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Photobook – Review of Saal Digital

About 3 weeks ago I replied to an Instagram post by Saal Digital that offered £25 voucher off printing if you did a product review for them so long as you wrote a review of the product once received. So here it is.

I only had about a week or so to put together a book (the voucher only valid for 14 days), and being on holiday I relied on all the images I wanted to use all being in my Flickr account. As ever I decided (not for the first time) to create a book of black and white images, and titled it “Monochrome One”. Not to be confused with “Mono One” that is available through Blurb.

The Software

Images selected and downloaded onto the Mac I then downloaded the book building software. I previously used Blurbs equivalent software and there are similarities but I have to say that I found Saal’s software very easy to pick up and start putting together the book. Images auto-aligned nicely, resized to similar dimensions as nearby photos on the same or opposite pages. I put the whole thing together relatively quickly, in part because I only had 32 pages and I was generally keeping to 1 image per page. I’d chosen to make the book a landscape format (28 x 19 cm) on matt finish paper, and on at least one page, laid a single image across both as a centerfold (of a beach, nothing more existing than that I’m afraid).

My only criticism was the choice of fonts which was broad but far too many nasty, comedy fonts and not early enough choice of sensible, grown up fonts like Georgia, Gill Sans, Perpetua, Helvetica and so on.

Anyway, job done I clicked a few buttons and off it went to get printed (in Germany I think) plus a few extra quid for some additional pages (and postage costs).

The Product

And yesterday it arrived (barely a week after I’d placed the order so extra stars for a fast turn around). I have to say that I was very impressed, the book just felt like quality before I’d even opened it – a good weight, nice feel to it, and the cover that I’d designed to be black, with white (and pale blue) lettering and a photo on the right edge, looked good. Really good.

Opening up things just got better. The paper was really heavy, practically card, but most importantly, the images look superb. The contrast was deep – blacks were black, whites, white – matt finish worked well for this. Of the tinted and split tone images the colour was accurate.

The resolution was very good too – fine details as good as I’ve seen in any print.

My only wish was that there was a way to sell this online in the way that Blurb have a digital version you can have as a shop front. I have one copy of Monochrome One and if anyone wants one they’ll have to email and I’ll order it again and send it on and get payment by cheque or something. This isn’t what this service is for – this is a way to produce a high quality book for your own enjoyment, for showcasing, portfolio, or whatever. Given the quality I was say Saal Digital provide pretty good value for money too.


So will I use Saal for Monochrome Two? Yes I would expect so (I’ll have to start saving up now).

For more info see and get a £15 welcome voucher…
http://www.saal-digital.co.uk/photobooks

@SaalDigitaluk #saaldigitaluk

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The overlap of 3 or 4

An interesting article I read in LinkedIn (well a Slideshare) that showed how UI is just a part of UX. What I also noticed was how many of the non-UI activities in UX looked rather like business analysis activities. Here’s an article by a BA who has a nice couple of figures showing how UX and BA activities overlap: The BA-UX Continuum. You could argue that project management would blend of the BA role – purists might disagree but the reality in smaller teams is that BAs and PMs do.

UA-UX-BA-PM

UI > UX > BA > PM. Not sure I understand this completely but try it.

Just to update, BA course, second module, Requirements Engineering: 83% and bagged! Probably the PM module next, but not until September I think.

 

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BAP in the bag

Step 1 (of 5) to get Diploma in Business Analysis (that will take about a year to complete in all) – done: I now have BCS Certificate in Business Analysis Practice.

Tomorrow is Step 2 exam – BCS Certificate in Requirements Engineering.

Meanwhile, working on a revamp of ZingCOBOL (now about 15 years old) – so installed Drupal and starting to transfer content across (while learning how to use Drupal):

http://cobol.404i.com

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Getting tricky now, but if it works….!

I’ve been tweaking and fiddling with Xeream (still on my local environment) and thought I should at least have a go at plugging in the Twitter API to allow users to post tweets from the, and to list a search of the appropriate hash tag. So I installed TweetSharp into the project (which appears to be updated for Twitter’s 1.1 API). So it sort of works, but doesn’t (gave a stack overflow error). I’m thinking this may be an authentication issue as the API call is coming from a http://localhost/ address but the application is set up to call from 404i.com (which it will do eventually).

With that in mind then I thinking, time to move to host that has 4.5 framework – and I think I’ll do it in the next few days (get Xmas out of the way first). Most likely going to go with HostForLIFE.eu – the reviews look good and is at the right budget.

Meantime, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Xeream done: all wrapped up and no place to go

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks and on my laptop I’ve developed the tweet chat/discussion web site Xeream. Lots of Bootstrap and jQuery and a little code in the background and it’s all ready. I was all set to get it live  on 404i.com when I stumbled into a small problem – my hosting account is .Net 4.0 framework but Xeream requires 4.5. Oh dear. I may have to wait until January to get a new host, or alternatively I can persuade my work to put this onto one of our cloud servers.

In the meantime, here’s a Prezi thrown together as a “How to guide” as a preview.

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Xeream – Fun with Bootstrap and JQuery

I mentioned a while back how I wanted to get going with MVC – sadly not far after the Hello World app was put together I moved onto the next part of the MVC ebook and found myself facing reams of code that was going to take quite a lot more time than I had available to understand and hope to become proficient in. I hope I’ve done enough to understand the principles behind MVC at least.

Meanwhile, what I did need to get better acquainted with with Responsive Design and using Javascript libraries. I had a site that I wanted to build using standard .net web forms (no longer using MVC as my original intention) but I wanted to use Bootstrap as the design framework, and throw in what ever handy javascript plugin bells and whistles come to hand.

Introducing the project: Xeream

So what to build? Well at a medical education conference in the Summer (IAMSE 2013, St. Andrews) I attended an interesting presentation/demo about how the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BJOG) were trying out Twitter-based journal clubs* to discuss a recently (or soon to be published) scientific paper. This is not necessarily something new and TweetChat have been doing this type of thing for quite a while. However, it seemed like there wasn’t a simple way of organising an upcoming event where additional materials and any initial discussion could be provided for potential participants. Tweetchat does provided scheduling facilities though didn’t find them particularly easy to use, and the option for additional resources not obvious.

So, using a made up word (Xeream) I decided to create a very simple solution to this. In a nutshell, create an account, create an Event (title, summary, description, hash tag, links to resources, and start and end date and time) and that’s about it. When the event is complete then the resource can be added to by Storifying the Twitter discussion the had ensued.

A simple (Jumbotron) Bootstrap template was used and immediately the site has responsive design. Shrink the browser window and the menu changes, images shrink, 3 column format becomes a single column. For the bells and whistles, date picker, time picker, hash tag copy to clip board (with whizzy text animation as you see with Bit.ly copy button), keyword styling as you type… All this done using mainly JQuery plugins.

Some things on the To Do list include Add Event to my Outlook calendar, OpenAuth sign on using Twitter log in which would allow for the twittering to happen within a Xeream page, and possible and email invites facility.

If it was to be monetised then perhaps the option to brand an event, e.g. with a journal’s logo. Just a thought…. It assumes that this would get some use, a tall order when it’s up against Tweetchat. The value has mostly been to me and what I’ve learned along the way.

I hope to get this online to demo quite soon and see if it rolls.

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