Game Over for Stargate playing cards

I am really sorry to have to admit defeat.

After a lot of work on this, and a lot of obstacles, I believe it is impossible to get a licence from MGM. Whilst their contract has a number of issues, by far the most problematic is that in order to purchase a licence from them, they require me to assign all copyright in my product to them. No, they don't pay me for that! If this seems backwards to you, you are not alone.

I made it clear from the start that the designs included some creative commons work - so they knew it would never work all along. Even if that could be solved by a lot of re-design, it would mean rights in my playing cards designs assigned to them - which means all the other playing cards I have made being theirs - so I'd need to buy a licence to use those (even though I designed them!). This is not, in my view, how copyright is meant to work!

Anyway, this is the video I made earlier. I have not had any further reply from the licensing people, which I can only take as confirmation of my understanding. A bit rude to just ignore me, but seems to be typical of all of the interactions I have had on this. Shame.

I went to Cal Mah, and sadly there was not much merchandise using MGM copyright material (apart from "Stargate Command" stuff which I believe is MGM) - now I know why.

Sorry for getting anyone's hopes up. I'll be removing the Alteran Bridge Club pages, etc.


Another new toy

I have posted before, saying I am trying to lose weight, and things have been going slow and steady. Thanks for all the feedback and advice.

With the weather getting worse the "walking" had somewhat stopped, which was a slight issue.

I now have a treadmill! It means I can walk and walk and walk and still be in front of the TV. It goes quite well with my new watch setting goals for daily activity.

Weight loss is once again happening. Yay!

P.S. The watch is still going


Ho Ho Ho!

My wife usually manages most of the Christmas presents, but this year I have got a few.

It all started with seeing something and thinking "Oh, Lewis would like that", or "Oh, Bobby would like that". Before I knew it I had a few things stacked up for grandchildren and then something for my children.

Of course, with two more grandchildren, next year is going to get even more complicated.

I hope they like the wrapping paper :-)


New watch

I got myself an early present. A new watch. To be honest, there was nothing wrong with my old one - it never needed charging (solar) and had radio clock so always accurate.

However, I saw this new watch and thought it was at last a vaguely "smart" watch that does not need charging.

I told myself I was not getting a "smart watch" until there was one that did not need charging. I had a Garmin one once, and it needed charging every night and I hated that.

My son, quite sensibly, berated me for buying anything off a Facebook advert on the basis that they are all scams (and sadly, one other thing I bought was a scam and I am waiting to get £40 back from Amex for that). However, to my surprise the watch does not seem to be a scam!

It's a Matrix Power Watch, waterproof, and to my surprise thermally powered! It links to my phone via bluetooth and does calories, steps, distance (how?), and sleep tracking. It has an e-ink type display. It actually has a choice of watch face display, and I hope they add more choices later as I'd rather see one like the above but with larger date and day of week rather than "REALTIME POWER" which is pointless being on the display. It even has a back light!

Also, the strap was crap (in my view), but it is a standard 24mm fitting, so I was able to get a nice metal black strap from Amazon, which is (in my view) much nicer.

So now I am doing the whole "completing the circles" thing, with a new treadmill (another new toy), and trying to get fit :-)

It will be interesting to see how it goes.

I am, however, of the view that these devices are really crap at even counting steps, let alone distance. But if it is consistent itself that will still help ensure I keep up the exercise.

Update: Yeh, it has odd ideas, like 500 steps already when I got up this morning (I don't sleep walk).


Scripted font generation using fontforge

This is my first attempt at making fonts using scripts... Well, apart from a digits only font, it is my first attempt to make any font! It seemed like a good use of a Sunday afternoon :-)

The plan was to make some fonts based on classic 5x9 dot matrix characters. Not a huge challenge you may think - but I did not want to spend ages positioning dots in a graphical user interface. So I ended up making some C code, that produces SVG for each character and then Python script to use fontforge to make a font from the SVG.

My 5x9 characters are defined in the C code using hex.

   {"A", {{0x20, 0x50, 0x88, 0x88, 0xF8, 0x88, 0x88}}},

That defines the capital A to look like :-
My C code makes an SVG that looks like :-

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8">
<svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" version="1.1" width="816" height="1024">
      <circle cx="255" cy="51" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="153" cy="153" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="357" cy="153" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="51" cy="255" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="459" cy="255" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="51" cy="357" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="459" cy="357" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="51" cy="459" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="153" cy="459" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="255" cy="459" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="357" cy="459" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="459" cy="459" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="51" cy="561" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="459" cy="561" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="51" cy="663" r="40"/>
      <circle cx="459" cy="663" r="40"/>

Which, as you can see was simple enough.

I also make a Python script (from the C code) along the lines of :-

import psMat
import fontforge
f.copyright="Adrian Kennard"
f.fullname="FiveByNineLED Regular"

Which has for that letters :-


And finally saves :-


Simple enough :-)

As you might guess, I was not going to just make a font as simple as that. For a start it was sensible to make some different weights and an italic variant.

For different weights, I just changed the size of the dots :-

For italic I simply adjusted the position of the dots, and told the font it was italic. I picked 10 degrees.

But that was not all. A simple dotty font looked nice but I felt I could do me. You will note I called this "LED" on the basis that it looks like a simple array of round LEDs as seen on railway stations and many such signs.

But what of LCD. For this I made squares.

For bold I actually made the squares touch, and the overlap removal in fontforge creates an outline of the joined up squares.

However, to make an italic version I could not simply move the positions as I did for the LED version as that creates a staggered row of squares. Instead I had to skew the whole glyph.

My first thought was to simply put an transform="skew(-10)" in the SVG. That worked, but there are limits to what the SVG import will do on fontforge it seems. Combinations of translations on individual components and a group object with a skew did not quite work as expected. I had to make the SVG very simple. Later, with some overlapping rectangles I actually managed to not just make errors from fontforge but segfault it! So I ended up doing the skew in the python!


That seemed to work well for this...

But I could do more... What about the way these fonts looked on an old fashioned CRT? So I made a CRT version which joined the dots horizontally with rectangles.

But there's more. This is something I did in something like 1981 when making a printer driver for a spark jet printer that could screen print BBC Micro MODE7 but not look like crap. Back then I created 45 degree lines joining octagonal dots. This works well for most letters.

But some needed help, notably where a diagonal joins a horizontal or vertical line, I would create a right angle not a diagonal. The fix was making a second "layer" of the bit map. For LED and LCD and CRT this did not matter, a dot was a dot, but for this JTD (Join The Dots) mode, it was needed to allow for things like the diagonal of an R to work...

This was another case which was a challenge. I originally planned on using an SVG path to join the dots, but that did not work. The import messed up the translations somehow, and then the overlap removal in fontforge just did not work. By simply creating a rectangle to join each circle, that worked, even the 45 degree ones, until I tried to apply a skew at the SVG level and that got very upset. A skew applied at the phython stage worked. Oddly the 45 degree ones are still making warnings but creating clean glyphs, so close enough.

Creating a simple ASCII character set was not hard. But these days we need a bit more, and so I went through the extended latin and did a lot of them (that I could sensibly work in a 5x9 matrix). I am sure there are more I can add. Thanks to Ray for pointing me to the SAA5050 data sheet with additional characters. So far over 400 characters, and more may be added over time.

The accents all look a lot better in the join-the-dots version as I could make the joins allow for the accents and not stick the accent to the letter in an odd way...

P.S. In honour of a previous blog post...

P.P.S. the "TXT" version is an attempt to mimic the Mullard SAA5050 character rounding logic.

So this is the result (may be updated from time to time if I add more characters) :-