$ cd flockChat
$ npm install
$ bower install
# bower is a client library package manager, so you can keep all your client side libraries up to date easily.
$ vim package.json
$ vim app/controllers/main.js
$ nw .

This shows you how to use Angular JS in nw. angularFire() is a ‘promise’ that simplifies the code a lot.

So you can see that this works. now start a new terminal window and run the program again, and you see that it is commencing.

Single browser means you have easy control over the browser experience.

Demos and Real World, Shipping Examples

This is not just a toy; some people are using this in businesses for shipping applications.

**LightTable** is the first big NodeWebkit app – www.lighttable.com – and Brett Victor laid out a vision a year ago, at worrydream.com, to see your code execute as you write it. This guy implemented his ideas. It loads snappy, and its powerful. Its build for Closure, and a lot of Closure devs are using it for their day to day work.

How may of you use MarkDown? **haroopad** is for you. http://pad.haroopress.com – and it uses very nice fonts 🙂 It has GitHub’s Markdown extension, with colour coding of MarkDown code blocks.

There is a complete list of other Real World, Shipping Examples are in the nw wiki, http://github.com/rogerwang/node-webkit/wiki

There’s a kiosk mode, to make kid-safe things (which is on my mind a lot)





Dave Crossland: Could you talk more about using non-JS libraries?

A: You can use npm to get pre-made libraries, e.g. `npm install mysql`; then just `var mysql = require(‘mysql’);` 🙂 So you can include the MS sql library, tedious, and you have a fully native JS sql library on Windows without extra libraries. Instead of writing batch files, you can give the user a very easy to run script. You can C libraries that have to be compiled in node, but you have to take some different steps; if you have a native module, to cpmile C/C++ code, you run it against the mw-gyp version of gyp. There is LevelUp, a way to use Level DB (a popular library) inside NodeJS, which means you can use a desktop library inside a web app. CouchDB is also popular.


A: You can use Browserify to bundle all your JS into a single file:

$ browserify index.js

Q: What do you use it for?

A: Very rich mockups. We make the HTML5 and leverage that into real applications that we host.

Q: So its for prototyping and rich demos?

A: Right. We have 1,000 feature requests, and we can use this to make little utility programs that help solve a specific need outside the main application development lifecycle. Also, we use it to deliver phone gap apps to QA teams. So they can test an app before you get to the phone testing thing; they don’t ned hardware.

* * *

Document Your Code, by Kushal Das

The Big Idea is: Documentation is Communication.

Documenting source code is critical to on boarding new developers to a project.

reStructuredText is the Pythonic markdown-style mark-up.

You need Fedora packages python-docutils and python-sphinx

Document Title Text

SOmething in a paragraph.

$ rst2html.py example.rst example.html
$ open example.html


There is syntax for titles and headings, ul and ol lists, with auto enumeration with

1. Point
#. Something
#. Else

dl lists, command line option lists.

Literal blocks are done with ::

Look up the full syntax online 🙂

Q: converters to rst?

A: Yes, mediaWiki has a extension, and markdown2rst and rst2markdown exists.

pycon-us-2013.txt  is a good read, and this guy made a rst blogging tool, ‘Nicola’ – https://github.com/ralsina/nikola –

pocoo made http://sphinx-doc.org/

So lets see an example Python source code file, here is a simple class file with a `class Rectangle(object)` 🙂

This is a module of Rectangle class.

class Rectangle(object):

def __init__(self, length, width):
self.length = length
self.width = width

def area(self):
Returns the area of the rectangle.
return self.length * self.width

def is_square(self):
Finds out if it is a square or not.
return self.length == self.width


This is at http://kushal.fedorapeople.org/rectangle.py

lets turn it into a full module

$ mkdir shapes;
$ cd shapes;
$ touch __init__.py;
$ cp rectangle.py shapes/;
$ mkdir doc/;
$ touch doc/index.rst;

The index.rst is the project documentation.

The project

Intro to the project.


Now lets use Sphinx to add documentation:

This is a module of Rectangle class.

class Rectangle(object):

def __init__(self, length, width):
Returns an object of Rectangle class.

:arg length: Length of the rectangle
:arg width: Width of the rectangle

:return: rectangle object with given length and width.

.. notes::

This is a note

self.length = length
self.width = width

def area(self):
Returns the area of the rectangle.
return self.length * self.width

def is_square(self):
Finds out if it is a square or not.
return self.length == self.width


$ make html
$ open build/docs/index.html

$ touch doc/quickstart.rst;
This is a quick start doc
This is the paragraph with a direct link to the project’s class like this :class:`~shapes.rectangle.Rectangle` class. or also a method like :meth:`~shapes.rectangle.Rectangle.area`.

$ make html
$ open build/docs/index.html

We can now see this on the build/docs/index.html page

So you should have 3 pieces of essential documentation for any project:

1. A quick start page to get the most common usage going
2. A tutorial that is more in depth
3. API documentation

Lets make the 3rd now 🙂

$ touch doc/api.rst;
API for our Shapes module

.. autoclass:: shapes.rectangle.Rectangle

$ make html
$ open build/docs/index.html

We can also

$ make pdf

This creates LaTeX from the RST and then a PDF from that.

https://github.com/kushaldas/retask is an example of a real Python package I made that I used Sphinx to document at http://retask.readthedocs.org/en/latest/


* * *

Test Automation, Tim Flink

Task Automation isn’t yet where I want to be. Don’t be offended!


I work at Red Hat, allocated to Fedora QA, so I spent a lot of time with AutoQA.

Where we are?

What is TA?

There are lots of TASKS we are interested in that are not always TESTS.

Eg, Create a boot.iso ,upload a new cloud image and run it, or run static code analysis. Corps usually assign that to corporate engineering, but in Fedora we want to automate it.

Thats why this is TASKS not TESTS.

What’s up with AutoQA? Its a great idea but there are issues with the implementation, that have stopped it expanding beyond the initial deployment:

1. Tight Coupling with AutoQA. Its tied to koji and bodhi

2. Accepting contributions. I want it to be like anyone who can write a test and submit it can do so and have it run.

3. Results and reporting. aQA generates a lot data that no one has time to look at. Automated/AI analytics are tricky due to the current logging/reporting setup. Notification of interested parties also not good enough.

4. Scaling.

Where are we going?

my Design Philosophy is to make it flexible, as I can’t predict what will be needed 12 months out.

requirements: taks should be easily executable outside the framework, and dev environments should be much easier to set up.

Here’s a diagram of the basic idea here. Use something for passing messages, and 3 program.

Signal Input, originally use FedMsg, but that has no guarantees for service.

Rule Engine, listen for msgs, decide when to run tasks

Task Execution, run tasks

Result storage, store the results

Signal Results, signal the results

Design Summary: Each part of taskbot could be replaced with minimal pain. A wide variety of tasks could be supported.

How are we going to get there?

A phased approach. initial exec and basic status recording; analytics; and better execution preparation – smoke tests, sanity tests.

Immediate todos: Figure out task description, plan recording status and log storage.

How can you help?

Right now I’m hoping for ideas, suggestions what you will like to write, and SUPPORT, so we don’t leave out any low hanging fruit. Don’t’ want to block anything due to early design decisions.  Automated tests which no one reads are useless.


Q: FedMsg reliability? Async messaging is a messy space. A msg broker may die… You can compare what comes through the messaging system with the expected results to see if it went through.

Fedora Videos

Rules: CC license, non offensive, and provide interesting content.

Its good to provide videos that users can follow along with.

Tatica: There is a lack of interest in reading the wiki. When people hear ‘this is how to become a contribute, read this very long wikipedia page’, they don’t read it. So I’d like to see some videos for the basic things, what fedora is, how to get fedora… and merge that with the Fedora College project.

Q: Tools to make screencasts?

A: Audacity to record my audio, RecordMyDesktop to capture the screen, Cheese to show webcam. KDEnLive to sync them.

* * *

Life of a Package

Lets look at the life cycle of a package, and see if we can improve things.

Upstream projects live all over the place. ‘Upstream’ is the logical master copy, usually hosted on GitHub, SourceForge, FedoraHosted, GNU Savannah, Bitbucket, Launchpad, or even their own server. A repo is consumable.

There are lots of resources for making RPMs. FedoraProject wiki has a ‘How to Create an RPM Package’ page, a lot of videos and presentation around (spot’s are good).

Once you have an RPM, it must be reviewed, and that happens in fedora on Bugzilla.

In the fedora-infra git repo there is a process-git-requests script that lets an scm admin  go through pending packages, review them, and add them to pkgdb. This creates a new empty git repo for the package, and the admin updates the bug to say the request is processed.

Rawhide, is always moving forward and should always be usable; each day script composes all packages in f-N tag.


[20 mins late]

Create an interface in Glade, and Glade saves that as an XML file.

Slide 8: Key GTK information. Objects + Widgets. GObject is based on abstract classes and inheritance. each object has its own properties and methods. A checkbox has a checked stat property, and it inherits properties and methods that go quite far up. A chair object has all sorts of properties, and if you have a folding chair, you inherit the chair object and just add the fold() method.

This is where devhelp comes in, as it provides a hierarchical listing of inheritance.

Slide 11: This is an example of how the hierarchy works. GObject, GtkWidget, GtkContainer, GtkBin, GtkButton. So anything you can do with a GtkBin you can do with a GtkButton.

Typically the UI in an application is a object with its own class. So you can subclass the Gtk.Application class:

class MyProgUI(Gtk.Application):
def __init__(self):


So you subclass to get all these nice pre made things for free. This is normal python.

How to get from a Glade UI XML file to something you can work with on Python?

You load the gi.repository

`from gi.repository import Gtk`

Create a GtKBuilder object and use GtkBuilder.add_from_file() to load objects from the XML form Glade.


This is how interactivity works. You have a main loop and an interaction loop. Interaction generates a signal that is caught to trigger a function. Signals are EMITTED

Eg, to make a close_button() method associate with a button object from Glade named ‘close’, you do `self.close_button = self.builder.get_object(‘close’)`

Almost any widget can use the connect() method to map a signal to a callback.

The callback is the method that reacts to the user’s action.

`self.close_button.connect()` (incomplete example)

GTK main loop.

The main loop allows your application to accept input from the user – mouse event, key presses, etc.

if __name__ == ‘__main__’:
myProg = MyProgUI()


Always connect signals to let the user quit the application! For a main or single window, an easy way is, main_quit():

`self.window.connect(‘destroy’, Gtk.main_quit)`

Show widgets before the main loop runs using show_all(). You can set visible properties, or use hide()/show() methods.

So, as a newbie, you can use Glade to get to know interface widgets, and develop to understand the internals of each widget.

You can also use python methods to build your UI programmatically.

You can change your UI as you go! Eg, as a timer runs, you can change the label as the timer changes.

Q: bpython is super useful to traceback object inneritance.

DC: Hmm, this is too complex for me. I just want `filePath = GetFile(“Open File Window Title”)` to get the file path, and fopen() like normal python!

* * *


Q: Are you bringing back fedora-core and fedora-extras?

A: No! That was a bad idea, where f-c was only for Red Hat employees, and wasn’t really an open source project, but it was open source code.

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RoboFab Workshop, NYC

These are live blog notes from the RoboFont workshop by Frederik Berlaen and Andy Clymer, held at Cooper Union in New York City. http://coopertype.org/curriculum/workshops/robofont

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by me, Dave Crossland, at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email me immediately (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or post a comment. Thanks!


Design and programming. About drawing outside the borders of existing tools and why designers must make their own tools

I have a thing with designing and scripting. For a joke I have long titles in my talks 🙂

I studied grpahic design in ghent; I made a book about typo berlin. We wanted to go to TB, had no money, so we said to the shcool if we make a book of the experience can you pay for us, they said yes 🙂

so we have ag ood documtnation about what TB was like taht year.

After I graduated, I made a FontShop Magazine #9, after complaining to them that their magazine was ugly, and when you complain you do it positively and say you can do something else to improve it. provide a positive story at the end 🙂

we wrote it, did photography, almsot evything, we made a good posted for it, a gradient of photos, cool 🙂

So i worked one year and then studeid at T&M in KABK. This is a crazy place, you’re all in a tiny room in Den Haag, from around the world, with one passion, type.

Its a cool thing, everyone in one room and totally focused on type design. You do calligrpahy with Peter Verhul, Greek with Peter Bilak, Stone Carving with Francois – this is my R that took 3 weeks. You canmeet famous people, like here is Bram de Doos, who did Trinte and Lexicon – one of the best book typefaces in the 20thC.

Poeple like Gerard Unger or Bram will pop by this little room, its great. We did a graduation show, I did Kalliculator.

I have made somet ypefaces that aren’t publiched, Nana is a graduation project, from my time researching contrast forms, and the grey of the text should be similar in the sans and serif.

Theneut, is from an exercise just drwaing the white space. Again, a serif and sans serif verion.

Toni, Toni Bodoni. I went on a honey moon with my wife to Italy, we went to Parma to the Bodoni museum. I made a revival, there are crazy ‘a’ with a hanging ball, a cut off 7….

Herr Grotesk, eveyone has a grotesque. its one of the hardest to draw.

Comb. THis is released, with ourtype. Its a monospace for typesetting forms. it has a lot of form widgets so you could scale the form typogrpahy with the point size of the type easily.

So, Robofont. Its an application to draw, and to edit UFOs. It uses UFO as the file format, this is important.

The history of editors:

* Plotr 82 – I was 1 year old 🙂 It took 30 seconds to render that ‘a’ glyph 🙂
* Pika 87
* Ikarus M
* RoboFog – a wrapper around FOntographer 3. Petr, Just and Erik made a python wrapper arund it to do crazy things with fonts. A lot of poeple usd it before Fontlab.
* FontQ – a special version for FontBureau.
* …

I’m working with Petr. On the left are Petrs tools, on teh right are the main things.

In 2009-07-09 Petr asked me, what a type editor should be like. he pade a prototype, made to draw outlines with an instant pixel preview. But I tstarte fom scratch.

So, UFO is a fodler with XML files inside. Its documented on unifiedfontobject.org by Tal Leming.

People in the past had a hard time with binary source files; they can become corrupt and then you can’t do anything. with XML you can dive into the source and change things. you could even make a font with writing XML 😉

So there are tools around UFO – early ones were metrics machine from Tal, superpolator from Erik, roundingUFO from me, FontLab via RoboFab, and then there became lots more – Area 51, Kallikulator, Glyphs, FontForge – but there was one missing, a core UFO editor.

So that’s what RoboFont does. It edits glyphs, fontifos, layers – anythign in a UFO.

Its a traditional editor that you cna draw with, but its also a PLATFORM – you can make custom tools on top of it.

So here is a polygon select tool. THis is just like 10 lines of code! So easy.

So you will have lots of custom tools, differing user to user and project to project. Your physical desk will be different when making a display or a text type. So why not your editor?

I’m very strict about this thing: RoboFont should not contain knowledge. The pencil doesn’t know what your drawin will be. This is an important thing. Lots of applicatoins goes automatically, doing things by magic, but type design doesn’tw ork like this. You ened the craft and knoweldge of makinga tyepface, and that differs from project ot project and designaer to designer.

So robofon doesn’t design for you.

This makes it a bigger step up to start working with it.

Everythign is scriptable, so you make nake it in different kind of ways.

Here is my Outliner Extension. I won’t embed it in RoboFont, it knows how I’d lke an outline to be. I don’t want to put it in RoboFont but as an extension it contains knowledge.

So: Scripting?

For a lot of designers, they say, ‘well, i dont want to do that stuff’

But I highly encoruage you to learn it. Its FAST.

With 4 lines of code I added 20 units to each glyph. This is 0.3 seconds for 700 glyphs. You can’t beat that by hand and have no mistakes.

font = CurrentFont()
for glyph in font:
glyph.rightMargin += 20
glyph.leftMargin += 20

Scripting is baout time for yourself. if you think about the timeline of a type prpoecjt, the nice part is the designing and the rpoduction time isnt so fun. so with scriptipng you can make yoruself more time for the nice part by automating produciton.

Another thing for scirptipng: All tools are limited. you can’t paint with a pencil 🙂

here is erik’s image: the idea space, the whole workd and the sea. you have an island, the tool space, the land that is known. Then ther are the ideas in the sea you cant rach. but if you make our own tools, you can explore the whole space. the oceans are vast.

Same sotry: idea space. you haev apps, the CS classics and a pencil. you get skills using them, but there are still lots of things the tools cant handle. wat do you do? make new tools. designers should be inventors.

This is Petr’s telling: this line is the time to make a tyepface. these are the elemnts you must consider. you split things in pieces? but everythign floats around and one change effects the decisions for the other elemtns. in the real world it looks like this, a few things with lots of time at the start, and then everythign else quickly at the end. scriptipng helps with the rush at the end.

So thats the 3 telligns of the same story. So you make Tools. I made tools.

* RoudningUFO: I wrote it with Erik, he was working on FF Unit Soft at the time, and he needed to add round corrners. you can do it by hand, but the UNit fmaily was 16 weights with 1,600 glyphs per weight. So we made a tool with sliders to adjust the corners to be round. This is one way to make round corners. there are other ways. You can toggle inside and outside corners, you can use it to make inktraps. so with the tool devleoper, ‘it just works’ – but the corners are designed by erik and me. there are a lot of design decisions in there.

I had a job to add small caps to an existing fmaily, again a large one, so I made ufoStretch. this has lots of sliders to control the shapes, usual transforms for rotation, slant, x and y repositioning, x and y scaling… and there is a ‘beam’ to measure along the x direction, so you can make stretches that result in the correct stem widths, for example.

I graduated from KABK without a typeface, which was very unusual. Instead I made a tool to investigate contrast. I researched calligraphy, wriitng with pointed and broadnib pens, thought about what a skeleton line is.

There is a broadnib pen that creastes contrast with translation; there is a pointy pen with contrast from pressure. So I made 2 typefaces with a similar greyness color, using the 2 kinds of contrast. I found the x height of the pointed pen type should be a little smaller.

I made like 1,000 typeface out of it, the whole thing is the volume of it. I made an exhivition with it, with Fred Smeijers.

This was 8 years ago. The UI is outdated 🙂 There is a window to edit the skeleton. There’s a palette with the pen attributes. And a nice thing, you can animate the pen stroke.

Hinting. RoboFont doesn’t support hinting at all. One main reason is that UFO spec doesn’t have hinting in the UFO format. Also, its something everyone is now a hinting expert, and I’m not, I don’t do hinting. I only know one guy who can really do it, David Berlow, who really knows assembly programming. I did some cool experiments with hinting; this is Georgia’s 9px outline after hinting adjustments are applied to it! A beauty 🙂

So you can have a pixel preview of the font, as you modify the outline you can see the pixel behind being filled more.


Q: Robofont able to make metrics? I heard it was better to use Metrics Machine?

Frederik: RF can do metrics, MM is for kerning, you can do kerning in RoboFont if you need to. I suggest you buy MM; the kerning support in RF is simple as I didn’t want to spend much time on it.

Andy: We’ll walk you through the entire process of exporting from FontLab, and you shouldn’t need to go back to FontLab at any point in the process. Every tool does thing differently. H&FJ used FontLab in the past, it was good, we weren’t sure about some of its automated things, so we were happy with RoboFont, which we could make our own workflow from. Before RoboFont, we worked in FLab, we liked Metrics Machine, so we drew in FontLab, exported to UFO, did kerning in MM, and imported back in. MM is really graet for kerning. Now that the UFO is the master production source format, you’re in the right place to use all these tools directly. You can use MM, or ufoStretch to make small caps… and at any moment you can go back to FontLab if you want to. MM is another hting to buy, sure, but the idea of having tools specific for a task is a good one.

Frederik: Right, I’ve seen students drawing type in InDesign with the pen tool there! The Adobe apps are huge and do everything.

Nick Shinn: Also, you can have all the tools opening the same file at the same time, and they will all update as the file is saved from one application to the next.

Frederik: So it ends up feeling like one big application 🙂

Q: If you draw in Illustraotr, can you import seamlessly?

Frederik: well, if you just have outlines, yes, but colors and strokes and so on will not import. We’ll show all this.

Q: Importing to FontLab, there are distortions.

Frederik: There is a way to set up the illustrator file. There are no decimals for points in fontlab, but you can have them in illustrator; if you copy and paste, the points are quantized and there are then rounding errors everywhere. font formats are from the past, when computers were slower, so floating numbers would mean printing a page would be slow. you can also make the UPM bigger. but if you ensure illustrator is using integrer points, on a 1,000 cavnas, its easy.

Andy: If you have UFOs, great. We’ll start with folks with VFBs and exporting and importing UFOs.

Frederik: This is the Elementar VFB, a project I did with Gustavo Ferrier, a Brasilian friend who studied at KABK.

Andy: So open a VFB, go to View, Toolbar, Macro Panel,

Andy: Tal made UFO Central which can also be helpful with all this stuff.

Andy: So you can have an error if you used FontLab’s Class Based Kerning. If you use CBK, the group names are named in a non standard way. You can find the name of the group in RoboFont, Python menu, Output Window. RoboFont thinks the class name is a glyph name.

Frederik: As we said earlier, you can open up the UFO and fix things by hand! So open groups.plist file and edit it by hand to fix this 🙂

Andy: This is a key thing about UFO; the key data is at your fingertips. if you want to go in there and see what is in the file, you can do it! 🙂 When you save the file, and its open in RoboFont already, RF will notice the file was updated, and allows you to choose what to do.

Frederik: Its so important that in 200 years, you will be able to read and write your data. We look at how peopel did things 200 years ago and so UFO is a way to preserve your data and your work. Its readable for you and the machine. UFO can also easily fit into a version control system. So lets look at the “A” glyph in the editor and the glyph file in a text editor. You can see if I edit the XML, the editor notices and can update. So this is key, you can edit your own data. This is so important, ebcause this data is something you work on for years, something you sell to your clients.

Q: Directions for doing this? How do you identify what to do?

Andy: well it doent make much sense to write XML by hand from scratch, but if you want to edit data in this format, its easy to understand what the data is.


Q: Can you re-order the glyphs in the the font view?

Frederik: So the power of RoboFont is that the answer will always be ‘yes you can’ – its a platform you can extend to do anything. Encoding files are old. Encoding means theres a portion of a larger character set, needed for PS fonts with a 250 glyph limit. There is a sort button, 3 options, smart sort – really smart! 😉 – that sorts based on unicode blocks, names with suffixes, etc. it runs ok most of the time. I like all the A and accents together. others like more of a Latin 1 style order. You can sort based on a character set. I’ll explain how to set these character sets. And the Custom option, shows that Smart Sort is just a set of presets for these.

Q: What about sorting PUA encoded glyphs?

Andy: I don’t recommend that, but you can sort by glyph names. What happens when you have more glyphs than in the PUA space? 🙂

Frederik: So then there is a list display, and you can sort by any of the cols, including mark. so you can mark glyphs with colors that mean something in that moment, and sort by that mark.


Frederik: You can see your groups in a ice cube tray style list, and also stacked – which is really nice for looking at accents. you can see if there is consistency in the designs. You can drag and drop glyphs from the table into the group area.

Andy: Groups is important for doing anything class based; its not effecting the font design or display directly, its for your design process.

Frederik: you can use groups for anything where things are related. OT features and kerning are obvious; you can do anything custom to your workflow. You could make a spacing tool.

Q: Can you convert a smart set into a group?

Frederik: I didnt know Smart Sets yet. MM has a icon if you have it installed, if not, you get a simple kerning pane. This is ONLY for kerning, not spacing. you can add a group for kerning; those groups start with an @ sign. So lets tick ‘prefer group kerning’ and make an @A group, and add all the A accent glyphs. Then you can do group kerning, set the First to the @A group, the second to V, and value -90. The preview then displays every item in the group. If the ‘prefer group kerning’ box is unticked, it creates an exception to the group.

Q: Can you import strings for proofing?

Andy: No. Its something MM is good at. Thats the tool to do kerning with.

Andy: MM is made for tweaking all the kerning with speed and dexterity, with a great keybaord UI.

Frederik: I dont want to rewrite MM, it would be a waste of time. I encourage you to use MM to do kerning 🙂

Space Center

Frederik: You can select a glyph here, drag the black of a shape to move it. you can hold Alt and move up and down too, and Cmd you can move x and y. Arrow keys will add/subtract to the right margin, with alt down it will edit the left margin. with Cmd up and down will walk through the character set. With Alt-Cmd it will shift by 10x, and Alt-Cmd-Ctrl by 100x. You can set values in the number table. You can (like a spreadsheet) type a program, like =a and then it will make the value the same as the a’s value. This is a one time thing, its not a link. You can say =a+b/2 and so on. You can go quickly to make sure the s is the same as the h or whatever. with Alt you can move the focus around the table.

Frederik: You have at the top the main wide test string, and to the left and right there are glyphs you can mix into those, it will loop over the strings. You can zoom in and you can scroll with ALt key and the mouse wheel, or Shift + and – to step up and down the size. If you enter /? then that is a symbol for the currently selected glyph in the Font View.

Frederik: And then there’s the options cog, with view modes. The ‘x height cut’ mode is a favourite of mine, really helpful for beginners to see the way spacing works with stem rhythm; the outline mode is also useful like this. The beam measure is SUPER useful; its from the left edge of the glyph bounding box until whereever the beam hits. So if you have a serif typeface, you might want to measure stem to stem and not the edge of the serif.

Q: How can you set the beam to the extreme point of an O?

Andy: without the beam will tell you that point. So round shapes you will space without the beam.

Frederik: So here is a key thing about the Space Center: **The numbers are not important.** The visual forms matter. And the numbers with beam mode and so on are not even the numbers in the UFO 🙂

Frederik: You can hide the control glyphs from the metrics table too.

Q: Can you preview OT features?

Frederik: No, I don’t compile and analyse the OT feature file. The cog Suffix menu appraoches this though, so you can add the suffix to the glyph names entered in the main glyph input box.

Frederik: There is a rare ‘auto’ item on the suffix menu, which will find the suffix of the glyph selected in the Font View and apply that to the string.

Frederik: You can enter /glyphname to enter a glyph by name. I never do that, I use drang and drop to drop a glyph from Font View into the Space Center. you can drag with Alt to APPEND the selected glyphs to the string. otherwise it will replace the string with the selection. Smart Sets (that I’ll explain later) can make it easy to make sets of glyphs to space with.

Font Info

Frederik: All the General fields end up in the binary file except the Note area.

Andy: You have access to everything that will be in the OTF in the OpenType area. In FontLab, it was mixed and unclear what would end up in the final binary. We’ll demo setting naming up in common ways.


This allows you to write Adobe Feature File syntax.

Groups and Sets

Frederik: Smart Sets are VISUALISATIONS of things. The sets are preferences of the user; it won’t end up in the UFO file. Groups are DATA that are stored in the UFO file.

Glyph Windows

You can preview with the ` key like FontLab

If you double click a point to make it a smooth point.

Click a point and hold Alt and drag out a handle; if you hold Alt on a line segment you can bend it into a curve.

ALl smoothness is on the command key. You can hold command to move a point without moving the BCPs, and shift to select more than one on curve point and move them together. If you hold Cmd+Opt on a BCP that will move them in mirror.

With Shift you can select 2 BCPs and move them together. Marquee will secect only on curve points, but with Opt it will select OFF curves only.

Command and arrow keys move by 10x units, Cmd+Shift arrows is 100x

If you have a BCP on an angle, if you hold Cmd it will maintain the angle so you just change the length of the BCP

With the select tool, if you hold Cmd on its own, and click, it will select the whole of the nearest contour – ZZZZZZZing

With the pen tool, when you double click it closes the path with a line segment.

Slice, it will add points to an open contour.

Measure, if you hold Alt it will place guidelines that are retained. To move them go to the Measure tool and the first point.

Display dropdown, Rulers, and you can drag down guides. Hold Alt to rotate the guide. Right click the guide to make it global (seen in all glyphs), change how magnetic the guide is.

The 5th button is Remove Overlap. Everyone knows the paths are filled or not based on direction?

You can add layers; the UFO spec has no spaces in layer names so RF converts them to underscores. If with select you double click an element it will switch to that element’s layer.

The view drop down, you can turn on and off various canvas widgets. The bitmap is live, so the bitmap will change based on the points positions. It uses the Apple rasteriser, and it previews the bitmaps at various sizes to the left side of the glyph.

Zooming has the FontLab keys – z and x

The Inspector Window

Like other Apple applications, there is an inspector panel for adjusting the metadata of the thing. So theres a glyph inspector, where you can see the data behind many of the things we’ve just interacted with and change them more precisely.

The Transform section is useful. It has **alignment** tools. It can snap all points to say a unit of 5; John Downer (?) and Albert Jan Van Pool (?) do this. Note the cog, you can effect if the way the transform works.

Importing Images

Drag and drop the image. Right click to adjust it.

Nice feature: Set Scale. Click 3 times. first, add 0,0 point, second, add baseline, third, add ascender height – and it scales the image to the glyph’s canvas!

There are no tracing options. I can draw faster than the computer can trace and clean up. There is an extension for tracing.


Draw With: Quaddratic is probably only for David Berlow 🙂

Hotkeys. j is a nice one, jump to glyph.

Misc: To show off how flexible the RoboFont system is, you can turn on single window mode.

Q: What is FDK?

Frederik: Its been around many years, in a freeware set of tools for dealing with opentype fonts. the main thing is compiling feature files.

Dave: how frustrating is that its not open soruce?

Frederik: i have the source code, its not that useful for me as its all in C. Read is quick with bug fixes when bugs are found.

Q: where are the shape primitives? circle, square?

Frederik: That’s knowledge so its not there. There is a Shape extension. You can see this adds a new toolbar button!

* * *

Day 2

Frederik: This is a research project from a student in ECAL, a research into old type design software applications. Here is one from 1964! Machines for making type, visualising type. Rasterising… a physical spline system for designing airplanes, ships, cars, which the Bezier curves is a digital simulation of.

Andy: Bezier was working for Citroen, the car industry, Peter Karow was in Germany in the ship industry (?)


Frederik: So online there is “The Complete RoboFont Guide” and its 180 pages printed.

Q: How often updated?

Frederik: Errrr Its pretty up to date 🙂 When the RoboFont application is updated, the documentation is updated. I don’t want to make a book or PDF of it, I want a **single source for documentation** and this is it. There is a version 0.9 and the documentation will never be complete so it stays there 😉


There is also a link to the extensions page, and you can download them from GitHub. Most open source stuff is there, I advise you to use Github if you wish to share code. Hmm its down at the moment. GitHub is a repository where you can do version control, and its free of charge when you do open source.

When you get my git repo, you get a folder with some extensions in it.

OpenType Features

Here’s an example FEA

feature ss01 {
sub A by A.ss01;

feature kern {
pos A B -100;

You can make groups 4 ways, and I don’t want to search you feature file for groups. There is a groups2faetures extension that will list all your groups and converts them to a nice FEA syntax group.

You can set the group globally (at the top of the FEA file) and also per feature.

Layer Preview Extension

Outliner: This is live. It goes weird if the angle of the BCPs is more than 90′ but if yo draw nicely as I do, it works well – and the outlines will be interpolatable. Expand just applies to the current glyph.

Pixel Tools is a nice one, for making 0x00A0 style fonts

Send to twitter is fun

TypeCooker is an application that erik wrote for teaching.

FontBureau publishes some stuff as open source, its nice when companies do this.

There is a nice one to show the current mouse pointer co ordinates.


ToDo: Nice because it saves the ToDo items inside the UFO

**Mechanic: THis is great, it has most extensions that are available, it detects updates, and you can uninstall from it too. It does the whole download and install process for you.**

Generating Fonts

Andy: So when you work with the FEA files, you’re close to the machine, it won’t do anything for you. When I go to generate font, in Flab or RF, I’ll do the same thing. I might have done changes in various way, to glyphs or font info or FEA…. and I’ll go to the feature preview extension.

In Font Info, PS section, if you remove the Hinting section values (Flab had another name for them, Primary and Secondary… but the names in RF are based on the specification, so tarts why the name may be different to Flab if you’re used to that)

In the Generate dialog, there’s a ‘Use MacRoman’ checkbox, that sorts the glyph order based on the classic MacRoman encoding.

Frederik: There are Windows apps that run on XP that require the first 256 characters to be MacRoman. I’ve had customers complain about this.

Andy: When you generate, you may go to look for the file and not find one. In that case you can see a output window – go to Prefrences, Python, Script Editor, and tick ‘Pop up output window’ – and see what the fatal error was.

Q: Multimple Master?

Frederik: There were 2 rpgorams that supported it, an old version of InDeisgn (2?) and PageMaker. Users couldn’t make use of it.

Andy: So it turned into a tool that type designers used, to make separate styles. But RF isn’t set up for the MM model. We use superpolator for interpolating UFOs.

Andy: So there’s also a Test Install command. If you do a test install it will copy the font file to the system font folder while the file is open in the editor. There are prefs for this in the Misc area.

Frederik: you can choose in Font Info, RoboFont, you can choose generate options. When generating TT fonts, you may want more precision on the points or on the curves. If you are generating TTF font files from a PS outlines (typical) then you’ll want to review this.

Q: can you have both curve types in the same font?

Frederik: No, not in RF.


Frederik: This is a little freeware tool, by Just van Rossum, I’ve been working with him on a new version, the icon is made by Andy – with Drawbot! – and the icon animates!!

So its easy to write code to draw things.

draw(10, 10, 100, 100)

You see the direct relation of the code and the drawing. Lets colour it red:

fil(1, 0, 0)
draw(10, 10, 100, 100)

Now add an oval

fil(1, 0, 0)
draw(10, 10, 100, 100)
oval(10, 120, 100, 100)
text(“hello world!”

www.drawbot.com/courseware has a lot of tutorial scripts that you can learn with.

I learned Python with DrawBot. You then jump to RoboFont and making scripts. Most of the things Gustavo does with hTools are simple.

You can get the current font with this line

font = CurrentFont()

Then you can change the font info like this

font = CurrentFont()
font.info.familyName = “Hello World”

And in the UI you now see that it has been updated!

Andy: So if you write your own script, you might not have it in that double click extension format. So if you go to Prefs, Python, you can set a folder to load scripts from, and hotkeys for running them.

Frederik: So the key to scripting fonts with Python is theRoboFab object model. Here’s the website, here’s the object map, here’s the www.robofab.com/objects/glyph.html page that documents the glyph object.

[Python Basics]

Frederik: So how to create new UI? Lets make a rotate button that is just like the rotate button in the Inspector panel. Its just 15 lines:

from vanilla import *

class MyWindow:

def __init__(self):
self.w = Window((300,300))
self.w.button = Button((10,10,100,22), “Rotate me”, callback=self.buttonCallback)

def buttonCallback(self, sender):
for glyph in font:


Andy: Scripts are normally a 1,000 lines that do things that would normally require a lot of clicks, and you can save yourself a lot of time.

DC Q: How do the character sets work?

Frederik: We use a glyph name list and AGL for finding the unicode number values; you can use the | syntax from the add glyph. Also in fontTools.misc. somewhere there is a dict and you can add your mappings to that; set that as a startup script and then it will work.

Frederik: Prepolator is a tool for checking UFOs ready for interpolation, without errors. Its a very cool application. It also has a watcher, so you can edit the UFO in RF and in PP back and forth, and each will update the data when its changed in the other. It has a good thing for showing lines connecting the matching points.

Frederik: Superpolator. This is the tool for actually DOING the applications. It also was a watcher. So you see you have the UFO file as the core of the workflow, and you have the apps all using the UFO natively and **live** – all these tools use the same read and write library for dealing with the UFO data, so you know it will always happen in the same way, reliably.

**I have had UFOs from FontForge, where some languages use a comma instead of a period

DC Q: What are the libraries?

Andy: Well we covered RoboFab a lot. Vanilla is just for UIs. DefCon is from Tal. it uses UFOlib from Robofab, its a faster way to read and write UFOs. Mojo is the stuff RF can to extra that isn’t in other libraries. This is an easier way to talk to UI stuff. Its documented in doc.robofont.com/api/ – there is an accordion view, a HTML view, different multiline views, and so on.

Frederik: Its not about using this tool or that tool, its about your design and your process. Today we live in a world where you learn Graphic Design and you must learn some programming for making a wbesite. There’s no different to making a website or an extension for RoboFont. Well, the language, its a detail. If you learn JS you can easily learn Python. They are forgiving in writing, its not like C. I learned programming in 2005/2006, at T&M at KABK. So anyone could write all this in 7 years – or less!

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Why type is unlike general graphic design

Talking with Simon Egli this week, he made an interesting point: Type design is about making forms for other people to use. This is unlike general graphic design, which feel odd when re-used, re-purposed. People feel upset at such plagiarism. But type is made to be re-used and re-purposed. So its natural to desire freedom to go further, and modify the type too. This is part of what motivated me to work on libre fonts for the last 5 years.

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Frank Blokland: Harmonics, Patterns and Dynamics

These are live blog notes from http://www.tagderschrift.org/ held in Zurich

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by Dave Crossland at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because Dave mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email him immediately (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or post a comment. Thanks!



Frank Blokland: Harmonics, Patterns and Dynamics

The regularization, standardization, systematization, and unitization of roman and italic type from the Renaissance origins until the Romain du Ro: Harmonics, patterns and dynamics in formal typographic representations of the Latin script

This is my PhD research. I started it 6 years ago, and I blog about my work at www.lettermodel.org

You will find there the research question and subsequent questions: “To what extent are the the harmonic…..”

Its a difficult quesiton, and evidence for such regularization must be found to start. That is what I’ve done, I will show you my models, and the research on Granjon and Garamond I did at the Plantin Moretus Moseum. Nothing durvives from the italian renaissance but there is a direct connection to the French.

Then there are follow up questions, “How exactly then did these regularizations…” and “Moxon and Fournier do not seem to mention forenamed regularizations?” and for me the most interesting idea, “Did they preserve optical preferences from handwriting origins, or did they create new ones due to the forced canonicalisation of letterforms?”

Mythical Eye

Stanley Morrison said “Hving learned and memorised the TRUE proportions of Moille, Paciolo and others, the punchcutters and printers relied on thir eyes and not upon measuing tools”

Pierre Simon Fournier ‘These gentlemen woudl have been to a single rule, the eye is the supreme judge’

Adrian Hutt said “Some indefinable talent in the best punch cutters” – but if we all believe in this, yet can’t define it, does it really exist?


What is typography? How is it differnet to callifraophY? In calligraphy the space ˆs divided by pen strokes; there is no care about line gaps, he can prevent collision on a letter by letter basis.

This is Jenson! The first ‘roman’ typeface. Tsch, you should know this 🙂 There is a clear division of each line, the page image is made by assembling these rectangles.

The spacing between characters is always correct, irrespecive of the sequence of the rectangles.

Dynamics Rectangle

This is the 1455 gutenberg bible type. I wondered if there was a relation fo the sizes. No one knows why its “Em square” or why its written as E and m. This could be the origin,

[image of Emssp]

I could find this with a root 2 rectangle or a golden section rectangle.

This is applied to Silmbach’s Jenson, and you find the SAME system!

The same in Guternberg and Jenson. Jenson went to see Guternberg, he used textura type, and its AMAZING you can find the same rule in the gothic and roman type.

Em/En Square

Tgs=us is the Adobe Garamond, he worked for the Manutius publisher, and the Hypno… poliphili. Griffo took the Jenson model, and I made from this

[the \mmhpH diagram]

You can contruct from this model gothic and renaissance type.

I made the DTL LetterModeller with help from colleagues at URW. I can change the ascenders, descenders, pen width, flatten the curves, and make the step from renaissance to gothic type with this step.

It is a very small step!

Its the same model, with some tweaking of the pen width, the arches.

You can export the shapes generated from the program and use them as a basis for your own type.

[ \mmphB ]

This gas a similar set of proportions. When you look at the serifs, and compare to the previous model, you can see I am here fitting to include the serifs. Is this fitting the model to the evidence?

This is a display type from van der Keere, the same time as Garamond, working for Plantin, and he made a variant of a Garamond type, with shorter ascenders and descedners, and I can find the same proportions with the exception of the ‘e’ – and where it is tweaked to fit the model it works better.

It could be that it was cut later on and then combined.

When you make the ltters more condensed, the ascedners become shorter, in this model. If you have less space inside the letters, you need less space around the letters, between and above/below.


Type is a decision from handwriting to movable type. How was this decision made?

You read that this handwriting was the basis for Roamn type. BUt there is a large step from one to the other. This is a Mainz bible from 1452, likelyt he basis for the gothic type by Guternberg. This is a small step from one to the other.

I don’t think its a coincidence that printing happened in Germany at that time; the system worked immediately familiarly.

Here are 4 ‘quendam alium’ strings, a book scan of Jenson type, 2 letter model instances, and Adobe Jenson.


This is Huston Shuffer (?) from 1457, you can see the clear system of stem intervals. This is a simple model showing the same, the nnnnnnn, the hominum and hominum

Then I took Jenson’s type and put it on the same fencepost rhtyhm.

I thought, if I was Jenson, I would have to do a lot; make the shapes, make the spacing for casting the type. Could it be that Jenson who knew the Gothic system just applied that system?

Anyone here who has designed type, you know that its a lot of work to design the letters and the spacing. You can look at a catalog for ideas of how to solve solutions. But he couldn’t.

You can do things so easy today with computers, the problems of casting. People say today that its hard, but really type design is very easy! 🙂 Don’t tell anyone though, its great marketing.

Fence Posting

You can apply the rhythm to all the letters, more or less.

This is Griffo’s type, Monotype’s Polihilos, from the Hypno … and its still the same system.

So that is the base lowercase forms. What about Capitals?

Jensons Capitals on top, the Trajan type and a Carolingian miniscule hand.

Morison doesn’t provide much information on how these are related.

[quote of Morison]

I placed the caps on teh same grid, and You can see they fit in the same grid. Type designers STANDARDISE things, make a SYSTEM, and I believe that is also what he did.

You can see the H and N are quite wide, you may see it too wide. Griffo came along and made them more condensed, but he was tweaking the base system.

As soon as you have a system, you can add a little bit of exceptions to this, and you see this in the red line.

So here you can see the system applied.

This is Monotype Bembo. This is the betters from the Edna (?) also published by Manitius. This tweaks the letters more.

These are origins from Jenson, looking for differences between the original paper Jenson and Adobe Jenson.


I seem to be the first person to put the letters on a grid.

THis is Times New Roman, Bembo book, and you can see they fit in the same grid.

The monotype machines required a grid too.

Catisch writes how Roman stone carving seem to have been designed on a grid. Was this researched in the renaissance? Don’t know. But the roman carving was studied.

You must tranfer the written forms to the punchs, and you need a grid for this.

There is a 5.5×5.5 (6×6) unit grid. The rhym of stems isn’t seen as important in contemporary type design, but this is crucial. If you make the serifs on the right longer you can make the stem rhtym more regular. [NOT SURE I GOT THAT PART RIGHT]

Here you see the Garamond letters fitting the Romain du Roi grid.

Unit arrangement

Could you fit from left edge of left step to left edge of right stem? or center of counter to the sidebearing edges?

Here are 4 images

1. the letters ‘omnibus’ spaced on fenceposting of mmmmmmm

2. fence posting with unit correction 16 n units

3. fence posting unit correction with 32 n units

4. this is adobe jenson fitting.

**My 8 year old daughter can space Jenson as well as Slimbach can with this model!**

You can do spacing with no knowledge of typgraphy. Anyone can apply the system.

Cadance Units

Here is the original Adobe Jenson spacing and the ‘Cadence’  spacing, and you can see it comes very close.

Here is the original Adobe Garamond spacing and the ‘Cadence’  spacing, and you can see it also comes very close, not as close but its good.

As I said, the Romain du Roi is shown as the first grid made type, but Moxon’s has a grid. he doesn’t show the lines but I find the same grid.

So it exists at least 100 years before the RdR, and I suspect it goes back earlier.

Monotype had an 18 unit machine, but you can see the factory spacing and the cadence spacing are close.



The same. So what you learn is ‘optical’ is just conditioning to the system.


So I went to Plantin Moretus and looked at actual metal type. I find the same system.

In 1959, there were letters cast by the PM museum and the spacing is quite uneven. You can lie the types down on the table and see this

[image of q o n h g on their sides]

And you can see the type from the 16th C has the IDENTICAL widths. This means the casting was systematized and SIMPLIFIED.

You can place the matrices in rows with the same width


And you can find these shared widths in the original matrices. The brass was made like a line of chocolate bars, a bar with the same width that is the sliced into the matrices.


There is a small film on the www.lettermodel.org site, we used the matrics that are insured for €100,000 and we were just playing with them 🙂

There are no original hand moulds but we used a reproduction

Set Patterns

So, roman type evolved since the renaissance. 15thC, 16thC, this is van der Keere, the proportions then suddently change in the 17thC, the baroque period. This is DTL Elsivier, van Dijke’s type, and this is Fleischman. The larger x height it typically dutch to make it more economical.

But then the system is broken.

The baskerville at the bottom is made on the 18 unit monotype system.

When you bought a set of matrices, you got a set of foudnry type to set the register of the mould, so you don’t have to set the spaces optically.

This is a totally difference approach to what I find from mreasuing.

Today you draw a letter, then find the space for it. I think the leters were drawn on a grid, so you didn’t have to design the spaces. So the serifs were determined by the grid. Today its arbitray, you design the lednght of serifs and adapt your spacing to them. That only started in the 18th C.

This is a belgian punch cutter [name?]. Updike isn’t positive about his work in ‘Printing Types’ but you can see he didnt look to stadnardise his matrics. he gave his casters set patterns.


So, what is type design?

Its applying systems.

These are systems of the 15thC. If you dont konw the original typees, you will always be infleucnd by them as they are so core to the forms we recognise. especially for text type.

You have a aharmoinc systema nd a proprotional sytem. the you have contrast and weight, 2 differnt things. then the rhythmic system, and the formalisation of pen shapes into type shapes.

Then finally the idiom, your personal choices. That is the difficult part. You can reconize Zapf or Frutiger’s type. But if you can define what you see? No, what makes Zapfs letters different to Ungers? To define this you must be able to define the pattersn underneath in detail, so you can see what the type designer has done.

All that adds up to type design.


When you can do this, then you can put it into the computer. So in 10 years, we’ll have a a program to make a type in the style of Unger 20%, 50% Zapf, and 30% your own. You go out and have a beer and come back and tweak it a bit.

Then you say type design is so difficult so you can sell your fonts and amke a lot of money.

But if you can define it, you can make a program of it. And if you can’t define it, it doesn’t exist.


Q: You make something from a system, you tweak it… can you say the same of human physionomy? Someone must have had the idea of a grid. You can tweak them across races, but there are these proportions. How intentional are these systems? Did you find clear indication in text?

A: I am full of doubts. In science nothing is true until its proven. Well, there is nothing written on this as first hand evidence. All ideas have no proof on this topic. I think I have more proof, I have physical proof in casting applying the measurements. I have doubts, yes, do I think its likely? More and more. If I look at OpenType and PostScript, I talked to Adobe about how much their technicians were working with artist, and it was a close collaboration. Same at URW. Why would that be different in the 15thC? If you look at the step from Bottico (?) to Jenson, I think this helps explains the gap in the step. I am open to a better theory, like a scientist.


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Tom Lord on Evgeny Morozov’s recent work

My buddy Tom Lord made an interesting comment on Facebook and I’m reposting here as I might want to refer back to it later:

Thomas Lord:

Morozov’s self-awareness; he tweets:

<< Me: The “Emperor” wears no clothes! “The Emperor”: But have you
done anything useful to say that? And doesn’t it serve us well to
pretend? >>

Of course, Morozov doesn’t mention that “the emperor” here is also
saying “Even so, what are you going to do about it? Hey everybody,
this Morozov is just a Mr. Negativity wanker!”

He’ll be permanently unable to reason with them and his present
experiments are an exercise in trying to reason past them.

Dave Crossland More Oreally debacle? [http://thebaffler.com/past/the_meme_hustler]
Thomas Lord It’s a much larger project he’s got going.
Dave Crossland Summary?

Thomas Lord:

It’s problematic to make the following distinction but for sake of
summary his project can be split into two parts: an intellectual
project and a political action heavily rooted in realpolitik.

The intellectual project is pretty straightforward:

There are various related, mutually-sympathetic contemporary
discourses about “technology”, “the internet”, “open”, and so forth.
When I say “there are” these discourses — you have to understand
these in their specificity primarily: Where they are, in whose mouths,
and what functions they are performing in the order of things. Morozov
is contending to establish some generalizations we can make about this
discourse and he’s doing so by looking at specific cases and finding
commonalities, lines of transmission, interesting shifts in discourse
and so forth.

As a schematic example of what is at stake (my example, not his)
you can trace pretty direct lines between O’Reilly, Esther Dyson, many
others … and the Obama administration’s approach to health care
reform. Similarly, in that O’Reilly piece, Morozov notes O’Reilly’s
fairly direct influence over the Obama administration’s approach to
government “transparency”. My example, again: The Lt. Governor of
California has recently published a book and is on an informal
speaking tour basically parroting O’Reilly, promoting the vision of
“government as platform”, etc.

The intellectual part of Morozov’s project is to note these
inter-twined “conversations”, examine their structure, and critique

Critiquing that discourse as if it were intended to be rational
discourse is a bit like shooting ducks in a barrel. Therefore, Morozov
tries to at least to do a very thorough job. For example, when he
boasts of having read pretty much every word O’Reilly has published or
video of himself on youtube, I believe that’s roughly true.

In any event, the intellectual project is carefully analyze that
discourse and critique it in ways that are relevant to the real-world
effects of that discourse.

The other part of Morozov’s project — the one I called a
“political action heavily rooted in realpolitik” — is much harder.

The kind of intellectual critique I described above is fairly easy
and it is also fairly easy for people like O’Reilly and Dyson to, as a
class, ignore and even bury. One of their “go to” strategies when they
can’t avoid confrontation with the critique is just what I mentioned:
the fiat declaration that their critic is must a mr. negativity, not
looking for the societal win-win but only to tear down others.

Morozov’s political action project is to try to use his standing
in the world (e.g., where he can get published) to overwhelm those
anti-intellectual lines of defense deployed by people like O’Reilly,
Wu, ESR, Doctrow, Shirkey, etc.

He’s trying to make it impossible for them to keep speaking the
way they do in these matters, to the people they usually speak that
way, without beginning to provoke laughter from the audience.

And he’s trying to popularize a mode of critique and analysis that
is really insistent on grounding things in specificities rather than
insisting first and foremost on ideological abstractions.

His success is by no means guaranteed but he’s gotten farther than
I would have expected.

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Live Blog from LGM 2013

These are live blog notes from the Libre Graphics Meeting 2013 held in Madrid Spain.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by Dave Crossland at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because Dave mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email him immediately (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or post a comment. Thanks!

Gentleman: Thanks for being here … remember there is a crisis and contributors may fear being exploited. this space can be a home for you to contribute autonomously. …

Femke: The LGM has grown in 8 years from an informal meeting to the most important meeting for people interested in tools for digital design practice. Its focus is libre software; we can take it for granted. None of the meeting could have happened without being int he ecology of free cultulre. A codebase, a body of thought, a philispogry, a legal framework, that is what makes this meeting possible.

People have flown in from around the world, people who know each other for a while, who have met on IRC also a long time but never met in the flesh, and those who are new. Thanks to them, its important to be open those who are like us, seriously interested.

We are here to be inspired, to find new peers, to meet old friends, and be challenged by unexpected perspectives. Thats why new people are more than welcome.

This year we added a slogan, ‘future tool’. Do we need one? What does it mean? Future tools, we haven’t fix longstanding bugs. I want to take the meeting serioulsy as a way to do R&D free software style. We dont have big companies to think about what the future will bring, its here that we will do this together.

In the context of rapidly developing web tech, creative coding, lowering barriers to entry for new users, it seems a good time to ask these questions. I want to bring you all together as artists, designers, developers, and find a way to all speak to each other and learn from each other.

This is the best moment to sit around the table, share expeiences, and share ideas. Think about what needs to be done on the list from yesterday and what to put on the list for tomorrow.

Lady: We are focusing on collaboration in tools. We are in a new building we are inaugrating and we have a chance to present these processes to more people. The interactios workshop, tools for a editable world, starts on Monday next week. Before then we have presentations of the 9 projects that will be worked on. The model is to incorporate anyone who is interested in the project, we welcome all kinds of profiles, people and skills to be invovled, full time or part time. 2nd, the libre graphics workstations downstairs, in operation for some months now, and these are open for study and use by anyone, profesisonals or amateurs, to learn and research and develop their projects there. We’ve been in collaboration with 2 design schools in Madrid, their tutors and students have helped a great deal. I also want to invite you to participate in the workstations this week, open laboratories interconnected to bring together different worlds, and present the projects and initatives to the general public. we hope visitors to the medialab prado will see all the projects being developed in this space in the building. also, teh communication campaign we put together to increase the profile of this meeting; we’ve been working with the lafkon (?) study to incorporate the questions of users and the public, how they see the world of libre graphics.

– – – –

We have this huge screen on the side of this building. We made a space invader game, it was great. we held a workshop on how to make games for it. but its a very low resolution, a special computer to drive it. we wanted to open the screen to more participants. a huge expensive things, we wanted more use.

we have this web app for this. a programming env. we dont use the traditional langauges, processing or open frameowrk; we use the JS version of processing. you write processingjs code.

– – – –

Fonts of DOOM


– – –

In Producing OSS, Karl Fogel asks, why do volunteers contribute to libre software?

He says understanding their motivations allows us to attract more contributions. The mortality rates is also often unexamined. Then we can understand the rules to share recognition and status. These are important concepts, more important than we might think.

Elinor Ordstrom has a book, el gobierno de los bienes comunes. There are rules on status and rules on surveillance and protection. in Wikipedia there are patrols to eliminate errors and fix vandalism. Ordstrom studied those who took advantage of a commons.

Another factor is how to make a living.

When Felipe and I started to work, I thought of Franz Boaz, a German anthropoloist who went to Canda and the US. He went to Canada and met with trides and documented the potlatch. Its an economic practice that can hepl to understand the way these communities work. What happens in Wikipedia is like what Boaz write about. ‘The social organization and secret societies of the Kwakiuti Indians’

The potlatch is a yearly ritual, where those who wanted to be chiefs woudl give away all their belongings or burn them or break them or share them. there are 2 functions to share things and destroy them. what sense does it make from an economic perspective, for a 21st century person? it also didnt make sense for 19thC misionaries. They saw it as a mental problem. There were times when lots of material goods were burned. It was a ‘differential logic’ as anthropologists call it. If I wanted to be chief, I must transform my material goods into symbolic goods. The chief would not have symbolic power with material goods; the social capitial came from the phsyiscal capital. That’s the basic idea.

Felipe started the big databases of wikipedia, and i started interacting with wikipedians. my username was boaz, so people could trace my background 😉

There was a long tradition in native american culture about how people gained their names. Wikipedia handles are similar.

Karl Polanyi studied pre capitalist production methods, a famous anthropoligist. If we look at captirlaim, labour had to find its price, currencies were self regulared. But in libre software, there is no price for labour, it is intangible. There is no logic of accumulating financial captial. So people see it as an anomaly. In my studies I have met many people who express this view. They can’t understand how it works the way it does.

There are different logics of accumulation of capital. Altruism can create interest; that disinterested behaviour can create interest. In the academy, there is fear that has little to do with the world, that knowledge is shared freely, makes important value for students in their careers. We see that logic in wikipedia also.

Another scholarly comment: People talk about libre software as a gift economy. But it is not. Marcel Mauss write about this. The gift economy he defined as a gift cirle, you give me somethign and i give you in return. but in a gift economy, its not automatic. if i give a present, you are not obligated to gift me back. its not disintereted behaviour. its not a question of something in return, its something else. that was our hypothesis.

This is for wikipedia: if i give my time, work, knoweldge, i expect acknowledgement and prestige. that is the only captiral in the community. how is this carried out? i dont know if you’re familiar with other parts, the back stage, its less well known. wikipedia is strictly regulated.

– – –

Tau Meta Tau Physica
Susan Spencer

The Tau Meta Tau Physica open source patternmaking software is calling for collaborators to create an interactive prototype built to HTML5 specifications using Processing.js. Tau Meta Tau Physica replicates manual patternmaking processes in code. The project is focused on generating sewing patterns. The current menu-driven batch application is written in python and runs only on Linux. Implementing the software with Processing.js will allow the program to run on multiple operating systems and will add an interactive user interface. Collaborators will be re-designing the software engine, user interface, and project roadmap. Collaborators will learn how to use Tau Meta Tau Physica to create design patterns. The resulting code, design patterns, video and documentation will be posted on the www.taumeta.org website.

Susan: I tried prototypes as Inkscape Extension, Java, Python… Javascript won. Our web app will be at www.thepatternshare.com

The alpha is at www.thepatternshare.com/sharedemo

The idea is that non-libre and libre patterns can be published in the same format, and the non-libre items will have warrantees.

We’re better positioned for collaboration, we I’d love to chat to Kune about adding all their features to this.

Q: magnatune sells CC music; when you said the library will offer free and commercial patterns, will there be commercial libre patterns too?

A: RMS sent me an email out the blue, they wanted to make sure all patterns were libre. the code itself will be GPLv2+ which i find a good unviersal license for any libre sofwtare, it allows the right things, prevents the wrong things, its loose in its defintion of everything else. the output of the code will be CC licensed, patterns are artworks in US, so the drwaings are copyright, the pattern itself is copyright, and so if the users understand their patterns can be licensed the way they wish, under CC, I think the CC can cover all bases. Any garment you make with the patterns aren’t covered by these licenses.

Q: why processingjs instead of paper.js or raphael?

– – –

Friday April 12th

10:00: Free-ness as an aspect of type design.

Vernon Adams

Looking at how libre fonts have driven type technology on the web. Argues that on the web, ‘being free’ is a vital technological aspect of a font, just like ‘legibility’ or ‘foreign language support’. Looks at how libre fonts have been adopted in huge numbers by designers of the web, and how libre fonts can enable high levels of usage and adoption that proprietary fonts cannot allow. Looks at how libre font designers could learn a few lessons from the fashion industry to inform on “what fonts will be used the most?”

I’m Vernon Adams, I’m a typeface designer and I mostly make libre fonts. I’m talking about freeness as a technical aspect of type design.

Here’s an Emil Ruder quote from 1969, a swiss modernist graphic designer and typographer. ‘Typography has one plain duty before it and that is to convey information in writing. A printed work that cannot be read becomes a product without a purpose.’

I’m suggesting that if we take that logic to today, then libre fonts have the most utility for typesetting the information on the web today. So I see freeness as any other aspect o type; like legibility, cross platform functining, etc.

Why has REAL, active tet become so important to the web?

‘Real’ means its actual text in HTML, not images of text. Such real text is key to the web. Why?

Its very fast to load, compared to bitmaps or flash. searched, indexed, cached, mined, tagged. it can be easily share, copied, redsitributed.

Visually it can be scaled wihtout loss of resolution or clarity.

You can style it with CSS and ‘themed’ in that way.

Most importantly; people produce A LOT OF TEXT on the web.

So, the solution to this was in implemtning CSS3, the @font-face rule. I expect you’re familiar with this, you upload your font to your web server, call the URL from a style sheet, and any page can render text with that font file.


But there was a big problme; proprietary licensing was designed for single or multiple users, but not MASS amounts of users – readers. The licensing didn’t allow redistribution of fonts like this.

Proprietary fonts used with @font-face could be easily downlaoded, and this was seen as a huge problem by proprietary font publishers.

But today, everyone is a publisher. In print, most people were passive readers. today everyone has a website, we all need fonts. before, fonts were TOOLS FOR PROFESSIONALS. but now we all need fonts.

My response to this situation was to make libre fonts for the web.

Here’s an example, Oswald.

I designed this from the ground up to be a libre, easy to use and popular typeface. Here’s a quote from SOCAL professor Johanna Blakley – ‘I see fashion as an example of an industry that emonstrates that sometimes strict ownership regimes are not th be way way to monetize things, to sell goods, or to increase innovation. A lack of ownership can also be a kind of incentive.”

She says that fashion isn’t subject to a dynamic where people can say “I can do that too” – not counterfeiting. She says it leads to: Democratisation of fashion design; faster emergence of new trends; incentive to create new trends; and acceleration in creative innocation.

Oswald is a classic 20thC Gothic typefaces, I looked at a lot of mid 20th C faces and mashed them together. I made many design choices that make it suitable for the web.

In the first 12 months, its development was done in a ‘release early release often’ style, I got feedback from users and made updates every few weeks.

It got picked up by the Occupy movement of their ‘free toolkit’ for making posters.

Its seen 650M+ times per week, its the 2nd most popular web font in the world after Open Sans which Google uses on its own websites as its corporate identity type.

This is how I concieved it, I wanted it to be a free, easy to use and popular face and that’s what its become.


Nahtan Willis: You say freeness is a attribute of type now. The FSF has the 4 freedoms, and I guess the feedback you get about change requests is part of that. Have you seen people directly modify it?

Vernon: Its rare for libre fonts. It doesn’t happen a lot that people fork designs into new ones. I have had people send me Greek or Cyrillic or other fixes directly, though.

Nathan Willis: Freedom to study it, how do you see freeness, in terms of improving the ability of people to learn from fonts.

Vernon: As much source material as possible is good to share for that. Scanning sketches, even. As much as possible makes it easier. I try to do that as much as time permits on my blog. others just make the final font under a free license, but thats ok too.

Femke Snelting: I’m not worried about this myself, but type designers say that with the move to ePub and web, how will they make a living? can you tell us about how to survive giving your fonts for free?

Vernon: I start by a mixture of being paid to make libre fonts, by Google, doing custom work, customising libre fonts for people who want an extra weight who will pay for that just for them. i dont see a conflict, people aspire to sell their fonts and they don’t manage it. i think they could make more money with libre fonts. you see that now, even larger foundries respond to this, by making libre fonts because it keeps them int he spotlight, in the market. you survive by getting your brand out there.

Dave Crossland: Do you think reserved font names are important? if i modify oswald, can i call it ‘oswald next’?

Vern: I have a loose relationship to my work, I’m happy for people to do what ever they want. If it was a propreitary foudnry, taking it and trying to proprietorize it, that would be an issue for me. The font name, thats a licensing issue. I’m not sure how the OFL is with this.

Dave Crossland: the OFL has the RFN as OPTIONAL. do you take the option?

Vernon: No, I’m happy for someone to take Oswald and call it “Oswald Something”

– – –

How we wrote a FontForge manual in three days

How we wrote a FontForge user manual in three days
Nathan Willis, Vernon Adams (t.b.c.)

In December five people representing FontForge joined two other free software projects at Google’s 2012 Documentation Camp; there the team participated in a FLOSSManuals-run book sprint and produced “Start Designing With FontForge: a guide to making type.” This talk is a report on our experience with the “unconference” portion of the camp, and on what we learned during the intensive writing-sprint portion of the week (not to mention the process of maintaining the book since). The book sprint format forces participants to think about their documentation in a new light, and it offers real benefits to any project whose users are not other developers. Focusing on the reader has even helped change the conversation about FontForge development in the intervening months.
Nathan Willis is a part-time type designer, full-time free software advocate.

The ‘how’ of this isn’t so interesting. We used booki software. Whats interesting is what we learned about writing a manual quickly and fontforge itself. There’s thing about our process you might find useful.

We? It was Verno ADams, Ben Martin, Eben Sorkin a professional designer in Boston, Jason Pagura a hobbyist in type design for a long time in the bay area.

and Molly Sharp, who works at O’Reilly and is an editor.

Vern and Eben are trained professional type designers. Jason has been around a long time, knows FF really well, and

Ben is someone who looked into the abyss of the source code. I am an hobbyist type designer too and a tech journalist, writing 1,000s of words a week about libre softwarefor years. so thats useful for a documentaion project.

Vern and Eben are very different type designers. Vern is a active FF user, answers FF questions, Eben is not as active or experienced with FF but is a theorist and likes to talk about type in general. They both lecture a lot too.

So, Google host in Mountain View a Summer of Code ‘Doc Camp’ – in December, of course – and so you get a mix of people who can attend that. The GSoC office hosted it, but FLOSS Manuals ran the event on the ground.

FLOSS Manuals is great, been around a long time, and if you don’t know it check it out. The sprint events is a new idae, to gather a team in a place for 5 days to make something in that time.

FLOSS Manuals runs on free software but is not requried to to be used for that.

3 libre software projects were picked, EVergreen ILS, eToys (a kids programming system based on squeak) and FontForge. We all follow the same pattern:

1. 2 Unconference days together to brainstrom our projects and see what a manual is like

2. 3 writing days

You see everyone faces the same problems, keeping it up to date, having users and developers speak the same language.

At the end of the week, there’s a Print on Demand shop that produced the books OVERNIGHT. I have one in my hand here.

The Booki software produces eBook formats too.

So, first day you decide the title for the book. The title determines the scope of the book. Decide the Table of COntents. They you split up and have everyone write a chapter each – in parallel.

Then you review each other’s chapeter. And then it gets done! 🙂

Book Type is managed by Source Fabric who make journalism software. It was called Booki when FLOSS Manuals maintained it.

Its a WYSIWYG book editor. It can lock chapters, allows to comment on things… its better than a plain text entry field.

It output HTML, ePub, PDF… It uses Calibre.

So, the title was “Start designing with FontForge, a GUIDE to making type” – its a GUIDE, not a manual,

When you make a book in a week, you must relearn the application, thinnk of the POV of the reader.

You learn the user see their tasks, see their inefficiences and unused features.

There is a finality about making a book. Its not like a wiki where you make a ToC and never finish it.

10:40 Designing a Libre Font Specimen Book
Manuel Schmalstieg, greyscalepress.com
This talk presents the outcome of an intense 5-day graphic design workshop, during which a team of twelve students (of HEAD University of arts and design, Geneva) created a book of type specimens entirely made with libre fonts. The book has been mass-produced with cheap print-on-demand technology. This book will be an unprecedented graphic item, since it differs from previously existing specimen books in various ways:
* It will focus on “body type” – type that is suitable for long reading. No futuristic display fonts, no cybernetic ninja glyphs, no blood-dripping zombie script. Body type – workhorse fonts for real content. The most unforgiving stress-test for a typeface.
* It won’t aim for quantity. We won’t try to impress the reader by the number of fonts included in the book. The fonts will have all the space they need to breathe and show their character.
* It will be an open book, the source (Scribus) files will be openly available and invite further modifications and improvements by other designers. The repository is here (you can already see some first alpha tests): https://github.com/greyscalepress/font-specimens

When you read a long text, you don’t want to see beautiful letters you want to read the text. the font should become invisible. this depends on the langaue, as the texture of text changes between Spanish and German.

So type publishers make specimen sheets. Here’s a Caslon one. A specimen page on Google Fonts looks like this; short paragraphs, and titles are different sizes. In a small space the type publishers shows off the font; they want to show what it can do and they want to sell it.

This is the famous FontBook by FontShop. 100s of fonts. Each has a few lines showcasing it. It has short paragraphs of only 4 lines, so this was always very frustrating as its like a musician selecting a sound from a sound library

They stopped making the book now, just an iPad app, but paper is essential for me as type looks different on screen.

Also the Free Font Index (but its freeware not libre fonts) book.

So these books haev too many fonts, but too little space for each font, and always the same Quick Brown Fox text or Lorum Ipsum.

print on demand allows type produces to make their own specimen books. Jean Baptise Levee, for example, makes these books showing the beauty of the glyphs and curves, its nice and impressive, but for use cases like books and magazines its not useful.

You have too little paragraph text samples and too much title text.

With libre fonts, Print on Demand, we can just make our own for libre fonts! 🙂

If you make your own specimen book with propreitary fonts you’d need to be rich to buy licenses for everything you MIGHT use.

I like the booksprint idea, so I suggested it at the RMLL in Switzerland. I suggested it to design schools but had no interest, then by chance I got a gig at the design department in Geneva.

I got a dozen design students for a week to do it.

Rules of the project: Any libre font, useful for text, and make the book as open as possible; libre software, documented, source files available.

First, we designed a good specimen layout. Looked at many existing ones. Lots of discussions. Sudents wanted lots of white space, I wanted ots of text 😉

Also we had a search for the sample text to use in the layout. Its a tricky choice too. Fred Smeijers ‘Type Now’ book was great for us, he has some pages of type specimens, and he uses a single stream of text thorughout all the pages. Its a text written by PLantin about the production of type in the 16th centiry. So you can READ the real text, as well as look at it.

It must be French text, public domain, and w found “l’eve future” that inspired Mechanical Bride and Blade Runner. Its 85,388 words, so would it have enough text for us? 15 specimen layouts per perosn, 12 people, X words per specifmne, yes.

So we did it! The book exists, you can buy it online via Amazon, and we have copies here.

The sources are on github, I got all the students commiting. We also had some interaction with the designers of the fonts like @omnibustype. A debate in the school if we could publish it?

I thought would like them do things freely at the start and then go to scribus. But that didn’t work, the time pressure means to decide the tools at the start.

Conclusions: get the book, make your own!

Q: How much is the book cost? Can we buy it here?

A: Its €15 or trade me something 🙂

– – –

10:50 It takes a team to make a font
Alexei Vanyashin, 110design.ru
The world of libre web typography is developing at a fast pace. More and more websites and blogs benefit from using opensource typefaces. Bloggers become more experienced in tailoring properties of webfonts to suit their need. Still not everybody truly understands how these typefaces are created. This talk will throw light on the process of designing type. Producing high-quality fonts requires a team of collaborators. This includes a type designer, type director, kerner, and hinter. I will share my collaborative experience that resulted in releasing 30 opensource fonts for the Google Web Fonts library, and explain how the team interactions work. My other focus will be on the co-authorship aspect of developing opensource multiscript fonts. Recently I assisted many designers in their efforts to add Cyrillic extensions to their work. My job is to ensure that the Cyrillic forms are correct, while the designers are responsible for the graphic details of their typefaces. For this purpose I launched learncyrillic.tumblr.com — an educational blog with the aim of openly spreading knowledge on the subject, and helping designers create their first Cyrillic.

I am a designer from Russia, my foundry is Cyreal. We make libre fonts in Russia, Ukraine and Armenia. We’ve made 27 families for use and download in Google FOnts, and here are some.

This is Podkova, and sometimes we have outside contributors who modify them and fork them. One is Fajne Fonty who made a localized polish verision.


This is Lora. Its very popular on the web. its good in text.

Volkhov, another 4 style family. Its the body font for the LGM field book, tahnks!

That our fonts are libre maens thy can be embedded in mobile apps. MarvinApp is ebook reader that uses Lora and Volkhov.

All fonts are SIL OFL.

Here is Lobster, we see it everywhere. I made a Cyrillic for it.

Here’s a design workshop in Moscow that used it. A state project used it. A student ‘Lobster Face’ project, student web proejcts using it. Burger Kind in Lviv used it. Flying here to Madrid, the in flight magazine uses it in its logo!

Lobster has ligatures and terminals and I made these

Jacques Francois, a revival with a shadow version, you can combine them too.

Wire One, a modular font. with dot terminals.

Junge is a calligraphy revival. This is a hitning test of it. It was published in TypoDarium.

This is Vidaloka, which has Cyrillic.


Artifika. Vern has made Tienne, a mix of Artifika and Droid.

Another project is http://learncyrillc.tumblr.com with the aim to openly spread knowledge on how to design correct cyrillic. Here is the work I do; a collaboration with Eduardo Mazo, here is a colalboration with Georg Duffner on EB Garamond.

If you make a cyrillic type, email me! I will provide feedback.

I would like to invite you to a modular type workshop at 14.30.


Vernon Adams; What are the practicalities of collaboration?

Alexei: SOmetimes the hinter spot a mistake, 4 eyes better than 2 🙂 Contributors from outside, they ask permission to modify the type. THey can release it as a fork or they can submit the change to be included in the official update. We have a request for bold styles, but then that person is making it for themselves.

Manuel: Does working on libre fonts change the way you work in contrast to a traditional foundry?

Alexei: We are open to any collaborators. That more people are involved is different. In a prorpetairy prijects, its closed, you don’t share trade secrets. I’m thinking of pushing our projects to github so its easier to submit changes for inclusion.

Erik Schriver: What does github do to your workflow?

Alexei: Yeeah, pushing projects on Github, we need sources in various format, FontLab, FontForge, etc. So its easier to collaborate. Poeple use a variety of font editors.

11:00 Unified Typeface Design

Raphaël Bastide, http://github.com/raphaelbastide

Unified Typeface Design is a proposal for the standardization of typeface design in an open source context. It also aims for the promotion of open source typography by introducing a transversal and flexible classification. Technically, UTD is a folder architecture to organize font sources, inspirations and references. It is also a JSON file containing useful meta informations about the typeface and its repository.
Raphaël Bastide, graphic designer, hacker, open source evangelist, was born in 1985 in Montpellier, France. He currently lives in Paris and works as a freelance graphic designer and artist.

Hi! I’m Basti, I’m a french graphic designer and artist. and i like to use libre software and fonts in my work.

A question I pose, How to find a font? Today? I have some difficulty to find fonts, its important for graphic designers to find the one they want, precisely and quickly.

Find them by license, because I want to use libre fonts. I would like to find fonts that are similar to a font I can think of. And I would like to have tags from the designers and from myself to find things in anyway; a feeling, a time period – tags extend they way we can find things.

And existing classifications, but I thnk they are not so useful any more for the contemproary variety of designs.

So, first we must identify a font. Where to find one? One your hard disk? Its not my workflow though, most designers don’t want 10,000s of fonts on their font list. So the answer is to find them on the web.

That’s the best way to find fonts with a libre license.

So how can we identify libre fonts on the web?

My idea was to have a standardised repository layout for libre font projects. Sources, doucmentaiotn and a design guide so that if i fork it, i can know the idea of the design. binaries and web font formats, specimen images and also in use images and links to see how others use it.

We need a METADATA file too, for listing contributors, tags, related fonts, and the tools used to work with the source files and to recreate similar shapes if the shapes come from a tool’s shapes. and i like to know this trivia 🙂

Who can profit from this?

Type Designers can find it convenient to use.

Font users get more files.

All the libraryes (OFLB, GWF, LOMT, TypeKit, etc) can use it

Its on github! Please enter the discussion there, let’s make a standard we can all use! 🙂

(My slides are made with Whois Mono)

Ludi: Thank you, I think this is an important project. I like the categories and metadata on the history of the project, and I think its good to highlight the licensing of the fonts.

Basti: I agree, there is a long effort to have designers read and understand licenses.

– – –

11:10 The development of ttfautohint, a TrueType auto-hinter

Werner Lemberg
I will talk about ttfautohint, a tool to add automatically generated hints to TrueType fonts, based on the auto-hinter from the FreeType library: its development, combined with some technical detail, its history, the current state and its future.
On the computer side, I’m the maintainer of FreeType and GNU troff, also authoring the CJK package for LaTeX and working on German word lists and hyphenation patterns. On the musical side, I’m a conductor, composer, and singers’ coach working in Vienna.

This is a amsll project, an autohinter for TrueType font that uses the fretype autohinting engine.


You take a unhinted font (TTF or TTC) and you send it to the program and it returns a hinted font. The basic idea is that font editors will use this as basic hinting and improve it as needed. Automation can never be perfect!

This small project is a library, so it can be included in editors. Its still under development, though.

I have 2 simple programs to use the library, a CLI and a GUI with Qt.

This is the Qt framework on my GNU+Linux box. Qt is fully cross platform. I provide a windows binary, but i still need time to fully investigate making Mac OS X packages. You can compile it easily yourself. But I didn’t reach a point to make my own Mac OS X budnle.

Why do you need this program?

The number of people who are capable to do TT hinting is limited. This makes it expensive. Hinting a large family is very expensive.

If you don’t do high level hinting, using Microsoft Visual TrueType, if you dive into the real TT code, you will see its a black art. It looks like low level assembly code. The number of people who can work with it is very limited. A handful in the whole world!

ttfautohint is freely available, the same license as FreeType, GPL or FreeTYpe, and its fast: You press the button and its done in half a second.


Whatever resolution I select on my laptop won’t be what you see on the projector, so you are welcome to look at these slides offlne.

Liberation Serif is a good exaple, we can show it unhinted, with ttfautohint, and with its top quality hand hinting that is expensive.

So this is unhinted, this is hand hinted.

Ttfuatohint has 2 modes, smooth and strong hinting.

Smooth means the stems can go more to the grid but not totally. If you go totally, you change the color of the texture of the font.

So I think the color of the overall font with smooth ttfuaothinting is better than hand hinting.

If you look at the small size, you can see strong hinting gives more blackness.

So it depends what you want to do; for older ClearType versions the strong hinting is better. ClearType uses a small grid vertically, and if you don’t have strong hinting, you can get very thick lines that are unpleasant.

So for this font, the results of ttfautohint are good!

Here is a magnification of the 4 hinting types.

TTFautohint doesn’t change the vertical lines, so look only at the horizontal lines. On today’s screens we have subpixel rendering so horizinal resoluation is high enough to not need hitning.

How does it work?

There is a 10 year old paper in TUGBoat by me and David Turner, and the ttfautohint documetantion also explains how it works.

Here is a view in fontforge showing the effect of the hitning. with smooth hitning you see some pixels are grye, with strong hinting they are white and the shape is totally aligned to the grid.

The autohinted looks at a global level then the per glyph local level. it finds a baseline, x height line, cap line. Then it tries to align important parts of a glyph to these and the pixel grid.

An important part is a stem: 3 consecutive points, control points or real points, that are aligned horizontally. if ttfautohint finds that line, its a SEGMENT. it will then try to align all segments on a line.

So in this $ you see the bottom of the S moving.

So then it looks for other important points, like corners.

Finally, it calls the ‘interpolate’ function; so after moving the important points, it then aligns all other points with them.

The past

Dave Crossland had the idea for this, he contacted me in 2010 to put freetype hinting back into fonts for non freetype renderers. In 2011 I got funding and in June 2011 I released 0.1. We did a pledgie and got a lot of money from Google, Android, FontLab and Extensis WebINK.

I went 0.1 0.2 0.3 fast, and got to 0.9 when I was far from 1.0. So now I’ve released 0.95 and expect 1.0 later this year.

The future

OpenType support thanks to Harfbuzz by behdad (and handling non CMAP glyphs)

Support for more scripts. Sometimes it would be good to have Greek, Cyrillic and Hebrew handled with different ‘global’ values to Latin.

Ways to control the output, fine tune it…

A big long term goal is to make this library integrated in font editors, so that you can use it as a base for hand hinting.

Right now I’m busy with another freetype project, but then I will try to revive the pledgie campaign, so if you are interested in this topic, please don’t hesitate to give me money.

Alexei: Do you have a specific idea for autohinting cyrillic? how is it different for latin?

Werner: no, the algo is the same, but the bluezones will be different. I can imagine a cyrillic set of glyphs have a different cap height. these details can be adjusted; the global parameters can be adjsuted to cyrillic. freetype has a hinter for CJK, they are so different to latin. but LGC are the same for the algo. Arabic even works okay with this algo, but it and Hebrew have very different global zones than latin. When ttfautohing is published with cyrillic support I welcome your detailed feedback 🙂

11:30 Design and LibreOffice

Miroslav Mazel
A run-down of what the LibreOffice Design team is working on and how people can help

I’m aprt of the LO design team, just 3 volunteers. We dont get much done as other teams; the most common qustion people ask, is will there be a new UI? people suggest, remake the UI totally in the next version. we dont have develoeprs or designers to do that.

instead we do gradual redesign. we focus on what our developers want to do.

We did an Impress Remote design; we did a template manager. we did a new button theme. We bundle some libre fonts, Source Sans Pro, PT Serif. We designed some templates too.

There a 2,000+ icons, we have 2 themes, ‘flat icons’ and updating the current tango theme.

We don’t have many developers interested in UX changes. we propose ‘easy hacks’ to help generate interest, as there are some things very easy to change.

We’d also like font library integration. If you send a presentation that uses a libre font, LibreOffice can download it for you from a library (GF, OFLB, etc) so the presentation works correctly.

If you would like to contribute, or if you have ideas how to involve more developers, please let me know

Q: The LibreOffice DOM and scripting interface is messy. Are you interested in designing a cleaner scripting interface?

A: I’ve not heard about that

– – –

12:00 Libre Cinema! Apertus Axiom: the open digital cinema camera

Jehan Pagès, apertus.org

Apertus Axiom will be the first ever open digital cinema camera designed from scratch with openness in mind. The image sensor of choice is the CMV12000 from Cmosis. To ultimately build it, we are working to create a simplified prototype, the Axiom Alpha, whose technical details are still to be ironed out: http://axiom.apertus.org/
We will present shortly the Apertus Axiom cinema camera, the software ecosystem, and the Apertus project as a whole; and will follow-up by a question-answer session. Because Libre Graphics are not only about software, it is also about Libre hardware!

Here is the Arriflex Camera 16ST from 1952, here is a Sony F62 in 2012. The features improved, 3d, high framerate, but as it improved our freedom decreased.

STickers taht say ‘do not remove, warranty voided if removed’!

In 2006 there was a dvinfo.net forum on cameras, and a DIY community started around the Elphel cameras. but it wasnt what we wanted for cinema, its used in google street view.

so 2011 the project begins, and in 2012 we won an award at ars electronica, and created an austraian non profit and a branch company ‘apertus’ in belgium.

In 2013 we plan to use crowd funding to make this happen.

one of the first prototypes was used in the artic!

we have a stereoscopic prototype.

– – –

12:20 Make The Movies Free

Sirko Kemter, karl-tux-stadt.de/ktuxs/
In 2001 a professor came up with a new license system for creative work, Creative Commons. In 2004 the first movie under this license system was published. The newspaper called it an “Open Source Movie” but is it a such one? What is an open source movie, is there a definition for them? What is the status of open source movies, do they have a chance? What are the problems of movie makers with open licenses? How to do business with open movies? Are there enough open source tools or the right one to produce open source movies?
The talk will give an overview on the open movie scene and try to give to all this questions an answer.
Sirko is since more then 15 years heavily involved into the floss community, he works and worked on different projects. Was long time chief of program at RadioTux, works for different floss events as graphic designer, propagates the use of free software in talks and workshops. Wrote a Inkscape book and a lot of things more.

12:40 It’s 2013. Do You KNow Where My Free Vector Animation Software Is?
Nina Paley, ninapaley.com

In 2008 I vowed that the only animation software I’d switch to, once I had to give up Macromedia Flash 8, would be Free software. Unfortunately in 2013 I’m still using my old copy of Flash on an old system, because the Free tools I need don’t exist yet. So I’d like to help make them exist, whether it’s a massive Synfig UI overhaul, or something new built from scratch. In this talk I will elaborate on the kind of tools I need, how I currently use Flash, and what I as a non-coder could contribute to such a project: publicity, fundraising, testing and some direction. I have a new feature film in the works which, if made on this not-yet-extant tool, could help popularize it.

I’ve been usign Flash since 2000. Not flash websites, video; i use the magnificnet Flash authoring tool. Adobe bought them and removed the high quality quicktime output options. I needed the pro video output it used to have. That’s the risk of proprietary software!

It happened to me.

I swore I would get new software that is libre software. In 2005.

There is still not good, mature libre vector animation software. I came here to see what the state of things are. I met constantine, Mr Synfig, Mr 2P (?) and chat with them.

Nothing in libre grpahics is mature. ANywhere near as easy and simple, 2p is easy and simple but lacks features; Synfig is powerful but insane, its very opaque. It would take me a long time to learn. They depend on SVGs. But weird distortions can happen to SVGs when they are animated.

So, what are the issues?

My new film is illegal. I’ve totally ignored copyright and licenses, use anything I want. What I do should be fair use, but it might not be. Whatever.

If there was a foundation or something, we’d have to be legal, if that was hitched to my project, its something to think about. Do you really want to work with a crazy perosn like me?

This is a preview of the new project, done in Flash.

[The end credit is,


Please copy and share



So this is quite simple as far as pro animation goes. I could try Blender. Is anyone from Blender here?

The more I learn the less I know. I really want good libre vector animation software to exist.

People say, learn to code and make it yourself. When I say I’m committed to free culture, my passion is in the art. Your passion is the code. I want to see pictures move, it won’t work for me to stop doing that and learn to code. I’m too old. If software I want, I might have to upgrade to proprietary software. The movies will be as libre as I can make them, of course.

Q: Why not Blender?

Nina: I don’t know. Its 3d. I hear its comple. Synfig is also complex. Flash is light an elegant. Maya and AfterFx are like tanks. I just want a bicycle. I think it might be ‘too much’ – but maybe not. It has a huge developer community and it has MONEY. That’s the next thing for me.

Q: You can volunteer to direct their next movie. They have 2D graphics stuff now.

Nina: Yes, but my next movie will be illegal and I don’t want to involve others in my illegal activities.

Eric Screiver Q: Its interested to say, I don’t care about licensing, when reaching out to this community. we are divergent and diverse; these licenses are one of the ways we found to have something in common, a social contract that binds us to work together. if you say, blender foundation won’t want to deal with your position, it will make it harder to join the wider movement.

Nina: The movie overall is illegal but all the assets will be legal. Could be used in another project. Its mostly the SONGS that are a problem, and have historical value, so I think its fair use, but governments don’t see it that way.

Eric S Q: Okay, interesting to be civilly disobdenient in a articulated way, but the discourse around it, the movie has things that are illegal, but the whole discourse around it is interesting.

A: Life is short, making art is the most important thing.

Ricardo Lafuente: The idea you need a good free replacement for Flash. I thought that, moving from Photoshop to GIMP. When I get used to GIMP, you find thats the other way round to Photoshop for me now. I wonder, why you don’t try using the libre tools. No criticism, a suggestion: Try them, its 10x harder to make anything, it took me a year to move to GIMP, but then you can say you’re in Synfig, I’m miss A B and C. Everyone wants you to use their tools.

A: I hear you. I try. I have a dedicated GNU+Linux box. It crashes, it doesn’t work, its a mess. If someone is as committed as me, and has that bad an experience, that is not good. I was in NYC, I got a lot of help. Then I though “What is wrong with me” but then I realised its just not mature. 2P is, but it needs to grow. Animation is not like GIMP. Blender, maybe that is mature. Why not make them more mature? I’m not a coder. I can be invovled to a point. I’m also not an administaror. Me starting a foundation, doing filings etc, no. I want to be part but I don’t want to lead it. I am here today! I am trying.

Q: I think with your influence you can start a workshop to work on the UI to get the featurs you want specified. You can organize a hack week for 3 weeks. in 3 weeks you can have more than you expect.

A: Yes, a friend has a farm with a lake in central illinois.

Q: I disagree with your statement on synfig, that it is only for coders. My main work is what I do for a living, is teaching Synfig to kids. For 3 years. THe kids are not develoeprs. More than that, I have a group of kids, mostly girls not boys. They dont know progrmaming, they don’t know much about computers, they see GNU+linux for the first time. They make animation projects every year.

A: If YOU teach them, sure. You taught me.

Q: So what you are missing is the assistenace, knoweldge of how to use it. You get this with interaction with the developers. … You can communicate with develoeprs.

A: Everyone is on different continents. I was in NYC, does ANYONE near NYC know Synfig? nope. I need to be in the same place.

Q: Okay, but we can start to resolve that. Most animation projects, they don’t make it their full time activity.

– – –

12:50 Along school fences.

OSP (Open Source Publishing) , Pierre Huyghebaert , Alexandre Leray, Ludivine Loiseau, Pierre Marchand, Eric Schrijver, Stéphanie Vilayphiou, ospwork.constantvzw.org/work/
There is a momentum in art schools of asking the question of the role of the digital in design education. There is no clear answer. All students bring a laptop to school. The hard- and the software represent a technological and cultural heritage that is not questioned, and a potential that is not exploited.
Free software culture challenges traditional education paradigms because knowledge is exchanged outside institutional borders, and participants move between roles easily (teacher, student, developer, user).
As a prototype revamp of workshops and print parties, OSP proposes a summer school experiment. A first try to to move across the conventional school model towards a space where the relationship to learning is mediated by graphical software.
This presentation corresponds to a public announcement to join or follow this prototype week.

– – –

13:10 Willem de Kooning Academie strikes back: open source approach in art and design BA education

Aymeric Mansoux, Aldje van Meer (tbc) Deanna Herst Kim de Groot (tbc) Jon Stam, wdka.nl

Three years after the LGM presentation “How to Run an Art School on Free and Open Source Software” that described the central role of free software and free culture in the networked media branch of the Media Design and Communication Master at the Piet Zwart Institute, today the Willem de Kooning Academie is back to share its current progress on a new and exciting challenge in its approach to formal education: the design of three new open source related curriculum for art and design BA students. In this presentation we will give you all the what, when, how and why aspects of these new courses and we hope to open up the discussion on topics rising from such a project, namely on the question of openness of open source driven curriculum, technological forecasting within art and design free software communities, hybrid proprietary and open source software environments, licensing and the use of free software tools and infrastructures in digital literacy.

– – –

19:10 Tupi: Open 2D Magic (to rule them all!)
Gustav Gonzalez maefloresta.com
I would love to talk about the evolution of Tupi from a basic standalone animation tool to a free software client of a massive collaboration platform. I will start with a general description of the system architecture and the software features. Finally, I expect to show some examples of the potential of this kind of user experience (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odo0FVYfepk).
Short bio: Degree in Computer Science (Universidad del Valle – Cali/Colombia, 2001), Free software user since 1994, Free software advocate / Speaker, Ten years experienced Unix sysadmin, Entrepreneur (free software business models), Qt Programmer, Development Leader of the Tupi Project (starting 3 years ago)

First I want t os whoyou a simple Tupi animation, made by my first betatester in ARgentina. Thanks to him!!

‘Once upon a time at LatinoWare in 2011…’

Its Jon Maddog Hall doing the voice 🙂

Where is Tupi made? In a hackerspace @hackbo – www.HackBo.co – as its in that space I can build Tupi every night and I have the energy to work on it. Who is working on ti?

Me. My started, Mae Flower (?)

I am the only developer, but I have 2 friends who help. Andres Calderon love free open hardware, everything he does is libre. Antonio Vanegas is a mobile developer, he loves android. and me.

Tupi started as a 2D vector animation application. When you live in a hacker space, many things happen, you can’t control it – so they project gained sort of kids. First, a project 3 years ago, Tupi. A desktop application that you know. Qt.

ANother project, Tupi Mobile, is a port (earlya stage) that works, an Adnroid client in Java and Qt. Its just an editor, but its in progress and its interesting what you can do with it.

Tupi plugins for other libre graphic apps, inkscape gimp mypaint and blender. this work is barely started but its underway.

TupiPen is our first hardware component. Its a pen with a special features that is toally libre. the specification, if you can use it for all libre graphics applications. The design you see here is teh real circuit design, this is coming for real. I hope to bring the real thing to the next LGM if I can be funded 😀

You have the overview of the projects.

What is the philosphy in common in these projects? We started on a 2D animation software. But with the experiments, we started to see a nice line of work: grpahics + collaboration/workgroups + real time.

Here’s a video.

Youtube: TupiTube: Collaboratieon platform + visual thinking

THis shows 2 people working on a single frame. just that. in an animaiton you do more than that; animation you have farmes, keyframes, layers, scenes. But in a collaboration, you have you in one frame doing something but many others can be working on other frames at the same time.

People say “hey, 2013! the year of collaboration!” but this framework was started in 2007. Why are we late to this?

The basic of animation are simple. you see a green line here, as a developer i see an equation. I feel like neo in the matrix, i see the equations 🙂

So everything can be serialised and sent over the network.

You people who are creatives, you and the canvas is a lonely life. WElcome to the orgy!

You can imagine, some of you, think of the possibilties. you will be afraid, you are doing a drawing and then you see something movingg and you don’t know who it is!!

– – –

Where is 0.49? last release was over 2 years ago.

0.49 was planned as a long release cycle, making major changes. Cairo based rendered, faster and more accurate. Caching of common objects for faster rendering. A move to lib2geom. Improved snapping. Many other changes.

Cairo is a 2D rendering library, lots of backends. used in firefox, gdk, webkit, and used in 0.48 for outline mode and PDF/PS export. Its been used for everything now, by 2 GSoC stuednt projects in the last 2 years. Its made it 2x faster, and more for gradiants and filters. 4x less memory use!

Improved gradient toolbar, say bye to the gradient dialog. The strok and fill dialog has enhancements.

Text tool has a lot of work; drop down for all variants of a family, not just B/I buttons. Text unit default is now pt not px. Font family drop down has fonts in the doc at the top, in blue. If fonts used aren’t on the system you get a warning with a red line through the font name. You can select all objects using a selected font family. And you can use CSS style font stacks for fallabck.

You can now ADD NODES AT EXTREMA. useful for designing fonts!

There’s a new measurement tool. Also useful for font design, measures across segments.

A new symbol dialog. SVG has a symbol element, and Inkscape will present them all in this palette.


Port to GTK3
On screen tesselation editing
SVG2 will offer lots of new things! New to figure out how to support that and integrate it into Inkscape.

How to handle mesh gradients? We used inksacpe as test bed for the SVG spec proposal.

– – –

12:40 Libre type design: breaking tradition and going new ways

Manufactura Independente, Ana Isabel Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente, manufacturaindependente.org
This talk proposal follows on the issues surrounding libre type design that we began to explore at our last LGM talk, “The awesome things that libre web type enables you to do”.
There is a premise that one must spend considerable amounts of time perfecting a typeface, with timeframes going from months to years. Besides the “creative” part of the work, there’s a significant amount of boring workhorse tasks: checking spacings, comparing glyphs, testing use cases. Another unwritten rule in conventional type design is that typefaces ought to be released only in a finished form. Because most traditional type design is, in one way or another, a commercial endeavour, there is little openness towards unfinished or speculative typeface development.
No wonder, therefore, that thousands of unfinished typefaces sit inside dark corners of designers’ filesystems and notebooks, condemned to the most perverse kind of bitrot: “Someday I’ll finish it”.
Manufactura Independente will go over how applying F/LOSS development principles can provide new paths out of this tired way of working. This will be accompanied by a set of practical examples gathered from the designers’ own experience with collaborative development and typeface design, including a first look at Manufactura’s latest project — Oxshark Fontworks — a proposal they’ve been developing to tackle the aforementioned issues.

R: This is a CC liecnsed font from Porto, and we want to not heave neutral type but very local time. This is Crixx, seen used in a sticker from LGM, that is typical of a brussels neighbourhood. This reivival by OSP makes sense there. we dont like this idea of netural.

4. Type is centralised around atypi, myfonts, MATD and T&M in reading and the hague. this leads to small social circles and restricted knowledge. the knowledge of how to ship a final font is limited to those small groups. There are libre foundries like VTF and OSP. This is Google Fonts today, its awesome, it exists, but it poses an issue with centralisation. everything is there, the ecosystem becomes dependent on one decision maker. eg, they introduced the search feature for proprietary fonts that we really disagree with and dont like. chris said this week, we want more agents and more ideas. This is VTF and OSP type foundries.

ANa: what we want is t scene, to bring all the players in teh space together. we want MORE foundries. the idea of a foundry is a space with lots of machines, lot of costs and work. nowadays the foudnry is a website with fonts to download. why not start your own foudnry? you need a font editor, tools for shipping, and the wbesite itself.

r: the idea of a scene is something we found when doing the typeface revival that is used throughout this building. besides the type itself that we were suprised to see in the LGM 2013 identity that we were not involved in at all, and we were talking to pablo over there. he told us that others in spain have used the prinipcesl in the type design workshop we did, and they are really into the idea of a madrid libre type scene! we are very happy about this 🙂 we need a processing type scene in madrid too, and a london libre type scene. the traditional type scene is there of course, but its a exclusive culture and that is not what we want.

we thought about the train model conventions. the lgm is once a year but thats not enough for us.

ana: whats stopping us from habving a scene? its fun to draw letters, but finishing the font is the hard part. the spacing ,kerning, metadata, documetnation, packaging it. thats stopping many people to publish what they have. so we decided to make a starter kit.

r: so we wanted tiny type tools to go into such a kit. Our github account has this, its fontforge pyton scripts for hacking type. these tools do boring work. what do we have?

fontconvert –woff –eot font.sfd : convert any format to any format

fffilters – shadow, outlines incline, wireframe, and so on. fontforge has these features, so we have simple scripts that makes these.

outline versions of proprietary fonts you normally have to purchase a copy.

transpacing. we like drawing type, we dont liek spacing them. its a long job, takes ages. so we take your font with no spacing at all, you find a similar font with good spacing and you get out a font with ok spacing. this works with kerning too. it works well enough for us.

btw, these scripts can only be used for libre fonts.

we also have a new project, django-foundry, that will produce a foundry website for you.

we will launch our foundry, made with this software:

Oxshark Fontworks

we want to showcase what is happening in our local scene.

ana: going against the idea of ‘someday ill finish it’, we said that we will do the finishing work for anyone who has unfinished work, if you agree to use the OFL. its a way to help our friends get in touch with free culture and tools. these are the fonts we are launching

Fachada by Rui Silva.

Acidente by Luis Camanho, a classic ‘waiting for spacing’ type

Le Jerk, by Frank Adebiaye, a french designer we like a preview on his blog.


And of course our colorfonts, we develoepd a JS library and we wanted a library of multi color fonts.

r: why not start a foudnry. go to your designer friends, ask about typefaces they started and left unfinished. EVERYONE HAS THEM! our challenge to you is to publish them. if you have a step in a type design process you dont know how to overcome, let us help you.

Q: the idea that type should be static, there is a reason for that. versions of the same font, means documents change. how to resolve that problem? versioning within the font files?

r: a good question. versioning fonts is a great idea, this shows that v numbering is important, keeping track of versions, in the same way you do with software, you release with notices that it may break things. its something an author should take care of. But i dont think is a total premise, as we dont want fonts to bitrot.

Nina Paley: what will you do if you get overloaded with fonts? i would love it if you did that.

r: well yes, we want to give you tools to build your own foundry. we dont want to be a dumpster of unfinished fonts. its a good challenge though and we are not yet overloaded so send us what you have!

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Copyleft Negocios (Spanish translation of Copyleft Business)

Por Dave Crossland, traducido por Pablo Cosgaya. Publicado en LibreGraphics 1.2.

Copyleft tiene una reputación temible entre la gente de negocios, pues ellos a menudo no entienden de qué se trata. El copyright es fácil de entender: trata sobre cuáles son las restricciones y las libertades que tienes para utilizar y redistribuir una obra. Copyleft es una modalidad de «cadena de favores» para licencias de derechos de autor que propone que si tú redistribuyes el trabajo, debes hacerlo en los mismos términos.

Eres libre de tomar un trabajo libre y mejorarlo. Puedes tomarlo en parte y combinarlo con tus propias partes para hacer algo nuevo y mucho mejor. Lo que promueve Copyleft —y esto es lo que asusta— es que si decides hacerlo, todo tendrá que ser libre. Puedes estar de pie sobre los hombros de los demás, pero entonces los demás también podrán estar sobre los tuyos. O puedes empezar de cero y establecer tus propios términos.

Copyleft ha sido difamado como «viral», como «un cáncer», pues los creadores de software propietario prefieren que las licencias no tengan las posibilidades que ofrece. Los propietarios de licencias pueden tener su pastel y comérselo «en ejercicio de su libertad», mientras que niegan esa libertad a otros. Incluyen en su conjunto propietario partes libres, contradiciendo uno de los principios del trabajo libre. Copyleft es una defensa contra estos abusos. Copyleft es fundamental para las licencias libres más populares de programas y obras de creación, como la GPL de GNU y las Licencias Creative Commons Reconocimiento-Compartir-Igual, respectivamente. Copyleft promueve el crecimiento explosivo y exponencial de la cultura «compartir por partes iguales». Y, como siempre, las tipografías son un tema especial.

El PostScript alimentó los primeros días de la autoedición y requirió la redistribución de fuentes completas junto con esos documentos. Los archivos PostScript (ps) tenían fuentes tipográficas vinculadas. Esto resultaba molesto para los proveedores de fuentes propietarias, pues las fuentes podían copiarse fácilmente, sin tener que pagar licencia alguna. Los controles de Derechos de Fuentes Digitales (DRM) fueron cocinándose a lo largo del tiempo y demostraron ser más problemáticos que aquello que intentaban solucionar… No poder imprimir correctamente un documento es menos molesto que si un diseñador tiene que trabajar con una aplicación y esta no funciona correctamente.

El formato pdf resolvió estos inconvenientes mediante la inclusión de las fuentes en los documentos o, mejor aún, incluyendo sólo las partes mínimas de las fuentes necesarias para imprimir un documento concreto fielmente (la aplicación Scribus se fijó como prioridad tener una impecable exportación a formato pdf). Pero esto volvió complicada la historia de las fuentes copyleft. Una fuente copyleft puede usarse más allá que en los documentos que las contienen, a menos que se haga una excepción a sus condiciones de uso normales: creando un permiso especial para permitir al usuario combinar partes de una tipografía con un documento sin que esto afecte la licencia de textos, de fotografías, de ilustraciones y de diseño.

La mayoría de las fuentes LIBRES tienen hoy en día una licencia Copyleft, como la SIL-OFL o GNU-GPL con las excepciones descriptas en el archivo Preguntas Frecuentes GPL. Las Fuentes Web devuelven al mundo la vinculación entre documentos y tipografías. Esto resulta lamentable para el mundo de los negocios de propiedad, pues la gente puede ver una fuente, esa fuente puede gustarle y el usuario puede descargarla y guardarla sin pagar licencia alguna. Sin embargo, resulta muy favorable para quienes hacen negocios con obras copyleft, pues la distribución copyleft es un motor de generación de riqueza para aquellos que saben cómo manejarla. Más distribución significa más dinero.

El negocio de las fuentes LIBRES está abierto para los diseñadores que pueden tomar una fuente libre y combinarla con sus propias piezas para hacer un diseño de tipografía personalizada para sus clientes –clientes que no pueden darse el lujo de encargar tipos de letra totalmente nuevas, pero que aún así desean renovar su identidad tipográfica. Como todas las empresas querrán utilizar sus fuentes en sus sitios web, la participación en la cultura libre está garantizada por el copyleft. Si ves un tipo de letra que te gusta en una página web y tiene licencia libre, puedes descargarla, guardarla y mejorarla.

El Add-On Web Font Downloader para Firefox ofrece esta posibilidad, por lo que descargar de la web fuentes LIBRES es muy fácil. El próximo paso, mejorar el tipo de letra, subraya la importancia de las fuentes de cada tipografía. El formato OpenType consta de dos versiones: los archivos PostScript de contornos cúbicos y los TrueType de contornos cuadráticos.

PostScript es superior como formato de fuente y se ve muy bien en equipos con FreeType y en Mac OS X, pero no tiene el control de píxeles de TrueType que resulta necesario para verse bien en la mayoría de los equipos con Windows OS. Esto significa que casi todas las fuentes web son distribuidas en el formato aquél que mejor se adapta a tu sistema, después de hacer varias modificaciones en la fuente original. Es precisamente esa la definición del código fuente de GNU GPL, y funciona muy bien para esos programas. Espero que muy pronto sea también una tradición para las fuentes tipográficas.

Puedes obtener el Web Font Downloader ahora en www.webfontdownload.org. El Add-On Web Font Downloader para Firefox favorece estas posibilidades: ahora resulta muy fácil descargar fuentes web LIBRES.

Dave Crossland cree que cualquiera puede aprender a diseñar fuentes. Dave es un diseñador de tipografía fascinado por el potencial de la libertad del software para el diseño gráfico, y dirige talleres sobre diseño de tipo en todo el mundo. Más en: http://understandingfonts.com

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Media Places 2012 Live Blog

These are live blog notes from the 2012 Media Places Conference in Umeå, Sweden, 5-6-7th December 2012.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by Dave Crossland at the event, and may, or may not, be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because I mistyped it or misunderstood. If anyone wants corrections, you should email me immediately so I can make a direct edit (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or just post a comment.

Natalie Phillips, Michigan State University “An Interdisciplinary fMRI of Attention and Jane Austen: New Spaces for Mapping Connections in Literature, Neuroscience, and Digital Humanities”

MSU has a new lab ‘Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition’; spanning literary neuroscience (literary experiments), cognitiive history (history of mind) and digital media (creative visualisations).

Literary cognition in the lab, DHLC has cross field engagement, not to apply previous cog studies to literature, but to INTEGRATE humanist questions in experiments themsevlves. THis is new ground for concrete questiosn in humanttiies. Digital text enables this, and neuro tools connect experience of reading to physicality and the mind.

fMRI eye tracking for ‘close reading’ and ‘pleasure reading’; the pilot text was Austen.

Pleasure reading is relaxed (fun paintings) and I wasnt sure peopel could do this in a loud scanner but it was ok. I explain to press, close reading is like looking at a movie with a directors eye.

Elaine Showalter, ‘Teaching Literature’, says ‘Close reading is slow, noticing character development … has more depth’. Goals: Close reading Literature makes better thinkers, we know, but how. We have experience of different perception in the 2 modes of concentration.

2 neuro tools were used.

fMRI is a dynamic picture of blood flow in the brain; where neurons which need blood to function are firing and when.

fMRI-compatible eye tracking, for seeing the saccades, pupilometry, and patters of reading and rereading.

ALso track heart rate, respiration, etc

Literary PhD candidate come in and reads Austen’s Mansfield part. We needed PhD students as they are great close readers, but professors were out because we forgot to read for pleasure 🙂

They read the 1st chapter outside the scanner, and time it, so we know how fast they read normally. They read the 2nd chapter all hooked up to the machiens.

9 paragraphs in they are asked to read in one of the 2 modes, and then we end the session asking them to write an essay on what they read.

We displayed the text on a screen with a red or green border to indicate which mode of reading.

We randomised the order, RGRG or GRGR, 8 paragraphs per mode, and reach read the entire chapter.


first, what we EXPECTED 🙂 I spoke to neuroscientists, Human Brain Mapping Conference, and I was told to expect sublte, local effects for this; as people were doing ‘the same thing’ in 2 ways. So we considered zooming in to a partuclarly part of the brain. But having never done this before, I said to get whole brain slides.

And we thought CLOSE reading would activate regions associated with WORK and pleasure reading with PLAY.

So what was the suprising result?

The WHOLE brain is transforming in moving from one mode to another.

Compare the move from pleasure reading to close reading to the move from reading to non reading. a much bigger change, apparently

Why this matters?

Core skills in liberal arts have immense cognitive load

Here’s an 3d image, a view with brain folds, showing close vs pleasure reading

So, neuro has been increasing in sophistication: eg, Picasso Vs Dali, a painter an be predicted from fMRI activity patterns, even when the artwork was new to the person

Functional connectivity, mapping not just regions but the way regions work together. that dynamism is where to go next; using eye tracking, a rich record of what readers notice, vs the essays that they write after. Some of them quote text afterwards, so you can then look at when they read the quoted passage…

Molly Steenson, Princeton University “”To the first machine that can appreciate the gesture:” Nicholas Negroponte & The Architecture Machine Group, 1967–85″

The Architecture Machine Group existed before Media Lab, to be the UI arm of the AI Lab at MIT. There was a close connection and the funding structures that ArcMac has that linked to DoD.

Started in 1975, it was a book, a minicomputer, a book, a bunch of papers. many mandates, what didnt it aim to do?

NN in 75 said, his view of the distant future of archi machines; they wont help us design, we will live in them.

NN always gesturing in his promo photos 🙂 handwaving notion, demo-ability of thing you cant explain and hand wave past.

A cross discipline lab, half architect and half elec eng. NN is an architect, he thought it was a useful place to use computers in his 68 Masters thesis. this jived with MIT’s lab structure. ‘a neccessary interdisciplinaryy activities’.

J C R Licklider and Marvin Denicoff were in a rotating door between ARPA and Office for Naval Research, and MIT.


URBAN5 , SEEK , INTERACT: failures, had damning reports about ‘GOFAI’ good old fashioned A I.

URBAN5 1967-70. was descended by SketchPad, Ivan Sutherland’s big breakthrough, and users had a light pen and a Q&A dialog to ‘meet the user midway’. would be advanced today, NN thought it was a failure. Computer says to user, ‘many conflicts are occuring.’

SEEK 1969-71. mirrored cubes in a gerbil pen, and software sought to order them while gerbils knocked them over. ‘Life in a computerized environment,’ title of a magazine spread about it. ‘about machines dealing with the unpredictable nature of people (gerbils.)’ and seek was a failure because it tended to CRUSH THE GERBILS DEAD.

INTERACT 1969: About slums. NN said people had no qualms about using a machine, they didnt say anything awkward, and didnt treat the machine as black or white and wrote things they might not tell a white urban planner. But it was a human on the other end of a teletype hmm. User has a TENTANT POWER button on his coat.

Informational Surround.

in this time, defence folks figured that the more automated the battlefield, the more efficient the war. Arch Mac followed thisp path.

Media Room 1977-80

Put That There 1980

Aspen Movie Map 1978-80

Google sTreet view sytle, view the streets of aspen. with a gestural interface, system says ‘ready’ and user says ‘big red circle’, ‘where?’ and user points and it appears. Ted Nelson’s dream machines like this.

Mapping By Yourself 1977-80

Nascent augmented reality, a westing house tablet computer, with a ‘star wars’ mode.

Tactical media, information surrounds could be as comfortabel as consumer electronics and with the control of a plane cockpit.

NN had ‘teething rings’; broadcasting (film, tv, radio), publishing (graphic design and text) and computer science brought together over a phone line.

OLPC, NN says the best way to deploy alptops is not to make arelatioship with a head of state but the DoDs. They are around longer than 4-8 years, and have real access to logicistics.

‘Logistics is the procedure of transferring a nation’s potential to its armed forces’ — someone

Arch Mac made media that is friendly and cosy like a TV set and strange, like a machine-like claw.

* * *

Q for Katherine Hayles: Agency. You swtich from algos, the SEC stuff, machinations put into play by humans and unintended consequences not fully anticipated. You later conclude regulations could determine where fees are assessed, things in human systems that can be regulated. in the middle you talk about CAPITAL itself as vampiristic. then agency shifts; capital has an agency to itself? so please talk about agency attributed to capital, attributed to algos, and to people.

Katherine Hayles: Right, we do have human agency and autonomous machines. trading algos are meant to cut out human agency as they trade at rates not accessible to humans. evo algos is a new trend there, and it opens a new can of worms, as very UNintended effects can emerge from emergent algos. in my talk, i tried to trace the auto algos drive the system to inherent risk and instability. … [ I think of https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/autonomous-technology ] … its a question of, how do we change a culture of greed? thats a big project. the power of narrative to intervene shouldn’t be underestimated. the narratives must be responsive to our actual situation. robert harris’ ‘fear index’ pits human vs machine agency, skynet style, machine agency disempowers human agency. a pulp techno thriller. too simplisitic parsing of the situation. its not machine vs human, its nuanced, a negotiated situation, small contests wages all the time in congress, in media, that shape how we undersatnd this. its not bad machine, good humans. its more coplex than that. the work has started and should be ongoing. Bernhard Steigler, Time and Technics 1 and 2, he defines ‘tertiary attention’ (?); a print centric assumption. that human machine interation is about memory storage. but moving from print to compute, its not about memory, its about agency. Mnemotechnics is appropraite to print, not automated trading. humanist discourse must take account of this new dynamic.

Natalie Phillips: What does it meant ot be reading with more legla attention? What are modes of awareness, how much is genre based? How much is disciplinary traning based? …. We wil also look at listening to texts in the 2 modes.

* * *

Pre and Post Digital ARchitecure.

Finn Arne Jørgensen, Umeå University

“I don’t know what Digital Humanties is, but I know it when I see it ;)” (cf Justice Stewart)

We dont see the infrastructure connecting hte cabins to industrial society, its seductive, therapy for digital workers. People write in, ‘Thank you, think is the only site on the net that I ever found therapeutic.’

ARchitecture. What does it do for us? What do we do in Digital Humanties, whatever that is. Architecture refers to both buildings and a metaphor for thinking and refelcting about our practices. Cabin Porn does that too. Its an immediate online phenomon. 100s of cabin blogs, a builder culture, the DIY cabin building with your own skills and made by own hands and body, and now a process of prefab units, pinterest and blogs and so on that art direct their creation.

In the process, things are filtered out, that people dont like. Digital is frictionless, you block out what you dont want to deal with. the lack of infrastrcure is key to that. as scholars we must dig up the infrastrcure. thats what footnotes are for. blogs and twitters, the back channel, people talk baout HOW they do their work.

Post Digital?

I think its no such thing, its digital we take for granted. infra strucure, hidden. we cease to care about digitla and are human instread. its our job to expose the rpocesses as they occur. hacking is making infrastrcure, making is taking out the dificult parts, we need to focus on them.

Thats why cabins are cool.

* * *

Erica Robles-Anderson, New York University

I’m a montessori kid, grad school was more like that than the earlier schooling models. … I went to stanford thinking you do an undergrad ending in ‘er’ – doctor, lawyer, designer – and ‘humanist’ is not one of them. i got into CS and graphics, got good at that, and i thought i’d graduate to do a startup, making screens about spaces. I then went into grad school with a social psychologist, a communications lab; testing how people felt tother or apart based on screens. I met a historian, studying counter culture, and so with that in mind, I found the church.

this is a mega church in Houston Texas, 2,000 people in a sunday service, was the Houston Rockets stadium. i didnt go for religion but the media; it was a naturael space to think about people working with tech.

more recently, the crystal cathedral. i need to justify why i switched from lab studies to reading and field work. church is good for this. big congregation, big glass space, huge screen.

Historian view, this isn’t an uncanny thing that churches shouldnt look like, but the trend of protestant reformation and constant reformation; theres no longer a bible, its hi technology only. we all look together at a single text, not all at the same page in our own copies.

Here is a post war drive in cinema. these spaces were churches on sundays, and you couldn’t get that much revenue from the cinema. screens at churches started here. the family auto like a family pew.

heres teh parking lot for the drive in. a skyscraper with a tall cross on top nearby.

* * *

Jo Guldi, Brown University “Infrastructure for a revolution”


Infrastructure was a revolution of scales, preceeding indus revolution. anti turnpike movement of 1820/30s, thanks to that you can walk from home to your work and school without paying and so can everyone else in society. capitalism in 18thC was based on idea of rising tide to raise all boats, the designers of raod system first appearing in britiain that was destroyed by a liberterian revolution.

ancient world uesd roads for military to reach edges of empire, not for citizens. interkingdom highways, garden cities, suburbs, the parts of built environemtn that are a silent piece of our lives.

infrastrucure has a life. utopian projects live or die. in the 1830s, localists oposes government taxes and the same neoliberal fantasty, that captialism can exist without infrastrucure, today, in teh collapsing infarstrucre.

I’m in an odd place, an 18thC historian working on the net. transport paper and information revilutions.

3 men, john palmer, the 1785, the first civil service not about taxes and miliarty, post service. a bunch of clerks and carraiges connecting every village in england. the clocks were set by post not trains that were later.

????. gravel was same as rome as then …

john wesley. people on the road, walking 20 miles a day, a social network of preachers not an establishment.

the masses of receipts, forms and such to co ordinate civil servants acros the country. 1950, paper peaked. an i18d system of paper records of all farms in the world, preceding world bank.

anti turnpike movement, wesleys idea of a chuch owned by working class, the paper revolution, every town had paper for everyone. byt he 60s we saw paper was hiding facts in plain view. in development studies, rob chambers did 1st crowd sourced maps.

molly told us today about the information reovlutions origins, and i want to talk how it effects me. we have infrastrucure for sharing, we can share citations, journal entries and what we do with them.

Josh Ginburg invitned Zotero; we dream of reaching outside ivoery tower to public, work without barriers to entry. so i made paper machines as a zotero plugin, so you can take what is in your zotero library and do things like topic models, geoparsers to show you all place names about 19th C novels about gypies.

as a designer of software, sustiining the idea of exlucsity and sacle, retooling things, an idea from earlier generations. in 18th infra worked on gravel, mail and community. today we have a new infarstruacure for humanities, we ahev software and data, but the questions of community, how we use this, spending our grants, making one map or many silod amps, that question of community can be answered.

in CS dept at brown, they said this was astonoishing; that you can be a scientist in academia and talk to the public. there are publics and communities we serve outside the

so i had 10 CS undergrads asking what tools i want to look into texts. History Lens could be another plugin for zotero that can be shared in a community. free sofware can be built upon existing standards and retooled and remade. so we can offer it beyond the gates of the ivroy tower.

Infrastrucrue as a reovlution? yes, if we make it for teh communities.

Yesterday Tara McP spoke about reaching out to

Becky Hurwitz, Sandy SToryline, a website for sharing stories about sandy. humanists know a lot about this.

Liz Barry, Public Laboratory, what can environmental historians, so could we make a tool to link publiclaboratroy abd zotero?

Sans Clar, Occupy ARhive, using zotero to collect things.

What if you and your class ran zotero on wikileaks?

Infrastrcutre as revolution. My question to you is then, yes?

* * *

Jo GUldi: at harvard recently, discussin how our new tech infra is reduplicating angloamerican hegemony of 19th c? well, we have people who live off associations with subaltern archives. we can use grant funding to build altern infrastrcures that are massively inclusive. tara mcphereson mentioned a tool to collection inforation from indigenous archives – murkurtu.org – that sovlves a technical problem of archiving counter power. …

Day 2

Fred Turner, Stanford University “The Democratic Surround: How World War II Changed the Politics of Multimedia”

[10 mins late]

Black Mountain College, 1948. Their exhibition then has the Fuller Dome. It goes from there to NYC in 57, Cage moves there, teaches a class on artistic production. he brings with him the idea of the happening. By the early 60s he’s teaching this to Keegans (?), alan aprow, which shapes beings, the van der beeks, the basis of the 1960s, a new aesthetica and political mode in the 60s. its not revolutaitonary! its celebraitng against fascism in WW2.

Its still with us, This is the CES in 2010. The pepse pavillion in 1960, its nearly the same design.

Step back, there are 2 things we can do, telling the history of te Democratic Surround: identigy a meanigful thing in that era that didnt have a clear name then or now. media studied, then or now.

We think of attention is depoliticised. Like Natalie’s talk yesterday on Austen. Attenion is a politicised process. What we pay attnetion to is something powerful people struggle for. We must be alert to that as wella s the mechanics of attention.

the DS is something we can track about that.

Also, meida and buildings are merging. In CA, many cars have screens in car seats for the kids in teh back. a new ad for virgin airlines, a cut away of the tube of the airplane and a whole media party there.

we need a history of the media and space merging, and new tools to get at it. thats my work.

another piece important, is cold war historiography. i thought the 60s was a revbellion against the 40s and 50s, but the people who told that story wrote out the OPEN aspects of the 40s and 50s. Charles Morris, UoChicago 1948 book, the Open Self, a prescription for hippies. He said ‘lets have a sexually tolerant society.’

Someone Nazi race theory criticised and says this is happening in USA and we must stop.

in the 60s they FULFILLED their parants expections!

M Mead “were the world we dream of obtained, people then wouldnt value it as we would. we wouldnt be at home there, we couldnt live in in”. that is now us and my goal is to recover the dream.

Sylvia Lavin, Princeton and University of California, Los Angeles “Architecture and the superreal”

(A book, “Kissing Architecture”)

The word ‘place’ scares me. In architecure, it ESSENTIALISES transcendental subjects, lurking behind a spirit of the place phenomenology. A nasty word.

I want the word to go away.

Its strange to be at a conference about place to make it go away. Architecture is to distract people from the thing they’re looking at.

Fred was saying, he’s good at reading images but not spaces. I’m curious what that means; I don’t believe it, but the symtomology of needing to say it in a place on space? 🙂 Why say that at a conference about media and space?

The history of media as being the thing that consitiues space itself?

There is a visual form of analysis happening with skill.

I was asked to talk about frames. Arch is a frame par execllence. If I can google my way to a framing set of images that collapses the world, you see what im ean.

archi is invoked in humantistic conferences, the discipline as frame, making braoder cultural epistimmes visible. the persisitance of this frame. the CCTV building is a triumphal arch, it says within its frame a reading of the cultural episteme, a instruction manual on how to read what is desired to be seen in the cultral episteam as a whole.

culture is assoiciated with interdisciplinarity, using the triumphal arch


Erica Robles-Anderson, New York University “Congregational Framing”

Smalltalk is a environment to edit at runtime. Always active running loops you can self modify. Animators who can add frames to a looping motion graphic. Monads is the notion for this.

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New Workshops: Kyiv & Lviv, Ukraine, December 2012

Last week I was contacted by Alexei Vanyashin (an expert in Latin and Cyrillic type design. Originally from Moscow, Russia) about doing some type design workhops in the Ukraine with Octavio Pardo, one of my co-instructors at the very first Crafting Type event in August.

We’re now set to run 4 events there in the coming weeks:

  • 27 November: Public Lecture, Kyiv
  • 14 December: Student Workshop, Kyiv
  • 15-16 December: Professional Workshop, Kyiv
  • 17-18th December: Professional Workshop, Lviv

For full details check the www.craftingtype.com website!

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Unicode Conference 36: Day 2

These are live blog notes from the 2012 Unicode Conference in Santa Clara, California, 23rd October 2012.

Usual disclaimer for live blogging: These are informal notes taken by Dave Crossland at the event, and may or may not be similar to what was said by the people who spoke on these topics. Probably if something here is incorrect it is because Dave mistyped it or misunderstood, and if anyone wants corrections, they should email him immediately (dave@understandingfonts.com) – or post a comment.

Vint Cerf: The Bit Rot Dilemma

My purpose today is tangentially related to what you are about – encoding writing in digital form for the whole world. But encoding in digital form is what I work on. When you think about digitisation and representations, think about the issues of doing so over VERY LONG periods of time.

Unicode is key to the DNS; since 2003, efforts to express non latin characters in domain names. Now ICANN opened up TLD space, they had 2,000 requests for new TLDs, 1,900 unique, but few were outside ASCII. I don’t know why that is. A 40 year history?

In DNS, the expressiveness of labels is not what is at stake. Its not expressing every way of writing in a domain name label. We dont want a novel in domains, we want identifies that can be matched correctly: MATCHING is the point.

In unicode there is more than one way of writing the same thing; things can LOOK the same if they codes are different. So someone can type something in and not get what they expected.

We aren’t able to put unicode into DNS directly, we encode as acsii. punycode and its odd apperance – .xn--90ae – is unambiguous.

What you do is hard and important, so thank you!

Now, my primary topic:

Every day we create complex digital objects with applications. Spreadsheets, text documents, even more complex data structures; 3D interactive objects, interactive environments. The bag of bits can become rotten if the runtime for it isn’t available.

In 3,000AD can you open a 1997 Powerpoint file? Can you open a LibreOffice presentation file?

I had this last week, opening a 1997 powerpoint file on a Mac failed. We invest time in making digital objects and we would like them to be preserved.

Digital photographs suffer the same thing; some contemporary photo managers no longer support GIF files. Its not just the application code; its that app runs in a particular operating system. If you dont have the app and the os — and then a specific piece of hardware with IO interfaces – then you may loose the ability to access your data.

Each year the National Archive get hard disks they are meant to curate and catelog. The variety of software running there, its tricky to figure it out.

Why is retaining the ability to interpret digital objects is hard? Business failure, your OS vendor no longer supports some hardware, vice versa. Products advance, and get retired, and no backwards compatibility is made. If you asked for source code, 50% will be in the new version, so they won’t release it.

You can imagine a regime that requires code escrow for published software. When I contract for software development for hire, I insist on a ‘go bust and get escrowed source code’ clause. Loss of access to digital objects is common due to business failure.

Representing the same document in various ways, ROSETTA STONE style, allows extra potential for recovery. Reverse engineering software to interpret the data is more possible there. But many cases this isnt possible, like a video game.

So a standardised object for a particular application, a document or a spreadheet, which can be represented in various applications, would be a good idea.

Virtual Machines may help! You may be able to run an old OS in a VM in the cloud and allow you to run the old applications. Its hard. My first home computer was an Apple ][+ in 1979 and I did my accounting on that, then then ][e with a compatible 5 1/2 floppy drive. Then a Mac had the 6502 chip board to run old software and run that old drive. The MacOS could figure out how to make the old processor think it was accessing the old drive via the Mac’s new IO.

I had a hissy fit when I got a Mac laptop without an optical drive. Another thing to carry!

When application software you NEED and are depending on, but patents prevent you from using it, there’s something wrong with this situation. We should think about legal regimes about what we content creators have something to say about being to retain forever the ability to access those bits.

Unicode was always about rendering writing digitally. I’d like to introduce a meme here:


Some people misunderstood this, like a physical CD. I don’t think that. 1,000 manuscripts can still be read in greek or arabic; vellum is highly preservable. Its physical, so if you can see, you can access it.

But I see vellum as having all the digital representations of the digital object; the data, the app, the OS. So if you can see it, you are SURE you can access it.

This maens changes to copyright, patent and other laws to give us the leverage to give us the ability to interpret the work we create.


Domain names and URLs.

Something odd happens when you monetize things. At the start it wasn’t monetized; John Postell (?) was the original registrar, funded by the US government, and he passed in 1998 just before ICANN was fonded. When the NSF realised it was spending millions a year to operate DNS, and asked if we should spend research dollars on a private sector interest activity, they decided Network Solutions (under contract to NSF) to charge for domain registrations. I thought it was reasonable, it wasnt clear what to charge, $50 a year for 2 years, seemed minimal.

When you introduce this, and a need to renew to create a continuing revenue stream, you create instability. When you cease to pay, what happens? The domain name sinks, or returns with differnet content. You can be mis attributed to that content.

For me it was a revelation that the monetization had side effects that are serious for preservation for content. URLs are ways to point at things that are temprary, so we loose our ability to reference information in a stable long term way. Thats unsettling.

Bob Kuhn (?) and I started ‘Digital Object Identifiers’ project. These can never be reused, create ‘permanent’ curated archives that contain these obecjts; you need a business model to support the archive, and you want to have redundant archives. Its not just documents, could be source code, object code, images, movies. The system should be insensitive to the nature of the content, while being able to tell what that nature is.

This is like UNicode, trying to take a digital ID, a codepoint, and have it interpretable as a specific object in a specific class of symbols. We need to classify digital objects similarly, so we know all the required dependencies for accessing an object.

When you put something in you want to be sure its not modified when its removed. A double digital signature can do this. You sign it with two keys and then it cant be modified by a single party. Digital signatures can become weak over time so you may need to resign things over a long time. I have to recork my wine in my cellar in the same way.

I’m not sure how to advance this problem of long bit rot, I think by 2,100 AD we will have lost access to everything we access today, and our colleagues in the future will not know much about what happened this year because the bits will have rotten.

I think unicode should not be disengaged from this. I’d like you to keep this in mind, as I know you are interested in preserving digital culture.

Thank you!

Q: I’m from the W3C and I wonder that XML can be useful for marking up data and metadata. Is there a way to reencode data in a more resilient way?

A: ASN-1 is similar. Its not for operational purposes; running an application with a markup version, but it might be a way of documenting things, yes. PDF-A is a reasonable attempt at similar. While readers are free, creators are not, and if ADobe goes bust (which I hope it wont) then we may loose the ability to access that format. HTML5 might achieve similar things. This relates to my rosetta stone idea. I’m hesitant to leap on this because there are semantics to deal with. Sometimes thats only achievable with executable bits. You may need the applicatoin to know why a bit is where it is and what it means.

Q: Do we really need to keep all that stuff?

A: Martin! You remind me of this young PUNK – no pejorative, its a compliment – of a young guy talking to librarians. “The important stuff will be important and converted to new formats” – but the librarians were on the ceiling, and ‘A Team of Rivals’ book about American History is a key example of this: WE DONT KNOW WHAT IS AND ISNT IMPORTANT. The author wrote that book in the present tense. She went to 92 libraries to read letters exchanged by people contemporary, and reconstructed conversations based on their language. Those letters were personal, not important, just about daily events.

Q: A patch to a program can change the way a document appeared. How much accuracy is enough?

A: We’ll have a spectrum of capability. Mapping all text to unicode, leaving that as the ‘trace’ of a document, then try for more and more formatting. For documents. But our objects are not just documents that COULD exist in print. Many things CAN NOT exist in print, sound, video, and INTERACTIVE things. A spreadsheet can’t exist in print except as a momentary view of a state in time. Not the structures and formulas. There isn’t perfect fidelity possible. How to grade the levels of fidelity?

Q: Adobe Reader is likelyt o be around a long time (I work for adobe) but this talk of preservation seems rather gloomy to me…

A: The ADboe founders are friends of mine and I respect what they’ve done. Flash is a differnt matter 😉 I’m afraid that it alone isnt enough, we need a conscious effort to preserve peripheral data formats. PDF is great but its not enough because there are so many KINDS of objects.

Q: I’d like to preserve my family tree, a tiny small group of users. There are things important to 100,000s and important to just 10.

A: Whats worth preserving is a key question, and if something is important to a fmaily, it should be preserved byt hat family. This is why I think a legal regime . Paul Allen’s (not MS P.A.) ancestry.com who works are gallup now, his digital obejcts are complex. … My email from 15 years ago isn’t readable; I used a PC based email application, I moved hwardware, and I kept all the files, but the STRCTURE is lost; the attachments are gone. Its but a shadow of what I had. Its a hazard.

Q: Is analog part of this?

A: Yes, rendering is the end part, and analog is the final part of rendering. Did you know we can look at a music record with a laser to digitize the music even though its damaged so much it cant be played any more? Amazing.

Q: Richard brought up a fair point about XML and markup technologies. Semantics is a key issue, CLDR, our data is all in XML, but we have a 100 page spec on how to interpret it. the XML helps to be self descriptive but without the semantics, its opaque.

A: I was in UCLA yesterday, celebrating the Turing award. Alan Kay was speaking there. I challenged the CS community, “Where’s the science in CS?” in an op ed page. He said CS isnt about software, programming, or even computation; its about PROCESSES and the way they behave. If we are going to preserve the meaning of complex objects, we must preserve the PROCESS of how to use them. So this is a fairly big challenge; I’m not sure what the right way is to go about it. If we don’t think about the Intellectual Property regimes that are friendly or unfriendly to archivists, we may lose before we begin.

Q: We need something like acid free archival quality paper. That stamp that people can gravitate toward for long term storage. That will get traction from ordinary people.

A: Hmm. Literally or metaphorically?

Q: Both

A: That acid free paper idea, its a metaphor for people to understand why this is important. I agree.

Q: A lot of us in the last few years have abdicated this topic to a large corporation.

A: Yes, I’m sorry to hear you’re using hotmail 😉 Its a reasonable concern. We allow MS, Google and Yahoo and that leaves us open to a problem. I have 75Gb of email at Google. I am worried about that too, for the long term. New digital storage may be our friends, we can store that much in a small space. I wonder about file transfer and serach; a terabyte in a sugar cube disk without enough IO to process it fast.

Q: We dont know what will be important. With easily available encryption we also loose the ability to get things back. Should personal certs expire, or an escrow so we can access files 50 years after someone dies?

A: Wow, yes. Protecting privacy in the near term, protecting history in teh long term. I expect today’s crypto will be broken in the long future. CCs have a expiry date, so the numbers churn so they can’t be used to do bad things. If you intend for things to be available, you want somewhere to put it for the long term. The protection needs to be undo-able. Wow, I would like to work on that problem.

Q: I’m working on PDFJS, and one goal is to make HTML possible to render antyhing in PDF. What do you think about such ‘super formats’ that can encapsulate other formats?

A: The union of everything rather than the itnersection of everythig. But eveything can be contradictory. I dont know if its possible; I suspect there is a Turing Halting Problem in there somewhere. There’s no way to prove that it will. But I’m all for generality. As a former comptuer programmer, I’m all for trying to make the most general solution to the problem, but its hard so we’ll have several cases. I like this javacsript idea though!

I met up with Tom Milo who showed me


Demonstration of ACE with SVG 🙂

New HarfBuzz Coming to a Device Near You – Behdad Esfahbod, Software Engineer, Google, Inc.



Slides at http://goo.gl/2wSRu

I spoke about Harfbuzz 2 years ago at UC34 and its not in a much better SHAPE haha

Old Harfbuzz vs New Harfbuzz

Who already knows about HB? 50% of room.

This project started 12 years ago when GNU+Linux started adopting Unicode. FreeType started interpreting OpenType layout tables and then removed that, Gnome’s PANGO and Qt did their own. I maintained Pango but I hated it.

Christmas 2007 I started a new shaping engine, thats the old one. At 2009 I started on it full time, and I completed it at Google. Thats the new HB engine.

Its a library with one function:


If you take arabic, thai, india, mongolian, vertical japanese… the text needs contextual rearranging.

There is a generic shaper, a fallback ‘dumb’ shaper that does nothing but stack glyphs, then backends for Uniscirbe, Graphite, CoreText, and ICU LayoutEngine. You should be able to use the harfbuzz API but if you want to use a platform shaper you can do.

It was designed from the start to be usable by humans; others are designed around font formats, exposing all font features, and are not user friendly.



Robustness is crucial for web fonts, Firefox has really helped drive this. On a desktop i could crash out of memory. error handlind, what to do if the font is broken, what can you do? rendering something close to what you want. you cant query for font errors, we just return the best possible output. for C programmers, we use techniques common in new free software libraries, you dont have to NULL check everything. Thread safe, we have a desktop to thumbnail icons, icons are SVG, SVG has text, pango wasnt thread safe, we crashed. Not good. If you design Indic fonts, the Devanagari, Tamil, Sinhala shapers are all different. The new indic shapers copy and modify the previous shapers but dont modify them. So I had to deal with bugs, like force RTL on a font it would crash. So I wanted a unified shaper code body.

For humans, if you have no experience with text rendering or opentype, I can tell you, put your face data, your font data, your text buffer, and shape! Thats it.

Flexible: Glib, ICU, UCDN. Unicode character database is used. You can use HB with FreeType, Uniscribe or your own call bakcs. There are NO dependencies.

Efficient. Instead of parsing OT tables 2 butes at a time, i could MMAP the table directly. no malloc(), just mmap() and sanatize.


Been in Firefox since 4.0, GNOME since 2012-09

Chromium/WebKit patch landed 10 days ago

ICU LayoutEngine drop in replacement is ready

Q: This means OpenOffice, XeTeX and OpenJDK can use Harfbuzz.

A: Right, if we do that, then I can say, if you’re not Apple MS or Adobe then you’re using Harfbuzz 🙂

Android and KDE are using hb-old but we plan to switch them soom

A lot of embedded companies want to use this.

With Emscripten you can do cross compiling to Javascript!



Fallback Shaping: we can compose mark positioning from base glyphs automatically. Here is a correctly composed glyph, here is the GDEF table dropped, GPOS dropped, GSUB dropped, and all 3 dropped.


My focus last few month. I can write code and ask peo

opentype is NOT a standard, its just RECOMMENDATIONS. Uniscribe is the standard. So we decided to be as close to Uniscribe as possible. So I got text from 60 wikipedias, and tested each word against uniscribe, and aimed for a 1 in a million error rate (1e-6) and its currently less than 0.1% (one in a thousand). So for 100,000 works we disagree on about 50 of them between Uniscribe and Harfbuzz.


There is new Myanmar shaping in Windows 8.

Q: Normalisation, its the same code point or its not. Shaping, its the same pixel in one resolution and another pixel at another res.

A: We test glyph ID and positions, not images.

Q: GID is a number easy to match. Positions?

A: We test in font design units, 2048 or 1000 em size, and i render at that many pixels. I’m not itnerested in hinting, I’m interested in GSUB, GPOS, and shaping engine. We think we are outmatching Uniscribe in some parts. Our indic shaper has a uniscribe bug compatibilty mode 🙂

Pravin: Excellent job on the test suite. Windows fonts working well on new harfbuzz. We have fonts made for Pango too, so can you test the restuls of pango and harfbuzz? If we can get test cases we can fix in the fonts.

A: Very valid point. If you look at GNU+Linux side, we designed libre fonts against the old shaper. but now we match uniscirbe. In sinhala, it shows up badly; there is no OT spec for it but Uniscribe implemented it. So people implemented what made sense to them in pango. Uniscribe many some very different decisions. So now I implemented those decisions and this breaks those fonts. I deprioritised this because it wasnt clear where bugs were in hb-old, the shaper or the font? But im happy to work with anyone on font issues.

Q: it seems useful to compare against pango for sure. ICU, we get bugs on indic scripts in the form, heres the parallel patch in pango, and perhaps a commit to harfbuzz. so the more we see convergence here the better.

A: Yes

Mark Davis: What challenges were there in plugging ICU and others?

A: It was easy, no major mismatches. 1, the callback to load a table didnt include the length of the table. no way other than crashing. also concept of a layout engine of ICU includes a font and font size. in HB, i have a ‘shape plan’ that takes a script lanauge direction and font size. so there is a mismatch in what we can cache.

Alolita: I’d love to see your unit tests, we are building something similar.

A: Good point. I considered publishing this with Wikipedia, its http://code.google.com/p/harfbuzz-testing-wikipedia and I will meet up with J Kew in Vancouver in a few weeks

Innovations in Internationalization at Google – Luke Swartz, Product Manager, Google Inc. and Mark Davis, Sr. Internationalization Architect, Google Inc.

We do core i18n, encoding work, cldr, icu heavily; we do our own segmentation, character encoding detection… and beyond that we look at entities, names, phone numbers…

We’re trying to NOT overlap with out Google presentations; harfbuzz, ICU and javascript, plurals and genders talks today. Tomorrow, emoji, locale data, bidi and rtl, i18n testing, and ldml.

Other issues?

Entities. Knoweldge panel in Google search has these. If you search ‘brad pitt’ we connect that name to an entity, thats locale independent. to put together theis kolwedge graph, what entities are and the relations of entities, we use Wikipedia, freebase, and the web. web with a huge corpus is easier (english, spanish) than say slovienian. so we can translate the entities relationships, even tho eg brad pitt and jennifer aniston have different names in slovenia.

Names. ‘Barack “barry” obama’? Google+ Pages “Lindt Chocolate World” and google.com/+toyota

Unicode security issues. well knwon mixed scripts used for spoofing, the ‘paypal’ problem with a cyrillic a. mixed numbering systems, a U+09EA is a bengali 4 that looks like latin U+0038 (“8”). We allow differnt script in your nick names.

You can enter 100s of combining marks and it looks like the software is damaged when they spill down the page.

Name Formatting

The reversal of given and family name is one of the biggest differences in the world.

Phone Number Formatting. This is in Android ICS

Addresses, equally compelx.

Smaller languages are getting bigger, and Google products now aim to support 60 langauges. Google prevoiusly only supported Hindi in India.

Google Translate is also expanding from 40 to 65, the last one way Lao.

They added Yiddish, and because they could do english to Hebrew and German, they could convert that to yiddish, and english can now conduit eg lao and yiddish.

So now you can talk to your room mate in NYC 😉

Google Speech recognidition covers 42 languages with 46 accents/dialects

We’re also working on Fonts in our group.

Encoding is Unicde, but we’re working on a pan unicode font project, Noto.


We see these boxes of unknown fonts, ‘tofu’ and we want to eliminate this, so “Noto” for ‘No Tofu’.

It will be libre licensed so no user will ever need to endure tofu. They are harmonised too, they should flow nicely, not a ransom note.

we will also have UI versions with different virtual metrics.

also important with fonts is knowning what is in a font; there are specialised proprietary tools for analysing fonts, it was hard to do with libre software.


we use this to read font data, it was black magic that only font developers knew, but now everyone can do it with this library


http://translate.google.com/toolkit is used for ALL google’s own localisation. this hooks into machine translation. ARB is a format for web app l16n


If you own a video on youtube, you can add captions and translate them in place with GTT.

Arabic Typography – Tom Milo

Here is a ‘minimal pair’ – 2 lines with 1 difference, ‘as money for a king’ and ‘the money of the king’ – lam-alef fusion and lam-alef ligature.

The connection jumps in logical space. The top one is a ‘fusion’ not a ligature, thats the bottom one. In arabic you must distinguish this; letters in the same block the fuse, and letters in different blocks that touch are liagtures.

So some results: here is the lam alef, anything with a lam on the top row and anything with alef on the bottom. The cells should show a fusion including all the elements described by the unicode. IranNastaleeq should do this for all 42 cells but it only does FOUR. That font has over 4,000 glyphs. These 4 are sufficient for arabic and persian.

Nafees Nastaleeq, a government project. 1,001 glyphs and only 3 successful fusions. This is enough for Urdu, not even arabic.

Alvi Nastaleeq, a Monotype Nastaleeq design, and it has only ONE fusion that works. 20,000 glyphs!

Jameel Noori Nastaleeq is the same typeface but reprogrammed by another team, with 4 fusions; perisan and arabic, not urdu.

Finally, DecoType Nastaleeq has 456 glyphs and covers all 42! There is another col with a new unicode point we are yet to support.

This table shows similar results for a word; only a handful of successful fusions for all these OpenType fonts.

Now, I want to take you through an arabic typesetting project. For printing to come to Europe from China or Korea, it must have come through the Arabic world.

The script is found everywhere islam played a role. arabic is an islam related script; ukrainian muslims of tata descent, serbocroats who were muslims used arabic. javanese is written with arabic.

the mechanisation of script associated with islam? arabic typography is a by product of latin typography. did europe invent typography or renovate it? 🙂

There is always the argument that typesetting arabcic is complex with many contextual variations; but latin type at the very start had just as many contextual variants; 22 alphabetical letters with 323 sorts in gutenberg bible. they used them to appear less mechanical. so there was no mechanical hurdle.

the idae of designing type came later; initially it was an accurate model of the hand written scritp. Here are 2 lines from an Ottoman Koran, and here are 2 lines based on digital type. The first is decotype naskh and the second is linotype lateef; typical of ‘eurobic’ fonts made by people who dont understand the script or who dont have technical implementation to work with.

Allographs: the unit of graphic rendering. like allophones in phonetics. arabic typography revovles around letter blocks; single letters or fused letters. ligatures are letter blocks touching. other ligatures are europrean approximations of letter fusions.

Archigrapheme – the unit of arabic script analysis. The only way to read this word is to already know what it is. if the dot is placed above it works, but if the alef is under, it can be pronouced two other ways. so no dots means 3 meanings.

Typography is deep down a reproduction of writing. arabic, you look at paleographic text, proto-typographic writing chosen by early typographers to reproduce.

When you deal with real arabic, you need to identify the style.

There are theographs: words for god.

De-grammaticized arabic was done by workers in the vatican who used syriac script grammar to shape arabic. ‘yod eurobic’ has this inverted Y and ‘noon eurobic’ has an N form. these forms dont exist in arabic.

Practically this means you can see arabic has a DISSIMILATION of repeated letters; if you aramaize arbic you see repeated shapes.

Each script style has a different solution, each is a system with grammar. Eurobic collected fusions in a haphazard way and added them to eurobic typography. OpenType is based on this typographic appraoch.

This table of green, red and blue cols helps you to identify the style.

traditional typography for print was driven by form, eg, LM-LA, two glyphs. but in digital type you want to color each letter individually, or have a cursor step through each letter. the only way to get each letter lined up is to design the tech not from form but from content. that is the approach of Decotype.

Here are 3 letters, keshide – you can add a keshide in either of the 2 interletter positions.

This image shows that there is a euro approach which has nothing to do with the arabic script tradition.

Finally, there are 2 [BIG] books typeset with decotype.

behdad: why

A: the majority of my examples are mechanical; there is mech euro and arabic.

behdad: the syriac conspiracy theory, the yod/noon variants. if you want to cut letters, you pick one and cut it.

A: you are now used to it, its all over the place, but its a historical development i am presenting. there was an effort to develop arabic script; indian the british tried. the persians went to lithography, the only way to get the script right because movbale type didnt work. i said at the start that typography is originally meant to represent the writing as it was in use. thats why it failed in arabic world when it started but took off in europe. its the mass production of newspapers with linotype that used eurobic that forced it down the arabic worlds throat. in the last 20 years, with macOS and others, the software vendors used eurobic, and the style became associated with modernity. so now there is a trend to use computer technoogy for arabic instead of fitting arabic into computer technology.

Q: nastaleeq?

A: europeans never got close to mechanising it and the people there have rejected anything that doesnt get close.

– – –

Polyglots in the mist

What does it mean to say you speak 24 or 36 languges?

its a trade book but a serious book: ‘Babel no more’ – the search for the worlds most polylingual people

It was reviewed nicely in the Times, Economist, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Suppliment, Vocabulary.com said i was ‘the indiana jones of polyglots’ – but it was evaluating claims people make about themselves about this.

hyperpolyglots are a mystery in plain view; linguists just didnt look into this. like the loch ness monster has an office in the biology dept and no one had gone to see them 🙂 This is a kraken, another cryptid.

Tradtiaionlly, a polyglot is a person who knows 6 or more languages. thats the UCL professor Dick Hudson who surveyed multilingualism, and there are communities where EVERYONE spoke 5 languages, so someone with SIX must really be extraordinary.

I revised this upwards a bit to 11 languages 🙂

These were mysteries for science; although there are many stories of latin high school teachers who can speak a dozen languages, no systematic or empirical evaluation. so i went looking for them.

This guy: Cardinal Guiseppe XXXX (1774-1849) who didnt travel outside northern italy but he lived in a time when many europeans were there too who he learned from. as a cardinal he worked as a librarian and in the propaganda fide (?) the evangelical wing of the vatican. that place at that time was a unique place to see the worlds language. it is said he spoke 114 languages and dialect, by his nephew. also 72, a religiously significant number as thats the number at the time of the fall of the tower of babel.

Some scholars said he grasped 60-61 but agreed he had MASTERED 30. he left an archive in bologna. he was a librarian there, one of the worlds oldest libraries; i went to the street he was born on.

this is a box i found in his archives, not described in any of the descriptions of who he was or what he could do.

he was the 19thC premiere language learner. what enabled him to do this? people claimed to know the secret but never told it. Maybe it was this box. it was labeled ‘MISC’ 🙂 he had packets of cards, 1 1/2 x 3 inch slips of paper. something in italian, latin, on one side, on the other side, persian or something.


the mythology of polyglots is that they just absorb it. there isn’t hard, time intensive repetitive work involved. but this is a hint thats not true. i dont know the history of the flash card as educational technology, but i doubt he INVENTED the flash card.

i also wanted to go to a non european place where multilingualism was common and the idea of knowing langauges was different. i went to south india, bangalore and hydrabad, to glance at whats happening there lingustically. even there, where it is very common to speak 5+ languages from a young age, there are people who can speak 12+ langauges are revered and talked about.

I told people about my project and they said ‘wow yes you must meet someone i know of’. i have studied spanish and mandarin and it changed my brain. this is an indian diplomat who knew indian and chinese and russian languages.

before indian i went to mexico, the Hippo Family Club, a japanese language learning club, 35,000 members, groups in korean, mexico, and us. a fmaily orientated play/game space with a motto that EVERYONE can speak 7 languages. they do this through language kareoke. this is for middle middle class who realised their kids had english but they needed MORE than enlgish and spanish for better economic chances.

I also spent time with Alexander Argreyus (?) who moved to Singapore and works at U of Omalan (?) who has a daily linguistic workout. This is in my book trailer.

“I wake up and write 2 pages of arabic, and spend a couple of hours reading arabic and listening to arabic and reading bilingual texts and reading freely” – 9 hours a day with a wife and 2 sons, was 14 hours a day before. Then I spend 2 hours on other languaes in 20 minute chunks. He has a PhD from U of Chicago.

Emil Krebs as another great hyperpolyglot from history.

You see how textually focused he is. He studied many langauges simultaneously. He’s got a few things specific to them. they learned how the learn and build thier own pedagogical environemtns to study in the way they want to study. they learn in a NON INSTITUIONAL way which means they have freedom to develop their own programs for themselves.

Alexander woudlnt tell me how many languages he spaeks, or to be tested in any way. I have to take his word on his abilities.

What are the upper limits? (on ability to learn, speak, and use languages?)

The lifetime limit is 50-60. Oral proficiency in 22 languages, demonstrated by a belgian and a scotsman to me. they compete in polyglot contests in 1987 and 1990 to find the most multilingual belgian and then european. a contest, you had to speak a minimum number to enter, then they told how many lagnugaes to tested in for 10 minute conversations with 5 minute breaks with natiev speakers.

the winners were given points in 22 languages.

i did an online survey of people who said they knew 6 or more languages; 26 was the highest reprted on the survey of 400 people who responded.

when you meet someone who says more (someone on the survey said over 500…) you know its not for real.

people can keep 5-9 languages no matter their IQ, cognitive skills, etc. Somethhing about the HUMAN BRAIN that it can hold that many languages without any extra effort. up above that to 22, then there is a patchwork of proficiency.

this is a bar chart of one persons mix. this shows reading is less mentally taxing than speaking.

here is a line graph of total, easy, and bilingual. easy means they said it was easier than for other people. and bilingual is those who were born into language learnig. you see it peaks at 6 and quickly tails off.

172 who knew more than 6, and 289 people who said learning languages seemed easy for them. the profiles are quite similar. overwhelmingly MALE. 69 and 65%. might be maleness of online population, the maleness of social networks advertising the survye. historically its male dominanted which are perhaps historical patriarchy.

i asked people in both groups, why they thought they were unusual; 50% said it was innate talent. 20% said they were smart. 45% said they worked hard. I would have thought that one would be higher. [more stats]

11+ lgnauges, they were mostly european, roman script, national languages. non latin? farsi, japanese, mandarin, cantonese, korean, thai, hindi. averaged 9 languages over 5 scripts.

How Unicode has impacted this community? its HUGE! openlanguage, anki, omniglot, chinesepod.

can anyone be one of these people?


They have an atypical neurology. they have repetitive activities needed to put languages in their head, like training on flash cards. if there were less of them historically, 1 its because learning a langauge takes you out of your community. a hyperpolyglot is less social by definition, ironic given languages is for socialising. but online people can be together, in a tribal way, about their learnign techniques and materials.

unicode is key to this.

they like these tools to be free 🙂

they represent mutlilinguals; post-monolingualism is only 20% a joke. their need for materials is as high as a native speaker even if they cant fully read it all yet.

unicode is key to building a tech and social environment to reinforce their neurological predilections. so i think we’ll see more emerging. maybe i see it since i went looking but i think its a real trend, not just confirmation bias.

Q: i have 7-10 languages conversationally and 14 i studied. but i forgot a lot of them. how do you count how many people know?

A: I left that to people themesvles. i wanted to deinstitutionalise it. ‘I speak kannada!’ ‘did you take a class? a test?’ ‘no, i just picked itup’ – so if you think you learned it and its useful in your life, you learned it, i think. so youre free to say as many as you want 🙂

Q: i have an idea about the gender gap. men have more free time than women! 9 hours a day with 2 kids???? [applause] and where are they on the autism spectrum? its like a highly competitive sport. did you speak to them about their motivation?

A: Yes, and i went into neuroscience. the gesein-alliberta (?) hypnothesis is an endo-cranology theory of handedness and maleness, dyslexia, asthyma, etc. there are sensitive period in fetal development that change people, tending towards left males who are good verbally and not spatially. alexander doesnt drive a car! its a tell tale. but its a hugely controversial theory that you cant amass enough data on it. but yes, the gender thing is interesting. i joke that the next book will be ‘the wifes of polyglots’ 🙂

Jungshik Q: He alreayd has a PhD, what else does he do?

A: He was a professor in lebanon; he was unemployed, doing freelance translation and living from investments. then he moved to singapore for a job.

Jungshik Q: any brain scans?

A: No, people who have 4 languages in Switzerland did this though. A hyperpolyglot who spoke 68 languages was studied too. I’d like them to donate their brains but they’re using them 🙂

Q: I have lots of friends who dont drive, its normal 🙂 I also see english as a primary languaes as a bais in the survey.

Q: Where can we see the survey and data?

A: I’d like to put them on the web, the results are described in the book. but its a survey, not a census.

Q: Would be graet! at wikipedia we have many bi or trilingual speakers.

A: it was up for a year 🙂

Q: you mentined languages in the same family; a language is a dialect with an army 😉 swedish and norwegian, there isnt a clear cut distinction. its like saying i speak us english and scottish. someone who speaks a few each disparate languages is more impressive than many similar lgnauges.

A: right, in 1990 cpmetition they were national languaes, no dead ones, no invented ones, and all oral tests. for me, if people CLAIMED it was a differntl alnage, i let htem have it. when alexander says he wont tell me how many languages he speaks, there is meaning there: what does a language weigh? how do you measure diveristy? do people who speak 6 langues for basic conversation without reading them have more complexity than a monolingual educated person with a very high vocab and range of dialects? the number are not great data points.

Q: is there a universal grammar?

A: There is someone, Christopher, who has a single grammar, enlgish, and he ‘calks’ all other langauges through that garmmer. in the 2 contests, judges were told to disrupt the contestant when they started, in the 2nd one, so they couldnt talk about a practiced topic like golf, they switch topics to archeology.

Q: calks?

A: most languages have a wide choice in grammars, but in a foreign languae you can learn just a few and rely on them. or greek people speaking enlgish will use their root words that are valid english more than french or german words that are synonymous.

– – –

Bringing Multilingual PDFs to The Open Web: Bringing PDFs to the web, a review of PDF.js – Adil Allawi

I started this work in 1982 🙂

This project is one of the coolest out there today. They had an idae to do something REAL with javascript, rendering PDF in JS 🙂

It took on a life of its own and is now the default PDF renderer for Firefox and used by Google in their performance testing suite.

This is the sumerian kind kneeling before a tablet with writing. writing is key. as vint cerf’s talk mentioned, PDF is key to preserving documents.

adobe’s postscript was an interpreted langauge for printing in the 80s. taking that and making a document that opens everywhere took off in the 90s. i lived and breathed postscript but its not commonly known these days; i coded on PS interpreters in college, it was great. you wrote a program that made a page, you could let the printer’s intenral computer do the complicated layout processing. that made adobe, it took over the printing world.

Dr Warnock was the founder and CEO of adobe, who made the “Camelot Paper” in 1991, about the future of this. they saw people sending faxes, faxes were digitisations for sending documents across the phone network. postscript being an interpreteed langues meant you cant redisplay a document without rerunning the document program, which may lead to a different result. PDF was the result, to replace fax by sending documents across computer networks, and it too then took over the printing world.

What is a PDF?

its a text format, you have ID number, object data, etc. it was FLATTENED postscript, supporting all font formats used in 1991, and it could FALL BACK for latin text using ‘multiple master’ fonts. Adobe reader had a MM font that would stretch to match the missing font.

ISO then standardised it and fatures crept in; JS engine, forms, video, flash, 3d, and STRUCTURED elements.

PDF.js is this whole PDF structure can be put into a browser 100%. you give the browser a PDF and the browser renders it. pdf.js is a user api, it depends on stream.js to deal with objects, evaluator.js, spec.js canvas.js, etc.


PDF documents are EVERYWHERE. there are billions of them. its important to see if web technology can match the rendering of PDF, and the implmentation effort for pdf.js has helped improve JS engines. since JS runs everywhere it helps prevent bitrot. also security, external PDF readers expands the trusted codebase. adobe reader is a large plugin, it can be hacked,

Q: so it translates a pdf to js and renders that?

A: PDF is just a dictionary of objects. …

Q: When i see a pdf i feel i can rely on that im seeing what the author intended. when i think of JS, i dont feel sure i see what the author intended.

A: right, its just a interperted language. but pdf can be rendered differently by different apps. ISO standardisation is meant to reduce this. Microsoft’s OOXML doesnt guarantee matching rendering across implmenations, PDF is meant to.


You can see the text layout chunking in a background process.

There is a ‘viewer.html#pdfbug=all’ name you can add to the URL to see a self debugger.

We see this in not HTML5.

Q: does this mean text is not selectable?

A: it is selectiable.

SVG cant handle glyph drawing or a stream of glyphs. SVG requires a DOM, if you add too many DOM objects it becomes too heavy. 10,000s of objects each with their own payload.

Unicode in pdf?

Pre unicode fonts, 8 bit simple fonts, composite fonts, opentype (CFF and TTF). fonts have glyphs names

Arabic and Bidi; detect arabic lines, reverse ligatures, and reapply bidi algo. this will do the right thing and allow copy and paste to work.

what isnt solved? its hard to recognise cols and paras.

some indic languages use 2+ glyphs for a single char.

What is needed?

PRINTING. We need an API for printing from CANVAS tag

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