If you’re wondering why the lower line has a load of squigglies when it appears identical to the one above, open the linked PDF and copy some of the text. Looks a bit squiffy, no?
I’m messing with your head here by splitting the encoding of the characters from the appearance of the glyphs, and using the old rot13 cypher to do it. This will really mess up the new MS Office “Edit PDF as text” schtick. Please note I’m doing this for lulz, not to break accessibility; that would be as the kids today say, a dick move.
Since Times is both New and Roman, I thought I’d add some old roman by making a Caesar Cypher version. I don’t think I’ve done this quite right, but it works if you use the following shell command as an encoder:
I like epost. I’d like it even more if they hurried up and processed my direct payment ability — which required a form and a void cheque mailed to an address in Toronto — but it’s a pretty good service. I get my bills, viewable and payable online, on the day of issue. No paper. This is good.
This is good because every single filing container I buy eventually ends up full of (paid) bills and financial administrivia. Less paper = less messy Stewart = happy Stewart. Some messes, like my electronics table, could be classed as glorious, however, and therefore joyous in their creation and use. Not all tidiness is good.
So I got my first Visa bill by e-post. Yay! Reviewed it, paid it. No hassle. But since this a PDF facsimile of my bill, something mighty odd has happened to my address:
It’s a perfect substitution cypher of my name and address. I’ve been out of the prepress industry for long enough not to immediately recognize it as a font encoding error. I’m confused why it might have A, T, E & N, but no M. Odd indeed.
For a reason best known to the Unicode consortium, there is now the symbol U+1F4A9 “Pile of Poo”: 💩. If you happen to create a web page with this delightful character in the title, Firefox does something special:
Yep, that’s a smiley face poo, a bit like Mr Hankey. Oh dear.
Actually, it seems it might be an OS X Emoji thing, because Safari renders it in the title like that, and in the text as (enlarged to show texture):
iOS has it covered too:
Blackberry’s browser just shows a small black square. Android, rather sensibly, shows an empty square. It must be an Apple thing.
I took the glyphs of an overused generic font, and subjected them repeatedly to the modern equivalent of stereotyping: rasterized them, then autotraced the bitmaps. As a side effect, all the character heights were lost, so everything’s the same size.
This is the first one I’ve done that hasn’t needed a printer or scanner. I exported the template to a single image (chargrid.png), then hand-wrote the characters using my graphics tablet on a new transparent layer in Gimp.
File: AtkNoise. Probably best at as a display font.
(The name’s from the process I used to make the font. I masked the font over greyscale noise at fairly low resolution, then applied Atkinson dithering, then fed the result through potrace. I’ve used this technique before.)
because it is my handwriting! Sure, the spacing of the punctuation needs major work, and I could have fiddled with the baseline alignment, but it’s legible, which is more than can usually be said of my own chicken-scratch.
This process is a little fiddly, but all the parts are free, and it uses free software. This all runs from the command line. I wrote and tested this on a Mac (with some packages installed from DarwinPorts), but it should run on Linux. It might need Cygwin under Windows; I don’t know.
Print at least the first page of chargrid.pdf. The second page is guidelines that you can place under the page. This doesn’t work very well if you use thick paper.
Draw your characters in the boxes. Keep well within the lines; there’s nothing clever about how fonttrace.pl splits the page up.
Scan the page, making sure the page is as straight as possible and the scanner glass is spotless. You want to scan in greyscale or black and white.
Crop/rotate/skew the page so the very corners of the character grid table are at the edges of the image, like this: I find it helpful at this stage to clean off any specks/macules. I also scale and threshold the image so I get a very dark image at 300-600dpi.
Save the image as a Portable Bitmap (PBM). It has to be 1-bit black and white. You might want to put a new font in a new folder, as the next stage creates lots of files, and might overwrite your old work.
Run fonttrace.pl like this: fonttrace.pl infile.pbm | sh
If you miss out the call to the shell, it will just print out the commands it would have run to create the character tiles.
This should result in a bunch of files called uniNNNN.png in the current folder, like these:
Fire up FontForge. You’ll want to create a New font. Now File→Import…, and use Image Template as the format. Point it at the first of the image tiles (uni0020.png), and Import.
Select Edit→Select→All, then Element→Autotrace. You’ll see your characters appear in the main window.
And that’s – almost – it. You’ll need to fiddle with (auto)spacing, set up some kerning tables, set the font name (in Element→Font Info … – and you’ll probably want to set the em scale to 1024, as TrueType fonts like powers of two), then File→Generate Fonts. Fontforge will throw you a bunch of warnings and suggestions, and I’d recommend reading the help to find out what they mean.
There are a couple of limitations to the process:
Most of the above process could be written into a FontForge script to make things easier
Only ASCII characters are supported, to keep the number of scanned pages simple. Sorry. I’d really like to support more. You’re free to build on this.
Lastly, a couple of extra files:
CrapHand2.pbm – a sample array drawn by me, gzipped for your inconvenience (and no, I don’t know why WordPress is changing the file extension to ‘pbm_’ either).
chargrid.ods – the OpenOffice spreadsheet used to make chargrid.pdf
But I made these character glyphs in a semi-automatic bitmap converter for tracing in scanned letters into FontForge. It’s currently only a proof of concept, but I want to expand it up to a full ASCII font, at least.
Well, yes, according to YourFonts.com. You write into a special template, scan it, upload it to their website, add your signature and bank details, and you get a TTF of what you wrote. Next time, I’ll be a bit more careful with baseline alignment.
I might mess with the alignment and kerning in FontForge, but otherwise I like it.
So there’s a new report on wind integration in Canada, written by The Conference Board of Canada. People are picking up on it, and even the doughty Refocusquotes “… electricity from onshore wind is uneconomic in comparison with traditional alternatives“. Hmm.
So I read the report, and what do I find in the Preface?
As part of an ongoing initiative to investigate energy policy options and the future of the Canadian energy system, the Canadian Nuclear Association contracted The Conference Board of Canada to conduct a comparative study of various countries’ experiences with supporting and implementing large-scale wind projects.
Every couple of months, the Council of Canadians sends me a large and visually unappealing (1986 called; they want their typewriter font back) mailing, ranting about how those pesky Americans keep stealing our water.
Close reading of the mailing (which is hard, given the woeful typography) shows that the initiatives being railed at are either:
run by Canadian companies, or
are part of legislation voted for by Canadians.
Like most environmental things, Canada has an appalling record of looking after its abundant water. I think we think that the rest of the world thinks better of us than they do, or maybe even frankly cares about Canada.
I’m a bit worried by the CoC’s use of the n-word — nationalist — since it has unpleasant connotations, like the BNP and SNLA. Also, at least half of the mailing could be summed up as The Maude Barlow Fanzine, with only slightly lower production quality than the average zine.
And anyway, pesky Americans haven’t been stealing our water. Catherine hasn’t been sneaking any more out of the house than usual …