Data URI’s

Inlining images in base64 encoding is a pretty neat trick. Not all that useful in most scenarios, since http connections are most likely all persistent these days and browsers tend to cache image resources. Still, I find this approach interesting when you want to limit the number of files you deliver or you can’t really reference external resources at all.

The basic technique involves two things: encoding your image in base64 format and inlining the resulting string into your img tag. Here is an example:

<img src="data:image/png;base64,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">

The tag’s src=”data:…” bit is called the Data URI scheme and has been around for a while and is now implemented in most browsers.

The encoding bit is easy and can be done in most frameworks. I spend a lot of time in grails so to do this in groovy you just do this:

f = new File("tcsmall.png")
b = f.readBytes()

This approach has some overhead. Base64 encoding only uses 62 or 64 characters of a possible 256 in a byte so overall bytes going over the wire will be more. You would normally only use this for very small images.

For the life of me, I don’t know why browsers don’t use this technique when you save web pages locally. My gut says loading the base64 encoded versions from disk is negligible. If browsers used this, they could save an entire image-rich web page into a single html page. Instead, what browsers do is they write a single html file and all image /css resources in a directory alongside the html. References to images are all then re-pointed to the files in this directory. Yuck. Maybe browsers do this specifically so you can have the images as files for easy access. Who knows.

Anyway, I see some browsers (like Chrome) use this feature for things like “file/folder” icons when viewing ftp sites. Unless the browser is using OS native calls to render these directly, it needs to do something if it renders html to display this kind of interface. In the case of Chrome, it uses data uri’s and plain html to show a ftp user interface. I suppose a browser could reference files on your local hard drive, but seeing links in “view source” like: file:///C:/Users/ncodignotto/AppData/Local/Google/Chrome/Application/icons/folder.png, well, that shit just seems wrong.

Logo Contest

My company is holding a logo contest for our upcoming third annual in-house technology convention called Tech Con. Lots of people submitted logos and they were all awesome. My first idea was inspired by circuit boards and how they work words onto the actual circuit. The theme of TechCon this year is “The Big Picture” so this is what I came up with first, in about 10 minutes:
Still, I wanted to try something else. I am not sure why I had the idea for children-style alphabet blocks but I figure I could create something with povray, a ray tracing program that’s been around for a while. I stopped using it when I migrated to the Mac since it’s Mac support is firmly based in PPC land and emulated in Intel-land. Anyway, povray happened to come with a sample scene file which rendered blocks spelling “povray”. I was able to quickly modify this sample and change this to “techcon”. Techcon had the same number of different letters, 6, one for each side of the cube.
The first logo I created was this one:
First of all, if you click on any of these images they expand into a larger version that has a lot more detail. Notice how smooth the shadows are. Earlier versions looked terrible. The shadows are all rough and posterized. I dig into the documentation and found that since the scene used radiosity (where ray tracer takes lit diffuse objects lighting each other up into account), I had to increase a few settings in order to get enough samples to make everything smooth which was more than merely supersampling more.
The next logo compressed things a bit more by stacking the blocks, this was an easy change to some basic translations.
The next version, below, introduces some logic that I had previously disabled in the povray demo scene file I used as a basis for my work. You can see below that there are many more cubes randomly dropped via a trace function collision algorithm written by Greg M. Johnson in 2001. The main enhancement I added to this is a focal blur effect. Notice the blocks in front are in-focus and the ones in back are fuzzy. This is another expensive effect that I had to learn to use effectively. There was yet another setting I needed to bump up to get the cubes to be blurred in a smooth manner.
I even experimented in black, wondering what it would look like. To me, this version mainly looks like puke.
Knowing that the logo may need to be printed on the cover of a faux-moleskine notebook we give out every year, I brought a few of the logos into Photoshop and used the posterize and threshold filters to create a hip black and white version of  the logo.
So, the powerful ray tracers is thus reduced to a fancy way to create a low-fidelity graphic. But it did look cool.  You would not believe how obsessed I was at the creation of this. Rendering hundreds of variations, making tiny adjustments to lighting, camera, and block positions. After a while, I had most of the settings I wanted from a look and feed perspective, so I started experimenting with putting the year in, since it was an annual event:
Next, I incorporated the “Big Picture” into the logo and adjusted the color scheme. Here, the TechCon blocks are a mere annotation to the “Big Picture” cube.
Finally, I submitted my masterpiece. The result of like 30 hours of work. A hip black and white version of the logo that had all of the elements I was playing with and would look good on the front of a notebook.
Sweet, yes?
Guess which logo people liked? Yes, you guessed it. The circuit-board logo I started off with: