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New book and other writing updates

LUADHaven’t posted for a quite a while. I need to update the site itself with a new theme when I have time. I’ve moved house and changed towns, and I’m gradually making a new life for myself here. Work-wise, I’ve been doing the usual stuff for the past year or more.

Month in, month out, I’ve been contributing to Linux User and Developer, a British computer magazine. They have serialised the last feature I did for the mag and put it on the website for free (part 1 and part 2). All in all, I must have done about 40 articles for that magazine, ranging from single page reviews up to 8 page features. I enjoyed my time with them, but I’m taking a break from that at the moment. I look forward to working with the editor, Russell Barnes, again in the future, and I may even return to the mag, one day.

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The other big writing news from me at the moment is the novella (short novel) I’ve been working on called The Sexual Compass.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA At time of writing, I have finished the first draft. I was determined not to let the project drag on and on, so I took some time off and worked on it for 21 days, producing 32,000 words. It is written in the first person with one head jump at the half way point. The premise is that a discovery is made by some scientists that sexual orientation is controlled by chemicals in the body. Most of the story focusses on a guy who takes some chemicals and goes from being straight to being gay. Sexuality is the main focus of the story, but as you can imagine, as it’s me, issues of gender make their way into it too. I’ve been working on some other writing while I let the first draft sit for a while, but later this week, I’ll get back to it for the rewrite and edit. I’ll probably be self publishing it, and I hope to have it finished in the next month or two, paid work and life permitting.

 

UK Feminists: Let’s Keep Women out of Prison - Mozilla Firefox_030

I need to get some more stuff onto A Voice For Men, the top (IMHO) men’s rights site on the Internet. The last two things I did for them were back in 2013, but I may have forgotten to mention them on the site. One is about a government backed scheme that would see women being spared prison. The other was a look at the gender politics of breast fetishism. Obviously, I’m still working on the gender politics book. It’ll be finished one day!

Den of Geek is a great website, but I’ve only got one thing onto that site recently. It’s a James Bond article about some of the turning points of the franchise. Funnily enough, Simon Brew used to be the editor of Micro Mart the first print publication I ever worked for. I badly need to get something else onto Den of Geek sometime soon, and I’ve got a few ideas stored up. My older articles for that site where Top 10 Screen Computer Geeks and a retrospective of The Postman (1997) (that even got a mention by the author of the source novel on Facebook).

Somewhere in there, I managed to fit in ten or so pages for an Imagine Publishing bookazine called Raspberry Pi For Beginners, which you can find in WH Smiths. I even built some hardware for it (sort of). I’ve been doing a bit of Java programming of late, just to refresh my skills. Perhaps you’ll see something from me on the Android platform in the future? I’m trying to improve my photography, so go to my Flikr page (see sidebar) and see what you think.
Big turning points in the James Bond movie franchise | Den of Geek - Mozilla Firefox_031OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Linux User and Developer 117 and Micro Mart 1125

My main publishing announcements for this month are Linux User Developer 117 and Micro Mart 1125. Expect to see quite a lot from me in Linux User and Developer over the next couple of months. For now, issue 117 contains another four page step-by-step tutorial on the subject of self publishing a book using an excellent piece of software called LyX. LyX is the main “word processor” that I use for all my writing, and I seem to end up doing a feature on it every 18 months or so.

I also managed to get in a review of Oracle Linux 6.3. That was a tough one to rate as it’s practically a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and it’s difficult to know how to rate it.

I also did a review of the Nikon L310 bridge camera for Micro Mart. I hadn’t done much work for them of late, and it was nice to get back in touch.

As for moving house… It is proceeding, but rather slowly. Being in limbo in this respect is impacting my ability to work, but I’ve still got some stuff in the pipeline. I’m still not sure if I’m going to Replay in Manchester this year. I’d like to, but it’s beginning to look like it could coincide with the moving date.

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Linux User and Developer 166 System Rescue and GNOME Shell

Check out issue #116 of Linux User & Developer (August 2012) to see two of my tutorials. Both are step by step features, a format that I’m starting to get the hang of now.

The first four page tutorial deals with with customising the GNOME Shell. Personally, I haven’t been won over by the GNOME 3.0 interface, but to be fair to the developers, they have inserted a considerable framework for customisation by end users.

The second tutorial has a selection of tips for system rescue. Many of these tips can be carried out from standard Linux distributions, and others rely on SystemRescueCD, a live distro with an emphasis on system repair and maintenance.

Both tutorials were tough to write, but enjoyable, and I even learnt the odd new trick as I went along. I’ve got some more stuff coming up in later issues of the mag. In addition, I did a post for the website about the open sourcing of CDE. I got the inside scoop from a guy I met in RISC OS IRC channel. It’s a seedy world that I inhabit.

Anyway, back to the grindstone and another step-by-step.

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Retro Gamer: Citadel (BBC Micro, 1985, Superior Software)

This month’s Retro Gamer (May/June 2012 #103) contains a four pager from yours truly. This time, the subject is the 1985 BBC Micro/Electron release Citadel. Like most games of the era, it might look a bit primitive by modern standards, but programmer Michael Jakobson squeezed every ounce of storage out of the old Beeb to deliver a colourful gameworld made up of 240 interlinked screens. It’s a wonderful example of a vintage arcade adventure, and it’s also a consummate BBC Micro game. One of the commenters on the forum remarked that when he first played it, the game seemed as big to him as Skyrim does now. This time I was able to get in touch with Michael Jakobson and also Simon Storr, the author of Citadel 2.

I was particularly happy with the layout as the guys managed to cram some decent sized screenshots into the mag to show off the (8 colour) graphics. The BBC Micro had a colour system that was based on primary colours giving it a very bright and distinctive look and Citadel is a fantastic example of that.

Some of the guys that I follow on YouTube have covered the game before. Steve Benway gave it a first impression look, and PsiMan did a more detailed retrospective on it as it was a favourite of his back in the day. There are some more gameplay vids to be found on YouTube and there is a nice video of Darren Jones, the editor of Retro Gamer flicking through the issue here. The article is being discussed on the StarDot (BBC Micro) forums, and the issue itself is being discussed on the RetroGamer forum.

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Retro Gamer issue 101: BBC Micro

This month’s Retro Gamer (Issue 101, Mar/Apr 2012) features my eight page feature on a favourite retro platform, the BBC Micro. It’s immensely gratifying for me to write about the Beeb as it was my first computer. Some of you may know that it has recently celebrated its 30th birthday. It’s a great platform and I genuinely enjoyed playing some of the old games. It was also nice to get in touch with some BBC Micro developers that I hadn’t spoken to before while re-establishing contact with some that I already knew. I was also able to bring some of the best YouTube retrogamers into the mag (see videos here, here, here and here).

One snag with the way that the feature came together is that I ran out of room and I wasn’t able to use all of the material that I was given. No matter: I plan to spin the extra stuff out into later features, and I’ve already discussed some ideas with the editor. More info when it’s confirmed.

There is a feedback thread for the issue on the forum. As ever, thanks go to all of the people who helped me with the article.

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Linux User & Developer: How to distribute Linux desktops to thin clients

Issue 111 of Linux User & Developer (March 2012) contains my four page tutorial on LTSP, a system to distribute Linux desktops to clients. Basically, a server runs LTSP and the clients (which could be old PCs, for example) boot over the network. Subsequently, a small version of Linux runs on the client, from a RAM disk. Like a lot of the LU&D content, it’s one for the techies.

I’ve had a fair bit of stuff in the mag of late and some of it ends up on the website (such as these reviews of EyeOS and Gentoo). Other than that, I’ve got another mag related announcement in the next few days.

I had a nice surprise, a few weeks ago, when I noticed an article that I did for Den of Geek last year (one of the best SciFi sites on the net, IMO) at the top of my Facebook newsfeed. The article was about the Kevin Costner movie The Postman (which rules), and at first I couldn’t work out why it was at the top of the page after so long. Then I noticed it had been linked to by David Brin, the author of the source novel (which also rules). It was quite an honour as his remarks were mostly complimentary and he’s a very well known SciFi author and a fascinating essayist.

Take care, all. Another magazine article in the next few days and I’ve got a couple of other irons in the fire in terms of article ideas.

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Retro Gamer 95 Krisalis Software

It’s that time again. This month’s Retro Gamer contains my six page feature on Teque/Krisalis Software. It’s my fifth article for the publication. Between 1987 and 2001, working as both a developer of original games and conversions power house, Krisalis produced hundreds of games. As ever, putting the feature together was fun but a lot of hard work.

This time around, I was able to contact and interview quite a few of the people who were originally involved in the company. Krisalis was particularly close to my heart because they converted a lot of mainstream hits to the Acorn Archimedes series of computers, which was the system that I ran as a teenager. As ever, it was great to interact with people whose names I’d seen come up on the screen so often over the years. I doubt I could have imagined this sort of contact when I was a spotty teen, admiring their efforts. Thanks go to Shaun Hollingworth, Tony Kavanagh, Neil Adamson, Keith Birkett, Nigel Little and Matt Furniss for all of their help.

I don’t have my copy of the magazine yet, but you can watch the editor of the magazine, Darran Jones, flicking through the latest issue on YouTube. There is a feedback thread for the issue on the Retro Gamer forum.

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Linux User and Developer 98: Productivity On Linux and other news

Issue 98 of Linux User and Developer (March 2011) features my four page article on productivity applications for Linux. It’s basically a collection of tips and application recommendations. There are more details about the issue as a whole on the LU&D website. There should be a distro review from me in next month’s issue, and hopefully, you’ll see more from in the mag in the future. [Update: Actually, Russel has posted up the review, of Tiny Core Linux, in advance. Update #2: The mag, issue 99 has now been released.]

Recently, I did another guest post on my other main writing interest, gender politics. This article appears on A Voice For Men, the website of Paul Elam. The article is called OMG – Our Gender Is Being Oppressed By Language!, and it’s an attack on a technique that is commonly used in text books. It’s a good one for people interested in language, gender politics and/or men’s rights. Continued…

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RetroGamer issue 86 – Changing Worlds

Subscribers are starting to get hold of issue #86 of RetroGamer as I write this. This month features my six page article on 3D arcade adventure games. The article has an emphasis on early pioneers in open world gaming.

I managed to cover one of my favourite genres and talk to some of the desingers. The games mentioned include Cholo, Damocles, Midwinter, Hunter, Cybercon III and loads of other utter classics. I just hope that the readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

There is a feedback thread for the issue here. Continued…

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Retro Gamer: Superior Software

Issue 79 of Retro Gamer magazine contains my six page feature on Superior Software, the most prolific BBC Micro games company back in the 80s and 90s. The company is still in business today selling remakes of the classic back catalogue and can apparently even supply original copies of BBC Micro games.

I don’t have my copy yet but you can watch Darran, the editor of Retro Gamer flicking through the issue on Youtube. As you may know, this is my third feature for this magazine. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope I’ve done justice to such a great company. There is a feedback thread for the issue on the RG website.

[Update: I’ve got it and it looks great. I forgot to add my name to the introduction and I’m not credited elsewhere, but I did write it, I promise!]

Thanks are due to Richard Hanson, Peter Irvin, Tony Oakden and Gary Partis for allowing me to interview them.

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