Thursday, May 08, 2008


I just reviewed the entries on Ask Uncle Mark. It is interesting to see how it morphed over the years (first post in January, 2005) from a computer advice column into what is now a place for me to post my comments on technology (and other) subjects that interest me. I have purposely limited the blog to personal computer-related issues, as opposed to enterprise computing or subjects like politics or the arts. In reviewing the entries, I find that the scope is narrower than I'd like it to be, and that I have covered some areas more than once, while not following up in others.

Since my readership is, well, limited (fourteen RSS subscribers, and I think I am a few of those), I have not felt the strain of expectations nor the urgency of having to meet a deadline. The blog shows it -- two-three posts per month, or less. It really is a labor of love. But, also, it is labor! I am not one of those that can dash off a few lines about something and do it quickly, for two reasons: the first is that if I am writing about it, I find it interesting enough to warrant a deeper look, and two, I want to be accurate and I want to ensure that what I am writing is as correct as I can make it (even if it's my opinion: do I really feel this way?). As a result, each entry takes a significant amount of time -- hours in some cases.

So, as time moved on, I looked at this as a way to warn people about the dangers of the brave new internet world, give people a deeper understanding of personal computing, and occasionally point out some interesting things I have found.

The warnings are pretty clear:

  • The internet is, among other things, a den of iniquity, and it is best to put in place safeguards.
  • Wikipedia, which is an amazingly popular and respected information source on the web, is tainted, biased, and unreliable.
  • If it is sworn to as true and it came via email, it is probably not true.
  • Beware of "phishing" and treat your passwords like gold.
Currently, I am moving to the Apple platform (I am writing this on my MacBook Pro, using Firefox), and writing about that.

I have been warning that Microsoft is on its way to irrelevance, and Vista is a no-goer. Of course, many have no choice anymore unless they go to a Mac. But serious people are not doing Vista.

One thing that became clear early on is that I do not have the resources or the time to be a full-blown technology reviewer, ala Mossberg and Gizmodo. And, I don't want to be, really. One thing I have learned in my thirty-plus years as a technologist, it is that technologies change like the wind, but the core stays forever. That means that the latest gadget is latest only for a few days or hours, but the reasons for using these tools do not change: to do more, easier, and faster. But, also, core is things like usability, clean design, bug-free systems, efficiency. Reviewing the latest gadget is not core. Commenting on how Microsoft is blowing it is (or was - old news now!).

And speaking of core, areas I have not written about are areas that are true and dear to my heart but are more related to enterprise computing and overall technical direction of computing and technology. Subjects include Virtualization, Cloud Computing, data center issues, and others. This was mainly because of the original vision of the blog being personal use-based.

I touched on one area of interest to me last year: personal productivity. I did a note on planners, and one on the Time Sort (Noguchi) Filing System. Then, I dropped the ball.

So, the scope and purpose of the blog has changed. As I do this review, I realize that I have been half-way through a transition from personal advice column on computing to a general commentary on computing, technical, and productivity trends. So, I think it is time to complete the transition.

I have been toying with whether I should keep the name of Ask Uncle Mark or not, mainly because of the change of scope and tenor of the blog... But, I have been doing this now for four years, at least as this name, so for now, at least, I am keeping the name. The name of my virtual consulting company, Sand and Vision, is really the better name for something like this -- take sand and vision, and that becomes silicon and computing, which leads to iPhones, BlackBerries, MacBooks, etc.

Going forward, I am going to broaden the scope of Ask Uncle Mark:
  • I will be doing much more commentary on enterprise computing and to some degree software development.
  • I will expand on technology trends.
  • I will be commenting on areas outside of pure computing, such as personal productivity, some science, and who knows what. I will stay away from politics and religion, however!
  • I will no longer assume the audience is completely non-technical. I will not make sure all entries are at the "entry level" for non-technical computer users. I will, however, monitor comments and clarify posts as needed.
The last bullet is to free me up to streamline entries. I want to be able to comment on, say, programming using Ruby on Rails without having to put in place a full-blown course on software development.

I will not promise a certain number of posts per week or month. I hope to put in place a number of entries, but they come when they come.

In the near term, I will be looking at two main areas: my experiences with my new Apple, and an expansion of the personal productivity area. After hearing about this for quite a while, I am reading and implementing David Allen's "Getting Things Done" ("GTD") methodology. For a while, I have been looking at ways to organize, and I have to say that Allen's approach looks pretty good. More later on that.

Please feel free to comment or leave me suggestions. Let me know what you like!