Category: General

Rant: Definition of beta, and other software development terms

There was a time, “back then,” when a piece of software that was in Beta meant that the application was feature complete, and the developer was simply releasing the software to a small group of users in order to fix any remaining bugs before releasing the app to the general public. Google changed all that a few years ago when it released GMail to the general public as a beta. To this day, it’s still a beta – even though there are millions of users. That being said, I thought it would be nice to take a look at the definition of some typical software development terms, and what they meant “back then,” and what they really mean “now.” Read on for the definitions. (more…)

Understanding camera lens terminology on your digital camera

If you’re not heavily into photography, the controls on your digital camera are probably a mystery to you, and the terms used in photography are likely a foreign language. One such confusing term is aperture. Here’s a helpful tip on what aperture settings mean, and how it affects your photos. Note: This assumes that you have a DSLR camera, not a fixed-lens point & shoot camera. The aperture of a lens refers to the amount of light a lens lets in when you take a photo. The aperture size is commonly referred to as the F-Stop or F-#. Confusingly enough, a smaller F-# means a larger aperture size, which allows more light in, and creates a narrower depth of field. This means that when taking a portrait photo, the subject will be in focus, and the background will remain out of focus, or blurry. A higher F-# will keep the entire frame in focus.

F-# Aperture Size Shutter Speed Depth of Field
Higher # Smaller Slower Wider
Lower # Larger Faster Narrower

Lens aperture settings are displayed as 1:X or f/X.X. So a lens with the largest aperture would be 1:1.0 or f/1.0. Because these larger aperture lenses are so desirable, they typically cost much more than a lens with a smaller aperture. Why are they desirable? Because they let more light in! That means if you typically do a lot of indoor photography and rely on your flash, these lenses will produce a much more evenly-lit image, rather than your subject being brightly lit and the background nearly blacked-out completely. For more information about camera lenses, I recommend taking a look at this excellent article at Cambridgeincolour.

12 times when you should say no to a client and run for the door!

Yesterday’s video post titled When is it time to dump a client brought some thoughts from (TGM reader) RhymingDesigner on when to just say no to a client. Saying no to a potential client is difficult to do, especially when you’re first starting out, or the economy has brought the stream of new business to a halt. But saying no can actually improve your situation in some cases, by freeing up time, creativity and not putting yourself in a difficult situation later. Here is his list of 12 times you should say no to a client:

  1. They expect you to drop what you’re doing and meet with them today
  2. They ask for a discount right away
  3. They balk at paying a deposit to get the work started
  4. They balk at signing a contract
  5. They want to change several terms of your tried-and-true contract
  6. They can’t give you a clear idea of what they want (“Just start!”)
  7. They want to pay next to nothing, with the promise of some big jobs in the future (the oldest trick in the book?)
  8. There is no point person (so they will be reviewing the work by committee)
  9. They have no offices or at least appearance of stability
  10. They have a track record of going through designers like crazy (and the old designers were always at fault)
  11. There doesn’t seem to be much respect for your expertise
  12. Your gut reaction is that something’s just not right (trust your instinct and bolt for the door)

In my experience, #6 is the most deadly. You accept a job and everything appears on the up-and-up. The client is looking for something completely fresh, so has no restrictions or thoughts on what the piece of work should look like. You end up spending countless hours coming up with multiple concepts only to find out that they had something very specific in mind, and quite frankly, it sucks!

10 keys to a better presentation (just like Steve Jobs)

Carmine Gallo has written an excellent article over at BusinessWeek titled Deliver a presentation like Steve Jobs that’s an excellent read for anyone working for an ad agency or who regularly gives presentations to potential clients. In my past experience with giving presentations, I always felt that the keys to a successful presentation were in how it was delivered. NOBODY will be excited at viewing slide after slide of a text-filled PowerPoint – or even worse, listening to someone who is simply reading the text-filled slides to them as though they’re stupid and can’t read for themselves. A successful presentation is reliant on an exciting, enthusiastic presenter delivering the information in a clear manner, not spinning, fading, dancing charts and headlines on a screen. Use your PowerPoint slides as a highlight, or introduction to what you’re going to say. When presenting your creative to potential clients, never, ever, EVER present them on a PowerPoint slide. Always print them out large and mount them to presentation boards. Your work is probably what’s going to close the deal, so make sure it look the best it can. And finally, practice makes perfect. Make sure you’re completely comfortable with what you’re going to say and show. If you’re at ease, so will your client be.

Think before your rip-off other designer’s work – especially Panic Software!

Thinking of using Panic Software’s Transmit icon for your Web project? Think again. Panic has put together a page on their site showcasing all the latest Web designer’s who have blatantly ripped-off their work, most notably their Transmit icon. What’s amazing is not that these designers have ripped-off the icon for their own use, it’s that in many cases, they didn’t even bother to remove the Panic icon from the side of the Transmit truck. I don’t know if Panic has taken legal action against any of these design “hacks,” but cheers to them for keeping a good sense of humor about it!

Pantone Goe System libraries available for Adobe Creative Suite

If you recall reading my announcement of the Pantone Goe System back in September of 2007, you’ll be happy to know that you can now download the entire Pantone Goe System color libraries for Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop from the Pantone Web site. The free download requires you to register with an annoying amount of personal information (address, phone number, etc…) but I guess that’s the price we pay for being on the cutting edge. That being said, I haven’t come across any printers or designers using the Goe System as of yet, so there’s probably no rush. Still, it’s nice to have nearly double the amount of Pantone colors available.

Apple Store Arrowhead Mall opens to large crowd and cranky security

The latest Apple Store in Arizona opened this weekend to large crowds, and cranky, party-pooper mall security. When I arrived a half hour or so before the Apple Store was set to open, there was already a line stretching halfway through the mall. Most patient customers were waiting with coffee in one hand, iPod/iPhone in the other. The first thing I noticed was the age group of the Mac-oholics waiting in line. It wasn’t the typical 20-something geek crowd I generally see at Apple Stores. Instead, a host of 40-somethings, and a very large handful of 50+ retirees just wanting to see what the fuss was all about. I spent a few minutes explaining that the long lines was indeed typical for all Apple Stores, and that while many probably were interested in seeing all the goodies in the store, some were simply in line for the free t-shirt. This wasn’t my first Apple Store opening, but it was certainly the most crowded – and I’m not referring to customers. The Arrowhead Mall is located near Arrowhead Ranch in Glendale, Arizona – a big money part of town where the “if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it” crowd calls home. There were (I’m guessing here) around 40-50 Apple Store employees in bright orange and cyan colored shirts buzzing around the store front, with several of them walking up and down the mall checking the length of the line, which 15-minutes after my arrival had doubled. Perhaps whomever was in charge thought they were going to busy selling iPhones. I still think it was the free T-shirts. Just before the store opened, all the store employees filed-in for a last-minute pep-talk. Lots of clapping and yelling could be heard through the glass store-front. It was at this point where the party took a moderate down-turn. The mall security (politely) asked me to stop taking photos because it wasn’t permitted inside the mall. Not wanting to cause a big scene, I decided to stop – because they’re well within their rights to ask me to leave. It was then that I noticed another security officer starting acting like a traffic Cop, rather rudely directing the flow of people when the store opened, as though people were too stupid to know that moving forward was the thing to do. At one point it appeared that he was ready to use whatever means necessary to stop a woman and her kid from cutting in line… the problem was, they were trying to get into another store that the flow of traffic from the line was temporarily blocking. Sheesh. Arrowhead Mall security needs to lighten-up! Despite these minor mall mishaps, the Apple Store Arrowhead appears to be off-and-running at full-speed. I took a quick peek in the store and got the heck out (I don’t like being in the middle of large groups of people). The store itself looked about the same as the Biltmore Apple Store, just a bit smaller – so there was really nothing new to see.