about this column.
November 24, 2000
Tools of the trade
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
As high-tech workers we often have a regular set of tools; the screwdriver, the pliers, the CAT 5 cable maker, but increasingly we have a set of knowledge tools as well. These resources, whether print, online or personal contacts, allow us to do much better work than might otherwise be possible. While each discipline of high-tech work has its own vernacular and resources, here are a few "tools of the trade" that might help you on the way to a better job and a better career.
Bugs and Patches and Updates, oh my!
In my web browser I have a special folder set aside in my list of bookmarks labeled "Daily." As the name implies, these are sites that I visit daily (at the very least) since they provide an excellent source of information regarding the ever changing worlds of hardware and software. Here are a few items from this area of my toolkit.
Excellent source of Macintosh-related information including detailed user-developed bug reports, software updates and commentary.
This is actually a group of web sites encompassing <versiontracker.com>, <windowstracker.com>, <palmtracker.com> and <macfixit.com>. Together, these sites provide a comprehensive listing of software updates and information for 3 of the main computer platforms out there today. Discussion groups provide a forum for getting assistance from other knowledgeable people regarding your most intractable problems.
This site provides excellent reviews and information regarding the world of PDA's (Personal Digital Assistants) like the Palm, PocketPC and Handspring Visor. Companion sites also has info on the computer chip (ChipGeek) industry and job search information (JobGeek).
Manufacturers web sites can be very useful in troubleshooting problems with software and hardware or checking out detailed technical specifications. I regularly visit Microsoft <www.microsoft.com> and Apple <www.apple.com> to access their databases of tech support information. Printer manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard <www.hp.com> and Epson <www.epson.com> are also very useful tools to have in your kit.
Addressing another area entirely are a series of web sites dedicated to helping the high-tech careerist. As we improve our technical skills we need to think about just what type of career we desire most.
Guru combines a gig-matching service with content related to freelancing in a high-tech career. You can post a profile of your services and employers and clients can search this database when looking for new talent.
Similar to Guru with slightly more focus on those of you working inside companies rather than as independent consultants.
I subscribe to relatively few print magazines but these are the ones that I read from cover-to-cover issue after issue. You may not be able to use everything in a given issue, but they will make you think about your work and your career.
Ok, so this is a plug for the magazine you are already reading, but ComputorEdge does provide a wide variety of information about a wide variety of high-tech topics. More importantly, it can be very useful reading articles written for newer computer users as it reminds us what it is like to be a new computer user and how we must tailor our information to make it more useful to them.
Hip, flip and cutting edge. Buried beneath all the glitz and glamour are interesting profiles and data that can help to expand your high-tech thinking. Sure, I am sick of reading about "Burning Man" every year, but the sections on new products and services helps me to stay in touch with the world outside the status quo.
An excellent resource on work in both the new and old economy. FC tends to use interviews extensively throughout the magazine. This gives you a wide variety of viewpoints and information straight from the source. Each issue runs several hundred pages so it can take me a week or more to work through all the interesting articles.
Never a dull moment
Of course, with all this work everyone needs to relax a little. Fun should never be discounted in your life as it allows you to do even better work in the future.
UserFriendly's Daily Static
A daily comic for the high-tech set. Daily Static takes you into the lives of the workers at the Colombia Internet ISP. Always funny, with lots of high-tech humor.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
A lot of these pictures end up as backgrounds on my Mac's screen. Beautiful, educational and illuminating pictures each day with commentary by professional astronomers.
Hotwired's Animation Express
A ever-growing collection of funny, thoughtful and just plain weird animations. This site shows just how far you can stretch Flash and Quicktime animations. New animations are added almost daily.
I would be interested in hearing what "tools" you have in your high-tech knowledge toolkit. Share them with me and other member of the Career-Op mailing list <email@example.com> You can join the mailing list by visiting <http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/>
about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org