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Mac Users: Think You Can’t Get A Virus? Think Again.

7 Oct

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IT’S A COMMON MYTH THAT I HEAR OFTEN: MACS DON’T GET VIRUSES. It’s simply not true. What is true? If you don’t have up-to-date anti-virus software, you’re playing with fire.

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Norton automatically detected this phishing site, which, coincidentally, is designed to look like a legitimate Norton page.

I use Norton Internet Security, which is available for Mac and PC. A one-year subscription is about $60, and makes sure I have the latest virus definitions through its LiveUpdate feature. This is CRITICAL. If you don’t have the latest definitions installed, your software will only search for old viruses. Updating the definitions ensures that you have protection against the latest ones.

Norton also has other protections. For example, it warns me if I visit a suspicious website, as it did when I was searching for the url to add to this post. To be clear, this warning can be triggered by suspicious content from any source, not just a Norton impersonator.

Even with my vigilant efforts to prevent my Mac from getting a virus, Norton AntiVirus, the software I use, found not one, but two. The infected files were sent in SPAM emails that made it into my Time Machine backup volume. They proved tricky to delete at first, but with the help of Norton support, I was able to get rid of them before they did any damage.

Don’t put yourself and your data at risk. Whether you have a Mac or PC, to make sure your computer is virus free, you MUST have anti-virus software, and update the definitions regularly! 

 

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backup, BackUp, BACKUP!!

2 Oct

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If you’ve ever taken a class with me, you’ve heard me say it: never, ever, EVER have only one copy of your work. It’s a recipe for disaster. Not if, but when something like a hard drive crash happens, and you’re faced with the horrifying fact that you can’t recover your data, you’ll pray to the Terabyte Gods, promising that you’ll ALWAYS backup from now on, if they PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE JUST LET EVERYTHING COME BACK ONE MORE TIME SO YOU CAN RESCUE YOUR PORTFOLIO, RESUME, AND THOSE ADORABLE PICS OF YOUR DOG DRESSED UP FOR HALLOWEEN!!! I had an internal and an external hard drive both die on me at different times, and even with everything backed up, it was still a pain to replace and restore them. But, it was such a relief to know that I didn’t loose any of my work or personal files, because I had those backups! The good news is that there are easy ways to make copies of your stuff, without you having to do a single thing once you do a quick initial setup. My own solution includes an external hard drive, and a cloud account, and while having two backups may seem extreme, I have good reasons for doing it this way.

Method 1: Mac Time Machine and an external LaCie desktop hard drive

Time Machine System Preferences in Mac OS X Time Machine comes with Mac OS X, and couldn’t be simpler. Just plug in an external drive like my LaCie d2 Quadra, or use Apple’s Airport Time Capsule, go to the Apple Menu > System Preferences… > Time Machine to choose your drive or the Airport as your backup volume, and Time Machine will copy your entire system to it. The software makes hourly backups stored for 24 hours, daily ones stored for a month, and weekly ones stored indefinitely. If your backup disk is full, it will delete the oldest ones to make room for the newest ones, so it’s a good idea to buy as much storage as you can afford, especially if you have a lot of hi-res digital photos or video. If you ever need to restore a file or folder, you can launch Time Machine from the Applications Folder, find the version of the item you want to restore, and in a few clicks, you’re back in business. If you need to restore your whole system, you can choose the last full backup and restore everything to where it was before the crash.

Method 2: Carbonite with unlimited cloud storage

Carbonite System Preferences in Mac OS XOne of the big advantages to backing up to the cloud with Carbonite is that you can access and restore your data from their website if your system isn’t available. After a free 15-day trial, the cost is an affordable $59 a year for the lowest priced plan. The initial backup can take days or even weeks, depending on how much digital information you’re uploading and your connection speed, but it happens in the background, and once it’s completed, your data will be encrypted and stored securely in your password-protected cloud account. Carbonite will then automatically scan your system to check for new and changed files. You can check the status of your backup at any time through the Apple Menu > System Preferences… > Carbonite. Download their free mobile app for iOS and Android, and once you log in with your password, you can view your stored data on your smartphone or tablet, and even access it if you have apps installed that are able to read the files. One thing to note about Carbonite is that it won’t back up your software, only the data files and folders, so make sure to manually make copies of your application installers or DVDs, as the license permits. It’s a good idea to do that regardless of your automatic backup strategy.

Why two full backups?

Do you know what the average life span of a hard drive is? It’s about 3-5 years. Are you scared? Good, you should be. Backing up to an external drive is not at all a bad solution, but that device has a lifespan, too, and it’s likely attached to your computer 24/7, like mine is. All it takes is one thief, flood, or fire to steal, damage, or destroy your computer AND everything attached to it, or for the drive to die, and you’ve lost everything that was stored on it. You can always manually burn DVDs and put them in a separate place, but I find a cloud backup to be a much easier solution. Some people are concerned about privacy when using cloud storage, but I feel that the chances of my account being hacked are very slim, and I’m comfortable with the security that encryption and a strong password provide me.

Having an external drive and a cloud account gives me an extra level of protection in the possible event of equipment failure, and in the unlikely event of a disaster. After a little effort in the beginning, automatic backups to either storage method mean that I don’t have to worry about loosing my important files, and can easily restore my digital life. One thing is for certain: if you’re using a computer, you’ll someday be faced with a dead hard drive, or a repair that may wipe out all your data, so give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing that if you need to, you can get back up and running again, in just a few clicks.

Join the iPad and Tablet Revolution

17 Jun

Graphic of Tablet ComputerIt’s hard to believe that the iPad has only been around since 2010. In a subway car a year ago, one or two people had an iPad or Android tablet, but now it seems like every fifth person has one. I’ve heard, “Print is dead,” several times during my career, but I don’t see that happening anytime, soon. I know that how we access books and magazines has changed forever. Publication designers need digital and interactive skills to stay competitive and marketable. If you’re ready to enter this exciting new world, I can help.

Take iPad Digital Design at NYU SCPS Department of Design Digital Arts and Film, where I’m an Adjunct Assistant Professor. While working with clients on tablet publications, I realized that people were hungry for help. That made sense: no one had really done much of it before. I approached my department, and was excited when they decided to offer the course and appointed me to teach it. My students learn how to plan and produce a user-friendly digital product for clients and the intended audience, and expand their design skills by solving problems within the limits of the emerging technology. We use Adobe InDesign and Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) to produce content for the iPad and Tablet. Find out more and register here.

Subscribe to my online course, iPad and Tablet Design Essentials, at Udemy.com. This is an online cousin to the classroom course. You’ll find over five hours of downloadable content, mostly in the form of video demos that show exactly what you’ll see on your screen. Learn the essentials of interactive tablet design, and producing interactive PDFs, eMagazines, and eBooks using InDesign CS6, and CS5.5. Nearly half of the course is devoted to producing publications with the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS). There’s also a brief overview of Apps, three pages of resources, and downloadable templates and images used in the video lectures for students who want to follow along. Sign up here and get it for only $89 through June 30, 2012, over 30% off the regular price of $129

Do you work better with individual instruction? I can bring my experience to you with a customized curriculum to meet your goals, over one session or multiple ones that fit your schedule. Please contact me at Joseph[at]JosephCaserto[dot]com for rates and more details.

Which option should you choose? Online is great for students on a budget who want to work at their own pace. The NYU course is the best option for those in the New York City area, who like the structure of meeting once a week and working in a group. Individual sessions are for you if you want one-on-one attention and need to learn specific techniques. Regardless, if you’re working in the world of print publishing, digital and interactive skills are fast becoming mandatory. Successful designers and producers will start expanding their knowledge today, in order to deliver to the readers of tomorrow. So, what are you waiting for? Join me in the revolution!

15 May

Ever wonder what happens to a photograph between the time the shutter clicks and you see it published? Check out this post by Brad Trent, from his blog, Damn Ugly Photography, to find out.

Damn Ugly Photography

Click on Any Image for Full-Size
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Over the past few weeks you didn’t have to look too far to find an online review claiming how spectacular the new Photoshop CS6 upgrade is and how it’s gonna make everything you photograph so much better…but all I could think was no matter how easy the software engineers at Adobe make image editing by adding fancy new filters, content-aware tools or sexed-up widgets, none of that amounts to beans if you don’t have the smarts to envision the final result in that pile of mush that occupies the space between your ears. And it reminded me how I recently had to put some of my Photoshop smarts to good use and ‘fix’ a less than ideal situation when I was shooting the Annual Report for Philadelphia-based Glenmede…using Photoshop CS3, no less…

I had gone down to Philly a few…

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Advantage: Freelancers

2 May

Freelancers’ Stock Rises on Madison Avenue, by Rupal Parekh, Agency Editor of Advertising Age, affirms a trend that I’ve been seeing as the economy improves: if you’re a good freelancer, you’re in demand. She observes, “With clients’ marketing budgets rallying after a recession that led to the layoff of thousands of full-time staffers, freelancers are shouldering much of the workload.” I have two pieces of advice for anyone freelancing right now: don’t be afraid to let your capitalist flag fly, and ride the wave while it lasts.

After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, [a colleague] told me, ‘it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.'”

Freelancers are valuable right now. Many businesses that let staff go during the recession aren’t re-hiring workers as we emerge from it. Instead, they’re using a rotating pool of temps who are almost always sent packing and replaced before they work enough hours to earn benefits and overtime pay. Sure, this gives the freelance market a nice shot in the arm, but it also gives companies a source of labor that doesn’t come with the overhead of having a full-time staff.

As the recovery builds, corporations are facing the reality that they can no longer have their cake and eat it, too, and are conceding that talent costs money. This is certainly true in my industry, publishing. During the recession, freelance rates were low because work was scarce and employers had the upper hand in terms of compensation. Salaries were slashed for the staff jobs that still existed, and independent workers were accepting rates that people turned down when I first began my career, twenty years ago. Now, with tablet publishing creating a market that needs a new set of skills, supply and demand are giving independents much more leverage. One manager at a major national consumer magazine pays good freelancers $60-$75/hour to work on the iPad and tablet editions. After desperately looking for a freelancer to help with a big print project, another told me, “it feels like it’s 1996, again: everyone good is booked.”

Mind you, what goes up must come down, and the recent economic crisis certainly won’t be the last. So, while the going is good, smart freelancers will work on paying down debt, and stashing some cash for the next rainy day. Some options for doing this are a business savings account and a retirement plan. ING Direct, which pays higher interest rates than many other institutions, offers business and retirement products, and Freelancers Union, where I sit on the Board of Directors, has a 401k plan for qualified members.

Indy workers always have value, but the high demand for freelancers in the current economy empowers us to earn more and invest in our futures. It’s a perfect time to proudly take a seat at the table as a skilled professional, and avoid the “I’m just a freelancer” trap.

You’re Not the Boss of Me! 10 Ways to Help Start a Freelance Career

4 Feb

College seniors, the unemployed, and even some employed workersare job hunting, with resumes in hand, shoes shined, and answers prepared for the HR generalist’s favorite question, “tell me why I should hire you.” Some seekers, however, may not have—or want—the option of getting a staff position, and instead, will pursue a freelance career. Over 30 percent of the American workforce is independent, and today’s workers need to be prepared for the possibility of being their own boss. So, how can you prepare for this new world? Here are some tips to help you get your freelance on.

1. Understand that you won’t get a steady paycheck. Money in the bank—yes, you can put it in, too, not just take it out—will give you a lot of peace of mind. The magic number is to have at least 3-6 months of expenses in cash. Especially for students, who have loan payments looming, that may be a tall order, but be honest with yourself as to what you can really afford. If you’re already in the workforce, try to put money in the bank every paycheck: set up automatic transfers through your bank, and you won’t have to worry about it. To find that extra cash, consider roommates, learn to cook for yourself, and go easy on the lattes and credit cards.

2. Realize that there’s a lot of opportunity in freelancing. An employer has to invest time and money into hiring a full-time staffer, but by bringing in a temporary freelancer with good references and skills, each side can try out the other, with fewer risks involved. Part company on good terms, and you’ll go to the top of the list to be invited back if another project comes up. If one doesn’t, you’ve still got new contacts for your network.

3. Which brings me to the biggie: network, network, network! If in school, your professors are the first opportunity for doing this. Impress them, talk to them, and ask them if they can give you contacts for informational interviews while you’re still a student. Working pros should start with managers and colleagues that they collaborate well with, not to mention alumni, friends, and family. A last-minute project will likely go to a known quantity, so get to know potential clients before you ask them for work, and take the initiative to stay in touch. LinkedIn is a great tool for this.

4. Join Freelancers Union. It’s free, you’ll get discounts, find support resources, and be part of a national advocacy group for indy workers. (Full disclosure: I’m on the Board of Directors.) Members in NY who qualify can get Health & Dental insurance. (We love the other 49 States, but only NY Law permits this, right now.) The good news is that under the Affordable Care Act, you can remain on your parents’ plan until you’re 26.

5. Don’t wait until you need work to look for it. Keep in touch with your network, let them know what you’re up to, and when you’ll be available to take on new projects. Social media is perfect for this. Update your Facebook status with the results of a project you’re happy with, use Twitter to follow and tweet about your latest great client, and blog about the process you went through to land a gig. Just be careful: don’t share anything negative, or confidential. As tempting as it may be, I guarantee it’ll come back to bite you on the behind.

6. Think like a business owner: what you earn is income, not salary. Look at the big picture, and review your finances quarterly, when you’ll owe estimated income tax. This part is not for the faint of heart, so get a good accountant who’s familiar with the needs of a freelancer.  A financial advisor who can help you meet investment goals and plan for retirement (yes, freelancers need to save for that, too) is also a good idea. Fees for these services will be well worth the money, and are likely to be tax-deductible.

7. Speaking of tax deductions, don’t leave money on the table. Keep your receipts for everything: if you buy supplies, attend work-related events, and especially if you meet for a bite to talk shop (see tips #3 & #8). Note that for business meals, you’ll need to have careful documentation: the person’s name and title, and the meeting’s time and location and purpose. (John Doe, President, XYZ Corp: 12:00 pm, Max’s Café to discuss Fall Catalog). For more info, see IRS Publication 334: Tax Guide for Small Business.

8. Give, don’t just take. Sure, it’s fine to ask your network for advice and help, but make sure to return the favor, or at the very least, thank them. Everyone loves a free lunch, so scheduling one & picking up the tab is sure to go over well. Definitely send a note saying how much you appreciate their time and advice (see tip #9). You’ll get much more out of your network by making sure it’s on a two-way street.

9. Communicate well, and respond quickly. Follow up on meetings and respond to e-mails within a day, and no typos, please. As my colleague Angela Riechers always says, “use spell check, it’s free.” If you really want to impress, send hand-written notes, whenever you can. I never fully appreciated their power until I received them, myself. It’s a good idea to write them electronically in a word processor, which you can use to check for spelling and grammar mistakes, and then copy them by hand on nice stationery.

10. You’ve got a gig! Show up, act like a grown-up, and do the work. Believe it or not, this will set you apart from the pack. Just because you’re not a staffer, you can’t slack off. Be professional, easy to work with, and skilled: they’ll love you, and re-hire you.

Use these pointers and your freelance career will be off to a strong start. Working independently is an important option for job seekers to consider. Doing it right is all about making a good impression, seeing the big picture, and staying connected. Welcome to the new work world, and good luck!

Project Cleanup—Part 1: The Green Factor

10 Jan

The start of a new year brings the opportunity to set personal goals, and we all know the usual suspects: loosing weight, saving money, and exercising. But, along with promising to cut back on the vanilla fudge swirl,  January is also a great time to set professional goals. One of my indy worker resolutions for 2012 is to clean up and organize my home studio. I want to be able to be more productive there, and eventually have a co-working space. (There’ll be more on that in a future post.) At the same time, I want to keep as much of my junk out of a landfill as possible. The good news is that there are some great resources for ditching your goods while being environmentally responsible, and you’ll find some of my favorites after the jump.

State-of-the-Art Tech, circa 1988

Recycle TechnoTrash at GreenDisk.com

A thousand years from now, archeologists on digs will brush off all those 3.5-inch diskettes that held a whoppin’ 1.44 MB: roughly a 2.35-inch sqare, 300 ppi .psd file. For just $9.95 plus shipping, you can send up to 25 pounds of your technotrash to GreenDisk for recycling. Even more cool is that they’ll securely destroy any data from those CD-R’s you burned your 1998 Tax Returns to. Here’s a list of what they’ll take.

Get Cash for Cell Phones, iPods, and More at BuyMyTronics.com

If you’re grumbling about shelling out a few bucks to recycle your computer waste, here’s a way to make a few of them back. This site will pay for your used (or broken) gadgets, and will also spring for the shipping. Just search for your item, answer a few questions, and get an offer instantly.

Find an e-Waste Recycling Event

Finally ready to ditch that Betamax? Many communities hold events to recycle old electronics throughout the year. Here in NYC, Lower East Side Ecology Center is holding its 9th Annual series of “After the Holidays” e-waste events, from January 14-28, 2012. For other areas, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a list of eCycling resources.

Shipping It

Other than walking or biking your stuff from point A to point B, ground transportation is the most environmentally sound way of getting it there. I don’t own a car, so I either have to schlep everything (it’s NYC) that I can recycle locally on the bus or subway, or pay for a taxi. Fortunately, there are better options for my back and wallet.

For just over 10 bucks, the U.S. Postal Service has a USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate Medium Box, which will get anything to most places in the U.S. in 2 days. Pack in whatever fits, print a label, and as long as there’s nothing hazardous inside, you can skip the line at the post office and drop the shipment in any mailbox.

For larger boxes, UPS allows you to create and pay for shipments online, print airbills, and schedule pickups.

Selling, Swapping, or Donating It

One person’s trash is another one’s treasure, as the saying goes. If your stuff is in good shape, you can likely get a few bucks for it from eBay, or half.com.

For books, I love PaperbackSwap.com. Post your old ones, and when a member requests one, you pay to ship it. There’s even an option to buy and print postage right from the site. Once your book is received, you get a credit that allows you to request a replacement, paid to ship to you by the sender, which is how the swapping happens.

Lastly, you can always donate your stuff to a charity, like The Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, or a local organization, such as Housing Works here in NYC, or a place of worship.

Remember Receipts for Tax Purposes
Think like a business person! Any money you shell out offsets your income, and may help decrease your tax liability. Save your receipts, and ask your tax advisor if you can write these expenses off on your 2012 Returns. Especially if you’re donating goods to a charity, you’ll need a written acknowledgement to claim your donation as a tax deduction.

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