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Comment: Re: I don't follow (Score 2) 331

by dgatwood (#48184459) Attached to: Apple Doesn't Design For Yesterday

It's general knowledge in typography that Helvetica is the most legible typeface.

That's only true at very large sizes—say 5% of your total field of view or larger—and it is IMO highly debatable even at those sizes.

At small sizes, particularly for people whose vision is less than perfect, Helvetica Neue makes Comic Sans look readable by comparison. It's not a question of the screen's resolution; no matter how precisely you render two letters that are separated by a distance that's less than your eye's circle of confusion, you still can't distinguish the strokes from one another.

For example, on my brand new MacBook Pro with retina display, I have no trouble whatsoever reading Courier New at 11 point. It is easily readable, and every letter is visually distinct. Same goes for any number of other fonts, including the venerable Lucida Grande. On that same hardware, my eyes struggle with Helvetica Neue even at 18 point, which means if I want it to be readable, I would get substantially less content on the screen even when comparing it with a fixed-width, serif font!

And the reason for the readability problems are a decided lack of legibility in Helvetica Neue. With Helvetica Neue 12 point, when I look at the word "pill", the "p" touches the "i" until I'm six inches from the screen. And depending on where the letter happens to fall, it may or may not be possible to tell the difference between "pom" (the juice) and "porn" (naughty stuff on the Internet) without getting ridiculously close to the screen. Sometimes the gap is visible, sometimes it isn't. In other words, the tracking is simply way, way, way too tight to qualify as legible. Remember that when designers use Helvetica, they painstakingly tweak the kerning to ensure readability at the target output size. As a general display font without that level of hand-tweaking, Helvetica and Helvetica Neue are crap.

But Helvetica Neue's problem goes way beyond over-tight tracking. The most critical requirement for a font to qualify as "legible" is that you must be able to distinguish letters from one another. Helvetica Neue fails miserably at this, though not quite as badly as Helvetica or Arial.

For example, look at a lowercase "L" and a lowercase "i" in almost any font, and you'll see that they are decidedly different heights. This is deliberate; it makes it possible to tell the difference between a pillow and a plllow, (which I believe is Ancient Egyption for an unreadable typeface, but I could be wrong).

Not in Helvetica Neue. They're the exact same height. This makes it excessively hard to read text that combines those two letters, particularly at small point sizes where the gap in the lowercase "I" is often hard to see.

And speaking of "I", is that a capital "i" or a lowercase "L"? If you're reading this in Slashdot's default font (Arial) or in Helvetica or Helvetica Neue, you probably can't be certain, because the two letters are nearly indistinguishable. So when I say I'm "Ill", do I mean that I'm sick, or that I'm three years old in Roman numerals? At 13 point, even on a Retina display, a capital "i" and a lowercase "L" can look literally identical, depending on where the letters happen to fall and how font smoothing interacts with them. And that's even with getting my corrected-to-20/20-vision eyes as close as a couple of inches from the screen.

Legible, my ass.

Comment: Re:One crap audio brand battling with another (Score 1) 303

True. On the other hand, we also go to a lot of trouble to make sure it doesn't sound like crap on systems that aren't flat, because we know that some people will listen that way. I've spent many hours doing critical listening in my car, through iPod headphones, etc.

IMO, as long as a system has reasonably smooth response, even if it isn't flat, it sounds acceptable. Where you get into trouble is when your speakers are too small, and in a misguided effort to boost the bass response, the hardware engineers put a huge bump in the lower mids, making everything sound... I guess floppy is the best word I can think of to describe that mess. But as long as your speakers are big enough to produce real bass response down to at least 30 Hz at the typical listening distance (bass tends to fall off faster than treble with distance, so listening difference is critical), flat isn't necessarily that important.

Comment: Re:Clueless (Score 1) 303

AKG's I can't speak for, but having used noise cancelling headphones I won't settle for ordinary ones. It doesn't matter how good the speaker in the earpiece is, if its competing with noise from outside, its not a clean sound.

For casual listening, yeah. For serious external noise, though, noise isolation is a lot better than noise cancellation. I have a pair that lets me play back existing tracks at a manageable level while beating the ever-living crap out of a drum kit. Now that is clean sound.

Comment: Re:One crap audio brand battling with another (Score 5, Insightful) 303

I always find it amazing that audiophiles want 'flat'...this is nice is you want to listen to 'audio' as opposed to music. Unless I'm doing sound design work where the stuff is intended to be in a variety of types and styles of music (i.e., owned a company that use to provide instrument samples / libraries for synth companies), I'm not going to want to listen to anything flat.

Audiophiles—at least the ones who competently seek ways to improve quality, as opposed to the pseudoaudiophiles that spend $200 on a power cord—often listen to a wide range of music. For us, flat is a virtue, because any accentuation of frequency ranges that makes one style of music sound better invariably makes another style of music sound worse.

Comment: Re: are the debian support forums down? (Score 1) 272

by Lodragandraoidh (#48178859) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Stop PulseAudio From Changing Sound Settings?

But, why can't I just rip out systemd? Oh - because so many service projects/distros are only supporting systemd today that you have to have it around if anything you download in the distro happens to use the API of the non-POSIX POS that is systemd.

systemd core files are not written to disk as files - they are written to the binary log file - you have to extract the data first to run debug.

systemd log files are binary; you can't run grep or other text parsing tools against it for automation - unless you extract the data first.

systemd encourages abandonment of POSIX compliance - which is a key component of the interoperability between various flavors of Unix and Linux (I loved being able to write a shell script on a Unix machine, and copy it over to a Linux machine with little to no modification). Dennis Ritchie must be spinning in his grave right now at this bastardization of his brain child.

The only way to avoid this is to roll your own distro - or support distros that stay clear of it (I was shocked to hear even Slackware was considering support for systemd - given that it has always been as close to SystemV Unix-like that you could get in the Linux world. Thankfully - so far they have not succumbed.)

For people who run desktop machines for their own use - running applications in user space for the most part - systemd may be fine. For those of us running servers, with many man hours of system administrative automation in place - this spells catastrophe in the form of forced obsolescence of our custom code and automation.

As I read in one article - if systemd is allowed to prevail, then we can all kiss the days of an administrator controlling his system his own way goodbye. It will split the work of people who do development - and at some point they will not be able to continue; one case in point:

From that article:

Last week I asked the SDDM developers to reconsider their decision no longer to support ConsoleKit because Slackware does not have systemd or logind and thus we need to keep using ConsoleKit. The answer could be expected: “answer is no because ConsoleKit is deprecated and is not maintained anymore” and therefore I had to patch it in myself. Of course, the ConsoleKit successor systemd-logind, written by the same team that gave us all the *Kit crap, depends on PAM which we also do not have in Slackware. One of the fellow core developers in Slackware, who is intimately familiar with the KDE developers community, has heard from multiple sources that KDE is moving towards a hard dependency on systemd (probably because they are going to need the functionality of systemd-logind). We all know what that means, folks! It will be the day that I must stop delivering you new KDE package releases for Slackware. That’ll be the day.

So this turn of events might be nice for some script kiddie sitting in his mother's basement....but for the rest of us who have to get work done with and through Linux - this is a royal pain in the arse.

Comment: Re:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 5, Interesting) 244

by dgatwood (#48178235) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

It isn't the idea that is bad; it is the implementation. One device with two distinct interfaces is a recipe for epic failure. But a single, unified interface that can take input in more than one way is useful, assuming you can get developers to adopt it. Mind you, it isn't a game-changer, and it isn't something that would be useful for every app, which makes it a hard sell, but that doesn't mean the concept lacks merit.

For example, if I had a full-scale laptop with a touchscreen:

  • In audio editing apps, I could just reach up and nudge three or four sliders at once, rather than click each of them one at a time. When I need to mute every channel but one, I could reach up and drag across the buttons. And so on. Because mixing isn't something that most people do frequently, you wouldn't have the "gorilla arm" problem. With that said, if you do find yourself doing a lot of mixing, you could always spin the screen around and use it as a tablet, all without interrupting what you're doing, changing apps, moving the content from one device to another, etc.
  • In photo editing apps, you could swing the screen around flat, then treat it as a pressure-sensitive art tablet (using either finger press spread or a stylus to detect pressure). Then you could switch back to the normal mode to work with type layers, adjust layer effects, etc.

An iPad can theoretically do both of those things, but lacks the CPU power, storage capacity, and pointing precision to do aspects of either task well. And although you can buy physical control surfaces and digitizer tablets or use an iPad as a controller in conjunction with your laptop, that's nowhere near as convenient as having it all in a single package, and being able to just reach up and interact by touch occasionally.

Comment: Re:(not)perplexingly (Score 1) 96

by Alsee (#48177909) Attached to: Python-LMDB In a High-Performance Environment

You mixed up the policies. No Original Research is unrelated to why Bjork's Academy Awards dress has it's own Wikipedia article. No Original Research is why the article doesn't contain any new ideas or opinions by the article-writers themselves. The article accurately describes what The World has to say about the dress. The article has 13 sources cited 18 times providing external documentation for almost every sentence in the article.

The policy you wanted was "Wikipedia editors aren't allowed to decide how 'important' a topic is... Wikipedia Notability means that multiple independent Reliable Sources have published significant discussion of the subject." The World decides what is and isn't Notable, not me. As a Wikipedia editor I'm not allowed the opinion that it's embarrassment to humanity that Academy-Awards-Dresses are considered newsworthy. (I can have the opinion, but I can't delete the article based on my opinion.)

The sources include:,, Filmology: A Movie-a-Day Guide to the Movies You Need to Know ISBN 978-1-4405-0753-3, All about Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards ISBN 978-0-8264-1452-6, Vanity Fair magazine, Spin magazine, New York magazine, Reel Winners: Movie Award Trivia ISBN 978-1-55002-574-3, BjÃrk: wow and flutter ISBN 978-1-55022-556-3, The Advocate magazine, And there is no doubt that there are countless other uncited sources that exist. The World has clearly decided that this topic is worthy of significant published coverage.

By the way, this particular article has been getting around 55 pageviews a day. That's a lot higher than many of our more serious minor topics. Apparently there are a fair number of people coming to Wikipedia searching for this article.


Comment: Re:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 3, Interesting) 244

by dgatwood (#48177433) Attached to: Apple's Next Hit Could Be a Microsoft Surface Pro Clone

Correct. With that said, although it is derived from OS X, there are some key differences that make it less than ideal for use in a laptop-like environment. In particular, pointing devices become a problem, in part because iOS doesn't really support them, and in part because apps aren't designed in ways that would work well with mice even if it did.

IMO, any usable hybrid device would really need to run the full OS X stack when in laptop mode, with UIKit running in a full-screen Simulator window when used as a tablet. Otherwise, it's just an iPad with an attached keyboard, which isn't really any more interesting than an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard.

Comment: Re:I still don't see what's wrong with X (Score 1) 200

by JesseMcDonald (#48176773) Attached to: Lead Mir Developer: 'Mir More Relevant Than Wayland In Two Years'

Except that's pretty much what all AJAX web apps do, they "export the UI through some generic mechanism" to the browser so I'd say it's very common.

No, I'd say that's closer to what I was describing. The UI is a separate component which is hosted on the server but runs entirely in the browser, on the client side. The UI makes remote API calls at the UI/backend interface level back to retrieve data or perform actions. With the more modern web applications, interaction with UI elements results in running local Javascript code in the browser rather than communicating low-level UI events like button pushes back to the server.

Comment: yeah, going with not creepy. (Score 2) 124

I actually like the idea - having been on an overnight flight landing on 9/11, I remember quite a few online contacts wanting to check I was OK. Of course, with Facebook a simple status update would have done the trick, no need for any special tool - and if I'd been offline, a friend could probably have posted that on my page on my behalf. (The gap between "can phone a friend" and "can get online" is pretty slim these days, too: much more so now than it was then.)

"The only way for a reporter to look at a politician is down." -- H.L. Mencken