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

08/28/2015 03:31pm Blog Entry

Just a quick update.

As part of a current project I'm not at liberty to discuss in such a public forum (when it's released, getting me to shut up about it will be the challenge) I was forced to poke into the guts of the Arduino app, specifically version 1.6.5 and figure out how to add a tool to the tools menu.

Surprise. The existing sample code doesn't work. Not surprising. It hasn't been updated since 2008.

So began my crash course in Java, Processing (the framework in which the Arduino app is actually written), and Arduino itself, which is based on a very old version of the aforementioned Processing.

As a result, I've come up with a basic skeleton for building tools for the Arduino app, along with simple documentation for how to build and install those tools. I've also created my very first git repository. Woohoo! Go me. :) So here it is, ready for the perusal of the entire universe. https://github.com/jrstrick/arduino_tool_skeleton.git

 By the way, if my newfound loathing for Java hasn't come through in this post, let me make it clear. Java is an abomination of a language. The only one I've ever found that I liked less was Python. Java, at least, isn't whitespace-sensitive and broken between versions.

-JRS

07/10/2015 08:42pm Blog Entry

Tip: When the bag of frozen soup at the Asian market says "Cornish Game Hen Soup" they do not mean soup with shredded bits of Cornish game hen in it. They mean soup with a whole bird in it, minus head, feet, guts, and feathers.

Ordering a pizza.

07/10/2015 12:39pm Blog Entry

Learning Linux System Administration

Ye gods, I've neglected my blog. In my defense, there's a reason. Through a convoluted chain of events, I'm now doing technical writing as well as science fiction, cyberpunk and steampunk. Through another convoluted chain of events, my first technical work available to all y'all is a set of videos called Learning Linux System Administration, and it's available here: http://www.infiniteskills.com/training/learning-linux-administration.html

Yes, that's my voice in the videos. Yes, they listed me as Jim Strickland instead of James R. Strickland, for reasons only they know for sure. I'm good with that. I mean, it's O'Reilly Press. Seriously. Seriously stoked here.

So the questions I expect are:
"Are there more technical books in the works?" Yes, there are. Watch this space.

"Are you giving up on fiction?" No. I'm still working on releasing my existing novels, plus Brass and Steel: Inferno through self-publishing. I've seen the kinds of services tech presses give writers in exchange for the rights to books. For what most sci-fi presses give you, I can sell it myself and come out about even. I also have a second Brass and Steel novel in the early stages, and some other ideas bouncing around in my head as well, so in no way am I giving up on fiction.

Thanks for your patience.
-JRS

04/28/2015 12:58pm Blog Entry

Typesetting and Ebooks

Finished typesetting and ebook-ifying Brass and Steel: Inferno.

The more I deal with typesetting for physical books, and the more trouble I have finding decent ebook readers for that most open of platforms, Linux, the less respect I have for epub and its derivatives. How many readers simply ignore all or most of the work I put into an ebook and do it the way they want? How many of them have broken support? It's infuriating. I can create an attractive book in pdf format. I can create a readable one with nice touches in epub. I guess that will have to do.

Yes, I have become quite the fanboy of XeLaTeX. (except for the stupid capitalization convention of its name.)
-JRS

PS: Also learning to hate Scrivener. It makes organizing novels so much easier, but is so incredibly bad at producing output suitable for intake by other programs. Also, it barely works in Linux, and not at all on non-x86 linux platforms.

As I finish typesetting Irreconcilable Differences and tweaking the typeset of Looking Glass, I'm struck by a couple things that characterize my first two published novels:

First, I was a lot less clear on how hackers make a living than I am now. Sign of the times, certainly. I'm sure they knew, but in the early aughties, most hackers we on the outside encountered were the script kiddie variety. Nowadays, of course, they're professional gangsters or selling to professional gangsters, or various government agencies worldwide. In the development of Irreconcilable Differences, it's obvious I gave it more thought, since I had professional operators, military operators, and gangs on the outside.

The other thing is that it's very obvious I had no idea how hard having someone you know die is. I was awfully cavalier about it then.

When I return to writing cyberpunk (and I will) things will be different.
-JRS

03/22/2015 03:52pm Blog Entry

Nerd moment

I'm shifting my Raspberry Pi to use LVM for everything except the boot partition. I've duped /home and my music partition to LVs on a spare drive, and now I'm pvmoving my LVs back to a partition on the HD the pi usually uses. Listening to Wierd Al's White and Nerdy. No hiccups. Gotta love the Raspberry Pi 2, but the only way to make this moment nerdier is to be playing D&D at the same time. Heh.

(Pi doesn't have an initramfs by default, so it can't boot into LVs.  You can set one up, but they have a reputation for flakiness. IMHO it shouldn't need one given that the kernel and bootloader (such as it is) are on an SD card separate from /root, but I haven't figured out how to connect that all up yet. :)

-JRS

03/21/2015 02:31pm Blog Entry

Factoid of the day

Most people who were tarred and feathered, unless otherwise abused as well, survived. This seems impossible to us today. Tar, after all, melts above the boiling point of water. You'd be looking at second and third degree burns over most of the body, right?

02/20/2015 06:13pm Blog Entry

The Raspberry Pi Foundation set out to make a Raspberry Pi that is a viable desktop computer.
They succeeded.
The raspberry pi 2 /flies/.

-JRS

01/26/2015 05:32pm Blog Entry

Scrivener, Word, and Tracked Changes

So it's not a very closely guarded secret that I'm working on getting Looking Glass and Irreconcilable Differences back in print. (Soon. Soon.) My modern toolchain for these old books (for those keeping score) is: Nisus Writer -> RTF -> Scrivener -> Epub -> Jutoh -> Epub, Mobi, and Epub for ibooks. For the hardcopy, it's Nisus Writer -> RTF -> Scrivener -> RTF -> rtf2latex->Tex->XeLaTex -> PDF. This sounds like more work than it really is. I have the RTF manuscripts, the same ones the Flying Pen Press typeset was done from. I imported them both into Jutoh years ago when I stopped making ebooks by hand. I imported them into Scrivener for all the modern maintenance, mostly cleaning up weird typos that seemed to crop up.

Fast forward to a few days ago. While finishing up the ebook version of Looking Glass, I decided to go through it one more time with the Jutoh spell checker. (Jutoh's spell checker is awful. Slow, primitive, based on ispell or aspell (I forget which), and Jutoh likes to hide the cursor permanently when you've been spell checking a while. It also crashes occasionally.) And I turned up dozens of errors. Looking closely at them, some of them I /knew/ I changed back in the early days of 2007, when we were editing the book. Something was horribly wrong. Looking more closely, these were present in the PDF as well. Walking back through the toolchain, I discovered them in the Scrivener file. When I reimported the original manuscript into Scrivener, I got the same results, plus a lot of "typos" I'd chased through the ebook version over the years. 


My first thought was "Oh crap. Is the file corrupted? Is the import process broken? Is this somehow in the original manuscript?" So I went back to the original manuscript, last edited when I cleaned it up prior to hand-making the first ebook version. Some time in '08, I think, and opened it up in Nisus Writer, just like the old days. When I searched on one of the errors, up it popped - in tracked changes. Every one of those glitches was a change Scott or I had made with Word tracked changes. Every stinking one. About 400 of them in all. Those changes were invisible on the body of the text in Nisus, and in Word too. Somehow, during the import to Scrivener, they were being re-exposed. The book was, essentially, being un-edited.

I sat down to file a bug report. On a whim, because I know that Scrivener leans heavily on OS X's RTF libraries, I tried importing the file into textedit, Apple's default text and RTF editor in OS X. Same result. Same stinking result.

The upshot? OS X's RTF libraries do not do anything sane or intelligent when presented with tracked changes. They concatenate the original and the changed text, and send it on up the pipeline. I do not now recall how I did the original port to Jutoh, but I very much suspect, given the number of people who've complained about the typos in the ebooks over the years, that it used the same RTF library somewhere along the line.

The solution? Fairly straightforward. Open the original RTF up in Word, make a copy, and tell word to Accept All Changes, and save it to an RTF. When I reimported that RTF, it was clean. Nisus Writer doesn't seem to have that capability (or I couldn't find it.) It was fairly well hidden in Word.

So, moving forward, I remade both the ebook versions and the LaTeX typeset version yesterday and today. It gave me an opportunity to clean up some LaTeX code and some of the sloppiness in the way I'd set it up in Jutoh. And I finally solved the mystery of why my later ebooks were such a mess. If you're reading this, and you have one of those messed up ebooks, email me and I'll hook you up with the new version. Meantime... watch this space. I hope to have the thing for sale fairly soon.

-JRS



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