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Comment: Re: I don't follow (Score 2) 358

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) 312

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) 312

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) 312

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:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 5, Interesting) 247

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:It's the OS, Stupid (Score 3, Interesting) 247

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:Ebola vs HIV (Score 1) 381

by dgatwood (#48174987) Attached to: How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

HIV is not present in tears, sweat, saliva, or mucus. As I understand it, Ebola, by contrast, can be spread through all those fluids, though it is much less likely to spread that way than through other fluids.

So no, they aren't strictly spread through the same pathways. Ebola is quite a bit easier to catch than HIV. The saving grace is fact that with Ebola you're obviously sick by the time you're significantly contagious.

Comment: Re:That works fine if you manage to nip it in the (Score 1) 381

by dgatwood (#48174939) Attached to: How Nigeria Stopped Ebola

Depends on how serious you are about containing it. If you consider Nigeria's response to be overkill, then you're correct. If you consider it to be a reasonable response, then I think you're drastically underestimating how badly contract tracing scales beyond a tiny number of people.

The Nigerians' response involved 18,500 in-person visits to handle the fanout from a single patient. Based on that standard, if you ended up somehow with ten patients, in the worst case, you may be talking about visiting every man, woman, and child in an average American city. At just a thousand patients, it means an in-person visit to nearly everyone in the state of Texas. If, God forbid, we end up with as many cases in the U.S. as they have had in Africa, in the worst case, a similar response level would require an in-person visit to almost half of the people in the United States! To describe that as infeasible is a gross understatement. Admittedly, people in the U.S. are more likely to be reachable through non-in-person means, and contacts are likely to have some overlap, both of which make it slightly less infeasible, but an 18,500:1 fanout still qualifies as nuts even in the best-case scenario.

Worse, there's no guarantee that the Nigerian approach will be nearly as effective here in the U.S., because conditions are so different. In Nigeria, most people (statistically) do not own cars. Contrast that with Texas, where in some parts, the average person has three of them gathering rust on the front lawn alone. :-D The more mobile the population, the harder it becomes to contain an outbreak through contact tracing.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 830

by dgatwood (#48174801) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Agreed, but if you're going to make it as low as $100k, it needs to be adjusted based on the local cost of living at the more expensive of your home address or your work address. If you don't adjust for that, your tax rate will bend over a barrel people who qualify as lower middle class in some areas, while failing to adequately tax the ultra-rich in other areas. I'll demonstrate the problem by example:

  • In Martin, TN, the median income is $38k, so if I were guessing, $100k per year would probably put you in the top 1–2%.
  • In Cupertino, CA, the median income is almost $130k, so $100k would probably put you in the bottom third, give or take.

Because of those differences, the cost of living in Cupertino is much, much higher. The cost of rental housing in Cupertino is more expensive by a factor of three or four. The cost of home purchases is more expensive by a factor of... probably twenty or so. The cost of gasoline ranges from 50 cents to a buck per gallon higher. Even food is more expensive, though not quite as extremely so.

Basically, when expressed through multiplication, the difference in median income between large cities in California and rural towns in the southern U.S. is greater than the difference in median income levels between the southern U.S. and China. Income-wise, we are not really one country in any meaningful sense of the word, and any sane tax scheme must take those differences into consideration.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 830

by dgatwood (#48174745) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

It's also a fatally flawed concept in that there's no feasible way to avoid the taxation up front; you'll get it back later. This leads to inevitable binge spending on things that people don't need, rather than encouraging saving by doling the excess funds out a little bit at a time. (At least the Fair Tax does it monthly; some schemes go yearly, and that's just a disaster and a half.)

By contrast, with income tax, people making below a certain level avoid paying it up front (at least if they fill out their exemption forms correctly), which means they see more money in every paycheck, and it doesn't look like an extra check that they can spend, so psychologically, they're more likely to save it.

Also, the entire concept is flawed, because it operates under the mistaken assumption that the rich spend proportionally to the poor. The reality is that after someone's basic needs are met, most people don't spend that much of their income. People always imagine that rich people are constantly spending money on fancy boats, big houses, expensive cars, etc., but the reality is that they didn't become rich by spending their money. They became rich by saving it and investing it.

So any scheme that eliminates all taxes on stocks—where the rich spend the vast majority of their money—is basically a giant windfall to the wealthy. In effect, such a scheme would rapidly eliminate the middle class; anyone rich enough to spend most of their income on investments would get richer, and anyone below that magic fuzzy line would quickly become buried under the excessive sales tax rate and would join the ranks of the working poor.

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