Harvest Launches Mobile Friendly Invoices

Harvest LogoI love Harvest — the time-tracking bombshell of a service. They do more than track time, though. You can generate client invoices, manage projects, run real-time reports and with their mobile or desktop app you can easily switch between projects and tasks at the touch of button (okay, two). As far as I’m concerned this is the best $12 I spend every month. I can’t function without Harvest.

Time tracking, the nightmare
For years, working as an employee for many different companies, time tracking was always a nightmare. One particular Seattle agency (which I won’t name, because it hasn’t any relevance to the point I’m making) had such an archaic and inefficient system that my boss hounded me regularly to logged my time. It’s not that I didn’t value tracking time, it’s that I HATE inefficiencies, so I just wouldn’t do it. My time tracking or lack thereof got so bad that the company actually offered to buy me my own license to the software and have it installed on my work computer (because back then they had only a few seats). Needless to say the system sucked. Anyways, I digress.

Those days are gone with companies like Harvest. And just a couple of days ago they launched a mobile friendly version of client invoices. This not only enable my clients to quickly and easily make payments on the go, but it shows you have a very professional way of doing business. You can read more about it here.

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Proton Mail Indiegogo Campaign Raises $115K In 3 Days

ProtonMail ScreenshotIf you’ve seen or heard of Proton Mail in the news recently you might just be wondering what exactly they are all about. Well, I’ll tell you. Proton Mail is an NSA-proof end-to-end encrypted email service built by scientists from MIT & CERN. You can read an in-depth review here. Yes this is all quite geeky I realize, but what they are building is essential to maintaining private communications in this day and age. And the best part is they are focusing on simplicity and usability. No encryption knowledge necessary.

So anyways, a few days ago they launched an Indiegogo campaign raising $115K to expand their infrastructure to support the overwhelming response they’ve received. And in the time it took me to write this post they’ve hit $119K.

Of course, not everyone is jumping up and down, throwing money at them. One commenter on Indiegogo pointed out a reasonably significant usability issue when sending Proton emails to non-Proton accounts (grammatical errors aside):

So basically If I want to send an encrypted email to my colleagues, what I’m really sending is a link to a web page where they can access through a password. I’m sorry to say but that is not an email. A much more simple and fastest way is to use a P2P encrypted service like Bitmessage

It’s a valid argument, but at this point I don’t see how they could implement it any other way. They do give you the option of not encrypting a particular email, in which case it passes directly into the users inbox. But then why the hell would we use Proton Mail in the first place? Haha.

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“Can You Throw This up on the Website?”

In my profession, occasionally I’ll get an email from a client requesting if I can ‘throw something up on the[ir] website.’ I’ve had good laughs with co-workers and colleagues in the past about this, because this question is ultimately very loaded and is anything but the simplicity the question implies. This question implies that I could do this task as easily as throwing a basketball through a hoop. (Which doesn’t take very long, by the way.)

Now to be fair, there is nothing wrong with this question. I’m sure in other industries (that I know nothing about) I’ve ask similarly naive questions. (Haha… I can’t think of any right now!) The questioner simply doesn’t know what it takes and more importantly doesn’t know what questions to really ask. This is a huge part of my job. To ask questions. It’s amazing actually, as I type this, how many questions I do ask on a daily basis. I have a bit of a complex about asking too many questions. Alas, that’s the way I work. I need information. I need to know how something functions, how it looks, where it goes, how it integrates, how do you, the client, need to administer it, if at all?

So the take away?
As with most challenges in life, you have to think through it. So what if it’s a loaded question? Be nice. I’d have to dig down and figure this out even if a client wrote me a book on what s/he wanted. This is nothing more than an opportunity to hone my communication skills and hopefully help someone understand what it takes to throw something up on their website.

(Of course, if you’re up against a deadline, a one line request like this could prove very frustrating. In which case you’d have to fall back onto your contract and renegotiate or provide a separate quote for the extra work.)

Feel free to tell me your stories in the comments.

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Twitchy Artifacts with 1080i Video in Final Cut Pro X

I was cutting a quick video—which ended up not being so quick—for a friend. One not-so-small clip was recorded in 1080i 60 fps. Once imported into FCPX there were these twitchy artifacts forming every couple seconds during playback.

I searched the web and the problem has to do with needing to first de-interlace the source video. One solution was to download a program called JES Deinterlacer. After a number of failures—the program would freeze after processing a short number of frames—I gave up and went to bed.

The following morning I suspected that the freezing problem was due to the fact that I was working off an external hard drive. No bother. So after copying the file over to my Desktop I was able to process the entire video. The resulting file, after importing into FCPX, was free of those twitching artifacts.

Sadly, however, the quality was degraded. But that is a side effect of de-interlacing. Read more about it here.

Also, one solution was to allow FCPX to do the do-interlacing when you share out a master file, but I had no luck with that. Any time I rendered the project the resulting master file would contain the artifacts.

I am very thankful for the JES Deinterlacer.

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The Stupid Zip Archive and WordPress Duplicator Issue

I’ve run into this issue a couple times and had to set everything aside and figure it out. It didn’t take long. I use WordPress Duplicator often to, well, duplicate and move different WordPress sites from production, for example, to a local dev installation.

Well, recently on two sites running the WordPress Duplicator the Zip Archive failed to load. After some searching I ran across this post which pinpoints the problem to the PHP version you are using.

So I simply switched the PHP version from 5.3.27 to 5.5.6. The post above, however, suggests downgrading the version to 5.3.x is what works. That post, however, is almost a year old, so I imagine something change on the Media Temple end.

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Unzip via SSH

I had to unzip a file on a clients server today. Unzipping it locally and then re-uploading it would have been a pain; the unzipped folder was about double the bits of the original ZIP file. Anyways, once terminal’d in, this is how it works on the Media Temple GRID server.

unzip /path/to/file.zip

Pretty simple. Thanks to this resource for the know-how.

Now I’m off to go play in the ocean.

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Troubleshooting: Media Temple GRID SFTP Connection Issues

Sometimes I need to change a GRID Server Administrator password over at Media Temple. Once changed, I continually run into SFTP connection issues. It’s goddamn frustrating. And it was just working! I just want to code, not putts around with this crap. Even more annoying is I can connect just fine via FTP on port 21.

So in an attempted to save my sanity (and maybe yours), I’m going to list all the troubleshooting steps I’ve had to deal with every time this happens. Ug… so annoyed.

  • Is your IP address blocked from too many failed login attempts? That’ll do it and drive you crazy. Here’s how to remove an IP ban.
  • Are you connecting with the Server Administrator account or a secondary FTP account that you’ve created? Secondary FTP accounts aren’t allowed to connect via SFTP. So don’t bother. You’ll go mental until you figure this one out. Here’s more info on using FTP and SFTP.
  • Have you tried a different FTP client? I use Coda for FTP (and development) and once I was able to connect via SFTP using FireFTP I narrowed the issue down to Coda. Which leads me to troubleshooting option 4.
  • Have you restarted your FTP client? This is what burned me today. Once I restarted Coda I was able to connect via SFTP. Something was cached or confused. Honestly. You’re killing me Smalls.

Well that was 2 hours well spent wasted.

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Launched: Trivial Beersuit (for All Your Trivia Night Needs)

Trivial Beersuit Screen GrabFor the past few months I have been working on a subscription-based site that provides monthly custom curated trivia questions to bars and other establishments.

It all began last summer at a friend’s wedding where I met the woman behind the trivia, the trivia girl herself, Katie Christofferson. Since 2010, Katie has been writing trivia questions for a number of bars across Montana, Idaho and Oregon. Initially, her whole business was run by snail mail. Once the trivia questions were written she would mail them on CDs to her clients. As you can imagine, this was a cumbersome process to say the least. If there were any issues or updates, she would have to do the entire snail mail process over again.

Katie’s vision was to develop a user-friendly system where her clients would log in and download a new trivia package each month. Once signed up they would get the first month free, then to maintain monthly access they would need to subscribe to the service.

And that is exactly what we built.

With this system, making updates is a breeze and as easy as uploading a file. If any bar has a problem, Katie can update the affected accounts with new trivia.

So without further adieu Katie and I are pleased to announced we’ve launched her new custom curated trivia service: Trivial Beersuit.

So go forth, click around, check it out. If you’re a bar looking for this service I highly recommend giving Katie a what up!

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Solution: Boilerplate Theme for WordPress + Dig Labs Stripe Plugin jQuery Issues

I am currently working on a subscription-based WordPress installation. For this project I am using a theme called Boilerplate. Users signup, pay their monthly fee (recurring or single payment) and get access to a set of restricted documents. After much research I settled on the follow plugins to handle payments and subscriptions.

The Problem
After installing both of them I ran into a problem where both the theme and the plugins were including jQuery at different times and different places and sometimes not at all. This broke jQuery for the entire site. The Stripe plugin payment form didn’t display correctly and you couldn’t submit it to run a payment. Also, some custom jQuery I had written stopped working too.

The Solution
After some back and forth with the Boilerplate theme developer (Thanks Aaron!) he came up with the following solution.

  • In Boilerplate Admin, enable and keep your custom JS (script.js) in the footer. Do this even if you don’t have any custom jQuery.
    Script.js settings for Boilerplate Admin
  • Do not use the Boilerplate jQuery (leave those checkboxes unchecked in the Boilerplate Admin).
    jQuery settings for Boilerplate Admin
  • And instead put the following at the very top of your custom JS file:
    if (!jQuery) {
    	document.write(unescape('%3Cscript src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.10.2/jquery.min.js"%3E%3C/script%3E'));
    if (!jQuery) {
    	document.write(unescape('%3Cscript src="http://your.domain.com/wp-content/themes/boilerplate/js/jquery.js"%3E%3C/script%3E'));
    window.$ = $ || jQuery;

So, by default no jQuery is loaded by the Boilerplate theme. Once the custom JS file is included, it checks to see if jQuery has been defined. If not it loads it from the Google CDN. If that fails then it loads in your local copy. If you are on a page that uses either plugin listed above, then jQuery will have already been included. In this case when your custom JS file loads it checks and will see that jQuery is already loaded and will not include it again.

So that’s about it. I do believe this solution would work for any plugin in general that conflicts with the Boilerplate theme. If you’ve run into similar issues with any plugin please do share your experience in the comments. Happy WordPressing!

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Launched: Christine Chaney Creative

Christine Chaney Creative

I was in Ballard. At the Ballard Market, to be exact, food shopping for a summer camping trip. I was in the grocery section—because it’s more than just an isle—and I ran into a friend. We chatted for a few minutes, about, you know, the usual banter: I’m going camping—and I do love your new shoes!

I digress.

During our banter session my friend mentioned that her friend’s friend’s cousin’s (don’t lose me here) former college roommate, a talented artist, needed some web work. Well, ok, it’s actually just my friend’s friend and I like Spaceballs, but not all of this is necessary factual. How about it’s based on a true story? Yeah, we’ll leave it at that.

I saved my friend’s friend’s information and we went our separate ways. The friend’s friend’s name was Christine Chaney. We met and instantly hit it off. We worked together for the last few months building an online presence that fit her style of artistry: bold and mathematical, sparse yet emotional. Her style is only enhanced by the shear number of mediums in which she creates. From architecture to fashion, from wall art to photography. She’ll sew you a dress and design you a building and artwork to match. And then she’ll compile all these connective art pieces into a book, which is yet another art form in itself. Yup. These are the people I love to work with. Anything goes. The sky’s the limit. And inevitably these creative creatures become my friends.

So after many meetings from a chance encounter at my neighborhood market, I am pleased to announced that not 24 hours ago we launched Christine’s new website. It is a sparse, clean and fully responsive experience, so try it out on all your devices. Leave us a comment and let us know what you think. Good day.

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Most recent work

  • Reductress Education Online satire workshops from the one and only Reductress.
  • Douglass Interior Products Since 1978, Douglass Interior Products has been providing exceptional materials for the aircraft, marine, automotive and interior design industries.
  • Betty Mills Betty Mills is an e-commerce store offering cleaning, sanitary & medical supplies.
  • Reductress I crank out on-going web projects for Reductress. Super fun as you can imagine.

Need hosting?

  • Media Temple My go to hosting provider. You get rockstar hosting and I make a little cash. No pressure, just clean honest fun.

Past work

  • How To Win At Feminism The badasses over at Reductress are at it again with their new book How To Win At Feminism.
  • Nice Manners Music Nice Manners is an LA based recording studio offering their clients all sorts of digital audio services. This is a demo of an internal genre based music search & player I built for them. I am ecstatic about launching this project—check it out.
  • Our Restroom Our Restroom is an (inter)national crowdsourced campaign who’s goal is simple: compel businesses to make their single occupancy restrooms gender neutral. Championed by Kristin Russo, designed by Allison Weiss, built by me on WordPress.
  • Get Your Shit Together This is a site dedicated to helping you get your shit together before an unexpected tragedy, like the loss of a loved one.
  • IHG Instagram Sweepstakes An awesome Instagram driven sweepstakes site for IHG.
  • Trivial Beersuit A site that provides professional pub trivia to bars and restaurants.
  • Audi YouTube Channel This site was a quick turn-around hair pulling adventure for the Super Bowl: revamping Audi’s YouTube Channel.
  • Everyone Is Gay Everyone Is Gay is an indispensable question and answer resource for the LGBTQ community. Hell, it’s great advice for anyone with a body with an emotion or two. I made the site responsive among other things. Give it a look see.
  • Teach.org The new Teach.org. Providing tools to help students become teachers.
  • Valhalla DSP A one man Seattle based company, writing pretty sick professional audio plugins. Check ’em out!
  • Christine Chaney Creative The online presence of Seattle artist Christine Chaney. Specializing in architecture, art and apparel.
  • Holiday Inn Tumblr A quick, fully responsive update to the Holiday Inn Tumblr page.
  • Microsoft's Art of Touch An artful HTML5 Microsoft website. Sadly, this site is no longer live.
  • Microsoft Hardware Healthy Computing Tool A useful little tool to help you find the perfect Microsoft mouse or keyboard.
  • Pella Professional Pella manufactures high quality doors and windows. This is their professional site.
  • Imaging the World A non-profit dedicated to providing ultrasound services in remote areas of the world.
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 Launch This sweet new Visual Studio 2012 Launch website sports a mobile first, responsive web design architecture and comes in 14 different languages.
  • Ginny Ruffner: A not so still life A site for a documentary film about Seattle artist Ginny Ruffner.