Frank has a PhD in Atmospheric Phyiscs. This involved sitting in front a computer for about 4 years, leading to, among other things, starting his first website in early 1993 and going on to work for Microsoft and many other high tech companies.
He’s also worked professionally as a freelance writer for the last three decades — doing everything from traditional tech writing to newspaper film reviews and humor. He’s often found that smaller companies didn’t just need websites, they needed content to fill them. So writing and coding have always gone together in his work.
WIHT: How did you go from scientist to programmer to writer?
Frank: When I was in graduate school, I began to freelance as a writer on the side, and I never stopped. The work that I did as a scientist was programming: I created computer models of the environment — first of permafrost and then of atmospheric oxidation. So it all fits together rather nicely.
WIHT: Windows, Mac, or GNU/Linux?
Frank: I really don’t care. I run about a dozen computers at home and I have all three types. They’re just tools. I think of them like I do refrigerators: freezer on the side? On the top? On the bottom? Whatever, as long as the left-overs don’t spoil. But I am an old Unix guy, so all of my computers are set up to be pretty unix-like. I couldn’t live without vi, for example.
WIHT: Do you run your own web servers on these machines?
Frank: I run one web server at home because I find it the easiest way to move stuff around and have access to everything everywhere. I also set up specialized web servers for projects from time to time. For example, sometimes it’s necessary to set up an old or odd server in order to install some dead piece of software that I want to write about.
WIHT: Do you still code?
Frank: When necessary. I am working on a side project. For that, I use Assembly, C++, and PHP. The reason for the different languages is that the application spans several hardware devices with the final data stored in a MySQL database on a web server. The PHP is used to display the data in pseudo-real time. Even after all these years, I still love that I can make this kind of stuff work. Just the same, I don’t code for fun the way I used to.
WIHT:Do you still run your own websites?
Frank: Yeah. It’s kind of an addiction. My main one is Frankly Curious. I host that with SiteGround, because it is kind of demanding, with almost 8,000 articles on it. I host my “lesser” sites on a low-cost reseller account elsewhere. My newest website is Psychotronic Review. It’s hard to stop yourself when you have varied interests, even if nobody gives a damn.
WIHT: Varied interests?
Frank: Some would say I just have a short attention span. But there’s so much exciting stuff in the world. Outside of work, my main interests are Don Quixote, which I’m kind of a freak about and experimental theater. That partly explains why Grumpy Squirrel (the finger puppet in the image above) was with me on acation in Puerto Morelos.
WIHT: Star Trek or Star Wars
Frank: I’m not much of a fan of either, unless they are written and directed by Nicholas Meyer, who I admire. Certainly John Dies at the End is far more interesting than anything in the Trek or Wars universes. In terms of film, my tastes skew to the extremes: art (eg, Die Wand) on one side and psychotronic (eg, Death Bed: The Bed That Eats) on the other.
WIHT:What are your favorite books?
Frank:Do you mean technical books? Because I have a hard time calling any of them “favorites.” In terms of the work I do around here, I’m rather fond of The Mythical Man-Month. And I love Fowler’s Modern English Usage. As for books I think normal people should read:
John Rutherford’s translation of Don Quixote
My favorite book as a child was James and the Giant Peach. I still love it, of course.
Frank is editor at WhoIsHostingThis.com. But he started as a writer and still manages to occasionally find time to write articles.
How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Chatbot: this is the introduction to one of our many infographics. Frank manages our infographic creation.
Forth Programming Resources: an old hardware control language, it is still used in the space program. Frank did a little Forth programming when he was an undergraduate.
Cron and Crontab Intro and Resources: this is the Unix scheduling program. If you use WordPress (or most any CMS), you probably use it — you just don’t know it.
Awk Introduction and Resources: this Unix text processing language is very powerful. In grad school, Frank avoided work by writing ridiciously complicated Awk scripts. He has an unnatural love for it.
Gamification: How to Win at Work: this is another infographic introduction. Gamification is a way of making work more like play. It sounds like nonsense, but even Frank is impressed with its use and potential.
ASP and ASP.NET Intro and Resources: this is sort of Microsoft’s equivalent of PHP. Frank has done some ASP in the past, but it’s been years since he ran the IIS web server.
MyBB Hosting: this is all about a popular forum application. Frank got very excited to start a forum after writing this article, but he was talked down by our general manager, Toni Allen.
Unix Programming Resources: this article provides a basic introduction to the Big Three kinds of Unix programming: scripting, system, and X Window. At one time, this was the stuff Frank liked doing best.