James R. Strickland, Author
News (RSS), and Book Reviews(RSS) .

03/23/2017 05:35pm Blog Entry

Writing and Politics

For some time, I've been aware of the whole SJW vs Sad Puppies debate. Here's how the whole business seems to me.

03/17/2017 08:18pm Blog Entry

EBooks on Sale!

Beginning March 19th, I'm having a sale. From the 19th to the 23d, Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences will be free. Brass and Steel: Inferno will be available on a sliding discount: two bucks off the regular $2.99 price, then one buck off after a few days. Please do tell your friends. I'm trying the waters of Amazon's promotional mechanisms, and I'd like to get a sample of what they can do for me.

-JRS

03/12/2017 12:15am Blog Entry

Farewell to Shipman

Farewell to John W. Shipman, software artist, musician, alpha nerd, friend, and communicator. He passed away on the 31st of January 2017 after a brief illness.

02/22/2017 03:15pm Blog Entry

Scrivener on Linux, Revisited

So I finally got Windows Scrivener to work on Linux in Wine.
The trick seems to be you must configure Wine to use windows later than windows xp. I have mine pretending it's Windows 10. You may also need the latest version of Wine - wine-staging - but I'm not clear if that's actually required or not. I have it, because I tried it first.

Now I just have to get a Wine for Windows license. I wonder if they'll sell me an upgrade to the dual platform license?

[edit] They did. Also, the Ubuntu standard installation of Wine works fine. There's no need to go to the newer, less well tested versions. Just set it to run as Windows 8. Also, I now use this script  to enable font smoothing in Wine, which makes it look less horrid.

-JRS

02/11/2017 04:17pm Blog Entry

Comcast ghost voicemail

I use Comcast for my internet/tv/phone provider. Recently, it started giving me the dialtone pulsing, indicating I had a voicemail. When I checked from the website and the phone itself, there was no voicemail. Doing a little digging, I found that this is a frequent problem for Comcast users.

The solution turns out to be pretty easy. Go to your comcast voicemail screen on the website, here: https://vm.connect.comcast.net/OptimusUIVoice/, and click refresh.  That's all you have to do. Why the boneheads at Comcast couldn't be bothered to post that in their forums, I'll never know.

-JRS

 I like Scrivener. I use it constantly for writing.  Unfortunately, they dropped support for Linux in 2015, and while the old Linux version still works at the moment, it's only a matter of time until they introduce an upgrade to the main line (OS X, Windows, and IOS) that breaks compatibility with the Linux version.

Scrivener supposedly runs in Wine, but I've not managed to get it to do so thus far.  Plus, wine apps tend to be a bit on the flaky side. If you want to see an enraged author, have an app crash in a way that it didn't manage to preserve a backup first. It's painful.

Right now, and for the forseeable future, my solution to this is to maintain my mac, and instead of my Linux laptop for remote writing, use my iPad. (I have a keyboard for it. I can't imagine writing anything longer than a tweet -- and that only under duress -- with the on-screen keyboard.)

Scrivener isn't perfect. Its document compiler in particular is a turd.  You can make a lot of different formats with it, and most of them are almost right, but the control setup is horrific, poorly documented, and poorly supported. I've yet to make markdown or tex output work remotely correctly.  Also, its editor is a turd. Most editors allow you to create styles that are then remembered throughout the document. Thus, if you change a style, you change every instance of your use of that style. Not so with scrivener. You can create styles, alright, but they're not made part of the document(s) the way they should be. They're done as formatting on the fly. If you want to change something, you have to go back through every document and change it manually.

You can use external editors, but of course you can't have the system default to using one. It's little irritants like this that annoy me with my favorite tool.

The game has now changed.

Given the absence of Linux support, and the fact that Scrivener is in no way open source, the inevitable open source clone has popped up. It's called Manuskript.  I've just messed with it for a few minutes. It's... not horrible.  A little clunky in spots, yes. It's young yet.  I've not yet tried its document compiler, which for me makes or breaks it. I haven't looked to see if it fixes all, or indeed any of my annoyances with Scrivener, and it won't import/export Scrivener files that I've seen, but it exists. And it's free.

I'm not ready to switch... there's no real need. I have my writing needs taken care of with my mac and ipad for the time being. But I will certainly keep an eye on Manuskript. Geez, that and myHDL almost make me want to learn Python.

02/06/2017 03:35pm Book Review

Ten Gentle Opportunities Book Cover image

Ten Gentle Opportunities - Zero stars.

Full disclosure: Jeff is an old and dear friend, and I was there when he workshopped parts of this book back in 2011. Also, I read this book when it came out. Why I did not manage to review it then, I have no idea.
In any case, read this book. It's a riot. Jeff isn't known for his comic writing, but he's //good// at it. As others have pointed out, there are three worlds going on here: Stypek's world, where magic works, Brandon Romero's world, where it doesn't (more or less), and the Tooniverse, a strange, Second-Life like universe where AIs socialize when they're not working. The novel starts out as Stypek's story, as he rips off a high level mage by cheating at cards. He escapes through mayhem and magic (Jeff is //good// at mayhem)) into Brandon's world, where his skills as a magic hacker translate quickly into skills at computer hacking... but the focus of the story has changed.
Brandon is primarily concerned with getting a revolutionary copier assembly facility working. Instead of merely moving copiers across the floor in two dimensions during assembly, the new design uses all three dimensions of the assembly space by //throwing// assemblies through the air. If that sounds like a recipe for mayhem, rest assured. It is. Controlling this is Simple Simon, the AI, who is the main character in the Tooniverse.
The story is told in three separate worlds, until all three of those worlds collide, and all our main characters come together as an ensemble cast (some more literally than others) as Stypek's nemesis comes looking for him.

The thing is, Jeff pulls this complex story mechanism off because his characters are believable, even the AIs, who are //strange//. (Jeff is also good at aliens, especially AIs) You care about them, and most of them are likable, though some are gruff in spots. When the final showdown happens (much mayhem) it's not just exciting for mayhem's sake, it's nerve wracking because some of these characters could get grievously hurt or killed, or at least lose their jobs (which for the AIs is essentially the same thing.) All the characters have a role, all of them are in danger, and they all use their unique skills and natures to try to stay alive and protect their friends.

Well done.
For the TL:DR crowd, here's my review. Read it. It's good. Humor, science fiction, and fantasy.

-JRS

01/04/2017 01:52pm Blog Entry

Plants vs Zombies Heroes

It's a nicely done game, fun play once you get the hang of it (I've never played collector card games before,) but as is typical of Electronic Arts games, you reach a point where it's nearly impossible to win without giving in to the constant touting to buy cards for real money. The boss of the last free mission has cards that are simply unbeatable with the default decks.  When I played RPGs we called that twinking.

So to heck with them, and to heck with the entire PVZ family of games. What was once a fun, standalone game from a good company (PopCap) is now a disgusting money grub. Oh, and Heroes won't respect your IOS device's landscape mode either.  Garbage. Complete garbage.

-JRS

12/20/2016 07:47pm Blog Entry

Junk Box Arduino Software

It's been brought to my attention that the Apress link for the Junk Box Arduino software no longer includes the Cestino hardware package, which you need to upload to the Cestino once it's built. I've contacted Apress about this and we'll resolve it ASAP.

In the mean time, all the software mentioned in the book should be available here: https://github.com/jrstrick?tab=repositories

Sorry about that.

-JRS

-Followup-
Apress is on the case. We should have all the software in the official repository soon.

-Followup 2-
Apress's github repository now has all the software. Mine now has all the projects. Should one be a fork of the other? Probably, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet. I'm a git newbie.

-JRS

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