4 Dec 2005 raph   » (Master)

Yay, I'm a pro font designer now!

As hinted at last post, TUG has awarded me a grant to complete and release Inconsolata, the monospace design I'm working on. Go take another look - all of ASCII is complete now (but will certainly be refined over time), and there's an OpenType download for Mac and Win readers out there (this should answer fxn's difficulties with trying it).

I find that, of all potentially relaxing creative activities, I enjoy font design the most. I've tried learning some musical instruments, drawing and painting (including a couple classes at Berkeley), and a few other things, but usually I'm just not that good at it. Or, sometimes, it feels like I could do good stuff but it takes a lot of mental effort and concentration. I find that I can draw a glyph or two even when I'm feeling cranky or tired, or that my mind is just not working. I expect to be spending more time on fonts.

The nature of collaboration in free software

I'm often disappointed or frustrated by the lack of collaboration I often feel in the free software community. Of course, a good deal of the fault lies with myself - given any kind of tension or conflict, my natural reaction is to go into hiding. I simply don't have the characteristics you'd find in a natural-born leader.

But one of the best things about free software is that it often lets collaboration happen in roundabout ways. Take my work about five years ago on watercolor simulation. I wrote some code and posted it, and have been thinking on and off since then about how to optimize the algorithms so you can get real-time performance on standard hardware. But I've never actually done that, or packaged up the code I have into a real, usable painting app.

Now, it looks like somebody else is. I got an email today from Bart Coppens asking license clarification to use my code in Krita, which looks like it's developing into a real contender in the space occupied now by Corel (formerly Fractal Design) Painter.

Of course, there is more than a bit of irony here, as some would argue that the development work put into Krita could have been better spent adding similar features to Gimp. But it just doesn't work that way - there's nobody paying the Krita people to do that, and no doubt they're having more fun doing things their own way. There are always decisions to be made differently - choice of programming language, for one thing, so that letting code adapt and even be rewritten is usually the most realistic way to let it live.

I think the same can be said of much of my free software work. Libart isn't being developed, but projects like Cairo and Inkscape are that much richer for having had Libart as a model. That's not hugely gratifying (especially when there are Advogato posts gloating about what a great thing it is to switch from Libart), but all in all it's a contribution I can be happy about.

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