Archive for October, 2007

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Ambition

October 28, 2007

Ambition is a funny thing. It’s good to have and in the majority of cases I would imagine that it’s a good thing to fulfill that ambition. Twenty years ago, my ambition was quite simple – get a job. In the depths of a recession in the UK and a time of upheaval (Miners Strike, Printers Strike, resulting legislation and huge social changes) that was ambition enough. In many respects I was lucky and started working on a local news paper as a paste up artist and camera operator, progressing through various companies to become a colour planner. It suited me, I liked the precision required and it also allowed some of my creativity out. Thus began my career in print.

Then Macs came along and I put myself through college to gain qualifications and experience that I could use to further my career. It perhaps wasn’t the greatest plan, but it worked, I’ve only been without work for three months in the last ten years.

As the recession continued to bite and printers shut down, it became clear I would have to move to London. I really wanted to be a Senior Operator for a Design Agency ‘up in town’. I read everything, (there wasn’t much of an internet in those days) I spent what spare time I had continuing to learn new stuff, always pushing myself.

It was a slog, it took me ages to do it, ten years in all, but I spent seven of those years in one location evolving. So yes there I am, Senior Op at an Agency up in town. Ambition fulfilled, and I’m quite pleased that my plan worked, but it’s a little disappointing. Some of the disappointment comes from the company itself and some from my changing priorities.

During the seven years I spent evolving, I was working a shift producing some of the finest packaging to ever appear on a shelf.

During the first five years there, I spent my time ‘off shift’ when I wasn’t trying to hone my skills, trying to improve my life in other ways. Enjoy London, find someone special and start a family etc. I have to confess, I haven’t done particularly well in that. But my career was going well.

I started at the bottom with three other people on the same day. While they languished and complained about a lack of opportunity in the company, I pushed myself harder.

Through steady improvements, I ended up being a team leader, building teams, hiring staff and being Senior Op for two shifts of thirty plus operators each, after being put on permanent days. I wrote documentation for all our procedures and set up a training course for our two production sites in London. I was lucky in that I was surrounded by people that kept me pushing myself and encouraged and rewarded me.

Eventually I was removed form the production environment completely for the last two years and seconded to the development team. This was great, I was taking what knowledge I had and applying it else where.

What lack of opportunity?I moved from site to site as the need arose. Sometimes sitting next to the guys writing the code that would go on to automate our production systems, testing their incremental changes as they wrote. An amazing experience. Sometimes sitting with some of the best Prepress professionals I have ever met, working out how we would implement these changes. Sometimes UI testing, sometimes beta testing (a tester of the month for Quark in Sept 2005.) and end to end testing. I loved it. I didn’t love the corporate BS so much, but it comes with the territory.

All things come to an end, and although I had no wish to leave (apart from the corporate BS) I was made redundant. I wasn’t surprised, I had done what was needed and there was no way that the company would put me back in production, I cost too much and I’m not much of a yes man. I would have gone back, I could have really used going back on shift…

In amongst all of that I was a member, contributor and moderator at Prepress Forums – thanks Cory, until the merger with print planet and now I do those things for B4Print. Thanks Joe, I’m very happy to do so.

Although I’m a Senior Op and I have fulfilled my ambition, career wise and professionally, it’s a step backwards. I made a lot of progress in a way I hadn’t imagined and now I’m kind of where I was ten years ago, like I say, kind of. I cannot go forward where I am, there isn’t a process for it within the company, it’s too small. It doesn’t help that the company I work for is possibly the most disorganised shambles I’ve encountered. Even the worst Prepress job ever had was more organised. I could sort it out, but I wouldn’t be progressing. At best I’m stagnating where I am.

So I want to test software. I believe I’m pretty good at it and I enjoy it. I’m not naive enough to believe it will be like anything that has gone before, it might be, but I might end up testing embedded systems or control systems or anything, that’s part of the attraction. Of course it would help if I had passed my exam, but there is more to it than that.

Instead of being in an environment that encourages and rewards, I am in one that won’t innovate, invest or encourage, where moral is rock bottom and the company is disorganised and reactive.

Instead of having a peer group that will encourage and compete or give me an aspirational target, I have a vacuum. I don’t know anyone who does what I want to do. The web is a great resource, but no substitute for the things a human needs. Interaction. Instead of my job encouraging me and motivating me, it is delaying me from fulfilling my next ambition. The part of the world where software testing and project/team management overlap.

An interim plan should be in place by the end of the year that eventually will allow me to devote more time to what I want to do, instead of wasting my time in a dead end. Of course the interim plan could open up all kinds of different avenues that I haven’t thought of or even knew existed. It’s impossible to see beyond the choices before you. Given an opportunity, I’ll take it.

I can’t wait, I haven’t time to to spare.

teneo vestri

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Comic Sans

October 27, 2007

A lot has been said about Comic Sans and I have a fairly strong view on it as well. It is possibly the most over used font that’s used most inappropriately that’s ever been designed. Some of this comes from Microsoft making it available in the system fonts, when it might have been better locked away and used only for the interface it was designed for – MS Bob.

It’s use in printed materials at type sizes that it wasn’t meant to be used at seems to be the route of all the vitriol it attracts. This is the fault of the people who used it rather than a fault of the type face, or the designer for that matter. It solved a particular problem and solved it well. Technically it isn’t a great face, but Comic Sans wasn’t meant to be.

The designers thoughts on the matter can be read here while some more of the history can be read here.

Some of the vitriol it attracts can be seen here and given the strength of feeling the subject, it’s not surprising Comic Sans has generated some humor as well in comic strips and video.

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OS X Leopard 300 + features, but missing one

October 21, 2007

I can’t wait for 10.5, and it’s 300 plus features. Some of them I find very compelling. However, apple have still not included a very basic and fundamental requirement within an OS – a simple and reliable way to un-install an application.

It may be that the un-installer is a function of the installer and simply isn’t listed. There is no mention of the installer being updated in what I’ve read of X-Code. I don’t remember an installer being mentioned as a feature of previous releases of either the OS or X-Code.

Correct me if I’m wrong.

Admittedly most modern Cocoa apps are installed as a package that contains all the associated and needed components, and the process is fairly straight forward. But some, (Adobe amongst others), scatter files across multiple folders, such as application support and various libraries etc.

I find it hard to believe that with the most advanced operating system in the world such a feature doesn’t exist.

A friend of mine on the other side of the planet mailed me last week asking me how to un-install a particular application. I suggested a way of doing it through the Finder which isn’t reliable, and then I had to suggest a couple of third party alternatives. Instead of making the Finder ugly here, here (not a permalink) and here, why not give us something useful? Sort it out apple.

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Fin

October 19, 2007

I came across this Flickr group today that has a delightful collection of ‘the end’ from films over the years. There’s some beautiful typography here and some real shockers as well.

 http://www.flickr.com/groups/400716@N22/pool/

Well worth enlarging some and clicking through the pages.

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Coincidence?

October 18, 2007

I haven’t much love for financial institutions at the best of times and they have been known to make my life a misery from time to time, largely through little or no fault of my own. In an attempt to head off the next round of unpleasantness through constant vigilance, I’ve signed up for telephone banking.

Within three hours I received my first spam message via my browser on my phone. Phishing also peaked on my ‘public’ e-mail address in the same week.

You gotta love ’em.

UPDATE It’s not just me that suffers this misery…

http://earthlingsoft.net/ssp/blog/2007/10/natwest_drama

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DF font change

October 6, 2007

I visit DF every day, but I’m not liking the change in font at all. It used to be Verdana and Georgia I believe, but now it’s Gill Sans. What induced this madness is anyones guess. The kerning is awful. Just look at the ugly gaps in Johns name and in the side bar. Nasty. Please change it back DF. It’s not too clear in the screen grab below but on the site it’s obvious.

df_gillsans.jpg

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iPhone HIG

October 4, 2007

Apple have released an iPhone HIG, clearly in this case HIG means Horrible Insulting Geegaw*

So there’s no SDK or API available and they want developers to write their code to run in a browser. Having read through the iPhone HIG more than once, that’s the basic premise. But then to go on to insult developers intelligence by asking them to make sure the software doesn’t look like it’s running in a browser is wrong.

At the WWDC there is a thing called the Apple Design Awards where the thousands of third party developers stand a chance of having their ‘killer app’ showcased and praised by Apple. The iPhone is an Apple product isn’t it? Open the damn thing up.

UPDATE 17th October 2007

I can’t find a permalink for this but it appears in todays ‘hot news’ on Apples site, and it’s appearing on plenty of other blogs

Third Party Applications on the iPhone

Let me just say it: We want native third party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February. We are excited about creating a vibrant third party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

UPDATE 2 18th October 2007

Some interesting thoughts regarding the SDK from dtgeeks/deepthought here

There are more interesting thoughts including the iPod Touch here.

* Geegaw – http://www.yourdictionary.com/gewgaw. Obviously I found the most derogatory definition I could