Type Americana: Hands-On DayI had a lovely time at a two-day type conference at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle a couple weeks ago. One day of lectures, one day of hands-on workshops. It was heaven for me, as my first love is type and typography, but I was never accomplished enough to devote my life to it. That doesn't mean I can't love it. Day 1 was terrific, as I learned quite a bit about the history of foundries and a few prominent (and less known) designers. The last lecture of the day was by Sumner Stone, talking about his history in digital type design, telling some previously unknown stories, and showing pictures of associated folks. My late design teacher Alvin Eisenman was in a few shots, and my senior project adviser Min Wang, too. I found out Min is now the dean of a prestigious design school in Beijing! He was a modest and quiet man, but very talented. (My good friend Brian Wu worked with Sumner and Min as an intern at Adobe many many years ago.) I reminisced a bit with Sumner about the old days, as we have a lot of colleagues in common. Day 2 was split in half between two workshops: the first half was letterpress printing with wood type with folks from the Hamilton Wood Type Museum. That rekindled my desire to work with letterpress, and I've signed up for a 10-week course at SVC starting in January. The second half, we worked with Sumner to create a quick typeface from a simple starting point. Very interesting all around. I wrote up some thoughts about letterpress, including a young printer just starting out on her career, for BoingBoing. Pictures from Day 1 and Day 2 are at Flickr. The woman holding the Tomato in Concert poster is Megan Clark from Vancouver, Wash., who owns a design studio, and was my printing buddy for the Hamilton workshop. It was a hoot working with her: I had some letterpress background, and she had great ideas. My job was just to say, "yes, we should," and the results were great. Megan wrote up her experiences on her studio blog.

Irony in the DC

I just switched from running my own server hardware for various operations (including this blog, isbn.nu, wifinetnews.com, and Books & Writers) to a Virtual Private Server (VPS), in which I have two virtual machines under my control but don't have to deal with the underlying hardware. It's been over eight years since I moved my servers into a co-location data center, and I've mostly run servers of my own since 1994.The experience of moving was, well, moving. I had a great relationship with my co-lo, and enjoyed controlling every aspect of my fate and destiny. But with aging hardware and dropping costs for VPS hosting, it simply couldn't be financially justified any more. A recent experience with a meltdown on a Xserve with TidBITS (where I program and write) led me to believe virtual machine hosting was totally reasonable. I've been working for several weeks to set things up the way I wanted, and started moving Web servers a few weeks ago one at a time. I had a few glitches, but all my own. I'm very happy with the speed, performance, and flexibility. I finally moved isbn.nu, my heaviest data/CPU user, a week ago. A few tweaks were needed, but all was well. Then I wrote about the issue of VPS for an upcoming column (will add link) and tweeted about shutting off servers. That angered the data center gods, which struck the Fremont, Calif., DC at which my VPSes are located. The power surge apparently blew the mains and overwhelmed UPS backups. Power was quickly restored, and one of my servers was back online within a couple hours. The other? Some hard drives went bad and needed to be swapped, but total downtime was perhaps five hours (from a Saturday night to Sunday morning, hardly prime time). If the hard drive array was truly fubared, I had additional backups that the host could have restored. Clearly, I should have kept my mouth shut.

My Latest Book in Print: Five-Star Apps

Hey, I wrote a book! Hey, I suffered for months to make it reality! Hey, it's reality!! It's in print! Crazy. Buy a copy (compare at online booksellers)!Five-Star Apps ($20 retail, about $13.50 online) has nearly 200 reviews of the best and most useful and most fun iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch apps that I examined. Reviews are supplemented with screenshots, since it's often hard to know what a program looks like in real use since you can't get demo versions (only "lite" programs). Five-Star Apps book cover You can follow links at 5str.us to buy the book!

Macworld 2011

I'll be delivering two Users Conference sessions at the Macworld 2011 conference! I wasn't able to make the timing work in 2010, an I missed the first "no Apple" version of the event, which sounded chummy and wonderful. On 27 January, I'll present a session on remote controlling your screens (an overview of the many tools for remote access and file transfer for machines under your control or those of friends and family for remote tech support); a second session, on 29 January, will cover remote video chatting with Facebook, iChat, Skype, and other programs.Macworld 2011 Click on the image above to get a 15-percent discount for conference registration, or use the code "speaker" when signing up. (It only applies to registration for a multi-day conference track.)