Archive for the 'News' Category

May 1st, 2017

2017: The Year I Take Control

Back in January I turned 50. I dyed my hair purple, threw a big party, and psyched myself up for the next half century (or as much of it as I’m privileged to experience). As one does upon reaching such milestones, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the past and pondering the future. I’d been growing increasingly interested in doing new things, making more of a contribution to the world, and avoiding the huge peaks and valleys of income that come from living off of book royalties and the occasional odd consulting gig. So I formed a plan that I intended to put into action over the course of 2017 that would accomplish all of the above.

Well, life is funny. I can’t tell you how many times I imagined that things would go in a certain direction (personally or professionally), and spent months or years planning for a certain future, only to encounter some random thing at the last minute that took me down a completely different, unexpected, and (usually) delightful path. In fact, this has happened so consistently throughout my life that I should have anticipated that it would happen again right about now. Anyway, guess what? It happened again, in a pretty big way.

I’ve now become the owner and publisher of Take Control Books. That is, my little company (alt concepts inc.) has acquired Take Control Books from TidBITS Publishing Inc.’s owners, Adam and Tonya Engst. In the process, I’ve upgraded my title from Author to Publisher, and I’ve embarked on a new career (even if, in some respects, it’s an expansion or continuation of my old career).

None of this was even remotely part of my plan. I thought I’d be tapering off my involvement with Take Control and doing other stuff—more of certain activities I’m already doing, plus an entirely new project that I thought might really scratch my various itches. But I’d barely gotten underway with this ambitious scheme when Adam and Tonya said they were thinking of selling Take Control and asked if I might like to buy it.

I have a pretty rich imagination, and I’ve often daydreamed about other things I might do with my life if I weren’t a full-time tech author. But not once, in the nearly 14 years that I’ve been writing books for Take Control, did the thought even briefly flit through my mind that I might buy my own publisher. It took me a while to wrap my head around it.

For starters, it’s not like I had a huge sum of cash in the bank that I could just hand over to purchase this business. That could have been a deal-breaker, but Adam and Tonya felt the advantages of having me as an owner (since I know the business intimately and could maintain continuity better than anyone else) were worth some inconvenience. So we developed a fairly elaborate payment scheme to ensure that all parties will have enough to live on. In fact, assuming our projections are at least in the ballpark, my total annual income should go up a bit, even after factoring in the cost of the business. It’s a pretty sweet arrangment.

But there were other factors to consider. I didn’t exactly have loads of surplus time either, and becoming a publisher is going to require an immense amount of work. I think I know how I’m going to cope with that, but as any parent can tell you, the first few months (or longer) with a new kid mean a lot of sleepless nights. So, I’ve stocked up on coffee. I am nervous about how work will cut into the time available for my kids (especially the little one, who needs an extraordinary amount of attention because he’s autistic), and vice versa. That’s going to be a challenge. And I’ve had to accept that some of my erstwhile goals and plans will have to be back-burnered for now, which makes me a little bit sad, but not too sad, because running Take Control is less risky and more likely to produce stable income in the near future than my speculative projects. Besides, my new work is interesting enough and challenging enough that I probably won’t be pining for something else before I have the resources to make it happen.

One curious aspect of running Take Control is that it’s in my best interest to keep writing books, even as I’m publishing other people’s books. I won’t have as much time to write as I did before, and I still do want to reduce my frantic pace (an average of four books a year for 14 years, geez), but the math works out better, at least for the first stretch of time, if I write at least a couple of new books per year and keep most of my older ones up to date. In that respect, it feels a bit like I’m adding a second full-time job, but again, I have plenty of coffee.

Fortunately, I won’t be doing this alone. My wife, Morgen, was already an employee of alt concepts inc., but she’s upgrading her title as well, to Director of Marketing and Publicity. Her to do list is nearly as long as mine, and I think our abilities will complement each others’ nicely. In addition, TidBITS will provide customer service and other kinds of support on a contract basis, and Tonya will continue editing some of our books. And of course our brilliant freelance authors and editors will keep doing their thing. So I think we’ll be in good shape.

This is, without question, the biggest thing that has ever happened in my career. It’s exciting and scary. Wish me luck!

June 2nd, 2015

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 7th, 2015

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!

August 30th, 2013

An Online Privacy Primer

An acquaintance sent me an email message today remarking about how prolific I’ve been—he said it seems as though every time he turns around there’s another book out by Joe Kissell. It’s true that I have a new book, and it’s also true that “I have a new book” is as rare a statement as “I just got a haircut.” (Which reminds me, it’s been about a month…and…scheduled.)

What’s my secret? I’ll tell you: I don’t waste time blogging. Life is too short, and there are too many books to be written. In fact, I’m supposed to be writing two (or five, depending on how you count) at this very moment.

But this particular new book is, I think, especially noteworthy. It’s called Take Control of Your Online Privacy, and I think it’s one of the best and most important things I’ve written. Here, let me tell you a bit about it personally:

If you’ve ever wondered whether the information you send and receive over the Internet is really private—or what to do if it isn’t—this book is for you. It’s written for the intelligent layperson, not for propellerheads. I hope you find it useful!

The Internet is a scary place. Stay safe out there.