Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide (for your creative friends)

I am usually not a fan of typical tech related gift lists. They tend to contain more novelty items and trinkets than anything useful. Useful gifts have less wow factor, but I can tell you from experience that they will be appreciated long after the usb key chain or phone charger that fits in your wallet have been tossed in a drawer or closet.

In the spirit promoting useful gift giving this year, I have written a gift guide containing items that I have owned and used regularity for the past 6 months or more.

The items here will not suit everyone, and certainly not hit every price point, but they are all pretty tip-top when it comes to usefulness. If there is something that you have found useful, but isn't on my list, feel free to make a note in the comments.


No. 1 Field Notes Notebooks. $9.99

Field Notes are made in the US, which gives them a leg up over Moleskin. They come in standard and limited edition colors, and in your choice of markings; ruled, graph, or plain. They are useful, cheap, and satisfyingly trendy at the same time.

No. 2 Harvest App $12.00/month

Simply the best time tracking and invoicing software that I have found. Create and schedule one-time and reoccurring invoices, retainers and estimates. Offer terms to clients. Get paid through Paypal or Stripe. Create reports. Integrate with BaseCamp, HighRise, QuickBooks and others.

No. 3 Showa Best Nighthawk accelerator-free gloves. ≈$14.00

I am allergic to the accelerators in most latex AND latex free gloves. It took a long time to find out exactly what was making my hands swell up because the reaction wouldn't happen for 48 hours. A surprising number of people are sensitive to these accelerators, but it is annoyingly underdiagnosed. These are the best gloves for sensitive skin, plus they come in black and lime green.

No. 4 Prolost Lightroom presets. $19.99

Before you get all grumpy about presets, these are not what you think. Watch the video, buy them, decide if they are right for you.  Here, I'll save you a trip to Google.

No. 5 Bodum Brazil 8 cup French Press. ≈$20.00

A french press will allow you to make better coffee without going full coffee dork. I like this one because it is easy to clean and you can buy it at any Target/Starbucks/BBB/department store you are likely to come across. Btw, they are serious when they tell you that stirring with a metal spoon will crack the glass, ask me how I know.

No. 6 Carbon Copy Cloner App $39.95

Easy and thorough backup for your Mac. Schedule backups, create custom backup tasks. Calculate checksums, archive versions, sleep better at night.

No. 7 BRNO Dehumidifier lens and body caps. ≈$46.00

 Little dehumidifiers for your lenses. They are sort of expensive, but they are beefy and cheap insurance against fungus. My gear gets damp all the time so I am pretty stoked on them. If you baby your camera you can probably skip them.

No. 8 Apple Magic Mouse ≈$65.00

The best mouse hands down. Turn off the gestures that you don't use or you will be frustrated very quickly. Eats batteries at an alarming rate, so you might want to spring for the capacitive charging kit as well.  

No. 9 Sodastream carbonator ≈$79.00

If you are the type of person who laments the number of extraneous appliances you already have, then read on to the next item. But if you are into the whole San Pelagrino/La Croix/fuzzy water thing, then this is your new best friend. Get the cheap one, it works just as well as the fancy electric one.

No. 10 Dakine 42L Overhead Roller ≈$80.00

This is my favorite bag. I own 2 of them and they carry clothes and camera gear with ease. Really good zippers, sturdy handles, and real skate wheels with bearings. One of the best rolling bags I have ever used. They come in a silly number of colors too.

No. 11 X-Rite i1 Display Pro ≈$225.00

If you are not in the creative space you won't have an idea what this is or why you need it. If you want to charge for your work, you need it.

No. 12 Sandisk Extreme SSD ≈$103.00-386.00

This may be the best upgrade you can make to your aging laptop. Shocking increase in perceived speed. The price comes down every week.

No. 13 Connected Data Transporter. $99.99-$399.99

It's like having a private Dropbox. Data is locally encrypted and there are no monthly fees. I funded this on Kickstarter and was disappointed by the original software interface. Version 2.0 is much better.

There you have it, 13 items that will be put to good use by your creative friends. I am not sure what the next week holds for writing another post, but I will try my hardest.

Happy Holidays!

More to come.

Dell Precision T7400 Workstation (Mac to Windows switch)

I have recently upgraded one of the machines in the studio. After a long and careful debate, I decided to purchase a full-sized Dell workstation. I have no plans of dumping my Apple hardware any time soon, but am becoming more and more open to the thought of having a mixed OS pipeline. With the current state of available software, this may not be as crazy as it sounds. 

Back in December, I decided to explore some "non-Mac" options, specifically for video editing, color correction and finishing. Actually, I have always had a pc box around. Most recently I have had a small Dell Dimension that drives various printers and the Graphtec plotter in my office.

There are far too many details about the two manufacturers to discuss in a single post, but in general, the differences between the way the two systems work are very minor. Perhaps the Mac is more user friendly, but this only really matters if you are doing generally consumer tasks, and my use goes well beyond that most of the time.

The idea behind Windows is that it is pretty open to any hardware you want to use. This means that there are a lot of junky $600 laptops running Windows, but it also means that there are A LOT of options when it comes to high-end hardware. Even better, there is a huge amount of used parts floating around online. If you take the time, you can put together a pretty sweet machine for about $1000, which is about what I spent here. (before I started making upgrades).

The last thing holding me in my Mac seat was the expense of re-licensing all of the software that I use, and up until recently, that would have been a very expensive. With the introduction the the Adobe Creative Cloud, that issue has been resolved. Licensing is agnostic, and very affordable, Adobe has also expanded its range to include key pieces of workflow software that was missing from it's line, or missing altogether on the Windows side of the isle.

This particular machine is probably overkill for many users. If you rarely go beyond PS and Lightroom you may be better off picking up an iMac or something of similar spec from Dell or HP. But if your work includes rendering out large, high resolution files, or real time performance is important, it is hard to beat the T7400 in the bang for buck category. If you don't believe me, look up the current price on an 8 core Mac Pro.

The video here is just an overview of the machine that I bought/built.

More to come. - J.H.

Custom Die Cut Stickers

One of the new services that I offer is custom die cut stickers and graphics. O.k., most of that sentence is a lie, but let me explain myself. This is not something NEW that I am offering, I have been doing it for about a year now.  Also, the use of the term "die cut" is a bit of a misnomer. Die cutting uses a metal blade that is set into a block of wood, this a called a die and it is an efficient way to cut out great quantities of relatively intricate shapes in a short amount of time. It is, however, a poor choice for doing low quantities or "one offs", which is something we like to do quite often here at the office. In fact, the desire to do short runs and single copies of certain designs was one of the big motivations for starting to do this sort of work in-house. The tool that we picked to help to this work is commonly called a "plotter" or "step cutter". It shares a lot of DNA with your common inkjet printer, or perhaps a CNC table if you are familiar with such things. Anyway, having this piece of kit means that I can now help you with your vinyl graphics project. Whether it a one-off piece of art or a run of 5000 decals, your project can be turned around quickly and within your budget. Below are a few samples from projects completed this past year.

Send me an EMAIL or a message on FACEBOOK and I will get you sorted with pricing and more.

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