Monday, 22 February 2010

How to Make Safari Render Pre-GZipped Web Fonts

After too many sleepless nights, I’ve finally got Safari to render pre-gzipped fonts.

All the fonts in Kernest are pre-compressed on the server (in addition to saving a little bandwidth, it also saves a little disk space and a couple hairs of server performance).

I started with this post by Darren Rush on how to configure Apache to send pre-compressed files, rather than compress on the fly.

While most browsers don’t care if the server does the compressing or if the files are compressed ahead of time. Safari does. Particularly with front-end-oriented files like javascripts, stylesheets, and fonts.

If you take a look, Darren’s code – it ignores Safari (RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !Safari ).

Turns out Safari just dislikes the idea of javascripts, stylesheets, and fonts using the ‘.gz’ extension.


Pre-compress your files – just don’t name them ‘.gz’.

“you CAN’T use the ‘.gz’ extension when serving compressed CSS or JS files to Safari. It knows how to handle gziped files, as long as they don’t have the ‘.gz’ extension (it’s just that weird :)” – sopppas

The convention seems to be ‘.jgz’.

This change is fine – because all reasonable browsers look at the content-type and not the file extension. Unfortunately, the really fast Apache mod_sendfile module doesn’t pass content-type. Now those reasonable browsers now have no idea what they’re getting.

In my testing – the smaller file (~40% savings) and slower serving method is still faster than the larger file size and the faster serving method.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Ban Helvetica: The Brave New World of Web Fonts – MinneWebCon

I just received confirmation that my ‘Ban Helvetica: The Brave New World of Web Fonts’ presentation has been accepted into MinneWebCon on April 12, 2010 at the University of Minnesota.

I’ll be covering; optimizing fonts for web use, browser compatibility, licensing, and answering your questions.

Registration is a very reasonable $200.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Expertise is Declared by Others, Not Yourself

One of the ongoing undercurrents of my thinking is the concept of acknowledged expertise.

A concrete example – we’re the worst people to write our own résumé. Talking with people we’ve worked with is better.

Having others describe us and what we do is far more accurate – if only because there are more of them.

What shows up in my profile today? The request to declare what I think my friends are experts in.


Talent recruiters are about to get pwned.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Big Economy by Any Measure

Too much of the popular economics news paints an economically adversarial picture between the US and other countries of the world.

Aside from the obvious issue that all economies are tied together because economic behavior doesn’t like to be restricted by arbitrary boundaries, the US economy is unbelievably larger than other countries.

3x bigger as measured by stock market capitalizations.


And by some measures, just US Exports are larger than the GDP of some countries.

It’s always nice to reset perspective.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Users are a Side Effect or Why Google’s Web Applications are Free

“I get the feeling that all of Google’s products were invented for Google to help streamline the way it does things.” – yellowbkpk


Just as I wrote about Google’s AppEngine last year, Google’s applications – whether Gmail, Wave, Maps, or the recently announced Buzz – are about reducing costs and streamlining their business.

In the long run – it’s significantly cheaper for Google to build the tools its employees use (especially if the same employees build them) than it is to negotiate licensing or usage feeds to someone else.

This is why the significant majority of Google’s applications are free to us non-Google employees – the cost of opening up their apps to the outside world is so close to zero, they treat it as zero. Google’s development costs were paid by their operating budget.

I feel the same way about all the products I build, Cullect, Kernest, etc – I use them and I’m building the same technology infrastructure whether 1 person uses it or a thousand.

The incremental cost of sharing it with the world at that point is, well, zero.

Importance Persists

I woke up a to an inspiring post from Michael Janssen, one of Cullect’s biggest supporters:

“Still, I hope Cullect can come back in some form in the future, as it was hands down the best reader that I had ever used.”

Wow. That means a great deal to me.

Cullect was originally built during a time of stagnation within feed readers. Since it went down, sites like Facebook and Twitter have increased the number of people comfortable with the noisy-ness of real-time publishing and processing. Simultaneously, the innovation those services once provided has also stagnated. Additionally, many of the services Cullect integrated with are also down for the count.

Though is down – the Cullect engine is still being actively worked on – it’s powering

If you’re wondering – no, I haven’t used another feed reader since Cullect.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Confidence is Relative in Markets

The DJIA’s eratic-ness (regular 100pt fluctuations then flat for weeks) has me looking for another metric of economic confidence, like a stronger US Dollar. (What’s with the Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ following each other in lock step?)

Back in August, Pete suggested the reason the DJIA was climbing was the same reason oil prices were climbing a year earlier – a devalued US Dollar.

Sure enough, as the DJIA ebbed and flowed, the Dollar-to-Euro conversion flowed and ebbed. Today, the DJIA closed just a hair above 10k (yes, I know) and the Dollar is worth 72.9% of a Euro.

I still think there’s some ‘air’ between the Dollar’s value and the stock markets, but I think they’re more in-line with each other. Unfortunately, the weaker Euro in fact means a weaker Euro – not a stronger Dollar. Greece’s, Spain’s, and Portugal’s debt is devaluing the Euro and driving demand for the “world’s reserve currency”.

While I feel badly that a new currency hit a rough patch, the notion that some states’ books severly impact a union’s currency – it feels like another way Europe is becoming more like the US.

A comment from the above link I quite enjoy:

“the US is a leading indicator for the rest of the world. Don’t count your chickens.” – Henrik Mintis

The iPhone, iPad, and the End of QWERTY

“It is just a tragedy that we are taking QWERTY into a new era of devices” – Alec Longstreth in a Wall Street Journal article on this topic.

“The solution was to place commonly used letter-pairs (like ‘th’ or ‘st’) so that their typebars were not neighboring, avoiding jams. While it is often said that QWERTY was designed to “slow down” typists, this is incorrect – it was designed to prevent jams while typing at speed” – Wikipedia

For as long as I can remember, there have been attempts to displace QWERTY as the dominant Latin character keyboard layout – if only because the hardware problem QWERTY solved no longer exists.

Back college, I remember a fellow geek blacking out his keyboard and re-mapping it to Dvorak.

Efforts like the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard or Maltron are designed to increase typing efficiency (minimizing finger movement) by ordering characters based on frequent letter combinations within a specific language. In the case of the Neo layout – German is the target language.

The iPhones’ soft keyboard has quite a few layouts in it; QWERTY, numeric + punctuation, 9 key, URL-optimized, email address-optimized, not to mention all the international options.

While I only have the iPod Touch and it is missing some of the capabilities of the iPhone – I haven’t seen any mechanical typebars that may collide if I type too fast.

I have seen signs of a sophisticated spelling correction engine – which I imagine wouldn’t have to work so hard if the alphabet wasn’t all jumbled up on screen.

The larger format of the forthcoming Apple iPad, JooJoo, and HP Tablet, have the potential to be easier to write on – an write more on than on smaller phones. This with the increasing number of electronic devices with soft keyboards provide an huge opportunity to re-evaluate the usability of our keyboard layouts. Let’s find one that doesn’t apologize for the failings of a 125 year old technology.

Perhaps there’s an app for that?