Notes Off the Napkin: Look. A Puppy.

Notes-Off-the-Napkin-logo1By Andrew Frame

I’m going to cheat a little this month and use my columnist-space to continue the ongoing Linux discussion. I’d like to thank RAP readers that have dropped me an e-mail about the series. Thank you for reading.

On with the show:

Do you have money this year to buy a new computer? Even with the advantage of writing off the value of the purchase as a business tax deduction in some countries, if you don’t have the up-front funds, then you’re not going to make the purchase.

I do PC service as an income stream for our family business. I see a lot of hardware that was “designed” for the release of Windows XP. To these folks, often with financial issues of their own, I give the option of reloading XP, or flipping to Linux.

Linux offers the opportunity to take older hardware, Socket 478/Pentium 4 stuff for example, and load a significant OS upgrade. The trick, is selecting the right distro to load. The most cutting edge versions require more processing power than the older machines have available, but there are releases that offer plenty of ability to go with small size.

We have a Compaq laptop from a few years back running with specs that place it right on the bottom rung of what’s needed to handle Windows. It has XP-SP3, fully patched/updated on one partition. Some of my daughter’s homeschool software is there, along with my audio editor.

In time though, XP will no longer have support. No support against virus/malware, no security patches, no pickups of any kind. Then what? Our disposable society would encourage tossing the machine to the side and going into debt for a new computer – at a 23% annual credit card percentage rate.

I will admit to having learned the hard, expensive way that that is not the way to live. Debt sucks. Waste sucks. The newest gadget and toy and phone and HDTV are not “needs” by any stretch of imagination. You say “cheap,” I say “frugal.” You say “Luddite,” I say “no debt service.”

Enter the tail-wagging Puppy.

Puppy Linux has had some growing pains, and quite frankly, was a pretty annoying bit of code to use for a while. Version 5 though, is proving to be a gem. Being a derivative of Ubuntu (itself a derivative of the venerable Debian), I can use all of the same applications I have on my desktop Ubuntu, in a clever, quick, and very small Linux distro that is quite happy to reside on this older laptop.

It handles the old Linksys PCMCIA WLAN card without a hitch. Flash drives mount in seconds. New applications load with a few clicks. And the GUI is child-like with large colorful icons, perfect for the over- and under-shoot tendencies of the trackpad mouse.

While we still have the future consideration that XP will have no support, for the time being we have given ourselves a solid, quick replacement OS for whatever use that laptop receives. We can dual boot to either OS for the task at hand.

Do you have a machine that a simple OS replacement could bring to life? An old laptop perhaps, that can become a speedy internet machine, immune from virus and malware? E-mail, browse and chat with impunity against Windows vulnerabilities. And, once booted, it is fast.

Okay, enough geeking. Let’s talk creative service.

Are you also getting pre-written copy that’s freakishly long? In my little spot on the hemisphere, clients and reps are again deciding to write their own copy. This is after what seems like a long time when they let us do our jobs. Or maybe it’s because I’m hanging out with a lot of small market folk lately and this is a particularly virulent infection.

Of course, it’s awful stuff. Compound clichés, thirties at over one hundred words, phone numbers for multiple store locations… was there a collective local-direct advertising lobotomy and I missed the memo?

If you look at most client- or sales- written copy, and exclude the items I mentioned previously, you quickly notice that They write as “print.” That is, they will write how we read, not how we speak. We speak in phrases, we read in sentences. One line of copy may refer to “customers,” the next, the more direct “you.” Even switching from first- to third-person with abandon.

I’ll be the first to admit that professional copywriters mock the rules of structure and grammar with the same carelessness that most politicians mock their constituents. We use the same words as bards and poets, but we rearrange them to fit our peculiar need – spoken sales messages.

My friend and South Dakota producer Mark Nelson of the Cartwright Brothers Band tossed an e-mail to our producers group last month asking for something to give his manager to give to the sales reps that insist on writing their copy.

I sent them:

12 point Times New Roman (a font/size standard in all word processors).

Sentence case (upper and lower) NOT ALL CAPS.

Use caps, bold, italic, and underline for emphasis points.

Spell out all numbers.

No ‘WWW.’

No multiple punctuation!!! Once is sufficient.

Start with 80 words for :30. 170 words for :60 (subtract fifteen for conversational reads).

Read out loud for time, adjust length from there. Don’t mumble. Out loud means: Out. Loud. The “booth” read will most always be slower than the “test” read at someone’s desk.

Sales people should be out selling.

Copy professionals should be writing the copy.

Yes, I said that Out Loud.

It took :05 seconds.

You know, taking a look at the copy that’s come in this morning, I think I have a few more sales managers to send this to.

Happy writing.

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