So long, Veer … for good.

Once upon a time I was a happy Veer user, delighting in their quirky approach, their random giveaways, their husky Austrian customer support folks.

Then it changed, and I was sad.

So long, Veer 🙁

And now, in 2016, another change. Veer is gone. No more. Kaput. Surplus to requirements following the Getty/Corbis thing.

Once more with feeling: So long, Veer. :'(

Outlook 2011 fix autodiscover

…or rather disable autodiscover.

At my place of work, we have various options for remote access. If you have a corporate laptop, you can connect via VPN and have full access to all internal systems. Or, if you just need to check mail, you can fire up Outlook and it will connect with or without the VPN (I think this is using Exchange Web Services, but don’t hold me to that). Finally, if you don’t have a corporate laptop, you can connect to Outlook Web Access and do your emailing and IMing that way. All fairly normal.

Except… while my laptop is supplied by my employer, it’s a Mac (for various complicated reasons). Our environment is Microsoft-based and isn’t really set up or tested to be Mac-friendly — which is fair enough. Plus Microsoft quite obviously doesn’t put as much effort into the Mac version of Office as they do into the Windows version.

So: I can enter the appropriate details into the server configuration preferences for Outlook and everything will work remotely, without needing a VPN connection — helpful when working on things which require me to be disconnected from the office network. But as soon as open Outlook “inside” the corporate network (whether physically in the office, or on VPN) the mailserver details I entered are replaced with the fully-qualified name. Which doesn’t work outside the office.

This was irritating but something I could cope with until last week, when problems with the endpoints meant my VPN connections were very unstable. Not knowing that this problem was related to autodiscover, it took me a little while to figure out the right search to lead me to this helpful comment on (which simplifies the advice in the article). So, to disable autodiscover (and this annoying behaviour), I created and ran this applescript:

tell application “Microsoft Outlook”
set background autodiscover of every Exchange account to false
end tell

Which worked a treat. Just in case, I also created the following applescript:

tell application “Microsoft Outlook”
set background autodiscover of every Exchange account to true
end tell

to re-enable autodiscover. And now I’m happy 🙂

So long, Veer :(

For a long time, I’ve enjoyed finding imagery via Well, ok, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word. Anyone who has spent an afternoon viewing 6,000-7,000 photographs of too young, too pretty and entirely too sharply or provocatively dressed men and women will know “enjoyment” isn’t what you feel. When you’re looking for images to represent the serious work of a remuneration committee, a bunch of permatanned 20- and 30-somethings grinning goofily at pie charts or all clustered around a single laptop (is technology rationed in stockphotoland?) doesn’t really work. Neither does the oh-so-typical “one person in the room who spotted the camera” group shot.

Aaaanyway. I could ramble for hours about the shortage of credible, 50ish, focused businessfolks in candids, and even longer on attempting to include Indians, Southern Europeans or non-US diversity in general, and briefly-but-passionately on the continued existence of the “pretty-young-woman-takes-orders-from-an-older-man” shot, but I wanted to write about Veer.

I liked their search engine system — it wasn’t perfect, but I liked it. I liked that I’d find images which weren’t in Getty’s vast library, images I could use on a regular basis. I liked the site design. I liked the super-friendly European telephone support people, who were always able to solve the problem (and several of whom sounded…rawr). I liked their crazy side projects, the blog, the merch, the various silly things they did in addition to the main type-n-images focus. And then they were acquired by Corbis.

Fast forward a little while, and the dismantling of Veer as it was appears close to complete. Don’t get me wrong, is still there, and it still has much the same site design. But Corbis have apparently decided that Veer is to be its *budget* brand, for microstock and the like. They’ve even introduced Veer “credits”. Example: a search today, looking for technology images with a Middle East slant wasn’t especially productive. Even with the “illustration” option unticked, it was about 50% cheapy map outlines and flag buttons made in photoshop.

I guess that means searching only on in future. Which is fine, but I *liked* Veer, for more than just the list of things above. It seemed small, and a bit personal, and a bit creative, and it was useful to me and I liked it. And now it’s not anymore.

Valid business reasons, economic downturn, consolidation in the market, blah blah I DON’T CARE. I won’t be weeping into my whiskey tonight, but my image searching duties are now even less appealing.

Too many interesting things

I was writing down a to-do list at work today and realised it was getting out of hand. Not the list of things I needed to finish; whilst there’s plenty on it, it’s not intimidating, just a lot of work. What struck me was the number of non-essential “exploratory” ideas I wrote down towards the bottom of the list. Things which I probably won’t actually do. Things which I probably shouldn’t do, in fact, and not just because there are urgent items further up the list.

One of the things I like the most about my current role is that it’s fairly diverse (within its own boundaries, of course). So this afternoon I’ll be mostly working on a print publication but I could just as easily be editing some video footage, or writing/editing text for an ad or invitation, or creating a construct for someone’s presentation, or possibly even working on simple Office automation. I really enjoy the variety, and not having to do the same thing day in, day out.

The biggest problem I have is reigning myself in. There are exciting new projects I’d like to work on, and it’s hard to say “no, I’m not the person for that”. New design for a corporate website? I’ll do that. iPad app? Sounds interesting, sign me up. Interview production? Let’s do it in-house!

This is the hard bit. They might be hugely interesting projects and an opportunity to learn something new, but they’re NOT jobs for me! Let’s bring in some specialist expertise. Let’s get a contractor. I will learn to say this through unclenched teeth. I will!

But let me have just one of the cool new projects, k? Please? Just one?


Why does everyone hate Flash?

I was killing some time and a random selection of links took me via the Doghouse Diaries to this post on Not Even Philosophy about various things Apple have done, including the changes to the iPhone developer agreement, and it got me thinking about Adobe Flash. In particular, this section:

Not only is it Apple’s right to not include Flash on Safari, it’s actually to the benefit of Mac/PC/iPhone/Android users in the mid- to long- term. I almost feel like this section needs little to no explanation if you’ve been keeping up with the HTML 5 / Flash debate. If Apple had continued to support Flash, a viable alternative would certainly not emerge for years to come, not to mention the quality of their products would have suffered in the meantime. Conversely, and for the sake of argument, this could also make Adobe revisit Flash and make it a much better product.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many criticisms that can be levelled at Flash, and at Adobe. Its security history is spotty at best, and recent flaws have been rather unpleasant and hard to work around short of disabling flash entirely. At various times, it’s been a horrible CPU hog, and even now it’s easy enough to create a page which bogs down the mightiest of PCs unless the host browser has some form of plugin throttle or has successfully moved plugins to separate/multiple processes. Of course, it’s closed-source commercial software, so if you’ve a bee in your bonnet for the GPL then it was never going to be your favourite. And y’know, I’ve ranted at length in the past about Adobe’s corporate policies — their “ha ha, because we can!” pricing policy (particularly for non-Americans) and their “how long was the illustrator graph tool broken for?” patching timescales. They aren’t perfect by a long chalk.

But, based on nothing more than gut feeling, I’d suggest that what the greatest number of people hate about Flash are the annoying ads it’s allowed into being. The “punch the monkey and win a prize” ads, the stupid autostarting video clips which blare out loud audio at the worst possible times. All the websites with 3 minute unskippable intro animations and menu systems that take 5 seconds after every button push before starting to load the new content. And guess what: none of that will go away.

HTML5 and its associated tech is looking to replace the underpinnings, not the mechanism itself. There’ll be HTML5 smack-the-spider ads, there’ll be opening sequences and too-clever-to-be-navigable interfaces. There’ll be video blaring out EVERYWHERE.

So by all means call the for destruction of Flash if you like, praise Apple for excluding Flash and others for stepping up, but just keep in mind that the new reality, when it arrives, might look a little familiar.