Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to make money with free software...

For a dutch text click here.

Introduction
The Dutch Ministry of Finance organized an architecture competition for which a selected group of architectural offices (unstudio, nox, ...) and artists were invited, including myself. The goal of the competition was not to design a building, but the new 5 euro commemorative coin with the theme 'Netherlands and Architecture'. The winner will be rewarded with a nice price, but most of all with the honor: his design will be realized and will be a legal coin within the Netherlands.

I approached the subject 'Netherlands and Architecture' from two points of view. On one hand I paid tribute to the rich Dutch architecture history and on the other hand to the contemporary quality of Dutch architecture. These form also the two sides of my coin. Traditionally the front of the coin needs to portray the queen, while the back side displays the value of the coin.

Front side

When someone looks closely (click above on picture to enlarge) to my portrait of the queen, it becomes clear that her portrait is constructed with names of important Dutch architects. On the outside the names are clearly readable, while they slowly get smaller to the center. Under a magnifying glass all names are readable, but not with only the human eye. It is fascinating to see how an old medium like a coin can be in this way a 'compact disc' of information.

The tension between what is readable and what not, is also a metaphor how time shapes history. Some big names of the past, might be smaller names in the future and vice versa. To reflect this idea, I chose to order the architects not alphabetically or chronologically but in a new way: I used the internet as a seismograph and ordered the architects by the number of hits on the internet.



Of course this order changes over time and as such this is another time stamp on the coin besides the number '2008'. Only the first 109 architects fitted on the coin, so that was immediately the selection. Apparently becoming famous goes exponentially:



In order to achieve the image I developed my own single-line font system. I let the line width change within the same character in order to evoke an underlying picture:


Back side


Nowadays Dutch architecture is famous for its strong conceptual approach. This translates itself in the fact that there are not only a lot of books about Dutch architects, but also by Dutch architects.


On the back side of the coin I treated the edge of the coin as a book shelve. The books rise as buildings towards the center. Through their careful placement they combine to outline the Netherlands, while birds’ silhouettes suggest the capitals of all the provinces. The following scheme reveals the process:



One of the issues was how many books to take: many thin books or fewer thick books. With one very thick book you would only get a circle. To get the best approximation of the Netherlands you would need books of only one page, which is not optimal either. Therefore I needed to find the optimum between these two extremes which you can see in the scheme below. On the left you see the approximation of the Netherlands, in the middle you see the 'skyline' of the books and on the right you see the difference between the 'skyline' of the books and of the border line of the Netherlands:



The following is the idea sketch for the birds. Each bird flies above the capital of each Dutch province. In the final coin these random birds are replaced with a bird which is typical for that province.



Technology
The whole design was done for 100% with free software. The biggest part consists of custom software in Python, of course within the SPE editor. For the visual power I used PIL and pyCairo. From time to time also Gimp, Inkscape and Phatch helped quite a bit. All the developing and processing was done on GNU/Linux machines which were running Ubuntu/Debian. In the end I had to collaborate closely on location together with the technicians of the Royal Dutch Mint (coin factory). So all the last bits were done on my Asus Eee PC. (I am still wondering why Asus doesn't offer Ubuntu on its netbooks.) The Eee laptop took a bit longer (30 seconds instead of 3 seconds to generate a whole coin), but did the job just fine. For looking up the number of hits on the internet, I rediscovered Yahoo, which provides a much better api for automatic querying than its competitors. Of course the jury judged only the design and not the software used as others used Maya, Illustrator, ...

And the winner is...
I am proud to announce that I won the competition! So soon 350.000 Dutch people will use the fruits of free software. I would have loved to release the coin under the GPL, which could maybe solve the financial crisis. However for obvious reasons I was not allowed to do that. There will be also special editions for collectors which can be bought world wide: a massive silver edition for € 30,95 and a massive gold edition for € 194,95. They will be probably sold out quickly as these are real collectors items. The coin is released in all Dutch post offices to the public the same day as the Intrepid Ibex: 30th October 2008.

Here are some scans of the real coin:





The coin will be advertised 20 times on prime time on Dutch television with a nice video clip (will be available soon) and advertisements will run in several newspapers. Today was the official launch of the coin, with from left to right: myself, Secretary of State for Finance De Jager, the Chief government Architect Liesbeth van der Pol and Master of the Mint Maarten Brouwer...

Liesbeth van der Pol toont het eerste Architectuur Vijfje (Bron foto: Githa van Eeuwen Fotografie)

198 comments:

  1. Well, this tickles both my Python and coin collecting nerves! :)

    Well done and congratulations, Stani!

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  2. Echoing piotr here, "Wow". I subscribe to your feed so that I can get updates regarding SPE and have to confess that I knew absolutely nothing about your professional life. If I had been asked I could not have guessed that are a working artist. That said, I love getting unexpected things in my feeds and this was truly a treat. Reading about the creative process that you used to generate the coin and the levels of symbolism involved was riveting and I can not even begin to imagine a design that could have exceeded yours. While I think it is wonderful you created this with free software, I encourage everyone who reads this to take off their Free Software goggles for a moment and congratulate you on a design that is truly superb. It is a beautiful coin and a fantastic story. Thank you for posting it.

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  3. Awesome news. Congratulations Stani!

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  4. Very impressive from both a design and execution standpoint.

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  5. This is seriously the coolest story of the use of Ubuntu/Debian/Free Software I've ever heard! AWESOME!
    You should seriously contact the people from Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, so they can link to your blog.

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  6. Congratulations on your achievement and thanks for emphasizing the importance of FLOSS on your work.

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  7. This is amazing! Great job!
    You'd think, with how niche this task seemed to be, that it would require some obscure windows-only software or something.. Heh.. Python FTW!

    No one in the Netherlands calls their country Holland because north and south Holland are only two of the nation's twelve provinces. EDUCATION!
    ~The Ninja

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  8. Geweldig! Gefeliciteerd.

    Jammer dat ze free software niet noemen op de site van de Nederlandse Munt. Was mooie reclame geweest :)

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  9. Congratulations, well deserved for such amazing work.

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  10. Wow, congratulations. I saw this post on planet python's feed, and had to come and leave some comment. Great job, and great post.

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  11. Wow! Great design with immeasurable amount of detail. Even better, made on Ubuntu.

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  12. Well done, mate!
    Congratulations from Australia!
    Dorival.

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  13. Stani,

    Wij zijn er even stil van....

    Prachtig gedaan en evenzo prachtig resultaat.

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  14. Greetings from cairo land,

    Wow, this is very, very, impressive!

    /me wants one of those

    You made my day!

    Regards,
    behdad

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  15. Schitterend mooi ontwerp. A big step for FREEdom. A nice stunt you pulled of on the Dutch Ubuntu Forum, you little rascal.

    greetz Tico

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  16. CONGRATULATIONS!

    This is just awesome! I think I have an excuse for going to the Netherlands this year!

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  17. Amazingly cool, thanks for the great article, Stani!

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  18. I wonder... Any way to have any part of this on a tshirt?

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  19. Congratulations !!
    Terrific achievement.

    Greets from Italy

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  20. What a magnificent achievement! You can be pround on so many levels! Thanks a lot for sharing this story. I'll try to catch a few of those coins if I can. Living in Aachen makes the Netherlands "next door" for me :)

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  21. Wow,I find these coins very inspiring, being a Dutch guy myself :)

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  22. Hi Stani,
    my best congratulations!
    The design and its depth in meaning is really WOW, especially the "bookshelf"!
    (Since I don't use SPE any more I heard about this on the NTG-ConTeXt ML.)

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  23. Amazing ! Cheers to your creativity !

    btw: you have been stumbled !

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  24. Congratulations. You really deserved it.
    Seems to be a incredible art and computer work.

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  25. I bow down before your skills.

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  26. Most impressive! I've always thought SPE was excellent, but this is truly awesome.

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  27. Nice work, fella. Very impressed.

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  28. Well .. it will be a Euro coin, right?

    So everybody in the Euro-states should be theoretically able to get one as change ;)
    I get coins with your queen all the time .. but you probably get even more with our eagle ;)

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  29. Inspiring post. Looking froward to using your coin in Ireland.

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  30. Nice work, congratulations!
    You might also like to know that the Ministry of Finance website runs on free software - specifically Apache Cocoon and HippoCMS, I was a part of the team that built it.

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  31. Impressive - congratulations.

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  32. truly amazing modern design, and still stands for so much that the casual viewer can understand. great work and my thanks for promoting the open source community, this is a big moment for us. congrats.

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  33. This is indeed an impressive story. I am inspired!

    While it doesn't directly help you, or probably open source in general, I have just ordered the Silver and Gold commemorative version of these coins from the Royal Dutch Mint.

    At least I feel like I have invested in open source in some small way. Plus I liked the design very much.

    Congratulations Stani.

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  34. I love how you mixed engineering with art--and sacrificed neither. Awesome!

    I host a DIY/skills-share programming club at MIT--we call ourselves Social Underground Programming (SUP).

    We have (small, usually nightly) challenges for fun and learning, and I was thinking that "design your own coin" would be cool one. We'll definitely give it a try.

    I also wonder whether your code is open source. I think its awesome that you built on top of open source programs and divulged your inspiration and process. I suspect preventing counterfeits must go beyond hiding the code, since the images and eventually real coins are available, so it'd be great to learn from.

    diN0bot.

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  35. Goh, Stani, ik herinner me nog twee heel aardige mensen die beretrots op hun zoon waren tijdens de Hardy party in Hasselt.
    Ik kan me niet anders voorstellen dan dat hun trots nu onmeetbaar moet zijn.
    En ik?
    Ik vind het gewoon een prachtig ontwerp. Heel bijzonder.
    Ik moet acuut naar het postkantoor.
    Gefeliciteerd!

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  36. Saw your blog via the Python planet feed. Beautiful work and congratulations. You deserve every bit of accolades.

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  37. So... what has this got to do with architecture?

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  38. Awesome imagination and good crativity... :) u rock buddy.

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  39. Wow man! God has blessed you with such beautiful creativity and intelligence. Excellent! Amazing!

    And yet again FOSS shows it's quality and usefulness! Bravo Python!

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  40. Congratulations! Your coin is beautifull!

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  41. I'm not sure what you mean by "release the coin under GPL", but I guess you mean releasing the code used to generate the design.

    Maybe you could at least donate some of your prise money to some Free Software projects that you used to make this coin or just like.

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  42. Congrats man, a really, really nice looking coin, a true piece of design. Bravo !

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  43. Congratulations on winning!

    How can someone across the ocean (in the US) procure one of these nifty coins?

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  44. Prachtig, dat wil ik bij ons ook wel zien. (Hoewel liefst zonder ons koningshuis, dan)

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  45. Greetings from California.

    I got goosebumps.

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  46. this is so ridiculously cool. my mind is blown, congratulations on your achievement!

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  47. How do we get a normal or commemorative silver edition in the US? The mint's website says "Shipments to non EU-countries are not possible." =[

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  48. What makes the dark parts of the coin dark? Especially the country on the back. Or is this a secret of the mint?

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  49. What wonderfully elaborate ideas. A real marvel of creativity which well deserves the prize. Congratulations!

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  50. You, sir, are a genius! This is an incredible display of creativity and skill. I have to get one of these coins!

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  51. 'quote' In order to achieve the image I developed my own single-line font system. I let the line width change within the same character in order to evoke an underlying picture:'unquote'

    This was done with thte python programming language. Read the whole post.

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  52. Hey,

    Great Job! You can send me one! LOL!

    I wish the US currency would stop looking like cheap toilet paper, and the coins took on more of that "50 States" Quarter images.

    Isn't the US currency sad looking? I've lived in Europe for 10 years, and another 10 years in Asia. I've seen the way other countries look at their currency.

    I guess here we just us our credit cards. THAT is the problem.

    JJMacey
    Phoenix, Arizona

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  53. Congratulatios! That's an amazing story!

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  54. This is fantastically inspiring! Bravo!

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  55. Who is the fifth person on the last photo?

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  56. Congratulations!!! Highest respect.

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  57. conceptually, technically, and artisticaly a triumph.

    fablously well-conceived and executed -- sincere congratulations!

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  58. "Pavel, Oct 31, 2:52am: Who is the fifth person on the last photo?"

    The fifth person is actually the mentioned Master of the Mint Maarten Brouwer; Stani forgot to name the 4th person, Koos Postema. He is a dutch news commentator and is probably in the photograph because he will be part of the commercials that will air to promote the coin :)

    Very nice design, I'll try and get one today.. if I still can!

    (Guess removing is visible, didn't - typos)

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  59. Wonderful! I am sure to cover your achievement in one of my blogs. On a lighter note, I was wondering what would happen if all the currencies are released under GPL :-)

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  60. Bravo !! I'm speechless . Exceptional design. I cant possibly find good adjectives to describe the elegance of the coin you have designed. Hats off !!

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  61. Geweldig! Gefeliciteerd. Nu ik dit open-source- en ontwerp-verhaal achter de munt ken, zal ik de munt gaan halen.

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  62. well done!
    what a great job..
    greetings from Indonesia

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  63. I am very impressed with the design of the coin, as well as the fact that you used custom software for most of it. The architecture books on the reverse, made to look like buildings, while also outlining the Netherlands, it all comes together very well. Congratulations.

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  64. Greetings from India!

    Congratulations! I'm really impressed with the design and the whole creative process.

    Hope to see lots more of your work. :)


    Sandeep

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  65. Thank you for the illustrated explanation of the process. I am very impressed!

    Looking forward to seeing the coin in action.

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  66. Update: I just went to the postoffice to 'buy' two coins. They're sealed in a credit card size carton. The coins are very nice.

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  67. Congratulations!

    The coin is beautiful, physically and conceptually.

    And enabled by Python, there's a surprise;)

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  68. Congratulations.

    I guess architects popularity also follows Zipf's law.
    See http://www.useit.com/alertbox/zipf.html.

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  69. Big congratulations (from france) !
    Your work is impressive : the coin is really beautiful (I want one !). and made with python/ubuntu : I want one ! Great story !

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  70. Oh no, no accolade to a Python programmer. Nevertheless, be proud, happy and keep up your opus !

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  71. Truly amazing - such detail. Congratulations on winning the competition!

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  72. Applause and emotion from Open Source Publishing.

    Your stroke font is beautiful. Have you released the code/design somewhere under a free licence?

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  73. Hi!

    Kudos to you for creating this awesome design, and congratulations with winning the contest - it is well-deserved.

    Also, great of you to explain the background of your design and letting us in on the technology you used. Just Brilliant to see you did all this with FOSS software ;)

    Regards,
    Roland Bouman

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  74. Amazing design, congratulations!

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  75. Amazing!Congratulations from mainland China.

    Is there anyway i could get a silver one of this? I've checked the coin site. Fortunately i can afford one. Unfortunately there's no way to get it. some dilemma like Android G1 to me i guess.

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  76. Simply *impressive*. I guess you'll have the opportunity to promote freedomware :)

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  77. Nice, very nice, not only the coin itself but all the process that lead to it and your explanation how you did it. Awesome. Many congratulations.

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  78. hi all, and specially Stani, Congratulations for your great work.

    i'm a great fan of FLOSS and python, and of course, debian rules ;)

    i hope to get one.

    now just a naughty question, is there any hidden symbol in the design?
    you know, architects, design, money have a lot to do with massonic symbolism.

    is there any massonic symbol in your design?

    here in Portugal we have a beautiful house and garden all designed with symbolic massonic signs, it's called Quinta da Regaleira.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/isolano/370053436/

    thanks,

    rj

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  79. congrats,
    a pythonic coin designed on ubuntu with pygtk and pycairo will be my favorite ;-)

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  80. Congratulations. This is one of the most brilliant projects I've ever encountered, and your coin design is certainly the best one I've ever seen.

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  81. That was ingenious and inspired, congratulations, sir.

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  82. Awesome! Great work and an excellent concept!

    May God bless you in all you do,
    -b
    http://minosafilms.wordpress.com/

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  83. Outstanding work !!

    Congratulations from Portugal !

    FLOSS rules the "money-making" business :)

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  84. Now that is Art :)

    Congratulations!

    from the United States of America.

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  85. wow :)
    extraordinary!!

    from India.

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  86. Cool! Just, cool!

    /brian (denmark)

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  87. I'm really moved by your design and the philosophy behind the parts. Thank you for this wonderful creation and for using tools available to us all!

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  88. Congratulations! That coin is a FANTASTIC design.

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  89. Beautiful! Amazing in many ways.
    btw. you forgot to mention Koos Postema (one before rightmost person) in your description..

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  90. Very Very Impressive. Amazing creativity and execution. Congratulations for this work of art!

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  91. wow i really like the book sky line and the queens side of the coin!
    where did you come up with it?
    how long did it take?

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  92. I don't care was you using FOSS or not, because open source software should be of the same quality as commercial and it's the shame that the fact that something was possible to do using open-source software given as some extraordinary fact.

    But the coin itself and its idea is really great. When I was reading and didn't know that you won, I really wished you that.
    And I really want to have one of them

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  93. Wow! amazing work! congratulation for this piece of art.

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  94. Is the design free (as in freedom) so that I can print my own coins? :)

    (Sorry, I just had to ask...)

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  95. Ha ha wow, I just stared. Congratulations on being awesome.

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  96. congrats on the prize, but as somebody already explained, do you care to explain the architecture part of the coin?
    and your code?

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  97. Love the fact that such an intellectual design turned out to be so visually interesting. Many times designers "over think" what they are trying to do...

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  98. I am really impressed ! Congratulations from France !

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  99. Jaw-dropping! Congrats! Jernej / Slovenia

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  100. It appears that they are willing to ship the normal version of the coin to the UK (and I would assume other European countries) if one goes through the Dutch site, but the postage is €9 which is a bit much but I thought I should mention it anyway in case someone feels like getting one.

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  101. Absolutely stunning. I would love to see this coin in real-life.

    Does anyone know of a way to buy the coin for those of us not living in Europe (the US for example)?

    Any help is appreciated.

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  102. well done and congratulations!

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  103. Congratulations!!!
    My wife is a coin collector, and I guess she will WANT one of these badly (I'm just sending her the link). If there only was a way to get one shipped to Mexico...

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  104. Congratulations !

    You can find a french translation of your article here :

    http://www.framablog.org/index.php/post/2008/11/06/la-fabuleuse-histoire-d-une-piece-de-5-euros

    Regards, Alex.

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  105. Wow, congrats. Wonderful design!

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  106. Beautiful work.

    But I hope you triple checked your Yahoo search results. Carl Weber (39th on your chart) is not an architect, but probably gets confused with Carel Weeber (18th on the chart).

    Looking forward to seeing the coin in reality.

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  107. Truly a great job, and it's showing some cool inspiration too. Given Python (and SPE :-) are dutch creations, there's more than one way for you to feel proud.

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  108. absolute killer conception. congrats.

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  109. I want two of them!!
    Congratz!

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  110. Wow! You are amazing, I really love the whole concept, very creative and original. Congrats!!!

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  111. That's looking awesome! Funny see that you as a guy from Belgium won. I think a lot of people here won't like it because of that. ;)

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  112. Very inspiring. Free software solutions at it's best performance.

    Congratulations!

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  113. Damn,it's awesome!
    A real piece of art.

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  114. Wow in many levels. One is you did it with free software and python tools. Other is you won. Wow indeed :)

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  115. Very impressive, both the design and the story!

    (But what is Koos Postema doing on this picture?)

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  116. Is the bird for the provincie of Noord-Holland above Amsterdam while Haarlem is de capital of that province?

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  117. incredible work. i am very interested in getting a hold of this coin too. where can someone from the us get one?

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  118. Truly inspirational work!! Congratulations!!

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  119. I feel like I am reading / viewing something from another dimension or about someone that wasn't born, per se, but somehow created via the intersection, splicing and encoding of the most brilliant parts of the most intelligent and creative individuals of human evolution, a combination of the best artists, the best thinkers and the best coders, et al, all strategically placed into a receptacle in a lab and voila.

    It blows my mind not just the inspiration and consideration of the concept but it's implementation.

    I'll just go back to sucking the cheap liquor from my thumb …

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  120. Awesome.....!!!!Congratulations for the work. My Passion for python added up reading this.... Great Design and Great Open Source Work.

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  121. Awesome....! Congratulations. This work added up my Passion for python. Great work and Great inspirational work towards Open Source.

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  122. this is amazing! congratulations! i'm fascinated!

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  123. I liked the design, and importantly the way you've described it. A lot of people design wonderful things, but expressing the same is not always easy. Take good care.

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  124. Wow! ya eres uno de mis idolos!! muchas felicidades, hiciste un trabajo sorprendente!

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  125. Congratulations on winning the prize and well done for the good work.

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  126. Congratulations on your win.

    I was very interested in the description of your thinking for this project, and forwarded this link to my design students to learn from.

    Thank you.

    Alvalyn Lundgren
    Alvalyn Creative

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  127. proficiat,

    Pracht van een ontwerp

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  128. Outstanding approach and execution. I need one!

    HMK

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  129. Greeeeeeeeeaaaaat!!!!!!! Congratulations!

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  130. Hello Stani,

    Amazing!! wonderfull work! I love it and congratulations for the victory!

    Your friend Mario from Lima - Peru

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  131. Stani
    Beautiful design, As I am in the UK, can you tell me where I can get hold of a normal base metal version. The Dutch mint is only selling the Gold one (its sold out of the Silver one)
    It would be really appreciated

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  132. good idea, very amazing
    beautiful coin, stani

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  133. amazing design, really amazing.

    a modern backed by strong and solid concept.

    i like the metaphor you used about how time shapes history. it was strong.

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  134. AWESOME!!! Congrats' and thx for the best editor around!

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  135. i've never seen anything like these before!!! cool!1

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  136. beautifull, interesting
    graphic design...

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  137. WOW!!!!!!!! That design totally rocks. Congrats! Looking forward to seeing that coin..If only the UK joined the Euro.. =(

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  138. My most sincere congrats.
    I'm fan of your IDE and now of your whole work.

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  139. where is the source code?

    (-;

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  140. Your design hits on so many levels, meeting the requirements of having the royal image while containing potent messages within the text as an integral part of the visual design. That's so great.

    BTW, the podcast "FLOSS Weekly" on TWIT [TWIT.tv/FLOSS] is looking for Stani for an interview about free and open source software (esp. SPE --big fan here). The contact is Randall Schwartz (merlyn at stonehenge dot com). Check the "Here's what's coming up" link to find Stani's name.

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  141. It would be very interesting to see the sources

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  142. congratulations from Bulgaria :)

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  143. this is wonderful
    congratulations
    numismatist
    Indian from Dubai
    MB

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  144. Wow this is ingenious, and the fact that it was done with OS tools is awesome! Thanks for sharing the process!

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  145. That's fantastic Stani! Good to see you still are right up there creating new and interesting stuff!

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  146. wow, congratulations dude :)

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  147. lovely brilliant idea, great execution, well deserved, shall definitely get one!

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  148. Thanks for the information you provide. I will always follow the news from you

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  149. Simply Amazing. You are a design genius.

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  150. Stani, your detailed concept rationale is very engaging. And I could say, I knew you when...
    Congratulations from NY via Chicago.

    -Tracy Busch

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  151. Woaw! Go stani!

    I love the complexity of the creative process and how you unfolding the process to us made the coin even more beautiful.

    Hope you can continue to make money with free software :)

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  152. Bravo cette piéce de monnaie est magnifique !

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  153. hats off....
    Can I see your other work

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  154. This is so cool.... truly inspiring!

    you are a creative genius!

    Im so glad to have come across this article :)

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  155. Congratulations, It's truly impressive and inspiring. Well done!

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  156. I just saw your post and I was really impressed! It's amazing not only that you made everything with free software but also the incredible imagination and meaning you've put into the coin! Congratulations!

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  157. Best wishes, It's truly amazing and motivating. Well done!
    and the point that it was done with OS resources is awesome! Thanks for discussing the process!
    Make money with free software

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  158. I am really impressed with the detailing and thought that went into the design of this coin. Hats of to you!

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  159. Brilliant! It is so nice to see someone who is great in the logical as well as the creative aspects of life!

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  160. I felt very happy while reading this site. This was really very informative site for me. I really liked it.Thanks a lot!

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  161. It has been a couple of years....I'm still impressed by this story. I bought 5 of these coins when it came out. I bought them with the intention of donating them to some of the greatest open source software engineers in the world. Soon I will finally be able to do just that. Thanks for a great design!

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