Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

New Abúi’s Travels page on ComicFury, my wife’s comics, and Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan

April 28th, 2014 by Reinder

And while we're on the subject of Abúi's Travels, there's a new page up. This is one of the biggest-looking pages I've ever come up with, due to the detailed backgrounds and the shading and highlights provided by Rona. It's also got a ton of cameos from other webcomics. Backgrounds and crowds make for a lot of extra work, but in this case, it was worth it.

Rona's been updating her own science-fiction comic Hekatomb on a weekly basis for almost a year now. Lately, after a catastrophic CMS update, she's also been re-uploading her vampire horror comic American Gothic Daily in a revised version. What she does is she takes each old page and draws/paints digitally over them, expands the canvas size and adds new materials. While reconstructing the site, she posts the old versions of each page as an addendum to the new ones, so you can see how much progress she has made since she started the comic in 2006. It's a very fast, efficient process with staggering results. Go see it.

I have a week off right now, so I've been working on Feral some. I've been inking penciled pages from 2008-2010 and adding color flats to them, which I give to Rona to add shades and highlights to. Yesterday, I gave her the revised version of the page for April 11, 2010 and she sent me back this:

Too silly is about right.

Silly version of page 97 of Feral

Abúi, as drawn by Donna Barr, plus more on the webcomic Abúi’s Travels

April 26th, 2014 by Reinder
Abúi from Abúi's Travels and Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan, as drawn by Donna Barr

Donna Barr's interpretation of the character Abúi, drawn on her iPad.

The other day I did independent comics veteran Donna Barr a small favor, and as a thank-you gift, she made this drawing of Abúi from the webcomics Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan and Abúi's Travels for me (both comics not safe for workplaces or other small-minded environments).

Abúi's Travels is a bit of an oddity in my range of webcomics. At present, there are two stories in the website's archives. One of them is Incognito, which I originally created as a short guest series for the naturist webcomic The Bare-Pit in 2006. I featured one character from Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan who had been doing some webcomics universe tourism and let her crash into the world of The Bare-Pit. The author of that webcomic continued her adventures, so suddenly there was a solid bit of continuity featuring Abúi. When I wanted to join the Halloween Cameo Caper 2012, I did not want to include another big crossover event into the main Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan continuity, so I decided to create a separate site from which one of my characters could go on crashing into other webcomic universes, and picked the one that had already done a bit of that. So there we have it: Abúi's Travels is the adventures of a faerie from one fantasy webcomics universe, who travels through time and space and has light-hearted adventures. Just the sort of thing I needed to do while my schedule is too full to work on RoCR on any regular basis.
Well, maybe. I managed to draw 16 new pages as of April 26, 2015. The Halloween 2012 event is well into the past and I'm still writing and drawing material for it. Arguably, if I'd spent the time on RoCR, that comic would be ....16 pages further into the present storyline than it is now? But it would still have updated haltingly and with variable art quality. Probably for the best that I don't work on my main comic right now, and besides, I'm having a lot of fun with this project, precisely because it is so unimportant and there's a lot of freedom for me to work with, that I wouldn't have while working on RoCR.

The present story, which interacts with the Halloween Cameo Caper 2012, is called Death Comes to Tyrion, in which Tyrion is a place not a person - nothing to do with Game of Thrones. I'm having a lot of fun with it and I hope people reading it are too. I would like to do more stories, including ones where instead of crashing into existing webcomics, Abúi collides with larger genres or subgenres embodied in newly created fictional settings.

Donna Barr is the creator of The Desert Peach, Stinz and the new webcomic on ComicFury Rental Goddess.

Running Windows on a Mac still to be considered harmful

October 27th, 2009 by Reinder

Reader Kitchenbutterfly asks:

Why have you burst my bubble? I've been living in paradise, claiming the MAC and all things APPLE to be the next best thing to sliced bread, or at least windows! And I know about buying computers in a hurry.

Well here's the thing: I loved my first iBook. I never had any serious problems with it. But it was getting old, it was a G4 and there were certain things it couldn't do that would come in handy for my long-distance work. Like run Windows in some form or another. So for Christmas, Aggie, who is sweet and loving and obviously completely crazy, gave me a new MacBook. I immediately started messing around with both Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop to figure out which setup would work best for me (there is a third option, VMWare Fusion, which I haven't tried and right now don't have the heart to). It is now turning out to be the answer that neither work well enough for real work, and both are harmful to the safety of my Mac hardware and my data.

The Boot Camp arrangement did not survive the first five weeks of long-distance work over the summer. The final week was spent doing whatever I could to get work done on one of Aggie's computers. Since one of them did not want to work with the Logoport online translation client, and the other did not want to let me install SDLX*), this took a lot of moving back and forth between computers. Then I took my bricked Macbook home to Groningen to see what I could do about it.

Meanwhile, some changes in our company's VPN software allowed that to work with a Parallels virtual machine, which it hadn't done before. Wonderful! I could run Windows in the VM, keep all my data safe on my Mac folders, and access my Mac software while working in Windows.

Well, I could, right until I upgraded to OS 10.6 Snow Leopard. Parallels 4 is supposed to work with it and the company even has a nifty new upgrade to make it work even better. It was while checking my Parallels VM while preparing to upgrade to that nifty new upgrade the day before leaving for the US that my MacBook became seriously bricked again.

I took the bricked MacBook with me to Tennessee to see what I could do. Three thirty-mile drives to Murfreesboro later, we had a diagnose of OS corruption, which the repair guy said actually happened quite often. They offered to wipe and reinstall for a mere $130, I said no, we'll do it ourselves, thanks, and we took the bricked box home, wiped it, reinstalled it, and restored it to its state of October 13, 2009 using the magic of Time Machine. Time Machine is excellent, but I'm finding myself using it a little too often.

I went to work using the Virtual machine and all was right with the world. I spent the Sunday before I was due to get back to work installing my software on the VM, and it was good. On Monday, I went to work, and all was good. What I didn't realise was that the reason all was good was that Parallels was unable to download its nifty new update over our slow internet connection (see previous post). But at the end of the first working day, it had somehow snagged all 110 or so MB of it and prompted me to install it. Foolishly, I did. The installation ended with an error (something about a required file missing - even though this was an automated download that should have got everything) and my VM no longer worked well. Using Time Machine, I tried to restore the software to its last version, which worked, but restoring the actual VM file (an 8 GB monstrosity) turned out to be harder. This is probably because the VM had been running whenever the Time Machine back-ups were made, so what ended up in the back-up was not a workable file to boot the VM from. After repeated attempts, running Parallels caused the Mac to hang again.
So now I'm restoring it again to the state it was in on October 13, 2009. After that, I will turn off all update functionality in Parallels, reinstall the software I need and hope for the best until the new PC arrives here (working on Aggie's machines has become problematic for other reasons that I don't want to go into as this post is already quite long and nerdy).

And that is the tale of my MacBook woes. Some of my woes are clearly the result of human error (upgrading anything that works is risky and with the Parallels upgrade, there was already a known risk factor), but I'm beginning to think that the main human error here is wanting to run Windows on a Mac in the first place. I get a lot of joy from using that machine (and I do mean actual pleasure in using it as opposed to merely finding that work goes smoothly and the computer isn't an active obstacle) whenever I use Mac software on it, whether commercial and actively developed for the Mac, or open source and ported to the Mac. I get nothing but grief and a great deal of learned helplessness from working with Windows on the same Mac. So the lesson here is that Macs should be used to run Mac software; score one for the Cult of Mac, I guess.

I'm stuck with Parallels for a few more days. When the new PC arrives, it will be gone, and good riddance.

*) Incidentally, if you love well designed software, translation software will open your life to forms of horror beyond the imagining of mortal men. If translation software can be said to be designed at all, it is designed based on the interests of anyone but translators. SDLX Suite, at least until its most recent version released this year, was not designed at all - it was a Frankensteinian patchwork of previously unrelated programs that the SDL company had bought over the years, that had no single interface vision and which only worked together through filters and a gigantic super-interface for project management and bundling. I have heard that the new release is better integrated, but its backward compatibility is nonexistent. This is relevant here because the installer alone is half a gigabyte and requires several steps of pre-installation taking several minutes before it even begins to try to install any of the component programs.

Invasion update for September 12

September 12th, 2008 by Reinder

Invasion has updated again, with Messenger Witch Agni getting back to work immediately, and Elspeth putting her plan into action.

This will be the last Invasion update in a while - I haven't been able to produce any new pages. Heck, I'm struggling just to do one penciled page of Feral each week, and may end up having to skip a few weeks for that too, if I have to draw anything particularly complex.

Live by the list, die by the list

September 4th, 2008 by Reinder

I am disorganised, and this is hurting me at my job, at a time when I feel very strongly that I need to maximise my career and perform as well as I possibly can. I have tried to get more organised by keeping lists, but today, I ran into the limit of what lists can do for a person, hard.
And I was actually quite satisfied with my progress over the past few weeks. This morning, for the first time in weeks, I had enough peace of mind to sit down at the start of the work day and spend half an hour doing nothing but plan: write up my early-morning list (one of two - the other is the end-of day list which is a memo of things that need to be done the next day, in a rough order of priority. By the time morning has arrived, new urgent work to be delivered the same day has usually arrived in my mailbox and that planning has to be revised, but at least I have a starting point for the next day ready before I leave the office), prioritise in some detail based on how best to prevent surprised and then talk to people about that. I was doing well.

Right until a client e-mailed me about a job that was due yesterday that I'd forgotten about completely.

And that's where lists reach their limit: if you live by the list, you will die by the list. Because I rely on my lists so much, and because one of the ways I use them is to jot things down to enter into the company Intranet later so I won't have to drop everything I'm doing and lose my place in my ongoing work, what isn't on the list doesn't exist. As a result, a job that would normally take a day to do but would have been completed easily if I'd started on time just disappeared from my planning. Needless to say, I'm very frustrated with this, and a bit despairing about what I should do to prevent this. It needs to be solved otherwise I can't perform well at my job; but I can't go back to dropping whatever I can to prepare and administer incoming projects, because in the work environment I'm in, I wouldn't get anything done.

I don't have a solution yet. Sites like The Simple Dollar have endless lifehacking recommendations. That site particularly recommends the book Getting Things Done but implementing some of the solutions in that takes a time investment upfront that I simply don't see myself having in an environment where half an hour of idle time is a rarity, and as for implementing the most important step of that, listing everything, I've just demonstrated the risks inherent in that approach.

What do you do to keep track of things? Please let me know in comments. If you're a fan of the comics I make, your solution just might help me to spend less time in the office and to come home with more energy left to work on them. I did get the project back on track with the help of some of my co-workers and a new deadline, but at a cost of me coming home much, much later than planned, putting in overtime which I'm not going to get paid for.

People of the Sewer, now on ROCR.net

July 21st, 2008 by Reinder

My 2003 guest series for Fight Cast or Evade, People of the Sewer, has now been added to the archives at ROCR.net. Read it one page at a time or all sixteen installments as a giant vertical scroll.
It's almost a year since Fight Cast or Evade ended, and it's time I brought this story home. It's another affectionate parody of the fantasy clichés underlying so many fantasy/RPG webcomics, so I've archived it under Unfantasy. It's different from the other comics in that section of the website though, because it's a rare foray into Furry comics for me, and because it has a lot of poop-based humour. And haikus, but mostly poop. It's a yin-yang kinda thing.

Drawing those animal characters was a lot of fun for me back in 2003. I'd like to do that again some time.

Inventory

July 21st, 2008 by Reinder

So.. what is new on the new website? What did I spend upwards of 12 hours on?

  • New top area design with a smaller logo and space for a large ad;
  • Nav area with important site stuff moved out of the right column to the top, where people are more likely to see it.
  • Below the fold area on the home page simplified. Left bar with "Current story" and "Featured story" taken out because I didn't maintain them anyway. Blog now has 500 pixels of width.
  • Comic page navigation is no longer made up of fake buttons, but ordinary links printed larger.
  • The site now has a real footer.
  • Right column is now reserved for advertising, giving existing ads more visibility.
  • One large new ad on top of all pages in the CMS; more pages have the square Project Wonderful ads, in a visible spot. Google ads are now treated as legacy ads, to be given a low priority if not removed completely.
  • More pages are now part of the CMS (14 added over the past few days); more pages already within the CMS run off the same style sheet.
  • Some pages not in the CMS also run at least partly off the main style sheet. These are pages like the Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan cast page where constructing them from the CMS is more effort than maintaining them by hand (most of the individual cast entries are in the CMS though).
  • All materials copied over to the new server, except the old Gallery installation. I may or may not build a new one, or build a gallery from either WillowCMS or WordPress if I need to.
  • The blog now runs off WordPress.

Still to do:

  • Move all remaining cast pages to WillowCMS. Fill up the empty spots on the cast list.
  • Get the WordPress templates to behave, particularly in Internet Explorer, which I don't have.
  • Make a stripped-down version of the blog to iFrame under certain pages of outside websites.
  • Check all the links and especially image references in the blog so they don't point to the space on Xepher.net anymore.
  • RSS feed for the comic.
  • Minor consistency fixes as and when I come across them.
  • Logos for the various non ROCR comics on the site.
  • Possible OSCommerce installation to sell art through the website.
  • Fix a few archive pages that are missing or broken or not remastered.
  • Approve some more Transcriptions that have been sent in.
  • I guess it would also be nice if I wrote and drew some more comics.

Silverstripe

July 27th, 2007 by Reinder

I'd never heard of Silverstripe before, but it's probably worth a spin in case I ever need to get a (non-blog) website off the ground quickly.

Thanks to studio-mate Jeroen, I'm back in the market for web development work. It's been a long time since I've done web development for anything other than my own sites, though, so I'm reading up and looking for some experience-builders. Simple things to do so I can say I've done them and know how to do it, and get a feel for the snags. So if anyone reading this needs, say, WordPress installed on a clean system, or some WordPress templates made, you just might be able to talk me into doing it for free if it's not a big job. I do hope to get past that stage soon, though.

Minor site updates

July 10th, 2007 by Reinder

I've updated my online biography partly to reflect the fact that I'm looking for work, but also to clarify that I'm in the Netherlands after a reviewer at the Giant in the Playground forums got that wrong.

I've also updated the full list of comics I've got online, streamlining the list itself a bit, adding a few comics and de-linking a few others. The ones I've de-linked are currently only hosted on my old personal website at http://users.bart.nl/~samizdat, which I expect to go down the next time my former ISP has to clean up its servers. I haven't had FTP access to the site in over a year, anyway, and at least one javascript on that site now does something completely different from what it did when I put it there. Time to let it go off into that great web archive in the sky. I hope my email address there gets shut down soon as well; it's been a repository of spam for some time, checked only for the one message in 10,000 that could possibly, conceivably, actually be a legit email message for me.

It's possible that I've forgotten to de-link some comics on the list or update some URL that is no longer valid. If you find one, let me know. The de-linked comics will eventually be back in re-scanned, remastered form.

“Injury” updating every four hours on ROCR.net today and tomorrow

June 25th, 2007 by Reinder

Today and tomorrow, the ROCR.net front page will update six times a day with a short autobiographical story, "Injury", from 1997. The story starts here. Once it's completed, "Injury" will be moved to the Pin Drop section of the site.

I've been meaning to rerun this short story, about depression, rain and the hand injury I inflicted on myself ten years ago, for some time, but hadn't got around to it. A snag in the production of new Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan comics forced me to reschedule them, leaving a gap in which I could post a short story. Because I like to have each comic on the front page for at least a little while, I'm posting one page every four hours, sort of like one would do if one's doing a 24-hour comic, only slower.