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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

 The meaning of life is to see.
[Hui Neng]

New Willowgreen Web site

 

Ten years ago, I designed and produced a Web site for one of my clients, Jim Miller at Willowgreen, Inc.; a publishing company that produces “meaningful resources for hope, healing and inspiration.” Since then, I have not only maintained his site, but I have also designed and produced print and electronic media for his company.

Having Jim as a client has been a graphic designer’s dream. He is a writer and an excellent photographer. His portfolio of breathtaking photographs assures me that I can hardly produce an ugly design. Also, I have been able to contribute hand-rendered illustrations to some of his publications, and spread my wings into electronic publishing.

Last spring, we embarked upon a complete redesign of the Willowgreen Web site. I produced a site plan and visual design which we turned over to a programming team who setup the store in Shopify. The redesigned site was recently launched.

What do I like best about the new site? In addition to Jim’s photography and insightful writing, I like that there is a balance between the commercial aspects (selling products in the new store) and free offerings. The homepage alone with its inspiring slide show and video is a place to go just to meditate. There are free eCards, inspiring blogs, and helpful writings for caregivers and those who are grieving.

One of the many things that I am thankful for this holiday is that I have had the honor of serving the kind and gentle folks at Willowgreen.

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You can focus on things that are barriers
or you can focus on scaling the wall or redefining the problem.
[Tim Cook, CEO, Apple Inc.]

yosemite

So here’s the deal. I’ve had one personal computer or another since 1982. Apple soon became my choice as my major tool in my graphic design business (after I gave up using a triangle, T-square and drafting table). I’ve used every operating system since the Apple II so I do not shy away from upgrading. Here is a cautionary tale in case you are anxious to upgrade soon: do wait for the patches and tweaks to come out before you forge ahead, unless you have a high tolerance for fiddling with technology.

  • iOS 8.0 and 8.1 for the iPad: I upgraded and immediately had problems with connecting with my bluetooth devices, especially my speaker. I even bought a new speaker and it exhibited the same problem. It would play for short awhile and then turn off. I searched the internet and the closest I could come to an answer is to wait until the next iOS upgrade. Meanwhile, I am using my earplugs for my audio books.
  • OS X Yosemite: This upgrade is reputed to have a number of cool features but I haven’t found them yet since I immediately encountered a fundamental problem—I couldn’t get email to send. I’ve spent three days researching the internet and finally resolved the problem. My advice, search apple support until you find Mail Settings Lookup. Then look for the instructions for using that information in your Mac Mail preferences.

The delicious Apple news is that Fort Wayne has a new Apple store (simply • mac) at Jefferson Point shopping mall.

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Mama, you should try Pinterest.
It is like receiving a new magazine every day.
[Rachel Smith]

Pinterest

I’ve had a long line of personal computers since 1982. Computers fascinate me and are now my main tool in my work. I spend hours standing in front of my Mac fiddling in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I don’t use a cell phone. Frankly, I like being out of touch. I’ve never felt pressed to answer a ringing telephone. I maintain 5 wordpress blogs and I am working on revising my website, but I am not a member of Facebook or Twitter. In other words, I try to be a gatekeeper to filter that which bombards me from the outside world. Then came Pinterest.

Of course it has been around since 2010, but didn’t reach out and grab me until now. Oddly enough, a tip for cleaning the buildup off of my gas stove grates pushed me over the edge. In addition to shiny grates, I now have an unclogged shower head and plenty of advice for training my two new puppies. The industrial design section convinces me once again that humans can create instead of destroy. The gardening section almost makes me want to pull weeds. Pinterest reminds me of the 10-inch thick dictionary on the stand in my third-grade classroom—whenever I look something up, I am in constant danger of getting completely sidetracked.

 

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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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