Purchasing Artwork for Commercial Use Cheaply

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Business, Money, Software, Super Simple, Web Sites | Posted on 10-04-2011

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If you’re like me, your creative, visual design skills SUCK. Badly. But I can edit. And purchasing artwork for commercial use saves a lot of time. And, knowing where to purchase can save you a LOT of money.

Now, if I can be forgiven for being so bold, the design at the Super Simple web site is pretty good. The artwork is clean and well presented. Could it be better? Sure. Is it going to win any design contests? No. Is it well presented and attractive? Absolutely. And I did everything there… kind of…

With the exception of the main logo, which I did from scratch with the help of a tutorial, and the photographs on the site, everything else was edited or a composite. Excepting the logo, the pictures, and few others, everything else started with me purchasing some artwork for commercial use.

For example, the 100% free and clean badges:

Came from this vector:

If I remember properly, that cost me $1.00.

Similarly, I purchased this vector for $1.00:

And with it, I created these 2:

Vectors are the easiest things to work with, but it’s not always possible. I had a concept that I wanted to illustrate, and I could only do it with a raster images (JPEGs). That was tricky as I had to convert the bitmaps to high-quality vectors, then edit the vectors, then rasterize them again so that I could save them as PNG files with transparency.

Here’s the end product (it’s optimized for a dark background – the text at the top is white):

But it started like this with a 5,272 x 5,264 JPEG:

I bought that image at ShutterStock.com, and it cost me $50. I had to buy site credit, but for $50 I can download 5 pictures. So, it costs $50 or $10, depending on how you look at it. Either way, it’s a LOT more expensive than the others. But, Shutter Stock has a lot of good artwork, illustrations, and photos to choose from. And there are other more expensive sites out there as well.

Now, while I was looking for artwork, I happened across VectorStock.com where I bought most of the artwork for the Super Simple site, like the artwork for the 100% free and clean badges and the question mark. I found that the same vectors at Shutter Stock were $10.00 while Vector Stock sold them for $1.00. That’s a 10x higher price for the exact same vector art!

Here is can example:

A digital camera image at Shutter Stock that will cost $10.00:

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-21011917/stock-vector-vector-photography-icons-part.html

And $1.00 at Vector Stock:

http://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/58604-photo-and-camera-vector

It’s the exact same artwork for $1.00!

There are many more examples as well.

However, you’re not going to find all the vector artwork from one site on the other site. Shutter Stock seems to have more, though I didn’t check very hard — that’s just a soft impression. However, the digital camera artwork that I decided to go with was only available at the Vector Stock site:

Which I have used in a few places:

And the Photo Resizer loading splash screen in the bootstrapper:

And that image cost me only $1.00!

There are a lot of images at Vector Stock that are $2 or $3 or $5, but that’s still cheaper than $10. And, instead of purchasing $50 in site credit, you can purchase only $20.

Now, there are places where you can get free vector artwork, but go and look at it. It’s NOT very good. It’s quick stuff that you might use in a school project, but very little of it is suitable for professional use. Look for the use of shading and gradients and detail. If you want good artwork, you really need to pay for it. Sure you can spend 3 days searching for something free, or you can spend $1 and be done in 10 minutes.

Anyways, for those that can do some basic editing, and want to have a better look, purchasing professional vector art can be a cheap way, especially if you buy at VectorStock.com.

I hope that helps out!

Cheers,

Ryan

Turbo-Charging Robosoft with DynamicPAD (Part 4)

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in DynamicPAD, PAD, Robosoft, Software, Super Simple, Web Sites | Posted on 07-04-2011

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Well, this is the final part in how you can turn Robosoft from an 800 lb gorilla, to an 8,000 tonne fire-breathing, city-eating, raging godzilla razor-beast from hell!

Last time I exported the PhotoResizer.dat file from Robosoft, then added in the output from DynamicPAD Helper here:

Photo Resizer DynamicPAD DAT

I then saved the file, and imported it back into Robosoft.

At that point Robosoft is ready to go. However, there are 2 things left to do:

  1. Install and configure the DynamicPAD PHP script on your server.
  2. Upload the DynamicPAD DAT for your product into your new DynamicPAD server.

Step 1 is pretty simple if you are on a LAMP server. If you are on Windows though, you’ll pull out a fair amount of hair before you get it working. But more on that later (I’ve solved those problems and have a download for you so that you don’t go bald).

To install DynamicPAD, go to the DynamicPAD site here. Download the script, upload it to your server, and follow the direction to configure it properly.

It’s pretty straight forward.

If you have problems, double-check that you have your 404’s working properly. DynamicPAD relies on the fact that none of the requested files actually exist, and all 404’s are redirected to the dp.php script, which processes the URL and returns the correct information, be that a PAD file or your program’s installer file.

If you are on a Windows server in a WIMP configuration (Windows, IIS, MySQL, PHP), then the DynamicPAD file from the DynamicPAD.org site won’t work. Instead, use my fix. It removes information from the DynamicPAD file that isn’t really needed, and fixes some issues where PHP is a bit finicky under Windows.

Download DynamicPAD for Windows Servers

There is a web.config file in there, and you should probably setup the folder as an application in IIS. Make sure to edit that for the proper path.

I’ve made some modifications in DynamicPAD for myself (and to get it working properly), so you should check them. Open the dp.php file and search for “cynic.me”.

Where to edit in dp.php

Notably, I’ve deleted the “Delphi” and “OnlineShops” nodes. You can delete more if you like, or add those back in.

Do not add back in the “Robosoft” or “DynamicPAD” nodes. You can try and find out, but that’s up to you.

You may wish to change the way things are done there if you can manage to get PHP working with some of the other regular expression methods. I wouldn’t bother though as it works the way it is right now.

For both the LAMP and Windows versions, you need to configure the script in the “dp_conf.php.inc” file. It’s straight forward. (Remember to set proper 404 redirection in your web server.)

Once you’re finished there, run the install.php file to install the DynamicPAD server, then delete the install file. I’d recommend backing it up somewhere though or moving it to a secure location that isn’t public.

When you’ve got the server installed, you must then update the site list. In the DynamicPAD for Windows Servers download above, there is a “dp_conf.dat” file that contains mappings for the various download sites and their unique values. (I’ve not customized any of that, by if you are adventurous, then it’s a pretty cool way to further get DynamicPAD looking even sexier~!) In the DynamicPAD web interface, click the update link. That will update your list of sites that you need. The link reads:

Download an updated download sites list from DynamicPAD.org

FINALLY… Back in Robosoft…

On the Products tab, double-click your product to open it up for editing. Expand Product > DynamicPAD > DynamicPAD Settings and double-click on it to open it up.

Final DynamicPAD DAT Export

#1 We need to do a little cleanup, and Robosoft will automatically do that for us. So click the “Edit dynamic data” button, then click “Save”. You might want to make a minor edit of a space somewhere then save. This will fix up any extra or empty entries and prepare the lean-mean DynamicPAD info for export.

#2 Next, click the “Export” button and save your app-##########.dat file. This is the file that you will upload to your DynamicPAD’s “data” directory.

Once you have that uploaded, your DynamicPAD server is ready to go!

In your Internet browser address bar, type in “http://www.yourdomain.com/path/to/dynamicpad/pad/app-############/product-name.xml” to test it. Here’s a live example for Photo Resizer:

http://www.supersimple.me/PAD/app-00b31342c6/Photo-Resizer.xml

And an example for a specific web site:

http://www.supersimple.me/pad/app-00b31342c6/site-007310de455/photo-resizer.xml

And one with the language specified (which we didn’t bother with in any previous work, but you’ll see this anyways):

http://www.supersimple.me/pad/app-00b31342c6/site-007310de455/lng-eng/photo-resizer.xml

If those 3 styles of URLs are working for you, then everything is ready to go.

The other style is for the distributable download, and looks like “http://…snip…pad/distr/app…snip…/your-installer.exe”. That’s a tracking link for your installer, and will help you know where your downloads are coming from.

At this point, you can go back into Robosoft and begin your submissions. Everything is already configured, and you can now serve up specific information as you specified in the Excel file, and random content that was generated inside of the DynamicPAD Helper application from all the different content that you had specified in the Excel file.

So, that ends the series on how to setup DynamicPAD. It’s fairly complicated, and certainly not very straight forward, but if you follow the steps that I’ve outlined, it’s actually much easier and quicker than trying to specify specific content inside of the DynamicPAD UI in Robosoft.

I hope that helps out.

Cheers,

Ryan

Pre-Launch for Super Simple

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Software, Super Simple, Web Sites | Posted on 25-03-2011

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Super Simple - Photo ResizerI’m inviting a few people to a pre-launch viewing of Super Simple and Photo Resizer. Everything is working and ready to go. Of course I will be updating things as normal, and there are a few things that I still want to change or tweak. But overall, it’s looking good.

I suppose that there are 2 unique things about the site that set it apart from others:

  • Simplicity – It is focused on simplicity and not on massive functionality.
  • Transparency – I will be posting in-depth about the site here at Cynic.me.

So far I’ve posted a small amount about the site and software here, but not much and not in much detail. From here on in I’ll be more explicit with details about programming, marketing and philosophy.

Some things I’ll be addressing in future posts are:

  • OpenCandy and privacy issues
  • Graphics, design, and purchasing artwork
  • Revenue models and specifically ad supported software
  • Licensing components
  • Software protection
  • Automatic software updates
  • Robosoft and PAD
  • Off-site SEO

And of course other things as well. Don’t expect all of that inside of the next day or so. It will take me a while to work through those. Some topics are highly technical and will take time to get through.

In any event, I hope that Super Simple is useful, and that Photo Resizer fills that niche need to just get the job done fast for people.

Cheers,

Ryan

http://www.supersimple.me/Photo-Resizer

Internet Explorer Download Problem: “Unable to open this Internet Site”

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in .NET, Internet, Solutions to Problems, Web Sites | Posted on 07-03-2011

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Internet Explorer 7/8 throws an error when you pop a download through a meta refresh or iframe. The error message looks like this (I’ve blurred the domain as it’s not public yet):

Internet Explorer - Unable to open this Internet site

Searching around didn’t reveal anything of any particular use. Most “solutions” were for clients, which when you’re running a server, doesn’t help much.

Anyways, I decided to go back to basics, and try something really simple… Change the MIME type.

While the MIME type should be “application/octet-stream” for a binary setup file (program installer). However, simply changing it to “application/zip” fixes the problem in Internet Explorer, and popping meta refresh downloads then works.

In code (ASP.NET/C#):

// This does not work:
Response.ContentType = "application/octet-stream";
// This works:
Response.ContentType = "application/zip";

Now, I’m quite certain you could put in some other MIME type to get a popped download working, but it really doesn’t matter much whether it’s “zip” or “x-gzip” or “x-lick-me-internet-explorer”, just so long as it works.

In any event, the point is that Internet Explorer does not like “octet-stream” MIME types for popping downloads. This makes sense though as you kind of need to know a bit about what you’re doing to mess around with MIME types, and it limits the ability of spammers to distribute malware, or at least the low-level spammers that don’t really understand much more than what they read in spam forums.

I hope that helps someone avoid a bit of pain.

New Google Button

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Google, Internet, Web Sites | Posted on 01-02-2011

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There’s a new Google button that I want really badly. I know that it would be super useful for billions of people, and that everyone would finally breath a sigh of relief to see it. Here’s my $0.02 quick, sloppy mockup of what it could look like with a real search.

New Google ButtonIt’s a bit sloppy, but I’m sure you get the idea. 🙂

iDeparted – What Happens When You Die?

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Posted by Cynic | Posted in Web Sites | Posted on 01-01-2011

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A friend has just launched a new web site service that lets you securely store all your online accounts and passwords for in the event of your untimely death. iDeparted.com

What happens when you die?Here’s a quick tag from iDeparted.com:

Transfer & Deactivate Your Online Accounts After You Die.
Store & Retrieve Lost Passwords While You Are Alive.

And a quick explanation about what it is and can do for you:

iDeparted provides you with highly secure storage for your private online account information and personalized features to help you plan for the unexpected. Transfer all your online accounts to someone, Deactivate them instantly or Control each of your accounts after you pass away.

A close friend of mine died very suddenly and unexpectedly, and this would have solved a LOT of problems for his wife.

UPDATE 2011-10-04:

It looks like iDeparted has departed. It is no longer up and redirects to another site.