Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Fonts Not Displaying Properly on Web Pages

I noticed one day that some webpages were a little difficult to read as the (sans-serif) font it used looked borked, for some reason. The first time I noticed this, I viewed the source, but didn't find a font declaration in that page. The most recent time I looked at a sample, I found this
<FONT face="sans-serif,helvetica,arial">
I haven't done much work with CSS, so I wasn't aware that order matters when declaring a font to use with CSS. If the first font in a list exists on your system, it will use that one first.

There are several font declarations in the HTML source, but for the main text, the results are:

It's just strange. Off. It's lacking some sort of smoothness. The vertical alignment of each letter also seems to be slightly different. Kerning is yucky. Though it is a sans serif (screen) font, I just don't find it very readable or pleasing to the eye.

  • sans serif (clean) fonts are intended for reading on screen
  • serif fonts (fonts with little flicks or marks on the corners) are intended for printed text
The paradigm is that legibility is best when fonts are used this way.

What's funny is this situation appeared on a The Linux Documentation Project page. A Linux page viewed in Linux looks funny.

When typing an Openoffice document, all fonts appear, and are as expected (from screenshot:).

...despite sans-serif having no kerning and ugly tracking.

However, bump that font size down from 24pt to 10pt, and Helvetica is ugly! What the hell happened to those e's and a's?

("Font Darwin Award" once again goes to sans-serif, for its display of horrid kerning and tracking. If it wasn't obvious before, it sure is now.)

Theoretically, since sans-serif exists on my system, that should be the one being used in a web page (because it's first in the web page's font list). However, the evidence suggests it's actually using Helvetica. Why is Helvetica on my machine so ugly once it goes below 14pt or 12pt? I don't know. Still investigating. My monitor is a few years old, and my graphics is a good graphics card less than a year old, so I doubt those are the issue. Even so, why is this an issue with Helvetica, but not with the other fonts?

The only solution I can think of so far is to uninstall Helvetica. The print nerd in me really doesn't want to. If you really want to nerd-out, this is a great guide to fonts on Linux.

Please let me know if you figure this one out!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Apple Patents Computer Hardware that Freezes your Computer to Make you Watch Ads

Apple has patented computer hardware that freezes your computer to make you acknowledge an ad. Adware at its most obnoxious (because it wasn't obnoxious enough as is?)

Apple's patent application.
Article in the New York Times.
Covered on Boing Boing.
"Its distinctive feature is a design that doesn’t simply invite a user to pay attention to an ad — it also compels attention. The technology can freeze the device until the user clicks a button or answers a test question to demonstrate that he or she has dutifully noticed the commercial message.Because this technology would be embedded in the innermost core of the device, the ads could appear on the screen at any time, no matter what one is doing."
If you read the patent application, they're talking hardware, not software. Ouch. Basically, your computer or device has this mechanism built into it. (It's harder to remove a car horn built into the car than an air horn that's duct-taped to the side mirror.)

Depending on how it is implemented, it could be a firmware rootkit, or a hardware equivalent of a rootkit.

In any case, thanks in advance to all the white hat crackers.

Or, you know, just don't buy an Apple device that has this.

On another note, it occured to me applying for a patent for something like this guarantees no one else could implement it... or not for long, anyways. If you never plan on implementing it yourself, you could use it as a tool for protecting users. That being said, I doubt that's Apple's intent. I would guess they're keeping the option open until such time as they figure they can get away with using it. So the more you get hooked on Apple...

Maybe the EFF should apply for a whole whack of patents?

Yet another compelling reason for the general public to take an interest in alternative computers and media players.

As Steve Gibson says, "It's MY computer."

Sunday, 9 August 2009

pdflush process isn't what you think it is

Yeah. Please don't try to kill the pdflush process.

Having started as a Windows user, it would really, really irk me that a whole bunch of (unnecessary) processes would be running. I would annihilate them at every opportunity, but at least I'm (usually) smart enough to look up what it is first.

Having moved to linux, there's a whole new ballgame of processes to look up.

Friday, 24 April 2009

How to (Quickly) Check What Version of Ubuntu You Have

Applications --> Accessories --> Terminal. In the box type the following command:-

lsb_release -a

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Share Mouse and Keyboard with Software

Synergy lets you easily share a single mouse and keyboard between multiple computers with different operating systems, each with its own display, without special hardware. It's intended for users with multiple computers on their desk since each system uses its own monitor(s).
I'm currently using a KVM switch (and one monitor), but it's nice to know there is a multi-monitor open software solution out there!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

"Can't install gnome-desktop-environment, gnome-keyring-manager not installable"

My current version of OS is KDE 8.04 with Xfce installed (I actually run Xfce daily). I got the error
"Can't install gnome-desktop-environment, gnome-keyring-manager not installable"
When trying to install the gnome desktop with either the terminal or Synaptic Package Manager.

Some searching led me to advice to type both of these commands in the terminal (don't type the $, and you may have to type "sudo" before the apt part...)
$ apt-cache show gnome|grep Depends|cut -f2- -d:|tr ',' '\n'|cut -f2 -d' '|grep -v gnome-desktop-environment|xargs sudo apt-get install -y

$ apt-cache show gnome-desktop-environment|grep Depends|cut -f2- -d:|tr ',' '\n'|cut -f2 -d' '|grep -v gnome-keyring-manager|xargs sudo apt-get install -y

Found this in a launchpad support forum (bugtracker).

Be warned this may take the better part of an hour to install (the rest of your system should be usable while it installs.)

I ran both of these commands, and yes, it worked. Next time I rebooted, I had the option of a Gnome session, and it seems to be running smoothly so far.

Other links I found had some interesting info, if you want further reading:

Launchpad question

Lock issue I encountered in the meantime (oopsie.) Thought it was a bug until I realized I should listen to actual directions (ARE YOU RUNNING AS ROOT???... i.e. use sudo)

Launchpad bug that actually indicates it's a duplicate of another bug.

Monday, 5 January 2009

The Command Command

man -k list directory
Lists commands and a very brief description of each. Lots of enlightening stuff here.