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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Photo Duck Funnies Right On

Saw a link yesterday in the Shutterstock discussion forums to a clever online comic strip about the trials and tribulations of daring to earn a living as a photographer. What the Duck is shutterbug Aaron Johnson's wry take on all things photographic. Johnson lets his readers name each strip through his blog's comments feature, and just reading the comments on some of the strips can be pretty entertaining. Check it out. Some of the strips are hilarious.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Transparent PNG Generator

A while back, I blogged about CSS transparency techniques, describing two methods for incorporating transparent elements into your design. You can also introduce transparency by using PNG format images. Unlike GIF images, which are either "on" or "off" in terms of opacity, PNG images support full alpha transparency. This means each pixel can display a subtle range of tones from 0 to 255.

There are many ways to create transparent PNG images. If all you need is a plain transparent block to use as a background, check out Stian Grytøyr's handy transparent PNG generator. This useful tool allows you to select a colour by clicking on a color wheel. The tool creates a set of samples ranging from 0% to 100% transparency, in three versions of the selected colour (web-safe, "web-smart," and unsafe).

Lighten or darken the sample by clicking on the saturation/lightness patch to the right of the colour wheel. When you have the desired shade, click through on one of the percentage samples to see it used with some demo text against a busy background. From here, you can adjust the image dimensions, transparency, and colour. Right-click on the final rendered sample to save the image to your hard drive.

Note: The PNG graphical format enjoys strong support among compliant browsers such as Firefox, Opera, Safari and IE version 7. If, however, you view Grytøyr's page in IE 6 or lower, you will not see the transparency effect, as earlier versions of IE do not support full alpha transparency. For details, and a workaround, see A List Apart's article, Cross-Browser Variable Opacity with PNG: A Real Solution.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Output Your Designs on Merchandise

I mentioned a while ago that I was trying out some microstock photography sites as a sales venue for my fractal art images. I have been looking for novel ways to give these images as gifts, especially with the holiday season coming up. My Canon i9900 colour inkjet printer does a surprisingly good job of printing my fractals for use as greeting cards or as framed prints, but I've been looking for something a little more out of the ordinary. A couple weeks ago, I found the solution.

CafePress.com allows you to upload your own designs for output on a wide variety of merchandise. From sheatshirts, caps, and t-shirts to mugs, mousepads, buttons, and more, there is no upfront cost to customize an item whether for your own use, as a gift, or to sell. This solution is ideal for artists, designers, or photographers who want to showcase their work or supplement their income. And it's a useful low-cost alternative for small organizations that don't have huge budgets for logowear.

The site allows you to set up a free online store and set your own pricing over a baseline figure that they establish. They print your designs on demand and handle order fulfillment, payment processing, shipping, and customer service. The free shop service does place limitations on the number of products you can customize (basically one of each item), but for only $6.95 per month (less for longer terms), you can upgrade to their premium shop option, which imposes no such limitations. I'm trying out the premium shop service for three months, with a store that I have called Fractalicious. If you like any of my designs, I'd be grateful for your support.

Even if you don't have a creative bone in your body, you may still want to check out some of the other shops at CafePress. From politics to the environment, from pets to popular culture, you're likely to find something among their extenstive inventory for even the most hard to please person on your list.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Disabling the Blogger Navbar

Here's a great tip from reader Matt Mc. Matt commented in response to a post about customizing your Blogger template that he finds Blogger's default navbar annoying. Blogger doesn't let you disable this feature but Matt shared a short snipped of CSS that you can add to your template to suppress it.

I tested it out and it works great, though I have re-enabled it on this blog, as I don't mind the navbar and its search feature could be useful to you. (For readers new to blogging, the navbar is the black horizontal bar at the top of this blog, just above the header graphic. It offers some useful functionality and is intended, in theory at least, to deliver traffic to your blog from other Blogspot blogs.)

Turning Off the Navbar

Here's how to disable the Blogger navbar:
  1. Open your template and locate the style section at the top, just under the <$BlogMetaData$> tag.
  2. Find a space between two other styles, and type the following code:
    #b-navbar {
  3. Save your changes and view your blog. The navbar should be gone.

Once again, the elegant simplicity of CSS saves the day. Technically, this combination of style declarations doesn't really turn off the navbar; it just hides it from view.

Note: there is some question as to whether disabling the navbar violates Blogger's terms of service, though I could find nothing specific on their site relating to this.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Taking Your Password to the Grave

My daughter works in IT security, and every now and then she forwards me an interesting link on some security-related topic. Most go right over my head — they abound in techspeak or are outside my realm of interest or expertise. A recent article she sent me, though, certainly got my attention. In Taking Passwords to the Grave, News.com's staff writer Elinor Mills probes the implications of failing to ensure that your loved ones have access to online passwords and other important digital identifying information.

When people fail to leave such information behind, family members are increasingly unable to access important data and, in some cases, to attend to estate business. Even notifying a loved one's email contacts can become problematic, since e-mail providers and other companies may be reluctant to give out such information, for privacy reasons. Mills recommends avoiding this problem by ensuring that passwords to e-mail, photo sharing, music sites and other online accounts are recorded safely somewhere, preferably in an estate planning document.

She cites the case of William Talcott, a prominent Irish/American poet, whose estate was paralyzed after he died because his daughter could not access his email account or online address book.

I had certainly never thought about this! Like many people, I derive income from the Web and do my banking and investing online. I have numerous passwords stored in my head (scary thought!), along with multiple email logins. Ditto with access to all the various sites where I shop, download software, upload images for sale, register web domains, post blog entries, and on and on. There are dozens of them, and I have not recorded this information anywhere. If I passed away tomorrow, my daughter would have her hands full sorting out my online life. She'd have to close accounts, cancel domains, cash in accrued revenue, pay outstanding fees, and on and on. Then there are decisions about intellectual property, such as all the photos and fractals I have uploaded to Flickr and elsewhere. Just thinking about it makes me tired.

This sobering article is worth a look, calling attention to a little loose end that many of us hadn't thought about.