Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Free (as in GNU) Fonts

One of the things you tend not to think about when you read a book is that the font you're looking at? The actual shape of the letters? That's someone's art. And yes, oftentimes, they're copyrighted, and somewhere, someone has paid a license fee for that font. Sure, there are lots of free fonts out there, and a great many of them are wonderful for headlines, titles, etc.

Consider Hancock Park Laser, which was used on the cover of Looking Glass, and Beware that Flying Pen Press art director Laura Givens and I chose for the cover of Irreconcilable Differences. Nice fonts, truly. But you wouldn't want to read the novel set in them.

The interior font of a book has to look good, read easily, not strain your eyes, not readily reshape into other letters, and so forth. It really is a big deal. So it's always interesting to find good, readable fonts for large volumes of text. So I'm pleased to discover that there is a GNU font project out there, and that their fonts are /very/ readable.

See the GNU FreeFont project page. Note that the GNU FreeFont license GPL has an exception in it that allows you to use or embed the free font into your projects without GPL licensing your projects themselves. This is important, as otherwise the GPL license is, as I understand it, fairly toxic for work held under a traditional copyright.

Then you can download the fonts here.

Kudos to the Free UCS Outline Fonts project for these nice fonts. :)


btw: GPL is the GNU General Public License under which a great deal of open source software is licensed. You can read all about it here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

then again...

My previous note was about technology that might obsolete rotary magnetic media.

This wended its way through my RSS feeds this afternoon while I was out: apparently we as a species are still discovering new properties about magnetite that may let magnetic media be magnetized and demagnetized at the nano-scale. Click here for the whole article from the Carnegie Institution for Science, thoughtfully aggregated by Portal to the Universe.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One terrabit per square inch for a billion years

How's this for interesting?

Scientists at Berkeley Lab have created a nanomechanical memory system capable of scaling, in theory to 1tb/square inch, and which will remain stable for a billion years. As I understand it, it consists of an iron particle inside a nanotube, and when you apply a voltage to it, it moves to the other end of the tube. You can probe the state of the particle without disturbing it.

This seems like a great thing, except that I have to wonder if you couldn't erase the data by shaking it, like an etch-a-sketch. Physical stability of the thing wasn't discussed. I'd also be concerned about the level of heat this will produce, especially in high densities. I suppose it wouldn't be any worse than transistors in the same space.

If these things work, scale, aren't as sensitive to motion as it seems like they should be, and are at least competitive on a cost-per-bit basis, (very very big IFs) it seems to me we might finally be looking at the technology that replaces that most ancient of data storage systems, the rotating magnetic media.


P.S. How old is magnetic digital data storage as a technology? According to the wikipedia article, drum memory, precursor to the hard disk we know and love, was invented in 1932. Computers in the 1950s and 1960s used it as RAM. Therein lies a tale.

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