Tools of my trade
Jeremy Smith / Sun Star Columnist
I have to say my year with The Sun Star has been pretty good. I wrote a column about tech issues, helped in the creation of an award-winning website, and discovered some pretty slick technologies in the process. In this final Random Errors column, I wanted to leave you with a list of things that I have discovered that have made my electronic like infinitely more bearable.
First off, if you don’t have a free account to this online storage service, you should really go sign up right now at Dropbox.com. It makes file collaboration, storage and the sharing of any type of file incredibly simple and easy. Offering up to 2 gigabytes of cloud-based storage, Dropbox is how the Sun Star was able to transfer story updates, photos, videos and more from the office to any computer that needed them. With an entire community exploring the ways you can utilize the technology (automatic computer backups, torrent downloading and more), Dropbox, like the venerable floppy, CD and USB drive before it, is one of the new ways to transfer your files.
Photographers and design professionals may scoff at this, but Paint.net (not a website but the name of the program) is the exact kind of image editor that everyone needs in a tech toolkit. An open-source program, Paint.net is somewhere between a basic photo editor and an advanced image-editing program. It supports effects, brushes and layers, but without the long load-times associated with Adobe’s powerhouse options. I constantly used this program to quickly resize images for posting or doing some last minute tweaks to website-bound photos. With an easy learning curve and the nonexistent price tag, this program was a bit of a godsend.
This is another open-source offering that I use to upload major changes to the website’s content and layout. Filezilla is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program that supports multiple connections, has simple instructions and offers complete control over every file hidden on a remote server. Regular updates and an active community are keeping this my Swiss Army Knife when accessing problem web issues.
WordPress.org is less a technology and more a resource, but it has been invaluable in making the Sun Star website what it is. For those who don’t know, our entire website is built within the WordPress blogging platform. I’ve been using WordPress for the past four years and I still find new techniques through comments in the forums. WordPress.org exists as a clearing house of information for people not only hosting their blogs on WordPress’ servers, but specifically for those who self-host and develop their own themes and modifications. Reviews of plug-ins, widgets and must-have features are all neatly cataloged and easily searchable through a minimalistic interface devoid of ads. It’s a fairly painless learning experience.
After a year of writing about the latest and greatest in technology, I would love to read someone else’s views. They are always looking for more writers and reporters at the Sun Star, and being that technology changes so fast, perhaps next year you could be writing about the fad that was Facebook.