Thursday, July 24, 2008

Filing with the Electronic Copyright Office

I've been filing copyright registrations on my stuff for decades now. At first there was the problem of tracking down a form (TX?) from the post office. And then things got better when you could download the forms as PDF's from a web site. Still later, you could fill the PDF's in electronically and print them out.

Now they've advanced to the status of filing via a web form. It works. More or less.

When my copyright registration form arrived for Emperor Dad, I realized that I now had two more books to register. I went to copyright.gov to track down a fresh PDF and stumbled across the link to eco.copyright.gov. The advantage is a cheaper filing fee and less chance for transcription errors, so I gave it a try.

Of course, you have to register an account and their list of password rules is quite long. I just opted to use my PasswordWallet application to generate a random one.

The program is also a little kludgy. I liked the way they said it was written for Internet Explorer but most other browsers ought to work. I use Safari, so I advanced cautiously. At least they warned me that I had to turn pop-ups back on before starting. It seems they use pop-ups for some kind of computation. They flash on the screen and then vanish when they're done.

The company that did the web-application for them did a B-minus job. Everything worked, but I had do use some work-arounds.

You step through quite a number of pages to fill out what is effectively a one-page form. Be warned -- the form mutates under you as you fill it out. Once it knows it's not a work for hire, for example, it re-writes the page to adapt. I got in the habit of looking at the status bar after filling in each field. If I didn't, the page might flash under me and erase what I'd just filled in. If you like good design practices, this site will drive you crazy. It's often not obvious which button to press.

If you are familiar with the old copyright form, it's basically the same information, although it seems like more because you have to visit a lot of pages that you could just skip over on the paper form.

Then, the web-application bumps you over to a whole 'nother site, pay.gov, to take your credit card information. Perhaps it's just Safari, but the return back to eco.copyright.gov then fails after you pay. It even gives you a little warning explaining that you have to close your web-browser all the way down and restart it before returning. Okay. At least, after that you can click on your case number and get back to the place where you print out the shipping form that has to go with the books you mail in to the Library of Congress.

So. It's a kludge, but I've seen worse. It's cheaper than filling out the paper form, and there's no show-stoppers. I have little hope it'll get fixed any time soon, but it's not like I have to fight the forms every day.

So, in a few months, I'll get another pretty little copyright form for my filing cabinet. I like those.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mailing to the List

Today, I sent out a bulk mailing to my, rather small, mailing list. It's mainly friends and family, with a few local librarians, etc. I let them know that Extreme Makeover is for sale and gave them some URL's.

Now, I know that I should aggressively grow that mailing list, but I find that each time I send out an emailing, it shrinks a little. This time, a librarian retired and a couple of other email addresses vanished for one reason or another. I'm tempted to take the 9000 spam messages I get per month and send them one of my own, but that would just be an exercise in frustration. Most of those addresses would be either bogus or owned by innocent relayers.

So, if you didn't get my emailing today, and you would like to be notified when I publish a new book, just let me know. Go to the Contact page at HenryMelton.com and send me an email.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Playing with iPhone Apps

As a few million other people are doing, I've been buying and downloading programs from the new App Store for my iPhone. Considering my budget, I've been fairly cautious, but I ended up with a dozen or more before I noticed a glitch.

Now, it could just be my damaged iPhone, (It went for a dip in the swimming pool about six weeks ago, documented here.) but this afternoon I noticed that all of a sudden, several of the apps died. Each of the affected programs would load their initial screen, and then within about one second, vanish. The phone went back to the home screen. Programs affected were Sketch (which I hadn't tried before) and Tile Sudoko, (which I had) and a few other programs. I was disturbed.

First I feared that I'd run out of memory. I deleted a video. No change. Then I wondered if it might be some specialized memory pool that was used by all apps. I un-checked a few apps in the iTunes list and re-synced. No change.

Next up on the remedial list was a powerdown and then a reboot. No change. I then did a backup and restore.

Somewhere in that process, I realized my house internet had gone down, so I brought it back up, but the total wipe and restore was already underway so I had to finish that. After that, everything worked again.

So...was it a memory corruption that caused the problem, or was it the network outage? I suspect the network, since the wifi was up but there was an outage several boxes down the line. The phone knew it had network, but stalled and then the programs crashed.

Do Sketch and the sudoku program check in to the home website on the first usage (or every usage)? I'd like to know, because that would explain the problem, and highlight an error mode that ought to be flagged.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lessons from the App Store

The iPhone App store has opened up and a lot of hopeful software developers are facing the reality of the marketplace. It is fascinating to look at all the options out there ... and see what all the comments are about the software.

I think a lot of software developers have shot themselves in the foot (feet?) by making free versions available for the jailbroken phones. No matter how good the application is, if they charge real money for it now, and it was free earlier, it's getting bad reviews, and from the grammar of the comments, from the same semi-illiterate crowd who can't understand paying for music or video either.

It's definitely a cautionary tale for me as someone who is trying to sell my books. I've tried e-books and kindle versions, and it looks to me that if I ever try to offer something for free, I'll pay for it later. It's sad, really. I can see a number of situations where for promotional reasons or whatever, I would like to make copies of the novels available for free. I guess I'll have to limit that to real paper copies for the reviewers.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Up on the Mountain

We went up on Boureas Pass road today so Mary Ann could track down some birds that she wanted to photograph. We saw considerably more.

The first time up the road was mid-afternoon and the birds were ... elsewhere, so we went back towards town to return some phone calls. We parked at the gateway to the pass–it's closed during the winter–and as soon as Mary Ann started her call, a large black bear crossed the road, heading up hill. It was gone too fast to grab a camera, but while she talked, I walked over to see if I could find any good bear tracks. There were none to speak of, although I could see where he'd come through.

Shortly after that, I saw a fox and after her phone calls, we drove around looking for the bear and we saw a fox, resting on someone's deck.

Now, Mary Ann is the photographer, but once in a blue moon, when the animal is on my side of the car, and getting out would scare it away, I get to aim and click. I just hope that the camera's settings are okay, because her cameras have so many buttons, knobs, dials and twinkers, that I've never taken the time to learn which is which.

And then, when we went back up to the pass, the original target of the expedition, the birds, were there and she got her shots. Nice pictures, but personally, I like the fox.