This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with Greg Perry.
Greg is one of the world’s most prolific
authors with more than 75 published internationally. He is an acknowledged
authority in programming and in applications. As a widely sought
internationally renowned speaker/writer, he has sold more than two million
computer books worldwide covering such diverse areas as operating systems and
Visual Basic programming.
Amongst his latest books is the reader
favorite, “Digital Video with Windows XP in a Snap.”
Q: Greg, amongst your many talents, you are
as a celebrated author/speaker, and programming/applications expert, thank you
for doing this interview.
A: Stephen, this is quite an honor for me
to be speaking with you today.
Q: Describe your journey into computers,
writing, speaking, and the lessons learned along the way?
A: Eons ago when I was in high school, I
got a job at Radio Shack right when they started selling the TRS-80 in 1977.
This was one of the first affordable home computers; it had 4k of memory and no
hard disk. Radio Shack had no training back then and my manager told me,
"Nobody knows about those things. You should read the manual and figure
out what they do so we can sell one." I didn't want to. But I did enjoy commission
checks so after work that day, I went over to the only TRS-80 in the store,
opened to page one in the manual, and a new world opened up to me. My life
would never be the same. I could not foresee then where it would take me.
That month I sold 3 computers making me, a 16-year old, the highest
ranking salesman in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area which at the time had about 20 stores. When I entered college
that fall, I took every computer class they had, searched the bookstores for
computer books (written by programmers who could not write), and began my
self-training. The college classes were simple and I found myself tutoring all
the others in my classes.
Several years after graduating, I wanted to learn Microsoft Word 1.0
(everything was still DOS-based). I went to the store and got a book and
thought the book was horrible. I couldn't sleep that night thinking about it,
and about 3 am, I got up and wrote a letter to the publishing company of that book
(Osborne/McGraw-Hill) and told them: "I like computers, I like to write,
and I'd be a great author for one of your books." If you ask anybody in
publishing, they will tell you that is NOT the way to get a book contract. Two
weeks later, I had a book contract. 75 computer books later, and I'm still
Q: Describe your most surprising
A: I attended an author's conference in the
mid-1990s where they showed sales figures for the computer book industry. The
month of the conference, I had the #1 and #2 bestselling titles. This was clear
to all when they showed the current industry sales lists in front of the
conference at the keynote speech. I was quite shocked. I knew my titles were
selling well but I had no idea that I was on top, even for that one month. The
subjects, Windows and Office, had more to do with the position that my writing,
Q: Do have any humorous stories to share?
A: I am extremely ashamed to admit the
following because my credibility will be put on the line... but it is rather
funny when I look back on it. Around 1993 at COMDEX, my Editor told me that she
had lots of books that needed to be written about this new thing called the
Internet. I told her, "Oh, I don't want to write those. This Internet is
overrated and won't last." Obviously, I'm no prophet! Since then, I think about how I would
probably have the first Using the Internet book, Writing HTML, and Using E-Mail
back when those titles would be the only ones on the shelves. The fortune I
lost turning down that first batch of Internet books taught me to be more
careful when answering an Editor's question! Without trying to sound egotistical (I doubt I have to worry about that
after telling you how wrong I was!), I'm always surprised how many of my other predictions
about the industry keep coming true. But I missed the big one!
Q: Can you share your ten most valuable guidelines
from your book, “Digital Video with Windows XP in a Snap”?
A: 1) Movie Maker 2, free with EVERY
version of Windows XP, is extremely powerful and fulfills the needs of
virtually all beginning and even intermediate user who wants to produce movies
with a digital camera.
2) Today's inexpensive mid-range computers
(say 1.8 Ghz and below) can easily handle digital video editing and production.
3) If you're like most of us, and you have
a stack of family videos on tape that you never watch and always say, "One
of these days, I need to edit those..." Now, you have absolutely no more
excuse. Making videos from your home movies does three things: 1. Helps protect
your memories because tape is damaged and ages easily, 2. Enables you to create
enjoyable movies from your video raw footage that are so good, your family
truly WILL watch them whereas not watch the tapes that are just sitting on the
shelf now, and 3. Your relatives will VERY much appreciate you making nice
videos for them that include them and other family members that you give them
4) Adding sound, such as narration and
background music in incredibly simple to do, even in low-end products such as
Movie Maker 2.
5) Using a video camera bought in the past
5 years or so with a Firewire port eliminates the need for a capture card (as
long as your computer has Firewire) because you can go directly from digital
camera to digital computer without conversion.
6) Once you install multiple DVD-burning packages on
your computer, such as Nero (my favorite), Sonic, and Roxio, they begin to
conflict with each other dramatically. You don't notice this until you attempt
to burn DVDs. The failure rate dramatically increases the more DVD-writing software
programs you install. This is a nightmare and here, in 2004, this is a
nightmare that users shouldn't have to worry about. Uninstalling all but one of
the DVD-writing programs usually does NOT solve the problems because the
uninstall routines don't always remove their drivers the way they should.
7) If you used to be able to burn DVDs and
now you cannot, probably it's software-related as I state above. Purchase
several small packs of blank DVDs and try to get as many combinations as
possible. Therefore, get DVD-R, DVD +R, DVD+/-R, and the rest. Get two of each set, one a top-quality brand and one a cheap brand. With all that, you can probably find one that works even
though the others don't burn. I want to stress again, this is NOT something that
users should have to go through in this day and age. And many people never have
trouble. But if you have trouble, buying all these blank DVD media formats until
you find one that works for you is cheaper than replacing your drive or
8) Inadequate lighting is one of the most
common mistakes videographers make when shooting video. It's not just too low
of lighting; often, it's the lighting placement (such as shooting video
directly into the sun instead of keeping the sun to your back).
9) The biggest challenge right now (once
your DVD-writing conflicts are solved) is storage. If you plan to make lots
of digital movies and keep them on your hard disk, you'll quickly run out of
space. I have a terabyte of storage in my office right now and I'm getting low
on disk space. Surprisingly, I don't feel as though I've done all that much
digital editing! The only real answer until 50 or more terabytes is cheaply
available, is to store videos on DVDs, not as playable DVDs in home
entertainment systems, but stored just in a compact data format. That being
said, it's far better if you can keep your videos online on hard disk storage so
that you can access special effects, reuse titles, and bring in other clips
more easily. Again, we won't see that being simple until we get more storage.
10) With sharp tools, a novice can REALLY
get in trouble! Used to, programs that were simple such as desktop publishing
programs enabled users to create horrible documents and presentations quickly!
I don't find that as much with video editing programs such as Movie Maker. You
truly can produce very good movies with very little skill and make them
enjoyable.... but you must remember the Golden Rule of Video: Cut,
cut, and cut some more until the video flows smoothly and keeps the audience's
Q: What future books, columns, and articles
can we expect from you?
A: After a short sabbatical writing a book
on social problems in America and around the world (called "Disabling
America" ISBN #0785262253), I'm back in the saddle with computer books
writing an entry-level book about OpenOffice.org, the most exciting piece of
software I've seen in a long time. OpenOffice.org is a full-featured word
processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, drawing program, and Web page
creator and OpenOffice.org is a direct competitor with Microsoft Office. Office
users will feel right at home except Office users will NOT expect the price
they pay for OpenOffice.org: FREE. As in Absolutely Free. www.OpenOffice.org gives you the download
link and in 10 minutes (with a fast connection), you'll have an installation
that works much like Microsoft Office except you'll still have your $500!
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
A: Writing "Digital Video with Windows
XP in a Snap" really opened my eyes to how underutilized digital video is.
I hope to be offering a service in my town to convert their home movies to
digital DVD video with edited sound, music, and all that. It may not be a huge
success but it's something I want to do, sort of as a hobby that brings in a
small income. Obviously, this is not setting my sights high! I would like that
kind of thing as a hobby and perhaps I'll write less and enjoy travel more.
Q: What are the most important trends to
watch, and please provide some detailed recommendations?
A: 1) Disk storage will continue to get
cheaper and hold more. This is the #1 bottleneck right now for digital video
for the average user who may only have a 30-60 gigabyte hard disk. You can buy
a 250 Gigabyte external hard disk now for, retail, about $300 (Maxtor) and
having anything less than 200 gig of total storage will make you work harder to
manage your computer digital and audio files.
2) If you plan to stream video throughout
your home wirelessly, you MUST go with the 802.11 g (as opposed to b) wireless
system. Of course, they already have advanced past the G stage, but G is at a
critical price and availability level now and it works great.
3) eBay is often overlooked as one of the
most important marketplaces around. Best Buy recently announced their intention
to open an eBay store for their overstocks. If you don't routinely use eBay to
buy items you normally need, you are spending far more money than you should.
4) eBay, Wal-Mart, and China are
the 3 primary reasons why price inflation hasn't hit consumer goods. Everything
else has been inflating (houses, gasoline, commodities such as wheat, beans,
gold, silver, platinum, cattle prices...). Competition keeps prices down and we
can be thankful that my predictions about the demise of the Internet more than
a decade ago didn't come true.
5) Gigabyte Ethernet should be considered
standard today if you need to run a wired network. Don't settle for 10/100
networking because you need the bandwidth that gigabyte Ethernet provides and
the cost is now minimal.
6) Here is a negative trend: ISPs are
filtering out your email BEFORE it gets to your computer... and some of it is
email you want. Major ISPs are filtering "spam" and the number of false
positives (the email that is good but which they think is spam) grows daily. I
recently sent a note to my wife - she is downstairs and I'm upstairs. I mailed
my email to her from my MSN.com account to her Hotmail inbox. No matter how many times I sent
it, the email never got through. When I changed the wording of the title, it
went through. In my opinion, filtering out at the ISP level is the worst
kind of filtering possible and it's halting the advance of marketing and
commerce on the Internet... and guess what? Real spam keeps getting
through. You should tell your ISP that YOU want to be
in control of filtering your own spam.
Q: List the best resources.
A: 1) Google.com - competitors (such as msn.com) are ramping
up their efforts to knock google.com out of the top spot. What they forget is
that google.com isn't sitting still waiting to lose their position. In
addition, if you pay for click-through banner ads, you should immediately stop
and give Google AdWords a try.
2) eBay.com to find out what anything on
the planet is truly worth.
3) PayPal.com - Get an account NOW whether or not you
ever want to use eBay. PayPal will be THE Internet money transfer system,
especially as micro-payments (fractions of cents to view certain content)
becomes more popular.
Q: Who/what do you think are the winners
and losers in the next five years and why?
A: Winner: eBay and Google for the reasons
I state above. Losers: homeowners because the Internet cannot keep housing
prices down as governments continue to prop up currencies. There is a housing
bubble right now due to the massive liquidity that governments have pumped into
their money supplies all around the world. That liquidity probably cannot last
another 3 years. Get a handle on your debt ASAP and pay down your mortgage as
quickly as you can. You don't want to be deeply in debt if deflation in housing
begins because it dominos to so many other aspects of your economy. This is
true for most industrial nations in the world right now.
Q: You pick four topic areas and then provide
us with those valuable rare “gems” that only you know.
A: 1) Area 1: (I keep harping on eBay,
a) The following statement at the bottom of
your auctions will dramatically increase the number of bids you get when you
sell something: "Why buy from me? If I do not ship within 3 business days
of receiving your payment (given the payment terms below), I'll refund your
money AND send you this item absolutely free." Of course, for this to work you'd better do
what you promise!
b) Cross-promote your auctions, try to list
more than one item in the same category when you sell, and tell in one auction
about the other auction and provide links to both. I use an eBay bid-tracking
system and I am amazed at how many bids are given on items from users who just
visited my OTHER item where I linked to this one.
c) eBay is now our video rental store! When
my family wants to watch a video, I locate it on eBay and find the auction with
the lowest shipping charge and the worst-worded and worst-presented auction. As
long as the seller has a good eBay history, I buy the video. When we're done, I
relist it using a far better listing. I generally make a buck or more on each
turnaround. Is it worth my effort for $1? No. But the alternative is driving to
the video store, risking it being checked out, paying the $3 rental fee, and
then having to return it before it's due. I find the tradeoff of making $1 far
better than doing all that and spending $3.
2) Area 2: Internet commerce
a) Most commerce Web pages don't know the
importance of a good headline. If you are trying to sell something on the Web
in ANY fashion, if you improve your headline your sales will improve as long as
you have traffic coming to your site. Find anything by Jay Abraham
(Abraham.com) if you'd like your sales top skyrocket. (By the way, I don't know
Jay Abraham and I don't get anything if you buy from him. He can teach you the
best way to market ANY product or service, though.)
b) Even though the world is basically
getting more Internet-savvy every day, when you sell online be sure to provide
not only a credit card link, but also a snail mail link and a fax number so
your customers have alternative ways to pay you. Many sales are lost because
people are still too timid about entering their credit cards online.
3) Area 3: Bill-Paying
a) More and more banks are offering
bill-payment services free of charge. Check if yours does. If so and you've
been using them a while, tell them to stop charging you! (They often won't stop
until you request it even though new customers don't have the charge.) If you
haven't been paying bills online, stop being crazy and begin. You save effort
4) Area 4: Speaking of stamps
all countries yet provide online postage but the USA does and I believe Canada does. I love using online postage. Our wasteful trips to the post
office have gone away.
b) We live in the country in a very rural
area. We moved here 4 years ago. I never in my life wanted to live outside a
major city until we moved here. Now, when we want something, we go online and
it's on our doorstep 2-to-3 days later. The convenience of living in the city
is no longer limited to the city. The inconvenience of living in the country is
no longer an inconvenience. Why the current trend is TO the cities and AWAY
from the country just astounds me with today's technology so available to us.
Plus, when writing about computers all day, it's nice to go watch the deer in
Q: What kind of computer setup do you have?
A: I run a 3 Gigahertz machine with three
side-by-side monitors at all time. When writing about a product, I can test the
product on one screen, write about it on another, and have the third screen for
email, etc. I have a second computer
that I can switch to with a USB-based keyboard/mouse switch so while rebooting one, I can use my
same keyboard, printed, and mouse to check the Internet or whatever. I have one terabyte of disk storage off to
the side connected to my primary computer by Firewire. I keep my backups
offsite on additional Maxtor Firewire hard disks. I use 2 HP laser printers, one
color and one black-and-white, both connected to my home network and available
from any computer. I don't prefer inkjet
due to the high cost of ink and the speed at which one must change the
cartridges. My wife has a computer downstairs networked via Ethernet cable. Our
laptop has a wireless connection to the network and Internet. We run DSL.
Q: If you were doing this interview, what
five questions would you ask of someone in your position and what would be your
A: Q1: What's it like being an author?
A1: It’s the only job I can get paid for
without wearing a shirt! Seriously, it's great because we can travel and I can
still work. It's bad though because if I stop writing, income stops coming in.
This kind of work is often envied but not everybody has the temperament to put
their incomes on the line.
Q2: What other ways does writing differ
from other kinds of jobs?
A2: When I received my very first book, I
was thrilled and proud. Starting with my second, I began to see my books and my
writing as my business.
Q3: Can you give any success tips for our audience?
A3: You need to learn to market yourself.
This is even MORE true if you work for someone. You need to make yourself more
valuable to your employer than you are today. Most people never do this and
they harm themselves in the long run. The best investment you can make is read
and study one hour a day for 6 days a week, something related to your
profession or some other profession. School doesn't stop when you graduate...
it only begins. If you don't further yourself in today's changing world, you
will be left in the dust.
Q4: So you're saying success is mostly
derived from studying and learning?
A4: Primarily yes, although chance (luck?)
plays a part too. The more prepared I am, the luckier I get. I don't think
that's a coincidence, we make our own paths most of the time. If you EVER see yourself
as a victim (outside of a true crime situation), you will be a LOSER until you
change your attitude. I was born with one leg and a total of 3 deformed
fingers. I am the most prolific computer book author and speaker on earth, I
type about 45 words per minute, and as I'm rollerblading down the street I
don't have too much time to think about having only one leg. People who know me
forget I'm physically different after about 8 seconds. I wouldn't have it any
other way. I'm so glad I was born LONG
before government disability programs were so common because they would have
grabbed me long ago, pigeon-holed me as someone who couldn't get along without
their help, and I'd be quite unsuccessful today.
Q: Greg, thank you again for your time, and
consideration in doing this interview.
A: I want to restate, it was an honor for me
to speak with YOU today. Although I veered somewhat from the original topic of
digital video and my “Digital Video with Windows XP in a Snap” book which is
really selling well right now, I see the computer universe as infiltrating all
aspects of life (generally in a good way). I like to comment on many of those
ways and I appreciate your patience while I did so today.