Industrial LCD monitors

August 19, 2010 by

The technology that goes into liquid crystal displays, or LCDs, far surpasses that of the CRT, cathode ray tube, displays of old. CRTs were the standard of home personal computer and industrial computers for most of the 90’s. Now with the rise of LCD monitors and TVs it is hard to come by the once standard CRT. With LCD screens came industrial LCD screens, these meet standards so far above what a normal screen will ever need to endure. It is interesting to learn that industrial LCD monitors have a longer battery life then a normal LCD and that if they are treated properly, they will outlast a normal LCD sometimes up to 30,000 hours.

Another type of LCD the consumer should know about is the TFT Display, also known as the thin film transistor. The TFT LCD’s are a higher quality image LCD commonly found in TV’s and high end computer monitors.

Laptops were the first computers that came standard with LCD technology and were the reason LCD monitors became a huge success. Industrial LCD’s are night and day from the LCD you watch movies on. Industrial LCD’s also rival the quality of regular LCD’s and only the TFT LCD can compete with picture quality. This may seem like not a big deal, but when these LCD monitors need to survive below zero temperatures, and heats well over 200 degrees. They need to be able to stand being dropped, kicked, stepped on, tossed, be underwater, and sometimes even need to stand being shot since the military uses industrial LCD monitors almost standardly.

Touch sensitive screens are also more common in the industrial LCD monitor world right next to the sunlight readable monitors. These two options have become more and more common in the military and the aquatic worlds since having to worry about a keyboard and mouse can be tedious and tiring. To decrease the glare for sunlight readable LCD’s some companies have increased the backlight and found this effective. Other companies took this into a whole different world by creating highly reflective backlights therefore increasing the reflection of ambient light. This also eliminates the need for extra energy to cool the LCD as the sun is not impacting the screen as usual.

Lauren Thompson
Content Director
Limited Online

Something’s Gotta Give…

February 22, 2010 by

Free? Free? OK, almost free? No, no how about; at least do it at a loss for me?

Sound familiar?

Over the last 20 years in this trade I’ve seen and heard of more and more companies trying to conjure up magic numbers that maintain their clients illusions that they are getting a bargain. In fact some companies will take hit on the operational cost of producing the work just to have the client under their belt.

And what about cases where a potential client promises high spends that never materialise? Sales guys that expect the company to make investments in time, people and resource for a client that isn’t worth it’s value. I know your thinking that “any financial controller worth his/her salt wouldn’t allow this to happen” – yet it does, and will continue to do so.

These are all examples of how the life is being sucked out of what it actually costs to do the work. That and the high salaries of senior members of the companies that are nothing but a drain on resources – great if their bring in work, but what a dead weight if they don’t!

Anyway, thinking lets consider for example the Publishing industry; someone somewhere must have got some big bonuses for driving the cost per page down to near nothing, but the cost was at the industry’s detriment. It’s all well and good reducing the costs to the client so much that it keeps everyone else from getting a look in, then offshoring it all to India or China, but at some point something breaks! The client’s expectations of how much ‘stuff’ costs to produce are so high (i.e. they expect it at such a low cost) that companies can’t or don’t have the money to invest in the infrastructure needed to service them in the manner that they expect. OK, some companies do get deals on who pays for staff or what the kick backs are of different parts of the supply chain, but on the whole it is now a zero numbers game. Hard work and dedication just isn’t part of the equation anymore and reputation means diddly squat nowadays – in fact requtation could actually be a ‘worst enemy’.

Under such circumstances, is it any surprise that so much work is making it’s way out to India and China. Many moons ago it would have been eastern block countries until their cost of living went up and subsequently the cost of outsourcing rose with it forcing companies to find cheaper solutions – will we see the same with India and China? If so, where to next?

It confuses me slightly why clients source UK companies who outsource their work? Is that again something for them to save money on? I mean if I were a client and I discovered my pre-media operation outsourced I’d be pretty annoyed if they hadn’t told me. If I was in the position as a customer of course one part of me would say “why should I care because I’m getting a great price” but another part of me would say “I could just source an offshore company to work for me anyway”. After all most of them have representitives in my country anyway so what do I gain by having a ‘piggy in the middle’ -surely that ‘piggy’ is just getting fat for doing, er, well not much at all really!?

Well, maybe not that fat! I am sure that you have all been watching the media news recently where a number of ‘piggies’ (or middle men) have been going under. A sign of the times me thinks, where the bacon has been sliced too thin for them to survive off. We can of course stand on the side lines and opine at the fate of these middle men and their companies who clearly “had it coming”. However, at the end of the day these are people’s livelihoods that we are watching disappear down the pan – livelihoods that in some cases have been treated with total disregard and I am not just talking about their own employees, as there is a whole supply chain affected by such sad and sorry stories of mismanagement!

Of course, under such business circumstances something eventually has got to give! And I really do think that it is going to take one of the ‘big players’  to fall for the industry to realise that greed is not good for our business.

Author: Gary George

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Cartoon credit for Corporate Profits to Clay Bennett

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Freelancer Service

February 18, 2010 by

Many moons ago I wrote a little paper (that no-one saw) about how a centralised website with full API connectivity could be created to manage a virtual pool of freelance workers. Needless to say several years on now I can’t locate the document at all.

So in line with all my other ideas I’ve shared with you all on here I’m going to tell you a little bit about my idea.

We’ve all seen the countless number of job sites, recruitment agencies and networks for individuals seeking some sort of employment, right? These very impersonal sites and agents take your CV and add you into the pile of the thousands of other CV’s they have – they don’t match your skills to new positions, they don’t evaluate you, they really don’t help you unless you chase them, unless you are on their backs pushing them to match you. Strange really as most of them get some sort of commission if they have recommended you, normally a percentage of your salary, so you would think they would do more to connect and promote you, find out your inner most secrets in order to get the best job match possible. OK the reality is that there’s thousands of us looking for jobs, new jobs, new careers etc. so it probably is near impossible to have one-on-ones.

But what if you created a network and service that allows two-way interaction between the clients and the workers, a way for the clients to access the staff on their skills, personality, professionalism, cost, speed etc?

Well there are sites that already offer this type of service for just about everything from technical drawing to accounting. But when it comes to premedia; well yes there are people on these services that provide this and their clients are able to provide ratings, but they are not specifically targeted at our industry.

A lot of companies have integrated their enterprise resource management into their job management in order to track statistics for their clients billing purposes, but they haven’t got any way of managing any work they outsource to individuals or other companies. What they are using is primitive compared to what is possible today with web applications.

So imagine being able to register your company as a provider of business into the freelance world. Imagine having a service that you could integrate into your own systems and have instant access to a virtual pool of talent that is rated and where you have visibility of their earnings, their skill-sets and their availability…. Imagine that the service integrates a sophisticated file transfer mechanism that is fully audit-able and integratable.

The system could incorporate the latest in asset tracking technology to protect corporate materials, the freelancers could bid, secure or become one with their clients whilst remaining completely anonymous at the same time!

The key to all work, regardless of whether it is outsourced, insourced or staffed, is the ability for the briefing process to be interpreted correctly by the reader – imagine if the system forced a preflight checklist for the brief as a form of measurement that is automatically recorded against the record of the transaction along with a complete dispute process.

Considering that the system would have a completely open API, additional services could be provide such as soft proofing where the clients comments are visible as part of a new brief, needless to say that briefs would always be version controlled.

I have so many ideas around how the system should look & feel since today’s web technology and desktop client technology provides us with an unlimted amount of possibilities to make the user experience seamless.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you think the idea is worth pursuing or if you have spare chunk of cash laying around threatening to burn a hole in the carpet!

Author: Gary George

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Invest in the Employee – Your Greatest Business Asset

February 10, 2010 by

It’s pretty easy maths when you think about it; to get set-up as an artworker/designer/creative bod today doesn’t actually cost a fortune and for most people they would probably have a home setup that is better or newer than what they would be using at work anyway.

I did a quick shopping list using some estimates on what it would take to set-up a little home office. Being completely legal naturally (not to say that anyone would use pirated software anyway!) and this is what I came up with:

 

Now, consider that you wouldn’t rush out and buy all of the font collections in one go and let’s say you purchased them on a project-by-project basis (or if you were working on outsourced work you may even be supplied the fonts) a £5,530 investment over 3 years isn’t that bad. In fact £1,845 per year would be a ‘drop in the ocean’ if you are able to get the work in.

The thing with doing this is that you need to actually be good at what you do in order to maintain a steady income! A big part of that is the need to keep on top of your training in the applications, hell you’re responsible for your own income now, so if you don’t put the time in you have no one to blame but yourself….

Now look at it from the companies‘ point of view. They employ you on a wage (or if you’re unlucky a salary) and you are monitored on your efficiency to produce work in a timely fashion and actually that’s not much different to what you would do for yourself, although your attitude towards it is different when someone else is paying you, right?

In my mind, you, the employee are still responsible for yourself and your career advancements. You would be of less value if, for instance, you spent your life in QuarkXpress and never taught yourself Indesign - when looking for a new job you may find yourself unemployable.

But what about the employer? Do they have a resposibility to provide you with some sort of training? Some sort of career progression? Well no not really, not unless it is in their interest. But there is an exception to that you see, since the company wants to get the most out their assets is it not in their best interests to make sure you are the absolute best you possibly could be? Not only that, but you are a massive annual investment to them and you cost them a tonne of money each year that they need to charge onto the client in some way.

That’s to say that you as an employee can absolve yourself from trying to be a model worker and sit back and blame your company for you not going anywhere. No, you have to be the driver here, you have to want to be the best and your company should know that they can invest in you for their own greater return. Let’s face it most companies that are doing well will reward their employees and there’s even those with stockholders who share the wealth with their employees. I’ve always said that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet all I see and hear is how unhappy people are and how badly their employer treats them.

I wish that employers could see that their greatest investment is in their staff and their staff are what they should be nurturing, developing and rewarding in order to grow their business.

Author: Gary George

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Do Your CSR’s Drive New Business?

February 5, 2010 by

Ever wondered what is being said to your existing clients?

Are your customer service representatives fully aware of your company’s capabilities?

Have you joined the dots between your business units?

Does your business development team understand the end-to-end processes?

Do your staff development plans tie in with your business strategy?

Does your branding really communicate what you do?

These seem pretty simple questions right? Well in my travels I have seen so much political action within companies that the answers to the above questions aren’t as positive as you would expect.

Since my post is actually about Customer Services teams I’m just going to spend a few paragraphs explaining why your CSR’s are the front-line of your business and how, with very little effort and a little reward, these business peripherals could win you more business from existing clients.

First of all and most critically your CSR’s have daily if not hourly contact with the customer. If they don’t have a clue of the full range of capabilities within your business (and I mean more than the one day tour of your facility when they joined) then how the heck are they in a position to recognise additional business opportunities with your client. They may only be an interface to say artwork origination, yet the customer may also be dealing with the marketing communication and thus have a requirement for multi-channel output. Well wait a minute, your CSR’s are working for a pre-media company who deals directly with multi-channel communication…!

Your CSR’s inevitably get very close to the customer and I’ve even know a couple that got married from a client/supplier relationship that went a little further! They go to business meetings, socials, drinks and events together, places where your CSR’s could leverage your clients friends or connections to sell your company without even breaking a sweat! Look at the statistics for Facebook or LinkedIn and see just how incestuous our industry is. Look at mine as an example; connections in every type of supply chain vertical for our industry and I am always getting asked to make introductions for new business opportunities (should really take commission, but never do!)

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Piracy is Your Best Salesman – Really?

February 4, 2010 by

For years we have had it rammed down our throat that Piracy will be the death of software companies and recently Rupert Murdoch has been making waves about how aggregating his news content is damaging his business and thus wants to start charging for it.

Well it seems that his daughter Elisabeth has made a pretty bold statement about piracy, stating in a roundabout way that it could be a good thing.

“Fans remain the best salesmen of our content, even if that behavior is on the borderline of piracy. Danger of the new world is that we must concede that we’ll lose some control.”

The question for me is how software companies in the Pre-media would police the use of pirated software and how you handle the penalties for usage. It takes some doing for a software company of a governing body to get into our firms to see if what we are doing because they need grounds to do so. For years companies have flaunted the somewhat out of date font licensing laws as the pressure for lower costs from the clients has driven people to ‘bend’  what they feel is ‘fair usage’

Now we see a complete disregard of any laws regarding software and licensing as the borders of commerce are bought down and work can be produced anywhere in the world. And with the world being so interconnected via the worldwide web there is no stopping where or who has access to what and how they use it.

So with Elisabeth conceding that piracy of content is your best salesman, how are companies looking to gain revenue from that content be that software, news, knowledge or anything else that can easily be searched, catalogued, indexed and then downloaded by, well, anyone in the world.

One method spoken about sometime back was to reduce the cost to an amount that more people would be willing to pay. As we’ve seen in a few of my previous posts, the cost of digital content seems to be more expensive than that of the manufactured content; CD vs Digital Download; newspaper vs Online News Subscription; DVD vs Media Streaming; Video Game vs Online Streamed Game; Packaged Software vs Digital Delivery, the list could go on.

So, we see that companies are thinking that by providing the content (whatever that content is) digitally they are able to retain more profit from the service they provide. In my mind they are actually making the content easier and faster to obtain, access and distribute.

Although I in no way condone the usage of pirated software in the everyday business world I find myself wondering who is to blame for the volume of pirate content out there. If you have followed the news on the case of Pirate Bay then you may ask if they are really at fault for providing a method of people trying to find content? Are they not just being used as an example, a warning to other people who want to provide a service and we all remember what happened to Napster, once a sharing site, now turned clean – did the industry kill the mp3 sharing problem? No they aggregated it even more and before you knew it loads more sites sprung up all over the place…. The same can be said for MP3.com

There is no silver bullet solution to this problem and we in Pre-media are probably as guilty as anyone else about bending the rules of content engagement. It could be as simple as loading a music track as your ringtone that goes against the artists wishes, but what I do know is if companies actually listened to the market they would understand and learn how to develop new business models for the modern age. Our children are currently heading for a world of free usage of content as it’s so freely available and that has a massive impact on so many market verticals that we could see complete industries fizzle out because they were unable to diversify their business model.

Author: Gary George

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CS5 – as useful as a ‘Chocolate Teapot’?

February 3, 2010 by
Adobe Systems Incorporated

Image via Wikipedia

Later this year Adobe will be releasing their latest incarnation of the Creative Suite in the form of CS5. For the avid followers of Adobe development news and those who are registered beta testers you will have seen some of the wonders that this new version will bring.

For the rest of us, we are left wondering what the cost of upgrading will be and whether we are going to save anything by doing it… Let’s face it when we shell out of upgrades we usually do it for 3 reasons:

  1. There are new features we must have or have been waiting for….
  2. Someone is supplying us files that we need to manipulate in the new version of the software
  3. Or we have somehow justified the expense to get the upgrade for absolutely no reason…

There are those of us who have been sensible enough to maintain their maintenance agreements and thus get the upgrades for free anyway. Well not exactly free, but cheaper than buying them at retail cost (with your given CLP agreement discount level) you’ll enjoy these new features without a second thought. Unfortunately these lucky people are the ones that will ultimately force upgrades on others they supply their files to.

Adobe is again focusing on the ability to streamline the creative process by enabling cross application graphics usage that allows for fast pre-media channel outputs, along with their crusade to make everything Flash enabled (well apart from anything Apple that is – that bitter war continues!)

Adobes flagship product – Photoshop – has a whole host of new features that have been touted about the internet. These include:

  • New Digital Photography Features
  • 64 bit processing for Apple Mac computers
  • Porting Photoshop CS5 from Carbon to Cocoa
  • Support for Multiple GPU’s
  • New Brush technologies
  • New Paint technologies
  • New on-the-fly multi-point Warping technologies
  • New Content Aware Technology
  • GPU Video Acceleration Technologies

But I must ask how many of these with have any economical impact on our day to day business? Sure, multi GPU support would be nice for all those with multi GPU graphic cards and new paint technology is great for those artists out there have haven’t already discovered what Paintshop Pro does for them. And what about the long awaited 64bit support – I mean 64bit in desktop machines has only been around for 6 years!? Also, what about the content aware scaling; we’ve already seen their first attempt of this in CS4 which was pretty awesone, but how much does it really get used….?

Although, like most others I will rush out and get CS5, I do question if the expense is really going to be worth it and whether the new features, tools and underlying archecture is going to benefit me to the tune of the upgrade cost – or will be be “as useful as a chocolate tea pot”!? Wouldn’t it be more useful if Adobe placed more analytical tools under the bonnet so we can see the most frequently used tools and the effect our system setup has? Also, how about some Adobe ‘statistics gathering’ on what they really need to improve? Now that would bring true benefit to the endusers and businesses alike.

Author: Gary George

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Digital vs Physical – Convienence or Appreciation?

January 26, 2010 by

The other day I wrote about how in the UK at least the digital asset of music seem to have become more expensive that the physical assets you can buy in-store or online (how many of you have bought 3 CD‘s for 20 quid at HMV??) and how the consumer losses a lot of the appreciation factor of holding a physical item in there hand and placing it into their CD player….

This morning while flicking through a magazine, I read a short article about how Microsoft will be offering games via it’s Microsoft Live service, yet again the digital media supplied via a download service is more expensive than buying the physical copy online an having it delivered for free….

So why would people do this? I can completely understand the convenience factor of going to an online service such as Microsoft Live and downloading the digital copy directly onto your PC or Games Console, but were is the appreciation of the of the physical printed parts, the junk that they ship with the copies (you know the A5 leaflets about stuff you don’t want to know) and the booklet that contains the story of the game…. How does all the work the marketeers, copy editors, pre-media companies and printers get appreciated in a digital download?

With games there is also a resale value with the physical copy, not only do you pay less, but when you have completed it you take it back in-store and get a discount on your next purchase (or sell through marketplaces like ebay, Amazon and Play!)

So suddenly the print volumes are declining, the replicators are screaming and the manufacturer (software houses) are laughing all the way to the bank…. or are they? If we remove the physical packaging as our ability to purchase disposable consumer items like music, film and video games there is also the knock on effect to the retail stores, these stores spend millions in our pre-media market on advertising with point of sale material and their own pre-media advertising channels such as TV, Radio and Publishing, now the software houses can do that themselves and reap the rewards of a higher slice of the cash. I really don’t need to spell it all out to you, especially if you have been affected by this already and your business has suffered at the hands of digital download.

As a consumer though, I like to touch something I have purchased, even if it is just a 5 inch silver printed disc and a piece of packaging that will clutter up my house, it gives it a sense of meaning, something I can account for when I wonder where all the cash in my bank has gone.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought about this, I’ve illustrated in my first post about how in the UK it is affecting the sales of physical media in Music, now I’ve shown the same in the Video Games market, not that digital downloads of Movies has taken off yet, but you know it will at some point (how BT is going to manage it’s stupid fair usage policy when consumer Movie downloads hit the big time I have no idea, when you consider a HD movie is around 10gig you will soon have your bandwidth throttled to 1 meg after a couple of viewings!)

For the last 6 years I’ve been purchasing Norton Internet Security, wow what a business model they have, annual subscription that you have to renew to stay current, now these guys produce plenty of software and plenty of packaging which equals plenty of design & print. But I wonder if as part of their wonderful business model they actually keep the price of online subscription renewal higher than going out and buying the boxed product? Is there some sort of deal they have with the retail network that gives them the ability to push the product? Each year when my subscription is coming up to renewal I pop down to PC World and pickup my new version for under £25 where today online renewal is £54.99 – ouch over double the price for a renewal over a new boxed copy!

At the moment the artificially inflated digital prices are playing into print & pre-media hands all the time the printed packaging is cheaper, but at some point that will change as the next generations of youngsters only use download services providing a new paradigm of business opportunities.

For those companies currently diversifying their service offerings make sure you consider how your target market is moving in these digital times.

Author: Gary George

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Digital vs Physical – Why Pay More?

January 22, 2010 by

For a couple of weeks now I’ve known that one day I might wake up to a very bad day – you know the day when you turn on your PC and it simply just won’t boot? Well today’s that day. I had an inkling that it was getting close so I ordered a shiny new Samsung F3 hard drive and purchased some duplication software to tackle the task. I was all prepared yesterday to do it today and bang – this morning the system will only boot to the recovery partition and won’t repair the system! DAMN!

Anyway, luckily for me I have a Mac laptop (not without problems either, the keyboard and trackpad stop working occasionally so if anyone knows a fix drop me a line!) and while looking through my emails this morning I had a lovely colourful email from Play.com for the closing days of their sale…

Off I trotted to their site to look at some CD‘s and something sprung to mind…. Here on Play I can buy a CD of La Roux for £3.99 – so nice a cheap! So I headed off to iTunes and looked at the same artist’s album…. £4.99 – hold on, the digital copy where I get no packaging, no printed booklet, am unable to place on display and look at with pride (well not sure about that with the artist) and am unable to put on whatever device I want let alone lone it to my friends, costs me more….!!!

Clearly Play.com managed to get better colour here!

Think about what goes into the production of that physical copy; a complete pre-media process and manufacturing process has to happen in order to produce it. Whereas the digital version; OK it has some digital workflow involved but essentially the actual manufacturing process no longer exists, so why is it more expensive? In-fact if you look at Play.com you even get free shipping, so cash off of their profit for this physical product, digitally they still have to pay for delivery over their internet bandwidth, a fixed cost that they already can calculate into their business model….

So why?

What’s gone wrong?

Pre-media companies have been beaten to within inches of their existence on the price of producing the artwork for print, the printers have had the rug pulled from beneath their profit line to print them and the replicators don’t know where to look to sustain their businesses. Yet the digital providors are sitting pretty, still able to drive their Bentley’s and Porsche’s.

All seems a bit backwards to me.

Author: Gary George

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Interesting Facts on Media for 2010

January 19, 2010 by

Well you always manage to stumble across something that’s pretty interesting out there on the web and whilst browsing away I stumbled upon this lovely little presentation on Slideshare.

What I found interesting was the volume of information that was backed up by a credible source, although some of the figures seem pretty unbelievable you have to trust that the research was fully executed (for example the 72% of mums in the UK are on Facebook, well my partner is a mum and isn’t on there, neither was she surveyed…. so I wish they would simply add the word surveyed into the statement…. 72% of surveyed mums in the UK is far better than 72% of mums in the UK!!)

Anyway I think for companies in our world who need some facts and figures for their presentations on pre-media output channels you will find a lot in here that help you get the message across… Imagine if you are the company launching a campaign for baby milk in the UK, 72% of your target audience is on Facebook, wouldn’t you be thinking about doing a bit of advertising on there where you can target the exact demographic you want?

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