Survival of the Technologically Savvy

Finally! Success. I’ve been playing with the gadgets and accessories I received for Christmas. Someday soon I’ll “get” how to sync my PC docs with iCloud. (At the moment, it’s just easier to e-mail them to myself because I love iAWriter and don’t use DropBox.)

And, who imagined using Bluetooth could be so easy–and so much fun? The one problem I’m encountering with this new technology (well, other than figuring out how to get my devices to recognize it–don’t bother reading the instructions because they are for an older model or something) is that it’s supposed to make my life more productive, yet I find my self having to “adapt.” Each device and app (that allows typing) has a slightly different keyboard layout. Couple that with different tools and accessories I use and I always need a minute or two to “adjust” to the “tool” I’m using at the moment. Even simply typing a search string into Google can be a challenge depending on whether I’m using the online (touch screen) keyboard, my home desktop computer, my laptop, or one of several “keyboard” devices I use during travel.

But, in the end, I figure I’m simply keeping my mind sharp. Forcing myself to “adapt” to the device of the moment reinforces how we all should strive to focus on the here-and-now, the present, or life in this moment. That in itself is a huge benefit for me. (Imagine, please, an exclamation point there – I can’t find it on my keyboard-of-the-moment.)

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a peaceful and productive New Year!

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The “Read” Not Taken

Who got Kindles, Nooks, or iPads for the holidays? It’s time to load them with e-books and apps (and I’ll be offering my latest Kindle book free in the next few days). I never thought I’d read e-books; now I’m seriously considering writing more of them. The possibilities (for my background) are numerous. One of the big features is the option to publish shorter pieces, advice, nonfiction, fiction, etc.

Several of my traditionally published books also have e-book versions; in fact, my Kids Throughout History series was among the first (of my titles) electronically published for schools and libraries in early 2000. Still, I always thought I’d prefer hard copy books, or as my sister-in-law calls them, “dead tree mode.”

I’m particular about my books. They have to be hardback or trade paperback. I’ve never been a fan of the “pocket” paperbacks. But, I did purchase several PDF style books when Amazon first started selling their “shorts.” During my graduate work, I tried a few e-books to save on textbook costs. A big mistake! I hated sitting at the computer in order to read my assignments and it was tough to use the highlight and note features; it simply wasn’t the same as curling up with a book.

Eventually I downloaded the book apps for PC and acquired several titles. It wasn’t until recently, when I explored plans for e-publishing, that I began reading more e-books.

It’s sort of like research. Are the free books worth it? How does the pricing work? I read the reviews and comments carefully to help me make decisions for pricing choices and such with my own e-published books. I even played around with my sister’s iPad and a friend’s Kindle. They’re neat! They’re heavier than I assumed but probably not much more than the books I read. And, you can “curl up” with them.

So, in all, I like e-books though I still purchase my share of “dead tree mode” books. Two things bug me though. One, strange formatting. Maybe it’s because I spent a few years as a typesetter for a weekly newspaper but I notice whether text moves back and forth between flush left and full justification, or the font changes, or for some reason a word (or letter, or page) is suddenly red or blue instead of black. It bugs me! I notice. And it interrupts the flow of the story for me. Because I was “doing research,” I read the stories despite the format “glitches.”

These could become the “reads” not taken. I don’t want people to delete my e-books or write nasty reviews that state “it wasn’t worth the price–and I got it free.” Ouch! I read many such reviews, so when I published, I worked hard to eliminate these issues and get the formatting consistent.

The second thing that bugs me is typos. I’m calling mistakes in grammar typos because I truly hope they are mere typos and not a book that should have been edited or proofread before being e-published. This thinking is easier for me than when the errors are misspellings or frequently confused words. Sometimes I’ve noticed a place where an error was caught but the correction and the error remained “you’re your car key’s are here.”

Sadly there have been a few books (thankfully they were free) that were so riddled with grammatical errors, especially misplaced modifiers, that I wonder about the credibility of the author. No wonder e-books had a bad rep at first. Some of the worst offenders have the imprint of big publishing houses, too. Absolutely unacceptable.

Yes, typos and errors slip in. We’re all human. Sometimes deadlines are simply too tight and careful proofreading is rushed. I know I have to try my hardest to make my product the best it can be. I don’t want my writing to become the “read not taken.”

Techno-Woes

Technology. Gotta love it. Except when it bogs down, doesn’t sync, or otherwise causes problems.

For an entire month I’ve run scans, updated, restored, and finally resorted to superstition. As I push the power button I cross my fingers and hop on one foot. Oh, and I use the power of positive thinking. This time it will work. This time my document will open and it won’t be gibberish. This time the dang machine will recognize the printer (and not send my document to some mysterious black hole instead of actually printing it).

This all began the second week in July when I discovered that wireless service was part of my combined internet/voice package. All I had to do was request a router and I could use my other devices anywhere in the house (or outside if I felt like it). For free. No additional internet fees. Just request the device and hook it up.

Cool! I set up wireless security first. Made sure I was ready with my networked devices. But once I decided to sync everything a black cloud of techno troubles descended. Of course that was about the time a severe thunderstorm flickered with the power for several minutes. But the main computer powered back up without a problem. It was the next day that strange things began to happen. And the hours of trying this and restoring that began.

It wasn’t only at home that this black cloud of electronic mishap followed me. On campus our newly renovated room was a steam box for the first hour of class. Once the AC kicked on it became an ice box.

A room change led to a disrupted lecture until IT delivered and set up speakers on the computer in the new classroom. The next week I arrived Monday morning to discover the mouse was missing. This time IT was busy elsewhere so I couldn’t use the computer until our next class meeting.

Meanwhile, I’ve slowly reversed the glitches on the office and laptop computers. What was wrong? I have no idea. How did I fix it? I have no idea. Things that should not have made a difference seemed to do something to correct whatever was wrong. The same thing happened when I helped maintain the computer network at the library where I used to work. The right sequence and a lot of luck did the trick. Or, perhaps regular updates on the main computer created and then corrected the problems. Who knows?

The only glitch left is the printer. I get to play USB Roulette. If I’m lucky, the USB port the printer is using today will work and the printer will actually print. If it doesn’t work then I try another port and, most of the time, it works—until the next time I turn the computer on. Then it’s a toss-up. Maybe it won’t detect the printer. If it does, it might tell me it printed when the machine sits quietly waiting for a purpose. If I hit the jackpot, well then I’m able to print—on actual paper.

What’s that hideous laughter? Just me. Losing my mind. Trying to stay positive. Dealing with technology woes. Ah, technology. Gotta love it!