Tuesday, January 09, 2007

All Skyped- up.

Y’know, the personal computer is a wonderful tool but, if you don’t exercise some self-control, it can also turn into an infinite sponge for sucking up time. I’ve had people ask me if I have ever played so-and-so on my computer – superb graphics and when you machinegun the orc its guts fall out. Well, yeah, I know so-and-so is an excellent game, which is precisely why I avoid it. Some years ago I sat down to write one morning and ended up playing patience all day. At the end of the day, in disgust, I deleted the program and have since never let another game near my computer. Others ask me if I’ve looked at You Tube, Google Earth, this website, that website, then it’s have you tried this program, that program, this bit of hardware, that bit of hardware?

My approach to the pc and its growing list of applications and peripherals is ‘I’ll use what I need and try to ignore the rest’. Though I write SF and take a great deal of interest in science and technology, I do, in the end, have to keep my focus tight. I write books. I’m not an IT manager, I’m not a programmer (well, I was once – different story) and every hour I spend watching You Tube, or trying to get a radio modem to work, or trying to write html is another hour I haven’t spent writing science fiction, which pays the bills.

So, by a rather roundabout route I come to why I started writing this. Summer Brooks of Dragon Page recently emailed me concerning an audio interview for ‘Cover to Cover’. I was interviewed on this program before, at about the time Cowl came out in America (podcast here), and said interview was conducted over the phone at international phone rates. This time round Summer asked me if I possessed a Skype ID. At that point I wouldn’t have recognised a Skype if it had bitten me on the bum. I therefore researched it on the Internet and discovered it to be a way to chat to someone – audibly – over a broadband connection. No extra cost there unless you use Skype to phone a landline, and you can chat to someone on other side of the world.

I’m all Skyped up now – an incredibly simple process involving a few minutes downloading and the purchase of a microphone (well, I’ve got a Madonna headset). This is another useful tool for me, and for the convenience of anyone who wants to interview me from anywhere in the world. See, every new additions for my computer has to be justified by its relation to my writing and earning a living.

Mmmm, in the shop where I got that headset I noticed some nice webcams…


Bob Lock said...

Nice bit of podcasting there, Neal. Weird though, I didn't expect you to sound as you did, not sure really what I expected though. Must have been a bit hair-raising, was that how the interview went or did they edit it?
I'm envious of your self-control regarding writing versus web-browsing, online gaming and all the other distractions your PC can offer. I tend to get sucked in by them all and end up cursing myself for not getting on with my scribbling, however, it's not what puts money in my bank for me so I can get away with being a lazy writer.
If you have friends/relatives etc abroad and they have broadband then you'll find Skype quite a money saver. We speak to contacts in Spain/Italy/Thailand with it and although on times it does drop out (could be my PC though) usually it works fine, and best of all is free :)

Kirby Uber said...

sweet, so now you can yak a bit on the old dog and phone with your fans, free of charge... right?

/me waits for neal's skype ID

Kirby Uber said...

oh dammit. dog and bone. well i fucked that up proper.