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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

I put my heart and my soul into my work,
and have lost my mind in the process.
[Vincent Van Gogh]

site map

Over fifteen years ago, a client handed me a book (Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours) and said, “I would like for you to build a website for my business.”

I was only vaguely aware of what a website was, and had never seen the internet. I bought a piece of software called BB Edit, studied the book from cover to cover testing my code in Netscape (I wasn’t connected to the internet), and developed a detailed organizational chart for my client’s site. He approved the chart and gave me sketches of his vision for the look and feel of the site. As I set to work, I had no clue about how other sites looked. The one I developed was very visual since I am a graphic designer instead of a technically oriented person. We put the finished site files on floppy disks and hand carried them to our web-server provider. He showed the site to me on his computer—my first glimpse of the internet. I was so excited that I was jumping up and down inside.

Since then, I’ve ridden the roller coaster of web development through all of its iterations. After publishing a number of client websites, I still use principles I learned on that first site:

  • Plan, plan, plan—work out the details and gather the resources before assembling the first page.
  • Keep the perception of the site guest in the forefront. Make it “user-friendly.”
  • Keep it simple and compatible with older browsers.
  • Document the site structure for future maintenance and expansion.
  • Test each phase during the process so, at the end, everything works and nothing needs to be retrofitted.

I am in the process of redesigning my original site. I usually start with a detailed site map (organizational chart) that I draw in Adobe Illustrator, but this time I am assembling it in Microsoft Excel (shown in the image above). This is proving to be so much quicker and easier. It allows me to focus on content instead of construction. I’m looking forward to this project. Meanwhile, I’m studying another refresher course on Lynda.com.

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One must be an inventor to read well.
There is then creative reading
as well as creative writing.
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

iPad-apps

Since I live in relative solitude, my blog gives me a place to share things that one would normally share with a person in the same room. This is a, “You’ve just gotta see this…” post. The thought has crossed my mind that I’m likely the last to learn all of this, but I’ll share it anyhow. I’ll make bullet points of my disjointed thoughts.

  • The image is a screen shot of one of my iPad folders.
    • I’ve never seen non-Apple devices, but am confident that they have reasonable counterparts to this.
    • It is worth the effort to learn how to organize apps in folders so you can find your stuff easily on one screen.
    • The desktop image is either (a) my backyard or (b) a tourist stop near Cardiff, Wales (UK). HINT: I have no backyard.
  • About the first row of apps in the image—these are primarily text readers. iBooks reads books from the Apple store, Nook reads Barnes & Noble books, and Kindle reads Amazon books. The apps are free and many books can be obtained without cost as well. There are also sale priced books available from such sources as BookBub.
  • The second row of apps in the image—these are specialized readers. Audible (an Amazon company) is an audio book reader and not only reads books from Audible.com, but also reads non-Amazon books from iTunes. Overdrive accesses the local public library. Using my library card, I check out both text and audio books using Overdrive. GoodReader could also be called Knitter’sHelper. I use this for my PDF knitting patterns because it allows me to easily mark my place and make notes.
  • The third row shows apps from Blackstone. These audio books are well produced and are now available with a built-in player as apps—one book per app. I bought these in the App Store for reasonable prices. There are many choices. One of my favorite mystery writers is Louise Penny. Her books, set in Quebec, present characters in such depth and with such sensitivity, that they make me want to jump into my little roadster and drive to Canada in search of imaginary friends.

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… a date which will live in infamy.
[Franklin D. Roosevelt]

audible

Today, I have been listening to the audio book version of Pearl Harbor by Steven M. Gillion. This is my way of remembering.

The thought struck me that my blog readers might not know about the Audible daily deal nor the Audible app—two pieces of technology that bring me hours of pleasure. I knit (or clean, or cook) while I listen and I’m put in mind of the radio as it was when I was a child. The Audible website offers a service where by they email an offer at a greatly reduced price. Many of their offers don’t interest me. but this one did. I use the Audible app on my iPad and a Bluetooth speaker to listen to the books.

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Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic.
[Arthur C. Clarke]

My first criteria for a good app is, it is simple. I’m a graphic designer and not a computer scientist. I look for apps that behave themselves (they work without bugs), and apps that are intuitive to use (they have a small learning curve). I spend my main self-education time keeping myself up to speed with my major software tools. I want my smaller apps to be more like a manual screwdriver than an electric drill with multiple bits. These two apps fit the criteria and are affordable.

CalculatorMyScript© Calculator is magic for sure. It was free! How does Vision Objects© do that? Also it works well and is fun to use. Write numerals and function symbols (+, -, =, etc.) with a finger on a touchscreen and then watch your writing change into real equations with the correct answer. It even charmed my five-year old grandson. When I used it in a knitting class to help people figure their stitches and rows from their gauge, it was fast and accurate. Some students even downloaded the app for their smart phones during class.

TaskTimerDesktop Task Timer by Erik Asmussen is also a winner in my book. I track my design time for billing purposes. In the past 30 years, I have tried using a number of methods to accurately record time and translate it in to an invoice. This app ($0.99) is the best I’ve found so far. I’ve even started tracking my non-chargeable tasks just out of curiosity.

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It is not the employer who pays the wages.
Employers only handle the money.
It is the customer who pays the wages.
[Henry Ford]

I have a self-inflicted rule—to avoid impulse buying, I wait and save up for something that strikes my fancy. If I still want it in time, I’m more likely to get my money’s worth out of it. When I was in high school, my sister and I wanted a high fidelity record player. Our mother gave us a jar and encouraged us to save up for one. During the year it took us to fill the jar, stereophonic record players came on the market. Needless to say, we were glad we waited.  Several years ago, a participant at a writer’s conference showed me her Livescribe pen and extolled its virtues. It struck my fancy to the extent that I saved up and finally bought one. It was delightful and fulfilled its promises. Select this link to see what wonderful things it can do.

I have been on a learning curve for several other pieces of technology so I didn’t use my pen for several months. When I tried to recharge it, I had problems with the battery. That is the bad news. The good news is, I emailed the company and received a reply from a customer service person named Wendy. After trouble-shooting to no avail, she made arrangements to replace the pen since the battery was still under warranty (just barely). My new pen came promptly in the mail. Thank you Livescribe and thank you Wendy R.

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Getting information off the Internet is like
taking a drink from a fire hydrant.
[Mitchell Kapor]

[NOTE: This falls under the "I just had to tell someone" category, and is probably only of interest to about three people in the whole world.]

One of my clients needs to reprint a book he published in 2001. He gave me CDs of the original computer files and asked if I could access them after all of these years of changes and upgrades. The original layout artist used a piece of software (QuarkXPress) that I used in the past but no longer keep on my computer. After all of these years, the Quark files were simply grey rectangles with .exec on them. I had no software that would open these files.

I searched the internet for similar quandaries, and found discussion boards that indicated that there was no way I could access these files. I went into a problem-solving mode based upon the premise, I couldn’t make the problem worse so I’d try several hunch-based fixes. I changed the suffix on the file from .exec to .indd (for InDesign) and, TA DA, it opened in my new Adobe InDesign CS6 just as though it had been laid out yesterday.

If I weren’t alone right now, I’d give someone a huge kiss, and buy them an ice cream cone.

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