I Am Joe’s Blog:

June 2, 2015 • 8:30 AM

Mac Backups Redux

Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide cover

The first Mac backup software I encountered, way back in the early 1990s (so, System 6 era) was a program called Redux. That’s a wonderful word, redux—it’s an adjective meaning “brought back” or “revived.” So it’s appropriate for the name of a backup app, and also appropriate to describe my latest project, a book called Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.

I’ve been writing about Mac backups for more than 10 years, and it’s one of my favorite tech topics. My Take Control books on backups have gone through a number of titles and editions, but the most recent incarnation, Take Control of Backing Up Your Mac, was last updated in 2013, and was definitely showing its age. Unfortunately, there was no room in the Take Control publishing schedule to update it this year. So I offered to “adopt” the book and revive it myself. I hired my own editor, tech reviewer, and so on, updated the book thoroughly, and released it with a new title. The result is Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide, the first in what I hope will be a long and successful series of Joe On Tech books.

I’m super excited about this new book, and I hope you’ll check it out! You can read more about the project in my Joe On Tech post Protect Your Mac’s Data with Backing Up Your Mac: A Joe On Tech Guide.

April 7, 2015 • 7:00 AM

Introducing Joe On Tech

I’m delighted to announce a New Thing: a site (and soon to be ebook series) called Joe On Tech.

It’s probably not what you think.

The world already has enough sites that deliver tech news, tips, rumors, and industry analysis. I even write for some of them. But these sites tend to focus on the technology itself (especially new and future gadgets) and not so much on the people that technology is supposed to serve. Joe On Tech is about how people can improve their relationship with technology, with the emphasis on humans rather than on gadgets.

My brother-in-law Tim is a carpenter. I’ve heard him talk about his work, but never about his tools. I’m sure he has the very best hammers and saws, but his main focus isn’t on the tools, it’s on what he can create with them. I can say the same thing about friends who are chefs, musicians, and scientists. They’d tell me about their knives, guitars, and centrifuges if I asked, but they don’t spend their days obsessing over the tools. They obsess over the work they can do with the tools.

I think that’s the right way to look at technology. We create techniques and tools to help us get stuff done, to make our lives easier and better. Instead of asking, “What could I do with this cool new device I want to own, because it’s…you know…cool and new?” we should be asking, “How could I make my work more effective, my play more fun, my problems less annoying?”

The answer might be to buy the new device. But it also might be to learn new skills, adapt existing technology to meet your needs, modify your goals to match what your tools can accomplish, or create entirely new technology yourself.

At Joe On Tech you’ll find articles exploring a wide range of topics about the ways people use technology. I know “technology” is often a code word for consumer electronics (especially computers, smartphones, and tablets). I’ll talk about those things, but also about technology in its broadest sense of the way we do things, which might include anything from martial arts to space travel.

You don’t have to be a tech geek to enjoy Joe On Tech. Just like Take Control books, it’s written for a general audience that may or may not have technical expertise. Everyone is welcome, regardless of your platform preferences or where you fall on the technophobe-to-technophile scale.

If you’ve read any of my books or articles, you may have noticed that I like to explain the why and the how of technology—not just “do this,” but “understand why you’re doing this.” I want to make you smarter, so you can solve the next problem or answer the next question without my help. If your immediate reaction to explanations is “Eek! TL;DR! Don’t tell my why, just tell me what to do!” then I invite you, for your own happiness, to stay far away from my site.

Another group who should avoid Joe On Tech is people who love ads. Sorry, but I can’t stand them, so I’m not going to show you any. Well, OK, I might show you ads for my own stuff, but I’m all about not annoying my readers—that doesn’t seem like a very good way to turn them into customers.

Speaking of which…starting in June, I’ll also begin offering Joe On Tech ebooks for sale, very much in the spirit of my many Take Control titles (which, by the way, I will continue to write). The first several Joe On Tech ebooks I release will be just for Mac users. But later titles will cover increasingly diverse topics, in keeping with the overall theme of the site.

Please click on over and check out Joe On Tech. While you’re at it, consider signing up for joeMail, which I’ll use (sparingly!) to update you about the site, my ebooks, and other things I think you’ll enjoy.

Thank you for your kind attention!

December 24, 2014 • 4:24 PM

Happy Holidays

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a weird and exhausting year. Nothing went quite the way I expected it to, except in the predictable sense that half the things on my “Must Accomplish in 2014 No Matter What” list will still be waiting for me in 2015. But numerous signs suggest that next year will be more prosperous, less weird, and perhaps not quite so tiring. That would be very nice indeed.

My 4-year-old son asked me a few weeks ago what I want for Christmas, and I answered him in the traditional way: “Two good kids.” In fact, my kids are fantastic already, and really the only thing I could ask of them is to let Daddy sleep a wee bit later in the mornings. As if. Of course I’d love to have a little more time and a little more money too. That will probably always be true. But I couldn’t wish for a better family, and that’s the best gift of all.

It’s 72° and sunny in San Diego on Christmas Eve. The presents are (almost all) wrapped, I hear no crying at the moment, and we have alcohol. So I think we’re pretty well set for a merry Christmas. Whatever holidays you celebrate (or tolerate) at this time of year, I wish you all a feeling of contentment and joy.

June 26, 2014 • 11:50 AM

Take Control of Automating Your Mac

Take Control of Automating Your Mac coverCall me crazy, but I don’t like doing unnecessary work. I already have more enough work that is necessary, and too few hours in the day. So I’ve long been in the habit of finding ways to streamline and automate everyday tasks that my Mac can do just as well as (or even better than) I can. My new book, Take Control of Automating Your Mac, shows you how to do the same thing.

This is my 45th Take Control title, and it’s one of my favorites. It was fun to write (and believe me, some of them were not!), and as I worked on it I frequently took breaks to do exactly what I was recommending—find and implement shortcuts for tedious, mechanical tasks. So in fact the book became easier to write as I went along, since I was following more of my own advice!

Usually when people talk about Mac automation, they mean Automator or AppleScript. And the book does talk about those, but not as a primary focus. It turns out there are tons of ways to simplify common tasks that don’t require any programming or even a geeky disposition. And many of them are built right into OS X—text replacement, keyboard shortcuts, Spotlight, Mail rules, and so on. If you want to get fancier (and I know I do), there are third-part automation apps that can do more things, and do them more easily, so I talk about many of my favorites, including LaunchBar, TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro, and Nisus Writer Pro. (That’s right, I think of my preferred word processor as an automation tool, because its built-in macro languages lets me perform everyday writing tasks much more easily.)

Anyone who uses a Mac can find lots of time-saving tips in this book. Spend a little time learning and setting things up, and you can reap the rewards for years. Plus, we’ve included coupons for eight popular Mac automation apps, collectively worth more than $60 in discounts, so we’re practically paying you to buy the book!

I hope you like it. Here’s a little video trailer I made to introduce the book.