Posts filed under 'Apple'

Business Upgrading

Add comment May 30th, 2016

One of the continuing expenses for any business using a computer is upgrading software. Now the purveyors of all that software would have us install an upgrade every time they come out with one. But it’s not that simple. Business owners can’t always indulge the tendency, should they have it (and I do) to be technology junkies who always want new and shiny. This may be particularly true for graphic designers and artists, including book designers.

In my case, the inclination is strong toward wanting a new machine—iMac, iPad, iPod Touch—every time they come out with one. The exceptions are iPhone—I don’t own one, as I don’t use a cell phone often enough to care about the familiarity, convenience, and ease of use that having another Apple device would bring me. The Apple computers and idevices I already have fill all my e-needs, from working to monitoring my runs to providing for my television viewing. And the biggie: I will never get rid of my 17-inch MacBook Pro. Apple’s discontinuing the 17-inch size in its laptops definitely puts a damper on my Apple fanboy inclinations. I need the size to display to facing pages at a time of the books I work design and lay out.

Then there are the software upgrades. Having worked for over 25 years as a book designer, my preferences have run the gamut. I started with PageMaker, at the time only capable of single-page documents, and quickly moved over to QuarkXPress when I became aware of it, because multipage docs, books, were possible. I also liked the precise way Quark handled type. Instead of sticking religiously to the pasteboard metaphor, Quark allowed for items to be positioned on a doc by typing in exact numerical coordinates. To me, this was deal-maker.

I avoided InDesign, the supposed Quark-killer, for some years, despite Quark the company becoming less nice and less responsive to its customers than Adobe, because I didn’t care for InDesign’s type handling compared to QuarkXPress when I tried out demo versions a couple of times.

And a funny thing happened, just when I found a version of InDesign that finally seemed to do a better job of handling type, I ran into possibly the nicest person ever to work at Quark. I was working on my first children’s book, Mishka: An Adoption Tale. It’s so long ago, I forget exactly what the problem was that the printer—in China—was having with the illustrations I had placed in the layout—it became my problem, not the illustrator’s—so I wound up contacting Customer Service at Quark and got walked through fixing the problem.

Afterward, the woman at Quark who had helped me off the ledge was very modest about how she saved her day, no matter how profusely I thanked her. In fact, she told me to watch my mail for a little gift “for [my] trouble.” Imagine that, she helped me and was sending me a gift! Well, when it came, it was a CD full of “Extras” for Quark. The only problem was that I was working with version 6.something and these Extras required version 7.

At that point I wasn’t exactly getting enough book design work to spend the hundreds of dollars on software upgrades as often as I would have liked. So I emailed my new friend at Quark, thanked her, and asked if she wanted me to return the CD. She said, “No. Watch your mail again.”

Days later I received a full copy of Quark 7.02. For free. When I thanked her, she said—and this quote is exact; I still remember it—“This is one of the nice things I get to do now and again at my job.” And she went on to say she was leaving Quark for a new job with a new company, so this was a great way for her to close out her time there.

Soon after that, as I said, I started to use InDesign and gradually shifted over to it exclusively. That free Quark 7.02 upgrade was the last time I upgraded Quark until just last year. After Adobe went to its monthly fee, subscription method of selling its software, I was done with Adobe. Like my 17-inch MacBook Pro, I plan to ride my version of InDesign (and the rest of Adobe’s Creative Studio 5.5 suite for as long as it worked on whatever computers I am using). I so dislike being told I must rent their software eternally, instead of purchasing it outright whenever I feel ready for a new version.

That brings me to the last, perhaps most important, of upgrades: Macintosh operating systems. Now, normally, I want to upgrade the OS every chance I get. With incremental, “security” updates I always do so immediately. With big, “name change” OS updates—i.e., from Lion, to Mountain Lion, to Yosemite, and now to El Capitan—I wait a couple of months and read what feedback and reviews that I can on the new OS and then upgrade the MacBook Pro, nominally my “backup machine.”

I did just that a few months ago. I had to install a version of the Java Runtime Environment—not the latest version—for InDesign to work; but I did and it does.

So, for some reason, just before I went to bed last night, around midnight, I decided it was time to upgrade the iMac to El Capitan. I find it easier to do this late like this, so that I’m not in bed and watching and waiting for the pot to boil. Plus I very rarely sleep through the night, so I can check that it’s downloaded, tell it to install, and have it tip-top by morning.

All that went well. I simply forgot about the Java installation. It’s easy enough. Just have to find the correct version. Well, long story short, perhaps I should have waited on this part, as I was sleepy. I wound up installing the latest version of Java. Which left me fuming in the middle of the night. I found something that showed me how to uninstall the latest Java, using the Terminal app.

The Terminal is generally techier than I like to get. I’m not sure why. The few times I’ve needed it, things have gone well. It may be all the warnings I’ve read about the inadvisability of “playing” with Terminal. Well, so I copy and pasted the two lines of code into the Terminal window. Then I went back to bed.

This morning, after a quick Google for the version of Java that I need, I downloaded, installed, and now I’m back in business.

Maybe the middle of the night isn’t the best time.

Staying Relevant

Add comment February 1st, 2012

I do not remember the last time I made a mass upgrade of software. Back in 2005, I think it was, I got a PoweMac tower and Adobe CS2, but that’s not what I mean. It came to me the other day, however, that it is high time. So I made my plan …

I finally see the tools for making ebooks starting to show signs of maturity. InDesign CS5.5 has been available for some time. In fact, CS6 is rumored to be around the corner. But it’s Export to epub  function, I hear, works pretty well. And Apple’s iBook Author looks—from the demo I saw—like it does what I have asked for, making iPad a serious tool for multimedia ebooks.

I am going to make the move to Apple’s Lion OS. I will install iBooks Author. But since I also want to be able to create works for more than Apple’s iBookstore, the upgrade to Adobe Creative Studio 5.5 is a no-brainer.

I have needed a couple of other new versions, too, for awhile. I always like to have the latest MathType, as Design Science regularly adds increased functionality to the equation creation package; and the latest version makes equations for iBooks. I have been inconvenienced by being able to open .docx files directly in Word 2004 long enough and will also move to Office 2011.

The interesting upgrade would be to QuarkXPress 9. My last Quark upgrade was to version 7.31. A nice story goes along with that. When I worked on the children’s storybook, Mishka An Adoption Tale, some years ago, I had a bit of difficulty with the Chinese printer and fonts. I cannot quite remember what, as the fonts would have been embedded in the PDF and that should have been enough. But I wound up in extended discussions with someone in Quark’s customer relations unit, a great, young woman who helped me work out whatever the problem was.

For some reason, on top of her helping me, she decided she would send me a gift for the trouble I had been put through—none of which was Quark’s fault—and as I was a long and loyal user of XPress, since about 1990. She wanted to send me a CD of extras. I told her that was mighty nice, but that I saw the extras were not usable with my current version, 6.something. She replied that one of the perks of her job was doing nice things for people and she sent me the Quark 7 upgrade for free. Soon after, she left Quark for a dream job of some kind. And I remained a loyal XPress user until more and more clients requested I use InDesign.

I finally added InDesign to my software arsenal. Gradually it just became easier to stick with InDy. Then the other day I got an offer from Quark for a reduced price for version 9—actually, 9.2. What struck me was the inclusion of something called App Studio for making e-versions of books for the iPad. I decided to make that upgeade, too. I had until yesterday, January 31, for the reduced price, after which the cost would climb some. But I wondered whether the nearly $300 investment was worth it for just that module.

Enter Twitter and why you need to know it does not need to be a time-sink. Tweeting on my dilemma led to the information that App Studio is a third-party module available also for InDesign. For free. Now, just as with Quark, there are fees for actually publishing something with App Studio. But the upgrade to Quark … well, is superfluous.

My thanks to Twitter stalwart, gentleman, scholar, and all-‘round good guy Pariah S. Burke (@iampariah on Twitter) who saved me $299 that I can use to get an iPad2 for debugging and displaying iBooks.

A Little More On iBooks and iBooks Author

4 comments January 21st, 2012

Although I still have not updated to Lion and gotten hold of iBooks Author, I managed to read a little more about what Apple’s e-textbook initiative could mean. That has lead to a few more thoughts about Apple’s announcement this past Thursday.

For one thing, it is significant that their new app for making iBooks is called iBooks Author, rather than iBooks Designer. It appears they have no intention of opening another avenue to making ebooks more of an artform a la print books. They are targeting authors and the do-it-yourself movement, making the process easy, if not particularly imaginative or unique for each individual iBook. Of course, they have their own business interests and what I am griping about is not their concern.

I find myself in a peculiar position. I definitely remain a fan of Apple and the Apple way. But I am disappointed when I see them promoting ways and means to a one-size-fits-all ebook design mentality. Then again, I certainly have not gotten as far as investigating how much customization the iBooks Author app allows. My hope is that, for a professional book designer at least, there is a clear path away from the one-size-fits-all that many do-it-yourselfers fall into.

Apple Does iBooks … But Good!

Add comment January 19th, 2012

Today’s not unexpected announcement from Apple was about education, ebooks, making ebooks, and making iPad the platform of choice for ebooks. Great good news! I’ve been hoping for all this for some time.

When I was a student it would have been a real blessing to have all my textbooks on an iPad. For one thing, the practical advantage, I would not have had to lug around thirty pounds of books each day. Perhaps more important to me as a student, the multimedia capabilities of the iPad gives access to a wealth of additional material—photos, audio, and video. Linking to newsreel footage when studying current events would have made things a lot more interesting, for instance, as would seeing illustrations of things I was studying in, say, physics class.

And although I have not yet investigated the free authoring tool they also announced today, iBooks author, I am confident that it will prove to be the tool for making ebooks that I have been waiting for. As a book designer, my biggest complaint has been that (human) readers can change the look of  their ebooks on ereader (devices). It appears to me that an ebook created via iBooks Author will be something like an app and permanent in its presentation.

Now along with all this good stuff Apple has set off some alarms for me—again, as I am a professional book designer and page composition artist. The same way they set the price of songs on iTunes, they are unilaterally setting the price of the ebooks they will sell. None will cost more than $14.99. I admit that would have pleased me as a college student. But as someone who earns a good part of his living making books, I wonder about them setting the market this way. Will it sustain professional ebook-makers or make the process one that can only be done in an assembly line fashion at sweatshop rates?

Time will tell.

Meanwhile it seems that Apple has come up with a new reason for everyone who is a student or has one at home to buy an iPad if they do not already own one. And because iBooks Author requires Apple’s latest OS, Lion, to run, as my son-in-law tweeted today: “[I]n Macintosh-related news, @StephenTiano gets his reason to update to Lion… #ibooksauthor”. Additionally, it is time for me to replace the first-generation iPad I gave to one of my granddaughters, because I grew bored that it was only good for consuming content, rather than creating. It seems an iPad is necessary for testing and debugging ebooks created in iBooks Author.

Steve Jobs would be proud. Hell, he must have helped prepare for today’s announcement before his untimely death this past October.


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