Nov 292010

Just recently bought a new Nikon 50mm f/1.4 D and, since I had to agonise over whether to get the 1.8 or the 1.4 (which costs twice the price for 2/3 of a stop more) I thought I’d try to evaluate it in some objective way, and test some of my other lenses while I’m at it.

So I found and printed off a resolution test target from here and also a color test chart. I mounted these onto a piece of 6mm depron such that, with the X with a circle round it was at the center of view and focal point. So the target spans from center to corner of the frame. This allows testing all the way to the edge. This is what the whole shot looks like…

As you can see, the colour image was at the edge of the frame.

All lenses were set at 50mm apart from the 55mm prime 😛 All filters were removed. Exposure was with flashgun (on manual) to ensure reasonable consistency. I’m interested in sharpness across the frame, rather than perfect exposure here.

Other lenses tested in the series were…

  • Nikkor 35-80mm 1:4-5.6 AFD
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6G ED
  • Micro Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 AI (manual focus)

The target was photographed from 2.55 m, which is the ideal distance for this design of target with a 50mm (read up on the target link above if you want all the geeky details – it’s a bit beyond me to be honest. I just wanted to see how good my new lens is compared to the others I have and compared to itself at different apertures). The camera was on a tripod and lenses were focussed on the circle with a cross in it. A range of apertures were used, but since the largest that they all have is f/5.6, this was used for the comparison.

So onto the results. I have cut and pasted the colour chart, the bottom left resolution chart and the central resolution chart from each lens test.

Click for full res version (2.7 meg)

Looking at the sharpness at the edge, not surprisingly the two primes, both of which are pro-spec lenses, have excellent sharpness all the way to the edge. Both the zooms (which were both “kit lenses”) are a bit soft and woolly at the edges. Obviously the 55mm lens made the picture a little bit bigger due to 5mm extra focal length – that’s why the colour section was cropped.

As for the AFD 1.4 itself, here is the comparison of various apertures…

Click for full resolution image (2.7 meg)

Looking carefully, you can see it’s a bit soft wide open, much better by f/2, but by the time you get to f/2.8 it’s great. However, its softness wide open is only “poor” compared to its own performance. If you compare it with the two zooms, it’s not that bad. Since I bought it for available (low) light portraits, I think the soft-focus feel may even be an advantage. I probably still would have preferred if it had been razor sharp wide open because you can always soften in post processing, but expecting sharpness at f/1.4 may be unrealistic. Still. job done. I think this lens is a keeper. 😀 Good job too as it’s my Christmas present from the family. :present:

Nov 242010

I received a lovely email yesterday from a translation provider…


Yum, yum, looks great 🙂

We would like to take a moment and express our gratitude to our clients and friends all over the world.
Thank you for trusting us to translate your important documents, manuals, websites etc.
Thank you for recognizing us as your number one resource for your translation needs.
Thank you for your continued business and confidence.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday, but the need to look back and give thanks is universal. Everybody here extends a special thank you to all of you, for making our work so interesting. It has been a pleasure to do business with you.

There was also a lovely photo of a yummy-looking thanksgiving dinner (I added the caption) and contact details (which I’ve omitted to avoid embarrassment/aggravation).

This is a lovely thought, and the sentiments in the email were lovely too. There’s just two minor problems with it…

  1. I got two copies of it to different email addresses
  2. I don’t know these people.

So I can’t be customer or friend. So it’s not really a personal thank you, it’s an unusual database marketing attempt. But as a database marketing attempt it is seriously lacking, since it doesn’t even mention what language(s) they do. Yes, I know, I could visit their website and find out, but I can’t be bothered – and neither will most prospects.

I love the sentiments expressed, but I don’t love the deceptive approach, and, I suspect, neither will most prospective clients. You’ll get better results by being straight with people. 🙂

Nov 192010

Crowdsourcing is a very topical and current buzzword in the translation industry. It’s been used in quite a few “Open Source” software projects for localization into other languages. It seems to be a big trend in software development – look at the whole UNIX project. I was doing a pre-university year at IBM in 1987-1988 when the Open Software Foundation was formed. IBM were part of it. The idea was to develop UNIX in an open collaborative manner. In the end, LINUX did it more successfully, but even so, Microsoft – the paid-for equivalent – still won through and became more ubiquitous. (On a little side note I LOVE UBUNTU – were it not for the need for complete MS compatibility for clients, I would dump MS at the drop of a hat.)

Actually, we should all take great cheer from that – even if we “love to hate” MS. It shows you that “paid-for” can win against “FREE”. Translators feeling threatened by crowdsourcing should find that greatly encouraging. 😀

So what about today’s news then? The UK government has released, to the public domain, details of all public spending over £25,000. Part of the idea is to enable the public to scrutinise how our money is being spent – presumably to appear more transparent and accountable. But the other reason given is that…

Full BBC article here

it was part of the government’s plan to abolish professional Whitehall scrutineers like the Audit Commission and replace them with an “army of armchair auditors”.

So the UK government is trying to use crowdsourcing to bring down costs. It’s an interesting idea and almost feels radical. The UK taxpayer in me hopes it works. The business analyst in me thinks it will encourage others to try crowdsourcing. It’s an interesting experiment. Good on the government for having a go :yes: (Although you can be sure they’ve only disclosed what they want to disclose – that almost goes without saying.) 😛

Nov 182010

A translation error at a UK prison labelled an exercise yard as an “execution yard” in the draft of an information booklet for Russian inmates.

An inspection report mentioned the faux pas at Lincoln Prison in a section on foreign prisoners.

The translation was spotted by a member of staff at the proof stage, the Ministry of Justice said.

And jolly good thing too. That’s what proofing is for. Mind you, how anyone mistook “exercise” for “execution” I can’t quite understand. Could it have been a slip of the spell-checker? Are the Russian terms for these words similar? A few years ago we handled some prison manuals into Polish. I remember it being a long and fairly lucrative job. :laugh:

Full BBC story here

Nov 162010

Listen to tranfree 75
tranfree 75 – Upside-down world & Customer Loyalty
Download PDF


Hello and welcome to another tranfree.

It’s been a busy month for me. I’ve spent a fair bit of time reconfiguring a new web server to bring all my web hosting into one place. I used to have bits and pieces of web hosting dotted about all over the place and wanted to simplify things. But I’d put it off for a long time as I knew it would be the computer equivalent of admin work – something many of us leave until we’re forced into it.

In case you missed it last time, I launched an ebook called Business Success for Freelance Translators. The “Crazy launch  offer” will close on 30th November 2010. There’s still some copies left under the offer, so grab yours now if you want to take advantage of it. This offer will not be repeated in its current form after that time.

I’ve also come up with a loyalty discount plan for previous product buyers. See the end of the main article for details of this. (The reasons for this will become clear when you read the article.)

The other ‘eventful happening’ this month was a hugely popular blog article I wrote about LionBridge. In case you haven’t heard about the 5% discount controversy, the blog post is here.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from tranfree smile


Alex Eames

tranfree editor, Author –

Business Success For Freelance Translators,
How to Earn $80,000+ per Year as a Freelance Translator

Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

Upside-down World

By Alex Eames

To reward or to punish customer loyalty?

It’s an upside down world. So many things are not the way they ought to be. But one thing I found vaguely encouraging this week was the slogan for the recent G20 summit. “Shared growth beyond crisis.”

What I found encouraging about it was the fact that it included the word “shared”. As a species, human beings haven’t always been very good at sharing. We’re innately selfish – it’s a regrettable part of our nature. frown Couple that with the fact that most of us instinctively want to…

  • have nice things
  • be safe and secure
  • live a prosperous life

Those are good, normal and healthy things to want. big grin But it’s easy to lose sight of the wider picture. There’s only a finite amount of tangible resources available in the world to go around. So if you are going to be rich, someone else is going to be poor. (Probably more than one “someone else” – that’s the way it is.) If you want to share a cake between 10 people, but one person gets half of it, the others will all have less. That’s a basic dose of economic reality. It sucks, but that’s the way it is and it’s not going to change. If you’re doing well because you’ve worked hard to get where you are, you’ve nothing to feel bad about. smile

Do the right thing(s) and you will prosper

Those people, businesses and countries which do the right things – create innovative, useful products and services which are in demand, will do well. It cannot be any other way. Let’s take a look at the field of translation.

Globalisation, travel, increased communication, technological developments and the internet have created a long term growth trend in the demand for translation. Naturally, there are competitive forces working against rates and for increased productivity. Obviously when people hear about those who have done well in translation, they want to join the party. You’re always going to get that in any field.

But those who truly do a good job and do it well will float to the top. It’s a kind of commercial justice. If you meet your clients’ needs willingly and well and charge a fair price – demonstrating your worth – you will do well. I call that natural growth. It comes out of being honest, ethical, competent and reliable.

Growth at all costs?

Where I think the world economy has gone seriously wrong is in the basic premise of striving for growth at all costs. We’re lucky in translation because our field is still growing. So there are still opportunities. But surely common-sense and clear thought shows that it’s not possible to grow all the time? An economy will have periods of growth and periods of shrinkage (like Japan in the last decade). A lot of the “growth” in the UK over the last decade has been fuelled by heavy borrowing, both by state and consumers. One day, that money has to be paid back. It’s a one-off situation that can’t be repeated. Or put another way, the economy has been propped up artificially by borrowing against future earnings. If excessive borrowing to fund spending is a bad way to run a household, it’s an even worse way to run a country. The US doesn’t fare much better and neither does debt-ridden Europe. frown

One day it’s got to shrink back to “reality”. When it does, the squeeze will be most profoundly felt by those at the bottom. It can’t be any other way. If you have floated to the top and have good clients, who know the value of your services, you will be secure. If they know that your translation of their product manuals or marketing literature is a vital part of their export process, you’ve made yourself indispensible. They might try to squeeze you a bit, but you won’t be cut out altogether. If you have become truly essential you’ll be in a powerful position to resist the squeeze. Some of your clients might go bust, but you have others to fall back on.

It’s the people working for low rates at “translation workhouses” who will be the ones getting squeezed. We’ve seen this recently with LionBridge’s 5% discount demand, swiftly followed by a poor set of financial results.

Economic growth cannot go on forever.

The point I want to make here is that growth cannot go on forever. Once the resources in the world are all allocated, there’s nothing more to grow. Look at history. Great civilisations come and go. It’s always been that way and it’ll carry on being that way. The democratic capitalist model still has some life left in it, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there’s something else dominating the world in 100 years time.

Whilst there may not always be enough work to satisfy everyone who wants to be a translator, there will always be enough work for the best people, who are offering a good service and are a pleasure to deal with. The hard part is finding enough good clients to fill your order book.

Customer loyalty

The best way to build on your success is to try and keep all your good clients. This is another area where the world is upside down. In the area of rewarding customer loyalty, big business has it wrong.

In all sorts of big business areas, customer loyalty is despised and distained. A lot of expense and effort goes on getting new customers by poaching them from the competition.

I’ll give you a few examples.

We have insurance to cover our house and car against accidents and unforeseen disasters. For many years we stayed with the same company, but each year the cost seemed to go up disproportionately. So a couple of years ago I decided to get some quotes from the competition. I was surprised to find that, by shopping around, I could get equivalent cover for a much lower price. The surprise was doubled when I found out the cover was underwritten by the same company I was with already. Double standards! Because I was a “new client” going through a broker, I could get ~30% discount.

These days I like to check the market every year for the best deal. Companies are cutting their own throats to try and steal business from each other. So it pays to look around. But let’s stop and think for a minute. Wouldn’t it be cheaper for those companies to look after their existing clients better instead of charging them more to subsidise acquisition of new clients? Perhaps it wouldn’t? I don’t know the figures. Perhaps the majority of people stick with the same company for years on end without considering other options?

But surely the best way to go, in our business, is to keep hold of the good customers you’ve already got and build on that. It costs time, effort and money to market to new clients.

It’s the same with software. The laptop I bought last year came with McAfee Internet Security pre-installed. It costs £40 to renew the annual subscription for just 1 machine. But if I go to Amazon and buy the new 2011 version of the same software, I can put it on 3 machines and it only costs £15. So that’s an eighth of the price per machine. But if I take the easy option of ‘click the link and give the card number’ it’ll cost me £120 to protect those three machines. This is another example of customer inertia.

Look at this from both sides!

As a customer, if you take the easiest path it will often cost you. From the provider’s perspective, though, it shows you how, if you make life easy for people they will keep buying from you. You need to walk the knife-edge of making life easy for your clients while charging good prices and delivering excellent value. But be sure you don’t punish your clients for their loyalty like in the above two examples.

If you look around, you see this systematic client-abuse behaviour in all kinds of large businesses…

  • Banks using “bait and switch” interest rates to attract savings funds. (Although I pine for the days when money on deposit actually earned some interest frown)
  • Utilities giving discounts for direct debit payments, then debiting far more than they need under the guise of “estimated bills”.
  • ISPs – many of which offer much better deals to new customers than those who have been with them for years.

What I want you to take away from this is to ask yourself two questions…

1) Am I rewarding customer loyalty or do I bite the hand that feeds?

Think about ways you can reward customer loyalty. Build the relationship. But it goes without saying that you only want to do this with profitable clients you enjoy doing business with.

2) Am I jumping through too many hoops to get new clients?

Do you accept deep discounts to get a new client who promises to make it up on the next one? If you give a deep discount to acquire a new client, chances are that when you quote your normal rates at them next time, they’ll be like me with my insurance and look elsewhere.

I’ve provoked myself with this article

In writing this article I provoked myself to consider how I am rewarding loyalty in my own business. As a result of that, I am offering previous buyers of my products a 40% discount on the new Business Success for Freelance Translators ebook package. If you want to take advantage of this offer, it will have to be processed manually as I have no automated verification method. Please send me an email to upgrades (AT) stating your name, email address and approximate year of purchase. I will then verify you in my database and email back purchase instructions.

Alex Eames is the founder of, editor of tranfree and author of the eBooks…

Business Success for Freelance Translators
Selling Your Professional Services on the Web

Nov 152010

Offer by email to renew McAfee subscription…

That’s one copy on one machine for £40

On Amazon you get a lot more for a lot less…

Three copies on three machines for £24 (and I bought the same thing last week for £15). Now I understand special offers, and Amazon does have some mad special offers from time to time. But I wouldn’t normally expect to see an 8-fold differential in prices. 😯 Of course you wouldn’t see an 8-fold difference unless you actually had 3 machines to install it on, but we do.

Just goes to show. It pays to shop around for software. :yes:

Nov 132010

What looks wrong with this photo?

Wall-mounted, widescreen 23″ TFT monitor displaying Windows 98? 😛 Talk about ancient and modern! I’m having an office clearout and decided that I no longer require a 12 year old disused mini-tower Windows 98 PC, when I’ve got a Win 7 laptop, a dualboot Ubuntu/XP laptop (2003 vintage – I use for teaching), and another pentium 4 Ubuntu desktop machine (that one’s just for fun).

A couple of months ago we part-exchanged out oldest laptop (1997 – with Windows 95 on it) and got £50 off the price of Tomek’s Acer One netbook.

But the point of this little story is a doubly ironic twist. Irony 1 – windows 98 in widescreen flat panel TFT. Irony 2 was that in order to get my data off this machine before dumping it, I had to update it to SP2 and then install some drivers so it could communicate with a flash drive. Get that? Update a machine so you can throw it away :silly: . The only other options were to…

  1. go in the loft and dig out the external CDR drive and burn a couple of CDs.
  2. try to get a win 7 machine to talk to win 98 via a CAT5 ethernet cable (rather you than me)

So I found a useful site which told me that you can use USB flash drives with Windows 98. 😀 I gave it a go and it worked. Now the windows 98 machine is in line for recycling. I took the PSU out. They’re useful little things. And also the hard disk (2GB :rotfl:). But the rest is out of here. It served us well in its time, but now it’s just taking up valuable space – well not any more. But I just had to get a shot of the ancient and modern combination for old times sake. Look at this photo. It’s not the photo that’s grainy, it’s the Windows 98 graphic.

Windows 98 on a widescreen TFT. :)

Windows 98 on a widescreen TFT. 🙂

The nice thing about declaring a machine obsolete, is that all the manuals and floppy disks that went with it can be disposed of as well. This frees up quite a bit of space. 😎

Nov 022010

For reasons I won’t bore you with, I had a need to start all over again with my web server. The only valuable item on there was my blog. So I looked into how to make a complete backup as painless as possible. There are several things to backup though, not just your database of posts, replies etc.

  1. themes wp-content/themes
  2. plugins wp-content/plugins
  3. all your media content (photos, mp3, videos) wp-content/uploads

(If I tell the truth though, I downloaded the whole WordPress folder to my local PC, as well as the gzipped database backup. I don’t trust computers an inch, having worked with them for >30 years.)

Those are doubtless the things most people are likely to forget about or miss altogether. I have quite a lot of photos in my blog and if I hadn’t backed up the /wp-content folder, the photography section would have become utterly worthless. Since a lot of time and effort went into it, I backed it up.

Backing Up
Having not done much SQL work before, the database part was the most scary. So let’s start with that…

The good news for the actual backup is that there are plugins that will do this for you. I used WordPress Database Backup. And on my installation (WP 3.01) it worked fine. The only sight niggle is that one or two special characters got substituted, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for not having to recreate or simply dispose of 50+ content-rich pages. It might even have been down to me for not choosing the correct character set when I created the new MySQL database (who knows/cares?).

So this plugin will allow you either to store the backup file in a sub-folder on your server, or to download it to your PC. It can also schedule automatic backups to be emailed to you as well. 😀

So, in addition to database backup, I downloaded the entire file structure of my WordPress blog in the hope that I would avoid losing anything vital.

Server Rebuild and New WP Installation
I followed the WordPress Installation documentation, which is really good. No need to reinvent the wheel by duplicating that here. The only niggle I had was that my new installation (Ubuntu 10.04 server and Virtualmin) wouldn’t allow WordPress to create an .htaccess file in the WordPress folder, so I had to do that myself before permalinks would work. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re dying to hear what happened with the database restore aren’t you? :doctor:

Database Restore
Having rebuilt WordPress, it was time to restore the database. :skeleton: I uploaded the gzipped backup file into a sub-folder of the WordPress directory. Using SSH, I navigated to that folder and unzipped it with
gunzip backupfile.sql.gz

This unzipped the file to backupfile.sql Next came the hocus pocus MySQL bit
From within the same folder I keyed…
mysql -h localhost -u DB-username -p New-DatabaseName < backupfile.sql

Where localhost is MySQL host name, DB-username is the username you set for your new WordPress MySQL user, New-DatabaseName is the name of your new WordPress database and backupfile.sql is your unzipped backup of your old database.

It then asks for the password for your WordPress database user. Type that in and your backup database contents will be dumped into the new empty database. Hallelujah O:-) it works.

But still couldn’t see any content in the blog apart from on the main page and in the admin control panel. There were two reasons for this…

  1. I hadn’t yet set up permalinks – and all my old blog entries were permalinked. WordPress itself told me that an .htaccess file was needed to set up permalinks properly and that the new system wasn’t allowing it to create this override file 8-). That was easily solved by uploading the .htaccess file from the old installation, after checking the directives in it were the same as the ones WP was telling me to use
  2. I hadn’t uploaded any themes and the database was telling WP to use Suffusion themes that weren’t yet on the server. Easily solved by uploading the suffusion folder into wp-content/themes For some reason it changed my background colour back to the default settings, but I can live with having to change that back again.

After that, the basic blog worked fine, but no media and no plugins. So it was necessary to upload all the media files back into wp-content/uploads (134 Megabytes in my case – hurrah for broadband).

So having uploaded all the media, the photos appeared fine, but the audio and video didn’t. That’s because they use plugins to play them. What remained to be done was to upload selected plugins from the wp-content/plugins backup folder. After reactivating the appropriate plugins, everything worked as it should. You can’t possibly know how much of a relief that is. (Athough I did have an XML backup copy as well.)

There’s one thing I’ve forgotten to do, so I’ll go and do that in a minute. That’s to increase the upload limit on php so I can upload larger files to the blog.

I’ve documented this so it might help someone else and in case I need to refer to it again myself. :rotfl: