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Kickstarter update #7: Challenges

I’m catching up my blog to the kickstarter updates I’ve been posting. Here’s the original.

Six prints are out the door and on their way. Six desktop images are out and emailed. I’d love pictures, to share, when you get them, please!

I would like to be further on than 12 out of 453. It’s better than zero, but there have been some interesting challenges. So, I’ll outline them and what I’m doing about them.

Some of the largest prints are 42 inches at their shortest length. I have 48 inch poster tubes, but it turns out that rolling a 42 inch poster in to a tube 1.5 inches wide damages it. In fact, I can’t even squeeze them in there. That means I need bigger poster tubes. So, I’ve ordered 4 inch tubes to fit the largest of the prints.

Second, printing has been more painful than I would like.

Print shops are typically set up for either large volumes of the same thing, or, incredibly bespoke one-off things. On the one hand, they like 1,000 copies of the same poster. On the other, they like the photo that has to be just right to be framed in the hallway.

Confronted with 453 prints, each very large, and each completely different, the systems for tracking everything break down. It becomes difficult to ship all the PDFs to the printer. It becomes difficult to pick them all up. Essentially, everything that worked well for me with a limited small run, doesn’t work any more.

So, I’m buying a printer.

The economics of buying vs. renting a printer (and the ink, electricity, time…) mean that it’s actually not really much more expensive to just buy a printer. This is especially true since print pricing assumes you’re using lots of ink, where our prints actually use very little compared to a full color photo.

The printer I’m buying is a Canon ipf8400. It weighs 500lbs, prints almost every color on every paper and it takes 44 inch paper (which I already have rolls of). It’s so badass, it has a 250Gb hard drive inside it (I’m still puzzled why that is, but hey). There’s a picture of it below. This thing costs about $3,500 and my worst-case scenario is to just sell it after these prints are done. But, I think I’ll find uses for it. It should arrive early next week.

Lastly, I broke some of the prints in the first run for two reasons.

GPS data has errors in it, which mean you can get some random lines which “jump around”. I filter these out by removing lines which are longer than 1/4 inch on the page, which stops the lines jumping across a city and then back again. But, when you zoom way out, even lines less than 1/4 inch are, still, hundreds of miles long and need to be cut. It is super hard to see these in the PDFs but very easy to see them in the prints. When it takes days to get a print… it takes days to find a bug like that.

The other bug is that I built a simple Mercator projection engine to render the prints. This works well when zoomed in, since you can stretch the vertical axis proportional to the cosine of the latitude. When you zoom out, the stretch varies by latitude itself, across the print, so you end up with broken prints. Long story short – the USA looks “squashed” but a city looks great. So, the USA prints broke. Again, hard to see in the PDFs on screen.

So, some delays.

I have backed kickstarters that failed. The Punk Mathematics Textbook raised $28,701 in 2010 and hasn’t shipped a damn thing, for example. I backed that, and it sucks. I’m highly aware of the responsibility of shipping actual posters to you all. So, apologies for this delay and I’ll keep you updated as much as I can.

To make up for it, here are some pictures of the prints that worked, taken with sexy focal lengths on a hardwood floor. You can’t even pay for that. There’s a picture of the posters that went out, too.

I’ll post another update soon. Feel free to send me questions, just be aware I’m getting a lot of them and might be delayed replying.

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