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!