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Blog Exercises: Taking Inventory on What Keeps You Blogging

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.The recent major desktop computer crash has left me reeling. I thought I had all my data backed up. For the most part, I did. What I didn’t have backed up was my programs.

Getting back up to speed fast, I’ve had to prioritize the programs I had download and install. Yes, download. Who gets a program disk any more? It’s all on the web, on the cloud.

As a professional blogger, I live on the Internet. My life’s work is web-based, but I still rely upon good old fashioned software to keep me blogging up to top speeds.

To keep me alive on the web, I installed the following first:

  1. Firefox logoFirefox: My browser of choice, Firefox extensions offer me speed blogging options unrivaled by other browsers. Their wide selection of web development tools is exceptional, though many of them are now on Chrome.
  2. Google logo as a sunrise over nature.The Google Empire: Okay, Google owns my soul. No matter how much I block them from abusing my search habits, personal interests, and activities online, I know they own me. It’s a virtual dictatorship and they won. So I bring up Gmail, install Google Drive to my desktop (and all mobile devices), start up Google+ in a web page, and hook myself up for Google transfusions to desktop and Android devices.
    • Google Hangouts: This replaces Google Talk, my primary online chat program to communicate with clients, family, and team members around the world. After a couple weeks using it, I miss Google Talk. Please Google, fix this buggy thing. And know the difference when I have it active so it doesn’t open up chats in Gmail, Google+, and everywhere else. Open chats ONLY in Google Hangouts.
    • Google Drive: Integrated into Gmail and other Google apps, I download and install the desktop version to set up specific folders for backups and sharing.
    • Chrome: I use Chrome as my second browser. More importantly, Google is now using it to install and manage Google programs and apps, so whether or not I use it, it’s required. Note that Greasemonkey Scripts for Firefox were called Greasemetal on Chrome, but are now part of the Chromium Projects of browser scripts. Not a wide range, but some popular scripts are being ported over from Firefox to Chrome.
  3. Feedly: Since the untimely and unnecessary demise of Google Feed Reader, my connection to the world, I’ve experimented with feed readers and currently the Feedly feed reader is holding my attention, though it is a big buggy for mobile. All the sites, sources, resources, and news I track for my industry is here, grouped by categories, giving me the information I need to keep up with my industry trends and topics, but also inspire many articles.
  4. Dropbox: I am using Dropbox less and less, but clients still use it and it integrates nicely with Scrivener, better than Google Drive currently.
  5. Filezilla: For almost a decade, I’ve relied upon Filezilla as my FTP Client of choice. It is easy to use, and works well for almost any FTP server setup I’ve run into, though it can be problematic with older, odd connections. I use CuteFTP to connect with those.
  6. InstantWP: Instant WordPress is a standalone, portable installation of WordPress for Windows OS. Created by a fellow teacher, it installs Apache, PHP, and WordPress ready with dummy content on a thumb drive, desktop, or portable drive. I can work on WordPress design, development, or programming in a confined environment. It allows me to update, install Themes and Plugins, and do all the things I would do on a live server without needing the server for testing and development. I use it with my college students and for training on WordPress, and love it with non-Internet access workshops, rare as they are today. I used it during a long stay last year at Breitenbush Hot Springs with no cell or phone access for miles. Wish there was an equivalent for Mac.
  7. Skype: I do many interviews and podcasts using Google Hangouts now, but Skype continues to be the best for podcasts. I combine it with Pamela for Skype, MP3 Skype Recorder, and CallBurner to record the online conversation for podcasts or as backup. Why so many? Always have backups when podcasting. You never know when one will decide not to work in that moment.
  8. WinRAR: Windows comes with file compression built-in, and I probably still have the earliest version of WinZip on a 5 1/12 or 3.5 floppy disk in storage, but my zippy heart belongs to WinRAR. Used mostly internationally, this is an incredibly powerful file compression tool. It allows you to save in a variety of formats. I use it with the standard zip form for sending files to clients, even stored on the cloud, and use the heavy duty compression option for backing up and saving my own files.

As a writer, I need my writing tools.

  1. Scrivener editor and storyboard logo.Scrivener: I started using Scrivener two years ago and my writing life was completely changed. I now do many of my blog posts in Scrivener, though I still love NoteTab Pro for one off posts, and all of my article series, class notes and outlines, and books. It is the first step before any word processor to get my ideas in order and start writing.
  2. NoteTab Pro: NoteTab Pro is a text editor that I’ve depended upon for eight or nine years. Everything I publish on the web goes through this to clean it up, add the HTML with a few quick clicks, and prepare it for WordPress. I love this thing. Cannot publish online without it.
  3. WordPerfect: I don’t know why I keep bothering but I love WordPerfect, even though Corel, its owner, has done as much as possible to kill it. It’s buggy, crashes on me regularly, but when it comes to writing in a word process, it beats MS Word to a pulp.
  4. Microsoft Office: I rarely use it, but I have many clients who do. I use Excel for spreadsheet work, invoicing, and word count and story inventory tracking. I use Powerpoint for my keynotes and class presentations, but Word? Not much. Only when forced to by clients.
  5. Easy Text To HTML Converter: This free program allows me to quickly convert code into HTML character entities for publishing on my WordPress sites. While most of the time I can use the code highlighter feature, there are times when the code is best displayed as straight text and this program makes it quick and easy to convert. It also obfuscates email addresses quickly.

As a graphic artist and photographer, I have to have my digital tools.

  1. Jing: Jing by Techsmith is an amazingly powerful screen capture program that allows you to do full screen captures or isolate a specific area. When I’m working on class material, presentation, or writing tutorials, I use this multiple times every day to capture web pages. It has the ability to record the screen as well, but I tend to use Camtasia for that.
  2. Camtasia logo.Camtasia: Camtasia is the grown up version of Jing’s video screen capture, one of the most powerful screen recording tools. I use Camtasia for recording WordPress usage and features for demonstration, keynotes, and classes, online and off. It offers a variety of visual effects, audio options, and editing features to create very professional on screen recordings.
  3. PaintShop Pro: Long before Adobe PhotoShop caught up with the power of digital multimedia, PaintShop Pro was a powerful force. Created by Jasc, it featured some powerful graphic capabilities that PhotoShop eventually adopted. Now it is owned by Corel, and seems to be another software package they are having trouble maintaining and cleaning up bugs, but I love it. It’s affordable, does the stuff I need quickly, and is fairly easy to use.
  4. VideoStudio: Another software package purchased by Corel, VideoStudio is one of three video editing software programs I use for my web videos.
  5. SonyVegas: More powerful in many respects than VideoStudio, I edit videos that need serious attention to detail in this program. The program is not cheap, but if you are serious about video, and okay with Sony as a company, then this is your video editing choice.
  6. MS Movie Maker: A free video editing program from Microsoft, Movie Maker is for fast video, usually done as examples for my classes and workshops. It is not a finely tuned instrument, but it has some nice features.
  7. Free Video Converter by Any Video Converter: I’ve been using Free Video Converter for several years to convert web videos to different formats. Typically I export the video in a format for YouTube or use within teaching or presentation slide shows, and occasionally the video format will not work with the computer I’m using for the presentation. I make it a habit to convert the video in to several formats if I’m going into an unknown presentation environment. The free and paid version allow downloading video from YouTube, essential for presentations featuring YouTube videos when I can’t count on a stable Internet connection.

To keep myself sane, I install the Sonos player for our house and office wide sound system, and hook up with Pandora and local radio stations controlled from desktop and mobile devices.

This is my computer inventory, the essentials I can’t blog and work without. It’s your turn.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to go through your computer software and web app inventory and make a list of the most critical programs you need to keep blogging and working, whatever your work is.

As you search for this information, print or save as PDF, TEXT, or DOC files or scan emails or paper receipts to a single folder as your emergency backup data. Save this information with a copy of every downloaded installation file and store the folder in the cloud and on a portable or backup hard drive or DVD, ready for you if you need to reboot your entire system from scratch.

Create a word processing document with the inventory list of your software and hardware that includes the following:

  • Name of the program and company
  • Link to the download
  • Usernames and passwords for accounts for that program or support
  • Serial numbers, registration, and access keys
  • Links to support services or docs
  • Where you purchased it (online, in store, etc.) and date
  • Notes for installation, setup, and usage.

It’s important to record notes about the installation of the programs. As much as I adore NoteTab Pro, it’s painful to remember how to restore all the custom auto-corrections, functions, scripts, and toolbar buttons I’ve created over the years. Leaving a note to myself on how to do that saved me hunting for an hour or more on the web to find the answer.

Don’t forget computer drivers, the system files, installation files, and drivers for your printer, monitors, and all peripherals. Add those to the list and but backup copies of their files in your backup emergency folder. You can always download new updates, but if there aren’t updates, and they don’t offer the files any more, you will still have the originals or recent versions on file.

Backup all your photos and videos from desktop, laptop, and portable and mobile devices to portable hard drives and the cloud. In addition to your writing, these are precious and often irreplaceable. Protect them.

Check your backup system, be it to the cloud or a dedicated backup drive system. I recommend more than one system in place. I should have checked. That was my mistake. I assumed my backup system was working and it wasn’t, for a variety of dumb reasons. I won’t be so dumb in the future (she says now).

I put off paying attention to this until it was too late. Don’t be as dumb as I was.

One last task in this blog exercise.

Research Good Local Computer Repair and Tech Companies

Don’t trust just your friends and Yelp to find good local computer tech folks. Call them up and ask what they do. Check their references. Add their contact information to your inventory list. Add a minimum of two companies.

My regular computer tech guy, Evan of Right Now PC in Hillsboro, Oregon, was adorable. He was completely backed up and held my hand on the phone saying, “Lorelle, you can fix this in your sleep.” The problem was that I wasn’t sleeping and it wasn’t working. A friend finally took pity on me and connected me with Nate and Tim of Tekology in Beaverton. They will be the first to tell you that I could not have done this in my sleep. It was a mess, and they put an extraordinary time in to remodeling my computer to get it back to fighting form. Awesome is too kind a word to describe how hard they worked on this thing.

I wasted weeks not having a backup to my regular tech person, so make sure you have a minimum of two companies lined up to rescue you if your computer goes bad. Don’t wait either. I knew I didn’t have time to fix it, but I thought I could fix it. My husband told me wisely, your time is better spent elsewhere and not under the desk tangled up in wires. I should have listened earlier.

Check your backup system. Get a minimum of two companies to fix your computer system if you need. And make an inventory now of all the programs you cannot live without, and save that information in a safe place. Now.

Share this information with your readers, focusing on the software and hardware you need to keep blogging about your topic. Include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your emergency inventory, the tools you can’t blog without.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.

2 Comments

  1. Posted November 14, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle,

    Running standalone WordPress on a Mac is easy. You can either run a Linux VM with WP installed (if you have Parallels or Fusion) or install it right on the Mac. Bitnami has both. Visit Bitnami or search “WordPress” in the App store for the Mac one click installer.

    Oh, and if you find Feedly a problem on your iPhone or iPad can I recommend “Mr Reader” which syncs with Feedly and provides a nice RSS reader.

    // Tony

    • Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Having done many installs on make, with and without bitnami, not quite as easy as many think. Lol.

      Thanks for the advice on thr mobile app for feedly. Always said when it takes a third party app to get a service to work, nee Twitter. :D

      Thanks!


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