Archive for the ‘Blogging tools’ Category

A New iPad

Posted: 9 May, 2018 in Apple, Blogging tools, Good News, Technology
Tags: ,

My iPad Mini was starting to show its age. It was slow, and I made the mistake of buying one with the minimum amount of memory. You can’t do a whole lot with 32Gb, and I wanted one with more.

The problem? I couldn’t afford to buy one outright, so I took me off to the Verizon store, where I picked up a new iPad with 1128Gb of memory. It came with a phone line, and I only had to pay the sales tax. THAT I could handle. 49 bucks and some change.

When I got home, it took me about an hour to backup the iPad Mini and wipe it clean, and then restore that backup to the new unit. Finally, I updated all of the apps on the new one and loaded the latest system update.

Best of all is discovering that if I take the old iPad into the Apple Store, they’ll give me a $95 gift card, which I’ll use to buy a screen protector and a new case, since the old ones don’t fit the new device.

I’m running a backup on the new iPad right now, and once that’s done, I should be good to go.

It’s nice to have something good happen for a change.

ipad

Recently on Pinterest there’s been a flurry of pins aimed at first-time or beginning bloggers. They all follow a theme: “You don’t know what you’re doing, so you’d better listen to me unless you want to be a failure.”

I get it. There are a lot of things I wish I knew when I first sat down to set pen to paper. (Well, actually, pixels to screen, but whatever.) But those things all had to do with the mechanics of creating a blog: finding the right host, picking a theme, figuring out the editor, and so on.

But far too many of the pins I mentioned have nothing to do with the logistics of running your blog and everything to do with your content.

And, of course, they all offer to sell you their book that promises instant fame, a successful blog, and to cure cancer all in one nifty little package. Just give us your money.

When I first looked into e-book publishing, I found a number of people selling books that promised to make you a successful self-published writer. But upon deeper examination, they all turned out to be a kit containing one e-book covering how to become a self-published writer. All you had to do was insert your own name as the author, and turn around and resell the kit to other people.

It said nothing about the process of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and finally submitting your work to either an agent or a publisher.

And that’s exactly what the Pinterest pins seem to be doing: telling you how to spend your money on a kit, then reselling it under your own name.

Advice vs. Advertising

Please don’t misunderstand me: advice is often warranted. I look for it myself when I’m stumped by a particular problem. But useful advice is different than advertising. You have to have an actual product before you start selling it.

In a way, it reminds me of the early days of micro-computing and the concept of vaporware; software that was advertised heavily in computer magazines and advance orders taken. If the ads generated enough interest to make the product viable, then—and only then—was work begun on actually creating the software. If not, any advance orders were refunded with a technobabble line of bull-crap meant to explain the failure of the program.

A Guaranteed Formula For Success

The best formula for guaranteeing your success as a blogger is realizing that there isn’t any guaranteed formula for success as a blogger.

As was once famously said of Shoeless Joe Jackson,

If you build it, he will come.

So start your blog. Check out the tools available to help you. Find the best platform for your specific needs. For example, I chose WordPress. And then write. Write every day. Write even when you have nothing to say. Even if you don’t publish it, you should still write every day until it becomes a habit. Write for a specific audience, if that’s what you want to do.

Or be like me: I just write about whatever comes to mind when I sit down at my laptop. (Well, okay—it’s usually my mobile phone.) Once I’m done, that’s when I decide my target audience and publish it to the appropriate blog. Yes, I have several blogs, depending on my mood and my intended audience.

Writing For Medium

Medium is different. There, I have only one audience I aim for: other writers. People who are serious about their own writing. Or at least serious enough to share it with a critical audience. (In this context, I define “critical” as:

Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.
"she never won the critical acclaim she sought"
synonyms: evaluative, analytical, interpretative, expository, explanatory

"a critical essay"
(of a published literary or musical text) incorporating a detailed and scholarly analysis and commentary.

"a critical edition of a Bach sonata"
involving the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

"professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking in their students"

When I publish on Medium, I know I’m opening myself up to criticism. But that’s what I’m looking for, what I’m hoping for. What do other writers—many of them professionals, and many of them far better writers than I am—think of what I have to say” of how I say it? How can I improve?

Because ultimately, that’s what it comes to in the end for me: I want to improve. I want to get better. Not for any possible fame or fortune, but simply to become the very best me I can become.

Consider this an experiment. I’m creating this document in Scrivener, then I’m going to copy/paste it into Medium and see if it retains my formatting.

The Problem

Do I rely on technology too much? Right, I know this is a strange forum for discussing technology, when one considers that without technology this forum wouldn’t even exist.

But here’s my problem:

I access Medium—at varying times of thee day and depending on my location and mood—either by my laptop, my iPhone, or my IPad. I find my laptop gives me better control over formatting—not to mention a greater source of images—than the other two options. But I don’t usually use the laptop until I’ve been up and functioning for a few hours. Instead, my default device is my iPhone. Yes, it’s easier to type on the iPad’s larger keyboard, my my iPad is a few generations old, and is rather slow. And I get impatient as I wait for my tea water to boil so I can brew my first cup of soothing, calming tea.

So the iPhone it is. It’s much newer than the iPad—it’s a 6S Plus that’s a little over a year old, so it still is fast enough—and it handles the latest updates to iOS without blinking. But I’m really unhappy with the lack of formatting options on the iPhone through the Medium app. And I’m not above admitting that it may very well be the ID Ten T at the keyboard. (Write it down and you’ll see it becomes ID10T.)

Enter Scrivener

 
I’ve been using Scrivener for well over a year now, and I’ve never bothered to truly delve into all of its secrets and wonders. Rather than using it to compose my writing—mostly blog posts—I create and edit everything in Open Live Writer, then copying them to Scrivener, which serves as an archive. But I’ve recently decided to get my money’s worth out of Scrivener and use it as it was mean to be used: to create, edit, and save one’s writings.

So this is the first test. As I said, I’m doing everything in Scrivener, then I’ll see how well it it transfers into Medium.

Well, THAT sucked. A simple copy/paste lost all of my formatting. And no, a Google search didn’t yield a Medium-specific editor.

So it’s back to the drawing board.

I’ll keep you posted.

I don’t often review software on this blog, but as an author, blogger, and Medium contributor, I’m always painfully aware of language. And I use the word “painfully” advisedly: as the daughter of a mother who had a genius-level IQ, and the niece of a retired English professor, a paranoia of a kind is always present when I’m writing.

Open Live Writer, my favorite blogging tool, has a spell checker, so I’m not too worried about misspellings. But it doesn’t check grammar, punctuation, usage, or any of the other things I worry about.

The Tool

Enter Grammarly, which may well be the ultimate writing assistant. The free version, which is what I’m using, performs critical grammar and spelling checks. The premium version adds:

  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
  • Genre-specific writing style checks
  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure
  • Vocabulary enhancement suggestions
  • Genre-specific writing style checks
  • Plagiarism detector that checks more than 8 billion web pages
  • Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure

If you’re a professional writer, you might consider the premium version; however, at $30 a month, it’s a bit rich for my blood. There are actually 3 pricing structures:

  • $29.95 a month, billed monthly
  • $19.98 a month, billed quarterly at a single payment of $59.95
  • $11.66 a month, billed annually at a single payment of $139.95

For now, I consider it a useful addition to my Writer’s Toolbox. Maybe when I win the Nobel Prize for Literature, I’ll consider upgrading to premium.

signature

No animals were hurt during this blog. However, several million pixels voluntarily give their lives in the service of communication and snarky remarks.

Yes, it’s fancy. And yes, it’s beautiful. And yes, I love my iPhone 6S Plus.

But I’m going to give the X (which Apple says to pronounce “10”) a miss. There are a couple of reasons.

First, there’s the iPhone 8 Plus. In every way that’s relevant to me, it’s the same technology as the X…for a few hundred dollars less.

Second—and crucially—the iPhone X uses facial recognition to unlock the device. There is no alternative. The iPhone 8, on the other hand, still gives you the option of logging in with your fingerprint, a password, or a PIN.

Why is this important?

Courts have held that passwords and PINs are intellectual property. That means that you own them. Law enforcement officers (LEOs) cannot make you divulge them without a warrant, nor can they make you use them to log in without a warrant.

Fingerprints and faces, however, are not your property, plus they fall under the “plain sight” exception to any warrant requirement. In other words, if a LEO asks you to log on to your phone by looking at it or just touching it, you have no legal right to refuse.

And that, my friends, is something that may not have occurred to Apple.

Also, Samsung’s facial recognition on their new flagship smartphone has been shown to be fooled by a photograph of the owner’s face!

So yes, as soon as I pay off some bills and save some money, I definitely will upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus. My only remaining decision will be 64 Gb or 256 Gb. My iPhone 6S Plus has 16 Gb. I wanted to save money, but it was a mistake. I should have gone with 32 Gb.


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