December 21, 2012

New Site Address

As of December 2012, I'm now blogging (and consolidating most of my other sites) at the new The future!

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December 11, 2012

iTunes 11 and The iPad & iPad mini Pocket Guide

If you've recently purchased my latest book, The iPad & iPad mini Pocket Guide, 4th Edition, you may be here because of a sidebar on page xx (page 20) in the Introduction. iTunes 11 wasn't yet released when the book had to go to print, so I promised an update on my site. For the details, see this post at my newly-designed site. And thanks for buying the book!

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October 14, 2012

Tactical Error

Today, Ellie and I went to the Seattle Aquarium and had a great time. On the way out, we stopped by the gift shop, where of course Ellie wanted to buy something.

So we looked around, and when she grabbed a stuffed toy I said, "Something smaller." She found a little plush river otter, and when I tried to steer her toward something a bit less expensive, she pointed out that the otter was in fact smaller than what I suggested.

I bought the otter. She's happy. I'm happy.

I related this to Kim tonight and admitted that I made a tactical mistake by specifying size as the deciding factor. She smiled, hugged me, and said:

"The tactical mistake is that you went into the store in the first place."

So wise, that one.

Tactical Error

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July 26, 2012

Announcing the OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide!

OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide

This doesn't directly relate to the iPad and photography, but I'm excited to announce that my latest book, OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide, is now available. It covers all of Apple's new operating system, is packed as full of tips as I could make it, and all in just 264 pages. Best of all, the print is and Kindle editions are just $10, and the iBookstore ebook is just $4.99! (Update: The Kindle edition is now just $4.99!)

Even if you already know everything about OS X, I'm sure you have a friend or relative that can benefit from the information. (I wrote about Mountain Lion in my latest Seattle Times column, which was published a few days before the update became available: Pros and cons of pouncing on Apple's Mountain Lion update.)

Here are links to buy the book:

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April 11, 2012

"iPad Pocket Guide, 3rd Edition" now on Kindle

The iPad Pocket Guide, 3rd Edition

Just one week after I finished The iPad for Photographers, Apple announced the third-generation iPad and I embarked on a heads-down, super fast update of my iPad Pocket Guide. The paper version of that book is still being printed, but I noticed today that the Kindle ebook is now available from Amazon! It's only $9.59, and covers all the important information about the new iPad and the latest iOS 5.1.

01:05 PM in Articles and Books, Books, Handhelds/iPhone/iPad/Palm | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 05, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011 and “Winning”

NaNoWriMo 2011 WinnerOn Wednesday night, I sat in our oversized brown chair and wrote a scene involving a double-cross, a sniper, a scientist, a Samoan, a former government spook, and a bronze pig. 1,439 words later, the scene was mostly finished and, with about an hour to spare before midnight, I pasted 50,462 words into a text field and clicked Validate.

I’d written a novel.

NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—is a crazy endeavor shared worldwide by hundreds of thousands of people during the month of November. It’s a basic idea: Write a 50,000 word work of fiction in 30 days. For anyone who has thought, I should write a novel someday, NaNoWriMo is all the impetus you need. It’s crazy, but not unobtainable. Write 1,667 words per day and you’re set. Some people write 100,000 words.

It’s also vital to remember that quality is pretty far down the list of attributes for a NaNoWriMo novel. You’re writing to hit word count, not a Pulitzer, so it’s not unheard-of for weepy dramas to suddenly experience alien invasions or to have every character die in a freak warehouse fire—halfway through the story. And, if you can possibly resist, there’s no editing. Rewriting happens later.

After you pass that 50,000 word mark, you’re a “NaNoWriMo Winner,” and you get to take home…the image you see on this Web page. And, of course, the feeling of accomplishment of having written a freaking novel. In a month!

Right now, I couldn’t honestly tell you if my novel—which has no title—is good or not. I think there are good parts, certainly. I think the story is intriguing. I have no idea if the central idea that propels the plot is even scientifically possible. The story isn’t yet finished, and although I have an idea for the last scenes in the book, they don’t exist yet. Two women are abducted, but we see only one of them, and I don’t think the other is even mentioned again until that last scene I wrote, and then in passing.

But when you’re forcing yourself to write, those details don’t really matter. It’s a first draft, with equal emphasis on “first” and “draft.” I am happy that I never felt I needed to go completely off the rails to juice the plot or pad the word count. No unexpected zombie onslaught from me.

Except that’s not entirely true.

If you talk to fiction writers, they often talk about how the characters pull them through a story while writing; or, things end up happening that blow all to hell a lot of hard work outlining and plotting. In 2008, my first NaNoWriMo attempt, I started with a completely blank slate. Inspiration is a wonderful thing, but when under the gun, I found myself flailing. Other pressing work projects came up and I abandoned the novel that year.

So, this time around I prepped in advance, taking a novel idea I’ve had clattering around my head for years and working up a rough outline, just enough to provide guideposts. I quickly realized that the novel in my head couldn’t be written in 30 days. I did consider throwing a raging herd of dinosaurs at my two main characters at that point, but then realized that my 2008 story was calling to me. After some creative manipulation here and there, I figured out how to combine the two chunks into a way they could share the same overall story.

And this is how I really only “almost” won NaNoWriMo this year, despite submitting 50,000 words. The official NaNoWriMo rules state that the novel must comprise 50,000 words written during November. You can certainly add what you write to a larger piece later, but the point is to write those words, not to have written them.

In 2008, I wrote a little more than 12,000 words before throwing it in. This year, I wrote about 38,000 words. Interesting how that math adds up.

NaNoWriMo has a special category in its comment forums: Rebel. Some people choose to be rebels by writing something that isn’t fiction: memoirs, non-fiction, and the like. In my case, I went ahead and merged earlier material to push myself over the 50K bar.

There are no stakes. I won’t have my writer’s license rescinded. I didn’t plagiarize anyone. I just have to live with myself, knowing that I “cheated” to “win.”

If it helps at all (or maybe it just helps me), I put a lot of deliberation into whether I’d go ahead and include the previous material. Two things pushed me over the edge.

First, although I’ve been a writer all my life, I haven’t written any fiction in…well, let’s say it’s been far too many years. This was the first time, aside from the effort in 2008, that I’ve attempted to write any book-length work. So just the fact that I wrote 38,000 words (approximately 135 printed pages, or about 103 paperback pages according to my writing software, Scrivener) is an enormous win to me.

It’s even better because writing a NaNoWriMo first draft is almost exactly opposite to how I write everything else. I tend to do a lot of pre-writing in my head, so when I do commit words to the screen, they’re in pretty good shape. My internal editor works side-by-side with my internal writer, which is great for writing technical articles and books (although not great in terms of how long it can take sometimes), but terrible for writing fiction. With NaNoWriMo, half of my battle was telling that internal editor to go find someone else to annoy for a month.

The second reason was the continued influence of my late officemate Kim Ricketts, who inspired me (and others) to get off my ass and chase a goal, even if it’s difficult or unlikely or crazy. She loved books and all the things that revolved around them, and built a business of putting on innovative book events that put writers and readers in the same room, over and over again. Her business flourished despite pressure from the publishing industry, local short-sighted booksellers, and all the hundreds of things that get in the way of realizing a dream.

Kim died this year at the age of 53 from a rare type of bone marrow disease and cancer that pulled her away too quickly, and too young. She doesn’t have the opportunity to see her goals made real, like the opening of Book Larder, an all-cookbook bookstore started by the woman who purchased Kim’s business.

So what’s my excuse? Writing a novel is something I’ve wanted to do since I was in high school, and here I am at 41 without any great excuses for not having done it yet. Sure, I’ve been busy. I’ve built a career as a freelance technology writer, married the woman of my dreams, had a kid, and am generally happy with my life. But have I been too busy to follow a dream?

Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, wrote this in his book No Plot? No Problem:

“[I]f you want to get something done, you should ask a busy person to do it. … A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

Now, I’ve found the time and written a novel. (Without crowding out my everyday work. I didn't have the luxury of spending my days working on the novel.)

It’s possible. I can do this.

And that’s really just the first step. Next I need to actually finish the story, then edit and rewrite it. Or, if it’s really bad (and it might be—I don’t know yet), chuck it all and start on something fresh. Probably the other novel idea in my head, which has been gestating long enough.

But I know I can do it. I’ve absorbed myself in the writing process and gotten back to that state where words appear without conscious will, and I remember, through doing, what an interesting, exhilarating feeling that can be.

12:27 AM in Writing | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Although I've covered Apple and the Mac for almost two decades, I don't have many photos of the late, truly great, Steve Jobs. Here are my two favorites, both taken during the introduction of the original iPad. They're not nearly as good as this one by Duncan Davidson, but I still like 'em.

On stage:

Steve Jobs Onstage with Young Steve Jobs

In the media crush after the announcement:

Steve Jobs in the Demo Hall


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September 02, 2011

Great Review of ‘Take Control of Media on Your iPad’

My wonderful editor Tonya Engst sent along a clipping—yes, paper!—of a review of my book Take Control of Media on Your iPad, Second Edition that appeared in the August 2011 issue of Recording magazine. It’s a fun review by Mike Metlay, with several quotable gems:

Take Control of Media on Your iPad (v2.0) is 158 pages of good advice, step-by-step tutorials, background information, occasional snarky comments about digital rights limitations and stupid design blunders, and sneaky workarounds to the above (with at least one carefully boxed sidebar entitled “Is It Legal?”)—all concerning the iPad as a media consumption device.

and this extensive bit:

I fancied myself a decently-knowledgeable iPad media user before I picked up this book, certainly on the basics of “easy stuff” like watching movies and listening to music. By the time I put it down, I had to hang my head in shame, because I’d learned a good twenty or thirty tricks that would have saved me hours of sweat and a fair bit of money, too. Did you know there’s a freeware program specifically designed to help you import movies from your DVD collection to your computer, with optimization settings for iPad use? (See the “Is It Legal?” sidebar first, naturally.) What’s the difference between the PDF and EPUB formats for electronic document delivery, and in which areas does one format win over the other? And are you aware of the seemingly innocuous dialog box in iTunes that can pop up when you’re adding a video to your library that can destroy everything on your iPad before you know it? How about “The Best iPad Camera Tip Ever”?

Reviews are good (yes, even critical ones) and I have to admit that even after publishing dozens of books and probably hundreds of articles in this electronic age, getting a review as a clipping, tri-folded in a #10 envelope (and better, nestled against a royalty check) gave me a little electric thrill. It was like a delicate artifact had been transported from the past.

11:28 PM in Articles and Books, Books, Handhelds/iPhone/iPad/Palm, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 27, 2011

Ye Olden Days: My Adobe Magazine Articles

Back when I first started as a full-time freelance writer, I was fortunate enough to begin publishing articles in Adobe Magazine. It was a great gig, and eventually turned into a column before Adobe pulled the plug. I was a Web designer as well as a writer back then, and covered the early days of HTML and the World Wide Web. Thanks to a pointer from my friend Glenn Fleishman, I see that those articles are archived and available for reading as PDF files.

For example, here's an article I wrote in 2000 about using mobile devices to work in areas outside the office such as coffee shops, which was also the first time I was ever the subject of a photo shoot. The photographer, my editor, and I took the Seattle—Bainbridge ferry probably three times while getting various shots of me working.

Adobemag article ferry



01:56 PM in Articles and Books, Cool Stuff, Web Design, Web/Tech, Writing | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

March 16, 2011

My Review of iMovie for iOS 1.2 at Macworld

A stomach bug kept me from completing this a day earlier, but now my review of iMovie for iOS 1.2, the latest version that works on the iPad 2, iPhone 4, and fourth-generation iPod touch, is now online: Review: iMovie for iOS 1.2. I found some holes and limitations, but overall it's a great, friendly app.

02:15 PM in Articles and Books, Digital Video, Handhelds/iPhone/iPad/Palm, Movies, Writing | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)