Thursday, January 18, 2007

Playpen #8 - Pub Standards Logos

A couple of days ago, Dan threw down the gauntlet asking if anyone could come up with a logo for the pub standardistas to use on their blogs. Here'e one of my efforts, which will henceforth grace this blog.

You can see some alternatives in the Playpen #8 page.

Hopefully, some more folks will have a go at designing some logos too. When they are available, I'll let you know - the more the merrier :-)

I'm also very pleased to have secured my place for @media 2007 europe europe this morning! I really enjoyed the 2006 conference, and look forward to all the new sessions on offer. You can read some of my past posts for @media 2006.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Upgrades That Suck

Upgrades, gotta love 'em.

As it turned out, I foolishly accepted the offer of an upgrade to Windows Media Player 11 a couple of days ago. It all looked to have gone smoothly to begin with, and in fact I like the look of it - seems easier to find things and is a much nicer interface, all in all.

So I ripped a couple of CD's I'd been meaning to put on my PC for a while, then connected my MP3 player. And... nada. Well, the helpful error message said words to the effect that my player was using an old USB driver which was no longer supported, and I should go get a new one. Great! It was getting very late, so I decided not to wrestle with it and left it til the next day.

The player in question is a Creative Nomad Jukebox Zen NX (nice and snappy that, ha), so I hopped over to Creative Europe's website and downloaded the latest USB driver and installed that. Still the same error message.

A bit of Googling later, and I found that WMP11 has "known issues" with Zen portable devices. It would have been nice to have been told this before I did the upgrade, Microsoft! The suggested bodge fix is to roll back to WMP10, upgrade the firmware on the Jukebox and reinstall WMP11.

OK, I'll give that a go. Except that, having trawled around Creative's support site (again) and found the supposedly correct firmware upgrade, I get this lovely little error message when trying to run it:
Brilliant! So I send off an email to Creative's Support asking just which file I should be using, and sit back to wait for a reply.

Meanwhile, there's a troubleshooting bit on Creative's site which suggests another possible bodge fix if the device is seen in Device Manager (it is) but not recognised by WMP10 (it isn't). I follow the instructions which get me to mess about with the registry! And it still does nada.

Last resort is the section of Microsoft's Readme for WMP11 which says your player might have problems after rolling back to v10; uninstall the USB device in Device Mangler™, disconnect device and reconnect, forcing Windows to reinstall. Still five parts of you know what.

So now I've got the (un)shiny Media Player 10 back on my system but I'm not even back to square one as the Jukebox is still not being recognised.

Thank you Creative Labs, and Microsoft, for wasting at least three hours of my time. And I'm still not done. You need your collective heads banging together. I don't care who's problem it is, but it shouldn't be mine.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Property Is Theft

19th-Century French politician Pierre-Joseph Proudhon might have coined the phrase, but it's still pretty relevent today. As a soon-to-be-freelance web designer and photographer, I was particularly alarmed to read Sion Touhig's piece at The Register, about how the glut of freely- (or cheaply-) available images on the web has "devasted" the freelance photography and photojournalism sector. Not only is content on the web more easy to pinch, but also the rise in "user generated content" has made things increasingly difficult. He states:

"User Contributed Content should be more accurately termed 'Audience Stolen Content', because media groups rarely pay for Citizen Journalism images and more often than not, either claim the copyright or an all-encompassing license from contributors, when they send their pictures in. That's a copyright grab in all but name."
The article runs to three pages and make many other salient points, but this one stuck out too:
"The perception is "if it's on the web, it's either free, or I'm gonna nick it anyway because, hey, 'they' can afford it". The reality is that there are now more copyright-free or near-free images on the web than copyright images. Most of them will be on Flickr (owned by Yahoo!), MySpace (owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation) or the major corporate image portals. Neither Flickr nor MySpace exist to commercially leverage images, but clients now go there trawling for free content, so they don't have to pay a photographer for it. It has caused a crash in the unit cost of any images which aren't given away and which are licensed for profit."
As a victim of copyright theft in the past, I can entirely sympathise with his point of view. In my case, I was minding my own business reading one of the broadsheets' weekend colour suppliments a few years ago, when I stumbled across a picture which I knew incontrovertibly to have been stolen from one of my websites and used without my permission. After writing an incensed letter to the paper's picture editor, they freely admitted that it was their fault (blaming a lazy researcher for not checking the copyright status of the image!) and agreed to pay me their standard repro fee.

It took another 4 letters and six months for them to finally honour their promise. And that was for a picture which wasn't particularly important or valuable, and would not have earned me anything anywhere else - it was just for the principle of it that I pursued them. What would have happened if I hadn't spotted it? I wonder how many more times newspapers get away with this sort of thing - not to mention the millions of folks online who can trawl the web for all of your pictures and do with them what they will.

And I'm afraid that's why you'll find I put a copyright watermark in all my images which I put online - they're usually only 600x400 resolution too. And my Flickr images aren't tagged with a Creative Commons licence. Once bitten, twice shy.

On a related note, recently a client gave me a brief, and I worked up a proposed site layout. But despite me following the brief, the client was not happy and has basically admitted they want me to rip off the design of another site! I flatly refuse to do so. Asking me to do this would basically be asking me to throw away my professional integrity and risk being sued for breach of copyright.

Fortunately, there was PR agency inbetween me and the client in question, who managed to mediate the situation. They were pretty much in agreement with me that it wasn't not a healthly thing to be suggesting. And from a prospective customer's point of view, I wouldn't be too impressed if I found a site which had obviously pinched a design from a competitor - that wouldn't say much for the company's buisness ethics!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tagged By Sheila

Sheila The Sheila has tagged me with a little blog ditty, and in the spirit of New Year I thought I would carry it on. The idea is this:

"For those of you going "huh?", I have been blog tagged, a game started by Jeff Pulver which seems to be spreading quite quickly. The object of the game is to reveal 5 things about you, which most readers probably don't know, then nominate 5 friends to do the same."
So, here are my five "surprises":
  • I had my first photograph published when I was 8 years old.
    It was taken when I was seven, at Darnholm, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. I used my father's manual camera (he had set the exposure for me) and managed to pan the shot when the steam train came round a curve under the bridge. Dad regularly submits pictures for publication in preserved railway magazines, and so he sent it along with some of his, and it was published in Modern Railways. So I'm a bit of a closet steam-head as well as nethead.
  • I mushed a team of six huskies for a week in the arctic circle.
    We toured northern Sweden and Norway. It was the best trip I've ever done, but totally knackering. We ate for England, but expended so much energy, I'd lost 4lbs by the time I came home. My experiences during that week have taught me that teamwork is invaluable, and that plastic is not as good as polystyrene for making loo seats for use in sub-zero temperatures!
  • I started learning to play Bass Guitar in 2002.
    I'd wanted to play bass since I was a teenager. Then one day I woke up and thought, "why don't I just go and buy one, rather than dithering all this time?" Not sure the neighbours were pleased. But my amp doesn't go up to 11! I started out with a cheap 4-string model, but now have a custom 5-string Iceni Funkmeister, with a purple paint job. I guess I'm a late starter when it comes to rebellion and rock-goddess pretentions, ha ha.
  • I'm a PAGB-accredited judge, and regularly visit photographic clubs in East Anglia and North London, to judge their competitions. For some reason, they like my opinions and keep inviting me back.
  • Danny Grewcock (England and Bath Lock) once signed my rugby shirt. I was still wearing it at the time. 'Nuff said.
And I'm going to tag these good folks to reveal themselves: Litlove, Andy Mitchell, Bobble, Prof. John Flood and his RATS, FakeBob.