A Little Help From My Friends

I’ve had a lot of stress recently, most of it self-imposed.

I’m not going into a lot of detail but it was caused by upgrading to a new computer and a new printer.

The first problem I encountered was attempting to print promo copies of my book cover. In the past I used PS Explorer 4 but discovered that it could not be used with Windows 7 X64. I tried various photo printing software packages; none of them would produce the desired size. I could resize the picture but when I went to print it I could not use that size.

Then I realized, I had replaced my old HP Photosmart printer with an HP Officejet printer. It’s a much nicer printer, but lacking some of the niceties for printing photos. I finally conceded and accepted the printers size choices.

HP Officejet

HP Photosmart

 

 

Next I realized I needed to print more business cards. I couldn’t find my business card template anywhere. I searched the hard drives on both of my computers. The file could not be located.

Where is it?

No problem, I back all my important stuff to Spideroak a cyber-backup company.

Evidently, I didn’t recognize the missing template as being important. All of my other files were there except for the one I needed.

That must be somebody’s law like Murphy’s Law or The Peter Principle.

Does anyone know of a law that deals with finding something that is lost?

I almost forgot my biggest catastrophe, the one that brought me to my knees.

In order to improve my Branding efforts as taught by Kristen Lamb in her book “We Are Not Alone” , I attempted to move my web domain from goldentreebooks.com (my company) to donaldbueltmann.com (me). As a result, I lost access to my old web page and my new and improved blogpage.

I immediately sent a 911 call to my EMT Laird Sapir.

Laird threw all of my information into a virtual blackbox, turned a crank a few times, said a few hocus-pocuses, and sent me a message that it was all fixed. Talk about your Supermoms—.

I mentioned my stress problem to one of the people in my Bible discussion class. He gave me a copy of a book by Charles Swindoll, “Stress Fractures”. It’s an excellent book that uses Bible passages to apply to stressful situations. In addition it explains what caused the stress in the Bible passage and how it relates to life today.

The first chapter cited Exodus 18:13-26. Moses is told by Jethro that he has assumed too much responsibility and it will tell on him.

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said. 25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.

Why do we think that we can handle our troubles alone. It is so easy to ask for assistance from those more knowledgeable or thinking more clearly.

Before I retired, I delegated responsibility frequently and the results were far better than if I had tried to do the work alone. Since these people reported to me it was natural to delegate to them. But today I have no one reporting to me, ergo no delegates.

What to do?

What else? Turn to your friends.

As the Beatles song goes, “With a little help from my friends “.

So I did, and my stress melted away. At least, for a day or two.       

What do you do to relieve stress?

I Confess

I Confess:

The title may be a bit radical, but today I’m going to talk about writing or what gets in my way when I write.

Steven Pressfield wrote an excellent book (a must read) titled “The War of Art”. In this book he describes the many things that prevent writers from writing and how to overcome them.

I enjoyed the bookl very much but I don’t think he described my problem.

I can hardly admit this but, I’m addicted to technology, not all technology, primarily the kind related to computers.

Okay, you got me, I’ve got a thing for cars too. But that’s pretty much under control.

How does this addiction manifest itself?

I collect tools, software tools, hardware tools. Tools that will help me in writing.

While searching, reading, looking for the perfect tools. I completely overlook the fact that many of these tools carry a high learning curve. But does that matter, not one bit, its all part of the quest for the perfect tools.

Using tools are not bad in fact many of my tools are excellent. Why else would I have bought them?

Step back and give me some room–I’m going to open the toolbox.

Let’s start with notes and research. I store my research articles, photos, web pages using either Evernote or One Note.

Why do I need both of them? Both programs are very similar, you can clip pages from the internet, type directly into the program, save email, etc.

I think Evernote is easier to work with and more flexible in using stored information.

One Note has an outstanding feature that sometime tips the scale in its favor. The program installs with an included print driver that allows you to copy a large document and “print” (think insert) it into One Note.

One Note comes standard with most of the Microsoft Office packages or it can be purchased through Microsoft. The basic version of Evernote is a free download and comes with a variety of optional packages.

Another tool that I depend on is Writeway Pro. This is a fabulous program designed to literally meet a writer’s dreams. It was designed by a programmer who is married to a writer and it was designed to his wife’s specifications.

You can develop and record the traits and background of your characters, plot your scenes considering location, environment, character actions, and tensions. You can create storyboards, outline, and it includes a full featured word processor.

If you’ve reached one of those spots in your story, you know the spot. Your hero has been driven to go on a quest, who will go with him and why? At this time I turn to a web program called Webspiration, this is a mind plotting program. It allows you to consider alternatives, all of the Hows, Wheres, Whos, Whats, and Whys. Webspiration will develop outlines or charts and instantly coverts from one format to the other. There is a fee for using the program but I think it’s worth it.

 

I use an Alphasmart Dana to write my draft copies. It’s the greatest little gadget for writing. In essence it’s a small computer (1.9”H x 12.4”W x 9.3”D , weight 2Lb) that has a full size keyboard. It’s powered by either a rechargeable battery or 3 AA batteries. It is advertised to have a 30 hour battery life and comes with a charger.

It syncs to another computer through a USB connection. With other included apps it can perform standard PDA functions. It can even be used as an ereader. Due to its compact size it can easily be taken anywhere.

One of its disadvantages is also a big advantage; it can’t access the internet, which means you can concentrate on writing. Isn’t that you’re supposed to do?

I find the screen on the Dana too small to do editing, for that I need my regular desktop or laptop.

 

Speaking of my laptop, I never could get used to using it. The glidepad or whatever controlled the cursor would not behave. While typing I would suddenly find myself in the middle of a previous paragraph, then have to go back and see what chaos I had wreaked and correct it.

I tried changing the sensitivity of the pad but that wouldn’t do it—then I saw an ad in one of the PC magazines for a Swiftpoint mouse. You have to see this mini_mouse to believe it.

Please follow the link; you’ll be glad you did. Swiftpoint

Your book or story is finished and it’s time to edit.There are many books on editing; I must have a dozen of them.

But, in addition I recommend a program called Editor, the program searches for problems using a customized set of criteria. As you would expect it catches spelling errors, in addition it detects errors in grammar and usage, it will identify problems with homophones, and suggest changes that might improve the manuscript. One of the more valuable tools is a word count of the appearance of each word per paragraph or sentence (I’m always amazed at how many times I use the word I in a paragraph. See, I used it three times in the last sentence.

Serenity Software the creator of Editor have made regular updates to the program, one of the more recent improvements adds Editor as a Plugin to Microsoft Word. This improvement allows you to review your word document with the suggested changes highlighted and explanations accessible.

All of these tools are very helpful to any author—as long as they don’t get in the way of your writing.

Tell me about any tools or programs that you have used. Maybe I missed out on something.

Don’t tell me that you use the oldest tools available stone tablet and chisel or tablet and pencil .

 

Storm 1—Computer 0

And the Byte Goes On

I went through several Pentium computers. Still making no money but I enjoyed playing games, Diablo, Myst, Doom, until gaming technology surpassed the ability of my computer.

Gee, what a shame    .

 

It was time for a new one, a dream computer. I decided that I would build one. I bought books on building a monster computer, the more I learned the more fearful I became.

Thankfully, my son Mark came to my rescue, he agreed to build one for me.

I researched the components I wanted and had them shipped to him in Ohio. This was really fun, picking out the case, the motherboard, CPU, and accessories. I’m not sure that Mark shared my enthusiasm?

 

The total cost of my acquisitions was $2000?

What did I get for my money a dual core AMD CPU, 2 Gb RAM, a 250 Mb high powered video card, and a top of the line ASUS motherboard. Not very impressive by today’s standards but I christened it with the name El Monstro.

I can’t believe how much I spent on this “toy”. My wife couldn’t either, nor could anyone else.

Words of Wisdom: I’ve had a lot of computers over the years and noted that a power computer will always cost between $1500 – $2000.

What kind of supercomputers have you had?

Tell me about them.

After assembly and break-in the computer was shipped via UPS back to me in Tucson. Fortunately it arrived and operated with no problems. My computer and I bonded and enjoyed each other’s company. In addition to writing it was also great at playing Titan’s Quest and Diablo 2, until.

(OK, this is where the tension rises). 

It was storming, one of our nice Arizona summer storms. You know the kind that flood the wash, blow down trees, and lightning sets fire to the bufflegrass. We moved to Arizona to escape from tornados.

Who knew there were such things as microbursts.

I wasn’t concerned about the storm, I had the supercomputer protected as it deserved to be by an APC Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) backup support and a surge suppressor. Let the lightning flash, the thunder roar, and the washes flood. Roar on Mother Nature.

Of course I had taken the precaution of turning my computer off (but not unplugging it).

After an especially loud thunder and lightning display, I heard a beeping coming from my office. It was the UPS telling me that it had been hit and was injured.

I unplugged it from the wall to stop the beeping noise. An hour later I tried to start the computer. Nothing, no sound, no beeps, no whir. I called one of my techie friends over to look at it. The motherboard had been fried. The motherboard had been the most expensive component in the system and now it was gone.

I could replace the mother board but technology had outstripped the rest of the components in the PC, it was completely outdated.

We had a fitting ceremony and retired it to a PC salvage company.

My friend sold me a fixer upper from his garage for $170. It was faster, had more memory, and a newer operating system than the deceased.

So much for spending $2000 on a computer.

Addendum to Words of Wisdom:

Even though I replaced a $2000 computer with a $170 computer that ran faster. A supercomputer today still costs $2 – 3 thousand.

How many of you have the same technological obsessions?

How much have you spent on a computer?

Tell me about your supercomputer.

 

Making Money with a Computer—Not

Continuing the computer chronicles.

In my last post I was sitting back fat, dumb, and happy; just me and my Coleco Adam. Then–

In 1991 a life-changing event occurred—I was presented with the opportunity to retire. No my job wasn’t eliminated—I wasn’t escorted out of the building—the company just wanted to get rid of us o ld farts— er—trim some expenses.

I was only 52 and was a long way from collecting Social Security—I had to do something—but what. What did I know?

I always liked Jaguars, maybe I’d sell Jaguars? —But, those salesmen have to put in a lot of hours—I don’t think I want that—not for me. What else do I like?

(Sounds of a lumber mill and the smell of sawdust)

 

 

 Zounds, egads, and a few other mild oaths. I think I’ve got it:

I like computers!

But can you make money with a computer?.

How?

I did some research and bought several books on making money with a computer.

First I needed a computer.

I bought a new 486 PC equipped with 2 floppy drives and a hard drive (I think it had 120 mb, I know I kept running out of space, and a nice Canon ink jet printer. Since I was going to use it for business, I had it equipped with a tape backup system to make certain that all of my client information was secure.

Tape backup? Did you ever hear of a tape backup system?

Tape drives were installed in a drive bay similar to a floppy disk drive.

In 1991, the only practical methods for backup were:
5 ¼ “ floppy disk with a capacity of 360Kb or 3 ½” floppy disk with a capacity of 1.44Mb
Both had very limited capacity compared to the tape which had a whopping 30Mb.

Yes Mb is Megabyte, not Gigabyte, or Terabyte. It’s humorous to think of worrying about backing up 120Mb until you realize it was the equivalent of 85 floppy disks. Then the tape made sense.

I bought various software programs, Word, Excel, and Paradox. I didn’t know what software my business would need.

This was in the days of DOS, so there was no multitasking; I had to satisfy myself with working on one task at a time. Special utilities were needed to control memory (all 4 Mb of it), access the internet, and do email.

Then Windows came and simplified our lives, didn’t it? 

Well what do you think —Windows—Fer or Agin?

 I talked my brother into forming a consulting company with me. I learned to use all of the software. I was ready for business—whatever business—perhaps I should say what business?

Neither my brother or I were hungry enough to work or we were just too wussy to go out and sell ourselves.

I can’t speak for my brother, but considering my successful venture in selling insurance and Mutual funds (after all the time and effort it took to get licensed), I can safely say that as a salesman, I am a WUSS!

Not just a WUSS but a WUSSY Geek—or is that a Geeky WUSS?

More Computer Chronicles to follow:

Computer — Valued Treasure or Overvalued Pleasure

I’m starting a new blog today on another favorite topic–Computers–Love them or leave them.

I admit it, I’m a computer nerd. During my entire career I worked in main-frame computer related fields. Then the personal computers began to appear:

  • The TRS-80
  • Altair
  • Macintosh
  • IBM PC
  • Commodore 64

I wanted one badly; I didn’t have a good reason other than it was a breakthrough in technology and I love technology. Several of my friends were buying various models. They were just too expensive, at least for me (Macintosh Plus $2599, IBM PCs’ in the same price range).

Then a poor decision by Coleco (yes the same company that made Cabbage Patch Dolls) made it possible for me to purchase my first computer.

Coleco had introduced a very innovative computer called the Adam, priced at a comparatively reasonable price of $600. Unfortunately some of the early models had problems. Coleco either was too slow to react or didn’t recognize the seriousness of the situation. The public turned against Coleco and branded the Adam unreliable. Coleco dumped their entire inventory to the discount stores. I was able to purchase my system including Motorola RGB monitor for $350, even I could afford that.

 

What made the Adam innovative:

  • Equipped with a letter quality daisy wheel printer
  • Used TV as a monitor or optional RGB monitor
  • Two tape drives with digital search capability
  • 80K Ram
  • 3 expansion slots
  • Cartridge slot that accepted all Coleco game cartridges
  • Capable of operating under CP/M OS which would run Wordstar, Lotus, dBase

One of my favorite features about the Adam was that it powered up in word-processing mode. There was no wait for an OS to load and then wait for an application to load. Just turn it on and start working.

I liked this computer so much that in later years I purchased additional Adam units for anywhere from $50 to $100. I wanted to share my good fortune with all of my friends and proliferate the wonders of the Adam.

When Coleco went bankrupt and withdrew all technical support, User support groups popped up all over the world. Some of the more active groups in addition to those in the US were located in England and Canada. I was the editor of the newsletter for the St. Louis Adam Users Group or (SLAUG).

Annual conventions were held to socialize and share knowledge. Unbelievably, twenty years later these conventions are still taking place.

I hope I didn’t bore you but after twenty-five years I’m still passionate about my first computer, the Coleco Adam.

How about all of you readers, what were your first computers?

Are you as emotional as I am?