Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Mattias I Would Be If I Could


Life can be fun. Especially when the fun comes unexpectedly.

Today while looking for something to illustrate the idea of "backpacker" I found Mattias Adolfsson.

I don't know much of anything about him except that once again I wish I could draw, maybe paint, or at least had decent color vision.

Lacking those qualities, I'll have to appreciate them who got 'em.

Mattias Adolfsson: "Freelance Illustrator living in Sweden with Wife and two daughters. My pen is a Namiki Falcon fountain pen, with this I use American eel from noodlers ink, for coloring I use Watercolors."

References:

Mattias Inks, the blog
Buy Handmade Prints at Etsy.com
Web site
Flickr sets
On the Behance Network
Spraygraphic Interview with Mattias Adolfsson


Thursday, February 19, 2009

You Think You're Worth What?

A couple of days back I saw a posting at Hacker News titled "Outsourcing graphic design at 99designs.com". The deal was that the poster had an idea, went to 99designs.com, and offered $300 to anyone who could fill his needs by submitting custom art. Anyone wanting to compete for the prize had to do the work, submit it, and hope for the best.

A little later I was cleaning out saved documents from various web sites, and found a blog post from Motionographer titled "The (In)famous Craigslist Post", which seemed relevant. You can check out the original through the references.

I'm reposting the core of if here since the Motionographer posting had some unresolved characters in it. (A small technical issue, but annoying.)

Enjoy.
Every day, there are more and more Craigs List posts seeking "artists" for everything from auto graphics to comic books to corporate logo designs. More people are finding themselves in need of some form of illustrative service.

But what they're NOT doing, unfortunately, is realizing how rare someone with these particular talents can be.

To those who are "seeking artists", let me ask you; How many people do you know, personally, with the talent and skill to perform the services you need? A dozen? Five? One? None?

More than likely, you don't know any. Otherwise, you wouldn't be posting on craigslist to find them.

And this is not really a surprise.

In this country, there are almost twice as many neurosurgeons as there are professional illustrators. There are eleven times as many certified mechanics. There are SEVENTY times as many people in the IT field.

So, given that they are less rare, and therefore less in demand, would it make sense to ask your mechanic to work on your car for free? Would you look him in the eye, with a straight face, and tell him that his compensation would be the ability to have his work shown to others as you drive down the street?

Would you offer a neurosurgeon the "opportunity" to add your name to his resume as payment for removing that pesky tumor? (Maybe you could offer him "a few bucks" for "materials". What a deal!)

Would you be able to seriously even CONSIDER offering your web hosting service the chance to have people see their work, by viewing your website, as their payment for hosting you?

If you answered "yes" to ANY of the above, you're obviously insane. If you answered "no", then kudos to you for living in the real world.

But then tell me why would you think it is okay to live out the same, delusional, ridiculous fantasy when seeking someone whose abilities are even less in supply than these folks?

Graphic artists, illustrators, painters, etc., are skilled tradesmen. As such, to consider them as, or deal with them as, anything less than professionals fully deserving of your respect is both insulting and a bad reflection on you as a sane, reasonable person. In short, it makes you look like a twit.

A few things you need to know;

1. It is not a "great opportunity" for an artist to have his work seen on your car/'zine/website/bedroom wall, etc. It IS a "great opportunity" for YOU to have their work there.

2. It is not clever to seek a "student" or "beginner" in an attempt to get work for free. It's ignorant and insulting. They may be "students", but that does not mean they don't deserve to be paid for their hard work. You were a "student" once, too. Would you have taken that job at McDonalds with no pay, because you were learning essential job skills for the real world? Yes, your proposition is JUST as stupid.

3. The chance to have their name on something that is going to be seen by other people, whether it's one or one million, is NOT a valid enticement. Neither is the right to add that work to their "portfolio". They get to do those things ANYWAY, after being paid as they should. It's not compensation. It's their right, and it's a given.

4. Stop thinking that you're giving them some great chance to work. Once they skip over your silly ad, as they should, the next ad is usually for someone who lives in the real world, and as such, will pay them. There are far more jobs needing these skills than there are people who possess these skills.

5. Students DO need "experience". But they do NOT need to get it by giving their work away. In fact, this does not even offer them the experience they need. Anyone who will not/can not pay them is obviously the type of person or business they should be ashamed to have on their resume anyway. Do you think professional contractors list the "experience" they got while nailing down a loose step at their grandmother's house when they were seventeen?

If you your company or gig was worth listing as desired experience, it would be able to pay for the services it received. The only experience they will get doing free work for you is a lesson learned in what kinds of scrubs they should not lower themselves to deal with.

6. (This one is FOR the artists out there, please pay attention.) Some will ask you to "submit work for consideration". They may even be posing as some sort of "contest". These are almost always scams. They will take the work submitted by many artists seeking to win the "contest", or be "chosen" for the gig, and find what they like most. They will then usually have someone who works for them, or someone who works incredibly cheap because they have no originality or talent of their own, reproduce that same work, or even just make slight modifications to it, and claim it as their own. You will NOT be paid, you will NOT win the contest. The only people who win, here, are the underhanded folks who run these ads. This is speculative, or "spec", work. It's risky at best, and a complete scam at worst. I urge you to avoid it, completely. For more information on this subject, please visit www.no-spec.com.

So to artists/designers/illustrators looking for work, do everyone a favor, ESPECIALLY yourselves, and avoid people who do not intend to pay you. Whether they are "spec" gigs, or just some guy who wants a free mural on his living room walls. They need you. You do NOT need them.

And for those who are looking for someone to do work for free please wake up and join the real world. The only thing you're accomplishing is to insult those with the skills you need. Get a clue.
References:

The (In)famous Craigslist Post
Outsourcing graphic design at 99designs.com
My Outlook On Spec Work (Dunlap Studios)
Hacker News

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

IPV6: I Pee Venomously Six Times

Since installing Kubuntu 8.04 I have been seriously annoyed about one thing: Opera doesn't work.

Piffle, you say? But nay. This is my tool of choice. It is the most usable browser ever made. I use it constantly, and I need it.Firefox has lots-o-addons, true, and you can configure it to do almost anything you want.

Except to become usable.

In an Opera sort of way.

Let me count the ways Opera offers something better
  • "Shift+G" disables stylesheets for those odd sites that are hard to read
  • Single keys, "0" and "9", either zoom in or zoom out of web pages, instantly
  • You can duplicate open tabs
  • You can detach an open tab from the browser window
  • You can move open tabs between browser windows
  • Access "Manage Bookmarks" and choose multiple pages to open
  • Right clicking on a page sends it through an HTML validator
  • Speed dial is built in
  • Mouse gestures are possible, and built in (though I never use them)
  • Choose to save page X and you get one file, X.mht, much easier to deal with than X.html and a directory of miscellaneous files
So what's the deal, then?

It didn't work. I had to install Wine, then Opera for Windows, which worked pretty well. Until it hung, or whatever. Opera for Linux on the other hand was useless. It would just sit there.

Except sometimes, when it would work perfectly on some sites, for a while, and then it wouldn't. Firefox always worked, as did Konqueror, but they aren't Opera.

Crapola.

I tried everything I could find. Zip.

Then last weekend I went back to some files I had downloaded from Ubuntu Forums, and dug a little deeper. I finally found something that worked. It wasn't easy to find or clear, but find it I did. To avoid confusing anyone I'll give the URL and a description of what finally worked for me.

It was a small change. Just one small change. And then Opera began working. Like a champ. Like the champ it is. I spent almost a whole day wallowing in Opera. Then I tried it on a second computer, and it worked there. Now I've uninstalled it from Wine, and will convert computer number three in a day or so.

Dang this is fine.

How to:
  1. Use an editor to open the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist as an administrator
  2. Add: blacklist ipv6
  3. Reboot
  4. Check it by opening a terminal window and running ip a | grep inet6
  5. If you get no output then you have succeeded
Alternate method (which I have not tried).
  1. From a terminal window run: sudo echo "blacklist ipv6" > /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist
  2. Reboot
  3. Check it by opening a terminal window and running: ip a | grep inet6
  4. If you get no output then you have succeeded
References:

How-To: Disable IPV6 to speed up Internet (search until you find the info that helps you...)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Still Wigging Out Over WYSIWYG

Once upon a time I managed to embed a WYSIWYG rich text web editor into a web site I built with Ruby on Rails. Once upon a time as in about a year and a half back. It worked OK, after some shoehorning, except that it offered more than I needed and I never could get it to produce paragraph breaks. Sort of a serious shortcoming.

Lately I've been looking for something else to do the same job. I have a different site up with a sort of one-way blog on it where I can login and add text directly into the database, and then see it on the proper page. And since there is no provision for comments I don't have to deal with random input from the outside.

But the problem is that I'm pasting text into a dumb textarea, so to add anything as basic as a paragraph break (how hard should this be?) I first have to manually format the text, then paste it in.

I've been playing with various ideas about automatically formatting text, but you immediatedly get deep into the valley of endless, regressing trouble if you try to write something like this.

Option B is to embed an editor again, with all the plumbing work, fiddling, maintenance and endless possibilities for strange side effects.

I checked out 37Signals's early attempt at working this out, but it's still too early to bother with. And though I really hate to use this cliche, they are reinventing the wheel. Let's say they might be closer to reinventing the meat grinder and sticking their heads into it. One commenter thought that since they were not satisfied with anything they found, they'd be much better off taking what looked closest and forking the code. I think I agree, but don't get to vote.

Option C is to use Textile, Markdown, or something similar, which is just another form of embedding extraneous code inside my application, and then getting to learn a whole new command language. And I did have the idea of finding something that would be simple but powerful enough for potential customers to use. Fighting with customers over the vagaries of Textile was 37Signals's motivation to go ahead and launch a whole new editor. So there.

I thought I was out of options.

But wait! There's more!

Firefox addons. There were two candidates. I'm going to try one of them.

Write Area by AlfonsoML uses FCKEditor. I could't get it to produce paragraphs from pasted-in text. It does fine if you type text and hit the enter key after each line, but typing in single lines is not the same as pasting in dozens or hundreds at a time.

OK, second and last option: Xinha Here! by Hypercubed. Bingo. It works. In a clunky way, but it works.

After fiddling around for quite a while I found a menu option that lets you format highlighted text to the "Normal" format, after you paste it in. Doing this replaces all the default break tags with nice beginning and ending paragraph tags. This will work. It is based on Xinha, another embeddable editor.

The cool part of this is that I don't have to muck up my application (or rebuild it). All it takes is installing the addon into Firefox, and then using Firefox. This would not work for a blog with comments, or a forum or wiki, but it could work at a customer site, as a sort of really quick, light, and clean content management system.

Just add a logon page and the ability to create, edit, and delete content, through Rails, and turn them loose on it. When a textarea pops up, you right click on it, and a Xinha Here! window opens. You do your editing there, save it to the textarea, save that, and get on with your business.

There probably is no way to configure an editor like this, short of learning how to create and edit Firefox addons, but it should be easy enough to use only a few options, or to instruct someone else how to use it with restraint.

After all, any solution, even a multi-thousand dollar content management system, requires training, thought, and restraint, and this little gem is free.

So in the process of doing my research I found a lot of good infomation on WYSIWYG rich text web editors. More than I need, so I'm sharing it.

References:

Xinha Here!
Write Area
Genii Software Ltd. list of WYSIWYG rich text web editors
2007 Evaluation of WYSIWYG editors
37signals's WYSIHAT editor
Discussion of WYSIHAT at hacker news