What Software Should I Use to Create My CD or DVD Artwork?

After recording your album, having it mastered and pressed, you head over to your disc duplication facility’s website to place your order. Reading up on the ordering process you notice that you have the option to have artwork printed on the disc face, and can also have tray card and insert artwork printed. This is a great idea, as it allows you to give your project a more professional look and feel. You can either hire a print designer, who will hopefully already know all of the proceeding information. Or you can have a go at it yourself, utilizing one of the many different graphics creation programs available. If you are choosing to create your own artwork, read on.

There are many different programs out there that can be used to create print artwork. One of the more popular programs is Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is a vector based drawing program, available for both PC and Macintosh computers. You could also use, CorelDRAW, Paint Shop Pro, or even Adobe Photoshop. I will go into a little bit more detail about what the differences are between some of these programs later on in this article, and why some of them are better suited for print design. Here is a list of 3 terms you should be familiar with before starting your artwork project.

1. Raster Graphics

Raster graphics are also known as bitmap graphics. This form of graphics image is a data file or structure representing a generally rectangular grid of pixels, or blocks of color, on a computer monitor, or other display device. Think of a raster images as a checkers board, with each square (pixel) on the board displaying a different color. This collection of colored dots (pixels), in turn form the full picture. The quality of a raster image is determined by the total number of pixels (resolution), and the amount of information in each pixel. Raster graphics are practical for photographs and photo-realistic images because of the way that they display images. Pretty much all photos you will find on the internet, and all photos you take with your digital camera will be raster images. You may want to use photographs for your CD or DVD’s artwork, but you must mind a few certain things:

A. DPI –
I will go into this a bit further in the “DPI” section of this article. In a nutshell, any photograph that you would like to use for print must be 300 DPI (dots per inch) or higher. DPI refers to the density of pixel information in a photograph.

B. Color Mode –
There are two basic modes of color: RGB and CMYK. All you need to know really is that all print artwork must be created as a CMYK document, as this refers to the colors of ink that a printer uses to recreate your artwork. If you create your artwork as an RGB document, the printed document will most likely shift in color. For more info on this, please refer to my last article. What do you need to start a CD duplication project?

2. Vector Graphics

Also known as geometric modeling, this form of graphic uses geometrical primitives such as points, curves, and lines to represent images. Instead of displaying blocks of color to represent a photo vector images rely on set points to determine the outline of an object, using mathematical formulas to determine the curve of the lines between said set points. Vector graphics are ideal for simple or composite drawings that do not need to achieve photo-realism. I suggest that you used vector objects for all of your artwork’s areas that are not photos.

3. DPI

Dots per inch, (DPI) is the number of individual dots of ink a printer can produce within a one-inch space. This translates as, the higher the DPI, the sharper the image. Although, most commercial printers will tell you that anything over 300DPI would be considered “print-quality”. I recommend that you make sure that your artwork is at least 300DPI, with 600DPI being the optimal setting for your artwork.

After all this technical mumbo-jumbo, you’re probably scratching your head, still unsure of what program to use to create your artwork. The truth is you can use pretty much any graphics program to create your artwork, providing that you correctly set the DPI and color mode of your document. Personally, I usually use a combination of Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator to do all of my print artwork. I edit all bitmap images in Photoshop and create all of my vector content in Illustrator, combining the two in Illustrator. My advice is now that you have the basic background knowledge, experiment to figure out what works best for you!

Some Things Your Car Insurance Company Won’t Tell You

1. How to determine the value of “total loss.”

Most companies will tell you that they use at least three methods or schemes to determine the actual a totaled vehicle’s value including value books, computer-generated quotes from dealers, and local market research. In this case, you will probably think that local area is your current neighborhood, but it is not specifically defined by the insurer. If, in any case, the company cannot find an auto replacement in your neighborhood, so they have to find it not from your “local area,” your totaled car’s value is certainly affected. For example, if you currently live in New York, replacing your totaled vehicle in suburbs will be cheaper than in the city. Insurance company will, of course, use quotes from suburbs area as the most-reasonably-priced estimates. The main purpose in totaling a vehicle is to allow the consumer (the insured person) to purchase the same car that is totaled in an accident within the local market. Since they use three different schemes to figure out real value of a totaled car, a consumer may end up with a cheaper car than the totaled one. It is impossible to be sure what value you will get when your company does not tell you how they determine it.

Fortunately, you can do some smart methods to help yourself and your company to do the value determination. First, you have to produce valid proof that your car was in good conditions when the accident occurred; car in good condition has better value than a wreck. Bring a copy of maintenance records including oil changes and inspection by an authorized mechanic. The records will tell your company that your auto was regularly maintained, meaning it was actually in great shape (in terms of appearance and performance) when the accident occurred. Moreover, you probably had special features installed such as multimedia system, anti-theft system, anti-lock brakes, rear view camera, or 5-harness seat belt. The car insurance company may charge you more because of some special upgrades, so make sure that your insurer includes that in the evaluation.

Another good thing is to find at least three dealers and get quotes on replacement from them; make sure all dealers in your local area or at least within short driving distance from your home. Present the quotes to your insurer and ask your insurer to provide a list of some car dealers who probably can provide a car for the price listed in the quotes. If you are not satisfied with the company’s value determination or you get less than you expect, you can choose to do mediation. So, meaning you present the case to third party (neutral) to get help to settle the dispute, or arbitration, or you can even request a formal inquiry to the court.

2. If you want to cancel your policy, do it officially

Most companies say that consumers can cancel their policies at any date, but you need to notify the insurer concerning the exact date you want to end the coverage. The statement is clear enough; in other words, it says consumers have to notify their companies when they want to cancel their policies. However, consumers often think that when they ignore the last bill before renewal, the company will automatically end the policy. Too bad, this is not how it is done. People can forget and deliberately miss a bill, and the company totally understands that. After this first missed bill, your insurer is going to send you one more bill for premium payment; if you don’t pay the bill, you will be cancelled for non-payment, and the record will hurt your credit score.

What you should do when you want to cancel auto insurance policy is to let the company know that you are canceling. Please make sure that you provide a specific date; it helps you avoid being totally uninsured for a certain period, time, term. The cancellation request will be sent to you, and all you have to do is to put your signature. It is recommended that you carefully check the document before signing it. Some companies may require you to provide valid proof that you indeed have another coverage before they can approve the cancellation. If you’ve financed your car, the dealer needs the updated policy information because valid proof of insurance is required in the purchase contracts.

Credit history still matters

The use of credit information to determine approval and premium rate is still common, despite the fact that some states already started to ban such practice. Some (if not most) companies use the credit history to generate risk score. They believe that it strongly linked or correlated to the likelihood of the consumer reporting a claim. More likelihood of filing a claim is exactly the same with high-risk driver that usually also pays more expensive premium fee compared to “safe-driver” or “the preferred class.” The preferred consumers are those with stable credit card history as it suggests financial stability, meaning they are not likely to miss a payment. People of this category are safer consumers to insure compared to people with shaky credit history. Auto insurance companies do not like consumer who pays sporadically or changes accounts quite frequently.

There are some credit card issuers who offer free credit score checking, but in most cases, you need to pay for the service. Unlike credit score, risk score for insurance-related matters will not be available for you, but both probably indicate the same thing which is financial stability. If you are currently in the market to purchase auto insurance, and it turns out that you have quite unusual activity on your credit history within only certain time frame, you can wait until one month to allow the credit activity to go back to its usual condition. If you cannot keep the credit score stable, prepare yourself to pay more expensive premium fee.

3. Budgeting by installments is not always efficient.

Installments can pay almost all items, and consumers think that it is indeed the best way to budget the expense. When it comes to auto insurance, you can ask the company to divide the annual premium into a monthly basis, quarterly, or on six month. Please put in mind that dividing the annual premium will cost you “fractional premium.” You can consider this additional service fee to arrange the installment. It can be as cheap as $10 per payment; the more you break it down, the most fractional premium to pay.

Most companies will probably offer you to pay in installments since it makes more money for them. When you apply for insurance, it is wise to ask whether there is any additional charge for installments option, and then you can compare the difference. If the fractional premium is not very expensive, then perhaps it is worth it. Another big difference between upfront payment and installments is that certain companies will immediately cancel your coverage if you miss one payment; even worse, they can do it without notification. It is best to pay up front if you can; the entire process will be easier, and you can indeed save few dollars.

Every vehicle model and type has certain premium rate

Of course, you all know that sport cars need more expensive insurance policies than a van, but insurance companies will not tell you the exact numbers. In general, it is true that attractive, sporty, luxurious car with turbocharged engine will go very quickly on the road, and it increases the risk of accidents, but this is not always true considering the discounts for safety features, security features, mileage (especially when you drive it less), etc. Auto insurance companies have a specific system to know the premium for all car models you can buy, based on the system rating by ISO (Insurance Service Office). Every type of car is rated from 3 to 27; higher number means a higher premium. Insurance Service Office says that it will not release the rating system for publication because its clients are insurance companies.

You will not get the rating system from your insurer; you may not even find it anywhere at all. The best thing you can do when you want to purchase a new auto is to ask the insurance how much insurance premium you need to pay for a new car that you want to purchase. If you keep a good relationship with an independent agent, he/she should be able at least to predict the price based on raw calculation.

4. Filing claim increases your premium.

People are always interested to see insurance companies reduce premium fee to attract potential customers. It is indeed one of the best things customers get from the competition in the market, but your insurer can increase the price right away after you file your first claim. The industry standard is to increase premium fee up to 40% of the base rate after first-at-fault accident. With the help of an online car insurance calculator you get a base rate of $500, your premium increases by $200. Some companies have different rules, but there is always a big chance your premium will go up after the first-at-fault claim. Some insurers offer “first-accident forgiveness,” meaning your first actual claim will not affect the premium at all, but the variable and requirement for eligibility can be different from company to company. You should ask your insurer if such discount is available and how to qualify for it.

How Closing Accounts Can Kill Your Credit Score

One of the major factors of how your credit score is calculated is your capacity. This is the ratio of credit used to the amount of credit that is available. This accounts for 30 percent (almost a third!) of your credit score. For example if you have 5 credit cards with a $1000 limit and you have 3 of them maxed out and 2 of them inactive your capacity would be at 60 percent, $3000 of your $5000 total credit limit. This is not good in the eyes of the lenders and your credit score would suffer because its ideal to be at 10 percent of your capacity.

Remember a credit score is a formula measuring your ability to pay back your debts and obligations. If you have a high capacity and little room left for your maximum then your ability to pay back your obligations is viewed as more limited.

So in the example above, lets say you decide to close the 2 inactive cards for whatever reason. Nowadays, the credit card companies will charge a fee to inactive cards so a lot of people are now closing their inactive accounts. Well unfortunately, they are killing their credit score. If you are maxed out on three cards and you close the other 2, guess what, you are now at 100 percent capacity because your total credit limit is now $3000 instead of $5000. I know from personal experience this will cause your credit score to plummet.

My advice? Don’t close your inactive cards. Use them once a month, maybe for gas, or treat yourself to a latte from Starbucks. Then pay them off immediately so you don’t incur any interest. Do what you can to pay off the cards that are maxed out, or at least get them down to where your balance is under 10 percent of the limit. If you can, try to transfer the balance to a lower interest card, so it can save you a few bucks on the interest. This strategy is sure to improve your credit score because capacity is a major factor, and if your capacity improves, your score improves.

Asking your bank for a credit limit increase on some of your cards isn’t suggested nowadays, this is a strategy that old credit repair people recommended but in today’s economy with the credit crunch, it prompts an account review, which for some quirky reason, may cause the banks to LOWER your credit limit. This would damage your capacity as well.

You are already disciplined enough to not spend on two cards. You are unique in today’s credit crunch world, use your discipline to your advantage, don’t close your accounts. You will be doing more harm to your credit score than good.

Teenage Weight Loss – How Teenagers Can Safely Lose Weight

Teenagers with body mass measures between 25 and 30 require immediate medical attention. The internal stress caused from so much weight almost guarantees the premature development of medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and stroke.

There's no question that aggressive weight loss methods are necessary and these teenagers need to be followed by medical experts for years to come. But what about teenagers with body mass measures just below 25? Is it safe for this group of overweight and mildly obese teenagers to lose weight?

The verdict is still out – the weight loss community continues to wait for more evidence supporting aggressive weight loss methods for overweight teens. I say while we wait, let's lose some weight.

But we do not need to be so aggressive with this group. Overweight teens need to lose weight, but in a slow, gradual process. Lasting weight loss and the development of positive habits should replace the push for immediate weight loss in adolescents with body mass measures between 22 and 25.

The there's the teenager wanting to lose weight for purely cosmetic reasons. How do we approach this fragile situation as parents and professionals? We can not just say no to her for fear she might turn to unhealthy means to lose weight. But we can not just give him a green light and say go for it, either.

The rest of this article focuses on the cosmetic teenage weight loss dilemma. The best thing I can do is at least provide some ground rules for teenagers with body mass indices less than 22 who insist on losing weight.

Cosmetic Teenage Weight Loss – The Ground Rules

Here's a simple, straight forward list of ground rules for teenagers wanting to lose weight for cosmetic reasons:

  1. Losing weight with a body mass index less than 19 is not recommended and might even be harmful. Things like eating disorders, endocrine abnormalities, stunted growth, and anorexia are all well documented consequences from unnecessary teenage weight loss.
  2. Teenagers with body mass measures between 20 and 22, can lose 5 to 10 pounds in a safe and effective manner.
  3. The primary mechanism for teenage weight loss is always the "burning" of excess calories through increased physical activity. A combination of aerobic exercises and resistance training works fast and produces the best results.
  4. Teenage weight loss by restricting calories should be kept to a minimum. A slow, gradual, and controlled restriction of calories is key. I recommend starting with a 5% reduction of calories from baseline for two weeks. This is followed by a 10% reduction for one week and then a 15% reduction (if necessary) for one week.
  5. Dedication to a consistent exercise program typically produces the weight loss desired without any changes to the caloric intake. A more natural way to reduce calories comes from eating a more balanced and nutritious diet, including more servings of fruits and vegetables.
  6. Emphasizing consistent exercise and a nutritious diet is often all that is needed for a teenager to drop some weight, firm and tone muscle, and achieve her "cosmetic" goals.

For the actual steps to safe and effective teenage weight loss, additional information on resistance training, and guidelines for restricting calories, use this link …

Teenage Weight Loss Plan

To Healthy Living!

Michael A. Smith, MD

Chief Medical Consultant

Diet Basics Website