Falling Leaves: the Ardes blog

Archives filed under "Business"

Photoshop Scratch Disk Error Tip

Ray Drainville

When starting up Photoshop today I received an error:

Could Not Initialize Photoshop Because the Disk Is Not Available

And then I was told that, specifically, my scratch disk wasn’t available. Huh? I have four of them! They’re right there!

It was all very peculiar, because I haven’t changed anything about my computer in the past several months. Other than to update to Adobe’s newest version of Camera RAW. I can’t say that this caused some problems, but I searched for the error message. Several people suggested checking out the scratch disk’s permissions.

Whilst doing that, I tried a little repair tip that’s useful for a lot of applications: I started up the app with the Command + Option keys held down. Voilà! I was asked to pick my scratch disks, and everything is sorted.

Client Feedback Advice

Ray Drainville

The good people at Mule Design have presented a very good run-down of how clients can make great design feedback. It’s really worthwhile because, in part, it explains that the client is not supposed to decide whether she likes any given design but, rather, is supposed to decide whether it helps her sell her widgets. The full thing is worth a careful read.

It also begs us to stop thinking of designers as “creatives”—something I must admit I’ve (inchoately) thought for some time. “Creatives” don’t want, and don’t like, feedback: they’re prima donnas. Design is a business, and it must meet business needs: otherwise it’s a pointless exercise in spending money.

In any event, we tend to be a bit more informal about presentations & feedback at ArDes: we help our clients develop a visual vocabulary, but haven’t yet needed much formal “training”. If we do, we know where to send them for it!

Edit: Changed name from “Argument from Design” to “ArDes”

Time-Tracking Software: Lapsus

Ray Drainville

First of all, happy new year! Let’s hope that 2011 will be better than 2010.

Longtime visitors to the blog may possibly remember that Ian released a freeware time-tracker called MateWatch—software that helped track your time when using the text editor TextMate. As you might have guessed, it’s now pretty much abandonware, although with Nick’s advice you may well be able to get it up and running again. But you should question whether the effort is worth it: it really is dead, unless someone is interested in picking it up & maintaining it.

I’m mentioning this because I noted in the web stats a few days ago a visitor from a website that’s selling a new time-tracking app for the Mac. Lapsus takes a very novel approach, and from a user’s perspective, it’s a model of orderliness: it polls the currently-opened window every 3 seconds & logs it. You can “train” it to recognise open windows in a given directory as associated with a given project. This is a really nice take on the idea, since set-up/maintenance is usually one of the most frustrating aspects of time-tracking packages. And Lapsus’ programmer, John Gallagher, claims that people have a tendency to a) forget to turn on the time-tracking software; and b) forget to turn it off. I’m certainly guilty of this & I’m certainly not alone.

Being shiny new software, it’s got its share of bugs. At first I couldn’t create a project for love or money, as Lapsus kept crashing. However, today it has magically allowed me to create some projects, so I’m off on my evaluation. Also, it appears that an open document in Photoshop CS5 wasn’t being recognised as being, well, open. And it could do with the ability to sort one’s projects in alphabetical order, rather than in the order by which one arbitrarily created them.

But, as I said, it’s new. What’s important here is that Lapsus is a very refreshing take on a perpetual problem & may well help you be more careful with your time-tracking. I’ll be curious to see how it polls when I’m just playing about on the computer—perhaps I should have a project called “Faffing”. Well done, John!

Update (24 January 2011): I’ve just received a message from John that version 1.0 of Lapsus is out & it addresses all the bugs I mentioned here. It’s now time to evaluate it in earnest :)

Beware Mac MS Office 2011

Ray Drainville

So Microsoft has released a new version of Office for Mac Office 2011. I’m a heavy user of Office, in particular its email package, so here I’m concentrating upon things that effect email. For any Mac users out there who are thinking of upgrading, here are a couple of warnings:

Outlook Only In “Home & Business” Edition

Entourage is no more, Microsoft’s only option is Outlook. However, the “Home & Student” edition doesn’t contain it. To get Outlook, then you have to purchase the “Home & Business” edition. Perhaps this is a reflection of the success of Apple Mail, but it seems rather miserly to me.

No More Multiple Serial Numbers

The “Home & Student” edition no longer contains multiple serial numbers, as Mac Office had in at least the past couple of iterations: in fact, you could have it running on three machines. If you want to run Office on your desktop & laptop, you’ll have to plump for the dual-license version of “Home & Business” edition. Again, this is pretty tight-fisted.

Bye-Bye, Project Centre

Unremarked-upon by any reviews I read: Outlook no longer supports Entourage’s Project Centre. All your projects have been converted into categories. I’m not sure which outrages me more: the fact that Mac journalists didn’t highlight its loss (as they did when Office 2008 dropped AppleScript support) or that MS dropped Project Centre in the first place.

Dropping support of Project Centre may not bother you in the least. In day-to-day usage, you’ll probably not notice much difference, as assigning a message to a project is virtually indistinguishable from assigning it to a category. But if you were a heavy user of this feature, you’ll feel its loss keenly.

When you are searching for specific information associated with a specific project, which might be in any number of folders, tasks or notes, then the lack of a unifying Project Centre feature will hobble you significantly. I know that Outlook supports Spotlight, but frankly that’s not good enough: I for one get too many false positives in Spotlight, and the whole point of using Project Centre was to help you find items where you can’t quite remember the details well enough to search for it.

Worse, the removal of this feature is destructive. Upon occasion I used the built-in Notes feature within individual projects in the Project Centre to write meeting minutes. They’re all gone. Thankfully, I didn’t use it often: most often I wrote notes in Word & sometimes in TextMate. Nowadays all my notes are covered by Livescribe, which is pretty awesome.

Practical Advice on Upgrading

Importing your old mail can be problematic. Back up first (but you do that already, right?). When I first imported, Outlook crashed—and upon reimporting I found I had duplicated mail folders & categories. And when I started deleting some of the duplicate categories (that is, categories that were once projects), I found that Outlook started to delete thousands of messages associated with those categories. Which repeated category should you delete? Well, it appears to be a crap shoot, so tread lightly. Fucking hell.

Bugs, Omissions, Weird Decisions

  • After I finished importing, I went to the preferences to see what was new. You have the option to hide items on your computer. If you tick that, your local folders are hidden. Now untick it. Your folders don’t show up again until you quit Outlook & restart it.
  • Did you make any Junk Mail rules? Sorry, they won’t work any more.
  • Did you keep a list of your completed tasks? Perhaps so you can verify that you did X or Y? Well, at first I thought they were gone. But don’t worry, they’re just hidden. I’m not sure who thought that was a good idea, but it set in a little bit of panic for me.
  • You know that “Notes” feature? The one you probably didn’t use much because of the notes in Project Centre? If you relied upon the dates in which they were created or modified, get used to the fact that they are now marked by the date when they were imported into Outlook.
  • Even if you choose to use Plain Text for your email, the options for using HTML in your messages are still on the screen.
  • Any sound sets you have have used previously no longer work. For example, I used a sound of someone clearing his throat for when a notification popped up: gone.

All in all, this software doesn’t feel finished & I feel cheated. I’m severely disappointed in my purchase. I’ve not been a Microsoft-basher: in fact, I think they used to make good Mac software. But no more. I’ll be looking into converting to Apple Mail & using Daylite to manage projects. Now who do I talk to about getting my money back?

Update: I’ve also discovered that calendar events no longer support linked files. This is a another big problem—for example, I would attach electronic boarding passes to a travel event, so I wouldn’t have to root around for them.

I can see why they made these disastrous changes: it’s clear they want to have absolute compatibility with the Windows version of Outlook, which doesn’t support projects & linked files. While I don’t like their design decisions, my real problem here is the lack of clear announcement: we were left to find out all on our own. It’s really fucking shoddy.

What Were They Thinking?

Ray Drainville

Before I started ArDes, I worked for a local marketing firm. The people running this company fancied themselves clever marketing strategists, or “marketeers”, as they called themselves: something which always made me think of the Mickey Mouse Club. When I interviewed with them, they showed off some of their self-marketing ploys. They had a penchant for sending prospective clients miniature items: briefcases, etc. Once they sent prospective clients tiny tin buckets, with no accompanying letter, to pique their interest. A week later they sent out a letter: “You’ve got the bucket. Do you want the ideas?”

It’s clear what they were aiming for: the proverbial “bucket of ideas”. But the problem, of course, was that the bucket they supplied was tiny. This implied that they didn’t have many ideas. Or maybe it implied that their ideas were small & promised very limited success. Whatever. It wasn’t a clever or successful campaign: it only served to make them look a stupid, Mickey-Mouse organisation—of which there are sadly many in the marketing/graphic design world.

And it was very old-school, or at least it seems so now: send prospective clients some cutesy little thing to garner interest & they’ll be delighted by how clever you are. In these days of economic distress—not to mention environmental consciousness—you might think the days of spending on such wasteful endeavours would be over. You would be wrong.

A week ago, I received a package from Extensis, a company that makes (among other things) font management software. I’m a customer, albeit an unhappy one, since when I upgraded, Suitcase Fusion refused to import any of the metadata on my collection of nearly 7,000 fonts. I had to recreate all of that data. By hand. Anyway, the package contained nothing else than an adult-sized styrofoam head. You know, the kind that would sport a wig.

A few days ago, part two of their remarkable campaign kicked in. I received a wig in the shape of a mullet. In one of the more strained examples of marketing prose that I’ve encountered, the accompanying letter stated:

Extensis invites you to don your “creative mullet” to experience the perfect balance of professional level and playful font management found only in our solutions.

…[Suitcase Fusion 3 is] more than just business in the front and party in the back.

…Check out www.extensis.com/creativemullet/ to… sign up for a demo or even share your mulletude with us.

Seriously, wtf is a “creative mullet”? This is such a prime example of wankery pokery (a favourite expression of mine) that it beggars belief.

Despite all my sniping at them, I’m interested to hear that Extensis are about to move into the world of web fonts with a product called webINK to compete with the likes of TypeKit and others. I’ll reserve judgment until I hear more about it: like a lot of software companies with a history of print design, Extensis’ forays into the web haven’t been that great. Anyone remember BeyondPress? Gaaaah…

Edit: Name changed from “Argument from Design” to “ArDes”