Recently I got to read Anton Diaz’s post on his top blogging tools. So this got me thinking on what tools I use for blogging.
Let’s take a look at the basics first: hosting and platform.
My webhost is NearlyFreeSpeech.net. I came upon this from one of the LifeHacker posts back in 2007 and have heard great reviews from it. What caught me attention was that you only get billed for what you use. Nowadays I average around 2 USD a month. There’s no cPanel stuff here. Uploading and installing your blogging platform of choice depends on how good you are with using FTP. If you’re even more geeky, NearlyFreeSpeech also has SSH access. I prefer using SSH obviously because it’s more secure. There’s no limit on how many domains you use with your account. The only limit is dictated by your wallet. You can deposit a certain amount into your account and set warnings that are tripped depending on how much is left. For example, I set three warnings on my account for 5.00, 1.00 and 0.10 USD. Every time a warning is tripped, the service sends me an email about it, ensuring me that I don’t end up with a disabled site because I’ve overdrawn my account. There’s no auto debit of credit cards. They don’t save your credit card info at all. Hence the need for such warnings.
I used Wordpress during the early years of this blog. I transferred to Drupal after. Then recently moved back to Wordpress. Wordpress has gotten a lot easier to manage over the years and uses up much less space than Drupal. Also, it’s much easier to make a mobile version of my blog on Wordpress. Cost: FREE.
Now that I have the basics covered, there’s a few more “accessories” that I use as well.
The one thing I don’t like is editing stuff online. There’s that problem of your connection suddenly dropping resulting in lost posts that send you screaming like you just lost your winning lotto ticket. Many of us have gone through that. So for offline writing, I use Windows Live Writer on my computer. It’s the most complete offline blog editor I’ve used. Whatever I can do when editing posts on Wordpress I can do in Live Writer as well. You can set categories, tags, and publication dates for the different posts you write. The software also supports posting the same article to mulitple blogs on multiple platforms. That said, it still isn’t perfect. So after uploading my pre-scheduled posts, I go to my website to do some last minute fine tuning. Cost: FREE.
For graphics, I search through Creative Commons for stuff I may need. I also make use of my four-year-old Olympus E-500 DSLR and my T-Mobile G1 Android phone for other photos. Though hopefully soon I’ll get a much better point-and-shoot camera to use when I don’t have my DSLR around. When using the DSLR, I regularly shoot in RAW simply because I don’t want to think about white balance when I shoot. To process them, I use UFRaw and The GIMP. Both software are free and open source. My Epson CX5900’s scanner is used to capture drawings, book covers and other such scannable stuff. I don’t use Flickr and Picasa that much. I used to watermark my photos, but nowadays I don’t go through that anymore. Instead, for times when I show off a series of photos that are “pirate”-worthy, I create a slideshow presentation and upload this to SlideShare. Thanks to my photography mentor Jo Avila for giving me that idea.
You can greatly improve your reputation as a photographer by not putting your watermark on your images. – Jo Avila
My T-Mobile G1 Android phone has a Wordpress app installed. I normally use this when checking for comments made on my blog while I’m on the road. Otherwise, I use it to write blog post ideas using Snaptic’s 3Banana app. I write my idea there then when I get home I just access Snaptic’s website and copy-paste it onto Live Writer to develop the post more. I also use the Neo Basic B1230 netbook I won from a raffle earlier this year. The netbook is my second most constant companion when on the road. Otherwise, my G1 is enough to get me by.
I rarely do video. When I do, I use my sister’s Sony HDD HandyCam (DCR-SR47). I convert the video to AVI using WinFF (free, open source, multi-platform) before I do some simple editing using VirtualDub (free, open source, windows). I use WinFF again to convert it to something even smaller before uploading to YouTube or something similar.
When all else fails, I have my non-electronic tools to help me along. A small notebook, my leadholder and my fountain pens do me just as fine in keeping tabs with my blog ideas.