Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

The Lord of the Rings - on stage

I’ve been to London quite a bit, on various business trips. I visited almost all of the museums, palaces and similar places to see, but never went to a theatre. I passed endless ads for musicals and shows getting on and off the Tube, but never really made up my mind to go. I’m not a theatre fan. What made me finally go was probably the fact that I’m huge Lord of the Rings fan. I have seen the movies probably 30 times each, so you can imagine. :)

Don’t worry, there wan’t be any spoilers in this post

The theathre building. It's larger inside then outside

LotR is put on stage at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, a theatre with a very colorful and rich history spanning 4 centuries. It’s located just off the Covent Garden, on Catherine St. A lovely building and a huge auditorium inside. I purchased my ticket over a phone just 3h prior to 19:30 show. It was a ticket for the balcony. Having been only to Serbian theathres, I would describe this “balcony” more like one story over the roof. The stage is clearly visible and sound and speech are perfectly carried up, but it’s impossible to see the faces. Even with looking glass which cost 50p to pickup and use.

If you go, buy your self a lower seat (30+ pounds).

Dear Apple: please eat your own dog food

Dear Apple,

I really like the stuff you make. Really. I have an iPod, I’m waiting for you to release Leopard so I can buy it with MacBookPro (would be my first Mac…it would be nice if it was a 12-13" size). My next phone will probably an iPhone (I expect that in Europe it will have 3G support). My friends are calling me an Apple defender, Apple fan, part of the cult. You know, the usual.

I also like Mac OS X design. It’s nice, intuitive, beautiful to look at. That is why for instance I use a Thunderbird theme that resembles Tiger Mail. Mail client is an application I use daily and as such it must look good.

Mozilla Thunderbird on Windows running tweaked Tiger Mail theme

I want you to note two distinct stuff on the previous screenshot.

First, If you haven’t recognized it, I’m using Windows XP. You are probably puzzled because you don’t see those ugly, beveled interface that Microsoft ships with it (I even forgot how it’s called). I’m using wonderful System5 visual style.

Second, you can see that my T-bird theme is not identical to what its author created. The scrollbars are not Mac OS X scrollbars, but rather the same scrollbars I see all around my Windows installation.

You see, I spent some time - quite a lot of time actually - to make my OS the way it works for me and provides me with an engaging environment. My OS is now visually great and I hate apps created by people who think that their interface taste is better than mine. That’s a subjective thing, it’s for me to decide what I like.

Which brings me to the point of this letter: please keep Mac OS X interface elements on Mac OS X. Do not bring them to Windows. They look like sh*t there, completely out of place.

Font rendering on Windows and Mac

Introduction of Safari to Windows has rehashed old discussions about which font rendering is better, Windows ClearType way or Mac OS X way. My experience so far tells me that it is largely a matter of habit: each and every Windows user I talked to thinks that Mac font smoothing is “shit”, “unreadable”, “hurts” etc. Mac users use the same adjectives, just vice-versa.

Here’s what some long-time Windows users say…

The always-opinionated Joel Spolsky says this:

Safari even managed to bring the inferior font rendering of the OS X platform to Windows, no easy trick.

On another hand, this post is perfect example of “I fucked up writing on impulse, realized my main argument is mute and then dug my self even deeper trying to cover my mistake with half-ass attempts to irony”. On my office computer (Pentium 4 3GHz, 2GB RAM) 1st time Safari startup took 5s. Joel later wrote a quality post on font rendering, which is usually his norm.

Jeff Atwood obviously agrees with Joel:

I’m curious why Apple’s default font rendering strategies, to my eye – and to the eyes of at least two other people – are visibly inferior to Microsoft’s on typical LCD displays

Jeff also wrote a great article on font smoothing.

Mac users are another story

Jeffrey Zeldman uses examples to drive his point:

It’s worth pointing out that these tests were done on Macintosh computers, which are known for their superior handling of text…

Jon Hicks clearly agrees:

Its wonderful looking at a website on XP, and seeing gorgeous text smoothing.

Truth is somewhere in the middle

Me, as a long time Windows user who have long time ago fallen in love with ClearType but am increasingly using Mac, agree in parts with both.

Non-italic font smoothing is better with ClearType, but is ugly with most sans-serif italics, like Verdana or Tahoma. Mac handles this much better. Here are few examples, made using Firefox 2 and Safari 3 beta, on Windows:

Tahoma rendering in Firefox and Safari

Mac rendering to me looks better. Which is the reason why on this site I use different fonts for italic and non-italic styles.

But, like I said, it’s a matter of habit. I even know few people who disable all font smoothing and use blocky fonts. They are usually non-front-end programmers. ;)

@media 2007

This was my first big conference, thus do not look for comparisons with SxSW and other events. There are probably plenty of people that will do that. I just want to briefly summarize my impressions.

The lovely illustrationOrganization was great. Registration was nicely organized, small queues, with cheerful fellow getting people to the appropriate points. The catering and the food itself - both lunch and cookies - were superb. Really tasty, warm and cute. There were no tables to seat down though, which was not that big of the problems. The floors are clean, thus everyone just sat down and ate their meal.

The sound was perfect (apart from one part of Håkon’s presentation), both from speakers and attendees asking questions using a wireless mic. I don’t believe a better job could have been done there.

Presentations were good and interesting. Most speakers use Macs, thus Keynote ruled here, with Hakon using HTML and Opera’s projection mode - as you would expect from the Opera’s CTO. With english not being my native language, I did not have problems following anything - except Joe Clark’s presentation. He speaks so quickly and seems to use so much references that I had a hard time understanding anything. Add the fact that there were no slides shown - only examples for the topic he covered…well I left before the end.

I also had to miss Mark Boulton’s presentation which I’m really sorry about. However, I had a previously arranged meeting with Sony repair engineer. My laptop’s CPU fan was failing and had to be replaced. I spent 3 days trying to convince Sony phone support that it was not a software problem and thus repair underwent during the conference. We were quite a sight in the hallway - entire laptop in pieces because damn fan is screwed from under the motherboard. It took an hour to get it done and the guy was really quick at that. Piecing all back together went without a hitch, with just a BIOS in/out needed.