Wrangle pesky “newer version” errors in Illustrator

From time to time I receive an AI or EPS file from a client that just won’t open – either at all, or not cleanly. The reason given is usually of the “newer version” nature. The error is typically…

There is an easy solution – given you are running a Mac. There is a neat little application that I use a lot – Preview – which most of us pass off as Apple’s free PDF reader. But it can do so much more.

The solution to this “newer version” issue is to open the AI or EPS file in Preview. To do this, right-click (or control-click) on the offending file and choose “Open With > Preview.” This will work for virtually all EPS files, and most AI files that were saved with PDF compatibility. The file is opened in a new untitled Preview window. Go to “File > Save As…” and save it as a PDF file and close the Preview window. Now, right-click (or control-click) on your new PDF file and choose “Open With > Illustrator.”

Your resulting file will typically be locked together in a clipping mask, but this can easily be released and then fully edited or manipulated.

While you are in Preview, look at its other cool features, such as…

  • Combining multiple PDFs into a single file
  • Saving PDF files in other graphics formats, such as JPG, TIF, etc.
  • Encrypting existing PDF files with password protection
  • Decreasing PDF file sizes by reducing image quality
  • And so much more…

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Watch your local content on Amazon Fire TV

A few days ago Amazon released their offering in the streaming box arena (what is sometimes referred to as a set-top box). It’s called Fire TV, and it’s creating quite the buzz.

Fire TV

The competition is fierce in this area, with solutions from Apple, Roku and Google already established as the go-to guys. At $99, the price matches Apple TV and Roku 3, and to be honest we really can’t compare it to Google’s Chromecast at $35. Not a cost comparison, but the lack of Chromecast’s features.

But to me, the game changer here is Fire TV’s support for existing Android apps (from Amazon), and most importantly, Plex, which is supported right out of the gate. Apple TV has no officially supported Plex client, and Roku’s UI gives me a splitting headache. The Plex client for Fire TV is Plex for Android, and it’s already been around for a while, and the UI is excellent. Not Plex Home Theater excellent, mind you, but better than Roku.

fire_tv_apps

For a while, Roku has been the easiest (and cheapest) way to get Plex on your TV. I purchased Rokus for my father and father-in-law, which allows them to see the content I share with them via Plex. I still prefer to run Mac minis on my TVs, but I am seriously considering this Fire TV as a future Plex client when my minis can’t cut it anymore (seeing as how they are pushing 5 years old).

The majority of 1-2 star reviews for Fire TV complain that you cannot access your local media (via DLNA or otherwise). I would imagine that the vast majority of Fire TV users are obtaining their content from providers like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, etc. But, for those individuals that have local content, Plex is the answer. All it requires is that you install Plex Media Server (free) on your supported Mac, Windows, or NAS device, and purchase the Plex for Android app for the Fire TV. Once you setup Plex Media Server with all of your media, it presents itself beautifully on the Fire TV Plex for Android app.

Now, if I can gripe for just a moment here.

I recently tried out the Roku Streaming Stick. It’s a great little device, but again, the interface is horrible. Netflix looks pretty good on it, but that’s about it. Amazon Instant Video and Plex channels share the same common look and feel. It’s difficult to browse content, and it’s plainly not fun to use.

The positive, however, is that it’s a stick. It plugs right into your HDMI port, with the power being drawn from the TV’s USB port. If your TV doesn’t have a USB port, you can plug it into a regular power outlet with the included adapter. I would love to see a similar solution from Amazon. I’m all about less clutter. If I can have a TV hanging on the wall with no devices dangling from it, or power cords junking up my living room, I’m a happy camper. I’d be fine with giving up ethernet, optical audio and USB if I could have a Fire TV stick.

All this being said, I’m going to hold off a bit longer to see what Apple’s answer will be. If they release an Apple TV stick that supports iOS apps (including Plex), with a remote and game control via iOS devices… that… that would be awesome.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

WTF: What the font?

I tend to think that I have a great photographic memory when it comes to font recognition. There has to be billions (if not trillions) of fonts from thousands of foundries and individual designers. Even with such a great pool to pull from, it always seems that a small set of fonts get all the love. Not so sure what that says about my memory now.

Serif fonts are a bit easier to match – given they have a bit more of a distinguishing appearance. Sans serif fonts can be much more difficult to match, especially if you have a small set to match from.

Additionally, designers take liberties when using fonts in logos, manipulating characters to match a certain style, or to provide uniqueness. This makes it difficult to match the fonts, but there are a few tricks.

Your first step is to try an online tool to find the font. You just might be lucky enough to find a free option. These tools allow you to provide an image (either by upload or URL), to which the server scans their database of fonts to match against. This works great for images that meet certain criteria (such as resolution, space between characters, orientation, etc). I prefer MyFonts’ WhatTheFont. Their results are impressive, and show both free and pay options (with direct options to download and/or purchase those fonts).

A recent project had me stumped. I had tried to match the font from the native logo artwork, but nothing was coming up. I then realized that the original designer must have modified certain letters.

Cassandra Font

Luckily the logo was provided to me in vector (Illustrator) format. I opened the file and modified the letters which appeared to be customized (those where a separation had been added at certain points). As soon as I did that, I had a perfect hit for Cassandra XBold – a free font.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Superscript with style

One of the most annoying browser rendering flaws is that of the registered trademark (or any other text – such as footnotes) in superscript. It typically is way too large, throws off line spacing, and makes large blocks of text appear as though it’s been pelted with a shotgun.

Superscript

The registered trademark symbol, ®, is generally not superscript as a default, and must be wrapped in a <sup> tag to raise it up from the baseline, and make it slightly smaller. The problem is that it never quite gets small enough.

<p class="bodytext">ProGravix<sup>&reg;</sup></p>

The trick is to style the <sup> tag with CSS…

p.bodytext {
	font-family: Arial,Helvetica,Geneva,Swiss,SunSans-Regular;
	font-size: 10pt;
	line-height: 14pt;
	font-weight: normal;
	color: black;
}
sup {
	font-size: 6pt;
}

Here you can see that we have added styling to a stylesheet that tells superscript-tagged-text to render as 6pt. The code above that shows a “bodytext” class defined with a default text size of 10pt. You will need to adjust the <sup> font size based on your specific needs.

You can alternatively adjust the <sup> font size relative to the surrounding text using percentages. It’s also a good idea to zero out line-height, and adjust the position of the superscript.

sup {
	font-size: 75%;
	line-height: 0;
	position: relative;
	vertical-align: baseline;
	top: -0.5em;
}

If anything looks off for your specific use, just fiddle with the values. And when you think you’re done, check your work across as many browsers and platforms you can get access to. Honestly you should be doing this already – but let’s just assume you don’t already know that.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Who do you recommend?

Creating a unique and eye-catching design for your print work is only part of the overall project. We’re constantly asked who we recommend when it comes to offset printing. In this digital age, you would assume that the need for physical materials would be diminishing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A typical “branding” piece that is created after the development of a business identity and logo design is business cards. A business card is an affordable way to get the word out about your business. The quality of this card should reflect the service or products you offer. If your card looks cheap, so does your company. It’s important to choose the right printer – this is not a time to skimp. That’s not to say that it’s going to break the bank… just don’t choose the first “good deal” or “free” offer you see. For just a little bit more you can have amazing business cards.

Business Cards

For business cards, and any other full color printing, I recommend PrintRunner. They are based out of California, and offer incredible prices for immaculate quality. Of special note is the 14pt UV Coated or 14pt Gloss (AQ) Coated stock. Either of these options will provide a shiny, glass like surface – which will really make your colors pop. Of course they offer the typical Matte or Recycled paper options, which are great when you are trying to promote an earthy, “go green” feel.

I’ve used PrintRunner for postcards, business cards, letterhead, catalogs, banners, trade show booths – pretty much everything. We are not affiliated with PrintRunner, and make no profit for referring them. They are just that good.

So, when you are ready to get some physical materials printed – let us help design… then let us help you get it on over to PrintRunner. You’ll be happy you did.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Photograph vs Picture

iPhoto IconIt seems like I use the terms photograph and picture interchangeably, and with little thought. Today I was really pondering the difference between these words, and whether there is a simple explanation between the two, or if it’s much deeper… much like the difference between house and home.

Technically, a photograph is “an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.” We usually associate photograph creation with cameras, either analog film or digital files. But using the above Wiki definition extends beyond cameras. Can we not also take photos with our light-sensitive eyes (and minds)? What if a very skilled individual created an extremely realistic digital illustration? Would we call that a photo or a picture? I would assume we could only go off the information we were given. I would call that a picture – knowing that the original creator drew it. Consumers would likely interpret it as a photo.

Beyond that, does the quality or content of the image allow us more freedom in our use of photo or picture? To me, where actual photographs are involved, it seems like I tend to use photo for high-end images, or images where the content is extremely rich, and picture for images that are so-so, or don’t really deserve the term photo. That may seem strange, but it’s almost like I am putting photo on a higher level than picture. Am I crazy, or are others doing that as well?

And while we’re at it, let me touch on another (possibly sensitive) subject. A camera does not make a photographer – at least a good one. A really great photographer is capturing photographs, while everybody else is taking pictures. Maybe this is the root of my photo vs picture conundrum. I dunno. Don’t kill me.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

The best TV shows you aren’t watching, but should

No CBSI have very interesting viewing habits when it comes to television shows. For the life of me I cannot understand why shows like The Bachelor or How I Met Your Mother are so popular. Don’t get me wrong, I love reality TV – but The Bachelor? And pretty much anything on CBS is horrible. From the various flavors of CSI/NCIS to Two and a Half Men. I have such a distaste for CBS that I cannot even watch football games that are broadcast on their network. I had to make an exception for this year’s Big Game.

I hardly watch anything on broadcast TV. If I do, it’s likely an NBC comedy (think NBC Thursdays). ABC doesn’t get much love either. I think I have discovered that I don’t care for sitcoms with laugh tracks (or filmed in front of a live studio audience). The exception here is Seinfeld. Yes, I know it ended 15 years ago, but when it pops up in syndication I’ll invest 25 minutes in it.

So, what do I watch? Check it out…

Boardwalk Empire
Airing on HBO, Empire is a period drama focusing on Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, a political figure who rose to prominence and controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the Prohibition period of the 1920s and 1930s. This show is full of suspense, and as you would guess, lots of violence. Steve Buscemi, who plays Nucky, is excellent. He is surrounded by an excellent cast, all of which provide outstanding performances which drive the drama.

Breaking Bad
It’s likely that you are watching this. This is another one of those AMC gems. I started watching this back when AMC was heavily promoting it with a “Making of Breaking Bad” special. I thought, how could the dad from Malcolm in the Middle portraying a cancer-ridden school teacher-turned-meth cook be bad? If you like suspense, this show is for you.

Game of Thrones
At first, I was not sure if I would care for this. A fantasy television series? Not really my cup of tea – but then again, I don’t drink tea. I must say, however, that if another character references the looming winter (after a decade-long summer), I just might drop this from my schedule.

Louie
A fictional representation of comedian Louie C.K.’s life, this is a great show to keep on hand when you have that real-life comedy itch. I understand that C.K. is likely a very wealthy celebrity, but this show really makes him relatable. He struggles to manage his career as a single father, caring for his two girls. This show presents real world situations and finds the humor in them. While this would likely be classified as a comedy, there are portions, or entire episodes, that are very dramatic.

Mad Men
Yes, you’ve heard of this – how could you not with all of it’s award nominations and eventual wins. I won’t go into a huge explanation – only to say that you should give season 1, episode 1 a chance, and then try to not watch the entire first season.

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee
The only show on my list that is a web-only series. Produced by, and starring Jerry Seinfeld, it features the popular comedian picking up his celebrity friends in extremely rare cars and heading out for coffee and/or a meal. The episodes are short, but the guests are icons in the comedy industry. I really want to believe that this is a typical activity for Seinfeld – cruising around Los Angeles or New York and lounging at hole-in-the-wall eateries. Give the Brian Regan episode a chance, then waste a few hours watching all the others.

You might think you have no time to add any of these fine productions to your already swapped viewing schedule. Might I suggest dropping the hours you invest in American Idol or The Bachelor worthy of something substantially more fulfilling.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

A, B, G, N, AC… now I know my wifi terms…

I heard Downton Abbey was good.

Okay, I know it’s good. My wife and I are addicted. Heck, my parents got into it and tore through an entire series in a few days. And before I leave the topic of Downton, I find it strange that they call their seasons series. I’m not sure if this is a UK thing, but it really confuses the heck out of me. What happens when the show ends? You can’t call it the Series Finale… they’ve already had three of those. So what would it be called? Also, if they continue on with these Christmas Specials (which really aren’t Christmas Specials at all, but in fact extremely important episodes illustrating continuity), I think I just might lose it.

Anyways… why even bring it up. Oh yeah…

We watch Downton Abbey in glorious 1080p HD quality. The show files themselves reside on a Mac Mini upstairs, running Plex Media Server. We mostly consume the shows downstairs via a Mac Mini running Plex Media Center, which is connected to a Sony LCD TV capable of 1080p. The troublesome connection in this setup is transferring data between the two Mac Minis. Neither are physically connected to each other, nor are they on wired networks. They are both dependent upon a wireless connection.

At the center of our home network is a Netgear 802.11g/n router capable of simultaneous dual bands, with speeds of up to 900Mbps. Each Mac Mini is capable of communicating over both bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz) in B, G or N. In addition to these Minis, we have various other devices throughout the house that consume media wirelessly (laptops, iPod touches, etc.)

Recently the 5GHz radio in my dual band router decided to die. Luckily, the 2.4GHz band kept on running. The router was only four months old, so luckily it was covered under warranty (which unfortunately was not an easy process).

The problem with this dead radio was that the Mac Minis transmitted data over the 5GHz band. In my setup, the 5GHz band provided the fastest possible speeds, and allowed streaming of 1080p content. Now that the 5GHz band was gone, we began experiencing constant stuttering and buffering – since the 2.4GHz band was not providing the necessary bandwidth.

There are many reasons for this, some of which are listed here.

  • Neighbor congestion
    The area around my house has no less than 10 wifi signals operating on the 2.4GHz band. This band only has three unique channels (1, 6 and 11). I was operating on channel 6, but the neighboring channels 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 were causing interference – which results is lower transmission speeds and shorter broadcast distances.
  • Legacy devices not capable of 450Mbps
    A 2.4GHz wireless network is only as fast as the slowest client connected. So, if you have a 802.11b device connected to your network, your speeds cannot exceed 11Mbps (the maximum throughput for 802.11b devices).
  • Improper placement of router
    Something as simple as changing the placement of the router can affect its broadcast capability. Move it away from metal objects, or other electrical devices which may deflect inbound and outbound traffic.
  • Interference from other electrical devices
    Similar to neighboring wifi networks, interference from household appliances can wreak havoc on your 2.4GHz wifi network. Microwaves transmit on this frequency to heat your food. Some cordless telephones use this frequency, and don’t forget about that baby monitor.

The 5GHz band is still susceptible to interference. Weather stations and some military branches use the 5GHz band, and for this reason wifi routers are limited to the amount of power they can transmit. The 5GHz band has more channels than 2.4GHz’s 11 bands, and none of them overlap. The lower bands are limited in their power output, while the higher bands can transmit at a higher wattage. So, in short, it’s best to use a higher channel to achieve maximum speeds and distance. As time progresses, and 5GHz devices become cheaper, they will be more broadly installed and more susceptible to neighboring interference. The newer 802.11ac standard, which promises 1Gbps throughput, should be fully embraced by 2015. This new standard uses the 5GHz band – only adding to the congestion.

Overall, using the 5GHz band doubles my transmission rate over 2.4GHz. If you don’t have a dual band router – yet use a myriad of devices all communicating on different standards – I suggest investing in a dual band router. Setup each band with it’s own SSID, and make sure 5GHz capable devices are using the 5GHz SSID, and slower legacy devices are using the 2.4GHz SSID.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

Paper or plastic?

Would you like paper or plastic? I haven’t heard that it years, although my wife swears that her grandmother asks for paper in plastic. I didn’t even know that grocery stores still offered paper. But to actually request both? Take that environment!

To be honest, I have nothing against the environment. I go paperless as often as I can. Well, except in one area.

The newspaper.

I receive the local paper, The Arizona Republic, daily. The so called “Monday to Sunday” subscription. For years I have paid roughly $10 per month to receive the paper, each morning. To their credit it has always been on-time, and for the most part damage free. A few months ago they decided to change their subscription model to an “all you can eat plan,” combining their daily print edition with full online access. In theory, this is great, but here is the problem: it costs over twice as much. Prior to this change, their website, AZCentral.com, was completely free. I never used their site. It was cluttered, jammed full of ads, and was incredibly slow. Their alternative is a $10 per month online-only plan, with all the same flaws I’ve already shared. Great you think, right? Mr. Techie here should love consuming and digesting his local news from the vast interwebs. Not so…

The reality is that I just don’t like getting my local news from an online source. I don’t know what it is, but I just like the feel of holding newsprint in my hands. I enjoy eating breakfast with the morning paper sprawled out across the table, carefully deciding what to read based on the headlines.

Every print addition makes special note to call attention to print readers enabling their online access, promising an “exact digital replica.” I’ve tried this so called replica, but it’s just not the same. Something about walking out barefoot on the cool driveway, picking up the slightly dewey paper, snapping off the rubber band, and griming up your fingers with soy ink just can’t be replicated digitally. Well, until there is an app for that.

What’s more strange is that I have changed magazine subscriptions to digital, and it feels no different to me. I subscribe to computer magazines, and I do enjoy consuming techie news and rumors online, so maybe that has something to do with it.

Overall, I don’t think it’s fair that I must now pay over twice as much to receive the same exact thing that I’ve always had. Especially seeing as how the newspaper is already 65% advertisements. I no longer subscribe to cable or satellite television service. Mostly because I can’t stand paying for 100’s of channels I don’t enjoy, but moreover, all of the advertisements that I am paying to watch. Something about that just isn’t right. Maybe I should use that same logic in my reading habits.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.

PDF Compression: Use it wisely

Nothing aggravates me more than individuals or organization sending out (or making available) important information in a Word file. How difficult is it to create a small, widely supported, open-source PDF? Not difficult at all.

Just below that level of aggravation is another matter spawned from a similar lack of detail. File compression. You know, making files much smaller than they really need to be. We all consume compressed music, videos and photos. Why not add PDF to that list? ProGravix delivers artwork in compressed ZIP archives, and we always create media consumed by our client’s customers in a perfectly compressed format.

The best place to implement compression is within our PDF files. Certainly we want to create high resolution artwork (for those times that the printer prefers PDF). But when it comes to making brochures, sales sheets, manuals, et cetera available on our websites, what’s the point in posting that huge 250MB file? The chance that they are going to print it is very slim, so creating a low resolution file that’s great for online viewing is what we need.

There are several levels of PDF compression. By default, a high resolution PDF (preferred by printers) contains 300dpi images and uncompressed text and vector elements. These types of files are extremely bloated, resulting in very long load times – which is fine when you are sending art to a printer… it only needs to be uploaded and downloaded once.

Adobe has developed several compression presets. The two I most widely use are High Quality and Smallest File Size. High Quality is great for creating artwork or high res proofs. Smallest File Size is great when you need to make files available on a website for download. The downside to the Smallest File Size preset is very low image quality. All images are reduced to 72dpi, with a very high JPG compression. I think the best option is the sweet spot between these two presets.

When creating a web-ready PDF file, where images need to be slightly better than web quality, I choose the High Quality preset, and modify the compression settings. Set Color Bitmap Images and Grayscale Bitmap Images to 150ppi. Also make sure that Compress Text and Line Art is checked. You can also choose to lower the ppi for Monochrome Bitmap Images as well (if your document contains them).

I usually keep JPG Compression to Automatic, but you can test your results, and choose a compression that suits your needs.

Overall, we need to be mindful of our visitors time. We need to allow them easy access to our information, at a reasonable speed.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.