And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

Summary: Since I'm a geek, my life is filled with interesting hacks and projects that let me do more than a normal small business budget would allow.

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TOPICS: SMBs
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And now for something completely different. Welcome to my new column!

As many of you know, I write the ZDNet Government column here on ZDNet. That won't change. I'll continue to host ZDNet's politics and policy coffeehouse -- where civics lessons meet technology, nothing is sacred, and everything is fair game.

But what many of you may not know is that behind-the-scenes, I'm almost always working on one do-it-yourself project or another. Like many "professional experts," in order to make my living I need to have multiple streams of income. ZDNet and CBS Interactive are big contributors to my monthly nut, of course, as are special projects I do for other agencies and organizations.

I also host a bunch of Web sites. ZATZ is the small company that's essentially the hub for all my income and it's the business I've been running since the 1990s. I don't get paid directly from clients and customers. Instead ZATZ gets paid and then I get a salary from ZATZ.

So, while on the one hand, I'm something of an on-call rent-a-professor and author, on the other hand, I'm a small business owner and have been since the Reagan administration. I started two previous businesses before ZATZ, both software companies. I cashed out of those operations when I licensed the database technology I coded to Macromedia (which itself was eventually acquired by Adobe).

No matter how successful you are, when you're a small business owner, sweat equity is a major resource. Basically, whenever you can DIY something and either save some money or get a previously unobtainable capability, you do so.

Since I'm a geek, my life is filled with interesting hacks and projects that let me do more than a normal small business budget would allow. And, also, since I'm a geek, my life is also filled with hacks that are simply cool, fun, or just plain neat.

I've managed to sneak some of these hacks into my ZDNet Government column, much to the confusion of some readers who insist, for some reason, that I should only discuss govern-minty-fresh topics in a govern-minty column.

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For the record, other readers who come to ZDNet Government complain when I write about government and politics, and insist I stick with tech. When I can get both sets of readers ranting about a single post, I consider it a good day.

In any case, the editors here at ZDNet know that underneath all the shadowy government stuff, underneath all the explosive opinions and commentary, I'm really a do-it-yourself kind of guy. They also know that I'm a small business owner and have written books about, and advised small business owners for years.

Together, we've decided to launch this new, additional column for ZDNet. At its core, it's going to be a diary for all the neat projects I'm working on. Here are some of the topics I hope to cover in coming months:

  • Building a video studio for Skype in a 9x9 foot space
  • Migrating a massive legacy CMS to WordPress
  • Setting up a virtualizing Linux server from a basic desktop machine (the easy and possibly inadvisable way)
  • Ergotron monitor stands: my favorite way to compute without hurting my neck (and regaining some desk space)
  • Why I chose to co-lo rather than share a server (and why everyone won't stop giving me a hard time about it)
  • How to control a whole bunch of servers from one app (even if you're using RDP, SSH, VNC, and more)
  • What machines I use here at Camp David and why
  • Mini-splits: small, powerful air conditioning systems for places where air conditioners previously couldn’t go
  • The story of our massive media tank and how we use it for video, backup, and more
  • My three-pronged backup strategy (I live in Florida and we could be blasted into the Stone Age at any time)
  • How I use a matrix switch to sit on the couch, watch Star Trek, and code at the same time
  • Quick health tip: when you reboot Windows, do some curls
  • My house wiring project: GigE for every room!

I know. It's a lot, right? There's even more, and as I think of projects and how-tos I'm working on, I'll add them to the list.

It's also important to note that some of these projects, like the studio, are really made up of something like 20-30 smaller projects, and each of those will become fodder for individual posts themselves.

Tomorrow, for example, I'll kick off the DIY-IT project coverage with a discussion of why finding a camcorder that works with Skype is harder than you might expect. It took me a few weeks to solve this one, and I'm going to present you the answer in less than a thousand words. Yep, it's time to get excited.

There will also be two other aspects to the DIY-IT column that I think you'll find helpful. First, I'll also cover small business tips. I hope to give you a forum to ask questions about how to solve some of your small business problems, which I'll try to answer to the best of my ability. I still haven't quite figured out how to make this a manageable two-way discussion, so stay tuned to a future post where I'll let you know the rules of engagement.

Finally, this will also be an outlet for my tech commentary pieces. I write a lot of opinion pieces and I've snuck in a lot of non-gov commentaries into the ZDNet Government column. Those tech commentaries will find their way to this column, instead.

In that way, I can keep the religious debates separate. The Mac vs. Windows, Android vs. iOS, Linux vs. The World debates will rage on here, while the Democrats vs. Republicans, Liberals vs. Conservatives, Tea Party vs. The World debates can have a little more breathing space in my gov column. Given that we're about to enter election season, I want to be able to devote more ZDNet Government space to political analysis.

And there you go. Welcome to DIY-IT. This is gonna be fun!

Topic: SMBs

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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15 comments
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  • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

    Well, since it's something completely different, I'm diggin' the new threads. The Hawaiian shirt suits you.<br><br>That said, I think it's a nice idea for a column. Get away from all the politics and fanboys and stick to making something awesome. Heaven forbid we have a topic where everyone doesn't bicker like spoiled children.
    Aerowind
    • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

      I've got a REAL PUZZLER for you to figure out for me.

      I have 3 MAIN PC's I use. Two Athalons - 1 running Windows 98SE (that I use for my music production) and 1 running Windows XP Pro (that I use for games and such). The third PC is a 6-Core AMD running Windows 7 Pro 64-Bit (that I use for burning & editing Video - among other things). Now HERE is where the puzzle begins.

      I have a number of devices that use SD Memory Cards (2 Still Cameras & 2 Movie Cameras & 2 MP3 Players). The problem is that NONE of these devices will recognize ANYTHING OVER 2 Gig. Now if I format these SAME 2 Gig SD Cards using either Win 98SE OR Windows XP I get roughly between 1.8 - 1.9 Gig on EACH CARD. Then if I take these SAME (FORMATTED) cards and insert them into the Windows 7 Pro PC 64-Bit I get the message that Windows 7 CANNOT READ them (even though they are already formatted). Now here is where it REALLY gets interesting...

      Now if I then take these SAME (FORMATTED) cards and re-format them using the Windows 7 PC I CANNOT get ANYTHING OVER 900 (something) Meg NO MATTER which format system I use (either FAT32 or NTFS or even a plain DOS Window with the FORMAT Command). I have tried EVERYTHING I can think of - but I get the SAME RESULTS...

      What I am trying to figure out is did Windows 7 64-Bit change their FORMATTING Code (for the 64-Bit version) or am I doing something wrong that I don't know about??? AND more importantly is HOW do I fix this so I can get the 1.8 - 1.9 Gig on each card??? Like I said - A REAL PUZZLER HUH...

      If you know the answer PLEASE E-Mail me and let me in on it - AND what I'm doing wrong. Also do me a favor - If you don't know the answer PLEASE post this to ANYONE who you know - who MIGHT know the answer.

      Thanks...

      Joe...

      P.S. If you post this to anyone else they can reply to the following address: mailto: j_schutts@yahoo.com
      j_schutts@...
      • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

        @j_schutts@... That is definitely weird. If anyone knows the story (I know, I read once that certain devices only read cards up to a certain size, but why is another story), please help j_schutts out and post or email him.
        David Gewirtz
      • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

        @j_schutts@... I'd be curious 1) as to whether the 900 meg formatting from Windows 7 can be read on your other machines. 2) whether you get the same results with a USB thumb drive. If the thumb drives work OK, you can at least kludge around the problem by copying from the memory card to a thumb drive on one of the other machines and then dump the contents of the thumb drive to the appropriate place(s) on your Win 7 machine. 3) Does anybody else have that problem? It could have something to do with the card reader/writer itself being flaky. If one of your machines uses a USB card reader/writer, you could plug that into your Win 7 machine and see if you get the same results. If all of 'em are internal, a USB external can be had for <$20 at Walmart (<$10 via Walmart.com--I'm particularly thinking of one made by Kodak that's shaped like a fat USB thumb drive--I use a similar device myself). <br><br>Alternatively (and this is even more cumbersome), you could boot your Win 7 machine with some form of live CD (where the OS runs 100% from the CD) such as BartPE for a Windows environment (it's a DIY project unless you know someone who has a ready-made CD or are willing to search for an .iso on a Torrent site--HAWK-PE is a BartPE project that has oodles of utilities on it) or a Linux LiveCD such as Puppy Linux or Ubuntu (if you're willing to dip your flippers into the waters of the penguin).<br><br>One more option (shoulda thought of this earlier), network one of your other machines to the Win 7 one, dump the memory card(s) to the other machine, then copy the files from one machine to the other.<br><br>I know you'd rather have a direct fix (which I can't offer), but these are some workarounds that should give you a working solution in the meantime.
        dumptux
      • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

        @j_schutts@... <br>I'll second the suggestion to try a different OS and see what the results are. Boot off an Ubuntu liveCD, and bring up the Disk Utility to examine your sticks with. I've done this several times with great success to find/fix problems. In fact in the last job I had, it was standard practice to format all USB sticks under Ubuntu rather than Windows or Mac (and we had a lot of all three) because Windows and Mac had problems with more sticks than Ubuntu did.
        admiraljkb
  • I agree- Looking forward to it.

    I'm a small business & I love giving & getting time saving and/or money saving tips.
    phillipc@...
  • Can't wait....

    ... to see how the oddball projects you have will turn out.

    I have been a small business IT DIY'er since 2001 and love making the oddball stuff...
    LStewart
    • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

      @LStewart "... to see how the oddball projects you have will turn out."

      You and me, both. This will definitely be a shared journey.
      David Gewirtz
  • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

    Great! Just what we need, another iteration of Jerry Pournelle complaining about all the free stuff he didn't blackmail -- er ah, get permanently lent from vendors. Pass.
    tbasta@...
  • Woot!

    Really looking forward to more! Looked over some of your Google Voice guide, and bookmarked it for further reading.

    I just started working for a non-profit, and worked at a small university before that, so I'm ALL about DIY tech!
    technical.angel
    • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

      @technical.angel I've got at least one more installment on that coming. The folks at Ooma are sending me one of their devices to look at and compare to the Obi.
      David Gewirtz
  • Should have done this months ago

    I figure your frequent commentary on Apple and its products should probably go here.

    Good luck with the new column.
    John L. Ries
    • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

      @John L. Ries

      Yep.
      David Gewirtz
  • RE: And now for something completely different. Welcome to DIY-IT!

    Really looking forward to more! Looked over some of your Google Voice guide, and bookmarked it for further reading.<a href="http://e-apostas.info">apostas desportivas</a>
    marco5811
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