A wordpress update barfed all over my customisations, which I thankfully have a backup of (a.k.a. “I don’t know how to configure debian”). so I’m keeping the new blog on the default template and opening up for now.

New address is at http://writoscope.me/ (or http://writoscope.me/category/taipu/ if you don’t want to read all the other non-typography stuff). No new posts will appear on this blog.


I have copied my subtitle typesetting (and Path’s editing) posts to ZUM, and will be deleting them from this blog. The other posts will be slowly migrated to another blog, which I am setting up as a personal writing space. That doesn’t mean I’ll be whining more about my life, it just means I’ll be writing on a few more topics, and not just typesetting. I’ll post the URL once it’s not too ugly to be looked at.

In Libre Graphics Magazine issue 1.3 (free download on website), Eric Schrijver writes in “The voice of the shell—in collaboration with my computer”:

The command-line […] is another way of accessing and manipulating the data on your computer. The query-response format is wonderful. I amaze students with the whoami command—the computer knows the answer! This gives the impression, to some, that it is possible, through the console, to have a conversation with the computer.

I’m not sure the Turing Test of the future is going to be CLI-based, but I put that distraction aside and read on.

I do often feel like I am talking to the computer. But when the computer talks back to me, from time to time the voice of the computer gives way to the voice of the programmer; or at least, to my image of this programmer.

He gives two examples. 7zip announces its version number, some task parameters, a list of files extracted, and ends with “Everything is Ok”. Eric imagines this programmer as a “pretty, dark-haired boy […] shy and his eyes, hiding already behind large glasses, avoid your gaze.” Meanwhile, when in response to your “RCPT:” Telnet says “Error: I can break rules, too. Goodbye.”, Eric pictures “crouched behind his computer, staring intently at the screen, a system administrator, overweight and with unkempt hair, staring maniacally at the screen, laughing out loud about this error message that is going to upset the people using his code.”

Having used the CLI for some time, I know where he’s coming from. This “voice of the programmer” makes itself felt in many CLI-based projects, especially one-man projects. And stories abound about the personality of programmers manifesting themselves right in the code they write, especially in code comments. But that’s my concern here.

There is much code we interact with, particularly on the web. And not only programmers, but web designers and copywriters (whether one entity or in separate roles), leave just as much influence on the “voice of the programmer.” Perhaps we should start calling it “voice of the web” instead.

When Google Drive tells me “the last edit was made 2 hours ago by username”, I imagine a receptionist, cool gaze on her company-issued TN monitor,  tapping on the keyboard, then looking up with a standard worded response to my query. Full, grammatical sentences. I nod in appreciation.

When Dropbox says “Restored recently_deleted_file.ext”, a busier receptionist, possibly wearing glasses, black hair tied back into a ponytail is juggling a phone call, scribbling down notes from it while whispering “can I help you?” in my direction. Fast and efficient on the keyboard, she turns to face me again a few seconds later. “Your security card. First door on left.” Busy, efficient, with a certain curtness that Singaporeans would be familiar with. I’m not one to be displeased by fast service. (You may prefer the image of a well-dressed, sweatered fellow, lips straight, movements sharp. It’s your imagination.)

When Trello says nothing at all, giving only visual cues, I peer over the counter at a freckled face inches away from the screen, and gingerly pass him/her (it’s hard to tell) my letter of request. He/she looks back up at me, nods and points to the door. No words are necessary; gestural communication alone suffices for the directions I need. I smile in thanks and head off on my way.

That’s what a modern sans-serif does for you; the impression of contemporary cleanliness and professionalism, and ready service. In contrast, Readability asks you, “Are you sure you want to remove this article? Delete It or Cancel.” Alfred the butler right there, classic but not out of place, all serifed up Minion Pro.

Feedly’s “Refreshing, please wait …”, Mibbit’s amusing parodies of customer service lines, various other web service status messages … they form the voice of our various web servants. The impressions I’ve described above are subjective and solely my own, but for designers and copywriters I think it’s always worth the time and effort to think about how design and typesetting convey a message just as much as gesture and body language does. We are responsible for the subtler nuances of our own real-world experiences, just as much as for our online interactions.

On a related note, there are the unexpected coincidences that leave us conflicted. Screenshots of Despair has a few. Computers, with their scripted responses, are still capable of human-machine faux pas!

This post has been sitting in my WP Dashboard for almost a month now. Despite a dead graphics card and all sorts of WordPress brokenness in Google Chrome, here it finally is.


Eve no Jikan opens with a terse description of its futuristic scene of conflict:

In the future, probably Japan. / “Robots” have seen practical use for some time. / This is an era just after the widespread deployment of “Androids.”

Shortly after the title scene, the movie reveals itself to be an unabashed movie of the late 20th, early 21st century. Televisions still have their screens measured in vertical lines of resolution, the metric prefixed-byte remains a common unit of data storage, and Scandisk is still being used for filesystem maintenance. William Gibson, interviewed about the genre he writes, says “novels set in imaginary futures are necessarily about the moment in which they are written”. Eve certainly plays to the tune of this sentiment.

“What do you want of me, Blade Runner?”

“I am an android, not a human.”

“I am an android, not a human.”

Eve also pays its tributes to sci-fi movies that laid the road for it. Early in Act 2, Setoro chides “Blade Runner” (Masaki) for doing such a poor job of shadowing him. But this is no Blade Runner; the androids here aren’t pretending to be human; they have no need for disguise. While they may wear human skin, they are quite different functionally, and well aware of this even without the humans rubbing their noses in it. Nowhere is this clearer than at the end of Act 1, when Sammy, accused by Rikuo of “trying to be human”, points it out to him clearly: “I am an android, not a human.”

In this café, there is to be no discrimination between humans and robots.

So what exactly is up when we are first introduced to Café Time of Eve? Continue reading ‘A.I. in Eve no Jikan’

A little discussion about the beaten-to-death topic of ebooks vs. paper books reminded me that I once wanted to do comparisons of EPUB rendering in various reader software. Now that the Fate/Zero project is complete, I have finally gotten round to doing it.

A note for readers: Here I focus entirely on rendering accuracy. The EPUB2 specification does have requirements for CSS support, and in this geek’s opinion any self-respecting EPUB reader should at least have some form of CSS support (even if not all features of it as required by the EPUB2 spec are included). Those looking for comparisons of filetype support and ability to render non-compliant EPUB files will have to turn elsewhere.

The test file used here is Fate/Zero Volume 1, downloadable here. It is validated to be error-free under epubcheck 1.2. The following CSS features are employed in this test EPUB file:

  • @font-face embedding support (truetype format)
  • float divs (for sidenotes)
  • font-variant: small caps (for sidenotes, chapter leaders)
  • CSS selectors: :first-child pseudo-class (for unindented first paragraphs)
  • CSS3 hyphenation – experimental, using hyphens & hyphenate-resource (body text)

Continue reading ‘The state of EPUB rendering: A comparison’

For many like me, born in later times, typography and type design has largely been of a two-dimensional nature. The books we read are printed with offset lithography, our documents are printed by toner-based laserjet printers, and the articles we read online are displayed through condensed little points of light.

The process of how these letters are made, formed by hand, has largely been lost on my generation, and that is why P22’s Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century is such a valuable documentary. The art of letter-crafting is carefully captured by Richard Kegler as he follows the late Jim Rimmer (1934 – 2010) through his process of design, transfer, and cutting of a new typeface, Stern, which has been released in metal and digital form simultaneously.

The process of pantographic typemaking is fascinating to watch, as Rimmer’s hands craft the letters, digitise them, cut them into blanks, and eventually shape the metal punches that will produce the letters on paper. The trained movements of his hands produce the shapes and intermediate objects involved in pantographic typemaking in very tangible form; one sees at a glance how the process of his arm movement creates the letter ‘k’, cuts its sillhouette out, transfers it to a metal blank pantographically, and cuts its three-dimensional profile into brass. For us, whose physical intuition of type largely amounts to “Press the ‘k’ key, and the letter ‘k’ appears on screen”, Kegler’s documentative piece is a solid reminder that type is shaped by human hands, and not merely digital forms given shape by digital processes.

The commemorative print of Stern, shown near the end of the film, is breathtaking:

The dark imprint Rimmer’s effort leaves on paper is the final result, but the processes that produce it are the source of its richness.

Poke me on Rizon (#ZUM) for a longer preview.

At Path’s behest:


And if you think some of the obsession is going overboard … well, why’re you here anyway?