James R. Strickland, Author
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//rant on//
A few revisions ago, Apple nerfed the Disk Utility. It was a perfectly good, powerful utility that let you repair permissions (which, contrary to what they swore, they never got quite right), format drives in at least a few industry standards, and so on.

No longer.

Today, I discover that the tool is wholly incapable of putting a FAT32 format on an SD card. Seriously.

Apparently it's a bug, but we're not talking an official beta version of the OS here, nor are we talking public alpha testing (aka first released version - like 10.12.0) we're talking a mature, stable version of MacOS X.

Every year they piss me off a little more. I've looked at the iPhone X. No home button? Nope. Facial recognition? Fuck no. I wear a hat now and again. Sometimes with a hood if it's cold. Sometimes I need to shave. Sometimes I don't. (I predict the iPhone X will be Apples Galaxy Note 7 minus the explosions and fire.)

It's not just the phone, though. They keep pouring useless crap like Siri into the desktop OS, rearranging things for no good reason, and violating the fundamentals of UN*X operating systems: root access can do anything. I'm tired of jumping through added security hoops that don't do anything but get in my way (gatekeeper, looking at you here.) I'm tired of a computer that can't ever seem to share monitors correctly. The list goes on and on.

It's like they've forgotten how to be a computer company.  One day, my biggest reasons to use a mac (supporting family members with macs and writing for commercial presses that think Microsoft Word is //good//) will end, and if this mac is still around, it'll become a respectable Linux box like all the rest of my computers except my phone and my iPad. If there were a viable option for those, I'd consider it when my phone comes up for replacement. (No, Android is not viable. It's much, much worse. I've tried it. Apple is at least picky who it lets shaft you. Android pimps you to everyone who walks by.)

I don't know what the solution is, but I'm slowly losing patience with Apple. Tim Cook needs to go. His minion Johnny Ive, who is very talented but needs a firm hand to rope him in to practicality, also needs to either go or get that firm hand. (Upside the head a few times, while tempting, is probably excessive.)

Can't stand Windows for long term use (though 10 isn't //bad//.) Slowly but surely reaching the same point with OS X. Don't really want to go Linux completely – I did the alternative platform thing with BeOS. I //like// being able to buy commercial software. I don't know what the answer is, really. But something's gotta change.
//rant off//

04/19/2017 03:34pm Blog Entry

Scrivener Important Safety TIp

If you are running Scrivener in Wine under Linux, make sure to upgrade to wine 2.0 at least.  Yes, this means ripping out the old version Ubuntu gives you and going to winehq and installing their version. Yes, this means you'll have to create some menu items by hand.

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.


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. Make sure you're using at least wine2.0. Sure would be nice if Ubuntu would get with the program and keep Wine up to date. 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.


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.


 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.


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