Software is supposed to solve our everyday problems in an effective an unobtrusive manner, and 1Password from Agile Bits does exactly that. I have been using the software for about a month now, and I’m now ready to share my experiences with you. Read the rest of this entry »
Quite a few people have read my post A Freelancer Moving to Rio and that has lead to a lot of questions about working in Rio and living in the city in general. So I though I would share my experiences from my stay in Rio – hopefully you can use some of these tips if you too are thinking about visiting this wonderful city. This might be a long post, but I have divided it into sections so you can skip ahead if you like. Read the rest of this entry »
Ok so I have not picked up surfing while here in Brazil, but I have spend quite a lot of time chilling at the beach and checking them out hitting the waves. Here the other day a cyclone in the Antarctic pushed great masses of water up the South American coast. These water masses ended up hitting the coast along Rio and we had some quite spectacular waves – much to the joy of the surfers.
After having spend 20 minutes on the beach, my girlfriend and I decided to go back home and pick up the 7D and then get on down to Arpoador. This is a great urban surf spot very popular amongst the regular surfers and the body boarders. A great rock formation cuts trough the water and it is a perfect spot to watch the sundown over Ipanema. Below is the video I shot that day.
So here the other day I found myself in a position where I needed to do some A/B testing on a landing page. I have to admit that until now I have done these tests in a pretty impractical way by testing one handcoded template for a week and then the other. I know I know – not really the way to go about this.
So I set out to find a no nonsense solution for A/B testing and in my search I came across Optimizely. Before I write anything else I think you should take a minute to check out the demo below – it will explain in detail what you can do with Optimizely much better than I can.
So I think by now you will agree with me that it is a pretty cool tool for doing A/B testing and increasing your conversions right? The cool thing is that you can use this for WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or whatever platform you are running your site on. Best of all it is super simple to test copy writing and layout without having to do a lot of coding, Basically Optimizely will enable you to act on your ideas right away. Go ahead and give it a try – it is damn cool.
So here I am – just 6 days away from relocating to exotic Rio de Janeiro for 6 months. I have to admit I am looking forward to swapping out cold Copenhagen with Ipanema. I mean who wouldn’t be?
So Why am I Moving
Besides the obvious reasons such as the samba, sun and caipirinhas, the temporary relocation is actually credited to my girlfriend. As part of her masters degree she wanted to do an internship abroad and landed one with the UN in Rio – hence the move. Since I am a freelance web designer I am pretty mobile and having been to Brazil before I wouldn’t miss the chance of living out every freelancers dream. Lets admit it – haven’t we all been sitting at a 9-5 job somewhere wishing we could just drop everything and catch the next flight out of here? Well it turns out things are only as complicated as you make them.
Setting up the Network for the Move
One of the first things I did when I started freelancing was to determine how I would like to run my business. Early on I came to the conclusion that I wanted to focus on selling my services as a freelancer to larger agencies. First of all this helps me minimize the time I need to generate leads and do sales work with end clients – the jobs from agencies often come to me with specs and all. Also I establish professional relationships and trust that over time allows me to do getaways like this. Once you have done a project or two with a company they know your work ethics and methods well enough to not care where you are located. This is not a must – that is just they way I have decided to do things.
With a dedicated Skype number in hand and a 3-hour time difference I could actually just have left without telling anyone. 80% of my clients wouldn’t know, but I want to operate in a transparent manner with my clients.
Finding a Place to Stay in Rio de Janeiro
Besides setting up my business network I started to immerse myself in the Brazilian culture and started learning the language (trying at least). With my 6”5, blue eyes and pink Scandinavian tan I will forever be a gringo in Brazil, but knowing a bit of Portuguese and staying clear of the “expat traps” will give us a more authentic stay.
The whole prep phase has been pretty intense. I ended up googling for days before I finally found an apartment for us – located in good old Ipanema. Not bad huh? Once the tickets, apartment and vaccinations got settled everything came into place and all of a sudden it all became very real.
A quick note on finding a place to stay – don’t get scared of prices on vacation rentals. Depending on how long you are looking to stay a furnished vacation rental might be just what you need. Just make sure you cut a deal with the landlord. Tell him that you need to work out a good price as he will be getting a steady tenant for a prolonged period of time and he wont need to deal with the hassle of people checking in and out every other day. You will be surprised how much you can work down the prices.
Finding out where to stay in Rio can be a bit complicated to start of with. It all depends on your temper and the experience you are looking for. First of all we wanted to live in Zona Sul as it is safer and well connected via the metro. The price range can vary a lot depending on what you are looking for. Generally Leblon, Lagoa and Ipanema are the more expensive neighborhoods followed by Leme, Copacabana and Botafogo. Copacabana is where most tourists stay so we wanted to stay clear of that – again we are looking for a more authentic stay although we will never become true Cariocas (Rio natives).
Since we are talking about a short time relocation I wont be bringing all of my belongings for the trip. Apart from the liters of sunscreen I will be needing the heaviest thing in my backpack will be my laptop and photo gear. I just sold my MacBook Air and upgraded to a 15” MacBook Pro – I can’t wait to work on it. I think it will be a good stand in for my favorite iMac that I will be leaving behind.
When it comes to organizing nothing beats Dropbox. I have all my clients work organized in a nice folder structure and setting up my new work computer was such a breeze. Apart from Dropbox I also set up Backblaze for the Macbook – better safe than sorry.
Last Week in Denmark
Time is closing in and I have an awful lot of checkmarks on my to-do list. This last week will be focused on packing, cleaning up the apartment for the sublet tenant we found and other practical things before the final move.
Tune in now and then to read more about the freelancing in Brazil and feel free to ask any questions you might have.
I have recently started learning Portuguese since I will be moving to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil for 6 months next year. Even though I am by no means fluent in the language yet I would like to share some tips and tricks that has helped me tremendously. The steps are in random order.
- Immerse Yourself in the Culture and Language
- Get a Private Teacher
- Quickly Expand Your Portuguese Vocabulary
- Buy The Best Language Learning Software for Portuguese
- Get a good Portuguese book
- Listen to Audio CDs With Brazilian Portuguese
Immerse yourself in Brazilian culture
Learning a language is more than just words and grammar. The cultural aspects hidden within a language are just as important when trying to comprehend. I have found it extremely useful to listen to Brazilian music as well as watch as many Brazilian movies as possible. Don’t just settle for “City of God” and “Tropa de Elite“. Brazil is so much more than the stereotypical favelas, carnival and beautiful women. Here is a small list of a couple of great Brazilian movies worth watching.
The Man Who Copied
André, relatively poor, falls in love with Silvia, a neighbor whom he spy’s with a telescope. Falling more and more in love with her, he begins to follow her around the city and realizes she works in a clothing shop. He works in a xerox place and makes a copy of a brand new 50 real bill in order to buy a dress from her store. This becomes a vice and he begins to photocopy more and more money, until it gets out of control. However, things begin to go wrong when he decides that photcopying is not the only way to make money.
Set in the desert landscape Brazil’s draught ridden sertao, the film follows the northeastward journey of a city professional, returning to his birth place after his father’s death in order to confront an archaic and mythical universe. Superstitions and new age religious fanaticism converge as the super highway catches up with the sertao.
It is also worth checking out the local Brazilian community in your city if it has any. Seeing Brazilians interact and communicate will help you understand the language and customs even better in the long run. You might even want to pick up on Brazilian cooking – I have learned to make a mean feijoada and mouqeca.
How to find a Portuguese teacher
Private teachers are always a great way to learn, but can in some cases be quite expensive. From experience I prefer the private teaching to the classroom experience as I have much more control over the pace and lessons in general. Together with my girlfriend I have found a private teacher for the same price of being enrolled in a class of around 30 students. Needles to say we get a lot more attention with a private teacher and all of our questions are answered.
So how do you find a teacher? If you follow my first tip about immersing yourself in Brazilian culture and your local Brazilian community you will quickly come across someone who can help you. Don’t be afraid to seek out places where you can come across a qualified teacher. Go to local events, visit Brazilian restaurants, go to concerts etc.
Expanding your Portuguese vocabulary
When kids learn to talk they spend an enormous amount of time grasping concepts and words. At first the vocabulary and the sentences might be very restricted but they try hard to get their point across. In order to build up my vocabulary quickly I have plastered every object in my home with small notes spelling the object in Portuguese along with a translation. That way I force myself to read and say the word when I pass it and learning new vocabulary becomes a 24/7 task without becoming overwhelming.
Learning Portuguese grammar – Falar Ler Escrever Portugues
Grammar is daunting no matter how you look at it. I know there are people out there who think that grammar is up there at the same level as sex, but I am not one of them. That said, once you get the grasp of conjugating verbs it feels really good.
The book “Falar Ler Escrever Portugues” is one of the best ways of getting started on the language. It is used in many language courses and I suggest using it together with your private teacher. It is full of exercises within all aspects of the language and will pave the way for a greater understanding of the language.
Language learning software – Rosetta Stone Brazilian Portuguese
There are many different variants of Portuguese language learning software on the market. However, one piece of software stands out above the rest: Rosetta Stone Brazilian Portuguese. The program works on both Mac and Pc and allows you to immerse yourself in Portuguese. You can put together your own set of lessons depending on what you need to learn and your current understanding of the language. The lessons are divided up into Pronunciation, Grammar, Speaking, Writing, Vocabulary, Listening and Reviewing. You can buy separate levels expanding as you go along. Rosetta Stone is widely used in both corporate and government institutions is seen as the industry standard of language learning software. They even provide a 6 months money back guarantee – for me it was a no brainer and it is highly recommended. Get the package here
Audio Cds – The Pimsleur Method
The Pimsleur Package is a set of CDs full of typical scenarios you might encounter in daily life. Each lesson is about 30 minutes and by completing one every other day you will slowly but surely expand your vocabulary. After the first few lessons you will be able to do short sentences and it will build up your confidence in no time. Just as Rosetta Stone you can buy separate levels or get the whole package at once. One of the advantages is that you can load the CD to your iPod or smartphone and practice whenever you want.
Last but not least there is a great podcast at Portuguese Pod101 that is well worth checking out. You can subscribe directly to the podcast and sync to your iPod, iPhone or whatever player/phone you might have an practice on the go.
The above is by no means a complete guide or certified method of learning a language. It is however my own personal experience and I can tell you it has made a great difference to me. Above all it is important to make the learning experience fun – it should never become a chore. That is why I suggest watching the movies, eating the food and otherwise immerse yourself in the cultural aspects. Slowly but surely all the pieces will come together and your will find yourself speaking Portuguese in no time.
The other day a friend called me saying that his external hard disk would not mount and it was doing a clicking sound. My friend is very capable sorting out computer problems on his own – the reason he called was because I have been trough the exact same problem before and he witnessed my weeklong attempt to salvage the broken disk. I am not going to go into detail about the tools I used, as this is not a tutorial as such.
In my case my disk failed to read properly and I had a hard time copying files out from the disk. I did after some time manage to get some files of the disk before it died 100%.
Don’t wait – backup now
So what is the morale? Backup your stuff and do it with Backblaze. I have talked about them before and I must admit I think it is a really cool tool. Backblaze works for Mac and PC and it is basically a small service running in the background all the time backing up your machine to the cloud. Backblaze is install and forget software and it is so super simple to use I cannot believe it.
Paying for backup is like insurance – no one really wants to do it. But think about how much you pay to insure your physical belongings? In that perspective $5 a month is a bargain for unlimited (yes unlimited) backup.
In case you need to restore from Backblaze you have 3 options:
- Download the files from the website
- Order DVDs with your content on
- Order a USB drive with your content on
That is pretty damn cool if you ask me!
I have been talking to my earlier mentioned friend about using Backblaze for backup before and it seems like he got the point this time and started the backup. It is funny how we all need to have a bad experience our self before we talk good free advise from other people.
So let’s try this one more time – go back up your digital life for $5 a month and make sure all your photos, videos, papers and work is safe. If you don’t – please don’t call me and ask how to get your stuff back
When Aperture 3 came out and introduced presets (about time) I started scouting the net for free presets. I quickly noticed that preset-sharing was far from organized. It was going on in large scale but it was very decentralized and non efficient from a user standpoint. Presets were shared on personal blogs, forums, mailing-lists etc. All this did was confirm my hunch that the photographer-community is one of the most sharing and caring one, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Since I have gone freelance as a web designer I all of a sudden have time for a personal project along with client work, and it was now obvious that my first project would be a preset community.
Hence Presetpond was born – the first online community for sharing Aperture and Lightroom presets. Everyone can download the presets posted for free. Registered user benefit from selfpromotion as they upload new presets to the base. These presets can then be rated and commented on by the community.
I have high hopes for the site, and time will tell if the community will remember to contribute and not only consume the free goods. This is a little social study as well.
Anyhow – if you are a photographer please head on over to presetpond.com and share some of your presets and get a couple of fresh new ones while you are at it.
Sharing is in many ways the pivotal point of the web. Whether we are talking users sharing photos or videos, sharing ideas and thoughts the idea of sharing is not new to the web. The notion of freely available knowledge is what makes many people describe the Internet as a gold mine.
There is such a thing as over sharing (read disabling all privacy features on Facebook) amongst private individuals. However, few people thought that private companies would join this sharing wave to the extent of giving away their trade secrets all in the name of the open web. Never the less that is what Backblaze did in a blogpost back in September 2009.
Backblaze is an amazing backup tool that lets you backup your computer both Mac and PC for no more than $5 a month – unlimited storage. That price point is hard to beat and I have used it ever since I lost a vast collection of images due to a dead hard drive. This however, is not a commercial for Backblaze – now lets get back on track.
What Backblaze did back in September of 2009 was nothing less than extraordinary. In a blog post they revealed how to build their custom storage devices they have created enabling them to offer the storage at such a remarkable low price point. Not only do they describe how to build the “pod”, but they also include a 3d model, complete list of items needed and a diagram.
I still have not figured out why the decided to open up like that but I came across the blog post from Digg and found out about the company through that channel. Also it projected the company as cool, open, forward thinking and with good intentions. The outcome -> I signed up.
Many other companies and individuals are doing this on a regular basis – giving away for free. At the end of the day that is what the open source movement is about.
Another example I came across recently is a small project managed by Niels Gamborg. He has created a range of name generators and has decided to give away the name generator scripts that run this site for free. What makes this stand out from general open source projects is that we are actually talking about a complete site ready to launch with minimum effort. This could easily be used for an Adsense hobby project.
Bottom line – the Internet is once again showing how we are reinventing how we do business.
A couple of months ago my old trustworthy 20-inch Core Duo iMac gave up and called it quits. It was a lovely machine that has served me well over the years.
After convincing my better half of the benefit of stuffing yet another device with a display in our home I pulled the trigger and ordered the 27-inch iMac at the Apple store. Before hand I had heard about the display problems, but many reports indicated that week 9 seemed to be the week that Apple finally addressed the problem successfully.
However, the first iMac arrived and right away it was obvious that it was a lemon. A big yellowish spot at the bottom right part of the screen was far from what I expected from an Apple product being promoted on the display quality among other things. Luckily the Apple support went as smoothly as always and a replacement was arranged no questions asked (this should have been a warning, they knew they still had a problem).
I was promised the unit would get an extra check before it shipped out as it was a replacement and of course we all wanted to avoid another lemon. The day came and the replacement arrived – to my huge disappointment this machine also suffered from a yellow tint although not closely as bad as the first machine. On top of the tint there was also a faint shadow visible across the bottom (although very hard to see in everyday use).
I expected more from an Apple product
To cut the story short I have received 4 machines in all, and the 2nd version I got is still the best. I have previously owned 5 macs before the 27 Inch, and all of the machines have been wonderful. This experience has been way below Apples standard, and they really have a problem at their hands. I am a customer with money in my hands wanting to buy the product advertised but they can’t deliver.
To be fair I have kept the 2nd machine and received a 100 Euro refund. Actually I couldn’t care less about the 100 euro. All I wanted was the product advertised.
Note: Apart from the display issue, that is not evident in everyday use, the machine kicks ass and is fantastic to work on. Once they get the displays fixed this machine is a winner.