Space Exploration Themed Posters Part Two

I continue to enjoy Affinity Designer. In fact, after three months of use I far prefer it (as well as Affinity Photo) to Illustrator or Photoshop. As of this moment my plan is to only use the Adobe apps if a client/project requires it. These new Affinity apps by Serif are fantastic and did I mention they are not rented via subscription but available for purchase the old-fashioned way? Buttery smooth, fully featured and a pleasure to use.

In my downtime this summer I’ve continued working on my series of space exploration-themed posters which I’ve made available on Red Bubble.

Marathon Valley Overlook

This view from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows part of “Marathon Valley,” a destination on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, as seen from an overlook north of the valley. The scene spans from east, at left, to southeast. It combines four images of the rover’s panoramic camera on March 13, 2015, during the 3,958th Martian day of Opportunity’s work on Mars.

Marathon Valley was selected as a science destination because observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter yielded evidence of clay minerals, a clue to ancient wet environments. Opportunity has been exploring the Meridiani Planum region of Mars since January 2004.

“For me, the most ironic token of [the first human moon landing] is the plaque signed by President Richard M. Nixon that Apollo 11 took to the moon. It reads, ‘We came in peace for all Mankind.’ As the United States was dropping seven and a half megatons of conventional explosives on small nations in Southeast Asia, we congratulated ourselves on our humanity. We would harm no one on a lifeless rock. That plaque is there still, attached to the base of the Apollo 11 lunar module on the airless desolation of the Sea of Tranquility. If no one disturbs it, it will still be readable a million years from now.” -Carl Sagan

Space Exploration Themed Posters

My trial run with Affinity Design continues, this time with a series of space exploration posters featuring Carl Sagan quotes.

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.” – Carl Sagan

Permaculture Poster Design (& Affinity Designer First Impression)

Before I go any further, let me say this isn’t much of a review or even a mini-review. Just my initial impressions.

I’m a regular user of Adobe CC but not a big fan of the subscription model. When I recently learned of Affinity Designer and the upcoming Affinity Photo I figured it was worth checking out. The reviews for AD thus far are very high and having used it for a couple of projects I can see why. The Permaculture-themed poster below started as just a quickie to test out some of the basic tools I’ve come to expect from Illustrator and I’m happy to report that AD was a pleasure to use. Everything from the pen tool to text to text on a curve were easy and buttery smooth. As with Illustrator, layers are easy enough to use to group elements for editing and locking. On a couple of  test designs I tried a few of the other basics such as shape building and editing as well as applying gradients and various styles, all worked just as one would expect.

Permie_Poster_1

What’s missing? Right off, there is no workspace outside of the defined document margins which is something I definitely miss. Illustrator and InDesign both allow for the storing of elements outside of the defined art board or document margins. Also, no export for web. Perhaps I missed it but I certainly didn’t see it and I’ve looked a couple times. I know that I can set a document up as having an intended use for the web but that’s not what I’m after. I want to be able to set up for print and also be able to export or save for web.  Found it! Right in front of me but called “Export Persona”. The only option I don’t see is the option to resize the dimensions at time of export.

I’m guessing that I’ll find other features missing that I’m used to having but as of this moment I intend to switch to AD for any design work that I would have previously used Illustrator for.

Apple starting work on new solar farm in CA

(null)

Apple’s been on a very impressive roll and I’m not talking about it’s ever evolving line of mobile devices and computers, but rather its continuing build-out of solar farms. In 2012 they completed their Maiden North Carolin data center with its own on-site solar power facility which is the largest privately owned solar array in the U.S. Since then they’ve completed work on a facility in Prineville Oregon that utilizes “micro-hydro” and another solar facility in Reno Nevada is set to come online in 2015. In locations where they do not generate power they are sourcing it from wind and other renewables.

In truth, their conduct in regards to the environment goes far beyond their solar farms. They’ve made great efforts in recent years to address the energy consumption of their devices, the toxic chemicals in the devices, the recyclability of devices and amount of packaging for new products as well as repair shipments. Their most recent construction project, a new headquarters in Cupertino is designed to be one of the greenest buildings on the planet. Apple says this about it:

Like everything we build, our new Apple campus in Cupertino pushes the boundaries of technology — it will be the most energy‑efficient building of its kind. Powered by 100 percent renewable energy sources, the campus goes beyond showing respect for the environment to forming a partnership with it. Air flows freely between the inside and outside of the building, providing natural ventilation for 75 percent of the year. And sunlight powers one of the largest onsite corporate solar energy installations in the world.

The building itself is just part of the story. Just under 80 percent of the site will be open space, populated by more than 7000 trees — including more than 6000 newly planted shade and fruit trees. Drought-tolerant plants will be used throughout the landscape to minimize water use.

For a comprehensive overview of their efforts to date check the Apple Environmental Responsibility page. It’s refreshing and long overdue for companies to not only acknowledge human climate change but to recognize their own impact and then make significant changes to their operations. Apple is doing this.

Here’s the latest:

“Apple Is About to Shell Out $850 Million for Solar Energy | Mother Jones”

On Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced a massive new investment by the company in solar energy: an $850 million installation that will cover 1,300 acres in Monterey County, California. Apple is partnering with First Solar—the nation’s biggest utility-scale installer—on the project, which will produce enough power to supply 60,000 Californian homes, Cook said.

According to a press release from First Solar, Apple will receive 130 megawatts from the project under a 25-year deal, which the release describes as the largest such agreement ever.

Cook called it Apple’s “biggest, boldest and most ambitious” energy project to date, designed to offset the electricity needs of Apple’s new campus, the futuristic circular building designed by Norman Foster, and all of Apple’s California retail stores. “We know at Apple that climate change is real,” he said.

The Mac Mini at 10 Years

Mac Mini

Original Mac Mini still being used by the kids for home school!

It’s been 10 years since the Mac Mini was released and Brian Stucki over at Mac Mini Colo has written up a great post/timeline to celebrate. It was released on January 11, 2005 and I remember being pretty excited. I’d recently purchased one of the new G5 iMacs but my sister was in need of a new Mac for her business and the new Mini was my suggestion. She bought one and I set it up with a custom FileMaker Pro database to track her customer billing and iCal for appointments. In the off hours the Mini was used for web browsing, iTunes and photo organizing via iPhoto.

A little over a year later I traded her my iMac for her Mini because she had need for more power (her husband was increasingly interested in using iMovie and iDVD) and I was mostly using my 12“ Powerbook. I wanted the Mini for a power sipping iTunes media server. Today, nearly 10 years later, that Mac Mini is upstairs still being used by the kids for their school work. I retired it from media server duties just a year ago when I moved that task over to my primary work machine, a new Mini (late 2012 model). The kids have used it ever since. Actually, until recently, the eldest, Farra, was using the above mentioned 2003 12” Powerbook (one of my all time favorite Macs!).

Upon seeing that first Mac Mini being presented by Steve I knew it would be a hit. How could it not? A $499 Mac in such a small form factor would, I thought, be what the higher priced G4 Cube (2000–2001) should have been: an affordable yet stylish introduction to the Mac for potential switchers. The Cube was a beautiful bit of design but at $1799
its high price made for an impractical purchase. The Mini did indeed succeed and is still in production. The original form factor was used until 2010 when a beautiful new, unibody aluminum enclosure was introduced. With it came a built in power supply, hdmi port and easy to upgrade memory via a twist off bottom cover. This new Mini was updated again in 2012 and as recently as October 2014 after a 2 year gap between updates.

A month ago a visiting friend had occassion to be in my office and observed the Mac Mini on my desk. He was surprised that I did all of my design work on something as lowly as a Mini which prompted a bit of a chuckle from me. Not only is the Mini my workhorse but this tiny machine generally handles my projects with plenty to spare. Only the largest Photoshop or Illustrator files ever require that the little beastie break a sweat. Exporting or converting movie files from iMovie or Handbreak also pushes the processor but that’s to be expected. The important measure with such work is of course the time it takes to complete the job and I’ve been nothing but pleased with the speed of the Mini in such tasks. All this with what many consider the bare minimum of memory in 2015, 4 GB.

It’s been a good 10 years.

The Typography of Alien

A pretty fantastic post about the typography of Alien.

My third post about typography in sci-fi has been gestating for a while now. Indeed, it’s been slowly taking shape – you might say it’s been forming itself inside of me – for really quite some time. I’m delighted to say that it is now ready to burst forth from my allegorical chest, and to spatter allegorical typographic blood all over your allegorical faces. Welcome to Typeset In The Future: The Alien Edition.

Mini-Review: iDraw for iPad

My main work machine is the 2012 Mac Mini. I’ve written before about my transition to a standing desk for health purposes. That said, I do want to be able to use the iPad as a tool to get work done. Having a flexible workflow is good and it would seem a waste, with the increased power of the iPad Air 2, to not utilize it when the need arises. My initial thought was that it would come in handy for editing the html of client websites and yes, that is a breeze with Diet Coda and Transmit. But why stop there? Those were tasks I could also accomplish with the 3rd gen iPad.

IMG_4261.PNG

In recent days I have also begun wondering if I might not also be able to get a bit of graphic design work done with the iPad. Adobe does not yet sell an iPad version of Illustrator or Photoshop but there are other options available. Pixelmator is the most recent crossover from the Mac. It has some pretty fantastic photo filters and the handy ability to be passed back and forth to the Mac version. It can also export to psd for crossing over to Photoshop when I’m back to my Mac. That said in the little bit of dabbling I’ve done with it I’m finding some frustrating limitations which I’ll likely explore in more detail soon. Suffice it to say for the purposes of this post that those limitations led me to try out iDraw and that has proven to be a great decision.

iDraw has been available for the iPad since the first iPad release in 2010 and there is a Mac version too though I’ve not tried it. Last week I downloaded the iPad version and have been giving it a spin. Fantastic. This is an app I can use to get real design work done. I’ve not yet used it for a client project though that will come soon enough. I’ve done enough with it in a few hours to know what it is capable of. Not surprisingly, it’s not as fully featured as Illustrator or Photoshop but it does have the most important tools and they perform very well. In fact, the iPad handles everything I’ve tried to with iDraw with ease.

I created the example image in my first spin with the app. Shape building, styling with gradients, adding text to a path are all very straight forward. I started with the rectangle tool and then used the pen tool to begin adding new points and then used the path tool to make my pen handle and tip. Apply stroke and gradient and then tweek. As with Illustrator, all the objects are put on one layer but layers are supported and easy enough to create. I used the same process for creating the inkwell. Styles include drop shadow, inner shadow, inner and outer glow. Multiple instances of these effects as well as multiple fills can be applied to each object. Very handy to be able to apply multiple gradients to single objects.

IMG_4262.PNG

The brush tool is very easy to use with width and smoothing options though I only found the one style brush tip. Will need to investigate. Adding text to a brush stroke is easy enough as is styling that text after adding it to the path. Adjusting the path or moving the text to different points along the path are also very easy. As you might expect, there are plenty of object options such as alignment, path combinations and more.

When you’ve finished you have quite a few options for using and sharing images. Before sending to any of the iOS 8 app extensions for sharing (Transmit, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) you have the option to choose the file size, resolution, and format: pdf, svg, psd, png or jpg.

IMG_4264.PNG

Tim Cook Proud to be Gay

Progress in The U.S., slow but steady! Another step today with Tim Cook: “I’m Proud to be Gay”:

I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifice of others. So if hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it’s worth the trade-off with my own privacy.

Well done and worth reading.

Work at Home: My Setup

After years of using only Mac laptops, the most recent being a 2011 MacBook Air, I made the decision in the winter of 2014 to transition to a desktop Mac. Kaleesha was writing her first book and needed a better laptop so I took the opportunity to make the move. My reasons were for choosing the MacMini (late 2012): price and my decision to begin sitting and standing rather than working in a reclined position. I’d tried this with the laptop but it just didn’t take. A MacMini would leave me no choice but to be at the desk.

I’d been using an iPad since the first iteration in 2010 and was pretty confident that it would serve well as a laptop replacement for my off hours browsing or any tasks that didn’t require a Mac. This has been the perfect set-up for me.

iPad Air 2 and Logitech K811 Keyboard

iPad Air 2 and Logitech K811 Keyboard

Most of my work on the Mac is either graphic design or html/css coding. All design work is taken care of with the usual Adobe apps and the web work via Panic’s excellent Coda. Other usuals: Safari, Mail, Wunderlist, Fantastical, Byword, iBank, Paperless, Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Oh, and iTunes which not only serves me but the whole house.

On the iPad 3, recently upgraded to the iPad Air 2*, my main apps are Feedly, Transmit, Byword, Drafts, Twitter, Numbers, Fantastical, Wunderlist, Scanner Pro, Kindle and iBooks. As an amateur astronomer SkySafari gets alot of use along with Numbers for recording observations with the iPad that are later transfered to FileMaker Pro on the Mac.

With Mavericks and iOS 7 the convenience of always in sync everything has been a fantastic feature making switching between devices mostly frictionless. It’s only gotten better with Yosemite and iOS 8 both of which have performed exceptionally for me. Practically everything seems to sync in one way or another. Some examples: Transmit and Coda bookmarks, Wunderlist tasks, iWork documents, Byword documents and practically everything else.

One possible change to my workflow: Pixelmator. I’ve used it a bit on the Mac but now with a new powerful iOS version I intend to become more familiar with it. That I can now do real image editing and design work on an iPad with this much power (and finally 2 GB of RAM) is a potential game changer. When combined with apps such as Transmit and extensions I anticipate that I now have a device which will make on-the-go web work that much easier as my ability to use and share files between apps and devices is a fantastic new feature of iOS8. For example, a photo emailed to me by a client is easily saved to photos, edited with a Pixelmator extension and then opened in Transmit for upload to a server.

Of course, having said all that, I don’t want to go back to my former portable-based workflow. I’m VERY happy with my standing desk and intend to continue working there but it is very helpful to now have the option of getting more work done when I need to be away from my desk.

Two other bits of gadgetry worth mentioning.

The iPhone 5C has been great for keeping up with email, twitter and RSS as well as reading books. Other tasks for the iPhone usually include scanning documents with Scanner Pro, remote control for iTunes and AppleTV. The hotspot feature has also been a real plus for getting things done while on the road.

My newest office kit is a Logitech K811 which I’ve only had for a few days. I think this is the best keyboard I’ve ever used. Bluetooth pairing with multiple devices was super simple and switching between them as fast as hitting a single button. The keyboard turns off automatically when not in use and turns on instantly when my fingers are placed on it. The slightly concave keys feel great and unlike the Apple keyboard (my previous favorite) this keyboard has backlighting. It’s not super light but light enough that I won’t mind taking it out with me. The iPad/keyboard combo is still far lighter and more compact than a MacBook Air. As I write this Kaleesha is creating a sleeve for the iPad/keyboard combo. Sweet.

  • A note about the Air 2. It was gifted to me by my aunt and uncle and I mention them because until the release of the iPad they had no intention of ever owning computers. Like several others in my family (my mother, grandmother, aunt, and a few others) had previously only ever used their desktop computers for playing those old school card games. For various reasons they had not used the internet at all or only very little. All of them are now daily users of the internet in a variety of forms. For several of them their iPads were their introductions to Apple and they now own iPhones as well.