Sunday, December 5, 2010

Software for download on website

The software that was distributed to all international judges at the World Championships in Rotterdam, is now available from the website

This is exactly the same software as on the CD. The bugs that have been fixed in the mean time, are not yet ready for release.

What is a Font?

In this article I will try to explain the meaning and function of a computer font. The reason for the article is that having the WAG Symbols font installed is a requirement for all GS software developed so far.

In short, a font is a computer file that contains instructions for drawing characters on a computer screen. The font instructions are also used by a printer for printing characters. Instructing a computer how to draw a character (or a WAG symbol) goes like this: start at point (0,0) - then draw a straight line to point (230, 24) - then draw a curved line to point (345,21) - then draw another curved line back to the starting point (0,0). Some characters require very little instructions (for example the letters I,l,L) while other characters require 100 or more. The design of the symbol below contains hundreds of points because its shape is so irregular: it represents a handwritten symbol.

Because characters can be displayed or printed in various sizes, the points mentioned in the instructions are transformed to the required size of the shapes on screen or paper. When displayed on a computer screen, very few points are available. If you come close enough to your screen, you can see the individual points (pixels) available for drawing the characters. When you select a small font size in your text editor like for example 8 or 9 points (a default size is often 12 points), the font has a difficult time displaying the character so that it is still recognizable. That is why many fonts - except high quality or specialized fonts - look bad on a computer screen when a small font size is used. This is no different for the WAG Symbols font. Solving this problem can only be done by designing a new instruction set for every character, for every small font size (8, 9, 10 points). If you know that there are up to 2000 WAG symbols in a single font, you understand that we don't have the resources to design the same font 4 times or more. Anyway, a modern printer does not have this problem: a printer can use lets say 600 dots per inch to draw characters, much more than we can see with the naked eye. That is why symbols might look ugly on your screen, but yet look good when printed.

So now you know what a font is, what is it used for? Well, when you type a text in your word processor and save it to a file, the file does not contain the drawing instructions for the shapes of the letters (*). Instead is stores characters as numbers and instructions for the word processor specifying what font to use, what size, color, etcetera. The numbers for the characters are internationally defined by the Unicode consortium. The letter A for example has number 65. For every character in every language a number is defined. Also for the WAG symbols numbers are defined, except that in this case the definition came from Gymnastics Software and not from the Unicode consortium. The Unicode consortium reserved a range of numbers for private use, and we used that range to map the WAG Symbols to Unicode numbers.

So a text document contains the name of the font being used, and the numbers of the characters in the document. If you send your document to someone else, her computer opens the text document, reads the numbers in the document, load the font specified in the file and draws the text on your screen using the drawing instructions from the font.
If your computer does not have the specified font installed, it will pick another one that ís installed. If the font does not have instructions for the character, it will show the ‘missing glyph’ shape. Each font can define a shape that it will use when it is requested to draw a character it has no instructions for. Some missing glyph shapes are:

The missing glyph symbol for WAG Symbols is:

So whenever you see that symbol, it means that the selected font does not have drawing instructions for that character.

I know this is all technical stuff. But understanding some principals about font technology can help you understand why sometimes an application behaves the way it does. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them.

(*) Adobe Acrobat Reader (*.pdf files) stores drawing instructions instead of character numbers, so if you create a pdf file with WAG Symbols, the computer on which the file is read, does not require the WAG Symbols font.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New website online but still under construction

I work with SmartCom for professional advice about communication, website, logo's, etcetera. Currently the final website is still in a pre-design phase (meaning that SmartCom is waiting for my input), but we decided to launch an under-construction website in the mean time. That website is now online:

Check out the cool picture on top showing my logo laying in parts ready to be assembled. I like it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Upgrading Development Environment and Infrastructure

Developing cutting-edge software is what I want to do. That means staying up-to-date with the latest development tools and technologies. For those who want to know, these are the tools I work with:

  • Coding: Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, C#

  • User interface: Window Presentation Foundation (.NET 4.0)
  • Font development: FontLab Studio 5
  • Laptop: Dell XPS M1710
  • Server: Dell PowerEdge 510

    Last week I upgraded from Visual Studio 2008 to Visual Studio 2010. One thing that is improved in this new version, is the quality of text rendering: good for us, because it means that WAG symbols will be displayed better. On the other hand, some features I used in older versions, are disbanded by Microsoft and no longer work in VS 2010: extra rework for me. And finally the software uses a new framework that will not exist on most computers, and therefore it must be installed with the GS applications: more mega bytes to download and installing the software will take longer.
  • Sunday, November 7, 2010

    New Product Names

    Currently four products are being developed:
    • WAG Fonts
    • WAG Symbols Keyboard
    • WAG AddIn for Microsoft Office
    • WAG Judge

    I am fine with the names "Fonts", "Symbols Keyboard", etc... but not with the "WAG" acronym. First of all "WAG" is hard to spell, sounds bad when spoken as a word, and lately the acronym receives much attention in the meaning "Wives and Girlfriends", not exactly something I want the software to be associated with.

    So I decided to change the acronym from WAG to GS which stands for Gymnastics Software. So in the next release, the products will be named:

    • GS Fonts
    • GS Symbols Keyboard
    • GS AddIn for Microsoft Office
    • GS Judge


    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    What is the mini-language?

    The mini-language is the language you can use in the text editor of the WAG Judge application: between the symbols keyboard and the score slip.

    This is the place where you insert the symbols that will be displayed in the score slip. To add special features to the exercise that influence the difficulty score, you can use the mini-language which I will explain here:

    To create a connection
    Type a space between two elements that are not in the same connection.


    To indicate a fall
    Falls alter the DV because a connection value is not awarded in case there was a fall in the connection. To indicate that there was a fall in the element (or its landing), type the letter F immediately after the element that has the fall.


    To indicate an invalid element
    Sometimes a gymnast performs an element, but receives no difficulty value for it. For example when a salto is not landed on the feet. Of course you want to see the symbol of the element, but you don't want it to be taken into account in the evaluation. In that case, type the letter x immediately afer the element.


    To indicate an invalid element with a fall
    If the element has a fall and it is not valid for DV, type the letters xF immediately after the element.


    To devaluate the DV
    When for technical reasons the elements DV must be lowered by one, than you must type the minus sign - after the element.


    To devaluate an element to a lower element in the code
    To devaulate the complete element (for example due to an incomplete pirouette), type the less-than < character after the element.


    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    New elements: update

    Nellie Kim asked me to wait a little bit, because some symbols will change. As soon as I receive the new symbol shapes, I will post them here.

    New elements from the Rotterdam 2010 World Championships

    I just added the new WC 2010 elements to the WAG Symbols fonts. Because I saw a problem with the shape of certain symbols, I first want to check this with Nellie Kim before I release it to you.

    In the mean time, I will continue to update the other software applications. As soon as the new symbols are approved by the WTC, I will release them.

    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    Did you find a bug or do you have a great idea?

    Please send me an email!

    A new blog is born

    Dear readers.

    With this blog I'd like to tell you about gymnastics software products:
    • what am I working on
    • when will new versions be released
    • what bugs have been found
    • what new features are requested
    This is also a blog where you can let me know:
    • what you would love to see in the software
    • what can be improved
    • what features you think are cool
    • what you think is wrong
    • what you would like to change
    Yours sincerely,
    Tom Van Hauwaert