“CompuServe released [image file format format] GIF as a free and open specification in 1987. GIF soon became a world standard, and also played an important role in the internet community. It was well supported by CompuServe’s Information Service, but many developers wrote (or acquired under license) software supporting GIF without even needing to know that a company named CompuServe existed. GIF was relatively simple, and very well documented in books, articles and text files.
GIF images are compressed to reduce the file size. The technique used to compress the image data is called LZW (after Lempel-Ziv-Welch) and was first described by Terry A. Welch in the June 1984 issue of IEEE’s Computer magazine. Unisys [once a well-known computer company with a long history] holds a patent on the procedure described in the article, but the article describing the algorithm had no mention of this. The LZW procedure was simple and very well described, and it soon became a very popular technique for data compression (just as GIF would become a standard in its own field). It appears that neither CompuServe, nor the CompuServe Associate who designed GIF, nor the computer world in general were aware of the patent....
At the end of December 1994, CompuServe Inc. and Unisys Corporation announced to the public that developers would have to pay a license fee in order to continue to use technology patented by Unisys in certain categories of software supporting the GIF format. These first statements caused immediate reactions and some confusion.” From The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer’s Perspective.
“[Currently,] Unisys is charging web sites $5000 or more... if the software originally used to create the GIFs was not covered by a Unisys license.... The catch is that it appears to be difficult or impossible to get a Unisys license to use LZW in free software that complies with the Open Source Definition or in low-volume proprietary software. [Instead, Unysis requires a yearly license fee directly from Web site operators.] The fact that Unisys was able to patent LZW is due to a flaw in the US patent system that makes even pencil-and-paper calculations patentable.... However, Unisys’s actions are legal under US law, so the only reasonable alternative to paying the ‘Unisys tax’ on the web is to upgrade graphics from GIF to PNG format, or MNG format for animations.” From Burn All GIFs.
Burn All GIFs is a campaign encouraging Web developers to stop using the GIF format. Burn All GIFs also promotes Burn All GIFs Day to both further the campaign and to protest Unisys’s licensing practices. Burn All GIFs is a project of the League for Programming Freedom, an organization that opposes software patents and user interface copyrights.
PNG is a lossless image compression format that is free from patents and royalties. It also compresses better than GIF, supports interlacing, and true alpha transparency. It became a W3C standard in 1996 and is supported by most browsers (though some have not implemented full alpha transparency.) You can convert your GIFs to PNGs with some of the tools listed here.
Stop your engine.
Return nozzle to pump when finished fueling.
Pre-pay after dark.
Thank you for financing global terror.
Google has refused run ads for the project. Google’s letter states: “At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of ‘Hate/anti’ on our website. We also do not permit sites that sell these products to advertise on Google.”
Found via kottke.org
Two projects from the Institute for Applied Autonomy:
“GraffitiWriter is a tele-operated field programable robot which employs a custom built array of spray cans to write linear text messages on the ground at a rate of 15 kilometers per hour. The printing process is similar to that of a dot matrix printer. GraffitiWriter can be deployed in any highly controlled space or public event from a remote location.” See also instructions on how to build your own.
“The StreetWriter project expands on the research gained from the successful Robotic GraffitiWriter project. The system consists of a custom built, computer controlled industrial spray painting unit that is built into an extended body cargo van. The vehicle prints text messages onto the pavement in a manner much like a dot-matrix printer. The expanded width of StreetWriter allows for messages and simple graphics that are legible from tall buildings and low flying aircraft and is capable of rendering message that are several hundreds of feet in length.” Lots of pix and videos at both sites.
See also Bike Writing, a project to turn any bicycle into a printing, street writing device that prints as you ride.
“The bike writer incorporates interchangeable rubber stamps into the wheels so that while riding, the user can inscribe text into public space. An ink roller is applied to the wheel through a simple mechanism, which is activated by squeezing the rear break handle. This activity is extremely covert and effective.”
For the exhibition “We Love New York: Mapping Manhattan with Artists and Activists,” the Institute for Applied Autonomy and the Surveillance Camera Players led workshops on surveillance cameras, public space, and civil liberties. Participants then took to the streets to document the city’s surveillance cameras. The findings were mapped onto an 80 foot map of Manhattan. The group also led walking tours of the City. “Participants [moved] through the city in small groups, using handheld devices to document surveillance camera locations. The cameras will be added to the iSEE community database that allows pedestrians to track the ‘path of least surveillance’ between any two points in Manhattan.”
I’ve spent the last few days upgrading this site to valid XHTML 1.0 transitional. Molly Holzschlag gives a good overview and background of XHTML in this interview. The benefits of XHTML include increased interoperability and greater accessibility. Though some older browsers do not fully support XHTML, the text of this site is still accessible. See J. Zeldman’s “Why Don’t You Code for Netscape?” and “To Hell with Bad Browsers,” two good rants on standards from a designer’s point of view.
“The worst airport fire in German history occurred on April 11, 1996, when flames broke out in the busy Düsseldorf airport, quickly filling the terminal with acrid, toxic smoke. Travelers frantically looked for exit signs. In the ensuing chaos, 17 people died and 150 were injured. A spokesman for the Düsseldorf fire brigade, quoted in European news accounts, blamed the high number of casualties on passengers ‘ignoring’ emergency exit signs. For airport management, having the signage singled out as a contributor to the disaster underscored the importance of maintaining a clear communications system in a crowded, public space. Prior to the fire, signage at Düsseldorf had become a clutter of airline logos and retail and service ads, with directional signs lost in the cacophony.”
Traveler safety and ease of movement were key considerations, along with establishing a distinct identity for the airport. The design from MetaDesign pegged levels of the importance of information to the levels of color and contrast, designing for legibility during normal visbility as well as in a smokey environment. As for non-disaster usability? “Over the past year, the airport information counter reports a 50% drop in inquiries.” Sample pix: before and after. From @issue, volume 3, number 2.
The Ohara Institute for Social Research at Hosei University has an enormous collection of 20th century Japanese poster and propaganda art online: 2600 posters from before 1945, 400 posters of labor and social movements in the post-1945 period, posters and handbills from the 1930’s and an essay on the virbant history of the Japanese social movements between the two World Wars.
Found via coudal partners
Where do old PC’s go to die? In February 2002, the Basel Action Network the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition released the report “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia” which reveals that “huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes are being exported to to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment.”
Four villages in Guiyu, Guangdong province (about 4 hours drive from Hong Kong) have been turned into toxic waste dumps.
“About 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America.... The operations involve men, women and children toiling under primitive conditions, often unaware of the health and environmental hazards involved in operations which include open burning of plastics and wires, riverbank acid works to extract gold, melting and burning of toxic soldered circuit boards and the cracking and dumping of toxic lead laden cathode ray tubes. The investigative team witnessed many tons of the E-waste simply being dumped along rivers, in open fields and irrigation canals in the rice growing area. Already the pollution in Guiyu has become so devastating that well water is no longer drinkable and thus water has to be trucked in from 30 kilometers away for the entire population.”
The United States is the only developed country in the world that has not ratified the Basel Convention, a UN treaty which bans the export of hazardous wastes from the worlds most developed countries to developing countries.
Found via Slashdot
Since 1954, the Comics Magazine Association of America has issued a Comics Code Authority Seal to comics submitted by publishers which meet the standards of the Comics Code. In practice, the Code was used as a tool of censorship, since it was nearly impossible to sell unapproved comics to newstands and mass merchandisers. With the rise of specialty comic book stores in the mid-80’s, most publishers have opted out of the Comics Code.
The code was updated in 1971 and again in 1989. The 1989 version adds:
“In general, recognizable national, social, political, cultural, ethnic and racial groups, religious institutions, law enforcement authorities will be portrayed in a positive light. These include the government on the national, state, and municiple levels, including all of its numerous departments, agencies and services; law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the Secret Service, the CIA, etc.; the military, both United States and foreign; known religious organizations; ethnic advancement agencies; foreign leaders and representatives of other governments and national groups; and social groups identifiable by lifestyle, such as homosexuals, the economically disadvantaged, the economically privileged, the homeless, senior citizens, minors, etc.”
CPB notes, “DC Comics and Archie are the publishers who still abide by the Code to portray the CIA, ethnic advancement agencies and the economically privileged in a positive light.”
In 1985, three graduates from the Sarajevo faculty of fine arts formed the design team TRIO Sarajevo. The group created designs for bands, theatre companies and art and culture-based magazines.
“In April 1992 the Bosnian war began, and Sarajevo was besieged. Despite the obvious hardships of life in a city under siege for two and a half years, and although they had many opportunities to continue work outside Bosnia-Herzegovina, TRIO opted to remain in Sarajevo throughout the war. Faced with a market suddenly reduced to a 3km wide stretch of a city under siege, TRIO have nonetheless continued to earn a living as commercial designers, receiving payment for their work in food, cigarettes and (occasionally) small amounts of money. During the war TRIO have managed to assemble a computerised design office put together from various components which were borrowed or begged from friends and colleagues in Sarajevo.... In addition to their regular work, TRIO have also invested a great deal of time putting together a collection of graphic art aimed at raising awareness of the plight of their city throughout Europe. The work which has made them famous in western capitals is based on a series of reworkings of well-known advertising and pop-art images, such as the logos for Speilberg’s Jurassic Park, Coca-Cola, Absolut Vodka, Warhol’s famous Campbell’s Soup, and satirical adaptations of famous posters, such as Monroe’s Some Like it Hot, Your Country Needs You, Wake Up America!, Munch’s Scream, and many more.”
From The Design Group - TRIO SARAJEVO. The visual formula is direct and simplistic, but according to “Ironic Postcards from a City at War” the intent is to inject notice of the crisis into Western pop culture, to attach new associations to strongly recognized brands. My favorite is not one that uses the commercial brands, it is the stamp the group designed in 1995 with an image of one of destroyed post office buildings:
Found via OpenDemocracy
“As a young man more than 35 years ago, Jean-Claude Decaux made a living posting bills on buildings around Paris. His modest livelihood came to an abrupt halt after the local government declared this practice illegal. That’s when Decaux came up with a better idea — one that would allow him to continue posting bills and do it in a way that would contribute to the quality of life and beauty ofthe city. Decaux’s inspiration came one stormy day when he noticed people getting soaked while waiting for a city bus to come by. Why not offer to build bus shelters for free in exchange for the right to sell advertising on them, Decaux thought. He took his proposal to the Mayor of Lyon and got permission to go ahead. That rainy day marked the start of the world’s largest street furniture company.... Over the years, the company has expanded its street furniture offerings from bus shelters and kiosks to news racks, traffic signage, light posts, litterbins, benches, interactive information panels and automatic public toilets.”
Through growth and aquisiton, the company now reached 31 countries and more than 11,000 cities in 1999. Driven by advertising sales, its revenues are in the billions.
“JCDecaux sees its role as designing what French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte calls a city’s ‘interior architecture,’ deserving of ‘as much thought as that given to private spaces.’ It believes that bus shelters, kiosks and other street furniture are too integral to the urban landscape to be built without attention to aesthetics.”
The company adapts its designs to the character of each city and has recruited several blue ribbon designers and architects to contribute designs.
“JCDecaux has even adapted Paris’ renowned Morris kiosk [picture] into a variety of historic and contemporary styles.... Through technological innovations developed by the company’s extensive R&D arm, many JCDecaux advertising kiosks now integrate newsstands, bottle banks, water fountains, telephone booths, clocks, automatic public toilets, ticket dispensers, interactive information terminals and even automatic vending machines.... Another company signature is the scrupulous servicing of its facilities, which provides premium value to advertisers who don’t want their messages desecrated by vandals.... More than 3,500 service employees maintain the company’s street furniture worldwide. Any broken glass is replaced within 24 hours. Graffiti is scoured clean. In places like Amsterdam where graffiti has become a public art form, JCDecaux has equipped its maintenance workers with motorbikes so they can remove it all the faster.”
From @issue, Volume 5, Number 2.
Check out Mike Flugennock’s anarchist and anti-globalization posters. Print ‘em out, plaster the streets - they’re free to use and download as EPS or PDF. Also lots of video of the pasters being hassled by The Man in Washington, DC.
“There does not exist enough wood fiber to supply the ever growing appetite of the global pulp and paper industry. The industry itself no longer debates this issue with environmentalists; even they accept that we all face a looming wood fiber shortage. Pulp and paper is a 107 billion dollar industry, which accounts for about 85% of nationwide revenues for wood products, making it one of the nations top income generating industries. This ostensibly indestructible industry cannot be ignored; our global economy revolves around it and is reliant upon it.”
The crisis thus made plain, the ReThink Paper Web site presents strategies for paper reduction, a ranked list and searchable database of papers that contain no virgin wood, a host of non-wood alternatives for paper (such as kenaf, hemp, and agricultural residues,) a directory of non-wood paper friendly printers and designers, even a cooperative buying guide. The site is a project of the Earth Island Institute. (Free registration required.)
“Less than a century ago, food labels barely identified what was inside a box. Consumers had to trust the manufacturer to use only healthy ingredients—not always a safe bet. In 1924, the Federal Food and Drug Act gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to clamp down on bogus health claims and misleading labels. The FDA also tried to make manufacturers more accountable by requiring them to list their names and addresses on the packaging. By 1973, packaged food makers were also required to supply nutritional values listing the amount of vitamins and minerals inside, but the manner in which this information was presented was often inconsistent and incomplete. The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 finally called for a major overhaul of food labels. The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture set out uniform guidelines for the new labels. Launched in 1994, Nutrition Facts offers a plethora of health-relevant information.”
Brand design firm Greenfield/Belser, best known for their law firm marketing material, designed the new nutrition facts label. Reknown designer Massimo Vignelli lauded the label design in the July 1996 AIGA Journal. Praising the clarity of the information architecutre, its visual integrity, and flexibility of the design on packages of all shapes and sizes, he writes, “The label is a clean testimonial of civilization, a statement of social responsibility, and a masterpiece of graphic design. Not a small achievement in today’s graphic landscape.” He does not point out that the generic, anonymous design and apparent lack of “marketing devices” actually brands the space and its information as neutral, scientific, institutional, and authoritative.
Greenfield/Belser’s Web site describes other forays into design in the public interest as well:
In 1974, Dr. Henry Heimlich published findings on what was to become the Heimlich Maneuver. A week later, the first choking victim was saved by the method. In 1978, New York City passed a law requiring that every establishment, regardless of size or design, “where food is sold and space is designated specifically as eating areas shall have posted in a conspicuous place, easily accessible to all employees and customers, a sign graphically depicting the Heimlich Maneuver or a comparable technique instructing on how to dislodge food from a choking person.” The bill was passed unanimously by the City Council in 1978 (five days before Christmas and its feasts.) “Dislodging food from person choking; poster” became Local Law 43 when signed by Mayor Koch on December 29. The law notes that it “does not impose any duty or obligation on any proprietor, employee or other person to remove, assist in removing, or attempt to remove food from the throat of the victim or a choking emergency,” and that the NY Department of Health “shall make signs available, and may charge a fee to cover printing, postage and handling expenses.” The posters are distributed along with your restaurant license.
In 1997, the posters were dramatically redesigned. An article in the UK Independent On Sunday (November 30, 1997) notes
“The Department of Health grew concerned that, in a city like New York, where dining in is the exception, habitual restaurant-goers may suffer from over-exposure to Heimlich signs, and that, over time, the charts risk becoming so much civic-minded wallpaper.”
To the rescue came students from Parson’s School of Design who redesigned the old institutional orange design with a jarring new constructivist design in primary colors. The poster is certainly harder to miss, though with 10 years of exposure it may be time again for a redesign.
Update 1/2005: For a more extensive history of this poster design, see Guns, Butter and Ballots. Citizens take charge by designing for better government, January/February 2005. (Towards the middle of the page.)
“In June of 1987, a small group of strangers gathered in a San Francisco storefront to document the lives they feared history would neglect. Their goal was to create a memorial for those who had died of AIDS, and to thereby help people understand the devastating impact of the disease. This meeting of devoted friends and lovers served as the foundation of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Today the Quilt is a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic. More than 44,000 individual 3-by-6-foot memorial panels — each one commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS — have been sewn together by friends, lovers and family members.”
If you’ve lost someone to AIDS, find out how you can contribute a panel to the Quilt.
San Francisco’s Boeddeker Park was “designed with safety and security in mind, but in all the wrong ways.” The 2.6-acre park is cut off from the streets by fences and walls, thouch “meant to provide safety instead make the place feel like a cage.” “The main, bench-lined walkway through the park became known as ‘the Gauntlet’ after it was colonized by drug dealers a year or so after the park’s 1985 opening.” In contrast, Harlem’s El Sitio Feliz incorporates “water play, swings, slides and a small picnic pavilion with community gardens, [the site] has become well-known for its creative combination of activities for children and adults. The most popular play equipment is a simple garden hose, which kids use to spray each other and keep the slide slippery. The playground is flanked by community gardens, tended regularly by local residents who seem to enjoy the frequent interaction with children.” Check out Great Public Spaces and the Hall of Shame at Public Buildings & Civic Design, a site with lots of bite-sized case studies brought to you by the Project for Public Spaces, “helping people to grow their public space into vital community places.”
Says the Washington Post:
“The use of the Web has given rise to two contradictory trends. It has provided improved access to the political system for outsiders and mechanisms for spontaneous expression of public attitudes. But there also are more opportunities for finely tuned manipulation by politicians and special interests willing to pay the costs.... In a lobbying drive now underway, brewer Anheuser-Busch Inc. is using advertising on the Web to bolster a traditional lobbying drive to win House sponsors for legislation that would kill a 1990 tax on beer. The ads, which appear on sites run by such publications at Congressional Quarterly and National Journal, drive traffic to a beertax.org site, run by Anheuser-Busch. That site — expressly designed for ‘government officials and staff, journalists and other opinion leaders on public policies that impact the brewing industry’ — tells visitors: ‘Every time you buy a beer, an incredible 44% of the price you pay comes from taxes.... While excise taxes collected from wealthy Americans have been eliminated, working Americans continue to pay the beer tax at the rate of $65 million a week.’ So far, 224 House members, more than a majority, have joined on as co-sponsors.”
Found via VoxPolitics.
“Slavoj Zizek also mistook the origins of the inversion of Goering’s - or Hanns Johst’s - remark (Letters, 15 April). ‘When I hear the word “gun”, I reach for my culture’ was not a ‘leftist slogan’ but a remark made by Malcolm Muggeridge in an article published, I think, in the New Statesman around 1967. He was writing in response to the revelation that the CIA had been financing a number of literary and cultural magazines around the world, including Encounter, and funding the export of Jackson Pollock and other exponents of Abstract Expressionism from America to Europe. It was meant as a joke, but it throws a useful light on a period when art and politics were rather more intimately linked than they are perceived to be today.”
Richard Gott, letter to the London Review of Books.
Props to Drapetomaniac for the link.
“The Israel—Palestine war is not simply a struggle over territory between two national entities. It is driven by Israel’s systematic denial of modern urban life to the Palestinians. One of the lessons of the battle of Jenin is that the bulldozer that demolishes houses is also a weapon in the wider strategy to prevent the Palestinians from creating a modern, normal, urban society.”
See ‘Clean territory’: urbicide in the West Bank by Stephen Graham on OpenDemocracy.
“E-democracy represents the use of information and communication technologies and strategies by democratic actors (governments, elected officials, the media, political organizations, citizen/voters) within political and governance processes of local communities, nations and on the international stage. To many, e-democracy suggests greater and more active citizen participation enabled by the Internet, mobile communications, and other technologies in today’s representative democracy as well as through more participatory or direct forms of citizen involvement in addressing public challenges.”
Found via VoxPolitics.
From the New York Times:
“Four years ago that children’s television show began broadcasting an Israeli-Palestinian co-production, conceived in the afterglow of the 1993 Oslo accords. The collaboration produced 70 half-hour shows, each one containing Hebrew and Arabic segments.... Under a new co-production agreement, which now includes Jordanians, the project has run into difficulty. The name ‘Sesame Street’ has been changed to ‘Sesame Stories’ because the concept of a place where people and puppets from those three groups can mingle freely has become untenable. The original shows were built around the notion that Israeli and Palestinian children (as well as puppets) might become friends. Now, reflecting the somber mood in the Middle East, producers see their best hope as helping children to humanize their historic enemies through separate but parallel stories.”
The segreation strikes me as a failure. The article also mentions various travel restrictions that are hampering production.
Search Google for “rural vaccine refrigerators” and all kinds of solar energy projects pop up. Most recently, in June 2002 Kyocera Solar Inc. announced “the worlds most economical solar-powered vaccine refrigeration system.” The refrigerators make it possible to expand the reach of vaccines to areas not presently served. Extra insulation keeps contents cool and improves battery life. Read the press release or download the PDF brochure.
“13 months ago [Sugata Mitra] launched something he calls ‘the hole in the wall experiment.’ He took a PC connected to a high-speed data connection and imbedded it in a concrete wall next to NIIT’s headquarters in the south end of New Delhi. The wall separates the company’s grounds from a garbage-strewn empty lot used by the poor as a public bathroom. Mitra simply left the computer on, connected to the Internet, and allowed any passerby to play with it. He monitored activity on the PC using a remote computer and a video camera mounted in a nearby tree. What he discovered was that the most avid users of the machine were ghetto kids aged 6 to 12, most of whom have only the most rudimentary education and little knowledge of English. Yet within days, the kids had taught themselves to draw on the computer and to browse the Net. The physicist has since installed a computer in a rural neighborhood with similar results.”
In February 2002, London’s Metropolitan Police initiated a three year test of two two-seater electric cars “to combat high traffic levels in cities and will be used for general purposes such as burglary reporting and house visits.” The cars are cheap to run and emissions free. Electric cars are exempt from the Mayor of London’s new congestion tax.
“Veronica Webb’s eco-friendly electric car turned into a fire-spewing death machine the other night, burning down her Key West house and killing her beloved dog, Hercules.” Says Webb, “Electric cars and golf carts are always overloading their chargers and burning up, but no one knows about it.” From Page Six.
Micah Wright has put together some funny World War II style propaganda posters satirizing the current “war on terrorism” and all the hopped up rhetoric. Some of my favorites: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.