Feeding the Techie Beast

Behold the new view from my desk chair:

Sony HS95-PS Monitors

Mmmmm, triple monitors. Yup, I finally did it; I bought a third computer monitor. I picked up the first of these beauties years ago when they were on sale at the PX, and when I got it set up I promptly decided that it was the best, most beautiful computer monitor ever. Clean, clear, glossy and beautiful color with a sleek design all wrapped into one. I went back and bought another for ITMan the next time they had them on sale, while he was out of town. He’d just gotten promoted, and he’d been lusting after my monitor since I bought it.

Then I bought a second one for me, but in a smaller size. That was silly, to buy a smaller size, so eventually ITMan bought me another 19″ one while I was out of town. So then there were four, but one was still smaller. ITMan’s desk played host to the 17″ and one of the 19″ ones, and the other two 19″ monitors were on my desk. One big happy family.

What? What was that? Why do we need more than one monitor per computer anyway, you ask? Having more real estate on my Windows desktop enhances my workflow when I’m programming and web designing. It’s great to put the code editor on one screen and see the actual output on the other. I’m constantly working on more than one thing as well, not to mention quilting stuff thrown into the mix off and on, and it’s great to be able to put some windows on the left and some on the right while I work, and have the basics like Outlook and Firefox up and running all the time.

And ever since ITMan bought the second 19″ monitor for me, I’ve been secretly dreaming of a third. I cased ebay for a month or so until I found someone selling a slightly used one who would ship here, and Voila! I’m in heaven with so much space! Of course, it wouldn’t have been normal for this addition to the work space to have gone off without a hitch, and true to form, adding a third monitor wasn’t just plug’n’play like it should have been, oh no. Without getting too deep into what’s idiotic about this HP computer I have at the moment, I had to buy a second graphics card to be able to hook up the third monitor. Buying a second graphics card was the work of moments at Tiger Direct, and once I had that installed, it really was easy to get the third one playing nicely with the other two.

That hungry techie inside of me is appeased for the moment. ITMan just shakes his head at me. Just so that I could watch his face, I told him I really needed another one to make an even four, but then I’d have to have a new desk to fit them all. I was kidding. Three is plenty. Most of the time. 😉

Oh, the background you see on the monitors is my favorite from Digital Blasphemy. His desktop backgrounds are available in many sizes and configurations, like double and triple monitor setups and widescreens. Ryan does some awesome work!

WFMW–Sizing images for your blog

Adding pictures to the posts on your blog is a good thing, providing interest and illustration and giving readers a glimpse into your quilty world. Sizing images correctly is a must though, since images that are too big for the layout of your page will cause other elements like sidebars to move around and end up out of position, and pictures that are too small are just difficult for readers to see. Here’s a quick tutorial (I use Photoshop Elements, but the theory is the same for any graphics program):

Open the image in Photoshop (or whichever graphics editor you use) and edit the color, fix red eyes or crop the image to delete any unnecessary background from the shot. Once you’re satisfied with the image, you need to know the size of the space where the image must fit, in pixels. That’s the important part here. Inches mean nothing, it’s all about the pixels.

I generally worry more about the width of an image, because that’s the dimension that will cause the layout of my pages to break if it’s too big. I use a tool called MeasureIt, which is an add-on for the Firefox Browser. When you have MeasureIt installed, you can click on the icon and then click and drag on your screen to measure an area in pixels, like this:

Finding the pixel size of an area with MeasureIt

I’ve measured the width of my post area, and I know that my image can’t be wider than 491 pixels. I usually stick with about 450px, because I like to leave a little room around the image, and it’s an easy number to remember when I’m sizing the images in Photoshop.

In Photoshop, there are two ways to size the image properly. You can use Image>Resize>Image Size, and then enter the width in the Width field, making sure that the box next to “Constrain Proportions” is checked at the bottom, and that the drop down menu next to the Width field says “pixels.” Once you enter your desired pixels for the Width, the Height will change automatically if “Constrain Proportions” is checked. Click “OK” to resize the image and save it. Read More

The curse of too much creativity

I’m having an overload of creativity at the moment, so much so that I don’t even know what to work on next. I have all of these ideas, and I’ll never have time to really explore any of them to their fullest potential I think. It all comes and goes in cycles, and right now the cycle is definitely on the upswing. I spent a whole weekend recently brainstorming and creating a new website after an idea hit me as I woke up one morning, and now I just have to find the time to continue to nurture it and create new content. It’s something I needed to create to get it out of my system, but after that initial (very satisfying) rush of creation, carving out time to devote on even a weekly basis may be difficult.

In the quilting department, I’m still plugging away at The Misery Quilt (it really does have another name, but I’m not telling yet, and I’m not entirely sure it’s over being a misery anyway), but all the creative idea generation on that project is already done. Now it’s just the doing part, which doesn’t mean that I’m unmotivated to work on it, it just means that there are other creative things vying for attention. Now, I can think about the other creative things while I work on the quilt, because tracing quilting designs (and even quilting them) is rather mindless stuff, which leaves the mind free to scoot off in other directions. Honestly though, leaving my mind free to create yet another new idea is about the last thing I really need to do right now.

Unfortunately, life hands me mindless moments way too often. On Tuesdays every week, it’s sitting for a couple of hours at LittleOne’s flute lesson. I listen in, but she and her teacher communicate in German, so I pretty much tune out during the lessons, Read More

Techie Coolness: LibraryThing

Visit LibraryThingI discovered LibraryThing a couple of weeks ago, and I’m in book lover’s heaven! I could instantly see major potential here, and I’ve already started to get a couple of long-term goals accomplished. Ever since I started writing at Quilt Epiphany, I’ve wanted to make a Library page, showing all the quilt books in my collection, and either linking to my review of the book (if there was one) or to the book at Amazon.com, or both.

I do have a Worpress plugin called Amazon Media Manager (AMM) which makes it possible to insert a pretty picture of a book or product into my posts and have it linked directly to Amazon where readers can buy it. Oh, and the veritable river of cash that flows from the Amazon Associates account into my wallet is staggering, as well. 🙄 However, while AMM works great for one at a time inserts, or lists of two or three books or CD’s in the sidebar, I just couldn’t see spending the amount of time it would take to input 140 quilt books into my AMM list, and then program the thing to display them on a separate page. Never mind.

Here’s why LibraryThing is such a killer app. I made a free account at LibraryThing (a one step, two word process, believe it or not), and added a couple of books to my Library. It’s a simple process, since you can either enter the ISBN of the book, or search by title or author, and then select from a list to add the book to your Library. You can see the contents of your library, add tags, write reviews, share your profile with other users, see what other users are reading, etc. This is social networking for book lovers, Read More

Online shopping should be easier

Clover White Marking Pen (Fine)**Warning: what follows is ranting, but with substance.**

I’ve just spent the last hour and then some shopping online for quilt supplies; specifically, a marker from Clover Notions called White Marking Pen (Fine), pictured at right. Why should something as simple as this take an hour to find? Actually the first question might be: why should I have to look online at all, since the local quilt shop should carry it, right? Well, no, the local quilt shop didn’t have it, despite the fact that I asked them to order it months ago when I saw that they were out of it. Obviously, it didn’t happen at the quilt shop, so I came home and searched online.

What’s the big deal?

Most of the quilt supply sites I usually shop didn’t have this notion at all, which surprised me. This pen is the greatest thing since sliced bread when used properly. I say “when used properly” because I can well imagine that there has been some negative feedback from quilters who had trouble removing the markings from fabric due to not following the instructions, just like happens with the washout blue markers that people are scared of. Anyway, none of that says anything about why this sucker is so hard to find, unless quilt shops don’t want to carry it because people complained about it. *shrug* This white marker has always worked for me, so I want to order more.

How to lose business online

If an ecommerce site has no page that says where they are located, with a phone number where I can reach the company, I don’t place an order. (This personal policy of mine holds for everything but Amazon.com. Amazon doesn’t have a phone number—that I know of—but it gets my money anyway because it’s a giant in the ecommerce business, and it’s never let me down shipping wise) Why would I give my credit card out to a company I can’t reach by phone? Ecommerce sites that don’t have a page to tell me about shipping methods and how to reach customer service or track an order don’t get my business either.

I’ve been to sites in the past where I’ve placed an order and haven’t heard a thing from the company: no order confirm, no email, no shipping confirm, nothing. When I call the company, I get a message that says they’re on vacation and no orders will go out until they get back, which causes me to cancel my order. Read More