October 16th, 2008
I have always been interested in things that go fast, like airplanes and trains. However, it took me until my late 20's to discover that the world's fastest and most versatile devices didn't have wheels.
My background in English, history, and French makes me somewhat unusual in the technology writing field, but it gives me a big advantage when it comes to helping ordinary people understand how the Internet, PCs, servers, and digital cameras work. I stay up to date by reading technology blogs, newsletters and websites, and experimenting on "FrankenPC" and my office network.
Although I've been contributing to books since 1999, I cut my technology writing teeth in the mid-1980s. Do you remember the Commodore 64 and its inscrutable 1541 floppy disk drive manual? My first piece of tech writing crunched down the essentials an ordinary user needed to know to get programs running to a single page. A few years later, exasperated with salespeople who kept selling PC clone configurations the techs in the back room could never get to work right, I wrote a compatibility handbook for my employer, a computer store. In the meantime, I spent a lot of time talking users through configuring startup files with DOS's ghastly Edlin line editor and discovering the brave new world of desktop publishing and scalable fonts.I turned that expertise into a new part-time career as a magazine writer, first for WordPerfect Magazine (1989-1995), and later for Sandhills Publishing (1991-2001). Check out the article database available at http://www.smartcomputing.com/editorial/asearch.asp (use Soper as the search term and specify the date range).
In the meantime, I provided consulting and training services to area businesses, and, starting in 1992, spent most of the rest of the decade traveling the US and teaching classes on computer troubleshooting, workgroup networking, and other subjects. I also wrote three book-length training manuals in 1992-1993. Before email was common, I often submitted magazine stories by bringing my laptop computer and portable printer to the nearest UPS or FedEx drop box, hand-feeding the printer and hoping that the pick-up time shown on the box was accurate!
Beginning in early 1999, I made the decision to become a full-time writer, cheering my wife and children (who area also big technology users) by getting off the road. I teamed up with Scott Mueller, dean of computer hardware books, to help get Upgrading and Repairing PCs, 11th Edition, wrapped up on schedule. I have contributed to every edition since, and have also co-authored six books with Scott.
I also teamed up with TechTV to write two books on computer upgrades, paired up with radio and TV tech guru Leo Laporte for a book on computer troubleshooting, and written several other books on the Internet, home networking, troubleshooting, and digital photography (see my Books page for details). I have written two books on Windows Vista, including MaximumPC Guide to Windows Vista Exposed and my newest book, Unleashing Microsoft Windows Vista Media Center, which will be published in early November 2008.
I have also worked with Windows gurus Robert Cowart and Brian Knittel as a contributor to their Special Edition Using Windows XP and Windows Vista books, and with Brian and Scott Mueller as a contributor to the new Upgrading and Repairing Windows 2nd Edition.
I am currently finishing up my third book on A+ Certification, and have just started a new book project (watch this page for updates).
What else am I up to?
- In 2003, I wrote dozens of computer technician screening questions for ReviewNet, one of the leading IT technology screening companies (see my interview at www.reviewnet.net/authgallery/authgall-soper.html).
- In 2004-2006, I wrote over 450 step-by-step illustrated online tutorials for Skywire Software on topics ranging from Microsoft Word and Norton Antivirus to PC hardware upgrades and video/image editing and developed a new method for working with web templates for faster authoring.
- From 2004 to the present, I've also been a freelance author for MaximumPC magazine covering topics such as BIOS tuning, RAM types, Windows users and Linux, and Windows Vista, with some of my articles finding a second life in the books The Maximum PC Guide to Building a Dream PC and The MaximumPC Ultimate PC Performance Guide. My most recent Maximum PC articles appeared in the May and July 2008 issues of MaximumPC. If you missed them, enjoy them in PDF form by visiting the MaximumPC website. I also blog several times a week on Windows, security, and other issues for the website.
- I have also contributed articles on Windows and network security to BusinessWeek.com and CIO.com
To keep my finger on the pulse of PC users, I also teach classes on A+ Certification, digital imaging, and other subjects for the Evansville campus of IvyTech Community College of Indiana (www.ivytech.edu/evansville/). If you have questions about my books or other projects, or are looking for a versatile technology writer, trainer, and consultant with an impressive body of work, please drop me a line.