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November 9, 2009

Technological Footwear Fun

These boots are made of plastic. Seems amazing and fun. The company, Melissa, makes other footwear, although these booties surpass other offerings in terms of style. Inexpensive too. Wonder if they're comfortable. Might have to find out. 

October 27, 2008

Wake Up Productive

As the internet evolves, it increasingly offers more. In the past few months, I've taken advantage of a few online courses that are beneficial and insightful. Fees can make one hesitant but as with any investment, you get a good amount of evidence with which to decide whether or not to buy the product before you jump in.

Wake Up Productive Eban Pagan Wake Up Productive is a program given by online entrepreneur Eban Pagan and I decided it was worth my time. I've been through two of the sessions so far and am excited by its lessons. Eban has online businesses that focus on different aspects of running your own business and also a successful dating site. He offers tons of free tidbits so you get a sense that the guy has a lot of solid information. And boy, does he. Here are a couple of the concepts that have stood out for me and already helped me from this program. In introducing the background for making yourself more productive, Eban Pagan discusses the competing aspects of our daily lives. One quote he gave was:

“Life is easy if you live it the hard way and hard if you live it the easy way.”

Wow. This really hit home for me. It means that if you try to take shortcuts, eat junk food, always go for instant gratification over long-term investment, you'll get the quick fix that often backfires in the long run. Most of us are good at certain things and not so good at others. I find that I can learn from the areas in which things come more easily for me and then apply those lessons to the areas in which natural answers don't flow as well. Here's another quote:

“Habit is destiny — First we shape our habits and then they shape us.”

Among the brilliant thinkers throughout time who have focused on habit are psychologist William James. When I read James in college talking about the importance of habit, it made sense but I didn't know well how to make habits out of things that were difficult to do. With a program such as this one, you will find tools to help you do so.

October 15, 2008

E-Mail Clients

E-mail software has long been referred to as an e-mail "client," for some reason.

eudora At any rate, Eudora, poetically named for writer Eudora Welty, remains a powerful and simple solution. Tonight, I downloaded the software for my client, Houlihan Tattoos so they could use their web domain e-mail properly. They had been using Yahoo Mail with their Verizon account and it turned out that Yahoo Mail does not allow secondary e-mail accounts that require an SSL (secure socket layer), which is a desirable security trait for an e-mail address. So the client needed e-mail software that would allow them to check multiple addresses at once. Outlook does allow this, as do other options but Eudora remains a great choice that is very easy to use at first glance.

We got stuck looking for an "allow authentication" checkbox under technical options but eventually found it. Since I am a Mac diehard, working with their Windows Vista system was like groping in the dark. But a bottle of wine and many laughs later, all was well. I am so lucky to have clients I can have fun with too. Hooray for great software that does what it's supposed to do.

October 11, 2008

Simple Video Capture

Found a very simple piece of software that allows you to capture video on the Mac and costs only $20.

iShowU video capture It's called iShowU and it's easy, inexpensive and does what it's supposed to do. You can't take a screenshot of a DVD on the Mac with the built-in screen grabber. I assume this is for copyright protection reasons but in my opinion it's silly because people who want to find workarounds will and I use screen capture constantly to show things, discuss things etc. At any rate, luckily there are lots of great utilities out there and this one does the trick.

August 15, 2008

Qwerty Keyboards and
Technological Progress

The latest generation of cell phones feature QWERTY keyboards to make text messaging, using e-mail and doing internet exploration easier than a usual phone keypad.

Qwerty Keyboard Cell Phones

Pictured above: the Sidekick from T-Mobile

These mini keyboards are cute to look at and do work much better than the previous generation of cell phone for typing purposes, although using them as a phone can be awkward in some cases and they are necessarily heavier than the last wave of cell phone designs. I'm surprised the cameras aren't better, given the current superb state of digital photography; I assume this is because of marketing. My favorite part of this trend is hearing people say QWERTY keyboard who would never have known the phrase before. I first learned about the QWERTY keyboard when I plunged into graphic design and found its roots very interesting. Since I love to touch type, it's amazing to me that it's considered a difficult setup and far from the best choice that could have been made. Like many things we grow to love for its/their faults, however, the QWERTY keyboard appears here to stay and it's nice to see such an entrenched piece of history forging forward hand in hand with the latest technology.

July 30, 2008

Designing Your Day

The Mac calendar software that works best for me is DayChaser.

Day Chaser calendar software A small application (part of why it works well), DayChaser does almost everything calendar software needs to do without being overly complicated or causing software conflicts.

Now Software's Now Up to Date was my choice for several years. Unfortunately, while its interface is great, it conflicted badly as soon as System X came around. Apple's own iCal application is great in theory. However, if you're a “power user,” it too will eventually crash and conflict with other applications and once its files are corrupted, you cannot clean them up. You can't even start a new calendar because it is set up to be THE calendar for that user. You would have to sign in to your computer as a new user to create a new calendar, an unacceptable annoyance as all your other files would be with your other username.

The only way in which DayChaser appears to be lacking is an inability to create multi-day banners without blocking other events. You can do it but it ruins the view. So, for instance, if you wanted a two-week vacation (who doesn't?) to be a banner across a bunch of days, it would interfere with the display of other events. That feature aside, it does everything necessary and allows you to customize the display as needed in terms of color-coding categories etc. At $30, you can't go too wrong.

June 10, 2008

Streamlined Shopping Carts

Recently, I've set up or am in the process of setting up four online shopping carts using PayPal as the merchant provider.

Recent shopping cart sites

Shopping carts set up for, left to right above:
Kitty Cat Loft, Liz Ward Art, Gotta Have It NY, modern rug site

My brilliant designer friend, Tracy Schloss, is the one who put me onto this offering from PayPal. This system is a great way to set up relatively simple online stores. Customers can pay using any major credit card, PayPal or a bank account. Advantages include:

  • NO up front fees

  • NO monthly fees

  • NO higher percentages for using certain credit cards

  • NO need to obtain a merchant account

  • NO need to obtain a secure shopping certificate (SSL); you use PayPal's

Merchant accounts are not easy to set up, cost more money and require a difficult approval process. The only negative to this PayPal option is its limited depth, which is part of why it's relatively easy to use. Things such as inventory levels and other nitty gritty details are not within the scope of this setup.

From the designer's end, the programming is simpler than with carts such as Zen Cart, OS Commerce or Miva, all good solutions for more complicated scenarios but much more work. From the vendor's end, the fees and hassle are considerably less. From the customer's end, any payment option carts normally let you use is available. This solution has made quite a few of my clients very happy and has enabled them to offer shopping on their websites when they could not do so with a regular merchant account.

June 5, 2008

Form Follows Function:
Design & Engineering

"It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
of all things physical and metaphysical,
of all things human and all things super-human,
of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that FORM EVER FOLLOW FUNCTION. This is the law."

— Architect Louis Sullivan

Miele Vacuums and Jiffy Steamers

L to R: Lightweight Miele stick vacuum and Jiffy professional quality clothing steamer, both masterful combinations of engineering and design

Things that work well get me excited. Engineering is the inside to the outside of a beautiful design and as with people, if the inside is rotten, the outside is pretty much irrelevant. Gorgeous design should lead to gorgeous guts or it isn't really successful. Great design needs to start with great engineering for anything with more than a superficial purpose. It makes sense that an architect, Louis Sullivan, for whom Frank Lloyd Wright worked, would coin the phrase, “Form Follows Function.” If a building falls down, it really doesn't matter how nice the drawings were.

Here are two items that do what they are supposed to do very well: Miele vacuums and Jiffy steamers. The Miele stick vacuum works better than most larger industrial models with a fraction of the required effort. Miele makes numerous models but this lightweight one wins the award for me, as it's so much easier to work with and does a better job than I've ever seen a vacuum do. The Jiffy professional quality steamer is similar in expertise. It heats up almost instantly and never stops its powerful yet gentle-on-fabric steaming, as you see in the photo above. Both these products are amazing labor-saving devices that will make you realize what it really means for a piece of equipment to work well. Good tools change your life.

May 7, 2008

Perseverance

Winston Churchill said that courage is the greatest virtue of all because without it, none of the others can exist. Is perseverance needed prior to courage — or perhaps courage is what allows you to persevere.

Perseverance

Motivation is a mystery even to those who are highly motivated. I love to ask people what motivates them. And do you know, even the brightest, most centered and successful people I've asked usually say, "I don't know." Then they'll think a minute and say something like, "my baby." But that's not enough of an answer for me and it isn't everyone's.

Mysteries of motivation aside, I was thinking about perseverance because I was thrilled to solve an alignment issue in my rugs website today. As an online designer, you are constantly challenged with technical anomalies, most of which are ultimately solvable but not all and often not without considerable time and sweat and multiple attempts. An odd mixture of logic, faith and stick-to-it-iveness seems to be required for success. I was thinking that this mixture is a good formula for life in general. It was so satisfying to fix this puzzle, which only appears on certain browsers (that's always the case) that it made me stop and think about what it takes to keep going with an effort that is confounding you.

I believe my mom taught me some of this stick with it stuff by her unspoken example. She was great at accepting the world's oddities without as much fuss as most people. They could make her laugh, cry or be frustrated like anyone else but she had a great way of forging forward that I think got under my skin and I am very grateful for it. I wish I could give it to every friend and every kid I see.

February 3, 2006

Data Recovery & Human Recovery

Dear reader, I have been through a tough time. I had a computer disaster happen and my business and life revolves around my computer.

nonlinear nyc data recoverynonlinear computer designer

According to the life-saving data recovery company I worked with, DriveSavers, 90% of people don't back up. We are all fools. DriveSavers employs a crisis counselor because people are so distraught when they lose data, precious images and irreplacable records. I was one of these bereft people.

My situation started with forced software upgrading, where one thing led to another. You've got to get this to make that work and then that requires that. But in the process was human error too.

This experience can't help but make someone who looks for the meaning in things look for meaning. Was I trying to tell myself something? Did I need a clean break of some sort?

A bunch of people were praying for me. Anyone who has witnessed the power of prayer has seen amazing things happen. I believe that these people's prayers and good wishes helped my outcome. DriveSavers was able to get back my most important and my second most important file, the first of which was my address book with 1,450 names and details in it. They got back over a million, three hundred thousand other files! but one group of important files is gone and has to be recreated. I had all sorts of files that may never show up again, some of which aren't important, some of which I have hard copies of and some of which I will miss and can't recreate, such as personal notes.

This signifies change. You know change. You've met. You hear about resistance to change. How change is inevitable. The only thing that's permanent is change, said Jean Tinguely, the '60s kinetic artist I studied in college. So what else is new? But I also see miracles on a regular basis. Getting back my database was a miracle in my life. DriveSavers didn't even think it was likely since databases become fragmented once a drive is overwritten. But I've got it back intact. Numerous other data recovery companies said my whole drive was a lost cause.

I'm taking this to mean that after the suffering, I am entering a new and better phase, with backup policies in place but also with a renewed focus on what matters most in terms of work goals and life goals. THANK YOU to my friends and associates, whose power of prayer is stronger than any technology. And thank you to DriveSavers (especially Jeannie Harris, Bodhi Nadler and Scott), whose attitude is so wonderful that working with them would have been a pleasure no matter what the outcome.