Seeing Through Google’s New Icon

Google Favicons

Google has a new favicon. If you don’t know what a favicon is, rather than explain it, I’ll suggest that you probably won’t care about the rest of this post.

If you’re still with me, the new favicon is notable because the old one was a small but ubiquitous sign-post on the web. What I find more interesting, though, is a particular aspect of the implementation.

The new favicon is a full RGBA color icon file with alpha transparency. What makes this noteworthy is that the this type of icon isn’t supported in Internet Explorer, still the dominant browser on the web.

Is Google intentionally leaving Internet Explorer behind on this visible, but admittedly trivial, part of their website? Or, is this an oversight (or part of an incomplete change)?

Either way, it doesn’t sound much like Google.

UPDATE: I was wrong about this. It is supported by IE – see my comment for a bit more detail.


Inconsolata: Quality Free and Open Font for Programmers

Inconsolata PreviewIf you spend a significant amount of time working with any type of scripting, code, or markup, then you’re probably looking at a monospace (fixed-width for each character) font.

The quality of these fonts varies, though the defaults that ship with Mac OS X, Windows XP, and Windows Vista are quite good. The Consolas font included with Vista is particularly good.

Fortunately, there is a quality free/open alternative. Raph Levien has developed a great programming font cleverly called Inconsolata. I have been using it as my primary terminal/coding/text font for several months and find it superior to anything else I’ve used.

Incosonata is freely available under the Open Font License. The OpenType version of Inconsolata will work on all major platforms. There is also a PFA version available.

Font geeks can download the Inconsolata FontForge source file and a PDF sample is available.

Here’s a quick screenshot of Inconsolata used in a simple PHP file on my desktop.


silverorange is looking for a sysadmin

We’re looking for a system administrator to join us at silverorange. Dan, our CEO, explains the position:

silverorange is hiring once again. This time around we’re looking for someone who has an interest in managing the systems behind the web systems we build. You’ll be in charge of running, installing, and managing our servers, managing our network (both server side and workstation side), and doing many things hardware related. You’ll also get a free cell phone! (so the servers can message you at 2am about a problem).

As the job description states, don’t call us. If you call us, you’ve failed a basic comprehension test.


The <Video> Tag

Brendan Eich, the Canada-loving technical leader of the Mozilla project, has written a piece on The Open Web and Its Adversaries and given a presentation on The Open Web. In addition to a general overview of what it means to have an open web, the post mentions work that Opera and Mozilla are doing with the WHAT working group to create new HTML tags for <audio> and <video>.

The basic idea (still in the early stages, I gather), is to create <audio> and <video> tags that would allow audio/video playback in the browsers without relying on a proprietary plugin (like Flash, in the case of YouTube). Browsers implementing the tags would be able to use any video format, but all browsers would support a base format of Ogg Theora and Ogg Vorbis.

Theora and Vorbis video and audio compression formats that are free, open-source, and unencumbered by patents. I’ve written before about the importance open formats for media.

If Firefox and Opera were able to leverage their combined corner of the market share and force Microsoft to implement such a setup in Internet Explorer (or if they did so eagerly on their own), it would be a great step forward for media on the web.


Remove Customization

REMOVE CUSTOMIZATION button from Virb.comThe new like-myspace-but-more-hip website Virb has a feature worth noting. Like many sites where you can create a page about yourself, you can do all kinds of visual customization to your page. On the same place (notably) on each page, though, there is a “remove customization” link. Clicking this link shows you the page using the default layout, fonts, colors, and overall style.

It’s an interesting idea to allow people to customize their pages to be as beautiful or ugly and as readable or obscure as they like. Then, give the visitor – the reader – the choice between seeing how the creator wants you to see the page and the plain original format.

I have the vague sense that there is a profound conclusion to be drawn about this, but it escapes me.


Scaling Images in Firefox 3

After making the post about smooth corners in Firefox 3 yesterday, I began to wonder what other smoothnesses (which should be a word) the next version of Firefox might have in store.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Cairo graphics library will power the rendering of web pages in Firefox. Functions such as resizing an image, are now performed by this new library.

In current web browsers, if you have an image that is 100 pixels by 100 pixels, but you tell the browser to resize it to 85×85px (by specifying the height and width in the HTML <img> tag), the results were ugly. The browser would resize the image, but not with any of the smoothness that you would see if you had resized the image in an application like Photoshop or the Gimp.

Now, in Firefox 3.0 Alpha 1, resizing an image like this actually produces a smoothly size image. This isn’t something I would recommend doing, but it is another nice example the improvements coming in the Firefox rendering engine.

Here’s an example of a PNG image version of the Firefox logo. There is only one source image used for all of these variations. This source image is 128 pixels by 128 pixels. The top row shows how Firefox 2 resizes the image, and the bottom row shows how it’s done in Firefox 3.0 Alpha 1.

Firefox image resizing comparison

I had the good fortune of meeting Carl Worth, a lead Cairo developer, a few years ago in Boston. He was a gentlemen and was more enthusiastic about tessellation than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s nice to see his hard work will be helping to improve such a widely adopted application as Firefox.

When a developer of a mapping application was considering a lower-quality view to make his maps render faster, Carl suggested that if Cairo was too slow, then it should be fixed, not worked-around. I understand that they’ve since made good progress on performance.


Cairo Corners in Firefox 3

The latest alpha releases of Firefox 3 use a library called “Cairo” for much of the graphics work (note: I don’t understand exactly what that means, but it doesn’t matter).

Thanks to this new graphics infrastructure, boxes with corners rounded by the pre-CSS 3 property border-radius are rendered with beautiful anti-aliasing (currently accessible as the non-standard -moz-border-radius and soon -webkit-border-radius). Stated more simply, rounded boxes are prettier.

Here’s a quick comparison of a box with CSS rounded-corners rendered in Firefox 3.0 Alpha 1 versus Firefox 2.0:

Firefox rounded corner comparison

The difference is subtle, especially with lighter colours like these, but this example represents a significant improvement in the abilities and quality of rendering in Firefox.

Also note that Firefox 3 probably won’t be released until the second half of 2007 (that’s not based on anything official – just a guess).