Thoughts on public relations (Part 1)

So here we are again. Last time I tried to knock the dust off this blog, it was to announce that I’d parted ways with The Register and would be moving on to my next chapter, whatever that would be. And then … silence.

Mea culpa. What happened was things got busy again fairly quickly. I decided to accept a new position, one that was different from anything I’d done before. I took a job at a public relations firm.

It certainly was a change. I’ve never had a company issue a press release about hiring me before, and nobody has ever interviewed me about my new job – although I suppose neither should have surprised me, given the industry in question.

I ended up staying in the role for 12 months, almost to the day. Now I’m on my own again, and itching to get back into editorial writing. I do expect to continue to do some communications work, albeit in a consulting capacity. The most interesting part of the experience for me, though, was the inside look it gave me at the other side of the tech media circus, a side I’d never investigated before. » More... »

A writer’s bookshelf

TypewriterFor as long as I’ve been a professional writer (almost 20 years now), and with all the writers I’ve known and spoken with, one thing that surprises me is that I don’t recall ever having a conversation with another writer about writing. I mean the writing itself.

Any time you do something creative, be it writing or painting or poetry or comedy or whatever you do, you always get someone who will say, “I wish I could do XYZ like you do.” Well guess what? Nobody was born with it. Nobody.

Me? I believe I am quite good at what I do, but nothing comes for free. I think I am different from many of the writers that I’ve met, in that I consciously work at self-development all the time. Writing can be an art, but it is also a craft, like carpentry or ship building. When you’re doing business writing, it’s almost all craft. This means you can consciously choose to get better at it, through practice and study. » More... »

A new chapter…

What's next?Hi all! I suppose it’s not hard to notice that this site hasn’t been updated in a while. Truth to tell, I’ve been kept pretty busy with social media, not to mention that most of my time over the last two years or so has been taken up by my day job as a reporter for The Register.

Still, since this site is the quickest way to find me with a Google search, I thought it worth mentioning here that I’m no longer with El Reg, so you needn’t bother trying to contact me there. I wish the gang at the Vulture Annex in San Francisco all the best.

As for what I’ll be doing next, that’s actually undecided at the moment. (If you have any ideas on that score, let me know.) For the time being, though, I’m content to take a breather, enjoy some hobbies, catch up on some reading, and so on. I’ll post any significant updates to this site (and I also plan to do some general housekeeping, because it’s sure looking dusty around here).

Thank you to any visitors who have stopped by while I was away, particularly those of you who took the time to drop me a line. Sorry if I was late/unable to respond. All the best!

Handwritten code

Code Monkey font by ComicraftI just love this. Comicraft is one of the companies that pioneered digital lettering for comic books. These days, they earn some of their income selling their custom-designed fonts, most of which resemble hand-lettered comics text and sound effects. Among their latest additions is Code Monkey, a hand-lettering font for computer code! Code Monkey lets you add a little bit of humanity and flair to your code listings by making it look as if your output was written by hand. Unlike most of Comicraft’s fonts, it’s fixed-width, making it ideal for text editors and terminal windows. It’s also available in a proportionally spaced version, if you prefer that.

America’s next top programming languages?

Source code iconWelcome to 2012! Once again, I’ve been remiss in keeping this blog updated, but I’ll try to do better this year. Remember you can always follow the latest from my Fatal Exception blog for InfoWorld in the box to the right!

My first feature article of the year is another piece for InfoWorld. This time, I’m looking at up-and-coming programming languages. You’ve heard of C, Java, Python, Ruby, and maybe even Haskell, OCaml, and Scala … but have you ever heard of Zimbu, Fantom, Chapel, or haXe? Probably not — but you may, soon. Some people say we already have more than enough programming languages. Others say the computing field is changing so rapidly that the same old languages can’t move fast enough, and the only way for developers to gain the agility they need is to start over from scratch. In this feature, I look at ten experimental programming languages, why they were invented, where you can get them, and why they matter.

First look at Adobe Edge

Adobe Edge logoWith the rise of HTML5, a lot of folks wonder whether it might displace plug-ins such as Adobe Flash for rich Internet Application development. Adobe doesn’t see it quite that way. It sees the two technologies as complementary, and it’s putting its money where its mouth is. Adobe Edge is a new technology from Adobe Labs that aims to make it as easy to build complex animations in HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript as it is to do the same in Flash. It’s still rough around the edges, but it does make it possible to do some pretty remarkable things, especially if your goal is to develop banner ads, infographics, or other short animated sequences to be embedded in Web pages. Read on for more of my first impressions of the Adobe Edge Preview.

Tough times ahead for Google?

Seven years after its IPO, Google is entering the next phase of its growth as a company. It’s impressively large by anyone’s standards, with $29.3 billion in revenue in 2010, nearly 30,000 full-time employees, and offices in 42 countries. And yet Larry Page, now Google’s CEO for the first time since 2001, still seems to view the company as a cross between a startup and his old Stanford University grad project. It’s neither, and it faces difficult challenges. The legal environment around Google is tightening even as it goes head-to-head with the industry’s largest companies, and the changes it must make to remain competitive may mean tomorrow’s Google little resembles the fun-loving Silicon Valley darling of yesteryear. Read on for the rest of my analysis of Google and the road it must travel, this week at InfoWorld.com.

LibraryLookup for Google Chrome

I’ve written a new version of my LibraryLookup script for the San Francisco Public Library that works with Google’s Chrome browser. If you’re running Chrome, you can try it out by clicking this link. It should work regardless of your OS platform — in fact, it even works on Chromebooks! Note that this version of the script is a substantial rewrite from the Firefox version, so I’ll be especially interested to hear any bug reports. It works pretty well for me so far, but I still don’t use Chrome as my main browser.

Also, note that because LibraryLookup uses cross-site scripting, it has to run as a Background Page in Chrome, because of the way the browser was designed. That means it’s consuming some small amount of memory all the time, even when you’re not browsing Amazon. The amount of resources used should be negligible, but you should be aware of this before you install it. Enjoy!

Review: Samsung Chromebook Series 5 3G

One of Google’s many big ideas is Chrome OS, an operating system that essentially is a Web browser — nothing less, but nothing more. A Chrome OS computer, called a Chromebook, can’t install any software and it has very limited processing power and onboard storage. All the applications you use on a Chromebook are running “in the cloud,” which is to say they’re Web apps. Acer and Samsung are now shipping Chromebooks, and I recently spent some time working with Samsung’s latest model to see whether it has a place within my normal computing workday. The results weren’t particularly encouraging, unfortunately, though I think a Chromebook can be useful as a secondary way to access the Web around the home or office. Click through to InfoWorld.com to read my full run-down of the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 and how it stacked up in my tests.

Comic Book Color Swatches for Photoshop

Classic Comics Color GuideA recent blog post by Ed Piskor generated some interest in the old craft of coloring comic books in the days before comics were printed using full-process color. Ed created a chart showing all 64 colors available in most comics of the bygone era. I also enjoyed an article at the CO2 Comics Blog that went into depth on the classic comics coloring process and how it evolved over the years. What I thought was missing, however, was an easy way for folks to use the same colors to get a “Silver Age” effect in their own comics. To that end, I wrote a script to generate a swatch palette for use in Photoshop, Illustrator, or other graphics software. But I didn’t stop there! I also created palettes that recreated the even-more-limited Golden Age palette, as well as the expanded palettes that began to appear in the 1980s. You can download my palettes here. » More... »