Hey, all. I’m still here. I’ve been kind of preoccupied with a few things this month, mainly finishing up Star Trek: The Original Series: The Face of the Unknown, which I’ve just sent off to my editor. I think it’s turned out very well, especially considering that I had all those computer problems delaying me over the past few months. Fortunately the writing went smoothly for the most part; I actually finished the first draft early, but then I realized there were some additional story threads I needed to add, and it’s taken me until last night to get those sorted out.
As for my computer, it’s been working quite smoothly so far. I’ve got just about everything up and running as it should, and I haven’t had any trouble since I finished reinstalling stuff on the replacement hard drive. I’m thinking I should look into getting a backup drive that I can clone or image my drive to on a regular basis, so that it would be easier to restore if something else goes wrong. But I’ve never really figured out how to do backups beyond just copying my documents onto removable media. (Which used to mean whole boxes full of floppy disks, and now means a tiny plastic stick in my pocket. We live in the future!)
I’ve also been working my way through a rewatch of classic Doctor Who, as I mentioned before. I’m getting near the end of the William Hartnell era now, which means I’m going to be watching a lot of reconstructions of missing episodes for a while. Though I am getting the DVD of the restored “The Tenth Planet” through interlibrary loan. I’ve only just figured out how to extend my search to other Ohio libraries and request materials from them, which has let me track down some things I could never find otherwise. That also includes some of the non-Godzilla kaiju films I’ve been looking for, so you can expect the return of my Toho review series in the near future. (Sorry it didn’t occur to me to do Doctor Who reviews. I don’t think I’d have the time anyway.)
Now that I’m done with my Trek novel, I’m hoping to spend the next month or so working on original short fiction, hopefully including at least one new Hub story. Although I’ve already been delayed getting to that by my computer problems, so I hope nothing else comes up to divert me.
In the more immediate term, I should probably go for a walk today. We’re getting a spell of unseasonably warm weather hereabouts, after a bitter cold snap last week. Although in this age of climate change, we’ll probably have to throw out our past ideas of what’s unseasonable.
Speaking of which, I should probably take my car in for some maintenance soon. Over the past month, it’s had trouble getting started in cold weather — that is, the engine starts, but the car initially resists moving when I step on the gas. The first time it happened, I thought something must be obstructing the wheels, but nothing was. The resistance to acceleration gradually subsides, though it takes a couple of blocks to get back to normal. I figure some kind of lubricant must be depleted or in need of changing, though it seems to work okay in warmer weather or after a short enough interval of non-use. (I generally only drive once or twice a week.)
Been about a week now with the new laptop, and so far it’s working pretty smoothly. I’m able to watch streaming video again, so I finally managed to watch Marvel’s Jessica Jones, which was very impressive (though I don’t think I’m up to a review right now). I’ve been able to go back to Firefox as my main browser, which has a few drawbacks, but it’s easy enough to open Chrome as an alternative when I need to.
The neat thing about Windows 7 is that it’s combined the quick-launch buttons with the taskbar, so that when you click a button in the bar, it expands in place into the tab. I like that because I like having my open tabs in a certain order on the taskbar, so it’s easy to remember which is which. Before, I had to open the programs in the right order to achieve that, and if I had to close one and reopen it, it would throw off the tab arrangement on the taskbar. Now, the tabs stay in the same left-to-right order no matter when they’re opened, and having two browser buttons next to each other makes it easier to swap between them. It’s my favorite feature so far.
The main problem so far is that the damn thing keeps trying to get me to upgrade to Windows 10, even trying to download some preliminary upgrade thingy without asking first (with small print about how additional fees might apply), though I was able to stop it in time. I really resent the strongarm tactics they’re using to try to push me to accept the upgrade. Come on, I’ve only been using Windows 7 for a few days now! If I’d wanted Windows 10, I would’ve gotten it in the first place! But I gather it’s still too new a program and not entirely debugged yet, so I’d prefer to wait. I wish there were a way I could opt out completely, to tell Windows that I don’t want to be pressured to upgrade. Don’t call me, I’ll call you, that sort of thing. But they’ve designed the system so that there’s no evident way to do that, and I resent that imposition. The more aggressively you push something on me, the more I resist it. If I do upgrade to Win 10, I want it be at my own time and on my own terms.
Oh, I’m also getting the hang of the new edition of Word I’m using. So far it seems pretty much the same as the older version in most respects, but there are some annoying quirks. For one thing, it doesn’t remember my preferred window size when I reopen it. It insists on opening in a window that’s shorter than the screen height, and I don’t see the point in that. It also takes one more step to open the file directory because it’s inserted a new “Open” screen giving a bunch of options that are mostly irrelevant to me, rather than defaulting to browsing my drive. Plus I have to click “Open” to get the list of my recent files, instead of just getting it as a dropdown menu. And I’ve had to relearn how to access the search-and-replace function. Plus the cursor’s been animated to slide more smoothly between positions, which is kind of distracting, though I suppose I’ll get used to it. All in all, so far I don’t see much functional improvement over the 8-year-old version I had been using. But the important thing is that it works, and I’ve been able to get back into the swing of things with writing.
I’m posting this from my new (err, refurbished) laptop, which arrived on Friday night and which I’ve spent the past two and a half days getting set up. I couldn’t do anything when it arrived, since it came with a totally discharged battery and the instructions said I needed to charge it for 8 hours. So I let it charge overnight, but I was concerned, because the power light didn’t go on and the AC adapter didn’t get warm. I wondered overnight if maybe the battery or the adapter was defective and I’d have to take it into Best Buy in the morning. But when I tried turning it on the next morning, it powered up fine. But it went through a bunch of initial system tests first, and I was worried when it couldn’t do the disk test because, so it said, “Disk not installed.” Egad! So I shut it down and just let it be for a while, because I wanted to focus on my writing and take my time easing into the computer situation. But when I turned it on again, it did boot up and load Windows just fine. Whew. And it automatically detected my wifi, so I just had to download the software I needed. I do wish I hadn’t bought MS Office at Best Buy with the laptop, because it turned out I could’ve saved 50 bucks if I bought it online. Oh, well. At least all my other software is free.
I spent most of yesterday using the “Network” capability to transfer my documents and settings between computers. I think I was doing it via ethernet cable, but I found today that the two laptops are still in contact via wifi, so I’m not sure if the cable was doing anything. The best evidence is that the transfer was pretty slow with the older cable I was using, but when I switched to a newer cable, I got a somewhat higher data transfer rate. Still, it took most of Sunday evening and part of this morning to finish the transfer. But I finally got to the point where I was ready to swap out the two laptops and start browsing with the new one.
And so far it works great. The performance is a lot faster than with the old laptop. Sites are loading faster, and so far, Internet videos are playing at least as well as they did on my old XP system before it started having problems, and seem to be loading faster. So that means I should be able to start watching Jessica Jones on Netflix at last, yay! Also, the new laptop is running much cooler and quieter so far than the old one did. That’s a good sign.
Hardware-wise, the new laptop has a silver metal exterior instead of black plastic, and the opening latch is different. Annoyingly, it doesn’t have a USB port on the right side like the old one did; that’s the side I have facing forward when my laptop is plugged into my desk setup, because the left and rear sides are where all the plugs go in and that way I don’t have any cords sticking out to bump into with my legs. (I have a couple of stacked wire racks that I use to hold the computer and power cords underneath the desk, a setup I put in place years ago when I had a desktop CPU that ran very hot and needed a lot of airflow — as did my former laptop. It also helps keep the cords nicely out of the way.) I guess I’ll just have to make sure the USB hub stays easily in reach, ideally by securing it near the front of the rack somehow.
Also, I think the laptop has a built-in webcam and mike, although the ordering info said it didn’t. But I haven’t been able to find any means of activating it to confirm that it’s there; I just know that there’s a lenslike opening above the screen and the Device menu in Control Panel says they’re there. But it doesn’t really matter, since I usually keep my laptop closed as part of my desk setup. Still, on general principles, I stuck a piece of sticky note over the lens to make sure it isn’t watching me unless I want it to.
Oh, and there was a button next to the lens that I assumed was to turn the webcam on and off, but when I tried it, I discovered that it’s actually a built-in white-LED light that shines down on the keyboard so you can work in the dark. That’s really neat!
Now I’m still going to have to get used to working with the newest edition of Word after writing with the 2007 edition for so long. So far, to my disappointment, it has the same problem that the older edition started to have after my XP-to-Vista “upgrade” — it lost the ability to interpret smart quotes from older formats, turning apostrophes into equals signs and close quotes into @s and the like. It’s easy to search-and-replace those, but it turns opening quotes into capital As, which display in a different font but which the search function is unable to differentiate from actual As, so I have to search and replace them manually. I really, really hoped that the newer edition of Word would be advanced enough not to have that problem, but no such luck. (Although the problem could be that I’d modified and saved the file on the old laptop before trying it here.) Anyway, I’d just managed to get some real momentum going on my novel when the laptop came, so I need to get back to that now that I’m set up.
Oh, well, I guess everything’s a tradeoff — for all you gain, there are some losses. For now, though, I seem to have a fully functional computer again, though there are a few things I probably still need to install here and there.
As for the old laptop, it’s ironically been behaving itself quite well, without a freeze in maybe about a week or so. So I think I’ll keep it around as a backup, maybe use it to work in the bedroom, or on the balcony in good weather. Its problems have resulted from online activity, so if I use it mainly for writing, maybe it’ll be okay. (And I should probably finally get rid of my much heavier, slower first laptop which I’ve kept for four years as an emergency backup, but which is too outdated to be any good for that now.)
So anyway, after dealing with a recalcitrant computer for more than two months, I finally have my new one in working order. Let’s just hope it stays that way…
And the news keeps coming. StarTrek.com has just posted the covers and blurbs for my Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code and Dayton Ward’s Star Trek: TOS — Elusive Salvation. You can check out Dayton’s book over at the link, but here’s the LBTC cover and info:
Admiral Jonathan Archer has barely settled in as Starfleet Chief of Staff when new crises demand his attention. The Starfleet task force commanded by Captain Malcolm Reed continues its fight against the deadly Ware technology, but one of the task force ships is captured, its Andorian crew imprisoned by an interstellar Partnership that depends on the Ware for its prosperity. Worse, the Partnership has allied with a renegade Klingon faction, providing it with Ware drone fleets to mount an insurrection against the Klingon Empire. Archer sends Captain T’Pol and Endeavour to assist Reed in his efforts to free the captured officers. But he must also keep his eye on the Klingon border, for factions within the Empire blame Starfleet for provoking the Ware threat and seek to take revenge. Even the skill and dedication of the captains under Archer’s command may not be enough to prevent the outbreak of the Federation’s first war.
Artist Doug Drexler consulted me about the cover some months ago, and we picked out a scene from the novel that would make for a good cover. This is the scene we discussed, although I didn’t expect the image would be this close-up. But I’m glad to have a cover emphasizing one of Starfleet’s Andorian ships, as a companion to the Tower of Babel cover showcasing Endeavour and Pioneer. The emphasis is very appropriate for this novel, for reasons that will become apparent.
The folks behind the Cleveland ConCoction science fiction/comics/gaming convention have invited me to appear this year as their Guest of Honor on the literary track, as they’ve just announced on Facebook. The convention will be held from Friday, March 11 to Sunday, March 13, 2016 at the Cleveland Sheraton Airport Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio. You can find more information at their website here.
I’ve never been a Guest of Honor before, so I’m not quite sure what that will entail, but in some respects it won’t be too different from my annual Shore Leave appearances. I’ll be on at least a couple of panels (as well as their opening and closing ceremonies, apparently), and I’ll have a table where I can sell and autograph copies of my books for as long as they hold out, and I’ll just generally be around for the weekend. Hopefully the timing will be right for me to have copies of Star Trek: Enterprise — Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code for sale, but we’ll see.
It’ll be nice to attend a convention that’s actually within my own state, although it’s a big state and Cleveland’s pretty much in the opposite corner, so it’ll still be a fair drive. I don’t recall if I’ve ever actually been to Cleveland before. Well, now I will have been.
I’ve just learned that my next Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations e-novella, Time Lock, has been listed for preorder online, with a publication date on or around September 5, 2016. Here’s Simon & Schuster’s ordering page for it, which has ordering links to all the various e-book retailers on the lower right. (More efficient just to send you there and let you take your pick, rather than try to track down all the links myself. My freeze-prone laptop just froze when I tried clicking on a link on an Amazon page, so I’d rather not take chances right now.)
And I know September is kind of a long wait. I don’t know why that is — presumably that’s just where they could fit it in the schedule. Still, let’s just say that a long wait is kind of appropriate for this one…
Well, I’ve bought a new laptop. Technically. The consensus of the people who’ve commented on the matter to me was that I should get a Windows 7 computer, that Windows 10 was still too new and buggy; and my online research seemed to confirm that 7 was the most stable and reliable. But all the stores are pushing Windows 10 now, so the only way I could get one with 7 was to have the store clerk order one for me online and have it shipped to me. I could’ve done that from home, I suppose, but I wanted to consult with someone who could explain things to me. Anyway, I’ve ordered a refurbished laptop of the same brand and vintage as my current one, but supposedly the refurbishing means it’s been tested and affirmed reliable. It was reasonably inexpensive, and it’s better than my current one in a number of respects — twice the RAM, processor about a third faster, hard drive about two-thirds roomier, screen resolution higher, and with a CD/DVD drive that burns DVDs, while my current one only burns CDs. And it’s old enough to have a VGA port so I can plug in my desktop monitor, although I gather there are VGA-to-USB adapters available if I needed one. It doesn’t have a built-in webcam, but that’s fine, since I usually keep it closed and use it as a desktop CPU anyway, and I have a separate webcam/mike that I’ve only really used once since I bought it (and that I keep unplugged when I’m not using it, for fear of online spying). The main thing I need is something that’s stable, that I can write on and browse on without freezing, and hopefully something I can watch streaming videos on effectively. I gather the doubled RAM and faster processor should facilitate that, along with the fact that Win 7 is less RAM-heavy than the Vista I’m currently saddled with. (I tried watching some Hulu last week, but my laptop froze up during the loading of an ad — the first time it’s actually frozen while I was watching a video, rather than later in a session while I was doing something else. The freezes seem to be coming more frequently.)
I also had to buy MS Office separately so I could install Word on the thing, and that was pretty pricey. The place where I bought my current laptop loads various software on their computers for free, including Office 2007, but I don’t trust that place anymore, and I figured it was worth investing in a newer edition of Word. (And my need to have Word for professional reasons limited my laptop buying choices — for instance, I couldn’t get a Chromebook, because they don’t yet have a Word app for the Android operating system they use.) But it’s been so long since I bought a major piece of software that things have changed. They don’t sell boxes with discs in them anymore — I spent a hundred-plus bucks for a palm-sized piece of cardboard with a product key number underneath a scratch-off pad, so I can download the software online.
The problem is, I have to wait for the machine to be delivered, which is expected to be sometime between next Tuesday and December 3. So I have to keep using my current one for another week or two and hope it stays functional. And I can’t trust it to watch videos on, which sucks, because Marvel’s Jessica Jones premieres on Netflix tomorrow. I’ll have to wait a while before I can watch it. (I really, really wish that when I got my smartphone a while back, I’d accepted their offer to add a tablet for another 50 bucks. I could use a tablet now.)
The other downside is that, between the money I’ve had to spend on the laptop and software, the prospect that it might be delivered next week, and the degree to which my laptop troubles have delayed my work on my Star Trek novel, I’ve had to reluctantly decide that I can’t spare the time or expense right now to drive to Maryland and have Thanksgiving with my cousins, aunt, and uncle. It stinks, but the timing just doesn’t work out. Hopefully I’ll get another chance to see them before long.
Anyway, now that I’ve actually bought the darn thing, that means I don’t need to spend any more time searching, so I’ve been able to refocus on the novel and make some real progress at last. And with my online TV-watching options constrained, I guess that’ll be one less distraction from writing. So hopefully I’ll be able to make up for lost time over the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, I’ve seen the recent news reports about how moderate coffee drinking is good for you, so I’m thinking I should drink more of it. Fortunately, I seem to have acclimated to the taste, even maybe kind of started to like it. Yesterday I dared to try drinking my morning coffee black, and it was actually palatable. Or maybe I’ve just burned off enough taste buds to tolerate it.
The local weather has been fluctuating between highs in the 40s and highs in the 60s, which is awkward for living in this apartment building with its strictly binary central-heat settings and its large mass making it slow to change temperature. Last week, it was chilly in my apartment and I had to bundle up and sleep under a heavy comforter; now it’s only a sunny 57 degrees outside but it’s stuffy and practically sweltering inside. So maybe I won’t have another cup of hot coffee just yet…