»  Disempowering the user.

I think what really happened was that in the early days of personal computing, decisions were made to give the user an enormous amount of freedom, to communicate without barriers and to share files. And consumers started to use those to, you know, trade information, outside of the boundaries of the law. Since about 2007 or 2008 though we’ve seen a complete shift in this paradigm. Since that time the technologists and the rights holders have really been working together to disempower the user and to turn them more into a customer. So the goal is no longer to empower the computing user, it’s to extract value from them. And I think if you look at your smartphone you’ll see that: it’s a lot more closed than a PC used to be. You almost always have to go through a corporate intermediary. And that was not the case in the early days of computing. There was a period there where the average user had an extraordinary amount of power to do, basically, what they saw fit.

This is a quote by Stephen Witt, author of ‘How Music Got Free’, as mentioned in The Pop Star and the Prophet (around the 20 minute mark), a BBC podcast published back in September — if you’re a music lover in addition to a technology enthusiast, you should listen to the podcast and, perhaps, read the book.

And while his book is probably only tangentially interesting to anyone interested in the history of technology, but without an interest in music, the quote couldn’t possibly be more accurate or well-put.

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» Ten Dollar Fonts.

Some weird, some cool, only three seem to contain Hellenic glyphs (and two of those only seem to have uppercase glyphs). The lack of good, free (or affordable) hellenic typefaces is extremely disappointing.

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» Goodbye Dave.

I don’t know why, it could be the cold weather or just coincidental, but December is fast becoming the month so many good Jazz and Blues musicians of ol’ pass away. Oscar Peterson, for example, in 2007. Or James Brown a year earlier. This time it’s Dave Brubeck. ‘Take Five’ is the piece most identify him with, and ‘popular’ doesn’t even begin to describe its appeal and success — recognizable by so many generations in the fifty one or so years of its existence. Yet his work goes well beyond than this single track that everyone feels so familiar with. After all, who, in their right mind, could possibly forget ‘It’s a Raggy Waltz’, ‘Blue Rondo A La Turk’ or ‘Take The A Train’. Dave was undoubtedly one of the great pioneers of his time.

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2012.09.26

Mango / Tears of Steel

Tears of Steel is the fourth film (and the first live-action short) by the blender foundation and a giant leap forward for the community and the software. It is a sci-fi film that showcases recent work on blender, including Compositing, the Cycles render engine and many of the features introduced in the blender 2.6x series, like BMesh.

Like most blender foundation films, this one suffers from the the usual suspects: bad audio, bad accents and now, for the first time, they are complemented by pretty bad acting (the guy with the monocle is borderline unbearable) and a somewhat frustrating script; surprisingly I found the music to be more than decent; yet the true value of this film is the amazing work on blender and the impressive gfx and cgi the artists created for it. If anything, leaving æsthetics aside, Tears of Steel successfully showcases how far blender has come and will hopefully spur more people to contribute and use this amazing piece of open source software.

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2012.07.07

Cube – Cube (2012)

Cube - Cube (2012) album coverI don’t often write about Greek bands and for good reason. If there is one thing one can write about the rock underground in Greece is that it is unpredictable. Its rare highs exceptional, its frequent lows painful and the uncertainty surrounding the future of a band, person or even a release a dire constant, in this country devoid of the necessary cultural and economic foundations to support musicians (and, arguably, artists in general), unless they fall in that sonically and æsthetically narrow slice that spans everything between contemporary greek-kitsch and the multitude of offsprings of the archetypal oriental-meets-byzantine ‘folk’.

In the past decade I’ve followed, albeit from a certain safe distance, this hellenic rock underground; defiant, full of energy and with the appearance of Spinalonga Records in 2005 and several other projects like it in the years that followed — some not-for-profit, others commercial — organised, promoted, somewhat more efficient that what you’d expect from any ‘underground’ music scene.

Even in the rose-tinted 2000s, few bands ever managed to survive the Greek cultural decay (one that preceded the economic and political decay we live in), few artists went on to bigger and greater things and the good (and few amazing!) releases that came out were often followed by the harrowing silence of a breakup, leaving the audience stymied and disappointed. Cube, while never in the spotlight, at times verging on the border of dissolution, have maintained a constant understated presence that transcended the changing landscapes of its members and tastes.

Yet despite their perseverance, there was little on the record about their contribution to rock. Apart from a few bootlegs and ‘fan’ videos of live performances online, the last thing reminding the world of Cube was their 2002 EP, a release not representative of their evolving æsthetic, skill, maturity or, for that matter, lineup and a few tracks in diy, limited release, such as Spinalonga’s own ‘In the Junkyard’ among others.

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» Ubuntu Mono — The Gamma Travesty

In one of the latest commits, Ubuntu Mono, the monospace variant of the Ubuntu font that has recently been included in the distribution, was added to the repositories.

Ubuntu Mono is a relatively nice looking monospace font that borrows quite a lot from Consolas, but adds its own distinctive touches that make it fit better with the Ubuntu font family. I have been a member of the beta testing group and have seen it for a while now, but I never quite found the time to properly look into it.

Capital Gamma in Ubuntu MonoSadly, while the roman script looks great already, the Greek script suffers from some poor design decisions. Chief among them is Gamma (the capital gamma) which was clearly designed by someone totally unfamiliar with the Greek language and script. Gamma in Ubuntu Mono features a bottom serif that is totally distorting the perception of the character. It is unlike any other modern font I’ve ever seen and I feel is doing Ubuntu Mono a disservice (it has certainly rendered the font unusable by me as long as it looks this bad).

In an effort to remedy this, I have opened a bug in Launchpad, Ubuntu’s bug reporting system. You can find the bug, #867577, here. If you have a Launchpad account, use Ubuntu (and/or the fonts) and would like to see Ubuntu Mono fixed for Greek please subscribe, add your comment and/or contact those responsible to help them realise how their effort is being ruined by a few badly designed characters.

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» Linotype: The Film

In the same vain as Helvetica, but seemingly more of an ‘indie’ endeavour, this Kickstarter-funded movie about Linotype, the almost lost art of traditional typesetting and the eponymous machine is almost done. Check out the trailer below, or visit their site. It may be interesting to those loving typography.

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»  Tim Schafer’s History of Videogames Adventure

You may have heard of him. No? Well, sc**w you! Because, err, you should.

Tim Schafer’s video mini autobiography for Gamespot. Must see for all those that have enjoyed any/all of Day of the Tentacle, the original two Monkey Island games, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango or his later creations at Double Fine Productions.

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