Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Star Time Book Trailer

Seeing Bill Crider's latest book trailer inspired me to go tackle making one myself.  This is for Star Time.  It's really in HD, but Blogger likes these narrow columns.  Feel free to try the Youtube link.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Movie Comments: Paul

I had gotten a couple of comments from people wondering if my novel Roswell or Bust was like the movie Paul.  Since I had not seen the movie, I was curious to see, especially since ROB was published in 2008 and the movie was out in 2011, if someone had seen my book and made a movie of it without telling me.

Well, now that I've seen it, I don't think it's likely.  There are common features, especially personable gray aliens riding around the southwest in an RV chased by the MIB, but that's about it.  If they read my book first, they would have had to throw out all the plot and all the characters and pour in a ton of crude humor.  While the movie has its own charm, I really don't care to be associated with it.  Not my style at all.

However, reality being what it is, I'll probably get those comments forever.  There's enough similarity for a good lawyer to make some money, but that's not my style either.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

International Prices for My E-books

I had considered dropping support for some of the ebook marketplaces as I released my latest book. Amazon Kindle and B&N Pubit are easy to use and don't take much effort, once I have the ebook masters generated.  It's all over and done with in less than an hour.  The ebooks are available for sale in a day or so.  Easy, smooth, and satisfying.

But Apple's iBookstore has gotten even more difficult lately.  The restrictions are tighter and sometimes it requires a customized master file, just to make sure I don't accidentally mention the Kindle edition.  There is also the problem of setting prices internationally.  As Apple expands its marketplaces, there is more opportunity to find English readers across the world, but it also means I have to set the price for each and every one of those countries.

So, for each title, I have to fill out this screen for each of the (currently) 32 different countries.  And, since these markets have been added over time, I have to go back to each of my previous books, and add the markets that have come on-line since I released that book.

It's a chore, but it's an opportunity as well.  I've got writer buddies who are more popular in other countries than the US.  It could happen.  So I decided to work through the stack of books and add all those markets.  I learned a few things as well. I found a website where I could find the exchange rates for all the countries I needed.  I made a spreadsheet where my paper-edition price and likely ebook prices were calculated, so I could have an idea just how much Euros, and Swiss francs, and the various kronas were worth.  Then it was just a matter of watching a TV show (old Lois and Clark episodes) while filling in the forms.

I was a little worried the first time I submitted the updated package for an older book, fearing the multi-day delay that is common before a book actually comes on-line in the Apple system.  I was very pleased to see that a simple meta-data change like this only takes about an hour before everything was live.  At the same time, my newest book hasn't been approved in nearly a week now. 

The same sort of task was waiting for me at Google Editions.  This time, there are nine countries to deal with, and Google lets you download a spreadsheet, where you can change all the prices in one operation.

In another couple of days, I'll have all my books available for sale in far flung places, as long as the reader is looking for English language books.  Maybe it'll be worth it, maybe not.  Time will tell.

UPDATE:  7/26/12 : I just received an email from Apple stating that 'based on your feedback', they had made changes in the software to allow quick population of all the international markets based on exchange rates.  The next time I add a book, I'll try that out.  Hmm.  I wonder if they read my blog or if that 'based on  your feedback' thing is boilerplate for all users.  I suspect they got quite a few official feedback messages.

Friday, June 08, 2012

My Venus Transit Event

My older brother Roger had a telescope, a six-inch Newtonian he built himself.  I have fond memories of hauling it out and projecting the sun onto a screen on eclipse days.  So, when the Transit of Venus approached, I decided to do the same thing.
 I carried my telescope, a little 4-incher over to Hutto Lake Park and set up the projection screen where it would be shaded by stone pillar.  Then it was just a matter of aiming the eyepiece in the right direction and keeping the telescope tracking the sun.

I had many people come and look at the rare event.  Quite a few people had heard about it on the news but weren't aware that it was going on right then.  I waved at all the people who came by telling them to come see Venus and it was their last chance in 105 years.

 I also invited all everyone by Twitter and Facebook to come by.  Graham Perks came with his kids and his binoculars to set up a similar projection system.  It was a successful few hours until the sun moved behind a cloud bank in the west and it was time to pack it all up.

Once I got home, I took one of the photos I took of the screen and dropped it into photoshop to enhance the contrast and make the Venus more visible, there beside the sunspots.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Aperture 3.2.4 and swap space overflow

This is a just a technical note about the photo processing program Aperture, version 3.2.4, which at the time of this posting is the latest update.

I have been importing two large collections of photos into Aperture over the past few days.  The first one took a while, but eventually, everything was imported and all the background processing took place.

Then the update to version 3.2.4 happened, and my nature is to always keep software up to date, so I installed it.  Then I imported the second library.  The imports happened smoothly and all 102,000 masters imported.  Then the background tasks began, which were making preview files.  I had the faces recognition turned off.

After a few thousand images were processed, my Mac filled up.  The swap files were growing out of control and consuming all available space (over 60GB).  I had to reboot the computer.  It happened several times before I tracked the problem down to Aperture and its background processing.  Doing my research, I saw that the same thing had happened before back when Aperture 3.0 came out.  A later update fixed the problem, but now it's back.  Using advice from 2010, I turned on the "Open in 32-bit mode" option and ran it that way.  Now, all the background processing is happening smoothly, with hardly any swap space used.  It runs a little slower, but it runs.

Surely there will be another update which will fix the problem, but for now, there's this work-around.

UPDATE 20,000 photos later.
A different type of error occurred after processing about 20,000 photos in 32-bit mode.  This time Aperture crashed, with a crashlog that indicated various malloc errors.  Starting it up again caused another crash, the instant it started processing again.  The fix?  Switch back to 64-bit mode.  Now it's working fine, chugging away through the process queue.

I suspect there are two bugs, triggered by two different kinds of source files.  I'll just switch back and forth until the all the preview files are generated.

UPDATE 2: 10,000 photos later, a photoshop file crashed Aperture in 32-bit mode AND caused the swap-space inflation in 64-bit mode.  Restarting in 64-bit mode after a forced quit, I was able to watch the progress and learn the name of the file when the swap-space started growing rapidly.  Quitting Aperture and investigation with finder, I found that this particular file (200+ MB) didn't have a thumbnail and quicklook wouldn't show its content either.  Since the RAW file, another version of the photoshop file and a couple of JPG's were all there and appeared perfect, I moved the bad file and restarted Aperture.  Everything is working fine now.  I trashed the Aperture version.  It's pretty obvious some damaged or just odd image files can crash Aperture.