In praise of PagePlus X9

PagePlus X9 turns out to have sufficient functionality in layout design to replace InDesign CS3. (See the prior post “Migration” for why I have to change).

PagePlus is a product of Serif, a long-time competitor to Adobe. The Plus line of software is no longer in active development but licenses are still available – PagePlus is $25 from Serif directly, or a bit less in DVD form on Amazon.

Down the road a bit, the company expects to have a more full-featured layout package (Affinity Publisher)… but it’s been pushed back several times. I think the main development effort is in their Photoshop replacement software.

As to PagePlus, so far it’s worked fine for the four-to-eight page layouts I routinely need; shortly I’ll test it on a longer project.


A word on doing work for “exposure:”


That’s it, just say NO.

If the work is sufficiently complex to require special skills (yours) then it’s of sufficient value to the client to get paid.

I recently went through this dance. A prospect got in touch via email (referral from various sources), then we did some phone tag, several conference calls, a ream or more of additional email, and then a meeting was arranged.

For me, it was a two-hour drive early in the morning (I’m a night owl) to a breakfast meeting in a diner. Got there, and things started downhill almost immediately. The client principal wasn’t in attendance even though she would have to approve any ‘deal.’ The talk quickly turned to my doing this for ‘exposure’ (sorry, No); then well “you do the design and if we like the design then you can bid on the job and if you’re the winner you get paid after the job is all done.”


Not playing that game… time to leave. They wanted a ‘ball-park’ figure; I gave them one, and then added that it would of necessity be much higher should they return in a few months – disgruntled people are much more difficult clients. When they told me it wasn’t likely, I wished them success – with all those other consultants they’d tracked down for this sort of work.

My exit was made in silence, at least from that group. I expect they’ll be back, and my answer will, for them, always be NO.

End result – I think I’m going to have to start charging for prospect meetings, especially if the prospect isn’t used to dealing with custom software.

You can’t please ’em all…

…and I certainly was reminded of that with the refresh on the main site.

Newer acquaintances and most current clients like the new mobile-friendly layout.

Oldtimers prefer the old bare-bones effort.


Change is hard.

But necessary.


Updating the homepage

It finally was time — time to update the main site (homepage) of, to make it mobile-friendly and modern.

When I started with the Internet the whole idea of a small consultancy having its own outpost on the web was avant-garde – I registered in October 1995 and went live immediately, and in the summer of 1997 brought the hosting in-house, where it remains to this day.

The main site exists mostly as a tool repository – only about a dozen pages were ever in the ‘official’ linkage and there are dozens of pages reachable only by typing in the URLs directly… or from offsite links.¹ Keeping the main page updated hasn’t been a priority.

Then one fine January morning a note popped in on email – Google was going to start lowering my page scores because the site was not “mobile-friendly.” Ahem. Something must be done. And now, it is.

Expect to see various changes in the site layout and background photos as I experiment with what works best, but for now, there’s a new site out there. And it looks far better than the old.

¹ After examining the logs it’s clear there are only three of the ‘hidden’ pages still being accessed – so after a bit of legerdemain with mod_rewrite those items are now restored.


Ink-stained rant

One of the tasks tonight was printing out student work; it needs to be printed so I can grade it and hand it back. Nowadays most students won’t print their own work… usually, I think, from the cost involved.

The big cost is ink. My usual printer for everyday use is a worn Epson Stylus C-120. It uses four colors but five cartridges -doubling up on black – and if I were to use Epson-brand ink, the cost for one set of cartridges would be about  $60. Each cartridge holds 12 ml of ink – thus Epson ink costs $1,000 per liter, or a bit less than $4,000 to the gallon. And you thought gasoline was high-priced?

I don’t use Epson inks. I print way too much to go that route.

For the first couple of years I used a CISS – Continuous Ink Supply System. This is a set of 5 cartridges with tubing which loops outside the printer to a set of tanks holding bulk ink. The cost of the CISS was $35 – for 100 ml of ink in each tank! Re-inking costs were about $30 per 500ml – far less than name-brand.

CISS systems expect to be used, a lot. Daily works best. Otherwise the inks slowly draw back down the supply lines into the tank. If the time between use is too great, the inks may clot up a bit at the feed end of the tanks… at which point it’s easier to pull the system out and replace it rather than fix it. Been there, done that. These inks are dye-based and not particularly stable, but work just fine for daily print work (mostly text).

For now, I’m using generic dye-filled cartridges bought on Amazon – the vendor name changes with each purchase, but on average I’m paying $1.25 per cartridge… everything is working fine, except the ‘status’ messages from the Epson printer driver software.

Epson’s printer drivers give a visual depiction of remaining ink; and a warning pop-up when the capacity is ‘low.’ What I’m finding out is that ‘low’ is… a marketing ploy as opposed to any sort of reality. Two days ago I got the pop-up, urging me to buy ink as I was ‘low’ on black. Earlier tonight when I started to print, the indicator was at the bottom, indicating imminent emptiness – or so it seemed. Two hundred and four pages later, the indicator is still at the bottom… and the black ink is still printing nice and strong.

Tsk tsk tsk.


Dear web-design fiends:

Please check spelling and use the appropriate words when putting up your portfolio sights… if you want future work.

It happened again. In the course of my work, I’ll run across a small business or non-profit in desperate need of a website refresh. I then refer the business to a former student (many of whom have completed web-development classes), and both are happy.

But not this time… because of a simple spelling error. Actually, the word is correctly spelled, but it’s the wrong word – “bare with me” is not the same as “bear with me” – and given the basic purpose of a website is to communicate – it’s a major failing.

Quality has to extend to all the parts… or what’s the point?


Carolina [cable] hospitality

One of the tasks to carry out during my three week sojourn in NC this spring was to fix up the problems with TV/Telephone/Internet Access at the beach house.

Our family beach house is a condominium – ostensibly the complex provides cable TV and Internet, but the Internet is shared-access wifi with the rest of the complex, and we prefer dedicated access. For years that meant dealing with CenturyLink – a telephone company so bad it changes its name every few years in a futile attempt to regain credibility.

Of late, though, the incumbent cable carrier has made a play for business, and thus my parents decided to change over to Time Warner Cable (Eastern Carolina division). They ordered the service while they were in temporary quarters (the condo was being repaired from 2011 hurricane damage).

The telephone port worked fine… they had no idea how to work the set-top box… and the goofball contract installer couldn’t leave well  enough alone on the router and reset it back to factory default.

And by the time I arrived, while it was working, we had not seen an invoice for service.

So I initially went on-line to figure out where the issues were, and ran into a problem – I couldn’t get in, because the billing system is separate from all the other systems – and it needed the account number, which I didn’t have (no invoice yet!) and wanted the phone number. I put in the phone number for the unit – no dice. Put in the NJ home phone. No go. Put in my personal and then business line numbers. Still nothing (we’ve had all these numbers at least 15 years). Finally tried the phone number from the temporary quarters – and that worked!

So I got in that far, but couldn’t change the phone number… and found security was based on “last 4 digits of the subscriber SSN” – which didn’t match either parent’s SSN, apparently. And of course  TWC also wanted a “customer code” which was on the missing invoice.

Thus it meant heading off to Newport to the cable office.

…and after a 30-minute drive, finding a line to stand in, and eventually getting to two agents who worked diligently for about 40 minutes to fix all the problems in the billing. Turns out the contract installer decided to “correct” the information in the work order and screw things up. (Somewhere,  a village is missing its idiot.)

Now we know the account number; have set up payment methods, turned off pay-per-view and international calling for the summer rental crowd (no more calls to India or Singapore), and even negotiated a better rate for the service.

The office agents were competent and thorough – far superior to telephone and online agents. At least cable systems have actual staffed offices where you can get things done; the supposedly superior telephone companies do not (union labor made that too expensive years ago).

I reset the router back to our normal setup, after booting off the leeches… and finally all is well.

And two days later it was time to pack up and come home (to NJ).

Wonder if any of it will work properly in the fall.