Tech Book Review – Zero To Maker

Are you a closet inventor? Have you heard about the strange new thing called 3-D printing and would like to try your hand at it? Do you believe you could create electronic devices to solve problems around Zero To Makerthe home or office? If any of these sounds like you, then you may be a “maker”. Makers are those among us who dream of better ways to do things and creative uses for the objects around us. They are the tinkerers and programmers, the hackers and explorers. If any of this sounds appealing to you, then the book “Zero to Maker: Learn (Just Enough) to Make (Just About) Anything” by David Lang is a good place for you to start.

Zero to Maker”, published by Maker Media, starts with an overview of the maker phenomena and then gets down to the hands-on nitty-gritty. In contrast to general business style books like “The Maker Movement Manifesto” by Mark Hatch, which stays at a higher more theoretical level, “Zero to Maker” goes in depth with some of the projects and problems that face today’s creators. From the various types of people that you will come in contact with to the different ways of handling specific product problems, the advice given her is concrete and actionable. The next step from here would be actual user manuals for hardware or programming tutorials for system development languages.

When it comes to the maker scene, I am definitely into the computer side of things. I am into the Raspberry PI, the Arduino, and TI’s Launchpad. I guess that makes sense since I am a programmer by trade, but I also like the hardware side of these devices. But, since I have been so preoccupied with software for so many years, my knowledge of basic electronics leaves something to be desired. That is where a book such as this comes in. It doesn’t necessarily tell me everything I need to know about electronics, but it helps lay out a path of where I should go to learn more.

I found Lang’s style easy to read and almost conversational, without become too casual. Making is an area where the excitement of discovery should show through, and it does in this book. Of particular interest is his relating his own journey with the OpenROV project. The path of that project, dealing with underwater robots, from discovery through fruition is one that all makers hope to enjoy.

I would also recommend “Zero to Maker” to parents or teachers who are interested in getting kids interested in engineering, science, or other STEAM fields. (STEAM = Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) This book might give some ideas on how to motivate those kids and also how to deal with the types of personalities that will be encountered.

You're A Professional, Act Like One!

This is a rant. I will admit it right off. I have been hitting a lot of new folks in various writing and social media communities recently and they are driving me nuts. I go to an author’s site or maybe their twitter profile or a fellow Gravatar Profileblogger, what they are saying interests me, and then I try to find out more about them. Dead end. These folks, as well meaning as they may be, are trying to present themselves as professionals without taking the basic time to create a professional online presence. I am not talking about stuff that costs a lot of money, but stuff that has a big impact on how easy it is to find you and how you are perceived when people do find you.  In marketing speak part of this is branding. In business speak a lot of this should be common sense.

Branding and consistency are what help your customers, readers, users, fans or even friends find you on the web, find what you are doing and what pertains to you, and also know that the you they find really is you! Think of it as not trying to convince people what an honest reputable person you are while selling watches out of the back of a borrowed car in a vacant parking lot. Also think of it as not handing out business cards that are missing your phone number, address or email.

So, with very little money, how can you clean up your act? Well, here are ten cheap and easy steps.

1) Make sure you have your own website. Yours. Not part of Facebook or LinkedIn or Google+ site (though you do want those). is ok for now, but only because they let you export everything in the future. This site will be your home base. You want somewhere that you control and that the Lords Of Facebook can’t change the look and feel, and advertising, of without your input. (Cost: $0 to $10 a month – or somewhere in between. Your choice!) [Recommendation – if you want to go free, DreamHost if you want a bit more control and are willing to pay a small amount for it.] Continue reading “You're A Professional, Act Like One!”

Presenting on WordPress Security

WordPress User Group Security PresentationJust wanted to let you all know that I will be speaking at the May WordPress User Group meeting on WordPress Security. Since WordPress enjoys the position of being one of the most widely used web platforms, it is also one of the most attacked. This has become particularly clear with the DNS and dictionary attack over the last month.

We will look at the basics of WP security touching on everything from file permissions and user accounts to preventing script injection and backup procedures to protect your blog from hacking or downtime.

The May meetup of the User Group will be held on May 14 at The Flagship on the corner of Calhoun and East Bay, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm, and feature 2 presentations. For more information, visit the WordPress User Group of Charleston’s site.

Nexus 7 Tablet Six Month Review

I have had my Google Nexus 7 Android tablet for a little more than six months now. You can see my early impressions of it back when I talked about using it as a mobile computer. I feel that I have been using it long enough to take a good look at it and summarize my feelings. My summary – I really don’t like it. Sorry, I just don’t.

Google Nexus 7 TabletThe most obvious problem with the Nexus 7, and actually the problem that bothers me the least, is that it is just too small. This is really a personal preference. I know quite a few people who prefer the smaller seven inch form factor to the nine or ten inch tablets. I am not one of them. It is great that I can slip the tablet into my pants pocket or easily hold it without any arm fatigue, yes. On the other hand I find myself zooming in far too often. Often enough that I notice it; it interrupts my experience, and makes me switch over to my laptop. On quite a few occasions as I have been lying in bed using the Nexus 7 I have found myself setting it aside to get up and retrieve my laptop. That boils down to the tablet just not working for me. And when I have wanted to do simple book reading I still prefer the non-backlit basic Kindle or … horrors … a real book!

Ok, other than the size we could talk about apps. Google Play, the Android app store, has come a long way. I have to say that there is almost no app that I want that I can’t find. Play can be a bit cluttered and hard to pick through at times – kind of like searching for a gem in a flea market – but in the end I do find what I need. The good apps are free or reasonably priced, and I have never had any complaints with what I have found. I stopped using alternatives, like Amazon’s app store, simply because I didn’t need them and I didn’t like have to go to multiple sources for updates or searches. My summary of the app experience – great. Not an issue at all. Oh, and I love Chrome. Best mobile and desktop browser there is. Continue reading “Nexus 7 Tablet Six Month Review”

Browser Add-Ons

Browser Add-OnsI love it when they quote me! 😉 Check out this fine article on browser add-ons that quotes you know who. Kelli Grant, the journalist who wrote this article, and I have talked a number of times over the past few years on a variety of technology topics. I always know it is her when I see that New York area code on my phone!

And if you don’t read the entire article, make sure you at least take away these points – 1) browser add-ons can slow down your web experience, and 2) make sure you know who is collecting your information, how much they are collection it, and what their privacy policies are. Sometimes installing an add-on is the same as inviting a vampire over the threshold.