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 SRU's David Dailey knows SVG, writes book for world wide standard 




October 3, 2008

Contact: K.E. Schwab  




SRU's David Dailey knows SVG, writes book for world wide standard         


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - David Dailey, Slippery Rock University computer science professor, knows scalable vector graphics. Those who know David Dailey, know he knows scalable vector graphics. Those who don't know scalable vector graphics can now learn about them in Dailey new book "An SVG Primer for Today's Browsers."

            SVG, as it is popularly known is a computer-programming platform for two-dimensional graphics.

His 240-page book, two years in the making, has attracted the attention of international computer experts leading the new graphics platform with the World Wide Web Consortium. So impressed, they selected Dailey's primer as the first book ever published by the W3C. 

David Valentine, professor and chair of SRU's computer science department, said the decision to publish the work is "a very big deal." 

"SVG, by all accounts, is the next big thing in computer graphics. Dr. Dailey's book is one of the very first textbooks on SVG and is so important the committee in charge of setting Web standards for the planet decided to bypass the print media delay and to publish it themselves. It is the first time they have taken such a step," Valentine said.

Dailey said his book will be simultaneously available for reading online and for printing. "We are working hard to make sure each version has all of the same information and can be instantly updated. W3C will make the book available for downloading and printing by interested parties." Availability is expected this winter.

>Dailey has been working with the newly formed Scalable Vector Graphics Interest Group, within the W3C. He was one of 32 researchers invited to the Image and Meaning Regional Workshop sponsored by Harvard University and Apple Computer last January. In addition, he was asked to join a large-scale scientific modeling project using SVG undertaken by INRIA, the French national institute for research in computer science and control. In that project he joined researchers at Rice University for an INRIA-funded project. He also serves as an "invited expert" on two of the World Wide Web Consortium's committees - the SVG Interest Group and the HTML Working Group. The W3C is headquartered at MIT and is chaired by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics and graphical applications for XML, Dailey said. SVG is an open standard for vector graphics recommended by the W3C and supported by such major products as Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator as well as by hundreds of millions of mobile devices ranging from Opera-enabled cell phones to the i-Phone 3G. He said Microsoft is examining SVG for use in its systems, but thus far has opted to remain with its proprietary platform, pending further review.

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When asked about practical applications, Dailey turns to his computer screen showing a number of moving boxes, each connected together with at least one line, and in some cases more. As the boxes randomly move about the screen, connections appear and disappear based on the "broadcast radius" of the boxes. "A line break signals a problem," he explains. "Think of the boxes as military tanks, each needing to remain in contact with the other tanks in the operation and with headquarters. The lines represent the line of communication. A line break means there is a loss of network communication," Daily said.

Dailey said because SVG is a non-proprietary system, it has attracted attention of the software industry and is drawing increased interest in a number of areas, including cell phone, particle physics and television programming, to cite a few. 

>He shows another computer screen in which he has pre-programmed a number of distortions - waves, focus points, arrows - that are instantly applied to a standard portrait photo. The distortions dramatically change the facial image as Dailey moves his mouse. All the while, vectors - lines - remain in tight and exact formation. 

As for his book, Daily said that as with all computer applications, some basic standards are necessary to allow communication and usage across different brands of equipment. His work outlines a basic introduction to those using the new graphics platform.

He said he realized that some of his computer science students were having difficulty thinking outside the box after becoming accustomed to the standard HTML language, which includes a number of predefined modules. "There were certain operations that were pre-built and students had difficulty realizing they were not bound by these constraints. In our computer science program, we are not so much about teaching one particular platform or another, but more about providing a conceptual framework, so students can adapt to a variety of platforms as the need arises. SVG is just another platform that they will be able to put into play."

As his interest in SVG grew, his expertise followed. "While people are used to hearing of pixels [small individual dots that the eye combines to sees as a solid formation], vectors are lines and curves described by formulas. As formulas, they are infinitely scalable - thus scalable vector graphics. Pixels, on the other hand, tend to distort as the image is made larger, he said.

Much of the work using SVG is being done outside higher education. But within higher education prominent projects are being undertaken by the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, and the math department at Harvard University" and, "of course, at Slippery Rock University," Dailey said.

SVG will change the way items are displayed on a computer screen and cell phones and a host of other graphic applications, Dailey said. "Its fundamental metaphor for human communication is similar to, but intrinsically richer than HTML, so it shows promise for becoming quite important," he said. The bonus, and an added draw, is the fact that transmission of SVG data is less expensive, because it contains less data, a major attraction in the cell phone industry as well as those needing to store data, Dailey said. 


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.


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