https available

You can now access the site via the alternative URL:
(Note: that's 'https' as in 'secure', and no 'www')

Not that the site stores any user data, but this (in theory) means that any data you post for rendering using the various tools can't be observed or modified by malicious network denizens thanks to end-to-end encryption. And if someone hijacks the site you'll get a certificate warning.

This may not work in really, really old operating systems like Windows XP, so I'm not going to redirect http requests to https for a bit. On the flip side, modern browsers are pretty strict about trusted sites including non-trusted content, so some random stuff may fail, so please give it a whirl and let me know if you see any glitches. Ω


Metadata Doc

A long time coming, but I finally wrote up slightly more human readable definition of the XML metadata format.


It doesn't explain everything, but should cover everything you actually need: borders, routes, allegiances, subsectors, labels, stylesheets, etc.



Text Rendering Is Hard

The only negative side effect I've noticed from the provider move is text rendering at small sizes. Prior to the move the rendering of text like world names was precise and very legible. Now... some letters are a bit anemic in places. It's only notable for text like world names, when portions of a letter like "E" may be only a single pixel wide. 
Old AntiAliased: note the high quality letter shaping
New AntiAliased: poor letter shaping, poor legibility
ClearType: poor letter shaping, better legibility

Text rendering is hard. Go read http://www.rastertragedy.com for the gruesome details. I rely entirely on the APIs provided by .NET for it, which relies on Windows support. There are plenty of options available for providing hints to the text rendering, and I use "antialias" which basically means rendering character glyphs as vectors and not getting too fancy with reshaping letters to improve legibility of text. That's great for images and lousy for swaths of text (like a web page or ebook), and the text may be a little fuzzy but the size and placement are exact.

Unfortunately, it looks like the "cloud" machines now hosting the site are not doing it the same way as the prior hosts. My guess is that there was GPU rendering on the old provider and without that a fast/dirty CPU fallback is used.

I tried changing hints, and some do improve the legibility of some text but makes other text far worse and pixelated. And even the "improved" text is... well, it doesn't look as elegant. *sigh*

Old AntiAliased: looks the best to me

New AntiAliased: World names are ugly, subsector name looks good

ClearType: note the "jaggies" on the subsector name
The good news is that if you're using a device with a high density ("retina") display, the problem doesn't appear since there are four times as many pixels for the renderer to play with, and that's the way of the future. It also doesn't affect print (PDF) output. 

New AntiAliased: High-DPI Rendering

I'll keep tracking this issue and see if I can improve things. I may be able to selectively tweak the output (e.g. only for world details, if low-DPI, etc). I'll also ping the hosting provider. 



Hosting Provider Change - Uptime Report

As noted, I switched hosting services a couple of weeks ago. The new hosts have 10x the memory and there are two of them for load balancing. Here's a graph (c/o Pingdom) showing "downtime" incidents:

Notice any changes circa October 10th?

FYI, the incidents usually lasted on the order of ~2 minutes and correspond to a server restart, usually due to the site's pixel crunching overwhelming the CPU limit on the servers under load.


Route Maker

I added a Route Maker tool to facilitate entry of route metadata by simply clicking on a map. It's a bit rough, but it's similar to a custom desktop application I put together a few years ago when I was inputting all of the Travellers Digest routes. Not too fancy, but better than typing.

Eventually I'll get Border Maker added as well, and ideally unify everything into a Metadata Maker or some such.