Category Archives: Technology

“The Cloud” Darkens

A recent NY Times investigation done with help of McKinsey & Co. revealed data centers supporting “the cloud” were consuming over 2% of the nation’s energy in 2010. One finding, these data centers “used the equivalent output of 30 nuclear power plants,” detracts attention from the reality: much of the energy they consume is coming from carbon-based power plants.

According to the investigation, one data center alone can consume as much power as mid-sized city. What’s equally troubling, most data centers are incredibly inefficient, running at utlilization rates of 7-12% and consuming exponentially more power than required to meet their operating capacity out of fear of “down time.”  The back-up power systems preferred by many, diesel generators, are adding to the problem and generating a growing number of environmental fines.

Granted “Big Data” is a relatively immature industry, but one wonders how much longer the exaggerated claims of “online being greener” will continue. As the old saying goes: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but….”

Not So Fast

It make sense for the decline of printed dictionaries and encyclopedias, but why did everyone give up so fast on print components for ad campaigns? Forbes.com takes a closer look at the advantages of print media for advertising:

Tangibility- You can touch it, while most ads on the internet disappear in the blink of an eye.

Credibility- Besides a paper cut, what’s the most damage a postcard can do? Fear of spam and viruses make people weary of clicking.

Engagement- Most websites are skimmed in less than 15 seconds. Print retains people attention 30 % longer.

Less print ads- The advantage of print ad decline, publications are less crowded, so you stand out and probably at a cheaper price.

Qr Codes- Print 2.0 or smart print is all about finding balances using various media. QR codes allow your campaigns to be multi-touch and interactive.

Thought Leaders and Printing Teachers – Lynda.com

We were approached by Lynda.com, the leader in online graphics training, to help them create a course that would help explain the fundamentals of print production.

Lynda.com came to us for our vast knowledge of specialty printing methods like: letterpress, embossing, thermography and die cutting. They spent the day touring our facilities with cameras, lights, and questions. We are excited to see companies like Lynda.com help designers past the computer screen and realize the full potential of print.

Check out some of the videos at YouTube.

Election Season Depends Upon Print

It’s no surprise, given the inability to secure digital information, that the upcoming election cycles are again choosing print to ensure voters get reliable information and ballots. Here, in Los Angeles, we digitally print tens of millions of pages of CA voter guides in nearly 90 languages, sort and mail them to millions of individual voters…all within a few weeks.

Despite the use of e-technology to saturate the public with campaign messages, when information has to be right, secure and understood by everyone, “print” continues to prove its unique value. As you vote, and I strongly encourage everyone to exercise that responsibility, appreciate that your vote is going to count and can be audited and verified.

While digital voting may someday arrive (hopefully not before every eligible voter has equal “e-access”), when that happens, all bets are off.  Unlike print, e-ballots can be hacked, tracked and worse.  Time will tell.

The End of Business Cards? Hardly.

Today’s LA Times front page had an article (featuring an online entrepreneur :>) who definitely sees no use for business cards, no future and predicts “they’re over.”  Buried in the article were points which clearly refute the title of article, but no matter.

What turned out to be really interesting after reading this “echo from the Rot Com era” was: although I’m a loyal p-newspaper subscriber because I support their investigative journalism, I later visited the LA Times site to see reader responses (LAT generously provides a Comments section for each article).

Oops, all but one response derided the article and the idea that business cards are “over.”  Despite the “e-PR spin” –  the future is all about ‘bumping’ mobile devices, ‘snapping’ codes and such…to instantly download contact data – the article curiously failed to address the exploding problem of mobile device hacking, which is doubling every few months…the reason savvy folks resist dumping unverified data into their contact lists.

What was truly interesting among the comments, several clearly called out the “e-com is greener” myth…and backed their arguments with facts. Just as I was smiling and navigating elsewhere, I bumped into another “e-PR” article built upon the premise “Things change, the ‘New Normal’ is here to stay.”  Where I’d been smiling before, I laughed out loud at this one.  No, sorry Gen Y, “today’s New Normal” will also change.

That’s the problem with “spin,” once folks start, they can’t seem to stop, but no matter.

I needed a good laugh to end the week. And the biggest one of all came right after…when I read that neutrino communication can eventually replace the internet. The recently completed research and successful tests are no laughing matter, but the thought of all that e-PR facing finally facing its comeuppance, that’s sublime.

The QR Conundrum – Will They Last ?

As many speculate on the fading popularity of QR codes, I don’t see them vanishing. I think they’ll continue to be widely used for their originally intended purposes and others not yet seen. QR’s never gained popularity with more than 16% of the U.S. population, and now they’re getting more bad press (this time for installing unauthorized phone billing). When used in context, they’re safe, but early adopters are becoming hesitant about using them.

If not QR’s, then what ?  My guess:  “Near field printing, ” which enables printing to simply be “touched against” a mobile device to enable e-links, could become “the Next Big Thing” in interactive printing and marketing.

“NFP” (Near Field Printing) uses printed circuits (a long proven technology), but unlike QR codes, they’re typically over-printed and invisible to the naked eye. I think this, along with ‘ease of use,’ will better satisfy designers, marketers and consumers. The new circuits introduced by Touchcode show exceptional promise thanks to their ability to auto-connect printing to pads, readers and mobile devices.

For NFP to achieve its full potential, printers are going to need a quick, easy and inexpensive way to generate circuit layouts. Expect more competition for Touchcode in the years ahead.

 

QR Codes

Quick, what do you see? Is it a cartoon character or maybe a microchip? No, this is a QR code and we’re seeing them more and more often in daily life. A QR code (Quick Response code) is a form of matrix coding first used in the automotive industry during the mid 1990’s.

We’re all familiar with bar codes from standing in line at the check out register. A QR code takes that several steps further over a much wider range of applications targeting mobile phone users. One such application we’re seeing in our industry is printing a QR code on business cards. A customer can have a code created that leads to a company’s website, an advertisement or contact information.

All that is required is a phone equipped with a web browser and QR code reader. Usage is on the rise with 14 million users during June 2011 in the United States alone. So next time you see one of these codes, grab your phone or your friend’s phone and see where it leads.

“Counterfeiting Incorporated” – the World’s Largest Company

Counterfeit merchandise

Image by "DangApricot" via Wikipedia

With counterfeit products growing 30% annually, this plague is now estimated to be doing nearly $1 TRILLION dollars per year in sales. Odds are good, something in your home or office is a “knock off.” Maybe it’s that “discount pair” of sunglasses or watch you bought for 80% off. The scary part is, it may also be your food, medicine, appliances, clothing and electronic devices too.

Estimates are that 75%+ of online Viagra sales are outright fakes, worse still, some containing dangerous content. A high percentage of those “online Canadian pharmacies” are actually sites based in 3rd world nations. Fake baby formula and “products” make the news constantly now that International Govt’s have finally started responding to the threat C-Inc. presents. Hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in taxes are being lost to counterfeits, and these are a big factor in today’s economic problems.

Fake auto parts are causing accidents, knock off appliances are causing fires, and even your good old “cell phone” has become a dubious proposition. Tens of thousands of counterfeit and gray market mobile devices are being seized at US ports.

What’s a good person supposed to do? First, recognize that “if the price is too good to be true,” something’s wrong. Buying knock off handbags, watches and sunglasses is NOT a victim-less bargain, it’s costing honest, tax-paying workers their jobs. Be very wary of online purchases from unknown sellers. Watch out for “faked sites,” and when in doubt about any online “pitch” (as the wise always are), log out and go directly to that merchant or business “actual site.”

(image source)

Hacked Off? Nope.

While it’s sad a hacker went to unusual lengths to try and prevent us from sharing of useful knowledge, oddly it’s beneficial. For one thing, it’s proof positive that “nothing online” is totally dependable, something we’ve been warning folks about for a long time. Oddly, it’s also refreshing to “start anew.” Much like a home that burns down, while one misses “things,” one is also liberated from the past.

One wonders at what point “the Cloud” (those acres of energy sucking servers pulling endless fossil fuel power) will have another “come to Jesus” moment. The question is not “if,” but when…as daily evidence of hacking of the most sophisticated systems runs rampant.

Then again, I have a real library at home, and printing doesn’t get hacked :>)