Sunday, October 19, 2008

cars: Goldidonks and the three rims

three cars on big, bigger, biggest rims
The wheels on the first car (Lexus GS430? Nissan something?) were merely large, so Goldilocks tried the 4th-gen 1995 Camaro on thirty-inch monstrosities but found it was like riding in an oversized bouncy baby carriage. But the mama bear's third-gen 1985 Camaro Z28 on 22s was just right.

There's something so willfully, childishly over-the-top about modifying a car to ride on oversized wheels shod with rubber less than three inches tall, completely ruining the ride, risking wheel damage at every pothole, and forcing you to drive and corner gingerly at less than 40 mph. Especially when the original car's tiny disc and drum brakes leave gaping holes to peer through. Hot Wheels toy cars brought to life. It makes me want to get “38” badges in iced diamonds for my Subaru — cm, baby, rollin' metric style!ice diamond 22″ badge!

In my area there aren't many classic 70s-80s Impalas and Caprices available, so people have turned all kinds of sedans into Hi-Risers on gigantic rims. I saw a 90s Jaguar XJ in purple on 28-inch wheels.

There's some low-rider culture too, I occasionally see deep red Monte Carlos with engraved windows tooling around on small gold-spoke wheels. South of San Jose I saw two Lincoln Navigators rolling on tiny wheels, which turns an aggressive behemoth into a friendly bus with running boards lower than the curb.

I'm not too sure on the economics of spending several thousand dollars per wheel on these, but it's hella entertaining.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

music: folk vocalists

I share my iTunes folder with another, which exposes me to unexpected music. I'm not a big fan of English-Celtic folk music, but there are some gifted singers in the niche.

Kate Rusby sails vowels out with a beautifully restrained vibrato. Absolutely amazing. There's something about her direct way with a lyric that makes simplicity ache (as opposed to k.d.lang with whom you feel the entire history of pop vocals led to her delivery of a lyric). Listen to “I Wish” off Ten:
I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
I wish I was a maid again
A maid again I ne'er shall be
For that young farmer lay with me.
She reminds me of Dolly Parton, the way the young voice just walked out of some old hills. This Daily Telegraph reviewer noticed the same.

Niamh Parsons isn't as pure but she has an uncanny ability to break her vibrato like the pipe and whistle she sings with. On a song like “Blackbirds & Thrushes” it's thrilling.

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software: saving as EPS for free instead of for $600

I'm helping a friend make postcards for SF Open Studios. First we struggled with getting the front in CMYK, now we just want a little ID on the back in the corner:
Francisco de Zurbarán
Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and Rose

(It's an awesome painting.) There are probably 10,000 programs that can make that simple text, the problem is representing its layout and fonts and margins so that the printer can reliably reprint what you see in WordWrite Cheapsoft.

Rocket Postcards accepts EPS files. Encapsulated PostScript was developed by Adobe about 23 years ago to store PostScript printer instructions in a standard format so you could give them to someone else to print or embed in another program's printer output. One way to make an EPS file is simply pretend to print to a PostScript printer, add some EPS header information, and save the printer output to a file.

In the good old days when Microsoft gave a shit about helping its customers, their individual programs could directly Export or Save As EPS, and they provided a PSCRIPT.DRV printer driver for Windows that could save as EPS. Adobe also offered an ADOBEPS.DRV printer driver with some more options. But Microsoft can't stand any format they're unable to pervert and alter at will in order to f*** over competitors and make you pay to upgrade. So they stopped supporting the EPS format, stopped updating the PSCRIPT.DRV printer driver, and the aging driver doesn't run on Windows Vista.

Meanwhile Adobe is hardly blameless. They stopped offering ADOBEPS.DRV after Windows 98 and left it up to printer manufacturers to write their own driver or use Microsoft's, but printer manufacturers just dropped PostScript support from their low and mid-range printers altogether rather than pay Adobe for a PostScript printing engine. When Microsoft abandoned PSCRIPT.DRV, Adobe announced they would make a new fabulous PostScript printer driver for Windows, but they only distribute it through printer makers and I wasn't able to find it to download.

Adobe needs to make money. They used to promote EPS to make printers running PostScript popular so they would make money providing PostScript engines to printer manufacturers. Judging from Adobe's web site they aren't interested in that market any more, but they still like EPS because they make a drawing program that understands the PostScript printing commands. Adobe Illustrator can read EPS files and can create EPS files; indeed, Rocket Postcards has detailed instructions and templates for using it. But Illustrator costs $600. That's a stupid price to pay for two lines of text!

I was about to re-cable and plug in an old Windows 98 SE PC, on which PSCRIPT.DRV worked perfectly to make EPS files, when I realized there might be other programs that support the EPS format. Sure enough, Inkscape is a free and open source drawing program that can save as an EPS file. To save as EPS,
  • Start Inkscape
  • File > Document Properties > Page
    • set Default units to in
    • set Custom Size 6 in 4.25
  • use its Text tool to create the text block
  • File > Save as...
  • choose "Encapsulated PostScript (*.eps)"
  • click Save
  • in the Output dialog that appears:
    • check "Make bounding box around full page" (otherwise just the EPS is only the text box, not the document size)
    • check "Convert text to paths" (Rocket Postcards asks for this)
    • don't check "Embed fonts (Type 1 only)"
To confirm this worked, I opened the eps file in Photoshop Elements, which opened a dialog for the image size that intially showed the correct size in inches. I set the resolution to 600dpi in this dialog so the text wouldn't be jaggy, and Photoshop Elements displayed the text in the right location and looking sharp at high magnifications.

To be even more sure I also opened the eps file in Wordpad.
  • Should have %%BoundingBox: 0 0 432 306 , which is 6 by 4.25 inches in points
  • Should NOT have lots of gobbledygook like 13A7F563EB (that would represents a bitmap image)
  • instead it should instructions to draw each character outline: sort-of English words with lots of numbers
  • Should be smaller than a megabyte.
But when I sent this simple file to Rocket Postcards, they printed 500 postcards with the text centered in the back of the postcard!

It turns out Adobe's own programs Illustrator and InDesign ignore the bounding box in Adobe's own EPS format, and plop down the EPS they receive in the center of their page. Lame! You have to provide a white background or surrounding line to make them show the text positioned relative to its surroundings

Hooray for free software! Down with proprietary software from companies whose business models and focus inevitably change.

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software: making CMYK print files for free instead of $700

I'm helping a friend make postcards for SF Open Studios.

Rocket Postcards prints postcards from your source files. So take a nice picture; use a cheap or free image editing program like Photoshop Elements to resize it to 1275 x 1800 (4.25 by 6 inches at 300dpi) and tweak it; upload it to Rocket Postcards and order your postcards!

Not quite. Rocket Postcards requires your files be in CMYK mode. They have the grace to explain why:
All images must be in CMYK color mode. ... RGB images are not acceptable - if you normally design for web or multimedia, keep in mind that printed output uses a different color model (subtractive rather than additive) and corresponds to percentages of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks rather than composite Red Green and Blue monitor light.
Fair enough, but your camera's images are RGB TIFF or JPEG files, how to get CMYK? Adobe wrote code to work in CMYK color space 17 years ago for Photoshop 2.0 in 1991. But unlike a free open source program, Adobe needs artificial reasons to make you pay $700 for Photoshop instead of $120 for the Photoshop Elements and Premier Elements combo. So there's no CMYK support in Photoshop Elements. Don't like it? Don't buy software.

As usual there are alternatives. The fine complicated free and open source ImageMagick software suite has a command-line tool to convert between image formats. The command line you want is
C:\my\docs>"C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.4.3-Q16\convert.exe"
-colorspace CMYK -type ColorSeparation
"original file" postcard_front.tif
To check, run imdisplay.exe and view it. Also run identify.exe -verbose:
C:\my\docs>"C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.4.3-Q16\identify.exe"
-verbose postcard_front.tif
For some reason the CMYK image is in PixelsPerCentimeter, so size appears as
  Resolution: 118.11x118.11
Print size: 15.24x10.795
Units: PixelsPerCentimeter
Setting -units PixelsPerInch doesn't work, I wasn't sure how to change this without resampling. Programs agree the size is 4.25 by 6 inches. Hooray for free software!

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