Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Christmas

I was going through some old files and came across this cartoon Christmas card we (with the help of the late great Keith Gidlow) did for Printpak in the early 1990's.

Have a great Christmas, and a prosperous New Year - and don't forget our Christmas Quiz at

best wishes

Richard Fergusson

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Barmecide Feast

I came across an unusual expression the other day. A Barmecide feast. I actually had to look it up. It refers to a tale from Arabian Nights where a beggar is entertained by a rich man (Barmecide) who promised him a feast, but instead put a series of imaginary dishes before him. It means something that doesn’t live up to expectations.

I sometimes wonder if software doesn’t sometimes feel a little bit like that. In a complex world like printing, management software has to walk a fine divide between being so simple that it doesn’t satisfy your need, or so complex that you can’t make it work, which is no less disappointing.
I think what makes it worse is that whatever system you pick, there has to be a certain amount of input from you, which can seem a bit daunting. So you hover on the brink, unwilling to commit yourself, and thereby get more frustrated.

If you look at the original Arabian Nights story, though, you’ll see that in the end, after pretending to eat the imaginary meal, the beggar finally does receive not only a real feast but a further twenty years’ unstinted hospitality.

So in software terms, we could translate the moral into ‘take the plunge and it will pay dividends in the end’.

It's interesting how relevant old stories can be – even in the 21st century.

Warm regards

Richard Fergusson

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Unpredictable weather

Well, November seems to be here with a vengeance.

Here in London we've had rain, frost and cold. The weather forecast was predicting fog recently, but so far we seem to have been spared. On the other hand we've actually had a few really warm days.

This time of year is traditionally a pick-up time for printers, who get increasingly busy in the run-up to Christmas. It seems to have been a funny year so far, with print buyers hesitating till the last minute before committing themselves, and with shorter but more frequent runs.

Most printers I've spoken too say that business is actually quite good - it's just that the short notice they've been getting means they can't plan ahead, and the shopfloor is either working round the clock or strangely idle.

I suppose the reason is that the work's still out there - it just arrives in different patterns, and we're going to have to get used to it. Just like the weather - except that unlike the weather, I think that as usual the industry will 'hot up' in December.

On a different note (blowing our own trumpet) I'm pleased to say that former users have recently been flocking back to Printpak - we signed up 10 in a single week recently. We're obviously doing something right!

It's been good to catch up with them all.

warm regards

Richard Fergusson

Monday, 16 August 2010

There are a lot of dossers out there!

I was chatting on the phone the other day to one of our users who was still using our very first edition, which was written in MS-DOS. He seemed quite happy on it... except that he has to run 3 Windows 98 PCs and is terrified of them breaking down. After all we're talking about 20 year-old programs on a 12 year-old operating system, in the computer industry when even 5 years seems a very long time.

The problem is that life moves on. Believe it or not, if somebody asks me to look at even Version 3 copies of Printpak I have to power up an old PC to do it, as mine is a 64 bit Windows 7 PC. But this user was on Version 2. It's a bit problematic especially when you learn that Microsoft no longer supports MS-DOS at all.

I suppose I should take it as a compliment - after all I wrote the DOS version myself. Anyway the long and the short of it is that I was able to tell him that we can update him very simply to the latest Version 5, and retain all his data in the process. He seemed a bit surprised.

So if you're running an MSDOS version of Printpak, why not get in touch. We'll be pleased to advise you.

Enjoy what's left of the Summer.

warm regards

Richard Fergusson

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Summer holidays

Summer seems to be here at last. I'm back from my holiday in the France to find a heatwave in full progress - maybe we should have gone to Brighton instead!

We're talking to all the new customers who joined us at IPEX, and helping them get set up, and as usual we are learning more about our own software in the process: new ways of looking at it, and new approaches to using it.

I was interested in the huge interest from overseas customers we saw, and I am reinforced in my belief that printers all over the world seem to think the same way - almost like members of an enormous family.  We really enjoyed meeting you all.

Anyway we're over half way through the Spanish and Catalan versions now (thanks to Jaume and Ricard Casals) and we've just signed up our first African agency, under the capable hands of Ada Babajide in Lagos. I think we've got a bit of set-up work to do now.

On that rather international note, I'll sign off - I have an on-line training session to do to a new customer in U.A.E!

Richard Fergusson
The PrintSum Partnership

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The final runup for IPEX

It's the final approach to IPEX now.  Got your tickets yet? (apply on line at and they should be free).
We're having the usual in-house arguments about how to make best use of our stand space, what posters for the walls, where to stay, etc, etc.  But we'll be there - Stand F323 in Hall 9, and very much look forward to meeting you there. We'll be showing of a load of new stuff, too (some of which is still under wraps).  Our new version 5 is bedding in very well and really makes our competitors seem outdated now, so we're excited about demonstrating it to you and showing you just how different it is from the rest.

Talking about that difference last night, a friend said 'but you need to encapsulate WHY you are different in a single memorable phrase'.  I've been thinking about that, and it's surprisingly difficult.  I suppose one difference is that, despite the fact that we've been going for 20 years now, we are as enthusiastic as ever.  The original creators are still hands-on on a daily basis, and we do have a tendency to worry about about getting things right, even if it takes a bit longer.  And we are concerned and have passionate arguments about 'usability' versus 'instant appeal'.  How do you put that in a single memorable phrase? I really haven't a clue!

See you at IPEX!

Richard Fergusson
The PrintSum Partnership