Like Clockwork is an intriguing new serial by Scottish writer Damien M. Love. Written in weekly parts for the Kindle, the first instalment also appears in a limited edition digital tabloid newspaper. Containing robots, shadowy figures, atmospheric European locations and men in long coats, it’s designed for curious minds of all ages.
Wednesday, March 13th 2013
Monday, March 11th 2013
If you’re ordering one copy of a newspaper in the UK you can now choose Royal Mail delivery. This means:
- It’s slightly cheaper – one copy of a 12-page paper costs £12 including delivery
- You don’t need to be in to sign for it – one copy is small enough to fit through a standard letter box
Courier delivery is still available so if you’d like your papers to be sent express or have any difficulties receiving post at your address you can choose this option. If you’d like to be able to track your delivery online choose the courier option – Royal Mail deliveries are sent by standard post and are not tracked.
We’re trialling this for a few weeks so if you have any questions or comments about Royal Mail delivery options please let us know. More information on our delivery FAQ page.
Tuesday, March 5th 2013
Inside, interviews with local people aim to give the community a voice on post-riots Tottenham: to let them celebrate the area, whilst also addressing the problems and opportunities that they see around them. Do Well and Doubt Not is available from Tottenham outlets or by contacting Spacemakers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Matt at Spacemakers for getting in touch and telling us about their project.
Friday, March 1st 2013
The Ffestiniog Englands are the oldest working narrow gauge engines in the world. They’re rare, historically important trains, and they’re 150 years old this year.
Chris Thorpe’s Flexiscale Co is preserving them, using some of the most modern technology at their disposal. They’re 3D scanning them, to produce highly accurate software models, which can then be 3D printed at any scale desired to produce plastic models.
Chris is running a Kickstarter project to help with the scanning, and the backers can get a model at various scales as a reward. They are also a number of other rewards, one of which is a Newspaper Club newspaper about the project, with lovely photos of the process and some of the renderings.
What a brilliant example of the physical-digital flip-flop. A physical object is scanned as a 3D point cloud, software rendered to a 3D mesh, coloured in and converted to JPGs, uploaded and laid out in our layout software, ARTHR, sent digitally to our press on Tuesday, printed Tuesday night, sent out for delivery on Wednesday, arrived Friday morning, and now will be posted out to the backers of a project, all of whom discovered it online. And breathe.
Chris has reached his goal on Kickstarter, but there’s still time to back the project and get a model and a newspaper of your own.
Thursday, February 28th 2013
Following on from Rosie’s post on how to make newspaper posters, here’s a beautiful example. This improved tabloid newspaper is called Decollo. It is by Fanette Mellier, a designer based in Paris, who designed this while in residence at l’Académie de France à Rome (Villa Medicis).
Fanette designed Decollo as an artistic project, to “represent rockets”.
If you re-organize the order of the pages of this newspaper, it creates some new mixes of forms and new rockets, like a “Cadavre Exquis” or exquisite corpse.
It looks great as spreads.
And fantastic as posters.
From any angle. Thank you Fanette for printing such a wonderful, colourful, playful newspaper!
Wednesday, February 20th 2013
Something we’re often asked about is printing images that run all the way across the sheets of a newspaper, like a series of posters. Setting up a file to print as full spread posters is simple once you know how. But it is so, so hard to explain with words!
I am going to show you how to make a dummy, or mock-up of your newspaper, and then we need never confuse each other ever again.
1. Start by taking some blank sheets of paper. They can be any size or shape, it doesn’t matter too much. You want to have as many sheets of paper as you want to make posters – I’m going to make 3 double sided posters, so I have 3 sheets of paper here.
2. Sketch out a rough version of how each poster is going to look on the sheets.
3. Make sure you also sketch out how the back of each poster will look, if they have any artwork or text on them.
4. Now you should have a pile of sheets that are little rough versions of the pile of posters you want to order from Newspaper Club.
5. Gather the sheets together in the order and direction you want them to be printed in.
6. Now fold the whole pile in half.
7. Ta-da! This is your dummy newspaper.
8. Check through to make sure you’re happy with the order of the sheets – if not, you can rearrange them at this point until you’re happy with the way it looks.
9. Now, take a pen and number the bottom corner of every page. The numbers are the page numbers for your file. So page 1 in your dummy should look like page 1 in your file, page 2 should look like page 2, and so on.
10. Now look through your paper – you can see which page each part of each poster should be in your file.
11. Now you can pull the paper apart and see which page each half of each side belongs on.
So now you know how incredibly easy it is to work out how to make some posters, hopefully we can put an end to the sleepless nights and confused exchanges. However, if you are still unsure, please just drop us an email at email@example.com. I can’t promise we can make this any clearer, but we do always get there somehow in the end. : )
Tuesday, February 19th 2013
Monday, February 18th 2013
Today we’re very pleased to announce the full release of the new and improved version of our online newspaper making tool, ARTHR. It’s been in testing for a while, but it’s now the default tool if you go into your dashboard and press “Make a Newspaper“. Hurrah!
As part of this, we’re shutting down the old version of ARTHR, now known as ARTHR Classic. This post details how the shutdown will work, and if you’re still using it, important dates to finish your work by.
As of today you can still make a paper in ARTHR Classic, but it’s not recommended unless you have a good reason. If you do, we’d like to hear about it, so we can see how the new version of ARTHR might meet your needs.
Barring any problems, on 18th March, we’ll stop people being able to make new newspapers in ARTHR Classic. If you’ve already started one before then, it’ll still be editable.
Then, on 1st April, we’ll stop people being able to edit newspapers in ARTHR Classic, and the tool will disappear from the site. On that date your newspaper will be converted to a PDF on our site, and you’ll be able to download the contents as a PDF, InDesign document or a ZIP file containing the stories and pictures.
If you’re working on a paper in ARTHR Classic you’ll need to finish and order it before then. Unfortunately it’s not possible to automatically move your paper from ARTHR Classic to the new version of ARTHR as the structure of the document is significantly different.
If any of that causes you a problem, please let us know and we’ll do our best to help out.
Friday, February 15th 2013
Glasgow designer Kerr Vernon has recently revamped his portfolio, turning it into a digital newspaper.
It shows off his graphic design and branding work, including a new logo for Dear Green Coffee – the magical elixir that keeps the Newspaper Club support team functioning, and the great That’s Impressive mailer for Glasgow Press.
Plus some good advice. More information and copies available from www.kerrvernon.co.uk.
Sunday, February 10th 2013
We thought it might be interesting to take you, the dear reader, on a little tour through ARTHR II and how it all works. This post is unashamedly technical, so if all gets a little bit too much, don’t worry: like the Underground at rush hour, there will be another post along shortly.
I will start at the beginning, for the beginning is a good place to start. ARTHR II (henceforth known as ARTHR – the Automated Real-time Text Handling Resource), is our online newspaper layout tool. It provides a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG style interface to make a great looking newspaper quickly and easily. And it’s entirely browser based, with no plugins required, and nothing to download.
It looks a bit like this:
(I know I’ve used this video twice before, but dammit, I’m going to use it again. If you don’t have the time to poke around with ARTHR, it should give you an idea of what you can do with it. If you do have time to have a go, head over here and try it out!)
There are three main components, all of which integrate tightly together.
- The backend Ruby on Rails application: handles storage, persistence, integration with the main Newspaper Club site, background jobs, etc.
- ERNIE, a Mac OS X/Cocoa rendering server: takes a document layout and converts it into JPG previews or print-ready PDFs
Much of the logic and intelligence in ARTHR runs in the browser, putting it as close to the user as possible to make it as fast as possible.
We’ve tried to write it as you would a well-structured Object Orientated GUI application, and took much from Soundcloud’s blog post about building Next Soundcloud.
With so much of the app’s complexity running in the user’s browser, it becomes much harder to track down tricky bugs. To help with this, we wrote our own logging engine, with a server-side component. Browser exceptions are automatically sent over, along with a stracktrace if available, and contextual information like the git revision in use, and the IP address. For persistently tricky browser/OS combinations, we can flip a user’s account into remote debug mode, sending us live log statements, effectively letting us tail a user’s actions and get good diagnostic information.
The backend of ARTHR is quite a slim component, mostly handling persistence, storage of uploaded images, validation checks, and providing a conduit for the frontend to communicate with ERNIE, the rendering engine.
It’s a Rails 3.2 application, running a Postgres database, with Sidekiq for background jobs. We’re making good use of the hstore type to be able to store arbitrary key/value pairs for different content types.
All that sits in front of nginx, running the brilliant nginx-push-stream-module. This lets us handle long-running EventSource/Server-Sent Event connections while still using our standard Unicorn single-threaded Rails server. We just make an HTTP
POST request containing the message payload to a specific channel, and it arrives at any clients listening on that channel shortly after. It’s simple, it just works, and keeps the number of server components to a minimum.
When we developed the first version of ARTHR, a few years ago, we used InDesign Server to provide layout, high quality typography with PDF and JPG output. It served us fairly well, but it’s difficult to integrate tightly with, and it’s often very slow. We needed to speed it up by a couple of orders of magnitude, and have much finer information about layout and text flows. It simply wasn’t possible to do that with IDS.
We needed something to let us layout a document, and quickly convert to both JPG (for previews) and PDF. To make things a little more complex, it needs to support CMYK, and integration with a high-quality typography library for things like ligatures, hyphenation and justification.
After working through most of the options, we ended up at Quartz, part of Cocoa’s CoreGraphics stack in OS X. It’s fast – really fast – because it’s designed to run at 60fps on the desktop. Because Quartz maps very closely to the PDF format rendering to a PDF context is fast too. And it natively supports CMYK throughout, something that Skia and Cairo, two of the main open-source rasterisation engines don’t. For typography there’s the Core Text Layout System, a collection of classes for handling typography and typesetting.
Using all this we built ERNIE, the Expertly Rendered Newspaper Internet Engine. It’s an OS X 10.8 application which exposes an HTTP RPC interface, receiving requests for content size calculations, or document rendering, and returning arrays of JPGs or PDF files.
We’re really pleased with the performance. It typically takes ~50ms to render a simple, text heavy document, up to ~700ms for a longer, more graphics heavy document. It’s often 100-200x faster than comparable documents in InDesign Server.
The PDFs Quartz produces have a few oddities, so we post-process them in Ghostscript to improve compatibility with our presses and ensure they’re PDF/X-3:2002 compatible.
Putting it all together
Let’s walk through adding a new bit of text to your document, as an illustration of how this all pieces together.
The user types into the text box and hits save. The frontend immediately sends the new content to the backend for storage. During that request, the backend takes the new content and performs a test rendering against ERNIE, calculating how the text will flow, where the paragraph breaks are, the number of lines per paragraph, etc.
When the request returns, the frontend uses the calculated flow to perform a prediction of where the text will display in the document, and renders the new piece of text in the blueprint. It’s then ready to be moved around the document by the user.
The preview images are now out of date, as they don’t include the piece of text we just added, so the frontend fades them out, and requests a rebuild of them. The backend returns a unique ID for the rebuild request, which the frontend uses to listen for changes in the state of the rebuild, using an EventSource request connected to the nginx-push-stream-module mentioned earlier.
The rebuild request is picked up by one of the background workers which takes the new document structure, including the new text, and passes it through to ERNIE. ERNIE processes the document layout and returns an array of JPG files. These are written to disk by the background worker, and the build is marked as completed. The frontend, listening for changes to the build status, is immediately notified, and requests those JPG previews from the server. As they load, it fades them in and they become visible to the user.
For most users this all happens in less than half a second, end to end. And if the user moves the piece of text around, it all happens again. Of course, the user doesn’t have to wait for the preview images before continuing to edit their document – it’ll keep them up to date as they go.
Hopefully that’s given you an idea of how an application like ARTHR works, all the way through the stack. We’re very happy with the technologies we’ve chosen, and we’re very grateful to everyone who has contributed to all the open source projects we’re building upon.
We’re keen to chat to folks working on similar online publishing tools, and always open to sharing what we’ve learnt. If that’s you: get in touch!