Archive for March, 2007

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None Blacker*

March 31, 2007

Last week I got round to picking up my new lap top. The dear old T-Book was fine, but getting a bit long in the tooth. The spec is still fairly impressive.

Hardware Overview:
CPU Type: PowerPC G4 (3.3)
Number Of CPUs: 1
CPU Speed: 1 GHz
L2 Cache (per CPU): 256 KB
L3 Cache (per CPU): 1 MB
Memory: 1 GB
Bus Speed: 133 MHz
Macintosh HD:
Capacity: 55.89 GB
Available: 21.8 GB

Yes the ‘Last of the Titanium’s’ was and still is a fine machine. The things holding it back were the G4 processor, though there are still thousands of those working productively and it will still be OK for at least a couple of years until Apple no longer supports PPC. I’m guessing that G3’s will still be OK after Leopard and the PPC will be supported until 10.6.

USB 1 is not really a hindrance, even my scanner that connects only via USB doesn’t seem any faster now it connects via USB 2, and being able to burn at only x1 and only to DVD-R isn’t that much of a chore considering I may only do it five or six times a year for an incremental back up.

So I decided to invest in a new Mac lap top. I couldn’t justify the cost of a Pro so I chose the best MacBook I could. The Black one. It’s very Black.

Hardware Overview:
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor Speed: 2 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 2
L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
Memory: 1 GB
Bus Speed: 667 MHz
Macintosh HD:
Capacity: 148.73 GB
Available: 106.33 GB

The Blackness had a side effect I hadn’t thought about at all. I have a black table… Typing in day light is generally fine, though sometimes the edge of the keyboard can blend away a little bit. In artificial light, it’s like Im gazing into a pool of ink. It can be quite difficult at times. At least the T-Book had black keys and a grey case. I also have a predominantly black desk top. As you can see it’s pretty dark. I’ll be putting my old ‘silver shuffle’ desktop on very soon.

It’s a great machine though. I’m getting used to the Blackness and the comparatively small screen compared to the T-Book.

The updated DVD recorder is a real bonus, it absolutely tears through data. I haven’t seen performance like that since the G5’s and Pro machines at work. I can’t honestly remember the last time I had to burn a DVD at work though.

I was lucky in that I got a bigger hard disk than standard but I’m still in two minds about the ‘glossy screen’. It seems to me that the viewing angle is reduced and shows hard edges and I can see the reflection of my cigarette brighten while I smoke. Just minor things really.

The main reason I bought it was the Intel chip. Now I can embark upon my software testing training. I’ll almost certainly end up testing Windows gear at some point. With this in mind I’m gonna do a full back up and partition the hard drive next weekend prior to installing Boot Camp and Vista.

One thing I have noticed in System Profiler is that the CPU is called CPU on the PPC machine wheras it’s called Processor on the Intel machine. I wonder why?

* Thanks to Spinal Tap

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I always seem to forget something

March 31, 2007

So does Hippy Steve, it would appear.

trolley.jpg

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Poor Instructions

March 25, 2007

Hmmm well, I have just spent the last few days doing some freelance work. It’s the first time I’d freelanced in my life. There was a certain amount of fear, uncertainty and doubt before I embarked upon it. Normal I suppose, it’s a bit like starting a new job, which in effect I was.

I gets there full of trepidation and wonder what awaits. On the face of it, it was remarkably straight forward. Take design scamps and work up three variations as artwork all in Illustrator. I’ve been prepress for a long time and this should have been as easy as falling off a log.

The brief was poor, I wasn’t given a specification, only a cursory glance over their way of storing a job and its related elements (folder structure) and zero technical stuff such as overprints.

Time to put my investigating feet on… For crying out loud, I’m an artworker not Sherlock Holmes.

So I open the design files in Illy and switch on ‘Overprint preview’. Nothing changed. Hmmm, there are spot colours, what am I supposed to do, select every element?

I was only dealing with the carton the product would come in. The actual wrapper for the product was signed off and ready. I opened the wrapper art after I had managed to find it and had a similar result. So it must be flat colour, no overprint. My life had become remarkably easy.

So I get variation one under way, only to discover that there are something like 120 layers in the Illy doc. It’s not excessive, but it’s more than enough. After recreating the file I had managed to get it down to around 6 with about 80 ‘sub layers’ – a much cleaner and more logical make up.

More was to come. Some text was raw, some was outlined within the same grouped elements, but no difference in appearance, so why outline it? All the text had a ‘fringe’ around it but no stroke applied. I became concerned. My first proofs had been rejected so I went to see the designer.

The job looked entirely different on his screen. What was orange on mine looked brown on his, the ‘fringe’ around the text had disappeared. Not only were the guns out of alignment on my monitor but it was impossible to calibrate it well enough to take account of the colour shift because of the overprint settings.

All in all it left a bitter taste. For example, they have a layer naming convention I was not told about. If a layer begins with ‘OP’ that’s an overprint – thanks for the heads up. If the layer begins with ‘op’ that’s an option. No chance of confusion there then.

I hand the job back to the designer and say I’m done, but the Production Manager comes along about an hour later with further changes. Clearly he’s told the designer and we couldn’t possibly be working on the same file at the same time could we? Guess again.

What a shambles.

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A nifty bit of kit

March 12, 2007

Recently I had to buy a scanner, I didn’t want anything fancy, all I had to do was scan some samples of my work and post them on my other site. We’re not talking press quality here! Having had good experiences with a Canon Lide 30 a few years ago, I started there, only to discover they are no longer produced. Hmm, the Lide 60 is a fine scanner, but more than I needed, the Lide 25 looked like just the ticket.

I tracked one down to a reseller on Tottenham Court Road, their web site said they had one in stock. Arriving at the shop, their inventory system said they had one in stock. Happy days! Until they couldn’t actually find it. After much hanging around while one of the most helpful salesmen I have ever encountered went to great lengths to help me out, I ended up buying the demo model. This had never been used, it had just sat on a shelf in the shop. They knocked a tenner off and I’m a happy boy.

The quality is fine for my needs and it even scans pretty quickly considering that it’s attached by USB 1 and draws it’s power through the same connection.

Now if only Cannon had spent a little more time and effort on the software…

Oh dear

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Tummy Troubles

March 11, 2007

The fastest Hippy Steve has ever moved

tummytroubles01a.jpg

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They’re at it again

March 9, 2007

It looks like Microsoft have spent another pile of cash on something no one wants because it isn’t needed.

A brand new photo format called HD photo. Honestly, isn’t there enough photo formats out there? Graphic Converter can import something like 200 image formats and export to about 80, if memory serves correctly.

Apparently Microsoft are submitting the format to an International Standards Organisation – I can’t find out which, but I hope it’s ISO (mainly because I hope they throw it out). The point is, what’s the point? What’s wrong with JPEG 2000? The format is prevalent and the Joint Photographic Expert Group know what they’re doing. Litigation is still ongoing for none payment of licence fees as far as I know. This is an old link to the story from Wired. I can’t find the out come, perhaps someone can let me know.

http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,53981,00.html

It looks like another ‘closed standard’ though. A bit like OpenXML instead of XML, WMA instead of AAC or MPEG, the Zunes hideous DRM that clashes / overwrites / cripples the Creative Commons License or how Internet Explorer doesn’t comply with W3C standards.

No surprises here then.

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Backing Up

March 9, 2007

Needless to say, you back up your Mac regularly. Er… that’s right isn’t it? If you don’t back up, stop reading this and back up now, or keep reading this and find out how to do it.

There are two principle components to backing up. The first is to make back ups, the second is to ensure that your back ups work and you can restore form them.

To back up successfully, part of your backup plan is to make sure that you actually backup. It’s a chore and not much fun, however some software and easily set up automation can take way the chore and bring some peace of mind. There’s nothing worse than loosing data, your iTunes library, your iPhoto albums, the major bill paying commission, whatever it is. To stop this happening make regular backups, on a schedule and dealt with via automation. Carbon Copy Cloner can do that for you.

http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html

My home account is backed up every night and the whole hard disk once a week to an external hard drive. I also have a separate incremental folder that I drop attachments and downloads etc. into, once that gets to around 4 gig, I’ll burn a DVD. In fact I burn two, one is taken off site to avoid complete disaster. If I ever needed to, I could incrementally restore my machine states right from the original Jaguar install to the current Tiger and all flavours of Panther in between. Thankfully I’ll never have the need to.

However Apple has thrown something of a spanner in the works. I’m close to upgrading my Mac and that will mean an Intel Mac. I haven’t got a problem with the processor, it’s the OS I’m worried about. There seems to be little that Carbon Copy Cloner can do about it until Apple sorts something out.

The latest version of Carbon Copy Cloner is a PPC binary, it will run under Rosetta on an Intel Mac. But… and it’s a big but, Apple doesn’t support starting up an Intel Mac from an OS install that originally came from a PPC Mac. It doesn’t work the other way round either. What is needed from Apple is a universal OS that will install on and boot either platform. In the meantime I’ll have to use Migration Assistant after a clean install on the new machine, incremental DVDs for documents and stuff and wait for Leopard.