Derek's Blog Page

Can a libertarian curmudgeon survive in a post 9/11 America? Is it possible to create the perfect meal on a Baby Q grill? Will Elaine finally succumb to her innermost desires? Check out my novels - which I am excerpting to separate blogs as I write them. Just click on my Profile button to access their links.

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Location: Citrus Heights, California


Near Space Press presents Net Assets



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fictionwise's lack of adequate customer support

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

In other words, Fictionwise has a dreadful time fixing ebook download problems. A few weeks ago I pre-ordered Secure Mobipocket versions of W.E.B. Griffin's "The Honor of Spies" and Nancy Holzner's "Deadtown" - the Griffin book cost me well over $24. And there they sat in my bookshelf, showing that they were not available until today, December 29th. No problem, I thought, I've waited for pre-orders to become available before.

So today, that would be December 29th, 2009, I went to download said ebooks, which I must point out, now showed as being available for download.

But when I clicked on them, I kept being redirected to a server database error page. This has happened since just after midnight this morning through to nine PM, my local time.

Further, an ebook I purchased on their website by Morgan Crewe, "Give Up the Ghost", which was also released today, does download - sort of. Actually, when downloaded, I discovered the real ebook was one by Jules Verne, something like "Godfrey (some last name) - A California Mystery". Oops!

So I've now sent three, count them, THREE emails to their support people. The automated acknowledgment system tells me they've been received, but NO action has taken place. As I've been emailing since around eight this morning, and theyr'e US, you'd think I would get *some* kind of help, but NOOOOoooo...

Fictionwise, your customer support sucks!

Friday, December 25, 2009

So, should you pirate music and e-books?

That is a tough question. Let's examine music. To do so, read the comic I've added to this post. Note that whichever course of action you take, you end up a criminal.

Why? Because music hardware producers want you to buy new hardware. That means they make sure the old stuff wears out or becomes out-of-date; this latter is accomplished by making the newer devices have upgraded features. And as letting you play all your previously-purchased music makes no buck for the music companies, they help out the process by coming up with new music formats - and get the manufacturers to remove support for the old ones. Oops! Now you have to decide to either stick with rapidly failing older devices or shell out once again for the same music you've already paid for.

The same thing is happening in the e-book industry.

What to do? What to do?

Of course, one *could* agitate for DRM-free music and ebooks. Naaaaawwww, what music or publisher would be that stupid?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Alan Kaufman's exposing himself in public again.

Yep. By enslaving yourself to the very police-state he insists he despises, you too can answer his siren call to social, economic, political and personal destruction.

What is his problem? Why he hates ebooks and ebook readers. (Oh he also hates ipods, iphones, xboxes, netbooks and just about every item that raises our standard of living; he's an equal-opportunity Luddite, our Alan Kaufman is.) So feel free to drop on by Evergreen Review and read his latest diatribe against technology.

His take is to claim that to use any of these devices - but especially those which replace paper books with electronic books - you and I are turning into nice, brainwashed children of Hitler. He should know, as he so often tells us, his grandmother suffered at their hands. (How what she went through in any way compares to individual people making individual choices in their personal lives is beyond me, but somehow, it is NOT beyond the febrile, an fevered, mind of Alan Kaufman.)

So click on this post's title and be swept up in Alan Kaufman's madness - if you dare.

Amazon Customer Support Hits Another Homer!

Once again, I've found a great deal on a broken-screen K2. This is the second one that still was under its one-year limited warranty. It arrived, having cost me $47.29, and I just got off the phone with Amazon Customer Service. Yep. I'm getting a replacement K2 FOR FREE!

Amazon, I love ya!

BTW, Bookeen just released their latest firmware updates for the Cybook Gen3. Version 1.5 adds folder support as well as a working Delete key and better support for PDF and HTML to their Mobipocket ebook capability. Version 2.0 replaces the Mobipocket ebook support with ePub as well as all the other features AND adds in support for FBReader's FB2 ebook format. Early reports are that you can flash to v1.5, then switch over to v2.0, then switch back to v1.5. Of course, you have to save the firmware updates because you have to re-flash for each switch.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

If you read only ONE ebook-publication article...

Read the one linked into the title of this post. In it, Paul Carr, author of "Bring Nothing to the Party", relates why he's making the book available online, for free.

Just to make things clear, he has a publisher, Hatchette Livre, but they own the paper rights and only the non-USA ebook rights. He wanted to publish his book as an ebook in the US, but he didn't want the US version laden with crippling (and sales-killing) DRM. HL refused. So his agent explained why he should just make it freely available for download. I recommend this book and I recommend you download a copy from his TechCrunch post.

How do I change my Vista administrator password?

I mean, really? When I upgraded my Gateway Core2Quad from Win XP to Vista, I remember choosing an administrator password and a user password, but I CANNOT find the paper containing the admin password and I want to change it.

Does anyone have a clue?

In the meantime, I've noticed that some people are writing 'romance' stories which are reputed to be 'science fiction'. Yeah. Right. Take "Miss Congeniality", take out the funnyness, add in a depth of mean-spiritedness and aliens which are different only that the men are seven feet tall and change from bright green to dark green when stressed - and despite having tons of 'control' they seem to change every 20-50 pages - and you have the latest offering from Candace Sams. Never mind that it reads like every other cardboard-cutout, female-readership, heavy-breather, what with the inability of the male (of course, this book does target women) contestants to keep their thong swimsuits on and the insistence that the other planets call themselves things like 'Oceanus' - (Hunh?!? Wouldn't they have a name in their OWN language?) the very idea of an Earth Protectorate and the idea that a male beauty pageant would be a good place to strike terror in the hearts of the universe (or even galaxy) is patently ridiculous.

So don't go looking for it. Don't buy the book. Don't encourage such drivel!

Friday, December 18, 2009

I am continually amazed with the Sigma 135-400mm

Here's a shot of one of our neighborhood hummingbirds I took, hand-held, no tripod or monopod, no flash at ISO 400, as it was feeding on the feeder outside my window. A bit of sharpening to take out the softness of shooting through two panes of glass and a skosh of saturation to 'pop' the colors enough to suit me and then cropped down to wallpaper size.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sigh. Tiger, Tiger, Tiger

It appears that Elin has left Tiger. Now this does not need be permanent, but he is going to have to decide whether he wants a wife and family or a stable of mistresses; they are mutually exclusive.

Now I've heard rumors on the radio that one of the latest to claim "I did Tiger" wants money to not plaster her story - and maybe pictures - all over the press and net. What a mess.

But one thing confuses me is his plan to withdraw from golf. Why? It is not his golf that got him into trouble. No, that rests squarely on his ego and his wee willy. And if it takes more than a week to decide to get his ego and libido under control, he never will. I believe that golf will 'save' him, but nly if he rededicates himself to the game and not the 'perks'.

Tiger, here's a hint. Women are attracted to men who:

A: Look good.
B: Have a nice personality.
C: Are famous. Duh!
D: Are rich. Double-Duh!
E: Travel for work. (Mystery and convenience)
F: Hang out in bars near closing time.

You have to decide, up front, that you will not repond to any come-ons. It isn't that hard.

So the best thing to do is rent "Tin Cup" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance", get mildly druk while watching them, go to bed - ALONE - and get a good night's sleep. In the morning, if the rumors of someone wanting money to keep it out of the media, get preemptive. Publish a list of everyone you can remember, with apologies to those you forgot and an acknowledgement they can choose to notify you they want to be listed. Then you schedule a press conference explaining what you've done and why. You finish with a quote from Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, "Publish, and be damned!"

Merry (upcoming) Christmas and Happy New Year!

Took the time to create our family Christmas Greeting Card/Desktop Wallpaper. Notice the snow in the front yard? Yep. We actually got SNOW this year in Citrus Heights, California. This is an *unusual* event as we're at the same latitude as San Francisco/Sacramento and we're only at about 200 feet above sea level. Hear that you Global Warming freaks!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Earth n Moon in 3D

I've got a work in progress I'm using to explore Photoshop CS4's 3D features. It's a 1350 x 1350 pixel jpeg, but my 'work' image measures a whopping 5,400 x 5,400 pixels! Wow!

"Men of a Certain Age"

Okay, I TRIED to watch this Monday night. I mean, c'mon Andre Braugher, Scott Bakula, it was a no-brainer, yes? No.

See, they chose Ray Romano as the third wheel (Ahem! "Character") for this can't-make-up-its-mind-if-it's-a-drama-or-a-comedy. BIG mistake! Andre? Scott? Solid, quality actors with a proven track record for KNOWING HOW TO ACT! Romano? Yeaaaahhhh... Ray Romano knows one thing well, how to be Ray Romano. In any role I've seen him play, he plays himself playing a character who just 'happens' to be channeling - wait for it - you guessed it, 'Ray Romano'.

Now, if Ray Romano had even *one* ounce of funnyness or acting ability, that wouldn't necessarily be a 'bad thing'. Unfortunately, Romano was struck repeatedly at birth by both the Wand of No Humor and the Quarterstaff of No Talent. Really. Someone should have gotten the license plates on the truck that struck him 'cause, based upon his 'acting', it was a serious felony.

So I managed to tune in for a whole five and one-half minutes - the first five and one-half minutes. From just that one brief exposure I was engulfed in an overwhelming desire to (take your pick as to what is more revolting and tragic):

A) Convert to radical Islam and re-stage 9/11.
B) Nuke the last remaining pods of Right Whales.
C) Suicide by starting a black hole in the Large Hadron Collider.

Yes, Romano was *that* bad. Come to think of it, it was Patricia Heaton and the gang that carried Romano during 'his' comedy. Just like Julie Louise Dreyfus, Michael Richards and the gang carried Jerry Seinfeld.

Why is it that we are forced to endure knowing there is a show so geared towards a living, breathing EGO which has no talent? Why cannot each and every TV executive involved in the creation of "Men of a Certain Age" and "Seinfeld" be terminated for cause, and then blackballed, so that they have to re-start as dishwashers at their local fast-food joints?

Oh well, at least there's "Castle".

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yet Another Hummingbird Photo

What can I say? The new feeder has really attracted two hummers in our neighborhood. This one I like best because his feet aren't hidden by the feeder.

I got a new CPaP machine!

And boy is it a wonderful one! It's a ResMed and it's about half the weight of my older Respironics REMStar Plus.

I gotta say, it is a weight off my mind to know that Medicare now *officially* knows I have Sleep Apnea. It was SA, morbid obesity and complications of same that put me onto SS Disability, but because I needed the CPaP so badly, I paid for the sleep study and the original machine out of the initial payment from SS instead of waiting yet another year for Medicare to kick in. *BIG MISTAKE*! Medicare wouldn't take the initial results as part of my 'history' so I had to wait five years for the right to get a study done.

The REMStar worked great for the past seven years, but it was time to get a new one. Thankfully, my pressure readings hadn't increased - I tend to fall to a 70% oxygen level when I sleep without my CPaP. Not good!

What is personal responsibility?

I was listening to the national news tonight and they were talking about the climber who was found, yesterday I think, on Oregon's Mt. Hood, and his two friends who still haven't been found. Now for those of you living South of the Equator, Mt. Hood is deep into cold, snowy, winter. It is NOT a good time to climb unless you take a lot of precautions and winter survival gear.

Guess what? These climbers did NOT take one of the most basic survival tools available in the area, a radio beacon locator capable of showing rescuers where they are stranded! It's now very cold, very stormy and things are looking bleak for the missing climbers. What has me agog is the statement made by the family of one of the still-missing, she said they were 'experienced' and 'quite responsible' climbers. Yeah? Then why did NONE of them have an RLB? Folks, the various rescue teams have even called in military helicopters to help try to locate them before the weather closes completely in - and they're still not located!

No doubt, once their frozen corpses are found, the news media will be awash with paens to them and oceans of tears wailing "Why did this tragedy happen?" I'll tell you why, because these thrill-seekers couldn't be bothered to make the most basic efforts to ensure they could be rescued if things went bad. These climbers bear FULL responsibility for their possible deaths and, if they DO happen to be found alive, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

If you want to engage in extreme sports, fine. But you better carry insurance to cover rescue costs and you better have proper survival and/or rescue equipment on hand. I understand that some activities don't have personal locator/rescue equipment to aid rescue workers, but for those that do, it SHOULD be a crime to not have them with you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Amazon's Clearspace and DTM.

Okay, so you want to get published. Great! Write the book and send it off to the publishers! Then wait...

Eventually, you'll get a rejection letter from the first publishing house, but you've been told that it's a numbers game at this point in the process, so you submit it to another. Then wait some more...

After about 20 submission/rejection cycles, presuming you've read between the lines of the rejection letters and cleaned up any grammar, syntax and storytelling errors, you probably have a decent mid-list story that NO ONE appears to find worthy of publishing. (Which is absurd given the sheer volume of fiction works released in the US each year. No, for simplicity's sake, we won't bother about outside-US novels.) That number ranges into the thousands.

Even with so many books being released, there is no guarantee that YOURS will see the shelves.

Best to go back to the day job.

Or maybe not! Have you, by any chance, heard of a small firm called 'Amazon'? I bet you have. You probably are a regular customer of theirs. You *may* even be one of their 'Amazon Associates' and have earned an occasional dollar or two from the sales of a book through a button on your website or blog.

Did you know that they don't just *sell* books, they also publish paper (print on demand) and electronic (Kindle, of course) books? That's right, they *want* your business! Through ClearSpace (their in-house P-O-D branch) and Digital Text Management (DTM handles the publishing of Kindle ebooks), you can submit your beloved manuscript and let them handle the marketing and publishing! Sure, ClearSpace will cost you a bit ($299 for their most basic, they-supply-the-ISBN, they-choose-a-simple-layout version, $799 for the cheapest, your-ISBN, your-cover-art, you get a choice of layouts version) up front, but the rest is cost-to-you free! And if you go with the DTM Kindle method first, you may well earn enough to cover the ClearSpace costs with no money out of your bank account.

So, if you have a novel drooling to be published, one that *has* gone through NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) to get the kinks, errors and plot voids out, consider going through ClearSpace.

Ahem! And if you want to have someone else handle those decisions, I'll be glad to be your literary-agent-of-record for a mere 10% of the net that Amazon pays you.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Carl Bussjaeger's "Net Assets"

If you haven't read his libertarian novel, "Net Assets", you should. The PDF version is available - for free - from the website linked to the title of this post.

It is a story of a young man who leaves home to make his own way in the world and finds himself working to help launch the first commercial single-stage-to-orbit, reusable space vehicle. Along the way, he and the people he works with, discover just how far the US government will go to prevent independent commercialization of space.

This is a rollicking read (Gawd. I never thought I'd ever use that word, but it so fits.) and while it espouses libertarian philosophy, it does so in small doses without coming across as 'preachy'. If you like near-future, near-space SF that doesn't feature cardboard alien invasions, this is the story for you!