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That’s right, I am officially crazy enough to try to use Gimp on a netbook.  While they may be small and underpowered, the ability to use an advanced image editor can come in handy at the most unexpected times (and often does!)  There are a few tricks needed to make Gimp’s tools fit on the screen of a netbook, though, particularly a 7″ netbook like my Sylvania G, and I shall reveal them now.

The biggest problem is the sheer quantity of space the two default toolkits take up.  Fortunately, these are highly customizable, and we can take advantage of a simple drag-and-drop to fix the issue.  Under the toolbox on the left pane, you’ll see a series of tabs.  Simply take all the tabs on the right pane and drag them down to this tab bar, and right-click and “close” any tabs you’ll never use (the brushes tab, for example, is not necessary unless you work with lots and lots of custom brushes!)  Pulling all the right-hand tools into the left-hand tools lets you remove the right pane entirely, freeing up oodles of space.  This is the most important goal: to dump a pane and reclaim what little viewing space we have in the first place.

Another big key to shrinking the toolbox is changing the theme from the Default to Small.  To do this, simply open the Gimp Preferences (look under the File menu) and click Theme in the left side of the window, then change it in the right side to the Small theme, and click OK.  Your toolbox tool icons should shrink significantly and more of your toolbox will become visible.  If you haven’t shrunk it vertically yet, now is a good time to do so.  You’ll need to toy with the vertical and horizontal size of the toolbox until it all (or most of it, anyway) fits on the screen well.

But wait!  In Gimp 2.6, they added some pesky eyes to everything!  That’s “Wilber,” the Gimp mascot, and while it might be cute and acceptable on a 17″ widescreen, I have 800×480 dots to work with and Wilber’s eyes will actually force the bottom of the left pane off-screen, even if I shrink it to its lowest vertical height.  What to do?

It’s quite simple, actually.  To remove the “eyes” of Wilber from the top of the Gimp toolbox, you need to find the “gimprc” file and add a line to it  The hard part is finding the file, but we can make that process easy.  If you’re using Linux, it’s under ~/.gimp or ~/.gimp-2.6 or something similar; on Windows, it’s under your Application Data folder in your user profile (or under AppData\Roaming on Windows Vista and above.)  Windows users can also simplify the process by using the Windows search function to locate “gimprc” instead of fishing around.

When you try to open gimprc on Windows, you will be asked what to open it with.  Normally I’d tell you to use Notepad, but Gimp may use Unix-style newlines which will render the file unreadable to a normal person in Notepad.  WordPad will open the file properly and should save it okay as well, so use Wordpad.  (If you’re a power user, why aren’t you using Notepad++ yet?!)  Go to the end of the file and add the following line to it:

(toolbox-wilber no)

Save the file and run Gimp to check that the eyes are gone.  If they aren’t, make sure you spelled it right, otherwise feel free to enjoy Gimp on your netbook!

GREAT.  I was able to contact T-mobile and get my phone to ring for much longer, giving me more time to answer a call in lieu of the now-disabled voicemail system picking up.  That alone has already come in handy, as I have been able to pick up calls from my wife and my techs long after it would have kicked over to voicemail, inevitably leading to phone tag and wasted time.  I’ve instructed my technicians that calls asking for me are to be screened aggressively, and only those which they are completely unable to assist should make it to my desk (as in one customer today who inquired about a custom computer and needed to discuss the options for getting that custom computer.)

Because I am being interrupted less often today, I have managed to mostly finish converting a multi-language website for one of my long-time business clients to a PHP-based and easily managed layout, including langauge-coded folders and more standardization across the board.  This has been difficult to work on for days now because of all of the unnecessary interruptions that customer service matters have caused.  Now that only essential issues reach my ears and break my concentration, my productivity is already seeing a significant boost.

This is the way it should be.  A business owner needs to focus on one thing only: the business and making it better.  Customer-oriented approaches to doing business are as crucial to success as ever, but the best advice I can give to a small business owner starting out is this: learn the value of making the people you supervise handle things; that’s what they’re there for, and you can’t do your job of supporting their efforts if you’re too busy doing theirs. A business relies not only on good personnel who know what they’re doing and have enough authority to help customers sufficiently, but also on good managers who can coordinate and support the creative and assistive forces of those personnel to ensure that they work together optimally.  Put another way, it seems impossible to coordinate and supervise your workers if you spend too much time doing their job and not enough doing your own.

Separating myself from customers and letting my people shine, both on the phone as well as in person, is proving to be crucial to my ability to do my job.  My techs can’t be expected to do work if I’m not out there revamping the website or performing SEO or passing out flyers or hitting up local businesses or whatever else I have to do as the most important manager in the business.

I can’t emphasize enough that this doesn’t mean I won’t ever talk to customers or do tech work myself.  It’s important for a manager of any kind to be “in touch” with what’s going on amongst the managed, and to provide guidance and assistance when it is seriously needed.

The problem is that many of us want our business to succeed so badly that we forget about the high-level management stuff as we worry over minutiae.  I’d say that as of today, I’ve learned that lesson, and I hope that this post helps others to do the same.

UPDATE BELOW.

You might be wondering where all my “Angie’s List Sucks” commentary has gone.  Here’s the explanation that I emailed to a reader, which turned out to also be a perfect blog post waiting to happen:

I talked to the COO (Chief Operations Officer, the manager of all other lower managers) of Angie’s List and everything has been resolved to my satisfaction.  Apparently the review also had zero effect on how Angie’s List rates my company because the person indicated no work was ever performed, so it wasn’t as big of a deal as I may have made it out to be.  In life one must pick their battles; I got to the top of Angie’s List, said my piece, and while we obviously don’t agree on everything, I accomplished enough to satisfy me.  The problem wasn’t the review so much as the fact that after the review was “reconfirmed” Angie’s List’s employees essentially ignored me thereafter.  Had someone simply explained to me that the review doesn’t even count and that I am the only computer company in my geographical area of the list in the first place, perhaps I wouldn’t have been so royally pissed off about it, but when I perceive that someone is ignoring me entirely, it only serves to inflame my annoyance to higher and higher levels.

The problem is a customer service problem.  He said that he’s re-examining how the staff at the company handle things because of this problem.  I still believe that Angie’s List’s business model is flawed and possesses conflicts of interest, but at the same time I realize that Angie’s List is likely incapable of changing their business model at this point due to massive venture capital infusions and the resultant control imposed by the interests of the VC firm(s) involved.

Angie’s List is not my business, and I have raised some issues at Angie’s List that may help them to fix some of the problems in how their staff members handle customers.  My opinion of their business model has not changed, but now that I have issued my input directly to the top operations officer at the corporation, they could change in the future and at least become a more customer-conscientious operation.

I removed all of the previous “Angie’s List Sucks” content from this blog as a show of good faith, and because my problems have been addressed adequately.  I regret that I had to be such a jerk to them and force an escalation to the top officers, but sometimes a consumer advocate such as myself has to be willing to do such things in order to exact necessary change.  When a business grows, there is an increasing disconnect between the lowest level staff and the highest officials.  I have seen previews of this disconnect in my own business; this is also the reason that huge companies such as Verizon often don’t seem to have higher-ups who care about the individual.  It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that the digestion (and suppression) of information between layers of management means information is lost on the way up the totem pole.

I have other battles to contend with in life that are far more problematic for my business, and Angie’s List has become insignificant in its effect on my business.  Because of this fact, I’m not going to bother with any further chatter on Angie’s List without additional provocation.  I will, however, caution anyone that deals with any business on issues such as trademark and copyright infringement (which Angie’s List falsely claimed I was engaging in) to take the time to understand the truth about “fair use” doctrines in said laws.  Even if Angie’s List sued me for copyright infringement over posting a brief 3-4 line review about my business on a personal blog, they would never have stood a fat chance in hell of winning such a case because of the four tests that determine if a use of copyrighted material falls under the fair use exemption.  The noncommercial nature of my blog, the lack of any kind of profit from my personal blog, the lack of originality of the work in question (a mere collection or summarization of facts is not copyrightable in general), and the purpose (criticism of said material) of my use all play a part in reinforcing exemption under fair use.  As for trademark infringement, that can only happen if I use someone’s trademark in a way that confuses consumers about my affiliation with that business, and if anyone read my blog and thought I was somehow commercially affiliated with Angie’s List, they probably need to go back to elementary school and learn to read better.

Indeed, Angie’s List still wants me to sign off on that form that admits a violation of their copyrights, and Angie’s List will never receive any such paperwork, particularly since my business did not post the information in question and they sent the notice directly to me at my business, as the business owner.  They misinterpreted the nature of my blog and asserted rights which my posts did not violate, so why on earth would I ever sign and return a form admitting that my business committed a violation of someone else’s rights when no such thing happened?

The consequence for not returning that form is essentially “suspension from Angie’s List for a year and revocation of current outstanding awards.”  Angie’s List has so far had a net negative impact on my business since one of my kind-hearted pre-existing customers put me on it in the first place, and all I want is to be permanently removed from the list anyway.  It seems to me that I get a sweeter deal if I DON’T return the letter.  Thus, it will remain scanned in my computer for eternity but otherwise totally unused.

Wherever Angie’s List goes from here, it will do so without bothering me or my business, especially since we STILL will not accept Angie’s List referrals due to my past experience with the type of customers they seem to attract.  Stay tuned for my next post and you’ll read about something that is far more idiotic and disgusting than this whole Angie’s List deal has been–and one that directly hurts my potential earnings in my business.

UPDATE, SEPTEMBER 18, 2009:

This post was originally created in April 2009, and since then, I myself have reconfirmed that Angie’s List does, yet again, indeed, suck.  My prior posts about Angie’s List’s business model, which I deleted without a way to “undelete,” are still partially valid in that the way Angie’s List works is more of a “money funnel” for the owners than a review site that works.  I’ll make a separate update post to cover the entire update, but if you’ve read the above message and think I no longer have an issue with Angie’s List, think again.  More bad customers have surfaced, and I have come up with a more general criticism of the service than I had before.  It seems that the users of Angie’s List are a worse problem than Angie’s List the company itself!  Search the blog for posts tagged “angieslist” and you’ll find the new version of “Angie’s List Sucks.”

UPDATE 2, DECEMBER 1, 2010:

I was reading some things about the Lamebook trademark dilution case with Facebook which reminded me of the Angie’s List situation, and I thought it would be a good idea to tack on some additional thoughts for anyone who happens upon this page. I didn’t post this before, but feel that for completeness it should be discussed. Angie’s List sent me a five-page letter to try to coerce me into doing what they wanted, and when I informed them that I would publish that five-page letter as well if they continued to threaten me with bogus trademark and copyright infringement lawsuits, they claimed that publishing a copy of the legal threat for the world to see would also constitute copyright infringement! Once again, there is simply no way that not-for-profit republishing of a letter received in the mail for the purposes of criticism and fact-reporting will be seriously considered by any court as copyright infringement. If that were the case, freedom of the press in this country would slow to a crawl. Companies whose memos were leaked could assert copyright protection over the memos and sue anyone who published them, for example.

Granted, I’ve not interacted with Angie’s List since the ridiculous fiasco 1.5 years ago, and I can’t complain any further. My desire is to be as complete as possible in detailing what happened to me so that others may learn from it. Angie’s List have certainly earned a reputation as trademark and copyright bullies with me, and I continue to this day to advise others to steer clear of them.  Come to think of it, does anyone even take them seriously anymore?  I’ve not heard nor read a single thing about them (not even a television commercial) for quite some time. Perhaps their era has gone “over the hill” and is on the decline.

That’s what happens to flawed business models that don’t adapt.

UPDATE 3:

I just wanted to add that if you buy an Angie’s List membership, you’ve been suckered and should get your money back ASAP. What a load of garbage that site is! Every customer that I knew was using Angie’s List has long since cancelled their membership and agrees that Angie’s List sucks hard.

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