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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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    Apple is tracking ME?!? Should I be worried or flattered?

    Friday, April 22nd, 2011

    I read an article yesterday, which led me to read more articles yesterday, about the tracking device inside the iPhones and iPads. I think the most informative one is here on WebProNews.

    According to the articles, the new OS4 software creates a file which tracks where you’ve been and then syncs it to your computer as in unencrypted file that anyone can get to.

    Really? I gotta try this.

    There is a free app named “iPhone Tracker” which you can quickly download and install on your Mac. Upon launch, the app finds this file and creates a map of the globe and shows where you’ve been.

    I could see right away that it only tracks cell traffic, not WIFI, as none of my international stops in the last three months were showing.

    As you can see, all that’s showing is a bunch of travel in the Midwest United States…so I zoomed in.

    I found it interesting how it wasn’t showing locations where I know I have been and know I used the 3G function on my iPad.

    In the last three weeks I’ve spoken in Saratoga Springs, NY at the New York Press Association Convention and in Norfolk, VA for the Virginia Press Association Convention. Neither are showing as spots where I’ve been, although you can see my trip from Nashville to Bowling Green, KY with multiple dots along the way between them.

    If I zoom in on the Midwest, where I live a lot of the time, you’ll see a lot of traffic between Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Kansas City. But along the way are dots in cities I’ve never been and no dots in cities where I know I’ve spent a few days. Lamar, MO, for example, doesn’t have a dot anywhere near it, yet I was there for two days in the past three weeks.

    It’s obvious that the tracking device only picks the tower nearest, but I would think there would be other towers along the way to show a real path…towers closer to the route than what it does.

    Look at Joplin, MO, for example. I NEVER stop in Joplin, MO (we’ll save those stories for another time). Yet if you look at the map of Joplin, it would appear I’ve been there a lot…and all over town.

    When I go through Joplin I always stay on I-44 East to US-71N. You can see my only route in red. And yet look at all the dots which would imply I’ve been elsewhere…and notice they are very much on a grid pattern. But further north, in Carthage, nothing…and there’s nothing on the map until Kansas City.

    So what does this mean? I don’t know, I just had fun playing with it.

    But it does make you think a bit, I hope. What DOES this mean? Is Apple using it to pick new locations for stores based on iPhone and iPad usage? If so, you have to chalk it up as one brilliant tool for market research by a company. Can you imagine tracking devices in Nike Shoes to see where there is a huge clientele that doesn’t have a local store to serve them? What about…well…any product that has stores in major cities and is wanting to branch out. Tracking devices in GAP clothes, Oakley Sunglasses, etc? Brilliant. I don’t know that it’s legal, but it does sound like a marketer’s dream.

    Forget marketing for a second…what about just the idea of easily being tracked? Okay, there’s the obvious question “what if I bought my kids iPhones…could I use this to get a general idea of where they’ve been?” Yes…a general idea, based on my personal maps. “Could I track employees, spouses…uh…anyone?” Yes, if they have these devices and you have access to the computer they are syncing to (which is required by Apple for the devices to work) and have the rights to load the software.

    So with this thought, my kids could come home, sync their iPhones and go to sleep…then I could spy. Or check on my employees at lunch break.

    I’m a little uncomfortable with this.

    What about law enforcement and other entities that might want to “spy” or “check up” on us.

    I was chatting with a friend about this an she said “What if you were in a town discussing a secret business deal with the only company in that area and there was a crime committed somewhere in that town and because of this information you became a suspect? Now you’re on the front page of the paper as a suspect, and even though you’re innocent, your business deal becomes public.”

    If you want fodder for some deep discussion tonight over dinner with friends, bring this up. And if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with 3G download the app and check it out for yourself.

    At the very least, I don’t think this can be ignored. Thanks to Senator Al Franken for sending the letter to Apple requesting more information and let’s hope we get some real answers to this. Also thanks to Senator Al Franken for Stuart Smalley.

    Let’s start this discussion right here. What does your map show and what do you think about all this? Is it a real concern or just hype that will pass tomorrow?

    I’ve been busy…

    Thursday, April 21st, 2011

    To say I’ve been a slacker with regards to updating my blog would be an understatement…It’s been a couple of years. Yea…a couple of years.

    And nobody has said anything…nobody. So I’m thinking nobody reads what I write so what’s the rush.

    Well, last year I spoke in Kentucky twice, and both times someone made a point of asking me why it’s been so long since I’ve updated my blog. One guy in Georgetown asked me, in front of a room full of people “Why are you such a lazy slacker…is it ’cause yer a Yank?” Okay…he didn’t say that. He didn’t say anything close to that. But he did ask me in front of a room full of 100 students why I don’t keep my blog current.

    Well…I’ve been busy.

    If you looked at my passport and the miles I’ve logged in the last two years you might understand. I travel so much I’m keeping a list of countries where I’ve eaten pizza. Seriously. And it’s getting longer all the time.

    I’ve been busy speaking at conferences, onsite training, webinars and more. I’ve also been busy working with Walsworth Publishing to help high school students in Europe learn Creative Suite to create better yearbooks. Sometimes I think I’m more comfortable on trains and planes than in my own home.

    I travel everywhere with a camera and sometimes I take the time to get some shots. Sometimes I’m just too tired from chasing trains, finding hotels, speaking, trains, taxis, pizza, planes, pizza. I think traveling internationally would be a lot easier if beef jerky were more globally available. C’mon…you can get Starbucks in Istanbul, but not beef jerky. There’s something terribly wrong there. I saw a Baskin & Robbins and a TGI Friday’s in St. Petersburg, Russia…but no jerky. And you can’t take that stuff with you, really…customs frowns on that.

    In the last year I’ve made several videos, two for Adobe’s Learn by Video series (InDesign and Illustrator) and three for Video2Brain.

    If you’ve never done videos, it’s a lot like being in prison…with a microphone. You sit in a cell with gray walls all around and you talk. And talk. And talk. And they slide food under the door to you. After a couple of days you’re hoping Johnny Cash will show up and do a show for you and the boys. If you’re good, and finish up on time, you get released. Getting reintegrated with the outside world is tough, even just adjusting to the light takes hours.

    What’s also kept me very busy has been the development and launch of my new company and product, Atomic News Tools. The website is pretty bare right now, but you can see videos of how the product works. In short, you populate your website directly from InDesign so as you build your newspaper, magazine, newsletter, etc., you can quickly upload stories to the pages you want. You can also build ads and upload from InDesign.

    So to avoid any risk of hurting myself with my first blog article in two years, I’ll keep this short. In my defense it HAS been a very busy couple of years for technology, too. IPads, Creative Suite releases and more are keeping me very busy.

    In closing I’d like to thank my only two readers, who both happen to live in Kentucky. If there are more than two readers out there, and you’re one of them, let me know. You can find me here by leaving a comment, I’m on Facebook, I Twitter, I Skype, I iChat, I SMS, I have email and I still receive letters from the United States Postal Service. I’m also willing to pick up the phone if you catch me during normal business hours (Monday from 1 pm to 1:20 pm).

    Seriously, I love working with people in the design and publishing industry and I’m sorry I’ve been such a slacker…I promise I’ll be more prompt in my posts (than once every two years).


    Becoming a Part Time Vegetarian

    Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

    It’s not easy becoming a Part Time Vegetarian…but it’s a heck of a lot easier than becoming a Full Time Vegetarian.

    The concept came to me in a dream. I imagined I was an FTV (Full Time Vegetarian) and I was in Kansas City. Some friends suggested we go get a Z Man from Oklahoma Joe’s. For those who have never been fortunate enough to go to OKJ’s, it’s a brisket sandwich with an onion ring and provolone cheese melted on top. I have mine on Texas Toast, thus making it what I call the R Man.

    So in my dream, as an FTV, I had to ask my friends “Does OKJ’s have any vegetarian dishes?” At which point they beat me to death with golf clubs.

    I awoke in a sweat, screaming and covering my head.

    Then it hit me! “What if I was just a Part Time Vegetarian (PTV)? What if I ate vegetarian dishes for those meals that I don’t really care about, like drive-thru burgers from chain restaurants, etc. and saved my carnivorous desires for more select moments?”


    So I started slowly. I ordered my Burrito Bowl from Chipotle sans carcass. Delish. I ordered a salad one day, sans mammals. It was fine. I ordered Chinese without either canine or feline. I didn’t miss it.

    So now I’m a Full Time PTV.

    For example, on Sunday the fam wanted to enjoy Stroud’s for lunch. I had the Chicken Fried Steak, Mashed Potatoes & two litres of Gravy over all of it…guilt free. Every meal since has been vegetarian. If I get a hankering for dead animal carcass, I get it, unless I have these desires for every meal.

    What’s the benefit so far? None. Haven’t felt a thing. Haven’t lost a pound or added a glow to my skin. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

    If there is one benefit it would be that I have broken a habit. I don’t eat meat “just because” any more. I eat it when I want it.

    Time will tell. I’ve been a PTV for a few weeks now and I do see changes in my behavior. I shop differently and I seek restaurants where they have PTV options on the menu. Make a point of asking for the PTV menu when you dine, except at Truck Stops.

    Give it a shot and report back to the group.

    I have started a Facebook Group as a sort of online support center for those wanting to begin the journey towards Full Time PTVism. Check it out at

    Keep us posted on your successes and failures so we can all grow together.

    The Music of Christmas

    Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

    As a rule, I like Christmas music.

    I think it recycles itself well, coming around once a year, like an old friend dropping by to visit for awhile. Often, when hearing a certain tune, I’ll flashback to great Christmas memories with family or friends.

    Some songs, however, are more like that annoying uncle who you wish would forget where you live. Twelve Days of Christmas, for example, is just 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall for Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. Other songs are so over played, that I’ll skip them this year, if I can.

    Here is my short list of what’s been playing on my iPod this Christmas:

    Jingle All The Way by the Crash Test Dummies is a nice retreat from the typical seasonal music. Their version of Jingle Bells makes the record, as it’s done in a dark, Russian music style with lead singer Brad Roberts going deeper than usual. My younger boys said it sounds like he’s “farting” the vocals. On a second listen, I almost have to agree…but it’s a great tune, flatulence or not. Their version of The Little Drummer Boy is a treat, as well.

    For the Space Age Pop lovers in the room, you can’t go wrong with Esquivel’s Merry X-Mas from the Space Age Bachelor Pad. The opening number, Jingle Bells, with his welcome is great and the CD is fun. If there is a negative, it’s that he didn’t go crazy enough. I like his style and I like it especially when he pushes the envelope a little, like you hear on his other albums. A little vanilla at times, but it’s still a lot of fun.

    The prize for best version of The Little Drummer Boy goes, of course, to Ringo. How cool is it that a real drummer sings The Little Drummer Boy…and really drums along…and I mean REALLY drums along. This isn’t just perump-a-pum-pum. Ringo goes crazy on the skins and makes this one of the top songs I’ve listened to this year. And it’s Ringo. I grabbed this CD off iTunes.

    If you are a Warren Zevon fan, and were sad at his passing, try to get hold of his covers of Ave Maria and The Christmas Song. I grabbed them off eMusic from an album named Christmas Moods by Michael Wolff. You’ll see the title of the song, then feat. Warren Zevon in parenthesis. Great find.

    I’ve been giving the Jethro Tull Christmas Album a lot of action, too. I just love it. Listening to Ian Anderson tear up the flute on God Rest Ye Merry Gentemen and others…great stuff.

    One CD that has stayed fresh with me for many years is Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas. A nice mix of standards and original material, I’ve played this every year for, oh I don’t know, maybe 15 plus years…and I still rank it high among my favorites.

    Another hard find that I enjoy every year, but it drives my family crazy, is Tom Waits’ cover of Silent Night. Very dark, but very Tom. I’m a big Tom Waits fan, so maybe I’m not objective on this one. I’ve got all of his CDs, seen all of his movies, have a large collection of covers of his music…so I’ll give you this as a warning. You may just hate it…but I love it every year.

    Other oft-spun CDs this year include Leon Redbone’s Christmas Island, with a great cover of Frosty the Snow Man with Leon and Dr. John, Barenaked Ladies’ Barenaked for the Holidays and Shirim’s Klezmer Nutcracker.

    Notable singles include Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews’ version of Baby It’s Cold Outside, Gesu Bamino by Joan Osborne and Luciano Pavarotti and Steve Earl’s Nothing But a Child with Emmylou Harris (who, by the way, has a very good Christmas Album of her own titled Light of the Stable).

    So what are the most listened to song on my iPod this season? I Believe in Father Christmas, by Greg Lake from his Live album, Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby and, the most listened to…El Niño, by Willie Nelson from his Christmas With Willie Nelson CD (and his sister backing him up on piano).

    After Christmas, I religiously pack away the holiday tunes until the next year…I don’t want them to wear on my like old friends who come to visit and stay on too long.

    Bad Waitress Story II

    Friday, November 14th, 2008

    Last night in Moscow I on my way to a customer visit with large Russian daily newspaper with my Adobe friend Roman Menyakin…and we were hungry.
    Because of traffic, we wanted to get to the customer’s office so we knew we could make it on time.
    We arrived an hour early, enough time to grab something at the only restaurant around, Jack Rabbit Slim’s.
    Decent place…Elvis playing in the background. They made us check our coats at the door as it’s a rule: “No Overcoats Allowed.” I don’t profess to understand the reason a person wouldn’t be allowed to take their coat in, it certainly wasn’t because it would cheapen the atmosphere here at Slim’s.
    So we check our coats and grab a table upstairs.
    I could have ordered Mexican food, but I’ve always had a little unwritten rule in my life not to eat Mexican food prepared by Russians. There’s no logic to this and it’s certainly nothing against Russians, or their ability to make enchiladas…it’s just a little rule I have followed and it hasn’t failed me, yet.
    I’m not a big steak guy, but we ordered steaks. I told Roman I would like mine medium-rare. So he starts to explain this to the waitress.
    They don’t have that, he tells me. They only have three levels: rare, medium, well-done. Roman tries to explain, and even demonstrate, that we would like our steaks between medium and well-done.
    Nope. Can’t do that. Pick one of the three.
    “Whatever,” I said.
    We had also ordered a nice cream of mushroom soup. When it arrived, we were each given a small bowl with a few croutons in it. Roman wanted more and asked about it.
    “No,” she said. “I can’t give you more.” (all in Russian, of course)
    “I will pay for them,” Roman told her.
    “I would not know how to do that for you…you can’t have any more,” she replied.
    So I threw my croutons in his bowl and I used the bread on the table, instead.
    I certainly don’t want to get into a pissing match with a Russian waitress at Jack Rabbit Slim’s in Moscow…another little unwritten rule I live by…and it’s served me well so far.

    On The Road with my Hot Tamales

    Friday, November 14th, 2008

    About a month ago my good buddy Brent Niemuth visited me in Bregenz, Austria with a big box of Hot Tamales. Good stuff.
    So I took them with me on our Beatles tour trip to Liverpool and London. They also joined me on trips to Warsaw, Istanbul, Winchester, Brussels, Zurich and Amsterdam.
    As my wife was packing for my trip to Prague, she asked me if my Hot Tamales needed to join me on this trip, too.
    “Of course,” I answered.
    So now I’m packing my things getting ready to leave Moscow and I notice I still have a few left over. I guess they get to join me in Kiev and St. Petersburg next week.
    If I’m careful, I can even have them join me in Nice, France and then Warsaw again the following week.

    Dynamic Spelling is Watching You

    Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

    Yesterday I was doing an InDesign demonstration for some newspapers and magazines in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. A block away from the hotel I was speaking at is an old Kremlin, with its huge walls surrounding the government offices, churches and commons areas.

    As I was going along, a woman in the audience asked if it was possible to have InDesign highlight any words that were spelled incorrectly.

    “Of course,” I told her, and proceeded to demonstrate InDesign’s Dynamic Spelling. I showed her how to turn it on by choosing Edit> Spelling> Dynamic Spelling and how it underlines in red any misspelled words.

    I also showed how if you see a misspelled word underlined, you can right click, or ctrl + click (Mac) on the word and it will pop up a list of alternate spellings or you can add it to your dictionary and it won’t be a typo anymore.

    I was demonstrating on a document I have used for years that highlights the words RGB, CMYK and two words without a space. So I proceeded to right click on one of the words to show the list of possibilities InDesign offers.

    Well as I right clicked on RGB, up popped a nice long list of choices and right there, between rub and rib was the KGB.

    Cold Peas

    Thursday, October 9th, 2008

    I was in London with my good buddy Brent ending out a two-day Beatles tour when we stopped for dinner at some British Pub that serves food.

    We were hoping to grab a quick bite before seeing Wicked at the theatre across the street.

    So the waitress talks us into some chicken pot pie type of traditional dish with mashed potatoes and peas on the side…and a Coke.

    We were starving, as I think we had walked 237 miles that day seeing all the stuff American tourists are required, by law, to see.

    So my food comes and I dive into the peas. I can’t tell you why I started with the peas, I just did. And they were cold. Not just “sitting around the kitchen too long on the plate” cold, but “just pulled out of the fridge and thrown on the plate” cold.

    Our nice British waitress comes to our table and asks “Is everything okay?”

    “Well,” I answer, needing to find out if the peas are supposed to be cold, “I have a question for you. Is it customary in London to serve the peas cold?”

    She answered “I have no idea.”

    I didn’t know what to say. I was thinking “Hmmm…you’re British…you grew up here and probably have eaten a bushel of peas in your life…you work in a restaurant that serves peas with every meal…who would be a better authority in this restaurant than you to inform me of the customary preparation of peas for a meal?”

    And then she asks me “Is everything alright, then?”

    “It’s great,” both Brent and I answered…then we ate our cold peas and saw Wicked.

    Toilet Talk

    Monday, September 8th, 2008

    I was walking into a public restroom somewhere, maybe one of those mega department stores, I don’t remember. Anyway, as I turned the corner to enter, I saw a large industrial roll of toilet paper drop from behind the stall and begin rolling across the floor toward me, leaving a trail of paper along the way.
    Maybe I was in a restaurant…
    After rolling about five meters and stopping on my shoe, I heard the voice of a young boy behind the stall say “Oooooh…that’s not good.”
    I rolled the paper back under the stall to him, thus saving his life.
    He thanked me through the wall.

    Well if they can do all that…

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

    The other day, here in my little town in Austria, we went to see Grease, Der Musical. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I assumed the show would be in German. Since I don’t speak German I don’t know how to say greased lightning or you’re the one that I want, but I was pretty sure I could recognize the tunes.
    So we went.
    Much to my surprise, the opening number was a language I recognized…English. Wow, I thought, this will be the first show I’ve ever seen over here where I would know what was going on. So far I’ve seen AIDA and Der Troubadour in German and I’m still not totally clear on those plots. I’ve seen some movies, too, and I think I need to see them again in English to really understand them.
    So I’m tapping my foot along with Doo-wop-a-doo when, all of a sudden, out of the blue, there was a language switch and I was lost again. That’s right, they sang the songs in English and spoke the lines in German. What a mess for a unilingual, like myself.
    At intermission my son asked me if I thought they were from England or the United States. I told him I didn’t have a clue but it sounded like they were from Germany to me.
    “Nope,” he informed me, “they speak it with a heavy accent.”
    “You don’t have a heavy accent?” I asked my very American little boy.
    “Nope,” he informed me with great confidence.
    So we headed out to the lobby and some of the actors were selling programs. We approached them and asked if they were English or American.
    It seems strange that with all the English speaking countries in the world we only offer two choices. Then, when a third is offered by the questionee you feel stupid for not thinking of the other options.
    “Well, actually,” he informed us, “we’re Canadian.” Why didn’t we think of that?
    “Sorry,” we offered with embarrassment, but I don’t think it mattered. Luckily Canadians are a nice lot and I don’t think it ruined his day.
    So during the second half my mind wandered away from the show, which is easy to do when you don’t understand the language that is spoken. Oh, I know the general plot since I’ve seen the movie, but it still gives a person lots of time between songs for the mind to drift away to thoughts in a more understandable language.
    My thoughts ended up landing on this: “if they can be Canadian, speak perfect English, dance like Broadway stars, sing in perfect English, look cool and speak what I thought was perfect German, I can certainly learn how to master electronic media.
    Yea…that’s what I was thinking about while Rizzo was thinking she might be pregnant.
    I was thinking about how many of us who are so comfortable with print production are afraid, not interested or too busy to make the leap over to the growing world of electronic media…websites, video, multi-media presentations or even ads for cell phones.
    I’m concerned that many print production geniuses will eventually lose business to less print savvy freelancers who are adept at creating work that is truly crossmedia.
    I believe the day is here, or very close, where the customers are going to want one source for everything, instead of working with two or three different agencies to meet the needs of both electronic and print media.
    And if that’s the trend for the hired guns, it won’t be long before employers demand more from the workforce. Just as years ago you didn’t have to know layout to write, photo manipulation to layout or page layout if you were a photographer, but now you do. It won’t be long before employers expect a print-minded graphic artist to also build the website. Some are already feeling this.
    Now is as good of a time as any to get started.
    As I look at what Adobe’s doing with CS3, it seems they are really trying to help us with the transition. They have done a good job of integrating the different worlds together, so as we veer into uncharted territory, there is some familiar ground on which to walk.
    A good example of this is Bridge. If you’ve never used Bridge, I suggest you start. It is shared by so many of the applications that it can almost be your home base. And even if you don’t know all the programs in the new Adobe world that well, if you poke around a little you might find what you’re looking for in the Bridge.
    For example, I got an email awhile back from someone who wanted to use Illustrator’s Live Trace function on a bunch of progressive video frames to created a hand-drawn video cartoon affect. They didn’t know Illustrator and didn’t want to spend the time opening all those video files one-by-one and doing the trace. The question really was “Does Illustrator have Actions like Photoshop so I can do this faster?”Bridge. Save the video frames you want, select them in Bridge and go to Tools> Illustrator> Live Trace.”
    I’m not saying Bridge is THE tool. I’m only saying it’s a great place to start finding common ground among the various apps. From there you can start learning how the tools you already know can be used for web and video creation.
    It’s also worth noting what apps are shipping in the Creative Suite 3 Design Premium…pretty much everything you need to start a print/web cross media business. InDesign for print, Dreamweaver for web, Flash for…uh…Flash (web, multimedia…) and the programs shared by both worlds including Photoshop, Illustrator and Bridge.
    Oh, by the way, I just found out Rizzo isn’t pregnant, after all…I think that’s what’s happening up there on stage.
    You don’t have to go it alone (I’m not talking about Rizzo, anymore). In the near future we will be doing training videos on taking your print expertise and familiarity with the Design Tools over to the other side…some would say the dark side.
    We’ll focus on how Photoshop and Illustrator can be used to help you create electronic media easier than you may have thought. We’ll talk about how InDesign fits in to this scheme, too. And, of course, more about Bridge.
    And the good news is, I’m convinced, that learning electronic media creation is a heap of a lot easier than learning to speak in German, sing in English and dance bilingually…with grease in your hair.