brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

25Aug/111

Mag 7 Star Atlas Project

Tom mentioned that a new supernova had been found in M101, a spiral galaxy in Ursa Major. While I used to be a bit of a telescope maker, and could generally find my way around the sky, I wasn't one hundred percent certain I knew where to find M101. So, I turned to my copy of
Uranometria 2000. And... I still didn't know really. The charts in that book are good for star hopping at the eye piece of a telescope, but less so for just finding your way around the sky.

In digging around for a decent online map, I found a link to the Mag 7 Star Atlas Project by Andrew L. Johnson. It's a very nice 21 page atlas, which is very pretty, and is excellent for both visual use, and use with small telescopes or binoculars. And it's licensed under the Creative Commons too! Win!

Below is a JPEG of the first chart, rendered at 2K wide. The actual atlas is in PDF format, so will print out at the full device resolution, and will look even nicer.

Here's the link:
Mag 7 Star Atlas Project : Andrew L. Johnson : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive.

Filed under: Astronomy 1 Comment
25Aug/112

Q: Should blogs make font choices for you, or not?

I've been making some minor tweeks to the excellent 1024 px WordPress theme that I started using a few weeks ago. I found a small issue with the CSS for images that are supposed to be center (a priority mistake meant it didn't work) and I've made a few other minor tweaks. I finally got around to considering some questions regarding fonts, and I thought I'd ask you, my readers, give me the benefit of your opinions.

The 1024px stylesheet listed Verdana, Tahoma, Arial, and sans-serif as the search order for fonts. Not a bad list really, I think Verdana is an excellent screen font, with excellent legibility and good weight. Since my eyes have become somewhat presbyopic, and I spend a great deal of time reading stuff on screen, I've become somewhat more sensitive to these kind of issues.

But there are a couple of problems with the defaults.

First of all, Verdana and Tahoma (which are truly excellent, it must be said) aren't really universal. I believe that they are installed by default on Windows and Mac OS, but not on most of the Linux installations that I have seen. On most Linux boxes, I end up using Dejavu Sans as a substitute.

If you don't have either Verdana or Tahoma, this theme falls back onto Arial. I do have Arial installed on most of my systems, because lots of things need Arial or Helvetica. But here's the thing: Arial is really ugly. It's not pretty even in print, but it's just wonky to use on screen. Sadly, this is what I get a lot of the time.

And, of course, if you don't have any of those three, it falls to the browser default sans-serif, whatever the system default is, or whatever you've chosen.

Okay. So, I thought that perhaps i should just leave it up to you. I've all the font selections from the theme's stylesheet. Whatever default you configure is what you get.

And yet, I'm not happy with that either. It appears (for instance) that on Mobile Safari, the default is always a serif font, and you can't change it. That's not very good: I think serif fonts are virtually by definition harder to read on screen. Mobile Safari does support Verdana. I could actually make a special style sheet just for my blog, but that seems to be a slippery slope.

So, the question is: do you think web page authors (and in particular, blog authors) should make font choices for you? If so, what choices are reasonable? If not, are there drawbacks?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

Addendum: Okay, I shifted back to specifying fonts. By default, mobile browsers like Safari on the iPad and iPhone seem to resort to a serif font, which on a tiny screen is simply not a good idea. The list I came up with was Verdana, Tahoma, DejaVu Sans, and then whatever "sans-serif" is. Arial is just too ugly to use.