JWR STRATEGIC TECHNOLOGY SERVICES WEB LOG
JWR Strategic Technology Services Web Log
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  Printing Web page Background Colors and Images When you’re proofing work on a web site, it’s often handy to print pages with as much fidelity to the display image as possible. If you’re using background colors and images, this isn’t as easy as it would seem.

First, you have to tell your browser to that you want background colors and images to be printed. If you’re using FireFox, you must go to Page Setup and check the “Print Background (colors and images)” Option. With Internet Explorer, pull down the Tools menu, go to Options, and select the Advanced tab. Then under Printing, check the “Print background colors and images” option.

Once you’ve set your browser to print background colors and images, you need to check the web page source to make sure that the HTML/CSS supports printing background colors and images. When you’re using cascading style sheets to set background colors and images, you need to be sure that they not only reference “screen” media, but also “print” media. Here is HTML/CSS that does not support printing:

<link href="rbd.css" rel="stylesheet" media="screen" >
(This is a reference to an external style sheet for the display screen only.)

<type="text/css" media="screen">

<!-- BODY {background: #ffffff url(Images/myImage.jpg) no-repeat} -->

</style>
(This an inline style that brings in a background image.)

To change the HTML to support printing, add “print” to the “media” attribute as follows:

<link href="rbd.css" rel="stylesheet" media="screen, print">

and:

<style type="text/css" media="screen, print">

<!-- BODY {background: #ffffff url(Images/myImage.jpg) no-repeat} -->

</style>

Once you’ve made the changes to the HTML/CSS and set the appropriate browser option, you should be able to print the page with reasonable fidelity to the page displayed by the browser. 
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
  Why it's time to switch to Mac OS X

If you’re still using Mac OS 8 or 9 it’s time to make the switch to Mac OS X. The most compelling reason to switch is support. Apple no longer supports the “classic” versions of Mac OS, except in the classic mode of Mac OS X. The last stand-alone classic release was Mac OS 9.2.2 in December 2001.

Not only does Apple not provide support for pre-Mac OS X versions, but most application software vendors don’t either. All of the major vendors (Adobe, Quark, even Microsoft) now have versions for Mac OS X and are devoting all of their efforts to this platform. This means that to get new software features (like digital camera raw support in Adobe Photoshop CS), you have to have Mac OS X. The same is true for hardware support. All of the latest peripheral devices (printers, external disk drives, scanners, etc.) require Mac OS X.

But even if you’re willing to live with the computer, peripherals, and applications that you’ve got on Mac OS 9, there’s another reason to switch that’s almost as compelling – Mac OS X is the most reliable personal computer operating system in the world. By and large, it never crashes. This is because it’s built on the most stable version of the time-tested UNIX operating system and it incorporates much of the same technology that exists on most of the world’s web servers.

Much of the reliability comes from the fact that applications in Mac OS X are protected from one another. In the classic Mac OS, applications worked on the honor system – as long as they all behaved well, the system worked well. But a single misbehaving application could wreak havoc on the system. In Mac OS X, like all UNIX-based systems, the problems associated with misbehaving applications are limited to themselves – they can’t affect other applications or the operating system.

The final compelling reason to switch to Mac OS X is that you’re going to have to at some point. The longer you wait, the more out-of-date your knowledge will be. The learning curve for Mac OS X from a classic version of Mac OS is not very steep, but it does exist. And the sooner you tackle it, the quicker you’ll put current Macintosh technology to work for you.

There are many other reasons to move to Mac OS X: support for iPods, new applications like iMovie and Garageband, the quiet and quick new Apple computers,… Once you try Mac OS X, I’m confident that you’ll like it and quickly wonder why it took you so long to make the switch.

 
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
  Planning your move to Mac OS X

If you’re still using Mac OS 8 or 9, it’s time to bid them a fond farewell and enter the world of Mac OS X. Support for the older operating systems, both from Apple and third-party hardware and software vendors, is waning. The current versions of most Macintosh applications require Mac OS X and this list continues to grow. But more important than the technical obsolescence of the older Mac OSes, Mac OS X provides an incredibly efficient and stable environment for hardware and software. Once you’ve adjusted to Mac OS X (and it won’t take long) you’ll wonder why you resisted it.

If you own a Macintosh with Mac OS 8 or 9 and you’re considering buying a new Macintosh with Mac OS X, this paper will help you understand what it will take to make the leap, both in terms of technology and costs. Your computer is the hub of a system that includes hardware devices (like printers, scanners, etc.), network connections, software applications, and data. Most of the components you use on your old computer will work on your new one, but these components will need to be upgraded.

Hardware planning

Devices like printers, external disk drives, scanners, etc. require software to work with your computer. This software is frequently called a “device driver”. Drivers translate instructions from the computer to a language that the device understands and vice versa. Most devices come with a CD that contains their drivers. For every device that you connected to your old Mac, you no doubt installed a corresponding driver.

Since Mac OS X is very different from the “classic” Macintosh operating systems, it requires a new set of device drivers. These Mac OS X drivers are usually available for free download over the Internet. Some devices, particularly those that are more than two or three years old, may not be supported in Mac OS X because the vendor decided the expense of developing a new driver could not be justified. If you have one of these obsolete devices, you’ll have to upgrade to a newer model. Fortunately, the newer models are frequently more capable and less costly than the devices they replace. Nevertheless, you should understand the costs associated with this transition.

For every device attached to your old computer that you want to use with your new one, you need to research whether it’s supported in Mac OS X and what you need to do to get it to work. Vendor web sites generally contain this information. For the devices that aren’t supported in Mac OS X, you need to determine the replacement cost and factor that into the cost of transition.

Network planning

Mac OS X has much better networking capabilities than earlier version of the Mac OS. If you just have a connection to the Internet, it’s a simple matter to move that connection to your new computer. If you have a local area network connection to a router, you can likely move that connection without too much trouble, too. Of course, the larger your network, the more you need to plan your networking connections. If you have Windows-based PCs on your network, Mac OS X allows you to share files with them as though they were running Macintosh file sharing.

Software planning

Most of the software that runs on previous versions of the Mac OS also runs, in a new version, on Mac OS X. Although Mac OS X provides support for running “classic” versions of your favorite applications, you should only use this support until you get the versions that support Mac OS X natively. That will save you much time and effort in the event of problems, but will be costly in terms of the system updates that you’ll need to purchase.

To plan for applications on you new computer, you should evaluate the applications that you currently use and go to the vendor Internet sites to find the updates you’ll need. Note that Mac OS X comes with many useful applications including: an Internet mail client (mail), a calendar program (iCal), an Internet browser (Safari), an address book (Address Book), a basic photo processing program (iPhoto), a music program that supports iPods (iTunes), a basic video editing program (iMovie), a DVD authoring program (iDVD), a music synthesis program (Garage Band), and a basic office suite (AppleWorks). You can likely replace some of the applications that you’ve been paying for with these free Mac OS X applications.

Data planning

No doubt you have many files that you need to move from your old computer to your new one. If you’re running Mac OS 9.2.2 on your old computer and it supports FireWire connections, you can simply follow the directions in the setup process for Mac OS X to use FireWire to move you all of the data (documents, fonts, etc.) to the new computer. If not, you can probably use Apple file sharing to move your data to your new computer using a local area network connection. Before moving your data, you should go through the files on your old computer getting rid of anything you don’t need going forward. This will save you time in moving the data and will help you get started with a “clean slate” on your new computer.

Once you’ve developed a plan for transition to your new computer, you’re ready to start the actual process. We’ll discuss that in an ensuing post…

 
Friday, February 11, 2005
  What you need to work with digital photos on your computer

What you need to work with digital photos on your computer
The first thing you need to do to work with digital photographs on your computer is to install the software that came with your camera. This usually includes the driver for communicating with your camera and software to let you see your pictures. Most cameras connect to computers using the USB interface. You’ll need to make sure you have a free USB port that you can use for your camera and that you can get to the port easily. (You don’t want to have to reach around to the back of your computer and fumble to find a free USB port every time you connect your camera.)

It’s worth the cost (around $30.00) to get a flash memory reader for your computer. That way you don’t need to attach your camera to the computer at all. Instead, you take the flash card out of your camera, put it in the reader, and copy (drag) the photos from the card to a folder on your computer hard disk. Then you can put the card back into your camera, reformat the card, and take more pictures. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about connecting and disconnecting your camera and computer.

Once you have your photos loaded onto your computer, you can edit them, put them on your web site, and print them. There are lots of choices for photo editing software. If your computer came with photo editing software, that’s a good place to start, but it’s not likely to be all you need, particularly if you’re planning to print your photographs. If you’re using MacOS X, then you have Apple’s iPhoto on your computer and you should give it a try. If you need software that’s more sophisticated than what you have, you should consider one of the Adobe products: Photoshop Elements or Photoshop. Photoshop Elements is easier to use and costs much less (retail $99.00) than Photoshop. You can download a free trial copy from the Adobe site before you buy it.

Photoshop is the most sophisticated photo editing product available. It’s used by most professional photographers, graphic designers, and web developers. Photoshop retails for $649.00, a price that rivals or exceeds the cost of most digital cameras. (You can download a trial version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements from the Adobe web site if you have a broadband Internet connection.)

The learning curve for Photoshop is steep – I have read at least ten books on Photoshop, worked through many tutorials, and taken one class. I now consider myself a mid-level user. If you decide you want to use Photoshop, you should plan to take an introductory class and read at least a couple of Photoshop books. That pushes the cost up to $1,000.00.

Even if you take pictures in JPEG format (and most digital cameras do this by default) you will likely need to edit your photos, at least to change their size, before posting them on your web site.

To print pictures from your computer you’ll likely use an inkjet printer. There are many different models to choose from ranging in cost from free (supplied with your computer) to many thousands of dollars. Most inkjet printers print on 8.5x11” paper, although you can get printers that print on snapshot sized paper, too. You’ll want to get photo-quality paper for your printer as the ink will soak through standard paper. You’ll have the best luck with paper that’s made for your printer, Epson paper for Epson printers, etc.

Depending on how much and how often you print photos, you may to consider getting an inkjet printer that has individual color ink cartridges, rather than a single ink cartridge that contains all colors. The reason is that you have to replace the single ink cartridge when any color runs out, even though you may still have the other colors of ink. With individual color cartridges, you only have to replace the color that runs out. If you print a lot, the costs of ink cartridges and paper will be sizable and individual cartridges will reduce those costs.

Finally, there are the computer hardware costs associated with digital photography. Pictures take up a lot of hard disk space and image editing software requires a very fast computer to work adequately. If you have an older computer (slower than 1GHz), you should consider buying a new one before you start working with digital photographs. If you have a newer computer, you’ll likely need to get an additional hard disk and additional memory to comfortably work with photographs. I suggest at least a 1GHz computer with 512 MB RAM and a 100 GB hard disk. If you do much editing, you’d want to get an optical mouse, if you don’t already have one.

To summarize: Digital photography can be very useful in many small businesses, but you need to be aware of all of the associated costs. They include the costs associated with the camera and accessories, as well as the costs associated with the computer. The computer costs include:

 
Thursday, October 21, 2004
  Digital Photography for Small Business

Digital photography is all the rage. It’s quickly displacing film photography for all but the highest end photographic applications. And increasingly, small businesses are using digital photography to convey visual information. Applications include real estate listings, travel accommodations, restaurants, etc.

What makes digital photography so appealing? You get to see your photographs as you take them. If you didn’t get a good shot, you can erase it and try again. Because you can reuse your digital film you don’t need to buy more each time you take pictures. You can store your photographs on your computer hard disk, display them on the Internet, and print them on your ink jet printer. You don’t have to take them to a processing lab and you don’t have to use a scanner to get them into your computer. Instant feedback, reusable film, and computer processing combine to create a compelling case for digital photography.

While it’s relatively inexpensive to purchase a digital camera, you should understand that purchasing the camera is just the first of many expenses associated with digital photography.

Shortly after purchasing a digital camera you’ll discover that you don’t have enough digital film. Most digital cameras use removable flash memory cards for their digital film. And all digital cameras that use flash memory come with a flash card that is too small to store many pictures. The first addition to your digital camera equipment will be one or more additional flash memory cards. I recommend getting at least two.

The next thing you’ll discover about your digital camera is that it uses batteries much more quickly than a film camera. This is because everything about the camera is electronic. It’s best to get a camera that uses rechargeable batteries so that you don’t have to spend as much on batteries and you don’t discard a lot of hazardous waste materials. To take many pictures with your camera, you’ll need at least two sets of batteries, more if you’ll be away from a charger for long periods of time. You’ll also need a charger, if your camera didn’t come with one.

Once you’ve got enough digital film and batteries for your needs, there are dozens of other useful accessories that you may need. They include: camera case and bag, add-on lenses, filters, and a tripod.

To summarize:

In upcoming posts, I’ll cover computer and printer considerations, and how to select a camera for your business. Please add your feedback and experiences with digital photography in small business.

 
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
  Attorney Says Sloppy IT Deals All Too Common - Computerworld Attorney Says Sloppy IT Deals All Too Common - Computerworld

As this article from Computerworld attests, too often software contracts favor the software vendor and fail to include essential provisions for the buyer. Why? To quote the article: Software licensing managers and other technology buyers usually are less prepared for negotiations than vendors are... in 75% of the cases, they know more about your company than you do...

Horror stories about poorly written software licensing agreements abound. The way to avoid these problems is to negotiate with vendors from a point of strength. Understand your business requirements clearly and make sure that they are addressed by the vendor. Work with someone who understands the technology, your business, and software vendors to draft an equitable licensing agreement.
 
Friday, July 02, 2004
  Business awareness - part one... It's most difficult to see the things with which we're most familiar. When I look out my dining room window at the trees and creek, more often than not see them as the backdrop for something going on in my mind. Occasionally, I look out and see, really see, the dimensionality and beauty that I usually miss.

It's like that in business, too. Once we've built familiarity with our surroundings and standard ways of doing things (business processes), we tend to lose sight of them. They become "the way things are done." Occasionally someone, a consultant or other "outsider" enters the business environment and shows us what's been there all along.

This happened early in my career when a consultant, hired to teach us about IBM, gave us his perspective on system programmers. The insight was brilliant - IBM had infiltrated most large businesses with their own employees, but had gotten customers to pay the salaries. System programmers were employed by IBM's customers, but their primary loyalty was to IBM and IBM technology. IBM treated system programmers as insiders - they were invited to special events, given early looks at software, and consulted about business direction. Many system programmers kept pictures of themselves attending IBM events on their office walls. Of course, when system programmers were asked their opinions about technical issues, they could usually be counted on to recommend IBM products and services.

The consultant's perspective taught me a lesson that I wouldn't forget. We take the commonplace so much for granted that we have difficulty really seeing it. It forms our background. How often do you really notice the surroundings in your neighborhood? Yet, when you're in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you notice much more, making fewer assumptions. You're alert and aware.

In the next few articles, I intend to explore some of the things that form the, often unexamined, background for business today.
 
JWR Strategic Technology Services provides small businesses and nonprofits with the information and services you need to optimimize your use of computer technology.

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