Calculating Opacity’s Effect on Color

In icon view (or on the desktop), OS X draws a subtle box around the icon when an item is selected. It’s a rounded-corner box with a slightly-darker background, and a slightly-lighter border. This approach guarantees that the user will be able to recognize their selection regardless of background color or brightness (e.g., desktop wallpaper). Check it:

Using Photoshop, I determined that the color changes are equivalent to overlaying the background color with black & white at 30% opacity.

For possible use on various work-related projects, here is how to accurately determine new RGB values to simulate a black or white overlay at various opacities using Python.

def dark (val, pct):
    return int(round(val*(1.0-(pct/100.0))))

def light (val, pct):
    return int(round(val+((255-val)*(pct/100.0))))

def darken (R, G, B, pct):
    return (dark(R, pct), dark(G, pct), dark(B, pct))

def lighten (R, G, B, pct):
    return (light(R, pct), light(G, pct), light(B, pct))

Let’s try it with the following image I created using Layer opacity in Photoshop. The base color green is R:61, G: 136, B: 28. I then created a white layer at 27% opacity and filled in the left third of the image. I filled in the right third with a black layer set to 47% opacity. I then flattened the image & saved it as the PNG shown here.

I then ran the 2 functions.

>>> lighten(61, 136, 28, 27)
(113, 168, 89)
>>> darken(61, 136, 28, 47)
(32, 72, 15)

I compared the output to the RGB values reported by Photoshop in the final, flattened PNG, and they matched.

FrameMaker on Mac: Pay Attention, Adobe!

About a year ago, I ranted about Adobe having abandoned the Mac platform for their FrameMaker product. In that post, I quoted then-product-manager Aseem Dokania thusly:

…I believe there are some good workarounds available now for using windows applications on Mac. It may be possible to use one of them for FrameMaker.

Under the realistic threat that (code-named) Mandar Warrior Princess’ G5 iMac may die in the near future, I decided to give it a shot. It’s a number of years later, and technology actually makes it pretty easy to do what Aseem said on your Intel-based Mac. I still think he’s an asshole, though.

If you run 10.5.x (Leopard) on your Mac, you have the Boot Camp option, but you can only run Windows or OS X at one time. You have to reboot the machine to switch.

So for late-comers like me who still run 10.4.x (Tiger), and those who wish to run both operating systems concurrently, you have to install VMware or Parallels. These allow you to run a virtual machine on your Mac; essentially, Windows appears to run as an “application” on the Mac in its own… ahem… window.

Next, you install a version of Windows on the virtual machine. Finally, you install FrameMaker 9 for Windows, and you’re off!

None of it is very elegant (vis-à-vis having a Mac-native version), but it will work.

Mac users are screwed either way, though.

Adobe no longer makes FrameMaker for Mac; therefore your upgrade eligibility is nil, as they require upgrades be for the same platform. That juicy $399 upgrade price tag is there just to mock you.

So, how much will it really cost?

VMware and Parallels each retail for about $80. You can pick up a version of Windows XP 2002 (w/o service packs) on Amazon for $119. The full version of FrameMaker 9 for Windows is $999.

Total: $1,198.00

So here’s what I propose, Adobe.

Offer a “Mac Upgrade” option to customers like me who undoubtedly continue to faithfully shell out cash for Photoshop & Illustrator upgrades. Offer FrameMaker 9 for $800 to those with valid Mac FM serial numbers, thus subsidizing the purchase of the extra software required to make it work on my Mac.

I submitted this to Adobe via their website, but will likely not hear from them.

It’s too bad, though. It’s exactly this type of consideration that would make me (and many other Mac users) think, “okay, at least they’re trying not to be complete assholes about this,” and pay the $800.

Friends and Family From Afar

Bored while waiting for the dryer, I was momentarily inspired to plot the locations of friends and family that don’t live in the D.C. area. So I pulled up the googlymaps and eyeballed some shit in illustrator.


Represented (closest first) are:

Ocean City, MD
The place with the NHL Hall of Fame
Montgomery, AL
Corpus Christi
Davis, CA

Our Beer, Our Label

I previously wrote that Erin gave me a gift cert for the Shenandoah Brewing Co. over in Alexandria. We went there a couple of weekends ago to start The Making of the Beer.

I was going to take photos of the place and stuff, but the battery on the small digicam was completely dead. So no dice there.

Having never even tried to make my own beer before, I found the process to be quite stressful overall. It starts off tamely with you picking the type of beer you want to make. Then, they give you a recipe, and you go off to collect your grains and grind ’em all up into a big cheesecloth sack. Then you go to the big fuckin’ vat to steep your grains.

That’s when shit got anal for me. As soon as you drop the sack into the hot water, you’ve got to keep an eye on the timer, as well as the vat. You don’t want shit boiling over or getting a huge head of foam on it, and you’ve got to add the various types of hops at certain intervals. You want to keep it at a “rolling boil”, but there’s no quantitative value; it all depends on the stuff you have boiling. The vats have temp gauges on them, but vigilance is key.

After all that stressing over the vat, they drain it into a barrel and measure the specific gravity (or something) to figure out what’s happened. Apparently, I boiled our batch a little too vigorously, and we lost more water volume than expected. That means lower yield (fewer bottles), but higher alcohol content.

A push, if you ask me.

After adding the yeast, we settled up and left. We’re scheduled to go back for the bottling and labeling session on March 8th.

Speaking of labels, I’ve been toiling over my custom shit for a while now. The only judge for my few designs (in their various states of completeness) is, of course, Erin.

Here are a few that didn’t make the cut (clicky):


And here’s the winner:


Rage Maker: Fuck Adobe

Framemaker is, arguably, the best application for producing voluminous documentation on the market. Anybody that argues that Microsoft Word is even remotely capable of handling documents more than 30 pages long is either an idiot, a masochist, or both.

The Company has been using Framemaker for all of our manuals for more than 10 years, all the way back to the good (?) ol’ NeXTSTEP days. We’ve paid for new licenses and upgrades as required throughout the years. Attempts were made (against my advice) to do one of our larger manuals in MS Word. That attempt failed miserably, and we paid a nice chunk of cash to a 3rd-party vendor to convert it back to Framemaker.

Unfortunately, our years-long romance with this powerful software may soon come to an end. In a blog post from Feb. 2007, Framemaker’s Product Manager states:

Adobe discontinued FrameMaker software for the Apple Macintosh operating system on April 21, 2004. The decision to discontinue FrameMaker on the Macintosh operating systems was based on the market conditions for FrameMaker.

This after having declared in a previous post that:

Let me assure you, as the Product Manager of FrameMaker, that FrameMaker is here to stay.

A number of events precipitated the demise of Framemaker on Mac machines, and without going into too much detail, they are:
1. The release of Mac OS X 10.0 in 2001
2. The existence of the “Classic” environment therein
3. Adobe’s porting of Photoshop and Illustrator in late 2003
4. Adobe’s “market conditions” preclude porting Framemaker to OS X
5. Apple’s announced intent to move to Intel processors in 2005
6. The extinction of the “Classic” environment therewith
7. Apple stops shipping PowerPC-based Macs in 2006

I will not attempt to pin the injustice of losing Framemaker-on-a-Mac on either company. But… Aseem Dokania’s hubris in response to Mac users’ comments is personally-infuriating, and belies his knowledge of a customer base that has been loyal to–and perhaps buttressed for lengths of time–the company for which he now works.

… I believe there are some good workarounds available now for using windows applications on Mac. It may be possible to use one of them for FrameMaker.

Fuck you, Aseem.

Update: Apparently Aseem is no longer the PM for FM. It’s now Mahesh Kumar Gupta. Bring it back to Mac, Mahesh! If not, you may be told to go fuck yourself. You have been warned.

Inspiration and its Subsequent Demoralization

halftone.pngToday I manually drew a vector-based halftone pattern for use on some marketing stuff. That’s a rasterized version of it over there. It wasn’t really all that difficult (in retrospect), but it took a long time because I was obsessing over the precision of the damned thing.

Then, after a quick googling, I found out that I could purchase a slew of professionally-designed halftone patterns from these guys (scroll down to “Set 3”). It would have been a no-brainer to have work buy that shit (no obstacle there; it’s only $15), and save me an hour or two of fucking around. Yeah… “a quick googling”… I’d searched for some vectors at least 3 times before bearing down on the shit, but–apparently–I lacked the proper terminology.

Recognizing my personal defeat, I checked out the rest of their shit, and was blown away. Everyone has their own taste; you may not dig what they’ve done and/or are capable of doing… but I love it.

I want to have talent like that.

Conditional Generosity is Bullshit


I am working on some stuff for the corporate website, which commonly prompts me to puruse the offerings of various online stock photo repositories such as MorgueFile, stock.xchng, etcetera. The majority of the photographers on these sites allow other people to use their shots in whatever fashion they like, as long as they don’t try to sell the photos themselves (as commodities), and only if such use doesn’t involve something illegal or generally reprehensible.

Some photographers, however, place a certain level of restriction on their photos: Some require attribution (e.g., “photo courtesy Sam Smith”); yet others ask that you contact them beforehand to obtain permission to use their photos.

I have zero problems complying with whatever terms of use the photographer wishes to place on his or her photos; they are, after all, his or her property. But, the common thread here is: By offering photos on sites like these, the photographers are implying that you can use their images (subject to the site terms) without cost.

And, that’s the whole reason I patronize these online repositories. It’s here, it doesn’t completely suck, the design will stand with our without it… and it’s free. Why not?

A Brief, Paraphrased Interaction

Me: Hi. I don’t know if I’ll use your image or not, but I’d like to get your permission to use it on our company’s website just the same. Full attribution with a link to your website will be included on any page(s) where the image is displayed. Thanks.

Him: Normally, I’d say yes. But in your case, I checked out your company website. You guys sell some pretty expensive products, so I think you can afford to pay me to use it. Let me know if you’re interested.

The Rant

There are many websites out there that allow a photographer to collect licensing fees (or a portion thereof) from buyers; iStockPhoto is one. A talented photographer can even utilize various online–not necessarily photographically-oriented–services to peddle their wares. There are even licensing agenciesgasp!–that make millions of dollars off the back of talented photographers every day (Getty anyone?)… and you can be sure those photographers are compensated.

This is the natural order of The Market. If you want to make a little scratch from your efforts behind the lens, this is the route to go. Customers see something they like, check the price, and make a purchase if the two reconcile. It’s quality versus price, you see?

Further, as soon as you place your photo on a “free” sharing website, you are actively and automatically devaluing it. You obviously don’t think the photo is good enough to charge for it. What gave you the idea that someone else would think any differently?

It is beyond my professional capacity to pander to someone who first says, “Hey! Here they are! Use my photos for free!” (on a website claiming to be “the leading FREE stock photo site” no less), then conditionally adds, “But only if you don’t sell something expensive,” in effort to strong-arm someone with presumably deep pockets.

That’s some serious bullshit, man.

Of course we can afford to pay to use your photo! We regularly spend hundreds–if not thousands–on licensed photography.

Just not yours.

I am Not a Thief. Lichtenstein was.

At work, we recently ran a series of advertisements in various trade rags. The latest ad was published last week in the one magazine that doesn’t deal with the military, so it needed its own artwork (read: no dudes in camo). I decided that I wanted it to look like it came from one of those pulpy-paper comic books… y’know… because nobody in our industry publishes full-page ads with any comic-inspired elements.

Hell, nobody in our industry runs ads with anything except photos of airplanes, boring software screenshots, and wholly unexciting pictures of their (surely capable) hardware products. Yawn.

By going comic-booky (only the portion of the ad that’s relevant to this post), I figured it’d at least make people do a double-take. At best, it could come off as quirky, interesting, tongue-in-cheek and worth a read… even if it included a wholly unexciting photo of our (awesomely capable) hardware, replete with a software screenshot (not shown).

Last week, The Foof mentioned to another co-worker that my artwork looked “Lichtenstein-y”.

Cut to today, when I saw a MeFi link to an artist who built a meat-space, pixelated “image” comprising “2788 hand cut, sanded, and painted dowels that when put together form a modern interpretation of a painting by artist Roy Lichtenstein entitled, ‘M-maybe’.”

That immediately reminded me of David Barsalou’s “Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein” project (warning: large & multiple image downloads) where he demonstrate’s Roy’s bald-faced theft from a number of 60s artists. Barsalou painstakingly tracked down the multiple pieces of work that “inspired” Lichtenstein’s art… including “M-maybe”.

From whom did Lichtenstein lift his shit? G’head… guess.

Guys who drew comic books.

And, in case you’re wondering about my “inspiration”, I hardcore Photoshopped a stock image.

See also: “Lichtenstein: creator or copycat?” from the Boston Globe.