Something stripy this way comes

Woot! I’ve had my dispatch notification from Apple. Tiger is on it’s way! With a major OS release like this, I have a tried and tested strategy for upgrading:

I maintain two partitions on my “main” hard-drive (I have another physical hard-drive that I use for all my work files). One partition (called “Boot”) holds the operating system, user folders, local mirrors of my web sites, etc. The other partition (called “Storage” – I’m all for exciting volume names) is used for all my downloads; installers, guides, reference material, media files (mp3s, movies, photos, etc). I have already copied all the media from “Storage” to my external Firewire HD (which continues my exciting naming convention and is called “Archive”), using the Terminal and the “ditto” command (it’s faster than using the Finder). When the Tiger DVD arrives, I can erase “Storage” (using Terminal again) and install Tiger on to a nice blank partition. Over the following few evenings (or over the weekend if the package arrives tomorrow), I can then start installing all the drivers for critical stuff like my Wacom tablet, SCSI scanner, printer, etc. Once I’m sure they all run okay, I can start loading on all the applications and copying critical files from my Panther Home folder to the Tiger installation. This will allow me to carry on working from Panther during the day, then switch to Tiger full time once everything is running as it should. Then I can erase the old Panther volume and copy back the media files from the external drive.

This might seem like a complicated way to go about it, but it has a couple of advantages. It means that I get a pristine Tiger installation, with only the applications and files that I really need (none of the crap I’ve accumulated in the last year will make the transition). It means I can carry on working as normal, uninterrupted by potential wonky settings and broken apps that sometimes result from a normal upgrade. It also means I can easily cherry-pick documents, preferences and config files from Panther and copy them straight to the new OS as I need them. One last additional advantage is that Spotlight, the new system level content indexing feature, will only need to index the files that I actually need, rather than having to churn through all the rubbish that has built up in dark corners of the hard drive.

I’m also going to give my hard drive partitions slightly more exciting names this time round. At the moment I’m favouring using character names from my favourite Sega Saturn game, Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Fish-Slapping Dance

Mac pundit John Gruber makes some very disparaging comments about Adobe on his Daring Fireball site, in an article titled The Fish Rots From the Head. In it he condemns what he sees as Adobes recent focus on sales, rather than on creating great and innovative software:

Rather than expand into untapped creative markets, Adobe seems hell-bent on expanding into the jerks-wearing-suits market, a market that’s completely at odds with the creative market they’ve dominated for nearly two decades.

I’ve always been a fan of Adobe products. Right now I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of Creative Suite 2. I can’t help but have a sneaking suspicion that John is right about the direction Adobe is taking. The fact that Adobe is introducing product activation into Creative Suite 2 seems to be a clear symptom of the sales driven road that they are heading down. I subscribe to the belief that the only people inconvenienced by product activation schemes are paying customers like myself. Those who want a pirate copy will just wait until some kind hearted hacker releases a patch that circumvents the whole thing and makes installing much easier.

Adobe products have a lot of momentum. The wealth of features in their current applications will power their dominance for some time. But, as John Gruber points out:

When is the last time Adobe has unveiled anything truly innovative for the graphics-and-design market? InDesign 1.0? That was nearly five years ago.

[…] the main reason Adobe Systems has been a success is that they created and developed terrific, innovative software. Engineering talent isn’t enough; you need passion for innovative products at the top of a company.

If that spirit continues to wither, Adobe will continue its slide into mediocrity, and will become just another software company. But if it becomes a bigger company while doing so, I suspect that will suit Bruce Chizen just fine.

I hope Adobe can keep creating effective, innovative products. I really don’t want to end up having to use CorelDraw.

Flirting with phones

I’ve posted a small selection of images from a new project. These icons form part of a forthcoming mobile phone “flirting” service, and represent either the users projected personality (like sexy, horny devil, shy) or an action or emotion (like lust, snog, tease) that can be exchanged with other users.

Edit: These images have not been readded since I changed to the new portfolio software.

Flash in the pan

Adobe has announced their acquisition of Macromedia, makers of (among other things) Flash and Dreamweaver. Flash is enormously popular and enormously powerful, but (in my opinion) has never had the GUI polish of Adobe’s products. Hopefully this deal will see some of Adobe’s UI know-how rubbing off on Flash, and better integration with their vector drawing tool Illustrator.

Software buying frenzy

A few days ago I pre-ordered a copy of Tiger, due out on 29 April, and last night I took the plunge and pre-ordered Adobe Creative Suite 2. I’ve ordered the Standard addition, as I have no need for GoLive and Acrobat (included in the Premium Suite).

I’m looking forward to the new tools in Illustrator CS2, as well as extra features of the suite like Version Cue. This looks like it could be really handy when a client asks me to supply different colour versions for them to choose from. I have a terrible habit of saving colour changes over older versions, and having to re-apply the approved colours by picking them off raster samples of the variations.

Fingers crossed that CS2 will ship earlier rather than later, as my Illustrator CS tryout version expired in 14 days, and I don’t want to have to go back to version 10. CS has too many nice features that I’ll miss.

I shall bask happily in the cosy feeling that comes with owning legit software.

Singing the wrong tune

If you are using Opera, you might notice that the banner of this site is a bit broken. I have no idea why this is, I can’t spot anything obviously wrong with the XHTML or the CSS, and it works correctly in Internet Explorer (5 and 6 on Windows, 5 on Mac OS), all the Mozilla browsers, and Safari on Mac OS X.

Let me know if you have any ideas.

Fixed now. The problem was caused by the margins I had used to position the main titles so that they line up with the speech bubble. I changed the margin to padding, and it works in Opera now too. The problem was masked originally because I had used overflow: hidden on the banner. Opera was the only browser that didn’t honour the overflow settings, thus exposing the flaw.

Using a remote MySQL server from OS X

I do all the design and testing of my site on my own computer (using OS X built in Apache server), before uploading new content to my Dreamhost server space. After adding the WordPress installation, I was hoping I could connect to the same Dreamhost MySQL database from my local test version, so that I don’t have to update two installations if or when I need to tweak the database manually.

But despite my best efforts, I can’t get either the local WordPress installation, or CocoaMySQL to connect to the Dreamhost database. If anyone has got any tips or advice, please let me know in the comments.

New look, new front page

If you are a returning visitor to my site, you may notice the brand new look. I am now using a WordPress blog installation for this front page, which will make it much easier for me to add news about new projects and images, and enable regular visitors to leave comments and feedback.

This is the first stage of my planned updates to the site, which I am hoping to complete over the summer. Since Russ and I first launched the original Team Artonomy site back in about 1997, I have always written all the Perl CGI scripts that drive the image browser, feedback page and other dynamic content, but it has become too time consuming to update and expand these scripts as my illustration workload increases.

So, I have decided to try and turn the entire site over to PHP, using my own scripting in some areas, but relying on “pre-cooked” applications like WordPress and Coppermine Gallery for major sections. Using these excellent Open Source applications also means that I can take advantage of security and feature improvements as the projects develop and improve.

I’ve also updated the look of the site, with simplified navigation and more white space, inspired by the default WordPress template that I used as a starting point. The style is a little bit bland at the moment, but I’m hoping to add some extra eye candy when my workload calms down (hopefully in the next few weeks).

I’ve had my hand up WordPress’s skirt

On my old news page, I used a script I wrote myself to create the posts. Each post was stored in an XML file, generated by a CGI script, which I then uploaded to my server. These individual files were used to build the news page. It was quite a nice system, easy to use and maintain, but not very flexible.

When I decided to switch to using WordPress for the front page, I wanted to incorporate all my old news items into the new blog. I did this by writing a Perl script that compiled all the individual news items into one file, then output them as a CSV file that I could import directly into the WordPress MySQL database using CocoaMySQL. Creating the CSV file wasn’t without incident; it took me a couple of hours to sort out the formatting, and to track down a problem with the line endings that munged big chunks of the data whenever I tried to import it.

Hopefully, now that I’ve worked out how to transfer simple data like this, it should make it easier to transfer all the information from my current portfolio system to a new Coppermine gallery, once I work out how the Coppermine database is constructed. Hopefully it will be easier than adding over 200 images to the new database by hand!

New images added


I’ve added a couple of new images to my portfolio. The characters are for a forthcoming mobile phone game, but as the developer hasn’t launched it, I can’t reveal the details yet.

I’m very pleased with these two images. The brief called for a skater/urban/extreme sports feel, and a more grungy look than my usual artwork. The style is still pretty clean, but I’m taking small steps towards loosening up.