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Latest Technology Writing

December 10, 2013 Leave a comment

As some of you know I specialize in both technology writing and financial writing. Lately, I’ve been publishing some nice, long, articles over at Tom’s IT Pro. If you’re familiar with Tom’s Hardware, it’s the same family of publications. My author page is here.

These recent articles are about Microsoft’s System Center 2012 R2 release. For those of you not aware of System Center, this is Microsoft’s suite of tools for enterprise-level computer and system management. System Center covers everything from installing and upgrading software across thousands of computers, to monitoring, updating, and automating just about anything and everything a system administrator would ever need to do. Theoretically, if you had the entire suite set up and working correctly, you could run and entire company’s IT department from a single location using nothing but these tools. That isn’t how the real world works, of course, but that’s the idea.

Software distribution and updating is handled by System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager.

I’ve also written an article about System Center Operations Manager 2012 R2 and some other nice articles.

And finally, here is an overall look at whether System Center 2012 R2 is worth the upgrade or not.

Deeper look at Microsoft System Center 2012 R2It’s always interesting to take these deeper looks into new software. The trick is finding useful information since the products are so new, there usually isn’t a lot of stuff out there. Fortunately, Microsoft does some pretty extensive betas these days, and their own engineers have taken to occasionally making blog posts or writing TechNet articles that have just the right information. Digging them out can take effort because Microsoft puts more effort into linking their main marketing page and materials, but once you get an idea of where to look, then it come pretty rapidly.

Finding the information beyond what is in the press release is the hallmark of a good freelance technology writer. If you have a project and are looking for someone to help, you can find me at ArcticLlama, as always.

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Are iPads Good for Kids?

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Are iPads Good for Kids?

Confused by all of those naysayers who blast parents for “using the iPad as a babysitter?” Don’t be. When handled properly, an iPad is a wonderful toy for children of all ages.

Pre-Registering Voters

There is an bill winding its way through the Colorado Legislature – HB1135 – that would allow for “pre-registration” of teens for voting. The idea is that these folks would already be registered to vote when they turn 18, thereby increasing the turnout in elections.

My main thought is that it isn’t really that hard to register to vote in Colorado. This isn’t one of those states where they passed new voting requirement laws. In fact, you can register by checking a box when you renew your drivers license when you turn 18. With so many voters out there being very uninformed, isn’t a minimal level of effort a reasonable barrier to entry for the most uninformed and un-involved members of society? Or am I missing something here?

Windows Server 2012 Features

February 9, 2013 Leave a comment

I write for the blog of the computer training company, TrainSignal. Frankly, I’m proud of the various content I’ve published there over the years, and I think the vast majority of it is both informative and worthwhile. It was no exception when I published an article about the new features in Windows Server 2012 that have people excited.

The fun part was that the official Windows Server twitter account posted a (unsolicitied) link to the article. It’s always nice to get a little extra validation. I assume, if nothing else, that the article is at least technically accurate since they bothered to link it 🙂

windows server 2012 tweet

Have a nice day, especially those of you who are not stuck in a blizzard.

Writing Music

February 3, 2013 1 comment

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of music to help with regulating mood, motivating, and just plain feeling better. A lot of people from many different professions listen to music while they work.

However, as a writer, music can be a tricky thing. While having a fun beat and clever lyrics appeals to a writer as much as anyone, there is a very big snag. The human brain cannot always keep everything separate, and the words flowing in from the song sometimes get jumbled up with the words being generated to write your article. The result is stray words typed without you knowing it and lost trains of thought.

As a web developer, I’ve always been more able to use music. It’s because even though programming requires focus and typing, the words and consciousness streams in the mind are not the same. In fact, only a small amount of the average code actually uses English words, and even when it does, those words don’t hold on to their same meanings, having been conscripted for coding. However, the problem with a lyric or two interrupting a complex train of thought is the same.

So, I stuck with just two options, either listen to classical music (no words), or work in silence. Finally, while reading my Twitter (follow me!) I noticed another programmer mention a list they he was listening to while coding. I tried it, and the silence has disappeared from my world.

writing music songza

As it turns out, a lot of programmers use various forms of electrical or techno music with upbeat, throbbing beats, but NO WORDS! Just like the classical music I have been using, these kinds of music provide a background of melody and beats without disrupting your fragile thought processes. However, I don’t know anything about these kinds of music, so finding solid tunes that are entertaining, and, let’s be honest, not irritating, can be a time consuming process filled with trial and error.

Fortunately, music apps like Spotify come with the ability to listen to other’s playlists. Several coders have playlists published on Spotify, which allows you to both listen in, and listen to a radio station based upon the playlist. Both are solid ways to crank out some prose without having to find and manage music when you should be writing. Whenever, you don’t like what you are getting in through your ears, just hit next. Spotify limits this, but it shouldn’t happen too often when you are in the zone. However, a better option might be Songza.

I’ve just discovered Songza, so I’m not aware of all it can do, or its limitations, but it has one feature that I love for both writing and life in general. Songza offers up playlists based upon what you are doing (activities) or based upon your mood. The former actually lists, “Coding” as one of the default activities, while the later is a great way to get some music for everything from cooking a little BBQ, to cleaning the house, to chillin’ with a bucket of beers and ice on the balcony. Even better, Songza doesn’t seem to keep complaining when I want to skip more than a few songs.

When it comes to working a full day as a freelance writer, its the little things that enhance your comfort and make it easier to keep going long after the work stopped being its own party.

MCSE Is Back Again

January 29, 2013 Leave a comment

A few years ago (back in 2009, it looks like) I wrote an article about why you should still get your MCSE and had to use the delete key over and over again to avoid flat-out saying that Microsoft was stupid to kill off the MCSE certification in favor of the much more confusing and completely unknown certifications it was replacing it with.

You can read more of my rantings — when they occur, I’m trying to tone down — at BestHubris.com

Looks like I was right. Having gotten no traction outside of a tiny subset of companies and IT recruiters with the new certifications, Microsoft is bringing back the MCSE. They should have listened to me the first time.

My Latest Personal Finance Articles

Over at my personal financial advice blog FinanceGourmet, I’ve been busy writing about everything from 2011 tax deductions to credit reports to investing.

As people file their taxes, they look for tax minimization strategies. While there are various actions you can take throughout the year to lower your overall tax burden, once December 31st rolls around, the only option most people have for lowering their taxes is to contribute to an IRA account. Of course, there are limits on IRA contributions, so that only offers so much relief. Otherwise, the best you can do is find every possible tax deduction you can.

When it comes to your credit report, there isn’t much you can do to manage it other than to pay all of your bills on time and keep your credit card balances from getting too close to their limits. (Credit line utilization is one of the big components of a credit score.) However, you do have to constantly watch your credit reports to ensure that negative information is not lowering your credit score without your knowledge. One of the easiest ways to monitor your credit report for free is with Credit Karma. I wrote a nice review of Credit Karma on Finance Gourmet after first determining that Credit Karma is not a scam. You can see my latest update where I delve into Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring service.

Lastly, this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average mananged to top 13,000 for the first time since 2008 when the housing bubble triggered the financial crisis and the stock market managed to drop all the way down to about 6,500 before bottoming out and recovering as economic indicators started to look better. But, what does Dow 13,000 mean? Is that nice, round number really worth anything, or is it just a lot of media hype?

Either way, it’s been a good time over on FinanceGourmet.com. Check it out.