Sunday, 22 October 2006

"Selamat Hari Raya, Maaf Zahir Batin"

Maafkanlah segala salah silap saya, yang sengaja serta tidak. Semoga kita semua diberi kekuatan olehNya untuk meneruskan serta menambah segala kebaikan yang kita telah usahakan semasa Ramadhan untuk baki usia sepanjang tahun. Amin.

(Gambar hiasan: cermin mata saya yang lama, baru diganti beberapa hari lepas. Agaknya kenapa? Cuba tengok betul-betul.)

Sunday, 15 October 2006

Abu Bakar As Siddiq RA before Islam

(Just recalling some things I learned from a tazkirah.)

Before Islam came to the Hijaz, it was a land of lawlessness. Tribes fought each other over major and trivial matters and blood was sometimes spilled like dishwater. There was no power to prevent or to intervene all this. According to historical scholars in Islam, the Arabs of Hijaz lived such a barbaric existence that the superpowers of the era, Romans and Persians, felt that there was nothing to be gained from conquering them.

But it is only human to seek justice and what is right. Although there were no legal framework, regulations or an institutionalised government in Hijaz then, disputes were at times referred to a few respectable figures in society. One of them was Saidina Abu Bakar As Siddiq RA.

These figures were considered as honourable and trustworthy. Their words were considered as acceptable and must be honoured by all. In a way, they were like publicly appointed judges.

Abu Bakar RA was a man of integrity and character. He respected for his background as well as a pragmatic resolver of conflicts. In such a chaotic society, being perceived as like a judge definitely says a lot about a person's stature.

However when word of Abu Bakar RA embracing Islam spread out, the people of Mekkah including those respected him previously, sought him out and sprang on a brutal attack. Narrators mentioned that the injuries he sustained left his face unrecognisable. A man once considered as a pillar of society, now reduced to the likes of a despised criminal. All for bearing witness to Allah SWT and His Prophet SAW.

He laid unconscious for some time surrounded by closed ones and other early Muslims. But immediately after gaining consciousness, he asked for Rasulullah SAW. He did not even asked for how long he was out or anything else. It was clear that Rasulullah SAW was on his mind all the time. Such is the the man that Allah chose to accompany his Beloved and lead the ummah as the first Amirul Mukminin.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Why Georgia? Why?

(a.k.a. Times New Roman for...everything? Part II)

From the last post, I sense that people think I'm asking them to use the font Georgia over Times New Roman and all other fonts.

Why Georgia? Why not Verdana, Arial or any of the rest?

Well, the answer to that is this. Times New Roman is a common, serif font. Hence, a good substitute for it would be another common, serif font.


Now, about common fonts. From the previous post:
...A font file needs to installed first before a PC can properly display it. The fonts mentioned above easily found in all Windows PCs, but this is not true for all fonts. For example if I use the font Helvetica for my PowerPoint slides (since I have in it on my PC) and opens it on another PC without Helvetica installed, that PC will only choose a close equivalent font to it. Since different fonts handle spacing and sizing differently, I may find slides' content placed out of position, for example. To be safe, stick to common fonts like the ones mentioned just now.
Common fonts are also referred to as core fonts for the Web. Basically it means that these fonts are found in virtually every PC and can therefore be safely used for the Web (as well as other programs that uses text like Word and PowerPoint). Both Georgia and Times New Roman are part of the core fonts, and they're both serif fonts.

The whole point of core fonts is ensure that they are available in most, if not all, PCs. Remember, font files are referenced or pointed to. Based on this understanding, if in your PC the Times New Roman font file is either not installed, deleted or not found, your PC cannot recognise Times New Roman or display it. Simple as that.

Serif and sans serif

What are serif fonts, then? For that one, let's together revise our secondary school art class lesson on font types.

This is serif (Georgia)

This is sans serif (Verdana)

Serif font are fonts with serifs. The red parts in the picture below are what are called as serifs.

Sans serif fonts are naturally fonts without serifs. 'Sans' is French for 'without'.

Let's sum up why Georgia is a good substitute for Times New Roman. 1) It's one of common/core fonts. 2) It's a serif font.

A lot of people insist on serif font for official documents, thesis, reports, etc. What I'm proposing is that for these purposes, try using Georgia, if you're allowed to do so. Especially when you're preparing them using a PC word processor like MS Word. Georgia, as I've also mentioned, has a superior wordspacing and letterspacing capabilities. The result is a better-looking, more readable print-out of your work. Georgia is gorgeous on screen, in print and easier on the eyes.

Take a quick at the contents of books, particularly paperbacks. You'll probably notice mostly serif fonts are used. However, for textbooks, magazines and the Web, a mixture of both serif and sans serif is often employed.

What about Garamond?

ieka mentions that she likes Garamond. Garamond is also a fine font. In fact, Harry Potter books uses Garamond. But Garamond is not part of the core fonts and it is also not part of the fonts supplied with Windows XP. These considerations make Garamond an unsuitable substitute for Times New Roman.

What about the rest?

Let's say that you work exclusively with Windows XP PCs at both work and home. Then it would be OK for you to use any of the XP-supplied fonts. In this case, check out Palatino, another very recommended serif font with a good on screen readability.

If you like to design posters, brochures and others, you'll also likely to install new fonts for your PCs. This shouldn't be much of a problem if you print your own work. The problem will surface when you print your work using a different PC, with a different set of fonts installed in it. And be aware that not all fonts appear the same on screen as well as in print.

The subject of fonts is a very fascinating one. I didn't care much about it myself until read a very long essay by a font expert berating a particularly badly designed font that he saw in a book. At first I thought this guy was make a big deal out of nothing, but after I learned more about fonts and its history, I started to appreciate the ingenuity and effort that goes into designing one.

To people who still uses Times New Roman all the time, I would like to say, "There's more to life than just the default setting."

Have a productive and blessed Ramadhan.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Times New Roman for...everything?

Thanks to Microsoft, Times New Roman has become ubiquitous and probably the #1 most used font in work, school and just about everywhere the MS Word word processor is installed. Mainly because it's the default font for the program.

Times New Roman is a good font but not a very good font. At first I thought I was being picky and overthinking things. I use Word and PowerPoint a lot, and when I look at the final draft of my works, I couldn't help stare at how inconsistent Times New Roman looks. Most knowledgeable people (i.e. people who can explain these things better than me) cite Times New Roman's poor handling of letterspacing and wordspacing as one of the main issues.

I'm not someone with an art background and I can't really talk about things like a font's x-height or ascenders/descenders and so on (you can learn about that better here). What I do know is that some other fonts can do better job as the font of choice.

So what are the other fonts to use? Well, for starters, there's Georgia.

Yes, Georgia. I don't really understand why people don't use this font more often. It's elegant, it's optimised for screen display and it's part of the default set of fonts in Windows.

(Recently, I typed a group assignment using Georgia and after I passed it to a fellow group member, he changed everything back to Times New Roman before printing and binding it. Sabar je lah.)

Go ahead. Try Georgia. Or Tahoma, Verdana or Trebuchet MS. These are commonly found in all Windows PC and they are designed for screen readability. Times New Roman was initially designed for the newspaper and print. If you know CSS (cascading style sheets), you can use the techniques described here to make Times New Roman look wonderful for the Web.

One last thing. Please don't go overboard with fonts. A font file needs to installed first before a PC can properly display it. The fonts mentioned above easily found in all Windows PCs, but this is not true for all fonts. For example if I use the font Helvetica for my PowerPoint slides (since I have on it in my PC) and opens it on another PC without Helvetica installed, that PC will only choose a close equivalent font to it. Since different fonts handle spacing and sizing differently, I may find slides' content placed out of position, for example. To be safe, stick to common fonts like the ones mentioned just now.

And another thing. Installing lots and lots of fonts on a PC can slow it down considerably. Install what you need and you should be OK.

And another one last thing. Please give Georgia and the others a chance.

Ramadhan karim.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Turn your résumés to PDF

My two former classmates, saiehun & fzk, came to me with a request. They wanted me to help them turn their résumés into PDF. That's a brilliant idea. Turning your résumé into PDF makes it tamper-proof, so no one will be able to 'accidentally' alter or delete any information on it when you submit it along with your job application. Plus, PDF is one of the best file format for printing.

The question now is how to do it? From my experience, there are a few ways that you can try.

The most obvious solution is to use Adobe Acrobat, the program designed for creating PDF documents. Not to be confused with Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can only be used to read PDF documents and costs nothing. Adobe Acrobat is expensive, costing around a thousand ringgit or so.

I'm here to suggest to you a few cost-free solutions to PDF creations. They're quite easy to follow, nothing too technical. You'll be turning documents (not just your résumé) into PDF in no time.

Solution #1: OpenOffice

OpenOffice comes with a feature for turning (or as they call it, exporting) documents into PDF. It also can read files in Microsoft Office formats. So if you wrote your résumé in Word, you can still open it in OpenOffice Writer without much problem. And turning it into PDF is as simple as clicking a button on the OpenOffice toolbar.

Solution #2: PDFCreator

For people like me who can't afford Adobe Acrobat, there's PDFCreator. This program acts as a virtual printer, where it prints your documents to PDF instead of through the printer. It works with a large number of programs and virtually any file format you can print using the printer. PDFCreator also comes with a lot of features, including security.

Solution #3: PDFOnline

If you have an Internet connection, why not try PDFOnline? Simply upload your résumé. in .doc (Word's native file format) and let PDFOnline to the rest. There is however a 2MB file size limit.

Remember, these methods are for turning any .doc documents into PDF, not necessarily just for résumés.

I've heard that the online word processor, Zoho Writer can save documents in PDF as well. If you've tried it please share your knowledge since I haven't tried Zoho Writer myself.

I hope (at least one of) these methods will work for you. If you got suggestions or questions, leave a comment or send an email. If you happened to be job hunting right now, all the best! And to all Muslims readers, Ramadhan Karim!
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