a bunch of stuff I would have emailed you about

Helvetica vs. Univers

Univers was intrinsically superior to Helvetica. It had a much larger family at the outset, with 21 members compared to four in 1960. More importantly, its family was logically designed with consistent weights and widths, something that Helvetica never achieved until its redesign as Neue Helvetica in 1982. Univers’ characters, stripped of “unnecessary” elements such as the beard on ‘G’ or the curve on the tail of ‘y,’ were also more rationally designed.

From Paul Shaw in Print, explaining how Helvetica and Univers competed in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite its many flaws, Helvetica eventually became one of the most ubiquitous typefaces in the world. Paul claims:

Helvetica’s current ubiquity is not due to its widespread adoption by Modernist-inclined graphic designers in the 1970s but rather by its availability as a free font on personal computers.

Spielberg on the theater experience

There’s nothing like going to a big dark theater with people you’ve never met before, and having the experience wash over you.

Steven Spielberg, quoted in Chaim Gartenberg’s coverage of his speech at the Cinema Audio Society’s CAS Awards. Amusingly, according to Gartenberg, Spielberg has nothing against the streaming industry, he just really loves the theater experience and worries about what might happen to it. Still, it’s hard not to imagine the filmmaker being a little bit swayed by the talk of Hollywood irrelevance in the face of Netflix.

How Pixar dominated the last three decades of special effects

Pixar’s Renderman is the visual effects software Hollywood didn’t think they needed (seriously, George Lucas sold off the Lucasfilm Computer Division in 1986). Years later, after producing landmark visual effects for films such as Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park and many more, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored Pixar and the creators of Renderman with an Award of Merit in 2001 “For their significant advancements to the field of motion picture rendering as exemplified in Pixar’s ‘Renderman.’”

The first commercial version of Renderman was released 30 years ago this year. This video from Wired looks back at how the software changed the industry, and contributed to 27 of the last 30 Visual Effects Oscar winning films:

Video from Wired via Uncrate.

There are no architects at Facebook

We get there through iteration. We don’t try to build an architecture that is failproof. Building an architecture and worrying about it for months and months at a time before you actually go deploy it tends to not get us the result we want because by the time we’ve actually deployed something the problem has moved or there are more technologies available to solve different problems.

We take it seriously enough to say “there are no architects on the team.”

We do a very “you build it you own it” process, where any team or any individual or any engineer that builds or designs something, they own it, and they do the on-call for it.

On call is where we learn, and that’s how we improve over time.

You build a system…you don’t have to be perfect. Deploy it, and as long as you have enough detection and mitigation capabilities, you will do OK. And you will learn, and you will iterate over it, and you will get better over time.

From the NANOG73 keynote: “Operations first, feature second” by Facebook VP of Network Engineering Najam Ahmad. It’s at about the 10:20 mark in the video:

The problem with economies of scale

Economies of scale quickly become economies of hassle

From Jessamyn, amplifying the exasperation people feel when daily activities are made more complex by poor application of technology. In the example given, the phone app reduces costs for the provider, but doesn’t improve the experience for the customer. People may not expect parking to be delightful, but that’s not an excuse for making it frustrating.

Wither hardware startups?

[I]t’s getting harder to find independent hardware startups that can scale up to something big without getting bought.

From Dieter Bohn on the collective disappointment so many people feel about the Eero acquisition. The rise of product ecosystems is increasing the costs and risks for independent hardware startups in every category. (Perhaps that’s why reMarkable positions itself as the intentionally unconnected alternative to our phones.)

Turning off exposure preview on my Fuji X-E3

Nanda Kusumadi has quite a number of tips for configuring a Fuji X-E3. Those tips include using RAW photo recording and turning on 4K video capture (they’re off by default), and one I hadn’t considered: enabling Adobe RGB color space with its wider than sRGB gamut. I prefer not to use some of other the suggestions, such as enabling electronic shutter (it reduces dynamic range).

One setting not mentioned in Nanda’s tips is turning off exposure preview. This is critical when using manual exposure modes with flash. With exposure preview enabled, ambient light is too dark to allow proper composition and focusing when exposure is set for the flash. Turning it off is a smart move to make it easier to shoot with flashes and strobes.

  • Set up → Screen set-up → Preview exp./WB in manual mode → Off

Something from nothing: a dog park, a parade, and...

On a lark, Jaime Kornick created Patrick’s Park. Then she created a dog parade, then….

iHeart mentioned the Dog Parade on the radio, local publications wrote about it, and the RSVPs started rolling in. In total, more than 350 people said they were coming.

That’s when I realized I needed to get a permit.

Then she got a call:

I told them the panel would consist of thought leaders within the canine community, bull shitting. They were wondering if the co-founder of Wag, Jason Meltzer, could be on the panel. When I hung up the phone, I was like, damn, you can really create something out of nothing in this town.

Jaime Kornick tells the whole story here.