Fonts on the web

For experienced Internet hands, the subtleties of font usage on the Web is probably old hat. But for many newcomers, it’s often a sour pill to swallow – the fonts you use on your computer every day cannot be used on your Web site.

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In the earliest days of the Web, the number of fonts available to Web designers counted about five. Beautiful typography was non-existent. The source of the problem lied in the fact that when a designer specified a font – Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, for example – that font had to be installed on the computer of the user visiting the web site or the font simply couldn’t be displayed. It was impossible to know who might visit your Web site and what fonts he or she might have installed.

A solution was first proposed in 1998 with CSS2, but the techniques never caught on. It wasn’t until 2009 that a robust solution finally gained traction: the CSS3 Font Module, which allowed designers to send font files down the pipe just like images.

But there was a catch. A few actually, and not small ones.

For one, fonts are made by font designers who earn their living from making fonts. Many would not be able to eat if their products flourished freely across the Internet. Browser support was inconsistent, too, which made consistent display impossible at times.

By late 2010, however, most of those issues had been solved and a new era of Web typography was in full swing. Yet still the problem remained: the fonts you used on your computer every day could not be used on your Web site.

The reasons were two-fold. The first was mostly a technical issue. Many, if not all, of the fonts on your computer are optimized for print, not digital display. So they just don’t look right on the Web. They are too small, too rough. The other reason was a legal one: you only have the right to use, not distribute, the fonts on your computer.

Free public libraries

So what is the answer? Since web typography has spread, a handful of services have come along to help solve this issue. The two most notable ones are Google Fonts and Font Squirrel. The first offers a library of fonts freely available to use in all your digital projects. The second offers an easy way to package fonts you own into easily shareable web formats. And both are free.

Spend some money

It’s still likely, however, that most of the fonts you love are not available from the above services because of copyright issues. You can probably find them from paid services such as

Now that you have tons of fonts at your fingertips, take a little time and learn about font pairing and selection.

Your iPhone video to Wordpess web site in 2 seconds flat

The latest VideoPress upgrade rocks.

The VideoPress upgrade, which allows you to upload and embed your own videos on your blog, now comfortably handles videos from iPhones and iPads. You can shoot vertically or horizontally, and we’ll take care of rotating it for you so that your video looks great when it’s published on your site.

Yet another reason why WordPress is the best CMS ever.

Electronic tattoos

This is crazy mad — super-flexible, self-adhesive silicon circuit boards that can monitor your heart rate and more.

Known as epidermal electronics, they can be applied in a similar way to a temporary tattoo: you simply place it on your skin and rub it on with water (see video). The devices can even be hidden under actual temporary tattoos to keep the electronics concealed.

… Rogers and his colleagues have separately demonstrated that they can add other useful features to epidermal electronics. Solar cells could one day power the devices without an external source; meanwhile, signals recorded by the devices could be transmitted to a base station wirelessly with antennas. In the long term, Rogers believes the technology could provide an electronic link to the body’s most subtle processes, including the movement of enzymes and antibodies, to track the path of disease. “Ultimately, we think that [our] efforts can blur the distinction between electronics and biology,” he says.

The implications for health and medicine are profound. But even for more trivial considerations, the possibilities are truly staggering. Computers that “read” your thoughts are already far along in the testing stages. And a true union of mind and machine would surely create a class technology currently unimaginable.

 

Android stumbles out of starting gate

In the face of stellar iPhone and iPad sales, Android, the rival platform from Google, is struggling. The latest news is that a gaping security hole leaves nearly all Android users open to attack.

Researchers in Germany have found that most Android phones contain a dangerous security hole that, if exploited, would allow someone to access your accounts for certain Google services.

Elsewhere recently, Nvidia chief Jen-Hsun Huang has called out Google for its less-than-stellar tablet sales.

“It’s a point of sales problem. It’s an expertise at retail problem. It’s a marketing problem to consumers. It is a price point problem,” he said, for starters.

Though Huang didn’t mention the $499 starting price for the iPad, it was clear that this was a reference point. “The baseline configuration included 3G when it shouldn’t have,” he said. “Tablets should have a Wi-Fi configuration and be more affordable. And those are the ones that were selling more rapidly than the 3G and fully configured ones,” he said.

He didn’t stop there. “And it’s a software richness of content problem,” he added, echoing Jha’s comments.

IE9 due March 14

Microsoft will release Internet Explorer 9 on Monday. Says Webmonkey:

In terms of web standards IE9 is light years beyond anything Microsoft has previously released. Granted, Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome are somewhat further along with the more experimental features of HTML5, but given IE’s dominant market share worldwide, IE9 should be a huge boon for HTML5 adoption (provided users upgrade).

By the sounds of it, Microsoft, after 10 years of trying, has finally produced a decent browser. Take a test drive.

 

Hackerspace Phnom Penh

Idle computer hands now have a place to play.

Hackerspace Phnom Penh will officially open in January 2011, giving the Phnom Penh IT community a common space to converge.

Hackerspace philosophy promotes the idea of knowledge sharing in an open, decentralized society. Dozens of Hackerspace groups exists worldwide. Collectively, the goal of the spaces is to provide “a location where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, or digital or electronic art can meet, socialise and/or collaborate,” according to the Hackerspace entry on Wikipedia.

Hackerspace groups support themselves by collecting membership dues. Students in Phnom Penh, for example, pay just $10 per month to receive 24-hour access to the Hackerspace facilities, including high-speed Internet, community workspaces and audio-visual equipment.

“[W]e decided the best way to raise the capital is internally from future members and supporters of Hackerspace Phnom Penh, rather from private companies or organisations,” the founders wrote on the group’s Wiki. “This will ensure the independence of the Hackerspace which everyone at the first meeting thought was very important.”

Visit HackerspacePP.

Email is ‘so lame’

Email, apparently, is now “old school.”

The number of total unique visitors in the United States to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail is now in steady decline, according to the research company comScore. Such visits peaked in November 2009 and have since slid 6 percent; visits among 12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent. (The only big gainer in the category has been Gmail, up 10 percent from a year ago.)

The slide in e-mail does not reflect a drop in digital communication; people have just gravitated to instant messaging, texting and Facebook (four billion messages daily).

That Facebook is the new new should come as no surprise.

Lena Jenny, 17, a high school senior in Cupertino, Calif., said texting was so quick that “I sometimes have an answer before I even shut my phone.” E-mail, she added, is “so lame.”

Facebook is trying to appeal to the Lenas of the world. It is rolling out a revamped messaging service that is intended to feel less like e-mail and more like texting.

The company decided to eliminate the subject line on messages after its research showed that it was most commonly left blank or used for an uninformative “hi” or “yo.”

Facebook also killed the “cc” and “bcc” lines. And hitting the enter key can immediately fire off the message, à la instant messaging, instead of creating a new paragraph. The changes, company executives say, leave behind time-consuming formalities that separate users from what they crave: instant conversation.

Facebook, of course, has a horrifying record regarding security and privacy. The site is literally an Openbook. So what will happen once it owns half a billion people’s private messages? If nothing else, it’s going to be funny.

Robo-journalism: software as sports writer

As some of you may or may not know, I freelance for the Phnom Penh Post sports section on occasion. So this story in today’s New York Times resonates for more reasons than one.

ONLY human writers can distill a heap of sports statistics into a compelling story. Or so we human writers like to think.

StatSheet, a Durham, N.C., company that serves up sports statistics in monster-size portions, thinks otherwise. The company, with nine employees, is working to endow software with the ability to turn game statistics into articles about college basketball games.

Now, no one is yet suggesting that such software-generated stories will begin appearing in your local newspaper anytime soon. The market for this stuff is believed to be smaller universities that want coverage of their sports programs but cannot afford it. So this robo-copy will likely — hopefully — never make it further than the school Web site.

But.

Such efficiency seems part of a larger, worldwide business trend that demands more of everything for a lot less money. In the newspaper model, that often means more wire stories and less editing, among other peculiarities. And automating sports stories — or any stories, for that matter — would certainly dovetail with the greater cost-cutting ideals that currently grip the industry.

Sure, even the best algorithm will never be able to cover breaking news, or write an editorial piece. At best, a computer will just manage to lash together a few statistics into a game brief. Or perhaps stack some economic numbers together for a business wrap. But to a publisher trying to stop the balance-sheet bleeding, that will one day look like column inches on the cheap. And the temptation will likely be far too much to withstand.

Tablets: a brave, flat new world

On the heels of overwhelming iPad success, everyone is now releasing a tablet. Samsung, Dell, Archos and Toshiba have all put products to market, and others will surely follow. Wired Magazine takes a look, but it’s the comments that are most informative (and entertaining).