Making all that money online

Anyone with a “hiatus” between jobs, access to a computer and knowledge of building a website has been there at some point. You were on the website after seeing an advertisement or Googling “How to make money online”. You were about to click that button that screamed at you to BUY THIS THING NOW. For only $99 you could unlock the secrets to making thousands of dollars online a month. All you would need was access to a computer – and the internet, they always forget to mention the internet – and their course with a magic money generating formula.

Did you end up buying such a course? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. For those who haven’t, I’ll save you the money and tell you what you would have bought and what their secret to making money is.Continue reading

I tried coming up with a nice story or a cool introduction for this post. Perhaps a story about puzzles, or the stereotype of men throwing out the manual of a new product. To be honest, however, I just want to rant for a bit about some of the “documentation” out there. To make matters worse, this rant is brought to you by niche Open Source software which could they could replace by a cloud solution which would have done a better job. But that’s beside the point.

Last week I was working on a project, trying to get an application to play nice with another application on a Linux server.

I’m not a Linux expert. Nor do I have particularly strong feelings for Linux. That will probably never change since I never bought into the “Open Source is best” ideology. But sometimes, there are things that need are done on a Linux Server. Things I need to do. In most cases, I manage just fine.

It’s when it comes to actually configuring Linux applications that things get frustrating, because half of the time, the documentation sucks.

And boy, does the documentation suck for this particular software. The official documentation was hard to read and made some pretty huge assumptions and never explained concepts properly. In order to get the solution running I needed to Google the puzzle together. Google is often my friend, but in this case it was complicated.

As is often the case with Open Source, the “solutions” for the problems I encountered were all over the place. Quite literally, too. I had to puzzle together comments from Forums, StackExchange questions and blog posts and pick the pieces I thought I needed to find a final solution for my problem.

In the end I got it to work, but not before I decided to scrap an entire “branch” of documentation that I was following. It turns out that there was a completely different way of doing the same thing, which solved my problem. While the “solution” I had started to follow from the beginning, ended up failing.

I’m not sure if there is an “idea” behind this blog post, other than to complain that some Open Source software seriously lacks in “final documentation”. In Open Source, the idea that “You need to figure it out yourself” seems to be really strong.

A Business Opportunity

There is a lot of documentation on the internet. Lots of it is in poor shape or spread out over dozens of websites. I imagine there would be a real business opportunity writing some real good documentation for the Open Source software that’s lacking. I now also understand why some people prefer to use “commercial” Open Source over the free Wild West variety.

Don’t look at me to solve the problem, though. I will happily admit that I am not the kind of person to shell out documentation for an Open Source solution. I’m not that invested in the Open Source philosophy.

However, this experience made me revisit an idea I had a while ago called DIYoomla.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I am planning to write and / or centralize some documentation for software that’s dear to me. Software of which I feel I could write some decent documentation. To fill the gaps that the official documentation left behind. But, more specifically, to help people with specific scenarios that the official documentation doesn’t cover for the simple reason that it’d be too much for the average user.

The name probably already gives away what direction I’ll be thinking of. And no, war hawks of FOSS, it’s not a trademark violation. It’s a clever play of words.

There is something about making phone calls that makes me queasy.  I just don’t like it, and when I have to make a call I roleplay the possible scenarios in my head. Only to say something completely different when actually making the call. But that’s not really the point.

This feeling gets amplified when I am on the receiving call of the end. My first thought is always a panicked “WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!”

As of recently, I “inherited” the cellphone number my dad used for his job. As a result I’m getting a lot of calls from “unknown” numbers. I guess not everyone got the memo that he changed numbers.

Which lead me to my pet peeve of today.

If you are calling me and I don’t know who you are there is a big chance that I won’t pick up. It’s probably not for me, anyway. And if you are a company that got my phone number through my profile, you are better off sending me a mail. I swear I can communicate like a human being using e-mail. No, seriously, please send me an e-mail.

However, after I “missed the call” I will want to know who you are. Maybe it was important, like a call from a supplier or partner our company works with.

So why can’t I find your number online?

So I start Googling and usually find out who tried to call me. In a few cases I realized they did want to speak to me personally and called them back. Social Care company, dentist, company I just bought a product from? I should probably get over my anxiety and call them.

But there are still a lot of companies that don’t think it’s important to list their number online. And a lot of them are foreign companies. I am starting to believe that they don’t want to be called by me. Of course, there is a real chance that a few of them are “marketeers”. I’m using that word lightly.

If I can’t find out what company is attached to that +31 number, guess what happens next?

Nothing. I’m not going to call you back. I’m not going to “accept the next call.”

Make sure you can be found

The point of this post (other than “Wow, you have a problem, dude”) is that I highly urge all companies to list their phone number online. It’s completely up to you how you do that. Here are some ideas. Some of them are cheaper than others, but almost all of them will make me at least consider calling you.

  • Put it on your website. Websites are good, it’ll give me an idea who you are
  • Google Business: Add it to your Google Business entry so at least I’ll get a company name and address
  • Facebook: Hey, I’m not a fan of Facebook. But it allows you to add your phone number to your company page and is indexed by the Google
  • Add yourself to a company index: Have your company listed somewhere. In the Golden Pages’ online equivalent for your region or sector.

But maybe all of that is too much work. Perhaps the only keys you can press are those of your smart phone. In which case I’ve got great news for you. There’s a voice mail option, too. When prompted, tell me why you were calling me instead of being a weirdo.

Maialisa / Pixabay

Past weekend I was considering to reactivate my Fiverr gigs. If you are now scratching your head and thinking “What’s a Fiverr”, here’s a short TL;DR:

Fiverr is a “job market” where you can sell and buy ‘gigs’. The selling point slash marketing gimmick is that “each gig is sold for a “fiver” or five dollars. It’s a little more complex than that. In reality you can offer add-ons and “stack” gigs, but unless you have a stellar reputation you will be offering your services for a “fiver”. Otherwise, someone in Asia will be doing it for you and you get nothing.

I made less that minimum wage

So why didn’t I reactivate my gigs, where I offered writing services? Because there’s no money to be made. For the gigs I sold, I was paid $5 for what was about half an hour of work per gig.

For two gigs, that would mean I’d be paid $10. But wait! Out of every $5 gig, a dollar goes to the platform owners. So you end up with $4 for half an hour of work. Converting that to an hour, I ended up being paid $4.

And that’s where things become very uninteresting, real fast. $8 an hour is less than you make in a minimum wage job. Waitresses make 8.25 an hour and get tips on top of that. I, on the other hand, also had to make additional costs to even make that $4 (which is also true for waitresses, to a degree).

In order to make decent money, let’s say $2000 a month, I would have to do 500 gigs. That’s about 250 hours a month or nearly 150% of the hours I work right now.

Even if I could manage to “stack” gigs so I would be paid $20 an hour of work instead, that would mean I would have to work  a hundred hours a month. Which would still be a crazy amount of time for a side gig.

It lead to the inevitable conclusion that platforms like Fiverr just aren’t viable for your average person offering services. You can’t compete on price. You don’t want to compete on price because there is simply no money to be made.

There isn’t really a point to this rant. My “math” just reconfirmed that I will be staying away from Fiverr while I try some other ways to market my writing ‘skills’. You’ll be seeing some of those experiments in action soon!

In any modern company, there is really no place for magic. Sure, there are sales and marketing teams trying to sell snake oil, managers that expect their employers to bend the laws of time to finish projects against impossible deadlines and costumers that wish their mere looks could kill you. But none of that comes even close to magic.

The closest you’ll get to magic, is the way how people interact with their IT staff. In this short post, I’m presenting irrefutable proof that people think the IT staff are genies. I’ll be updating this list as I think of more. And as always, your suggestions are welcome.

Here’s the proof:

  1. Their wish is your command. (Even if giving those commands isn’t on their job description)
  2. They expect instant results. No matter how big the miracle they’re asking for.
  3. Oh, they also expect you to perform miracles.
  4. Performing these miracles better be free!
  5. They’ll only enter your lair if they need something from you.
  6. They will want your genie powers. If you give them these powers, terrible things will happen.

I’ll be adding to this list. Let me know your suggestions!

This morning I was listening to some music in the car. Since my Aux cable is dead (again) and my radio doesn’t have Bluetooth I had to rely on good old USB Sticky McStickface of which the music is rarely updated. Because there’s only good music on there, of course.  Okay, so it’s because I forget to update it or can’t be bothered. Whatever.

By doing so, I listened to the song “Her Name Is Alice” by Shinedown. They’re one of my favourite groups, and I remembered that I discovered them completely by accident. After the Alice in Wonderland(?) movie with Johnny Depp came out, I rather liked the soundtrack.

So I went and bought the wrong sound track. There were two albums for the movie. The soundtrack and an album with songs inspired by the movie. Of which only the not-so-great Avril Lavigne song made it to the (credits of) the movie.

The damage was done, and I decided to give the album a try. I don’t like a lot of songs on the album. There’s maybe one or two that I don’t dislike or skip. But “Her Name Is Alice” was one of them.

I figured that the band that made it had to have some other good songs. That lead me to iTunes, where I found and sampled their albums. Which I’ve listened to countless times by now.

All of this happened because I somehow got the crazy idea to buy a movie soundtrack. Only to buy the wrong one. Talk about a happy mistake!

It’s a whole lot easier now…

To discover new music. Since then I’ve got a Spotify account like everyone else, which allows me to try entire albums before buying them. In the modern age, this “purchase accident” would’ve never happened. But it makes for a mildly interesting story!

If you’re wondering, the last albums I bought since getting Spotify were bought after I stumbled upon a video on Youtube. Yup, more random chance. It’s how I like it.

As some of you might now, InfoSecurity has come and gone this week. My father was at the event doing his thing, and he brought me some stuff. I’m a pen and notebooks guy so I got some of that, but I also a new device from the people of LastPass. LastPass is a password manager, which allows you to… well, manage passwords. Most of it based around storing your encrypted passwords in the cloud and decrypting them on your device.

However, I got my hands on their latest hardware device, which can be used to store and consult passwords when you’re offline. No internet connection is required whatsoever to use this hardware device. The device is surprisingly simple and is very user-friendly. It supports all languages, has an insane battery life and is compatible with a range of other devices I used it with the PaperNote that I had in my office.

The device worked right away, and I didn’t have to go through any setups. Neither did I have to pair it through bluetooth or search the web for any drivers. The device is literally ready to go.  When you are holding the device in your hand, you are only a click away from starting to use it.

It’s so easy to use there’s really no point in reviewing it. I’ll just let the result speak for yourself. You can see the device in action in the image below.

The LastPass Offline password manager, paired with NotesPaper

 

Earlier last week, I got a reminder of how very, very old I am. This quarterlife crisis is sponsored by Xbox. Thanks a lot, Microsoft…

On a serious note, Xbox is celebrating it’s 15th anniversary. At first, I couldn’t believe I’ve been playing on the Xbox platform for so long. I’m still loving it! The only period where I really didn’t like being an Xbox user was after the launch of the One. Not only did we get screwed because it wasn’t available, they also screwed around with features and promises and the selection of launch games was… Well, it was really, really bad.

But this isn’t a post about gaming! Those tweets reminded me of something else. You guys, I’ve been “blogging” for fifteen years now!

I mean, technically maybe it wasn’t blogging. I started my online career by writing for a newsletter. That newsletter still exists, and it looks like the website was last updated about ten years ago.

It all pretty much started with the classic Xbox. I was given one to review, and that’s when I started to review my first games.

I’ve been doing that for a while, until I rebelled against the “restrictions” of the newsletter. They said my articles were too long. None of their readers was interested in articles over a thousand words!

Being the excited young kid I was, I wanted to take my articles elsewhere. That’s when I was being offered the opportunity to write about games elsewhere, for a popular blog. I wrote quite a few articles for them, until I discovered a little piece of software which intrigued me, called “Joomla”. So, I started blogging about Joomla and that pretty much became my main source of inspiration.

Fast forward to 2016 and I have been blogging about Joomla for quite a while now. I have talked about branching out, and while that never really happened the idea is always in the back of my mind. Truth be told, I haven’t been blogging enough to make more than one blog viable, but I’ve got some projects that are almost ready to go should I get that spark that tells me “Okay, now to the other thing.”

One thing I’d like to do, is to get back into reviewing video games and technology. However, that requires connections that I don’t neccessarily have at this point, and it’s hard to compete with Youtube which, if you’re asking me, is a far mor interesting platform for video games and technology to be showcased. A video says so much more than a thousand words and a picture or two.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve recently started experimenting with video. The first result(s) are online over at the Joomla & More Youtube channel. I’m still not convinced I have what it takes to use the platform (mainly I hate the sound of my voice to the point I don’t want to listen to the audio), but it’s a start.

Here’s to another fifteen years of blogging. Maybe we’ll be creating newspapers that people can read using their VR set in the next ten years. Time will tell.

Dear writers of technical documentation,

Today I’m writing this open blog post (unlike those closed, diary blog posts where I complain that life isn’t fair and then lock away?) to make a small request.

When you’re writing documentation (which is awesome) it’s great when you provide sample commands. It really makes it understandable what I need to do to perform that bit of dark Linux wizardry. A sample command alongside with the command itself is basically perfect, since it explains me what to do, and then gives me a real life application.

Some of you, however, and I’m looking in the direction of a lot of MySQL documentation pages, seem to think that it’s a good idea to only use the sample command when explaining something. And that’s bad. Why? Because if I landed upon your page, looking for a magic spell to make my server do my bidding, and you are using a sample command without context…

I have no idea what is going on, or what goes where.

The example in question is a bit of MySQL wisdom that is found on this page. Being the eager beaver I am, trying to clone that gigantic database, I ran into authentication problems. Because I wrongfully assumed that the command was to be taken literal. Only on a second pass and doing some more Googling did I realize that instead of root:root I had to provide the actual username and password. I’ll admit that I didn’t pick up on this “hint” because I never used the password “root”. I’m told it’s a capital sin, the sins of all sins, so to see it in documentation surprises me a bit.

Now, I understand that writing things like I did in my notes can be a shore. For reference, I translated it into this:

mysqldbcopy –source=(user):(password)@(server) –destination=(user):(password)@(server) (database):(databasecopy)

The funny thing is that, when you click the reference to the mysqldbcopy page, they’re using an example that’s a bit post clear, by using –source=root:pass@localhost instead.

Maybe I’m just nitpicking or trying to shift the blame, but some context of sample commands are nice, especially if you dive head-first in using example settings.

About twelve months or so ago, I got really into photography. As is the case with many people infatuated by their hobbies, I thought I needed the latest and greatest equipment. Knowing myself and my impulsive behavior, I managed to keep costs low by not spending money on fancy equipment I’d never use.

I do, however, have the feeling that I wasted a lot of money on my NAS.

We all know  it’s important to have back-ups of important files. And sometimes, back-ups of those backups. That’s why I figured that investing in a NAS was a good idea. I could use it to keep all my photos. It’s a NAS! What can go wrong!

Well, for once I’m fortunate in being impatient, because I always stored my pictures to my computer first, then made a back-up to my NAS if I felt like it.

That might sound like a bad idea, but since buying it my NAS practically “died” on three separate occasions. Each time, the useless black brick that was supposed to keep my pictures safe said “You know what? I can’t read those hard drives anymore. I’m just going to ask you to wipe them.”

This happened for the third time this weekend, after I got back from France. Disk 1 and Disk 2 no longer exist. Want to format disk 3 and disk 4 and start over?

A back-up of the back-up

Fortunately, I’ve got a back-up of my back-up. I bought a €99 external HDD after I got tired of the shenanigans. I’m considering buying a second HDD, because compared to the plastic brick sitting in my “nerd corner”, it’s got the following advantages:

  1. It costs a fifth of a new NAS.
  2. It doesn’t take forever to boot, despite being as empty as the Sahara desert.
  3. It doesn’t MAKE AN AWFUL LOUD NOISE when it’s sitting there, doing nothing.

Fingers crossed that I can still get my money back.