Tag Archives: Computers

Using the Internet Effectively: Simon’s Cat

I just discovered animator Simon Tofield’s short films online, and I think he does a great job of using the internet effectively to reach viewers.  Take a look at the Simon’s Cat website, which I’d like to point out:

1) Makes it easy for viewers to watch his all films and purchase his books.

2) Makes it easy for visitors to quickly find whatever they are looking for.

3) He does not waste his time blogging since that is not an interest of his.

4) The whole website does a great job of showing his sense of humor.

If you’re planning on doing YouTube broadcasts, also check out the Simon’s Cat YouTube Channel. A nice clean design that is easy to navigate, with obvious links to his website and Facebook page.

As a cat owner, I also recommend these sites simply because his short films about his cat are hilarious.

Too Much Internet Usage Can Wreck Your Writing Productivity

I just read James Sturm’s “My (Probably Crazy) Plan to Give Up the Internet” at Slate Magazine, and it got me thinking about the stories I’ve heard from writers over the years who’ve also had to go cold turkey from the internet due to an addiction to online RPGs, or web surfing, or chat rooms, or compulsively checking their amazon sales rankings every few hours.  There’s just sooooo much that can be done now online to waste the precious hours of each day.

I’ve had problems myself with wasting too much time on the internet, especially web surfing and reading news sites.

The best advice tends to share a common theme–separate the work and play areas as much as possible.  Have a “writing” computer AND a “play” computer.  Make sure the writing computer has no internet access or games on it.

I haven’t gone so far as to have two computers–yet–but I have learned to limit my internet usage to only music while I’m writing.  No email or chat are allowed while writing by making sure I’m logged out of all my accounts.  And when I catch myself breaking the “only music while writing” rule, I turn the network connection on my computer off.

However, I suspect I’ll have to go to keeping the network connection always off while writing, and listen to music through an iPod.  The temptation to go surfing over to Wikipedia for just-in-time research is so strong at times.

High-intensity thinking activities, like writing or debugging, do require chunks of uninterrupted time to do.   That needed chunk may be as short as 10-15 minutes, but if one’s getting email pings and surfing during that time period, one can find that the ability to focus has significantly deteriorated.   I found that this was true for me when I took a hard look at my work habits, and I’ve noticed my ability to focus (and therefore my productivity) has improved since shutting off internet access while writing.

Backup the writing files or documents, or suffer the consequences

The hard drive in my ancient Apple 17″ Powerbook G4 laptop finally began to die about a week ago.   I should have replaced the hard drive years ago (the laptop will be 7 years old this June, bought it in June 2003), but I never got around to it.  So it’s been slowly dying, making noises when it gets too hot lately.

Thankfully I paid attention to those noises, and 1) did almost daily backups of my writing-in-progress, 2) did backups of all my writing files every two weeks, and 3) bit the money bullet and ordered a refurbished Apple 17″ MacBook Pro laptop to replace the old laptop.   So when my old laptop hard drive crashed in a spectacular way last Wednesday (*almost* got the new laptop in time–it arrived on Friday), I was in a position to recover with over the weekend.  So take it from me, backup all your writing files every 2-4 weeks, and backup your work-in-progress nightly.

And make sure you keep some of those backups in a place safe from fire and theft.  Buy a firebox specifically designed to protect software backups, and store the disks in there.  Also, get a safe deposit box at a bank, and every 1-2 months put a backup in that box.

If you don’t use a computer for your first draft writing (i.e. you write everything by hand), get a firebox big enough to put your work-in-progress in there at night.

Whenever I started to feel like “these backups are too much hassle,” I asked myself “how would you feel if  your laptop breaks down, is destroyed, or stolen?”  That question always drove me to backup my writing.  And as a result, my laptop’s hard drive failure was a (relatively) painless process to recover from.

I’ve known writers who’ve lost years of writing work in a fire because they didn’t have copies of their writing files in a fire-safe location.   Anyone who makes their living from their writing, or hopes to do so, needs to have a plan for backing up their work on a regular basis.  Make sure the backup plan covers hard drive failure, fire or flood, and theft.

I’m very fond of that old laptop, and plan to keep it.  The current plan is to get a replacement hard drive, then give it to my spouse to use as a a test machine for running the Linux operating system.