Why has it been such a long time since I last wrote a diary entry? I'm
not totally sure. I guess I've just been more inwardly focussed
lately, especially on family issues (drop me an email if you're
curious - I just don't want to write on the family's permanent Google
record). But I've also been a bit of a hermit - I like it when there's
no email or phone calls.
Even so, I have stuff to write about.
I've been trying to build a home sleep study so I can determine which
factors affect the seriousness (I'm especially interested in weight,
even though my BMI is right in the middle of the curve). I'm about
done, but it's taken more time and energy than I counted on.
Basically, the ingredients are:
- A pulse oximeter (available from eBay
for about $200-$300). I have the Ohmeda 3740, which I can recommend
and seems to be very popular for sleep.
- Strain gauge belts for measuring "respiratory effort". I have two
of the Grass
Telefactor 6010, at $60 each.
- A LabJack and
the EI-1040 instrumentation amplifier for getting the signals into the
Basically, you plug the stuff in to the LabJack. The Ohmeda has
outputs in the right voltage range, just use 1/8" mono audio
cords. The strain gauges need to be amplified - I use a gain of 1000
on the EI-1040. Since the impedance of this amplifier is so high,
you'll need some resistors for the input bias current return path.
The Linux driver for the LabJack is still very alpha, so for the time
being I'm just using the Windows stuff. All I need is to log the data,
and the LJlogger makes a very easy-to-use ASCII file (suitable for
I'll probably make a Web page with a more detailed recipe and the
results as I find them.
Really high quality text and font rendering is challenging. It's not
just a question of there being a "right way" to follow; there seem to
be many ways to improve font rendering. Also, what constitutes "good"
text is highly subjective. I personally favor a high fidelity
reproduction of print fonts, even with some loss of contrast, while
others prefer their fonts highly hinted. If you're in the former camp,
OS X pretty much nails it, and if you're in the latter camp,
the RH desktop with Vera fonts and TT hinting enabled.
But the ultimate goal, of course, is to combine fine typography
aesthetics with high contrast rendering. This is a harder problem when
the text metrics have to match the source exactly (as is the case for
PostScript and PDF viewing), but is still challenging even when they
don't. My favorite so far is Adobe Acrobat 5,
but it's still not perfect. The big problem is that spacing errors are
typically in the half-pixel range, which is not really pretty (the
repeated letters emphasize the spacing errors; it's not as easy to see
in body text). Also, in this sample you can see that the 'm' lacks
symmetry, which bothers me.
Other attempts, in my opinion, don't work as well. In particular, the
screenshots I've seen of Longhorn suggest that it'll distort the
stroke weights to integers, but still suffer some loss of contrast
in the case of subpixel positioning. Of course, they've still got some
time to improve it before they ship.
Longhorn may have an even more significant consequence for us: it
promises to support very high resolution displays. So far, there's
been a bit of a catch-22 situation. High resolution displays are
available but expensive, so very few have been shipped, and almost no
software supports them, so there isn't the motivation to figure out
how to manufacture and sell them cheaply. But if Microsoft puts their
weight behind them, it could easily break this cycle.
I haven't seen any of the technology involved, but I'll take a guess.
Since high resolution displays are around 200dpi, it makes sense for
non hires-aware apps that do bitmap drawing to just double the pixels.
In most cases, text should be able to go at full res without any
software changes - the requirements are rather similar to simple
low-res antialiased text.
So this is what I think they'll do. The default graphics context will
be set up to double all coordinates before drawing, and zoom bitmaps
accordingly. Apps that expect to draw to a 96 dpi screen will look
about the same as they do now. Then, there'll be a call to get a
hi-res graphics context if available, with 1:1 pixel drawing, and
correspondingly higher precision for positioning glyphs. It'll be
important to take this path for the Web browser, the word processor,
and graphics software, but for a lot of other stuff it won't be as
The consequences could be dramatic. For one, if Apple isn't working on
something similar, they'll face a mass defection of graphic arts types
to the MS platform - once high res displays are affordable and really
work, people will not want to go back. It'll be like trying to
sell a black-and-white only lineup when the rest of the world is
moving to color.
Second, I'd expect high res displays to come down to commodity
pricing. I'm not an expert on the economics of displays, but I'd
expect that the actual cost of manufacturing a high res LCD isn't
much higher than a low res. I think that's much less true for CRT's,
but they're on their way out anyway.
If the Linux desktop folk have any real vision, they'll start working
on support for high res displays now. A lot of what I'm talking about,
with the 2x coords and bitmap zooming, could be done at the X level so
that legacy apps would work without ridiculous tininess. Then, modern
GUI toolkits could grab the higher resolution context and get crisp,
accurately positioned text. I'm not holding my breath, though.
If high res displays become widespread, then the need for high-tech
font hinting basically goes away, in much the same way that the need
for fancy dithering algorithms went away when video cards went from 8
bits to 24. So, long term, I'm not sure it makes sense to invest a lot
of work into hinting.