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User Journal

Journal: Triplanetary 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've uploaded a new book to mcgrewbooks.com. Edgar E. Smith was a well known science fiction writer known as "the father of space opera", and Doctor Smith was a food engineer in his other life. The novel I've uploaded is Triplanetary, first published in serial form in Amazing Stories in 1934.

Some of the dialogue is a bit juvenile, but it would make a great movie.

User Journal

Journal: An Accidental Book 1

Journal by mcgrew

I've read books accidentally, meaning to read a single chapter and winding up reading it in one setting, but I've never started writing one accidentally.

Until now.

Tired of editing Random Scribblings and Voyage to Earth and Other Stories (Formerly titled "Mars Bars"), I thought I'd look for another science fiction novel in the public domain a little less ancient than The Time Machine to add to my web site.

I didn't find one, so decided to just make a book of public domain short stories by the 20th century greats. I found a LOT, and started assembling a book. Somehow, I wound up adding commentary and thought "Hey! New book!"

Then I discovered that one of the short stories wasn't so short -- in fact, it was a full blown novel. So for the last several days I've been formatting it to put on my web site. E.E. "Doc" Smith's Triplanetary will be posted in a few days.

I'll let you know when it's there. I guess I'm working on three books again. The collection I'm working on is tentatively titled "Yesterday's Tomorrow".

User Journal

Journal: Is Microsoft Sirius? 1

Journal by mcgrew

I had to laugh when I ran across this article.

"Cortana's UI now expresses 18 different emotions. Siri remains detached and aloof."

Yes, Microsoft is apparently the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation with its " Genuine People Personalities". So when are they going to make that "Marvin" interface?

User Journal

Journal: Catch 22 6

Journal by stoolpigeon

I got a thing from the IRS and they want me to fill out an on-line form.

To successfully complete the form I have to enter my filing address and it has to match my return. The form fields don't allow me to correctly enter the address.

So the address has to match for the form to validate, but the form wont allow me to enter the address correctly. It's beautiful. There's an email address to send information about the process and it says below the address that you can send an email but they wont respond. Super.

So I go to the page with a phone number to call. It says "You can call between 7 am and 7 pm your local time." I'd wager not.

I've never had a problem with the IRS or filing until this year. Something has put me onto some list with them, which they wont tell me about other than in a general way and now everything is exponentially more difficult. Fantastic.

User Journal

Journal: Amnesia 4

Journal by mcgrew

If slashdot still hasn't fixed the "fine in preview, fucked in submit" bug, there's a readable version here.

Amnesia
        He awoke wondering where he was... on a medic. Why was... oh, hell, why was he being held down? And then the big question hit him â" Who am I?
        And who, besides the medic itself, which was only a robot, had imprisoned him? And why?
        There was a tube leading into his arm... was he in a hospital? It smelled like a hospital.
        The medic beeped, and said âoecondition improved, now stable.â
        He must have had some kind of accident, but he couldnâ(TM)t remember his own name, let alone how he wound up in a hospital.
        âoeComputer!â he said, hoping the hospital computer could shed some light. It was apparently not paying attention, because it ignored him. He lay there strapped to the robotic table for what seemed like forever when the medic again beeped and spoke. âoeCondition improved, now fair.â
        âoeComputer!â
        No answer.
        Damn. âoeMedic!â
        No answer.
        Another eternity passed, and the medic reported âoeCondition good, patient released.â The straps came loose and he sat up on the medic, waiting for a nurse or doctor that never showed up. Didnâ(TM)t someone have paperwork when a patient was released?
        He decided to look around the hospital to find someone and tell them that he shouldnâ(TM)t have been released, that he had no memory. He used the rest room and went searching for help.
        This, he thought, was the strangest thing... this hospital seemed to have no doctors, no nurses, no administrative staff, nobody. Not even any patients. He walked down hall after hall, and found nothing but locked doors and more hallways.
        He started to panic, and muscle memory reached his hand into his pocket for a phone. There was none there.
        That panicked him. Why didnâ(TM)t he think of it before? It could have told him at least who he was, if not where he was and why.
        He started running, down first one hallway then another, until he collapsed in exhaustion and anguish. He sat there in the hallway, head in his hands, sobbing softly.
        Quite a while later he finally came to his senses, sort of. He got up and decided to just walk around, looking for... anything, really, but especially people. Where was everyone? It would be nice if he could find a sandwich, too; he was starting to get a little hungry. That added to his already numerous worries.
        He found no exits, no unlocked doors, no people, no sandwiches. It was hard enough to keep his fear below panic levels, but then what was obviously some sort of alarm went off. Was the building on fire? He stopped, with no idea what to do.
        He looked up â" werenâ(TM)t there skylights showing stars earlier? But his memory was impaired, after all, not able to remember his name or anything before waking up on the medic.
        He heard the first sounds that didnâ(TM)t come from robots that heâ(TM)d heard since awakening, and it scared him even more â" the sound of hail. Perhaps there were skylights, but were now shuttered.
        At this point he was aware that the alarm was almost certainly a tornado warning, and he couldnâ(TM)t find the stairway! Maybe this building didnâ(TM)t even have a basement, but who in their right mind would build a structure in a tornado zone without one? But without a stairwell, it might as well not have a basement. He huddled in a doorway waiting for the tornado to destroy him and the building.
        The sounds of hail stopped, the siren stopped, and yes, there were skylights; the shutters opened then, showing stars once again. Odd that the storm had started and ended so fast. The shutters must have closed before the clouds rolled in.
        He started to continue his fruitless search.
        A robot wheeled past, and he had an idea. The robot would certainly lead him to something.
        It did. Down a hallway heâ(TM)d not yet explored and probably had run past more than once in his earlier panic was a large door that stood wide open, the automatic pocket doors recessed. Inside was a huge room filled with tables and chairs, but still no sign of humanity at all. The robot heâ(TM)d followed dragged another robot away. Puzzling.
        At least he had somewhere to sit besides the floor. He sat down at one of the many tables to rest, thinking heâ(TM)d have to figure out how to find his way back before continuing his search.
        He just couldnâ(TM)t stop wondering what the hell was going on. Was he being studied in some sort of weird experiment? Was he a prisoner by design, or by accident? Was he a criminal? Did he have a family?
        Without even thinking he started praying out loud, âoeOh, Lord, please help me...â
        A mechanical voice chimed in. âoeCan I help you, sir?â
        He looked up at the robot. âoeYes,â he said, âoehow can I get out of this building?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that is not in my database. Can I get you something to drink?â
        âoeYes, cold water, but first, where am I?â
        âoeThis is the commons area, sir. Would you like a menu?â Without waiting for an answer, the video screen displayed a menu.
        âoeYes, Iâ(TM)ll have a cheeseburger, brogs, and a caffeine shike.â
        âoeYes, sir,â it said, and started to roll away.
        âoeWait!â the man said. âoeWhat is this the commons of?â
        âoeThat information is not in my database.â
        âoeCan you tell me what this building is?â
        âoeIâ(TM)m sorry, sir, but that information is not in my database. Is there anything else, sir, or should I fetch your order?â
        âoeNo, go on.â It rolled off. He put his elbow on the table and rested his head in his hand.
        The robot came back shortly with his water and shike and rolled away again.
        âoeWhat the hell is going on?â he wondered aloud, again.
        The robot came back in with his food and wheeled away. He ate, still not able to figure out how to examine his prison and still find his way back to this âoecommonsâ. At least he had food and drink now, which relieved him greatly and made exploration of this building far less, yet still, important.
        Then he thought: A commons. A common area. People should show up here, perhaps he should just wait for someone to show up?
        Several hours later and the skylight still showed stars. Was he in Antarctica? Or was he... Yes, that explained everything. He was on a space ship, but why? Where was it going? Where was the captain?
        Was he the captain? Or... a horrifying thought came to him. Was he a pirate who had killed the captain and thrown the body out the airlock?
        His thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of humanity â" boots walking down the hallway, and cautious whispering voices.
        He looked around the doorway and saw ten heavily armed, armored, and helmeted men.
        âoeOh shit,â he thought. He was captain, but didnâ(TM)t even recognize his own boat, let alone how to run it, and now there were pirates who would surely murder him and steal the ship and whatever cargo it was carrying. He cowered in a corner, wishing for something to defend himself with.
        They came in, weapons drawn, with the men in the back facing the other way and backing in. The man in front lowered his weapon and raised his face shield. âoeJerry? Christ, man, what the hell is going on?â
        âoeMy name is Jerry? Are you sure? I donâ(TM)t know who I am!â
        âoeJesus, Jerry, Iâ(TM)ve known you for years, youâ(TM)re Jerry Smith. I was scared shitless for you, what the hell happened? Did you get attacked by pirates?â
        âoeI... I donâ(TM)t think so. Iâ(TM)d be dead if they had. The first thing I remember is waking up on a medic wondering who I was and where I was and why I was on a medic. I wandered around for hours, I donâ(TM)t think anybody else is here.â
        âoeOkay, Joe, check the pilot room. Rob, would you do an engine inspection?â
        âoeSure thing, boss.â
        âoeJerry, where are your phone and tablet?â
        He shook his head. âoeNo idea, but I was sure wishing I had them.â
        They took Jerry to Earth with them while another man piloted Jerryâ(TM)s ship there.
        He did eventually get his memory back after a lot of therapy. His phone had been in his captainâ(TM)s quarters, and he had been doing inspection in machine storage when a can of something that had been improperly stacked by a malfunctioning robot had fallen, hitting him in the head and knocking him cold. A medic had taken him to sick bay, leaving the tablet laying on the floor, effectively locking him out of everything. Clearly, some policies, at least, would have to be changed.
        Jerry never captained another ship. In fact, he spent the rest of his life on Earth and never entered space again.

User Journal

Journal: Youtube Video Editor 2

Journal by stoolpigeon

The video editor built into youtube is surprisingly decent. It lets you cut videos up, add transitions, add photos, add text, put in music, all kinds of stuff.
 
With it running on their side I was able to edit up a bunch of separate videos, and then leave them processing while I did other stuff. It made it possible to do a lot of videos in parallel and not have my machine bogged down with it. Not bad.
 
It's not the greatest but for simple stuff that you just want to get up - it is pretty awesome. And it's really easy to get authenticated (or authorized or whatever) to load longer content than the default. I've been putting up stuff that is over an hour long without any problems.

User Journal

Journal: Tesco Home Delivery 5

Journal by stoolpigeon

We did our first home delivery from Tesco yesterday. My wife ordered on-line and they brought our stuff inside the window we were given for the delivery. The fee for delivery was 299 HUF which is about $1.10 right now.
 
It was a pretty awesome deal. The guy brought everything right in. There was a slight mix up - but that's because when people use GPS to come to our house it always takes them to my neighbor a little down the street. I don't know how it works in other parts of Europe, but in Hungary they seem to change the numbering of streets at a higher frequency than the U.S. So my house number is 6 but that use to be my neighbor Zsolt's house number and a lot of systems still think it is.
 
So the guy called me and after a moment or two of me fumbling around for the right Hungarian words, I realized he was 'here' and went outside to bring him in. A few minutes later we'd checked everything over, paid and we were all set. With gas going for around 400 HUF a liter, I doubt we could drive to the store and get it for less than we paid to have it delivered. On top of that the whole thing took maybe 10 minutes at most. If I go get it all myself I'm gone for over an hour. So we'll be using it again.

User Journal

Journal: Lollipop on 2012 Nexus 7 Wi-fi 4

Journal by stoolpigeon

I got a message that the OTA update to Lollipop was available for my Nexus 7 so I installed it.

It made the tablet unusable. Performance was atrocious, battery life could dropped to a couple hours. It couldn't play music. Doing anything took so long (if it worked at all) that it was really not worth it.

I googled around. One suggestion was to clear the cache. I tried to do that but when I tried to boot into recovery that always failed with an error about "No command found."

So finally I just flashed it back to Kit Kat.

I'm wrapping that up now. Google backup is reinstalling my apps and such. Hopefully things will improve. I know it's 3 years old but I really like it and I don't think it's too much to ask for it to still run well.

My son updated his too (he has the 2013 model) and he's been complaining. So this was a good run through if he wants me to do the same for his. I don't think the impact on his was as bad. He may just not like how lollipop looks. I'll talk to him about it this week-end and see what he wants to do.

Fun times.

User Journal

Journal: Compile FFMPEG 1

Journal by stoolpigeon

To get the most out of ffmpeg on Fedora - as far as I can tell - it needs to be compiled, not installed from a package manager. This is the only way I could find to get it with libfdk_aac support. I tried other stuff and then just went ahead and followed the very thorough guide on installing from source, right here: https://trac.ffmpeg.org/wiki/CompilationGuide/Centos

Though there was one thing I needed that they didn't have in the dependencies - libtool. That was quickly rectified. So if you do this - might as well add that on the front end. I noticed the need when there was an error with autoconf for one of the parts.

User Journal

Journal: Well, crap... 8

Journal by mcgrew

Patty emailed me and solved the "why isn't anybody buying the Amazon ebook" question -- according to her, it's nearly impossible. She says they won't take a credit or debit card, you have to either have an Amazon gift card or that Amazon Prime crap.

So I don't know what to do. I'd just pull it and put it on the site for free like the other two books, but that would hardly be fair to the two people who jumped through Amazon's hoops.

Suggestions are very welcome.

User Journal

Journal: Stupid Tourist! 2

Journal by mcgrew

At an impasse with Voyage to Earth, I hacked out another short story today. Unfortunately, I wrote it in Open Office and slashdot refuses to preview properly; in preview it looks fine but when posted the smart quotes turn to garbage. So rather than pasting it here, I'll have to send you to somewhere less stupid.

User Journal

Journal: The Time Machine

Journal by mcgrew

I just added another title to my web site: H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. I hadn't realized that book was 8000 words short of being a novel.

It only took a day or so to fix up, but then it isn't a fat book like Huckleberry Finn, which has so many illustrations that I'm going to have to upgrade my space on the server (as if this hobby doesn't already cost too much). The Time Machine only has three pictures.

Speaking of Huck, like I mentioned, I hadn't read it in decades. I discovered on reading it that Sergy's kid did NOT, in fact, coin the word "Google". The word "Googling" is in chapter 29: "The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that's googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world."

Do you think that they'd have named it something else if they knew that "googling" had to do with lack of speed? I found it rather amusing.

You've probably noticed that the posted books I didn't wrire are referenced in the ones I did. I wish I could post Asimov's The End of Eternity.

I should get back to Mars Bars and Random Scribblings...

User Journal

Journal: A New Old Book

Journal by mcgrew

About six months or so ago I decided to take a break from writing and do some reading, so I pulled an Asimov collection from the shelf. After half a dozen or so stories, I thought I'd read something that wasn't science fiction. Huckleberry Finn was on my mind, and since my copy was somehow lost I decided to just read it on the web; I remembered it being a really good book, though I hadn't read it in decades.

All the online versions sucked; archive.org, gutenberg.org, the .EDUs, it didn't matter. All had extraneous bullshit and looked thrown together carelessly.

So I thought I'd assemble one that didn't suck; one with borders, a book font, proper justification, all the illustrations by the original illustrator, and put there with thought rather than <p><img src="illustration.jpg"><p>.

I see why the rest looked hastily thrown together; it was a hell of a lot of work. I've been at it full time for a couple of weeks, and although I've posted it at my web site there are still a few bugs.

If you decide to read some Twain and see some bugs, please let me know.

The book isn't really about Huck. It was about Jim. It was an abolitionist book about the horrors of slavery, written before the Civil War.

Folks were sure different back then.

User Journal

Journal: SELinux and Web development

Journal by stoolpigeon

I use my Fedora desktop to work on development of all kinds. I love that with a Linux machine I can have a machine that matches my production environment very nicely and all the tools I want are there and work pretty well together.

I appreciate SELinux since it is there to keep me safe.

But sometimes - it is a frigging pain. I'm messing about with Yii, a PHP framework and I kept running into problems with permissions. At first I thought it was regular permissions but quickly realized that wasn't it and google pointed me to SELinux. Apache can't write to stuff in /var/www/html.

I did lots of reading. I found one way to fix it, though that way quit working after I had to log out to get a change to a group setting to go into effect. And I read a lot more and it was hard to understand it all, confusing and finally I setenforce=0 and got to work.

I realize that this is a bad habit and I shouldn't do it - but I just need to finish stuff. I'd like a nice way to manage this. Any of you may feel free to make that happen.

"A child is a person who can't understand why someone would give away a perfectly good kitten." -- Doug Larson

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