Of course this is graphic design…

Yesterday I was mentioning to Emily that I couldn’t understand some of the graphic design work on the 5th floor. One looked like it came from Industrial Design. But the bulk of what I couldn’t understand looked just like installations.

Then today, while I was trying to find all my friends’ work in the final two hours, I ran into another one, Zviko Mhakayakora’s This Feels Like Home:

<cite>This Feels Like Home</cite> at GradEx 101

However, this time, although at first I felt puzzled for a short while, as soon as I read the artist’s statement I thought, “Of course this is graphic design!”

Context made all the difference. The designer framed this as an educational exhibit, and it clicked on me: This is environmental graphic design work for a museum exhibition. Graphic designers do this kind of work all the time.

So EGD is being taught at OCAD, and I think it appears to be taught well. One day, maybe OCAD’s campus will actually have good EGD.

An invalid question in the census. Seriously?

Statistics Canada is giving us a web survey. It actually looks good, but I’m less than impressed with some aspects of it.

I’ve never seen a survey with a hashed code that does not have the ability to save progress. If you try to log out (such as… you need to find out something you don’t know, or your computer is forcing you to restart, such as how Windows Update often does) you’re told “Any information entered will be lost.”

Not even the hack job I did for my thesis did this. If they didn’t trust their “secure access code” enough to store progress, how much should we trust it? Sigh.

And we were asked whether people can speak “well enough to conduct a conversation.”

What does that even mean? “How are you? Fine, thank you”? or does that mean a real conversation?

If even the short survey has an invalid question like this, how is the long survey giving us valid data that can help us plan social programs? Don’t they test their questions at Statistics Canada? Sigh.

Forgot how to make a book

Almost a year after I printed a copy of my thesis (intending to put it on display at GradEx, but shelved the idea when I thought the print shop didn’t print it), I finally took a few hours to gather all the signatures, sew them together, and glue them together into what vaguely looks like a book. It’s still not in book form only because my X-acto is with my box of tools in the studio and I forgot to print the cover.

Half-finished book, opened flat

Yes, of course this was going to be in the form of a real book, because that’s how all the process books at GradEx look like! :-)

Anyway, while I was doing this, I kept thinking things like “I’ve forgotten what the signature size was”, “I’m supposed to know how to do this”, “too many signatures!” and “I think I did this wrong,” A year after I did the Student Press’s bookbinding workshop I have already forgotten how to sew signatures together.

I still managed to bind the whole thing together. I’m going to get my X-acto back tomorrow and do a layout of a front cover and print it out somewhere… (Hmm… that will have to be printed at 12×18…)

(Oh yeah… and don’t bother to use staplers. Thread and needle is actually easier because you have more control. And awls… they make holes that are too big; I actually like pins better…)

Ubuntu disappoints, and software tweaks are what makes Macs usable

Months after the thought came up and my first failed trials, I have finally managed to install (so to speak) Ubuntu on my Mac, and I have to say Ubuntu disappoints on many small details. Coming from a pre-GNOME traditional Unix background, that’s some major disappointment I’m talking about.

My major disappointment is with the trackpad. With Ubuntu the Mac’s trackpad is barely usable. Right-clicking doesn’t work, even with the ”Accessibility” option turned on. Heck, even single clicking often doesn’t work because the system would register some tiny, stray vertical movement so you would end up clicking the wrong thing. The system also often registers stray horizontal movements (so that, for example, when you’re scrolling through a page the browser would suddenly switch to a different tab, or even a different app). So it seems that the Mac’s trackpad isn’t actually any better than what Windows laptops have; all the perceived usability is in the software drivers and Apple has done a lot of work making sure the drivers are tweaked to screen out stray movements.

Keyboard input also disappoints. The ”English (Macintosh)” mapping does not map the non-breaking space, and Chinese input does not seem to work. (Maybe Ubuntu is trying too hard to be “smart” and I need to disable all the modern stuff and go back to xkb and scim… or maybe it’s debugging and bug report time….) It’s also a major surprise to see that Emacs-style editing keys work on MacOS X but not in Ubuntu.

With more than one input method installed, simply clicking the input menu would often, inexplicably, switch to a different input method.

The Character Map is completely writing-script-based so you can’t pick out punctuation marks and other non-letter symbols; I had to resort to using printf in the terminal to get the symbols I need.

All in all a disappointment, and in the meantime I’ll need a bigger (and hopefully faster) USB stick.

Org charts are not trees

The first thing I tried was to read about D3 and tried to modify their example code to see what I could come up with. And then I realized something Very Important:

Org charts are not trees.

I should have known better. I had drawn org charts before and had already found out back then that org charts are not trees (okay, maybe for “normal” businesses they are… but a lot of nonprofits don’t have “normal” structures, so any alleged normality is only illusory). So all tree-based layouts are out. Back to square one…

First thoughts

I got the file yesterday but I just started looking at it.

A few problems stood out right away:

  1. I can’t read the names; they are too small. Even in Preview I have to zoom in twice for the names to even become legible.
  2. I actually don’t understand the relationships. The way they drew the “members” box makes it look like committees aren’t composed of members. (And are staff members?) And the arrows are confusing. They jump over boxes without indicating they’re jumping over things, and boxes in their way appear to be sometimes also connected to the arrows.

And of course a few thoughts jumped out right at once too (yes, even before the problems, actually):

  1. Do I need to do it in a file format they can update? Does this mean I have to do it in Word? (No…)-:
  2. The org chart on the site is the same as the Word file I was given, only that what’s on the web is a pixel dump of the real thing. Does that mean I should do it as a web app of sorts?
  3. Would D3 be of any use?

How should I even start thinking about this?

How do you feel to have something you didn’t write attributed to you?

Not my article, but I’m still deeply disturbed because librarians and open-source advocates share the same ideals (and I was an OLA member at one point). The whole dubious deal is chronicled on Stewart Varner’s blog.

I have had the experience of having my writing rephrased so that it didn’t read like my own, and having all communication cease right after I turned in an article. I thought that was bad; what the American Library Association has done is infinitely worse.

Mercurial problem on my Mac solved!

I have been having trouble getting Mercurial running on my Mac. Basically, I have been getting this error message:

ImportError: dlopen(/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/mercurial/osutil.so, 2): no suitable image found. Did find:
/usr/local/lib/python2.7/site-packages/mercurial/osutil.so: mach-o, but wrong architecture

So, by chance, today I found out that if I use an account that is different from the one I normally use, Mercurial actually ran. Since this wouldn’t make any sense if the installation didn’t work, the installation must have been actually working, and the problem I had been experiencing must have been the result of incorrect user-specific configuration.

I did a little investigation and it turned out that this line in my .bash_profile was the culprit:

export VERSIONER_PYTHON_PREFER_32_BIT=yes

I have no idea why I had this line or what put it there (or whether I put it there myself and if so why). But now I’ve had it disabled and Mercurial is finally running…

This means getting Pidgin running will now be a distinct possibility…

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