Mar 4 2010

I love Toyota still, but can they not have little things break?

I suppose I should not have any loyalty to Toyota anymore, even though I’ve had their cars since I was in college. But, I like how they don’t break down, and how well they work, and my car, at least for now, hasn’t been recalled, but I have one little nit I want to pick with them.

There is a little spring on the gas door, on the original Prius, which is just a piece of bent metal. That is all that allow the door to open, and for the past few years it has sometimes worked and sometimes not, and usually not when I am just about out of fuel. Last week, it finally didn’t work at all, so I went over to the dealer and said help me.

He said, oh, yes, that sometimes sticks, but next time have someone just stand there, and open it when you try to open it. This is akin to telling me to live with the problem, which is not a solution. So I asked about the replacement part info, and went in and spent all of $7 to get the new part. I haven’t picked it up yet, seeing as the dealer is 45 minutes away, but I shall this weekend.

And hopefully that will be the end of the story.

Mar 3 2010

Upgrade wordpress so trashed files don’t show

I usually wait to upgrade wordpress, and the blog post by wordpress told me why, but I ignored it. I figured it would have no effect on me, so continued on my merry way, utnil I checked my StatPress (a great plug in for giving stat information) and noticed that there were hits coming from pages that didn’t exist, and posts that had been trashed.

I did not want that, so upgraded all my wordpress sites.

And let me put in a plug in for Stat Press. It is so comprehensive. I still use Google Analytics, but StatPress shows everything in your dashboard, and lets you drill down to even see just about everything you would want to know about where people are coming for and what they are searching for.

Feb 22 2010

How much back-end programming should we know for WordPress?

There are always the pioneers, the people that do the first things on the computer, and then everyone else follows and find the way easier. The best example, of course, right now, is creating sites with WordPress. There are now many companies that make themes, and the back-end, the admin part of the these themes are getting so easy to use that one never has to touch the css or php. The one that comes to mind first is Woo Themes, which I myself have used from time to time. There are many others out there as well, but I have had experieance with Woo.

There are some, out there, that feel that you should always build your theme from a skeleton, and do all the programming, all the css yourself. But, then the question becomes are you a designer or a programmer. Is the structure as important as the final product? Does your client, in the end, care how you got where you are, as long as they are happy?

Sometimes I want more control. Sometimes I just want to get the theme up there, and tweak it to make it look more like my own. I sat through a lecture, recently, where the designer worked with a programmer and built the whole theme based on the Photoshop template. I would like to do that too, but which is more value to my client? Finding a them and tweaking it, or getting exactly what the design is and making it work in WordPress.

This reminds me a little of when the internet was young and was known as the Arpenet, before Illustrator existed. My brother showed me, as well as the wonderful world of the Arpenet,  how to program graphics. It was quite cool being able to draw vector graphics, but it was much easier to do once Illustrator came out.

So, should we all be learning as much as we can to use Thematic Children, or should we be taking pre-designed themes and tweaking them. Which is more important? The final design? The functionality? Can we give our clients more benefit from building from scratch? Or give them better value from being able to manipulate the back-end? Or is it fine to use something like WooThemes where the heavy lifting has been done, and all we have to do it change minor things?

I know that WordPress is the future of the web, I really do. I expect I will post more about this sooner, rather than later.

Feb 20 2010

What makes it into the local police blotter

I love reading the police blotter. People report the strangest things. I have even written short stories based on them, such as one where a man claimed a neighbor had cut down his tree, and the neighbor claimed the tree had fallen down in a winter storm months before.

The best ones are local to the small throw-away paper that comes out once a week in my area, so I was surprised to find a  great one in the San Jose Mercury News. Usually, the best ones are for Atherton, where the crime is way down, and the only thing people complain about is that there is a van that drove by too many times. In fact, one reported for Wednesday was a pool guy finding a cell phone.

But, the best is the one for Campbell, and I quote ” East Hamilton Avenue, 7:50 p.m. Wednesday: A book was removed from a bathroom”.

What could be better than that. That beats even the stranger who poked his head in a door and muttered “damn” and then left.

Makes me wonder about the book, and why they reported it to the police. Was it valuable? Was it an angry roommate? The world may never know.

Guess it is time for another short story.

Feb 19 2010

In praise of DropBox

I think I’ve talked about DropBox, but one can never praise good software enough. I started using it when my hard drive died back and October, and I had to save all the files. A collegue said, well, if you had dropbox, that wouldn’t have saved your files, but it is great for passing files around from computer to computer. So I installed it. Up until recently, I have just been using it to move files between my computers.

But then, I started having problems with YouSendIt because of their policy of taking files down after 7 days. The client I was working with couldn’t always get to the file that quickly, so kept saying the file was gone.

And then the beauty of DropBox became so clear. You can create a folder on your hard drive (through DropBox), place the file there, and share it with those who link up. Or put it in public, and they can just download it any time.

My client is now happy, as she can access it any time. And, with the shared, she can upload her revised version for me.

Thank you DropBox.

Feb 18 2010

Stupid technical support from H.P.

This is as opposed to smart technical support.  Let me explain that I appreciate that businesses have to charge for support sometimes. I can get behind that. My HP 3800 printer developed a problem, the dreaded 50.8 fuser error. What the printer tells you, is to call technical support.  So, being a good little consumer I did. I answered all the questions about who I was and when I purchased the printer and was told it was out of warranty and would have to pay for tech support. Again, I can get behind that. So I agreed, and the woman came on, and told me to do the same thing that the printer had said to do, which was turn the devise off and on and remove the fuser and put it back in. For this I paid a fricking $35. I said, “but I have already done that, that is what the printer error message said to do.  “Oh,” she said. “Then you have to buy a new one.”

So, HP dings me for an extra $35 so they can tell me that I have to buy a new fuser? What sort of crap is that?

They then had the gal to ask if I wanted to purchase it from them. No offer of a discount or anything. I thanked them and hung up.

As much as I love HP printers, I really have to think about dropping the kind of money I did on this last one, on a new one from HP.

The new fuser, from HP is $256. It is less on-line. I am still thinking about fixing it.

Feb 13 2010

Templates for iPhone design

While I haven’t had to do quite as much UI for iPhones, it is good to have a resource for creating the look and feel of an iPhone app, without having to build the app out first. It also is a good way to go, so you will know how it will look when all the parts are together.

I have found there are two good skins out there, one in Illustrator and one in Photoshop.

It is odd. There are pages and pages of blogs and websites talking about these two examples above. If you do a search, they come back to these two.

So, save yourself sometime, and just use these. I found most everything I needed to build with. It was wonderful.

Feb 12 2010

Misheard lyrics, Ten out of Ten

I mishear lyrics all the time. I misheard Paul Simon’s “Outrageous” as having a line that said “Whose going to love you when your lips are gone” which I thought was rather an odd sentiment. I was happy to hear that it was “Whose going to love you when your looks are gone.” I misheard “Baby you can ring my bell” as “Baby you can read my mail”. And although I did not really mishear the lyrics of the Killers song “Are we human“, I did like the version that someone said they heard which went “Are we human, or are we hamsters”

But, when I heard “Ten out of Ten” by Paolo Nutini, I had no idea what the title of the song was, because I kept hearing it as “I can be immortal too, while getting out of bed”. I kept listening, and thinking, well, perhaps he is singing “getting out of debt.” The problem was that the programmers on the air kept saying the name of the singer so fast that I couldn’t hear the name of the song. Finally, I got a playlist of one of the shows that played it, but didn’t see anything that even looked like “Getting out of bed”. I knew it was a male singer, so went and looked at all the lyrics of all the singers and none looked like what I was hearing. Even when I finally heard that the song was 10/10 by Paolo Nutini, and I looked at the lyrics, they didn’t look like what I heard.

Finally, I watched a youtube of a concert, and read the lyrics as he sang, and realized that yes, if I read the lyrics, I could here “I wanna get ten out of ten”.


Feb 8 2010

New Business Ideas, open a soap shop

This doesn’t so much have to do with graphic design but with what people feel they can open a shop with. I live in a small town. People who have money to shop tend to only be here on the weekend, as they work over the hill in Silicon Valley. Those who live on this side of the hill don’t tend to have a large amount of discretionary income. The businesses that survive tend to understand this, so the liquor stores and small markets stay open, for the most part. Those that are trying to sell other things, unfortunately, tend to fold within a year. We have had a skateboard/surf shop, and any number of little boutiques come and go.  Lately people have been opening up either antique clothing or consignment or just plain clothes stores. I’m sure there must be a market for this, but not here. I believe we now have three clothing shops all in a row.

There was one shop that hung on for over a year, that sold mostly young women’s clothing (read teenage girls), that folded over the winter holidays. Today I see that it is being taken over by a soap shop. A soap shop.

While I agree that soap is quite cool to buy, and I have seen vendors selling it at both the farmer’s market as well as outside of their house, (along with home made pies), I don’t think they should open a shop to just soap.

But, of course, no one asks my opinion. Perhaps this shop will survive. Or, it will go the way of the clothing store, the bead store, the other stores that were there before it.

Oct 29 2009

Can we work without being connected to the Internet?

I have heard arguments, of late, that people don’t want to get a netbook, or don’t want to do cloud computing, because that would mean they would have to be linked to the internet, and they didn’t want to have to be, all the time.

How nice, that there are people out there that think they can get their work done without having to be connected, but I can’t. It used to be that having a laptop, when the power went out, was enough, but it isn’t anymore. I need the lap top, but I also need some kind of internet connection, or I can’t get any of my work done. I certainly can’t work on websites, and even my print files still have to be emailed to the client for approval.

Oh, yes, before the internet was big, I did without it. I used the fax, and I made phone calls, and couriers, and fedex, but people won’t put up with that.

And I am well aware of it too. I am always ready to pack up and go to a wifi spot when the power fails. I even went out in a snow storm (well, a storm for these parts) once the roads were open, so that I could get a clients documents to them.

So, don’t let having to have an internet connection stop you from getting a netbook, come up with a better answer than that.