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.
It’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.
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.
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.
I write for a few different digital photography and desktop publishing websites and resources. Most of the time they go into the rabbit hole of no byline writing in marketing materials. However, I do write for a website that has a nice digital photography channel and thought I would share some of my photo articles and advice tips here.
First up, is photography settings basics and more that is a nice linking article to a lot of other digital photography information. A while back I wrote some other articles about digital camera settings including this one about shutter priority mode and this one about portrait photography techniques.
There is plenty of other good stuff about photography techniques and picture taking tips. I like to focus on digital photography because I never really got good at taking pictures until after I got a nice Canon digital SLR that finally let me not only use all of the camera settings, but allowed me to take enough pictures to really learn about photography.
Of course, few things taught me more about photography than building a home photography studio and using a simplified portrait lighting setup to take beautiful pictures of people with a digital camera.
On the more technical side and with a slight legal twist, I also researched and wrote about how to copyright a photograph. As it turns out, the answer is pretty straightforward. Your photos are copyrighted the moment you take them. Of course, how you protect that copyright and whether or not you can collect reasonable damages if copyright infringement ever occurs, is a different matter.
I have tons of other photography articles published there with plenty of useful photography tips and advice. Just click on one of the links above and check it out. Then, click my name if you like and see what else I have written up.
And, of course, as always, you can check out my professional freelance writing website which is the home of my own freelance writing business.
Have fun out there taking pictures, or reading new stuff. Either way, your life will be richer and fuller.
I’m pretty much infinity plus one hours behind today, so we’ll have to keep this one kind of short. However, I amused myself while writing today at a couple of little idiosyncrasies in language that tripped me up, not because they are complicated or one of those very confusing English grammar rules, but because that they don’t necessarily come up in the proper writing context.
Before we go too far, we’ll start with a gratuitous reference to one of my article published elsewhere about Citibank ThankYou rewards. Now, moving on…
Unlike most people, I am a professional writer. That means that every day, my writing gets graded, just like when you were back in high school. My grader is not a school teacher trying to ensure that my writing is correct enough to get a passing grade on the state’s standardized writing text, but rather an editor who
a) knows just as much about correct English grammar and punctuation as any writer,
b) may very well have an advanced degree in either English or Writing,
c) probably could teach most high school English teachers a thing or two about grammar
Oh, yeah and:
d) decides whether or not the grammar I use in the writing I turn into him or her is good enough to accept my work and pay me, or that it needs to be edited and corrected before it is good enough to accept and pay me.
In other words, grammar matters to me. A lot.
That means that not only have I learned a lot about writing and grammar over the years, but I keep learning new rules and guidelines because there always seems to be another way to write something that does not fall among the rules and standards that I already know.
Long story, short – I do my best to not correct other people’s grammar no matter how terrible and I struggle each day to hit Cancel or Delete before pointing out that “your” means something that belongs to you, while “you’re” means you are.
That being said, today, I found myself on the, “Hey, wait a minute, is that right?” end of my own writing.
First came spell-check’s red squiggly underline beneath the word “triaging.” Fair enough. I’ve never looked it up. Maybe the ‘e’ is supposed to be left on the end of the word before adding the ‘ing.’ It’s unusual, but not unprecedented.
However, that spelling, “triageing” came up with a red squiggly underline as well.
That sent me to Dictionary.com which has the word triage, but nothing about making it an active verb.
From there I went to Merriam Webster’s website who had nothing for me.
And, finally, to the actual, printed, hardcover dictionary in my bookcase. It too has no record of any such word.
For well over a year now, I have been telling people, often in writing, that I was “triaging my email,” which is my way of saying desperately trying to find, and take action on, all of the important emails while sorting the remaining email into their relative levels of importance ranging from important, but not urgent, all the way down to they’ll-get-over-it, and lastly, spam.
It seems that I have been making up a word.
That’s fine for rappers and high-school girls (“Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen.”) but not so great for writers. Although, you can have “jackassery” when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I don’t care what Merriam, Webster, or Mrs. Jones in 4th period English say.
The Bane of My Existence
Next up, was the spell checker overload when I finished a lengthy tirade in which I, somewhat comically, continuously re-used the word, “bane.” Unfortunately, I did not use the word, “bane” at all, but rather, “bain.” Oops.
No harm, no foul, here as it wasn’t something to be professionally submitted, but it brought a smile to may face anyway, particularly because about one-half of my friends couldn’t use the word in a sentence let alone be familiar enough with it to judge the mistaken spelling.
Be that as it may, we march on. Brian Nelson is out…
I do a little bit of writing for Demand Studios as a way to fill in my freelance writing business pipeline. When I really want to just punch something out to make a few bucks in between TV shows or while waiting for friends to show up at a restaurant or coffee shop, I’ll write some of the “Short Answer” freelance writing gigs offered on the website. They only pay $3, but they are literally two minute assignments if you don’t over-reach from what you either know, or know that you can find out very quickly.
Lately, however, there haven’t been any short answer writing assignments on Demand Studios. I’ve checked by selecting the AnswerBag website as the “publisher,” which is where I understand most of the short answer questions and answers end up. I’ve also tried selecting “short answer” as the format, and just for grins, even tried searching for $3 assignments. All three screens of results showed up empty.
Maybe I’m blocked from writing those, maybe they just don’t have any writing opportunities in that category right now, or maybe I’m doing it wrong (not likely, it’s pretty simple).
Then again, maybe Demand Studios is not making any money off of those short answer articles, or maybe Google’s ranking algorithm is finally doing something to find good search results other than just matching the title tag and counting up the number of automated links programed to each article by big websites with lots of pages to point links from.
Either way, I wrote this instead of earning $6 or $9 while waiting for my friends to show up. No big deal, but if you add up the number of times I do that each month, it actually might cost me a hundred bucks or so 🙂
I guess that I’ll live. Maybe I can start using that time to find higher paying writing gigs to send resumes to instead.
I had one of those months that almost makes you wish that you still had a day job instead.
It all started with some business infrastructure problems in the form of an email server nightmare. I’ve always just used whoever was hosting my websites as my email provider and never thought any more about it than that. Once I had my email accounts setup in Thunderbird or another desktop email client like Zimbra, I made the terrible assumption that everything that hit my server was dutifully being passed along via IMAP or POP3.
I never bothered to re-check my POP3 settings for Gmail or my IMAP settings for other email accounts so long as email kept showing up in my email client. Unfortunately, just because some email was showing up, didn’t mean that all email was showing up. I probably lost out on some clients and had to do major damage control with some others.
Here are some of my recent published freelance writing articles at BrightHub.
Anyway, the moral of the story is to never take anything in your freelance writing business for granted. Check, double-check, and re-check.
Oh, and for your critical systems like email, you might want to consider paying a little extra for a specialized email provider with fully-skilled tech support waiting to not only help you if you notice something go wrong, but who can also proactively alert you if something might be going wrong.