Careers: Interviews
Leading Authority on the Mac Shares His Views

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an exclusive interview with Brad Miser.

Brad writes extensively about computers and related technology, with his favorite topics being anything that starts with a lowercase i, such as the iPod and iTunes. In addition to Absolute Beginner's Guide to iPod and iTunes (Que), Brad has written many other books, including Special Edition Using Mac OS X, v10.3 Panther; Mac OS X and iLife: Using iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD; iDVD 3 Fast & Easy; Special Edition Using Mac OS X v10.2; Mac OS X and the Digital Lifestyle; and Using Mac OS 8.5. He has also been an author, development editor, or technical editor on more than 50 other titles, and a featured speaker at Macworld Expo.

Brad is the senior technical communicator for a software development company where he is responsible for all product documentation, training materials, online help, and other communication materials, plus he manages the customer support operations, provides training and account management services. Previously, he was the lead engineering proposal specialist for an aircraft engine manufacturer, and a civilian aviation test officer/engineer for the U.S. Army. Brad holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering and has received advanced education in maintainability engineering, business, and other topics.


Q:� Brad, as a leading authority on all things related to the Mac, we are very fortunate to have you with us. Thank you for doing this interview!

A: Thanks for asking me to participate!

Q: How did you get into computers and what lessons can you share with our audience?

A: By a rather convoluted path actually. My background is in engineering, specifically mechanical and reliability engineering. Eventually, I wound up working on technical proposals for military vehicles. The primary tools we were using to produce these proposals were Mac SEs and Mac SE/30s. From the first moment I saw them, I was hooked. After working with these amazing machines for just a few weeks, I was totally committed to becoming a geek, which I proceeded to do. As my career developed, I began to focus on the writing and technology parts of my work more than then engineering parts. Eventually, I gave up the engineering part altogether. For the past 10 years or so, I have primarily been a writer who mostly writes about technology topics.

I would encourage everyone to be open to experiences and tools in life, especially in their work life. You never know when some relatively minor event will turn out to have a major impact on your life. Who knew that my first glimpse of a little Mac SE would lead to a career in writing?

Q: Pick from any of your books and share your top five tips from each book.

A: Book 1 title: Absolute Beginner�s Guide to iPod and iTunes

1)� Keep your iTunes and iPod software current. You can use the iTunes Check for Update commands to keep it up-to-date. You can check Apple�s Web site for the latest iPod software. If you use a Mac, you can use the Software Update tool to update both.
2)� When listening to music on an iPod, press the Select button twice to open the rating tool. Use this to rate the music you are listening to. When you update your iPod by connecting it to your computer, the ratings you made on the iPod will be moved over to the same songs in your iTunes Library.
3)� To maximize battery life, turn off or minimize some of the iPod�s features. For example, using the random play feature uses more battery power than listening to music straight through. If you use the iPod�s backlight, make sure it remains on only for a few seconds at a time. Avoid starting and stopping the iPod frequently.
4)� You can use an iPod as a portable Firewire drive. You can store any type of file on an iPod when you use it this. This can be a great way to move files around, such as from your work computer to your home computer or vice-versa.
5)� If you choose the manual update option for an iPod within iTunes, you can play the music on that iPod just like any other source, such as a CD. This is a great way to play your music via a computer, such as a laptop, without actually moving the iPod�s music onto the computer. (If you choose an automatic option, you can�t actually play music on an iPod through iTunes.)

Book 2 title: Special Edition Using Mac OS X, v10.3 Panther

1)� If your Mac is shared among multiple users, store your iTunes music library folders in one user�s Public folder. This will allow all users to access the music you place there and they will be able to listen to it.
2)� The Columns view is one of the most useful when you are working with Finder windows. Learn to use that view so that you can quickly and easily move up and down your computer�s hierarchy.
3)� The Keychain Access application can do a lot more than just store all of your Internet and other passwords in one place. You can also store information that you want to protect using that application by created secured notes within it. Only you will be able to view the information in these notes.
4)� Add CE Software�s QuicKeys to your Mac�s toolkit. This great application enables you to automate many of the repetitive tasks you do so you can perform those tasks with just a mouse click or key combination.
5)� When you use iDVD to create slideshows from your digital images, you can include full resolution versions of those images on the DVD-ROM portion of the discs you create. When someone views those DVDs on a computer, they will be able to access the original, full resolution versions of your photos.

Q: Your current book, Absolute Beginner's Guide to iPod and iTunes (Que), is garnering widespread attention. Share your top tips from this book. What differentiates this book from others and why should our readers study it?

A: 1)� Unless its small size and color are very important to you, consider the low end of the iPod scale instead of an iPod mini. While iPod minis are very cool, the only slightly more expensive low-end iPod has a lot more storage space. More storage space means more music!
2)� Explore the cool iPod accessories that are available. At the least, get a good case for the iPod and a remote control. An FM transmitter can also be very useful.
3)� Use the Hold switch on your iPod to prevent its controls from accidentally being activated. But, be sure you take your iPod off hold when you want to use it. It is very easy to forget that the switch is on, and your iPod will act like is has died, when all you really need to do is turn the switch off again.
4)� There are a number of ways your can play your iPod�s music over a home or car stereo. You can use an FM transmitter to broadcast the iPod�s signal and then tune that in using any FM tuner. You can use a cassette adapter to transmit your iPod�s music through a cassette player. You can also use cables to connect an iPod to home stereos and other audio devices.
5)� You can double-click on a source in the iTunes window to open it in a separate window. This makes it easier to move songs between sources.
6)� You can add more than one piece of album art to any song. Then you can choose the art that you want to display.
7)� To set the genre and other attributes of multiple songs at the same time, choose those songs and open the Info window. In the resulting window, any changes you make will be applied to all of the songs you selected. This makes it easy to change aspects of more than one song at the same time.
8)� You can shrink the iTunes window down so that it takes up very little space while still enabling you to access its controls. You can also control iTunes from the Mac�s Dock and the Window�s Task Bar.
9)� When you are building your iTunes Library initially, set the On CD Insert preference to Import Songs and Eject. Each time you insert a CD into your computer, iTunes will automatically encode it, add its music to your iTunes Library, and eject the disc. This is the fastest way to add your CDs to your iTunes Library.
10)� You can customize the contents of the View window for any source. Select the source so it is shown in the Browse pane and open the View Options dialog box. You can choose the information about music that you see in the Browse pane. You can also move columns around by dragging them. You can sort windows by clicking the column headings too.

Q: What valuable lessons can you share from your current projects?

A:� One of the best things I have learned from writing books is how to plan and complete a lot of work within a given period of time. One way to do this is to map the work required each day to meet the end goal. For example, when writing a book, I set a page goal each day, such as to write 20 pages. Then use this map to gauge your progress each day. If you don�t meet a day�s goal, immediately adjust the plan for upcoming days to catch up. Include some slack or catch-up days to account for unexpected events. And, everyone needs a break now and then. Sometimes, days off are the most productive thing you can do for a project. This kind of tool will help your be more productive, ensure that you reach your goals, and also reduces your anxiety because you aren�t trying to swallow the entire elephant at once; you can handle it one piece (day) at a time.

Another lesson is that no one, including authors, knows everything!

Q: Please share two surprising experiences.

A: 1)� I have been surprised at how kind people are when they send emails to me. Almost everyone who writes to me has nice things to say even if they are having problems with their computers when they write. It is very gratifying to be able to help people.

2)� Another surprising thing is how many new things there are to learn, and to help other people learn, no matter how long I am involved in this game!

Q: What compelling issues do you face as a top professional in your area of expertise? How can they be resolved?

A:� Keeping up with technology is the biggest issue I face. The technology changes so quickly that it is difficult to maintain top skills while getting work done. The only way I have been able to do this is to carefully select the areas I want to be involved with and focus on those areas. This means that I am not as skilled or knowledgeable in certain areas that I have some interested in.

Q: What future books can we expect from you?

A: I am currently completing my first book not related to technology, which is called Absolute Beginner�s Guide to Homeschooling and will be published sometime in the fall of 2004. I will be returning my Mac roots following that project with The MacAddict Guide to Mac OS X Tiger that will be available early in 2005.

Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?

A: As you might expect for a computer geek like myself, I have a number of computers. My primary writing machine is a PowerMac G4 with 1.4 GHz dual processors, 2 GB of RAM, and about 750 GB of drive space (including attached FireWire drives). (If there are any potential sponsors out there who�d like to provide a G5 for my next book, please let me know!) I also have a Windows machine running Windows XP Professional. I use at least two monitors on all my desktops; I have a couple of ViewSonic 19-in flat panels along with an Apple 20-inch cinema display. For road trips, I use a 15-inch PowerBook (Titanium version). I also have several test machines including a couple of PowerMac G4s and a G3 iMac.

Q: Brad, thank you again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview.

A: Thank you!


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