Thursday, September 11, 2014

How Far We've Come in 13 Years

It's been 13 years since extremists attacked the USA. 13 years, and the world seems just as dangerous as it was before. The heady days of the Arab Revolution, when waves of democracy and popular rule were sweeping the middle east, are long gone. Egypt is back where is started, Syria never finished falling in the first place, and Libya is in the middle of a new civil war. Not to mention ISIS. Oh and Ebola is slowly decimating Africa, country by country.

But consider this. Osama Bin Laden is dead, along with nearly every senior Al Qaeda commander from the time. The new World Trade Center building is almost complete. Unemployment is getting close to falling under 6%, and the GDP is up. Plus technology marches on. Direct brain to electrical connection, internet so fast you could download the Library of Congress in minutes, fully electric cars which go hundreds of miles between charges, and even reusable rockets which can land vertically, all coming down the pipeline.

The world is in a race. A race between technology and entropy, and I speak of entropy metaphorically. Entropy is the forces of chaos, the forces of destruction. Extremist religion (of all flavors), global climate change, diseases such as Ebola, poverty, and even just the natural slow progression of all governments into totalitarianism.

And it isn't new. History and human civilization are cyclical. The forces of chaos knock everything down, and then we slowly rebuild. We get knocked down, and we rebuild. 1200BC, 500AD, both times civilization collapsed. But each time, we retained more technology than before. The only question that remains is how far we can get before the next collapse. I have high hopes. I look around and see how fast we are progressing, and I think we can beat it. I think that my generation can be the first to permanently colonize something that isn't on Earth. We we can spread out, we can finally break the cycle, and then how far do you think we'll go?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Text in SVG: 3nd Attempt (Size Reduction)

Several days ago I wrote about finally solving the text in SVG problem. The key was to pick an open-source font, obtain the woff and svg font files, convert those files into base64 data streams, and plop the whole thing inside the actual SVG itself. And it works!

Problem is, I overlooked the file size. My original PNG logo file is 20KB. The new SVG is 400KB. That's 2000% increase in size! And completely unacceptable to me. I set out to find ways to decrease the size.

My first find was the tspan element. This is an element, similar to HTML's span, which can be embedded in a text element. Instead of having a new text element for every enlarged letter, I can just wrapper those letters in a tspan element and use CSS to apply the font. This helps in rendering time, but unfortunately doesn't significantly change the file size (409KB to 408KB).

I then tried removing whitespace. It screwed up the file and didn't really save space.

My final idea was to look at the cause of the large size. The current SVG had both an SVG and WOFF font file embedded. Looking at the font size, it turns out that the SVG font files were huge. 120ish KB each, for the two fonts I'm using. And an SVG font is readable if one opens it in a text editor. It's kind of odd to look at, but I found a pattern, and I found saw each letter and typical character. I simply removed all characters that I'm not using for the logo. Doing this for both fonts and reencoding in base64 netted me a huge size reduction. The SVG logo is now down from 408KB to 120KB. That is still far larger than 20KB, but it's a gain I can live with given the sharpness benefits of SVG.

This does mean that if the text ever changes in the logo, I'm going to have to go back to my original font files and add or subtract certain characters. But the text is a company name, meaning it won't change often. I've texted in Chrome and Firefox on Android, along with Chrome, IE11, and Firefox on Windows. Take a look at the 408KG and 120KB versions below:

SVG 408KB:

SVG 120KB:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Text in SVG: 2nd Attempt

Last week I attempted to convert a complex logo involving text into SVG, and failed. This was due to the fact that the logo in question used Palatino Tinotype, which is a font that seems to be completely safe because it's installed on all Windows and OSX machines. However, this is actually not an open source font, and Android phones don't come with it. The logo ended up using the default serif font for Android, which messed up the spacing and looks quite terrible.

Additionally, Chrome on Android doesn't support the CSS selector "first-letter", which I had been using to increase font sizes. I have since been able to address both of these problems. I split the "text" elements so that all first letters of increased size were in their own wrapper, which I applied a class to. Increasing the font size using this class works on all browsers. The font issue was more complex. The owner of the logo declined to pay $165 to buy Palatino Linotype, so I had to find a free alternative. After searching for a while, I came across TeX Gyre Pagella. This is a free font, and it looks extremely similar to Palatino Linotype. And so without further ado, I present the final product along with original PNG for comparison:


Original PNG:


It turns out at at the time I posted this, I was STILL missing something. When SVG files are embedded, they can't have any external dependencies. This includes referencing fonts. I therefore had to convert the fonts to a data URI stream. To be entirely honest I have no idea how it works, except in concept. It takes the entire file, converts it into a special text language, and I insert that text blog into the spot that I'd put the font address. I found a very nice tool, which let me upload the font files.

One issue I now see is that the SVG file is much larger. We are talking 400KB instead of 5 or 10. This somewhat destroys a large advantage of SVG in the first place, which is the smaller file format. However, it retains the perfect sharpness at all sizes, which is worth it. I've edited the file which is previewing above, so it should look great on all devices, finally. If it doesn't on whatever you are viewing it in, please let me know!


Turns out that IE9-11 screws up the SVG if it is resized. This is because IE requires an extra attribute on the SVG element, called "viewbox". Since my SVG width is 1220 and height is 200, I have to add this: viewbox="0 0 1220 200". More information here.