Archive for March, 2005

Apparently, Mouse Pads are Soo 2004

While checking out at the Apple store recently, I had an interesting conversation:

Me
Do you have any mouse pads?
Apple Guy
Uh, what?
Me
Mouse pads. Do you carry them?
Apple Guy
Mouse pads? *chuckles arrogantly* No, we’ve never carried anything like that.

Oh. But I’m from the camp that thinks they’re a necessity — even when using an optical mouse. Having it slide across the desk without any sort of traction just doesn’t cut it. Not to mention the woodgrain on the desk occassionally throws off the tracking.

So I head over to Office Depot — an office supply superstore. They have mouse pads. But all of them have patterns and designs on them. American flags, Grand Canyon panoramas, Faux water droplets, etc. I can forsee these patterns being a problem for optical tracking. So I leave the store empty handed.

I realize I could order a zillion of them online somewhere with no patterns, perfect for optical mice. But I’m merely documenting an observation, that the value of the mouse pad is just overlooked by so many. And I’m shocked that Apple doesn’t try to capitalize on selling the coolest mouse pad ever created. Someone needs to tap this untapped market that’s been poorly tapped thus far.

I remember buying my first Mac (a Classic II) and it came with a free Apple mouse pad. It was a great one, with a slipperly plastic surface. I wish I still had it, but it’s gone. Where to, I can’t say. perhaps it’s now part of something larger.

Belated SXSW Notes

This is incredibly late, but it seems I went from the airport right back to work after SXSW. Lots of stuff happening all at once. More on this later.

I did want to quickly note that SXSW this year was fantastic. The quality (and number) of panels seemed to double from last year to this year, making it more difficult to choose who to see. It was certainly weblog-centric, but that’s fine by me.

My one complaint about the conference in general: audio. It was often difficult to hear the speakers (myself included). This is certainly minor and easy to fix. But I felt bad that people had trouble hearing me. I will shout next time.

Highlights included:

  • Hearing Joe Clark ask why Jason Santa Maria wasn’t captioned during an impromtu Virtual Stan viewing at the “Does Design Matter?” panel.
  • Getting decent BBQ at the Iron Works (conveniently located right behind the convention center. I have no idea how I missed this last year).
  • Meeting lots of cool people for the first time.
  • Seeing those I met last year again (a whole year is too long).
  • Jeremy Keith and Andy Budd‘s hilarious “How to Bluff Your Way in CSS” panel. (I had been in Austin all of a half hour when I sat in on this — the perfect way to kick off the conference.)
  • The Design Eye Guys. Another entertaining panel — humorous, yet really informative to hear about each process involved.
  • Microformats. Tantek gave a great presentation, rounding up all the microformats out there. There are a lot them. I love the independent spirit that is attached to the development of these.
  • The Flash vs. HTML Game Show” panel for reasons already well noted.
  • The dog wandering around Club DeVille.

I could go on… So that said, if you’re kicking yourself for not going this year — start planning for 2006. It’s become the largest gathering of like-minded web geeks around.

PC Mini?

Is there a PC equivalent to the Mac Mini? I’m looking for a cheap PC to run Windows strictly for testing designs. It doesn’t need to be fast, it just needs to be inexpensive, with the smallest footprint possible.

I’ve been using Virtual PC for the Mac for a long time now. It’s convenient and works fine, but it’s dreadfully slow — not to mention the version I have isn’t compatible on newer, dual processor G5s (where I’m sure it’d run faster). So, my other option is: set up a bare bones Windows machine for testing without spending a ton of money and taking up a lot of desk space. Share with us your secrets.

Stockholm Icon Updates

Just before I headed down to SXSW, I completed a large update to the Stockholm royalty-free web icon set. Several new icons were added (including shopping cart, gear cog, check mark, refresh) as well as “add” and “delete” versions of previous document and folder icons.

Stockholm iconsThe price is remaining the same (still just $45 USD) and, as always, previous purchasers of Stockholm are entitled to getting a free upgrade. Just follow the instructions further along in this entry.

Also introduced today and included free as part of the larger Stockholm set, is Stockholm Mini — 36 miniature versions of popular icons from the main set. For those that just need tiny bits only, this little pack is also available as a standalone for just $18 USD.

How to retrieve your free upgrade

If you’ve purchased Stockholm in the past, you’re entitled to getting the entire updated set (including Stockholm Mini) for free. Just point yourself to the upgrade page. You’ll be asked for a username and password. Here’s how to find those:

  1. Open your existing Stockholm icon set.
  2. Look in any folder that contains the set and lists the GIF files alphabetically in one column.
  3. The username = the first five letters of the 3rd filename listed.
  4. The password = the first four letters of the 5th filename listed.

After entering the correct username and password, you’ll be directed to a page where you can download the newly updated set. Any future updates will continue to be free for those that purchase the set.

SXSW 2005

In less than a week, I’ll be making my way down to Texas for SXSW Interactive. I’m excited to see old friends as well as meet new ones. The number of people going this year is incredible, as are the number of panels. Holy cow.
I’ll be speaking on the panel, How to Be Beautiful: More Hi-Fi Design With CSS on Sunday. It’ll be a reunion of sorts of the panel from last year, with Christopher Schmitt moderating myself, Dave Shea, Douglas Bowman and the addition of the incomparable Molly Holzschlag. Should be very fun. Also scheduled is a book signing after the panel (I believe). But I’d prefer to sign bananas, sock monkeys or $100 bills (“do you need this back?”).
I’m planning on bringing down a few t-shirts to sell at a drastically reduced sale price (beer money) for those interested. Just ask.
Also, this is a perfect time to remind people of a sure-fire way to fill those awkward mealtime pauses: the spoon trick. Guaranteed to rejuvinate any lull in conference conversation.
And lastly, my one resolution from last year: get some decent BBQ. Something better than the Salt Lick at the airport just before the ride home. Any suggestions? Stubb’s is probably an obvious choice.

DPI for the Pixel Guy

If you’re ever in need of full-color business card or postcard printing, look no further than 4by6.com, an online service for printing great quality cards. Recommended to me by Ethan and Josh, the process couldn’t have been easier — with templates and instructions on how to create high-res EPS files to be uploaded directly to them.
cardsJust download their templates, drop in your artwork, then a custom application uploads your completed files to 4by6. PDF proofs are posted online — once those are approved the cards are shipped out. The quality’s great, and it’s also very affordable. I recommend two things: order a free sample kit from them, and go with the satin finish (but not the satan finish).
As a web guy who always struggles when looking for print options, a find like this is gold.