Linux Laptop Search

My current writing laptop is an old, first run Intel MacBook. The track pad button is dying and so is the screen. I don’t have very long to search for and replace it with a new laptop. Luckily, I’ve started writing my files to Dropbox; so I shouldn’t lose any data when the HDD crashes.

My search for a replacement laptop has been on for many months now. I keep going back and forth between a MacBook Air and a Windows laptop that I can wipe and run Linux on. The only viable reason for me to go with the MacBook is that I really love using Scrivener. Linux support for that application is pretty much non-existent. I’ve never been an Apple fan and my dislike of Microsoft is legendary. Meanwhile, nothing has given me more pure joy in the past ten years than using Linux.

This weekend I ran across an interesting article while Googling for Linux compatible ultrabooks. Apparently Dell has started a black ops project (now in the white world) with the objective of getting Linux developers to use their laptops, specifically the new XPS 13 ultrabook. The project is known as Sputnik and it involves hardware manufacturers and of course Canonical, who make Ubuntu Linux. You can follow the blog of Barton George the Sputnik leader. Here is a short interview with Barton.

It’s a little odd that they picked an ultrabook to showcase as a developer platform, I think future versions of Sputnik will run on more robust laptops. I love that they did start on the XPS 13, because that’s the type of laptop I was looking to purchase. It’s good to know that Ubuntu 12.04, or at least their image of it, works fine with all the hardware on that laptop. Including the touch pad as of a week ago.

I still have not made up my mind, but as of today, I’m leaning heavily towards the Dell XPS 13 for my next writing laptop. You can check out reviews of this laptop everywhere, but two of the best are here and here.

As for not being able to use Scrivener, well you know, life existed before that program. I don’t really need the hand holding it offers writers. Let’s face it, I use Linux. I’m not going to whimper about much when it comes to software. I’ll probably use a combination of Focus Writer, Open Office and Sigil to get the job done. At this point, I’m really looking forward to using Linux full time again.

You must create a USB boot disc with the Sputnik ISO. Here is a program to assist with that. Also, Ubuntu has a forum dedicated to Dell installations. The later entries have some information about the Sputnik ISO.

Amazon, Apple and Microsoft

The new Big Three of digital publishing. Ugh! Can I have a new future please? No? Drat. Okay, then put me in two of the three major markets. Apple still makes me pay to play with purchasing an ISBN. Who knows what kind of lame format Microsoft will insist on after they consume B&N’s Nook inventory. Amazon is already in their own darn universe when it comes to ebook standards and availability. Really guys? Are you just trying to piss off everyone?

All three media companies want you to use their own ebook formats. Let’s continue to make the same dumb formatting decisions we made when the web first started. Remember the Netscape, IE, Apple/Linux web browser wars? Yeah, well ebooks are basically just fancy web pages folks. So the battle of the formats continues to rage.

As long as I continue to play the do-it-yourself publisher game, I’ll have to have my books formatted three different ways. Lame. This forces me to make decisions. If I want to be in all three markets, I need to spend more money converting my books. That’s just not in my financial future. Maybe after I start living off my ebook sales, I will have the money to be in all three markets, but for right now, it’s only going to be two. This assumes that Microsoft doesn’t mess with epub for another year or so. But you know they will, it’s in their company genes to make proprietary formats.

Since I make the lion’s share of my pittance from Amazon, I will have my ebooks there first. Since my ebooks are born as epubs, making them available on PubIt, is a no-brainer decision for now.

You may be wondering why I don’t just throw out a shingle and sell my books on the web site? Because I’m a largely unknown writer selling my own fiction and my audience is too small to justify the effort and money required to set that up correctly. When you are undiscovered, nobody comes to your house. Again, if I were selling thousands of books a day, I’d damn sure have a way to buy from this web site. But until that happens, I have to ride the long coat tails of the Big Three.

But over all, I can’t complain. My audience is mostly finding me on Amazon. Not in great numbers but about a hundred times greater than on B&N and Apple. So it makes sense to cater my ebooks to Amazon the hardest. You can have a thousand lines in the water, but if all the fish are in another pond, you’re not eating fish tonight.

I still feel like Google is sitting this one out. My local Indy bookstores are using them to sell ebooks, but Google’s author back-end is not easy to use and at times hostile to authors who publish themselves. It would be really great if Google spent some time to make their process easier. I’d love to be able to sell ebooks locally and let my favorite bookstores have a cut.


Thoughts on My New Honda Civic

It’s been a few months since I upgraded my ride from a twenty year old Honda Accord to a 2012 Honda Civic. I thought I’d give you a few observations. First of all, I’m thrilled to actually have a car built in this century. After having driven a used car for so long, anything new would be well appreciated so some of my praise is probably due to new car after-glow.

I really loved the old Accord. It was fun to drive – manual tranny and had a classic analog instrument panel with highly visible gauges. It also had all the upgrades available at the time including sun roof, auto mirrors, AC and auto windows. Oh, and a rock’in cassette player.

The new Honda Civic has all those “upgrades”, minus the cassette player in a mid-range option package. The fit and trim inside the car is on par and actually greater than the old one’s top of the line trim. While the styling is less organic than some of the newer Korean cars on the market, I like how reserved and refined the Civic is in this regard. This is my first time with a digital speedometer and it took some time to get use to it but now I find the accuracy of it amazing. The car is an automatic, but it has a real nice tachometer taking center stage behind the wheel. Not sure why an automatic needs a tach. Even for the lower gear options. It seems to me that they could use the space for more digital readouts like the tiny new screen that shows radio and odometer info next door to the speedometer. That screen seems unfinished and has a missing page that presumably is for the electric car version.

There are no seat warmers in this package, which I don’t really care about anyway. Had I sprung for the touch screen dash monitor upgrade, I’d have gotten the heated seats. But the only real advantage of the touch screen was for navigation. I knew that I’d be using my phone for that anyway, so I didn’t get it. Speaking of phones. The Bluetooth integration with my phone is awesome and a package that I knew I could not live without. Making voice activated calls in your car is so cool, every car should have this feature.

The wheel mounted controls for damn near everything is also fabulous. Again, all cars should have that. I use the cruise control daily in my highway commute. The radio package is pretty sweet too, for the first time in my driving life, I have a CD player in my car. I know, welcome to the eighties. I’ve been having fun listening to CDs that I have not heard in a long, long time.

The car’s Bluetooth integration with my ancient Droid phone is not ideal. It loses signal and then acquires it seemingly random. Especially annoying when you’re in a call. I’m looking forward to getting the new Galaxy Nexus and seeing how nice the integration truly can be. Looking forward to listening to podcasts from the phone through my car’s speakers. Speaking of speakers, the front right tweeter is shot. Going to have to take it in to see if the dealer can swap that out for me.

The outside of the car is a joy to look at. Again, not as sinewy as a Korean make, but definitely sporty and sleek. I have the white color and it really matches my white MacBook quite brilliantly. As if I cared about that sort of thing.

Handling and performance is adequate for a commuter car. Let’s face it, the four door Civic will never be confused with a Corvette. But the engine has enough pep to get onto the interstate and the Econ button pretty much stays on all the time to conserve fuel. I’m getting about 29.4 miles per gallon on average. Not exactly hybrid level economy, but not horrible either.

Overall I’m still very pleased with the car and I keep looking over my shoulder at it as I walk away from it. It’s quite nice to look at.



New Family Laptop

We decided to get the family a laptop computer to share. Currently we are using my old MacBook and that makes it hard for me to go off and write on it. The wife wanted a Windows computer so the kids can use all the Windows specific stuff that the school system insists on using. I made sure to get the recovery CDs so I can clean it up after the kids destroy it with viruses.

I settled on a low priced HP Pavillion g6 model. About the only thing extra I purchased on it was the student edition of Office. Again, primarily for the kids. It won’t be a surprise for them, they knew we were going to get it.

We should have the new addition to the family sometime the week before Christmas. It will be the second HP laptop we own, the other being the Mini; and the third laptop. The MacBook is on its last legs and will probably crash sometime in the next year or so. But like cars, I tend to drive my laptops into the ground before replacing them. So won’t be planning to replace it until it croaks.

Can’t promise that I won’t make it duel boot to Linux. You know, so I can play with it sometimes. ;-)

I’ll do a review of it after the holidays to let you know how its working out for us.

Galaxy Nexus Blues

My next phone still has no release date. It’s the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung. To make me drool and envious of everyone outside the US who now have this phone, here are some great links to unboxing and pics from Google itself.

Tracy and Matt’s tech blog has a long unboxing where you get to see all aspects of the phone.

Some great color pics and specs from Google itself.

I want this phone not because its a Samsung and not because it is any better than all the other new Android phones. I want it because it’s a Google phone. Pure and simple direct from the company with no silly add-ons from the phone providers.

I’m on Verizon and you couldn’t get a Google phone on that carrier before now. So I want to live with a pure Google phone for the next two years.

Esthetically, I think this phone is better looking than just about any other Android phone, so that doesn’t suck. I’m also really attracted to the size and quality of the display.

I have this sneaky feeling that if I had this phone, I would be less interested in a tablet. At least as far as reading and watching videos goes. It’s no iPad replacement, I’m sure. But just owning it, may make me further eschew the iPad, or any other tablet for that matter. Only time will tell.



The New Kindle

I was holding out for the new Kindle before buying an e-reader for myself, and now I’m glad I did. The newest edition of the Amazon Kindle is available for pre-order and ships on 27 August. It looks much better than earlier versions and has a few new features like crazy long battery life and a sharper E-Ink screen. True to Bezos’s vision, it’s still just a reader not a color, touch-screen device. I have to agree, if all  you want to do is read fiction, a single purpose device is what you need.

I’m not saying there is no place for tablets and such, but when I read a good book, I don’t want distractions. Let the words transport me and immerse me in the story. Not the video inserts and flipping pages and the colorful images. Just saying.

Amazon Kindle

In other news, I ran across this listing of women programmers and thought I’d pass it on. And yes, they do exist outside of my fictional universe.  ;-)