Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Exljbris is Jos Buivenga's showcase site. I don't know much about Jos. One site has him describe himself as:

"Art-director working at an advertising agency in the Netherlands. He thinks himself not as multi talented, but as multi interested. Jos is also active in writing, painting and... type design."

The site hosts all of his free typefaces...

Delicious: a postmodern, slightly 'squished' (arcane typographic term for 'condensed') sans-serif, with true italics and consistent spacing across all weights. Reminiscent of Gill Sans and Bliss, it is a legible and useful typeface. My only real quibbles are that I'm not fond of the roman lower-case 'a' and 'l'.

Fontin & Fontin Sans: Jos has designed Fontin 'to be used at small sizes. The color is darkish, the spacing loose and the x-height tall'. The numbers have a 'hybrid' design. They carry the characteristics of medieval numbers, but their size is larger than the x-height. Balance-wise, I think it is his most successful typeface. He is busy creating an Opentype version.

Fertigo: I'll damn this one with faint praise, it is pleasant. Even Jos seems to recognise this, his description reads: "The font nobody is really waiting for. The more you get to know it, the more you'll (probably) appreciate it."

Tallys: An 'engraved'-style font, one degree slanted with large caps, a small x-height and long ascenders. Plus 'real' numbers. Just one weight though.

Diavlo: In Jos's words, "Diavlo is organic and a bit square and sharp. Great attention has been given to detail, spacing and kerning. Each weight contains more than 300 glyphs and over 1.300 kerning pairs" Oh, and a bunch of ligatures and symbols. I could see this one being used as a headline font, or maybe on a book or CD cover.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gut feeling?

Slate reports: [edited]

In a conversation with the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff said he thought there was an increased risk of the country coming under terrorist attack this summer — speculation he attributed to "a gut feeling."

President Bush has also been known to turn to his digestive organ for advice: Explaining the Iraq invasion a few years ago, he told Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that he was a "gut player." How much does your gut actually know?

Plenty. In fact, your gut is so packed with neurons that in the 1990s one gastroneurologist, Michael Gershon, dubbed it the "second brain." This enteric nervous system looks a lot like the network of cells that exists in your actual brain, and it uses all the same neurotransmitters (including 95 percent of the body's serotonin).

It can operate on its own — that's without cranial consultation — to start or stop the flow of digestive enzymes, regulate pH levels inside the gut, or expel that week-old sushi that you ate against the better judgment of brain No. 1.

Scientists first caught on to the gut's unique ability to do its own thing around the turn of the last century.

Two British scientists, William Bayliss and Ernest Starling, realized that the muscles of a dog's intestine contract in response to pressure. This reflex continued even after the scientists had severed the nerves connecting the intestine to the brain and spinal cord. Other organs (as well as arms and legs) depend upon the central nervous system for this type of behavior. The gut, it seemed, had a mind of its own.

Although the gut is the only organ able to keep itself pumping, churning, and spewing, its "thinking" capabilities are limited. We know when it's telling us it's full or needs to be emptied. But most of the messages that the gut sends never enter our awareness. Within the relatively new field of gastroneurology, scientists are still trying to decode what those messages are and how they affect us at a subconscious level. Some suspect that our emotions could be influenced by these signals from gut to brain.

What about the sensation of knots in your stomach — isn't that the gut's way of telling you to be wary of something (like a terrorist attack)? No, it's the other way around. If your brain perceives that you might be in mortal danger, it tells your body to start shutting down. Digestion would be a waste of much-needed energy in a life-or-death situation, so the lower portion of the gastrointestinal tract contracts to push everything out.

Friday, July 27, 2007


SeeqPod reports: [edited]

Currently in Beta, SeeqPod's first consumer site empowers users by allowing them to search and discover music and video all over the Web. Our intelligent software robots work with targeted crawling systems to auto-submit content to the site. This, combined with user submissions, results in a large and rich search and discovery index. This process can be viewed in real-time via the PodCrawler.

Born out of UC's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), 'Playable Search' is made possible through biomimetic search & discovery technology, a method that mimics the way the human mind might use context to make and recall associations, an approach which relies on context by finding the hidden relationships in digital content and data.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Fujiflm has joined the 'big zoom' brigade with a camera designed to go head-to-head with the Olympus SP-550UZ and the new Pansaonic FZ18. Sporting an 18x (27-486mm equiv.) zoom, 8MP sensor and - for the first time in a Fujifilm 'bridge' camera - image stabilization (CCD-shift), the new FinePix S8000fd is Fujifilm's most ambitious S series to date.

Other features of note include face detection, 15fps shooting (at reduced resolution) and sensitivity settings of up to ISO 6400 (again, at reduced resolution).

Like most recent FinePix digital cameras the new S8000fd accepts both xD and SD/SDHC media.

Pulling faces

Live Science reports: [edited]

Culture is a huge factor in determining whether we look someone in the eye or the kisser to interpret facial expressions, according to a new study.

For instance, in Japan, people tend to look to the eyes for emotional cues, whereas Americans tend to look to the mouth, says researcher Masaki Yuki, a behavioral scientist at Hokkaido University in Japan.

This could be because the Japanese, when in the presence of others, try to suppress their emotions more than Americans do, he said. In any case, the eyes are more difficult to control than the mouth, he said, so they probably provide better clues about a person's emotional state even if he or she is trying to hide it.

As a child growing up in Japan, Yuki was fascinated by pictures of American celebrities.

"Their smiles looked strange to me," Yuki told LiveScience. "They opened their mouths too widely, and raised the corners of their mouths in an exaggerated way."

Japanese people tend to shy away from overt displays of emotion, and rarely smile or frown with their mouths, Yuki explained, because the Japanese culture tends to emphasize conformity, humbleness and emotional suppression, traits that are thought to promote better relationships.

So when Yuki entered graduate school and began communicating with American scholars over e-mail, he was often confused by their use of emoticons.

"It took some time before I finally understood that they were faces," he wrote in an e-mail. In Japan, emoticons tend to emphasize the eyes, such as the happy face (^_^) and the sad face (;_;). "After seeing the difference between American and Japanese emoticons, it dawned on me that the faces looked exactly like typical American and Japanese smiles," he said.

Intrigued, Yuki decided to study this phenomenon. First, he and his colleagues asked groups of American and Japanese students to rate how happy or sad various computer-generated emoticons seemed to them. As Yuki predicted, the Japanese gave more weight to the emoticons' eyes when gauging emotions, whereas Americans gave more weight to the mouth. For example, the American subjects rated smiling emoticons with sad-looking eyes as happier than the Japanese subjects did.

Then he and his colleagues manipulated photographs of real faces to control the degree to which the eyes and the mouth were happy, sad or neutral. Again, the researchers found that Japanese subjects judged expressions based more on the eyes than the Americans, who looked to the mouth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


There are hundreds of iTunes visualisers available. Magnetosphere is the first one I've seen that beats the 'standard' iTunes Visualiser.

Free, and available for PC and Mac, be prepared to waste a lot of time 'oohing' and 'ahhing' at its luminous and fluid 2-dimensional fireworks show, while trying to work out how much it is interpreting and reacting to the music, and how much you're reading in to the display.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Panasonic DMC-FZ18

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Panasonic has revealed the latest FZ series 'super zoom' model, the eighteen times optical zoom FZ18. This camera mates its eight megapixel CCD to a lens which provides the equivalent of 28 to 504 mm on a 35 mm camera, plus its optical image stabilization.

The FZ18 gets 'Intelligent Auto Mode' and automatic LCD backlight control. The FZ18 is (on paper) a compelling option considering how much glass you'd have to carry around to match it with a digital SLR.

It will be available in September 2007 for around $400.

Neat memory card

RegHardware reports: [edited]

We've seen SD-sized adaptors for Micro SD memory cards, and we've seen SD cards that can morph into USB connectors, but this is the first product we've come across that does both.

Slide off the end of the Peak Micro SD Trio and you've got one of those slim connectors that fit inside a standard USB port. With the cap back in place, the card's ready for any SD slot, or you can pull out the Micro SD card that fits within and use in an appropriately sized reader.

The Trio is available in a choice of 1GB and 2GB, priced at around £11 and £19, respectively.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Harry Potter knock-offs

Mutant Frog has collected a number of Far-eastern 'tributes' to the fast-growing Harry Potter religion. The juxtaposition of imagery is at times hilarious.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rough Guide to the Brain

BBC reports: [edited]

Anatomically speaking, the brain is nothing more than a collection of interconnected nerve cells, a coordinating hub for the body's electrical system. Yet these 100 billion neurones - more than 16 times the human population of the earth - govern everything we do, from breathing to directing how we think and feel.

Despite it being one of the most important organs in our body, few of us know what it does or what it means when it goes wrong.

Dr Sarah Blakemore, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, said that many of her patients, especially those with diseases like Parkinson's where the brain is affected, were keen to learn more about how the brain works. However, little has been written for the lay person, she said.

Now The Rough Guide series, famed for its realistic appraisal of holiday destinations, has published its first medical guide - "The Rough Guide to the Brain".

It charts the evolution of the human brain and how it differs from that of other organisms. And it studies the "unexplained brain", including topics such as how the power of positive thinking can be used to help pain relief.

It tells how hypnosis has been used to 'anaesthetise' patients. One, Italian Pierina Menegazzo, aged 19, had her appendix removed following hypnosis in 1961. The guide also takes a glimpse at the future, pondering whether the brain will evolve further and whether man can ever create an artificial brain.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

An unbiased iPhone review, shock, horror!

Information Week has the most balanced review of the iPhone I've read so far. If you can't be bothered to read all 7 pages, the conclusion is...

"No, the iPhone doesn't make you taller, stronger, better looking, or able to fly. It's not the perfect device for every human being on the planet, nor is it perfect for every situation. In fact, it's not perfect at all.

However, it is the best phone I've used, or even played with, and with the sole exception of Exchange/Domino-style connectivity, it is the best smartphone I've ever used. I've been using it heavily since it came out, and it's done everything it's supposed to do better than anything else I can think of.

It's not the cheapest smartphone I've ever had, but it is, by far, the best value in a smartphone I've ever had, and I'll take value over low price any day. Well worth every penny."

Can't wait for it to be released in the UK.

Friday, July 20, 2007

When seeing's not believing

eChalk hosts a wide range of clever optical illusions that demonstrate how subjective our vision is.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Computers are killing our brains

The Telegraph reports: [edited]

In a society flooded with mobile phones, Blackberry devices and computers of various shapes and sizes, a quarter of all Britons do not know their own landline number while as little as a third can recall more than three birthdays of their immediate family.

The average citizen has to remember five passwords, five pin numbers, two number plates, three security ID numbers and three bank account numbers just to get through day to day life.

However, more than half of the 3000 people surveyed admitted to using the same password across all accounts, leaving them at risk of potentially severe security breaches.

Professor Ian Robertson, a neuropsychology expert based at Trinity College Dublin who carried out the study, said: “People have more to remember these days, and they are relying on technology for their memory.

“But the less you use of your memory, the poorer it becomes. This may be reflected in the survey findings which show that the over 50s who grew up committing more to memory report better performance in many areas than those under 30 who are heavily reliant on technology to act as their day to day aide memoir.”

As many as a third of those surveyed under the age of 30 were unable to recall their home telephone number without resorting to their mobile phones or to notes.

When it came to remembering important dates such as the birthdays of close family relatives, 87 per cent of those over the age of 50 could remember the details, compared with 40 per cent of those under the age of 30.

Men came off worse than women. Only 55 per cent of men could remember their wedding anniversary, compared to 90 per cent of women.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pantone mugs

W2 are offering a selection of attractive mugs in a variety of pantone colours. As presentable as they are, I can't help thinking they missed an opportunity.

At the first design studio I worked at, I would specify my colleagues' coffee and tea strength preferences using Pantone colours. Why not produce a selection with the interior in the desired colour, making things just that bit simpler for the one preparing the beverages? Make mine a 466 skinny latte.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kids of today!

When I was at primary school, projects didn't get much more interesting than growing water cress in damp cotton wool. Things have obviously moved on a little since then.

The Statesman Journal reports: [edited]

If Savannah Brown, Marisa Chen, Cory Francis and Emily Farnell were stuck on a deserted island and thirsty for water, they'd go looking for shells.

The third-graders at Chapman Hill Elementary in West Salem would use the shells to convert salt water into fresh water through a process they devised for a worldwide competition by the do-it-yourself technology magazine Make.

The students' desalination idea won an honorable mention in the magazine's MakeShift Challenge and an invitation for the students to present their science project at the second annual Bay Area Maker Faire 2007 on May 19 and 20 in San Mateo, Calif.

"It's exciting because we worked so hard on the project," Chen, 8, said.

The four students, who call themselves the Chapman Hill Techno Team, will staff a booth about their project at the fair and put on a skit they wrote that explains how their idea works. They'll perform before thousands of people at the science, art and craft fair, which is organized by Make and Craft magazines.

"Tons of people will notice our work and stuff," Francis, 8, said.

The team entered the Make magazine contest in February as part of an after-school science club they formed in the fall. The challenge, issued by the creator of the TV series "MacGyver" Lee Zlotoff, was to come up with a way to produce drinkable water if stranded on a deserted island with few items, including nylon sailcloth, waterproof matches and a Swiss Army knife.

The students, under the direction of second-grade teacher Maureen Foelkl, met two to three times per week after school to work on the project. Through trial and error - and the use of a hot plate and beakers of salt water - the students came up with a plan that would use fire to condense water into a potable form.

On a deserted island, the fire would be made by using driftwood, the students explained. They would use sailcloth to strain salt water into shells and then build a rock structure to hold those shells in place, one on top of the other.

The fire would burn beneath the lowest shell, which would be full of salt water, the students said. The water would condense in a purified form onto a shell above, leaving the salt behind. The fresh water could be collected using another shell.

"We didn't think it would work, but it does!" Francis said.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Arthur and the Invisibles

If there is a name I look for when browsing DVDs, it is Luc Besson. Since first watching 'Subway', I've loved nearly everything he's touched... 'La Femme Nikita', genius, 'Leon', even more geniuser... 'The Fifth Element', the geniusestest!

He also wrote the scripts for the 'Taxi' and 'Transporter' franchises.

Most of his 'non-environmentalist' works are an excellent mixture of action, fun and human interest, usually featuring a beautiful, feisty and headstrong female character.

Besson has also written a number of children's books, including his version of the story of King Arthur, featuring a miniature people called the Minimoys. The first of the series has been turned into a part live-action, part CGI animated film starring Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Madonna, Snoop Dog, Mia Farrow, Robert De Niro and David Bowie. It is directed by Besson.

I watched it with the kidz this weekend, and loved every moment of it. Once again, the key is not that the vehicle is original... it is just that the ride is such fun! All of the voice actors (especially Madonna and David Bowie) are clearly having a great time, and the story is uplifting without being cloying and sentimental.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fabulous Photos

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has published a superb web gallery of nature photography. Well worth a browse.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gene mapping

Wired reports: [edited]

NA passed down through generations of mothers could help answer big questions about the human journey across continents, thanks to a massive new database created by the The Genographic Project.

The project has already yielded some provocative evidence about modern humans' interactions with Neanderthals. The DNA data shows no evidence of mutations known to be common in Neanderthals, which suggests that modern humans - at least those of European descent -- may not have mated with the long-extinct humans.

"We don't see any Neanderthal lineages in the European gene pool," said Spencer Wells, a population geneticist and director of the Genographic Project. "It would be my guess that there was no interbreeding. I can’t imagine that humans and Neanderthals didn't give it a try - maybe they formed infertile offspring. But it's speculative."

The database is the tip of the iceberg for a burgeoning field of science called genetic anthropology, which involves combining DNA data with physical evidence and histories of past civilizations. The database contains more samples than in any previous collection of its kind. As scientists study it further, they expect a detailed history of human migration in Europe will emerge.

Researchers collected mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, from nearly 80,000 people, who received a report on how their ancestors came to live where they live.

The scientists analyzed mutations in the samples, which came mostly from people of European descent who could afford the $100 fee (another somewhat controversial arm of the project is analyzing mtDNA mutations in indigenous people).

IBM and the National Geographic Society launched the $40 million project in 2005. The database will become publicly available Friday, and the researchers published their first results in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

While many scientists believe the new information will be a boon for research, others take issue with the Genographic Project's methods.

The scientists partially analyzed many mutations in nearly 80,000 samples. Instead, said Hans Bandelt of the University of Hamburg, one of the world's foremost mtDNA experts, it would have been more useful to completely sequence a smaller number of samples to get a more complete picture of mutations that have emerged since the Ice Age.

"For the time span of 15,000 to 5,000 years ago, where additional information is badly needed, the genographers can hardly offer anything useful," said Bandelt.

But Stanford University population geneticist Peter Underhill said whole mtDNA-genome sequencing is too expensive. As the project adds information about indigenous people, he added, the database will become even more powerful.

"If you couple their strategy with a breathtaking inventory of DNA samples," Underhill said, "then you've got a powerful, high-definition image of the genetic landscape."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Computer game superstars

BBC reports: [edited]

In some nations gamers are looked down upon, but in South Korea professional gaming, or e-sports, is worth billions of dollars and players are seen as heroes. Around 30,000 fans have turned up [in a stadium used in the 1988 Olympic Games] to see the biggest stars battle it out. The players go head to head in pods at the side of the stage.

Strangely enough they are not taking each other on in the latest title, instead they are playing Starcraft which was launched nine years ago. It is the most popular game in South Korea and the only one with its own professional league.

It might look like any other war game but StarCraft requires a real grasp of strategy where each player must wipe out his opponent. As well as requiring lightning dexterity on the keyboard, players are required to make dozens of tactical decisions every moment.

The players here are seen as sex symbols. At 21, Ma Jae-Yoon is the number one computer games player in the country who has several fan clubs and websites devoted to him.

He says: "I always appreciate the love and support of the fans. Especially in one game I played a couple of weeks ago and one girl was crying because I lost.

"On Saturdays when I go downtown I sometimes get surrounded by fans. I feel so embarrassed. I always try to wear a hat."

There are about 300 professional gamers in South Korea who play for 11 teams which are run by big business conglomerates which pay each of them a salary. They usually play about 13 or 14 hours [per day].

The atmosphere is intense. The only sounds are the patter of fingers on keyboards and that endless typing can take its toll on top players. Ma Jae-Yoon says: "I suffer from light wrist and shoulder pain so I try to go to the gym every day. I try to stretch whenever I have time. My eyesight is getting weak these days."

Ma Jae-Yoon's bedroom is full of presents from adoring female fans, including his dog, Ari. For many of these players, Ari is the only female companionship they allow themselves.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


PC Mag reports: [edited]

Inkless printing company ZINK Imaging completed its purchase of Konica Minolta's manufacturing facility in North Carolina on July 5, enabling ZINK to step-up production of paper for its its Zero-Ink print process.

The special photo paper is comprised of dye crystals that are set in the paper. Before the printing process begins, the dye crystals become clear, making the ZINK paper look like a regular piece of white photo paper, but when run through a ZINK-enabled printer, heat triggers the dye crystals to add color.

This sounds like a cool idea, however I wonder if it is something that not many people need. Screen technologies are getting better and cheaper by the month, many people I know are quite happy looking at their photos on their camera's or mobile phone's screen most of the time. And when a more permanent record is required, even a cheap ink jet printer is capable of producing excellent results.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Planet Earth smaller than we thought

New Scientist reports: [edited]

The world is smaller than we thought – by five millimetres. That is the conclusion of an international project to measure the diameter of the Earth. The last such measurement was made in 2000.

The synthesis of all the data took two years. It was organised by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro

Digital Photography Review has a comprehensive (and positive) review of Fujifilm's latest digital SLR. Some excerpts follow:

The S5 Pro... is a quantum leap forward over the models that preceded it, being based on the highly-regarded Nikon D200.

Being essentially a D200 with a Super CCD sensor and Fuji processor means the S5 Pro enjoys all the benefits of Nikon's superb 'semi pro' body; weather-sealed body with a magnesium alloy chassis, latest generation focus, flash and metering systems, better shutter, better viewfinder and expansive lens compatibility.

The amazing dynamic range and superb skin tones alone are enough reason for wedding and portrait photographers to consider it seriously. But it's not only about dynamic range; Fujifilm really can do colour well, high ISO performance is better than the D200 (though don't expect miracles) and the out of camera JPEGs are probably the best you'll see from any digital SLR at this level.

You have to be prepared to do some work if you shoot at high D-range settings because the output can look flat and dull, but that's simply because these JPEGs give you more headroom to play with levels, curves and color than just about any I've ever seen.

It's not for everyone, but for studio work, portraits and demanding dynamic range work (such as weddings) it fits a sizeable niche perfectly.

The qualities that many users find so attractive in the S5 Pro's output might not all be as immediate, tangible - or quantifiable - as the dynamic range graphs, and you need to be prepared to tailor the settings and put some work into post processing to get the most out of the results, but Fujifilm should be applauded for offering Nikon users a very different approach to image quality.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

London-Leamington-London, 07-07-07

Good Medicine - Levi Weaver
Tearing Up the Oxygen - Maritime
We Are The Warriors - Metalchicks
And She Would Darken the Memory of Youth - The Twilight Sad
Blow Wind Blow - Muddy Waters
Fourth Of July - Dave Alvin
John The Revelator - Blind Willie Johnson
My Son Calls Another Man Daddy - Hank Williams
Parti - Mor Ve Otesi
Heatherwood - Deerhunter
Just Let Me Be - Pilot
Cash - Patti Smith
End Of The Movie - Cake
In the Air Tonight - Holly McNarland
Home Life - John Mayer
Al Capone - Prince Buster
Harajuku Girls - Gwen Stefani
Born Under A Bad Sign - William Bell
Do Me Good - Pilot
Joy Division Oven Gloves - Half Man Half Biscuit
All I Wanna Do - Sheryl Crow
Your Sweet Voice - Matthew Sweet
Smells Like That Wild Thing - RIAA
Saviours Of Jazz Ballet (Fear Me, December) - Mew
How Much I Feel - Ambrosia
Why Can't We Live Together - Kyle Eastwood
Love I Tender - U. Roy
That's Why - Michael McDonald
Knock Knock Who's There - Mary Hopkins
Oh! You Pretty Things - David Bowie
Can't Buy Me Love - The Beatles
Someone To Call My Lover - Janet Jackson
The Charm - Cosmic Rough Riders
Kill All Hippies - Primal Scream
The Girl With The Patent Leather Face - Soft Cell
Turn Off The Light - Nelly Furtado
He'll Have To Go - Ry Cooder
Blue Eyes - Elton John
Tennessee Roads - Melonie Cannon
Lord Protect My Child - Bob Dylan

XBox 360 woes continue

The Register reports: [edited]

Microsoft is taking a $1bn hit to fix Xbox 360s, conceding residual hardware faults in its games console are causing users frustration and an "unacceptable number of repairs."

The software giant is now extending the Xbox 360's current one-year warranty to three years from date of purchase to cover a hardware crash that generates a trio of red warning lights, branded "the red ring of death." Microsoft is also reimbursing customers who've previously paid for repairs.

Additionally, Microsoft admitted the Xbox 360 has failed to hit its planned target of 12 million units sold by the end of June - chief financial office Chris Liddell said 11.6 million devices had sold since the November 2005 launch. The 12 million number had already been cut in January from between 13 million and 15 million.

Microsoft has taken increasing flak on the Xbox 360, not simply because the hardware is copping out at such a high frequency, but also for poor Microsoft customer service.

30 per cent of Xbox 360's are estimated to overheat heat and fail.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Painting with light

Anyone who has ever attempted writing their name in the dark with a sparkler will appreciate the genius of lichtfaktor's flickr collection.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Google's next move?

The Register reports: [edited]

It's only a matter of time before Google unveils a full-fledged online operating system. This week, Microsoft's biggest rival rolled out a new version of Docs & Spreadsheets - its online answer to Word and Excel - adding Windows-like folders, an improved search engine, and an all-around prettier interface.

Previously, Docs & Spreadsheets organized files using a tagging method reminiscent of Gmail, Google's web-based email client. With the addition of folders, the service feels much more like a classic desktop GUI. You can even move documents from folder to folder via drag and drop.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said the company will eventually add a PowerPoint-like presentation builder to its online office suite. Over the past two weeks, the company added a PowerPoint viewer to Gmail and announced the acquisition of Zenter, a startup with an existing online presentation tool.

This story was written and saved on Docs & Spreadsheets. And I didn't miss Microsoft in the slightest.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


kontrapunkt.dk reports: [edited]

On October 22 2004 Kontrapunkt was awarded the Danish Design Prize for best typeface. The awarded typeface is our own corporate typeface.

Design of new typefaces has during the past 20-25 years focused on the development of new serif and sans serif fonts. Both in Denmark and internationally. We have been focusing on the development of a new slab serif in Kontrapunkt.

We believe that this almost forgotten typeface deserves to be reinterpreted in a modern context, and on an equal level with the other, more popular typefaces. The aim has been to develop a distinct font, with regards to both the inidividual character and the overall image as such. The typeface has so far been developed in a light, light italic and bold version.

Please feel free to use the font - just don’t resell it. And please drop us a line if you use the font.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Europe will fund Galileo

New Scientist reports: [edited]

European taxpayers will be footing the bill for the Galileo satellite navigation network.

Europe wants an independent system of global positioning satellites so that it doesn't have to rely on others, such as the American GPS network, or Russia's Glonass and China's nascent Beidou networks, all of which are publicly funded.

To pay for it, the European Commission tried to cajole eight aerospace firms into paying €2 billion towards the €3.2 billion cost - with the promise of rich rewards from satnav receiver licences in return.

However, the eight firms have prevaricated over the investment, fearing Galileo will fall behind as the US and Russian military upgrade their GPS and Glonass systems. So to ensure the project remains on track, the European Union will provide the funding.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Second Life evolves

Information Week reports: [edited]

Virtual worlds are driven by "crazy people" with a shared mystical vision, but - like the PC and Internet revolutions - they'll result in practical benefits for everyone, said PC pioneer Mitch Kapor.

Kapor, who is chairman of Linden Lab, which operates Second Life, said he realized the potential of Second Life at an in-world Suzanne Vega concert last year. Vega performed from a recording studio, and her audience were sitting at personal computers all around the world, and yet the concert brought them all together in the same virtual place.

The realization, he said, was like the drug experiences of the 1960s.

And Kapor is not alone. "A huge number of passionate early adopters had some kind of mystical experience," he said, delivering the keynote address at the Virtual Worlds conference sponsored by IBM and MIT, at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., on Friday. "What's driving virtual worlds is a shared sense, by a few hundred thousand crazy people, that this is important, and they're going to drop everything and go after this," he said.

Virtual worlds, like PCs, are disruptive technology, with unforeseen consequences, Kapor said. They will become mainstream quickly, but - like PCs in the very early years - they're now a very marginal phenomenon, Kapor said.

Like PCs, virtual worlds will enable people to do new things, and will create new economies of winners and losers. But virtual worlds are still in the early adopter stage. The next, larger stage of users - pragmatists looking for a payoff in usefulness - has yet to begin.

"Virtual worlds are now at a tipping point," he said. "There is a critical mass of early adoption."

Virtual worlds are succeeding now, where they've previously failed, because of faster PC hardware, global broadband, and an Internet culture which now accepts an 'ethic of participation' in areas such as open source, free culture, GNU/Linux and Wikipedia, Kapor said.

But virtual worlds have a long way to go until they become mainstream, Kapor said. They need the equivalent of the Web application server - building content in virtual worlds is still equivalent to hand-coding Web pages and code. They need an improved user interface; Second Life is difficult to use. They need to be decentralized, to permit creation of private spaces - the equivalents of intranets and extranets.

Linden Lab is taking steps to decentralize. It open-sourced the client in January, and plans to allow people to put up their own servers and attach them to the main Second Life grid. They're moving to eliminate proprietary protocols. The company is driven to do this by the conviction that its biggest threat is not an existing company, but rather a future virtual world that runs on those principles.