Project Ditch Smashwords Distribution and Fatten My Bank Account: Completed!


Like a lot of authors, I uploaded my self-published ebook to Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords a long time ago. The benefit of Smashwords is not the direct sales they make (which are pitiful) but that they distribute to many other book vendors who, generally speaking, sell only marginally better than Smashwords itself: Kobo, Flipkart(?), Sony, Oyster(?)… actually, you can tell that I haven’t visited my Smashwords Dashboard in a while because some of these I haven’t even heard of before. Yeah, they pay quarterly instead of monthly, and yeah, their “meatgrinder” requirements are tedious and annoying, but once the hoops are properly jumped through, they do what they’re supposed to do.

They also upload to Apple’s iBooks.

However, I recently pulled my books from iBooks distribution and created an iTunes Connect account. You have to be vetted by Apple and of course you can’t sell your book by simply uploading a file and filling in some data. Apple makes you download a special program to enter all the metadata, select the proper files, then upload in one go.

Why go to all this trouble? For this:

Mac Discount

This year, we might be forced to buy two iMacs (low end ones, but still) to replace my rapidly-aging current equipment and I’m hoping we’ll qualify for the 20% discount for both.

Anyway, we obviously haven’t ditched Smashwords completely. It turns out that Flipkart is an ebook seller in India, which is nice since I refuse to let Amazon take a 65% commission or force my book into their Select program to sell there. Oyster turns out to be a subscription-based book service like Netflix or Spotify: users pay $X a month and read as many listed books as they like. I get my money if they read 10% of my book. (So hey, Oyster-users, why not slowly page through my ebook while you’re watching TV or something. My bank account will be grateful.) I’m pleased to be distributed to both services plus Kobo, plus Sony, plus whatever.

But I do my work on Apple computers and the savings I will get this Giftmas was worth a little extra fussing with the distribution of my books.

Computer Woes


My Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday evening and I have the cover to prepare for the new paper POD edition of Twenty Palaces and I have chapters to revise and a kid to feed and an apartment to clean and and and and. But what did I spend most of the day doing?

Wrestling with a malfunctioning computer.

It turns out that my local backups are all futzed. The online backup is fine, presumably, the family photos are safely stored on a hard drive and all my writing is backed up elsewhere. HOWEVER! I can not get Time Machine to work on my desktop, even with the perfectly functional new Time Capsule I just bought.

What’s more, the two laptops work just fine. It’s only the desktop that refuses to back up then tells me that I may need to run Disk Utility on the backup drive.

Running Disk Utility on my desktop finds all sorts of permission errors related to the FRAMEWORKS and a few other things which are currently disabled, like Remote Management.

It looks like I’m going to have to export my emails, bookmarks, and GIMP files to an external HD, partition my iMac, the reinstall the OS.

Which I totally have time for. Obviously.

I hate this shit.

Information extinction at the speed of internet (rantish)


Over the weekend I had a bit of a nasty surprise: I couldn’t download the most recent version of Turbo Tax because it requires OS X 10.6 or later. I still run 10.5.

If you’ll forgive me for saying so, this is bullshit. My computer is only five years old. There’s no reason for it to be considered obsolete and I shouldn’t have to order and install a new operating system just to do my taxes. (Note: please don’t suggest alternate programs I could use.) And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Some time ago, my wife told me that she was incredibly proud that my books were going to be in the Library of Congress, because that meant they would last a long long time. In response, I said something to the effect of they’re on the internet, too, I think, and that should last even longer. Unfortunately, I no longer believe that to be true.

How many old filetypes are impossible to read now? How many types of physical media are worthless because no one has the disk drives to read them? Much of my early writing was done on a Brother WP75 and saved on 3.5 inch diskettes. Here’s a pic:


I dug it out because I came this close to donating it to charity. That machine was the bridge between a typewriter and an actual computer (my first real computer came from Gateway in 1994 and I had it so long that there was literally duck tape over parts of the case).

See the diskettes on there? Once the Brother stops working or I give it away, they become unreadable to me. Maybe I could find someone to take the files off and convert them, but that would be an iffy thing, and probably not cheap. (Luckily, it’s just early work and not important.) In all seriousness, the best kind of archive I could have of these would be in paper.

Note also John Scalzi’s recent post about his newest computer acquisition: no DVD drive. He doesn’t miss it because he doesn’t use DVDs, but I still do. I use them all the time, to watch movies, to play games, and to share large files

Speaking of large files, I copied hours and hours of home movies from a box full of mini-DV tapes onto a hard drive, and now that hard drive is being backed up to an online service. There’s so much data to save that I started the backup on January 3rd and, as of today, it’s only about 55% done. This shit is going to be going on until summer time, I kid you not.

And yet, when I’m an old man, will I be able to watch these videos? Will I be able to find a program that recognizes and mp4 or .dv? Worse, will I be able to buy a special adapter that will allow the external hard drive (with its ancient USB connector) to connect to whatever system is in vogue at the moment?

Will my son? I don’t doubt that he’ll have the storage space to keep them–in all likelihood, he’ll have a ring on his finger that he can download all 600+GB of data with room to spare. But will he be able to actually look at them, or show them to his own kids so they can see what we were like? Will he be able to read my old manuscripts?

It pisses me off. There’s such a rush to always have the New! and the Shiny! that things become obsolete even while they continue to function. Yes, I know it’s a way to sell things. Yes, I know companies are hunting for every bit of loose change rattling around in tech-happy early adopters’ back account. But they aren’t the only customers out there.

I’m a customer, too. I don’t want new and shiny. I want practical and long-lasting. I want this shit to make sense. Don’t phase out old media just because there’s a new supposedly-but-maybe-not-better way to do it (don’t even talk to me about “the cloud”). Don’t change operating systems so often that perfectly good computers can’t even run basic software (or watch embedded YouTube videos, or play silly games, or whatever).

Backwards compatibility, people. I want it, and I’m not the only one.

I share my rage with you


Four years and ten months ago, my laptop died. I don’t even remember what brand it was, but I went out to the Apple store and picked up their cheapest laptop.

I’m still using it almost five years later, but the internet has become nearly impossible. All sorts of web pages make Safari seize up. Facebook, G+, The Daily Beast… the list is endless. My browser picks up the spinning beach ball with only very few tabs open.

Twitter is trying to discourage third-party app makers, but I can’t type out a single tweet without stopping for the spinning beach ball. My own fucking website slows things down interminably, mainly because it tries to contact Twitter et al.

It’s frustrating and a waste of time. Most of my laptop browsing is book-related research, but this old software is just excruciating. The browser crashes too much, freezes too much, and wastes way too much of my time.

And I can’t afford new right now.

Puncturing the rainbow beach ball


Thank you, everyone, for the advice I received on my LiveJournal. I really, really don’t want it to be an impending hard drive failure, but I’ve already had the laptop for over four years. At this point I’m pretty much playing with the casino’s money.

Still, I downloaded OnyX from the developer’s site, and ran it. It checked the S.M.A.R.T. whatever and assures me that the hard drive is not about to fail (which I take with a grain of salt). It also repaired permissions and changed a bunch of things that Disk Utility completely ignored.

Anyway, things seem to be working pretty well, alluvasudden (knock on my wooden head), and I’m hopeful that the casino will keep fronting me chips for a while. In the meantime, stuff’s backed up and I have a crapton of work to do.

Thanks again. I’m really grateful.

I hate that rainbow beach ball


Things have been so busy at my end that I barely have time to be online at this point. I answer some emails–usually days after I should–and post silly tweets once in a while. Sorry, folks. I have interesting things planned for March.

In any event, I’m quite concerned about my laptop. It’s a MacBook I bought in 2007 (bottom of the line, frankly) and it’s the machine I use for all of my writing.

Sadly, it’s not running very well. I get the Spinning Beach Ball of Death every day, and my programs (Safari, Thunderbird, iPhoto, YoruFukurou, Scrivener) become non-responsive for frustratingly long times. Often I’ll type a word and sit back while each. Letter. Slowly. Appears.

I just deleted the contents of my OS trash, some 13+GB, because my hard drive was nearly full (now it’s down to 57GB). Writey runs 10.5.8 and has been really great so far but as the day goes on the performance become worse and worse. I don’t want to have to replace it.

Does anyone have any suggestions for fixing this sort of thing?

I’m turning on comments on my main blog (for those of you reading this at a mirror site) to see whether my spam issue has abated. I’m heading off to do some work and I’ll check back later. Thanks for any help you can offer.



So, I had no wireless on my laptop and that was frustrating. To test if it was a software or hardware problem, I reinstalled the OS, set up a new user and found that the problem was still there. If a fresh install of the software didn’t fix it, it must be hardware.

So I rode the bus across town yesterday to The Mac Store because they had a usb wireless adapter for sale. As the sales guy talked to the repair guy about the device, the repair guy suggested I pay to have it fixed instead.

“I can’t afford it,” I told him.

He shrugged and took the adapter off the wall. I asked if I could try it out right here in the store. He shrugged again and we started opening the package (which had been opened once before).

The install disc doesn’t do much in the way of installing, and the repair guy starts fussing with it. You know that feeling when someone else is typing on your computer and you want to push their hands away and do it all the right way? I fight that urge.

While I’m looking at the contents of the adapter package, the repair guy does something to my computer that completely fixes the wireless. As in, it was software all along and he’s thoroughly solved the problem. I make him explain it to me, showing me that he went into System Preferences and created a new “location” which easily connected to the web.

And he did it in the ten seconds that I was looking at a page of the user manual. He also didn’t charge me.

The Mac Store on 45th in the U District. They are awesome.

Today I will be rousing myself from this morning’s (somewhat unproductive) writing session and I’ll head downtown to buy an anniversary gift, after a very long walk to buy some stuff we need. It’s a school holiday, so my son has a chance to hang out with a buddy across town all day. Once I’m done, I’ll head home and do some more writing from there.

Well, this is craptastic


My MacBook will no longer connect to the internet through airport. There’s no wifi ability at all.

Worse, it’s out of warranty by at least a year.

It would be nice if this were easily fixable, but I sorta doubt it. I’ll give it the old college try tonight (although I’m not sure how). After that I have to decide if I should just carry an ethernet cable with me to the library to enable my Dropbox backup, or Pikachu help me, buy another.

It’s really the wrong time for my sturdy little laptop to not be so sturdy.

I feel dumb posting about my own life…


When things are so awful in Japan. There’s not much I have to say on the subject, since I’ve had Mac Freedom on most of the day and have missed much of the news. Still, if you want to do something to help, check this out.


Is anyone even remotely surprised that James O’Keefe’s gotcha video that caused the firing of an NPR fundraiser and the forced resignation of their CEO was in fact dishonestly edited to be a hit piece? No? Of course not. That’s what this guy does.

Credit where it’s due: it was Glenn Beck’s people who did the investigating. Good work, folks.


Finally, personal stuff. Guess who just failed her saving throw against The Shiny? My wife. We bought an iPad for her yesterday.

Most of the people reading this won’t know her and won’t know how honestly astounding this is. She has no patience or interest in online digital culture (beyond a few basic things like TED Talks and emails from friends). She doesn’t like the way computers operate–she’s always asking where is this and where is that, how do you…Nothing is ever straightforward enough for her.

Also, she’s severely dyslexic and dysgraphic–reading is a slow process and writing legibly can be very stressful. This means that, except for a couple areas of personal expertise, she has a way of talking around the things she wants done and can be vague at times, relying on the listener to interpret what she wants. Computers don’t do that, of course. You can’t tell it to put the thing away and you can’t mix up one word for another. You have to accommodate it, not the other way around. And her eyesight, never very good (like you’re surprised?), is getting worse.

But she liked the iPad. It’s portable for in the home, the fonts can be set quite large and the screen can be made white text on black. Also, it turns out the ereader features were less interesting to her than the idea that she could take all of her addresses and phone numbers off the random scraps of paper they’re on and save them for herself.

What’s more, some of the apps are tempting as hell. I’m buying Sketchbook Pro for her soon and Animation Creator HD, too. The hard thing will be to keep the boy from loading it up with games he wants to play. He’s already pressing me to buy Fruit Ninjas or whatever that is (and I confess that I spent much of the time in the store playing Angry Birds and Cut The Rope).

Anyway, this will give me a reason to use iTunes now, which I’ve been avoiding like crazy, since the iPad has no file structure. We’ll see how it goes.