Archive for July, 2013

I’ve caved and finally joined Vine. I’ve been wanting to join for a while but my ancient Android can’t upgrade to a version of it that supports Vine, which was finally released for Android recently.

So my workaround for now will be to just use my iPod Touch with WiFi.

In response to my post on making voice impressions, I’ve had a few Facebook comments asking me to actually demonstrate what I preach in making a (somewhat) good impersonation, so here you have it.

For this very first Vine, I “interview” Metallica frontman James Hetfield about things he’ll say in the band’s upcoming 3D concert movie.

In this Vine, I also realize that I need a haircut.

For four years, I was spoiled by the easy access to Adobe Creative Suite and Mac computers – two technology favourites in creative professions – that came standard in my university’s labs.

When I left though, it was just me and my old Windows 7 PC, and I still had a music magazine website to manage that was about to switch to WordPress.com.

I had become a publication’s web producer, now working entirely via telecommute, with less-advanced tools at my disposal while managing a more-advanced website.

When the designers that my publisher hired handed the new website over to me, I found myself in a lot of situations where I needed to really improvise on how to best maintain our online content, how to best present it and solve technical problems along the way.

But, through trial and error, I like to think that I made it work and did my part to earn our website a brief slice of international attention in the digital publishing realm for it.

Web production work for publications entail plenty of photo resizing, so I'm on PicMonkey.com a lot, which is pretty amazing for a web browser tool.

Web production work for publications entails plenty of photo resizing, so I’m on PicMonkey.com a lot, which is pretty amazing for a web browser tool. Demo picture courtesy of Horror-Con.

This is why I dig free, open-source software and online browser tools so much: If one can live with using numerous freebies that can only do a few tasks, but do them well enough to get the job done, one can thrive in today’s information economy without spending a dime to work some telecommuting magic.

Some of these I already knew about, but others were found via Googling various tech support forums with keywords in threads relevant to my own technical problem at the time as I worked.

Are you on a budget and in charge of preparing and publishing your website or blog’s digital content? Here are the tools I use to make the music magazine’s site I manage the finished product that you see today.

OpenOffice.org – A free, open-source office suite that reads and writes MS office files. For those of you who are editors, MS Office’s Track Changes feature also has no problem “understanding” OpenOffice.org’s Record Changes option. There are versions for all three big computer platforms – Windows, Mac and Linux.

Dropbox.com – Needs not much introduction, really. You can store a lot of stuff on the cloud before you have to start paying for more space.

FileZilla – A free FTP client for all platforms, if your organization still stores their files that way.

PicMonkey.com – It’s no Photoshop, but it does the job with basic editing and resizing for the web and has a very “playful” interface. There is even a Scale Image option if you have to crop an image to a very specific set of pixel dimensions.

stock.xchng – A royalty-free stock photo website that serves as a free answer to similar ones such as iStockphoto. Of course, you’ll want to be cool and credit the site and its user.

FastStone Image Viewer – This does more than just view pictures, it can do editing too. In the event that you’re given a web-unfriendly image file such as .RAW or .TIFF, you can save it as a .JPEG, .GIF or .PNG. As well, you can edit the amount of pixels per inch for photographers concerned about uploading high-quality, printable images online. Sadly for Mac users, it seems to be for Windows only.

Boxoft Free PDF to JPG Converter – Self-explanatory. Ideal when in a situation where you need to convert a PDF into a JPG image. For Windows.

TextFixer.com – Ever been in a situation where you were tasked with copying and pasting text from a PDF but the lines and paragraph breaks still show up inside your WordPress post? This website can remove those pesky breaks, as well as do other things like alphabetizing and Word Doc to HTML converting.

So I hope this helps. If the same suites, such as Adobe Creative and MS Office, that you’d work with in the office are not in your budget for purchasing for your home computer, these are a few free alternatives that you too can use to help make your next, and best, blog or company post.

After all, we sometimes just have to use what’s given to us and making the best out of those tools is what builds something great.

In my first post on this subject, I explained that I help build our fringe suburbs as a drywaller and snap photos for people who’ve always lived in the inner city to show them the scale of what goes on in our fringes.

Calgary, as you well know, is a city that’s always under construction — so much so that it has an informal title of being the construction capital of Canada.

Love it or hate it, just for the scale of all these houses being built all around us alone, our outward growth as it happens could almost be considered a Wonder of the World.

Here are eight more snapshots that I’ve taken in Calgary and surrounding communities.

Bust out the soccer ball, kids. This greenspace in Mahogany looks fairly recently landscaped. Note some houses in the background are still in the framing phase, so residents of that street will still have to bear with construction vehicles for a while.

Bust out the soccer ball, kids. This greenspace in Mahogany in the southeast looks fairly recently landscaped. Note some houses in the background are still in the framing phase, so residents of that street will still have to bear with construction vehicles for a while.

On the other hand, unless the kids get permission to play in the dirt, this street in Auburn Bay, alos in the southeast, will have to wait for their greenspace still. The street here looks 100 per cent complete with both semi-detached and single-family homes, with the South Health Campus looming overhead.

On the other hand, unless the kids get permission to play in the dirt, this street in Auburn Bay, also in the southeast, will still have to wait for their greenspace. The street here looks 100 per cent complete with both semi-detached and single-family homes, with the South Health Campus looming behind.

Speaking of playing in the dirt, one concern about living in fringe suburbia is teaching kids the importance of safety. I've seen instances of children playing in construction zones or even climbing in waste bins. I forgot which neighbourhood this was, but it seemed strange that the backyard of this lived-in house adjacent to lot foundations yet to be dug was not totally fenced off, so I snapped this.

Speaking of playing in the dirt, one concern about living in fringe suburbia is teaching kids the importance of safety. I’ve seen instances of children playing in construction zones or even climbing in waste bins. I forgot which neighbourhood this was, but it seemed strange that the backyard of this lived-in house adjacent to lot foundations yet to be dug was not totally fenced off, so I snapped this.

Just because a house's possession date has been met and the buyers have moved and settled in doesn't mean that all the work is 100 per cent finished. Generally, presumably because the backlog of work is so huge, it might be a year or maybe two before one's yard is landscaped. This patio furniture sitting atop a deck surrounded by dirt and earth piles demonstrates this fact. These residents' lawnmower will probably have a very fine layer of dust to wipe off by the time they can bust it out of the garage for the first time.

Just because a house’s possession date has been met and the buyers have moved and settled in doesn’t mean that all the work is 100 per cent finished. Generally, presumably because the backlog of work is so huge, it might be a year or maybe two before one’s yard is landscaped. This patio furniture sitting atop a deck surrounded by dirt, construction debris and earth piles demonstrates this fact. If they have one, these residents’ lawnmower will probably have a very fine layer of dust to wipe off by the time they can bust it out of the garage for the first time.

Depending on where you are in Nolan Hill in the northeast, you can get a view of the actual literal fringe of the city. In this snapshot, suburban meets rural with both single-family homes, mid-right, and acreage properties (you might have to squint) in the background in the upper left, captured in the same frame.

Depending on where you are in Nolan Hill in the northeast, you can get a view of the actual literal fringe of the city. In this snapshot, suburban meets rural with both single-family homes, mid-right, and acreage properties (you might have to squint) in the background in the upper left, captured in the same frame.

The near-complete house on the upper-right looks a little lonely. It'll be a while before it's surrounded by more homes. I forgot where i snapped this, but it was somewhere in the southeast.

The near-complete house on the upper-right looks a little lonely. It’ll be a while before it’s surrounded by more homes. I forgot where I snapped this, but it was somewhere in the southeast.

Please slow down: Construction workers by be bouncing a basketball on their break. It's generally uncommon for all street signs to be installed on streets that are still, for most part, a construction zone. This was taken in Sunset Ridge in Cochrane.

Please slow down: Construction workers may be bouncing a basketball on their break. It’s generally uncommon for all street signs to be installed on streets that are still, for most part, a construction zone. This was taken in Sunset Ridge in Cochrane.

Got money? This is a property being built in the wealthy acreage community of Morgans Rise in Springbank. Between it, Mystic Ridge, Blueridge Estates, Lynx Ridge, Stone Pine and others I've probably missed, we have a lot of very wealthy people living next door to us in country estate communities just a five- to -ten-minute drive past our city limits in places like Springbank and Bearspaw. To the south of us, there's also De Winton and Heritage Pointe.

Got money? This is a property being built in the wealthy acreage community of Morgans Rise in Springbank. Between it, Mystic Ridge, Blueridge Estates, Lynx Ridge, StonePine and others I’ve probably missed, we have a lot of very wealthy people living next door to us in country estate communities (some of them gated) just a five- to ten-minute drive past our city limits in places like Springbank and Bearspaw. To the south of us, there’s also De Winton and Heritage Pointe.