Monday, March 30, 2009

Animate Pro announced! HOO HA!!!


Great news for animators! Toon Boom has announced a new program to update "Digital Pro."

It's called "Animate Pro."

The coolest part of this program will be the ability to manipulate drawings in a 3-D space.

Several of my animations featured cars driving with the background moving from front to back. This simulation of a 3-D camera was actually a real pain in the neck with the current available programs. True, there is a limited 3-D capability in both "Digital Pro" and "Toon Boom Studio," but there are serious limits on the camera moves. On some of my animations, there are strange artifacts that start to appear with the cars on the road that I tried to conceal with character placement.

The 3-D camera will be very helpful in adding drama to limited animation. Yes, limited animation is wimpy, but when you are a lone animator and want to crank out a commercial spot quickly, you can maximize your quality by dramatic zooms or subtle perspective shifts.

"Animate Pro" will be a top end product for serious animators. The current upgrade prices seem very reasonable to me, though.

Check it out at http://www.toonboom.com/






Thursday, March 19, 2009

Intuit Quick Books is trying to kill me


Intuit software makes Quickbooks Pro, the standard for company accounting. It's pretty much a mandatory piece of software that must be updated regularly. We started the company with the 2002 version, updated in 2005, and were advised to update to the current 2009 by our bookkeeper

I've dreaded this moment.

To put it simply, Quickbooks updates its software for one major reason: It wants to turn your company files into an incompatible format that will require everyone in your management: bookkeepers, accountants, etc. to also update the software. This keeps everyone paying an annual ransom of $100 to $200 per year per machine installed.

Quickbooks also demands that you physically call the company to activate the product. You cannot use that new fangled internet thing. First, you wait on hold because all operators are busy. Then, you must try to spell “Mussey,Sarber, & Associates, P.C.” to some poor underpaid guy in a third-world cubicle and hope he doesn't mistake your “s” for an “f.” Then he gives a sales pitch, which he mercifully cut short when I let it be known my agitation level was sky high because the software appeared to be scrambling our company books.

Anyway, attempts to resume our company's entire lifetime numbers began to result in all sorts of messages: “The files must be updated and converted and the process will ONLY take 30 minutes or so.” Then: “The company files appear to be in a corrupt form. Do you want to recover?”

I want to scream: “NO, YOU FLIPPING MORON! I'LL JUST DECLARE BANKRUPTCY NOW AND LET THE COURTS FIGURE IT ALL OUT!!! OF COURSE I WANT MY DAMN RECORDS RECOVERED!!!!”

So, I click yes and the machine chugs along, advertising in the sidebar about other features they want to sell me for hundreds of bucks more than the annual ransom fees.

The books have been “recovered.” I am temporarily reassured... until I try to back up our files. “The files are corrupt. Do you want to recover?”

When I hit this error message five times in a row, a cold sweat begins to drip on my forehead as I start to hyperventilate. I try to find help on the Intuit forums. It turns out this nightmare is a special “feature” in the 2009 version that requires careful review of the “qbwin.log” file to decipher.

This is, of course, easy if you programmed the program yourself and you don't make the mistake of thinking the “qbwin.log” file is in the main program directory. No! It's scattered somewhere else. It turns out that opening the “qbwin.log” file located in the Quicken program directory actually gives you the 2005 file!

Silly me.

A special help page on the Intuit knowledge base helps you find the particular “qbwin.log” file that is in use now. It's “easy” to access it! You go to the “about” screen, hit F3, then hit F4, then hit alt-F5, face North and bang your head on the spacebar. It actually works!

Thank goodness Intuit provides such “intuitive” menus! Just send me the damn paycheck and I'll write the 2010 version myself!!!

Amazingly, going through all the equal signs and hieroglyphics, I find the line that I think points to the verification error. The message is a strange “identification” error. Intuit's help-page asks me to copy and paste the error message into their Intuit “error help” search site and assures me the answer will become obvious. I paste the piece of error text: It comes up with zero. Intuit has no idea what the error message means. I'm screwed.

I scan the Intuit customer support forums some more and find a slew of angry messages from customers who are having this identical problem even after MONTHS of trouble-shooting, tech support phone time, email exchanges with Intuit, reinstalls, etc. When you try and call Intuit's third-world based support site, all you get is an unhelpful request to reinstall the program and try again. This takes 30-plus minutes per install and never works, based on the angry customer complaints.

The stakes here are not trivial. This is the entire accounting history of my medical practice here! When it gets scrambled, I might as well bring my own handcuffs to the IRS audit.

Anyway, I figured out a "work-around" for the error. I simply turned OFF "backup verification."

Maybe this is how AIG's downfall started.

I can hardly wait for “Electronic Medical Records.”