April 30th, 2008 by Paul Krummenacker
Extensis Technical support is trying something new. We’re trying to take computers AWAY from our support technicians.
Taking a walk through your typical technical support department is usually akin to strolling through innards of a Jawa sandcrawler from Star Wars. Support technicians can have up to 3 computers at their desks, with 2 keyboards, 2 mice, one KVM and usually a rats nest of wires underneath.
Typically they’ll have a Windows XP system, an OS 10.4 system, another running OS 10.5. We have a little farm of computers that we call ‘One Back’ that run everything from OS 9.2, to Windows 2000, OSX 10.2 along with the older versions of Extensis software. While we do have supported versions of the software, often customers will call in trying to transition from old versions to the current versions, or any number of odd situations.
In an effort to try and minimize cost, clutter, hardware and energy, we’re trying a new project. We just got a new 8 core Mac Pro with 4gb of RAM. We are using one Mac Pro to do the work of 2. By using virtualization software we’re able to have essentially a Macintosh AND a PC running at the same time, with two separate monitors, two separate keyboards, two separate mice, two network interfaces but only ONE box. We also have the ability to do a ‘snapshot’ of a configuration and then make the changes we need to test a customer setup, and quickly roll back to where things were before the test. As another benefit, we can even have the virtual PC and Mac environments interact, running a copy of Suitcase Server on one, and Suitcase Client on the other.
Our goal is that we can remove some of our computers that are older, minimize clutter and give technicians the ability to work faster and smarter using virtualization and this ability to quickly change between system configurations. While virtualization isn’t NEW, it is quite the trend lately. Now that hardware is fast enough, RAM is cheap enough and storage is a fraction of what it used to be, all the parts seem to be in place. If it all works out, we’ll be able to take our older Mac Mini’s and turn those into our ‘One Back’ farm in the corner of the library cube, further minimizing our footprint of hardware and energy use. It also has the benefit of having to purchase less equipment, thus reducing our operating costs.
As the Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, sometimes “less IS more.”
I’m sure that most of you have seen that good old optical illusion that depending upon how you look at it you see either a candlestick or two faces. Since logos are typically a selection of shapes, much like the candlestick illusion, depending upon your design decisions you can inadvertently create designs that imply things that you don’t intend.
Take for example the UK’s Office of Government Commerce who recently commissioned a redesign of their OGC logo. Unfortunately, when that type-only logo is turned on its side, some have commented that it looks like a man who is, say, “enjoying a private moment.”
So, the next time that you’re working on some graphic work, be sure to turn it sideways and upside down to make sure that you’re not inadvertently making a visual blunder.
[Thanks for the heads-up Richard. Via The Register]
In my last post I mentioned that we are in beta and humming along. Now that many people are using the product, seems like a good time to share some preliminary feedback.
The feedback below is from Fabregue one of the biggest printers in France with almost $100 million in revenue and over 100 years of experience. We asked their head of technical operations, Jérôme Guillement, for his first impressions.
“My first impression of Universal Type Server was during the preview at Intergraphic. I was very enthusiastic and at that point was eager to get involved in the beta…I could tell it would enable me to dramatically simplify the management of our workstations. Moreover, the design (UI, icons and web interface) completely broke with what I knew of Extensis up to now. That indicated a major shift, not just a minor update.
“The beta has outstanding stability- as good or better than some final software products…end-user feedback has been very positive: ease of use, user-friendliness, interface… they are aware of having taken a big step forward. Feedback from administrators is similar: web interface for administration is accessible from anywhere and is beautiful, simple and clear; the ability to manage users, groups and rights is much more flexible and complete.”
I promise to share more feedback soon.
*Many thanks to Jérôme for taking the time to share his feedback, and to Jean-Michel, our country manager in France, for passing it along.
Jonathon Yule, a freelance designer from Toronto, devised some very clever Font Bot characters using fonts like Futura and Helvetica. My personal favorite is the Akzidenz Grotesk guy to the left there; what can I say, I have a thing for snail-like creatures with buck teeth. These are very reminiscent of the Suitcase Fusion ads we created awhile back which featured people/animals made entirely of fonts. Kelly actually did a blog post on one of these ads awhile back so look here to see the ad.
In any case, be sure to check out Jonathon’s page to see more Font Bots. He even has Font Bot t-shirts!
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I’ve made the trek down south from Portland this week to attend the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. While the city itself has a bounty of interesting type use, nowhere else will you see innovative uses than at a cutting edge technology conference like the Web 2.0 Expo.
For example, here is a selection of t-shirts that many companies were giving out at the show. Perhaps my favorite is the “Supergeek” t-shirt from the AOL Dev guys. This picture doesn’t do the Etelos shirt justice, it’s an incredibly bright orange color – something to go hiking in perhaps? It would definitely keep you from getting accidentally shot.
Of course, it’s not always about typography on shirts. How about some socks?
Or perhaps on a monkey?
And, many companies were just as happy to tout their wares on a more cost effective, yet often still interesting sticker. (The long skinny one at the bottom is actually not a sticker, but a temporary tattoo.)
While I admit that not every one of these is incredibly thrilling, I actually like the extensive use of some decent sans-serif fonts. It’s no longer just Times Roman, Comic Sans and Helvetica these days.
I am a HUGE music geek so I have seen that logo over there in loads of versions-not just in previous incarnations as it has evolved over the years, but also in different colors, behind people, over people, it’s been played with quite a bit. But it always looks like Rolling Stone, and it has for more than a thousand issues over the last forty years. It turns out there’s a reason, and it is Jim Parkinson.
MyFonts.com has a monthly newsletter called Creative Characters where they interview interesting “type” folks. You can suggest people to them and subscribe to get the newsletter each month, if you so desire. Somehow I missed out on April until just this week. I cant imagine how, but it’s a really interesting read. Aside from Rolling Stone, Jim has done work for Hallmark, Esquire, and Newsweek, so even if you don’t read RS you have likely seen his work someplace.
What I liked in reading about this was finding out his process and understanding designing with type a little more-you never (ok, maybe you did, but *I* never) thought about the word “Newsweek” at the top of the cover each week as design, let alone as type design. Plus I love hearing about process when people create things, and seeing a bit of how he gets things started and having some insight into how things really get going is endlessly fascinating.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m finding that working at Extensis has made me a LOT more aware of type and how it’s used, and I’m finding all kinds of examples. It’s sort of a case of “blue car syndrome” (you start noticing blue cars and suddenly they are everywhere) but also an extension of spending all the livelong day surrounded by fonts, since my job includes supporting a font manager (and no I don’t mean my boss!).
Where have you noticed type for the first time lately? If you can’t remember, take a good look around today and come back and tell me tomorrow. Go ahead! I’ll check back and if you all have interesting things to report I will tell everyone about it next week!
For those of you living up North with an interest in font management, Extensis is coming!
Extensis product marketing manager extraordinaire, Cindy Valladares, is making the trek to Toronto next week to present two font management sessions. First, Cindy will preview the much-anticipated Universal Type Server on Tuesday April 29th at Carbon Computing. The following day she will present a font management best practices in OS X session at the InDesign Conference/Creative Suite Conference.
If you are interested in additional details, check out our press release here.
I’m in San Francisco for a conference and while strolling down market street, it struck me that in a great city like this one is always surrounded by typography – both good and well, not so good. Here are a number of samples that I discovered while walking down seven blocks of Market Street – with no judgments whatsoever.
Our lounge is ready for it’s close up. Yup, the Financial Times covered the Extensis Lounge in a story about the spaces that companies make available to their employees.
Typically our lounge is used when people want a few minutes away from their desk to relax. And while it’s a tempting destination to to spend the entire day, it’s typically used for birthday parties, employment anniversary parties, and as a place to wind down at the end of a long day. Heck, and with our current push to create the best server-based font management product, we don’t have much time to chill anyway!
Now if only I were a more skilled foosball player.
April 21st, 2008 by Jim Kidwell
Seems like everyone around here is talking about our forthcoming product release that’s sure to take the font management world by storm, Universal Type Server. We’re all very excited, and since we’re not able to talk to each and every one of you out there, I thought that we should bring some of our crew to you. I recently was able to pry one of the talented software engineers away from his bug fixing duties to chat for a few minutes about software development, Universal Type Server, and how all things engineering are put together at Extensis.
Thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us Lucien!