The spirits of computer failure target me again.

January 19, 2013

Once again, I’m having computer issues. This time, it’s with my beloved eeePC, which I may have used the most for writing and editing in the most unlikely places over the past four years or so.

Everything seemed to be fine Thursday midday. I’d taken it to work with me, and not actually used it on the bus because I’d been procrastinating for a week and a half on reading the other entries to the latest SDMB short fiction contest. So I quickly transferred those stories to the Kindle before I left home and read like crazy all the way to Burlington.

The eeePC battery tends to drain itself fairly quickly even when the netbook isn’t turned on, and it doesn’t actually realize that it needs to recharge until you turn it on. So I quickly powered it up on my lunch break, then plugged it in later that afternoon so the battery would top up. I remember that the desktop came up as usual.

After walking to the bus stop Thursday evening, I powered up the eeePC – and things were going wrong. It was prompting me for a password, which it usually doesn’t do on boot, and when I typed in the usual admin password, it just kept returning me to the same prompt without any message of what was going on:

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I didn’t take these photos on the bus, but it wasn’t hard to recreate the same prompts at home. But back to the bus for now – I was quickly getting critical low battery messages as well, which was a bit unusual, so I packed up the netbook, hoping it was just a weird reaction to booting on a low battery. Maybe if it booted up fine plugged into AC power, I would order a replacement battery. Pulled out the Kindle again and read some of “Maybe Baby” and watched part of an ‘8 Simple Rules’ episode with John Ritter, on the iPhone.

But things didn’t work out any better once I got the netbook home. Same login prompts when I tried to boot from the solid-state drive. Yesterday morning, I made up a liveUSB stick with Xubuntu 10.10 on it – several versions back, but one version ahead of what was on the netbook, and it was handy. It took a while to re-enable the right BIOS option to book from a USB hard-disk device, and that seemed to go promising to start with.

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The splash screen for Xubuntu took a long time when it was running off the flash drive, over half an hour:

 

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But eventually, disaster struck:

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The error message I was getting was something like “udevd[166]: timeout killing /sbin/blkld -o udev -p /dev/sdb1′ [378]”. After a while, I also got some “udevd[166]: /sbin/blkld -o udev -p /dev/sdb1′ terminated by signal 9 (killed)”

So, it kinda looks to me like the eeePC is toast. There’s one option on the liveUSB that I haven’t tried yet – to reformat the SSD and reinstall Xubuntu onto it. But if I can’t even run Xubuntu off the liveUSB, I have very little hope that a reinstall will even finish, let alone work the way I want it to.

Any geeks out there have a better prognosis or suggestion for me? I know that all electronics do have an expected lifespan, and the eeePC has given me much over the years. But I’ll be sad to see it go this way.

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C is for Celtx

April 3, 2012

The Script Frenzy A-Z challenge so far…

Different people use different software for Script Frenzy, including MS Word and Final Draft, but no script writing program has quite become a part of Script Frenzy culture, in my opinion, like Celtx. It’s the only program that has a forum devoted to it on the Script Frenzy message board.

There are lots of good reasons that Celtx gets plenty of love with Frenziers. It’s dedicated to scripts and other media projects, yet versatile enough to do reasonably well at lots of different kind of scripts. It can be used collaboratively, in browsers, or with a single computer offline. And, possibly the biggest factor in its favor is that you can use Celtx for most things without having to pay for it. 🙂

I started using Celtx for Script Frenzy… let’s see, it was probably my third year, 2009. What motivated me was the fact that it could be run on my newest toy, the eeePC netbook. In fact, they had a special eeePC version as well as the vanilla linux version at that point. So ever since then, I’ve got a lot of mileage out of using Celtx both on the road and at home, copying my screnzy.celtx file to whichever computer I’m going to use next.

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Xubuntu

April 28, 2011

X is for…

Well, this is the point at which I geek out, it seems.

I’ve been using Xubuntu of one sort or another on my eeePC netbook for a few years now, I guess. When I wanted to move on from the hokey Xandros OS that came with the eeePC, there were a bunch of eeePC specific linux OS installers around, and I picked eeeXubuntu because it seemed to have a reasonably good support community at eeeuser, where I was already familiar with the wiki and forums.

But I quickly came to appreciate Xubuntu’s mix of power and user-friendliness, with the Thunar file explorer (reassuringly like Windows XP’s in a lot of important ways,) the down and dirty mousepad text editor, and the global keyboard shortcuts that let me give all my favorite programs an easy to remember shift-key combination, so that I don’t need to worry about how to add anything to the start menu. (Good thing too, because the Xubuntu start menu, on the other hand, is ARCANE! I still don’t really know the details of where and how I’d need to construct a shortcut file to get Celtx on my eeePC start menu.)

And behind the Xfce desktop environment, of course, is all the power of the Ubuntu operating system core, with the Synaptic package manager to make it easy to find new software packages to install, like OpenOffice, Gambas programming tool, Unison to sync my work with a flash drive, and so on.

I wanted to update the Ubuntu version on the eeePC over the winter, and I tried the ‘Ubuntu netbook remix’ version first. But I wasn’t impressed with that interface – it seemed to have its own ideas about what people should be using netbook computers for, and customizing it to the purposes I wanted seemed like too much of a pain. So I went back to Xubuntu, Maverick Meerkat version, which has worked well ever since.

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National Novel Editing Month update, week 1

March 7, 2011

But first! A scheduling update, as promised.

I said that I’d be adjusting the Kelworth Files schedule, and the fact that I’m not doing a Crusader spotlight tonight is evidence of that. I’ve finished off another series, “Blog the Cat” screenwriting, and there’s a few short features that I want to start for March, and a scheduling conflict with Wednesdays. So, here’s what the rundown looks like for the next few weeks, before A to Z hits and leaves the entire blog a mash of Frenzied chaos…

Nanoedmo updates will be Mondays, as the month of March started on a Tuesday and thus each week ends on Monday, so I can do roundups for week 1, 2, 3, and so on.

Similarly Script Frenzy preparation will be covered on Fridays, as I can do ‘3 weeks until Script Frenzy is here’, ‘2 weeks…’ etcetera, since the 1st of April will be a Friday.

The ‘Wizard of Mars’ chapter reviews will be staying on Wednesday for this week, and then moving to Sunday, since there are two upcoming blogfests that are scheduled for Wednesdays. (I suppose that Sundays will also leave me free to continue doing reviews in April without needing to worry about alphabet letters, if I have the energy to, otherwise it may go on hiatus until May.) Do stay tuned to A wizard of Mars, as some very interesting things are coming up in the next few chapters!

In light of all of this,  the Crusader spotlight feature will be moving to Tuesday. It looks like off-topic Thursday is staying put, and sharing exercises moving to Saturday, though either of them might get bumped in favor of Crusader business.

Okay, with all of that explained, let’s get to Nanoedmo.

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Why I don’t like the ereader.com beta software for Linux

February 24, 2011

I’ve been a fan of the ereader.com book reader software since way back when they were ‘Peanut Press Palm Reader’, which came bundled with my first true PDA, a monochrome Palm m125

It seemed like a revolutionary idea, that all kinds of great books, (well, a mediocre selection of great books and more good books,) could be bought for cheap and carried around in my pocket.

I’ve used ereader software on dozens of different devices now, and I do think that the platform has a lot to recommend it. The interfaces are usually good, especially with the intuitive ‘click to turn the page’ options, and it’s easy to copy your books from place to place, with the only digital-rights nonsense being a prompt to enter your name and your credit card number as an unlock code. The logic there, is that unlike arbitrary password, you’re unlikely to include the credit card number when sharing your book files on a peer to peer network, or to friends of friends on a CD.

I even managed to get ereader pro running on my Linux eeePC netbook, though they didn’t officially support Linux, through something that’s called ‘the wine compatibility layer’, which allows a lot of windows programs to run under Linux. In December, I upgraded the eeePC to the Maverick Meerkat Xubuntu version, and in the course of re-installing all my software, went over to the ereader.com site to download the windows installer.

And I got totally distracted when I saw that they had an entry labeled ‘Ereader beta for Linux Ubuntu’. Quickly downloaded this and installed it on the eeePC.

Unfortunately, this beta version is among the worse pieces of software that I’ve seen. Not the worst, because there’s some truly wretched stuff out there, but bad enough that I was really disappointed that it came from ereader.com

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I’m feeling so very off-topic tonight…

December 16, 2010

So let’s see what I can come up with to tell you about. I ran some more recent projects through ‘I write like’, just for the fun of it:

“Dragon’s Prey”, a Roswell/Dragonriders of Pern crossover that I started back in June I think, is written like: Arthur Clarke

The new draft of “Landing”: William Gibson

“The Onus of Grace”, the challenge story that I turned into my Nano novel for this year: Jack London

The new draft of “The Wolves of Wyoming”: Annie Rice!  I think that this is supposed to be Anne Rice and they mistyped it into their database. Even the Amazon sales box is confused, offering a mix of Anne Rice, Annie Tremmel, Annie Johnston, and Annie Russel.

The ‘Father Ismay’ Blogisodes: Ursula K. Le Guin

The first writing exercise that I did for the Brian Henry ‘Writing with Style’ workshop in September: David Foster Wallace

Style exercise 2: Neil Gaiman
When I submit both style exercises together, David Foster Wallace wins.

The latest episode of the Roswell/Doctor Who crossover that I was working on in JulNoWriMo, Children of the Molecule 23: J. K. Rowling! (The JulNoWriMo chapters came out as Dan Brown.)

The Angel’s Charlie, my Nanowrimo novel: Dan Brown

Harry and Mars: Arthur Clarke (I think that seems to be the default reply for anything science fiction.)

Alien in Metropolis chapter 3 (the Roswell/Smallville crossover): Stephen King

The Artifact: Arthur Clarke

The start of the ‘Conspiracy’ Nano idea: William Gibson

The two Sunday ‘Star Patrol’ Blogisodes so far: Arthur Clarke

What else? I’ve been playing around with a few little things regarding technology and writing – one is an MSword VBA macro that I’ve worked out to convert a kind of a rough ‘markup language’ into Microsoft Word comments. I really like them as a way of sending back feedback to other authors, but sometimes I’d like to read or make notes on a device that doesn’t have MSword available – including the eeePC netbook. OpenOffice is great at many things, but its ‘add comment’ feature doesn’t compare to Word’s – particularly because you can’t tie a comment back to a word or a phrase, only to a point between two characters. So, with this new macro, I could start with something like:

Jack fell down and broke his <<by which we mean, his head||crown>>,

and get:

It’s working pretty well, although there’s one thing about the MSoffice VBA that confuses me – after I’ve finished making one substitution, which involved using a ‘find’ command twice, (once for the comment text and once for the body text to anchor it to,) the ‘find’ command stops working. When I enter the code to reset the range and start a new find command, that works perfectly, although I think it might be slower for really long documents full of these custom comments. Guess I’ll have to see how that goes.

The other technology item is one that I haven’t really started on yet, but I’m considering upgrading the eeePC’s Ubuntu version over the Christmas holidays. It’s been on Hardy Heron eeeXubuntu for about two years now, and that’s been fairly good, by the Heron is getting towards the end of its Ubuntu lifespan, and apparently the Lucid Lynx is a really great upgrade, and it’ll let me install some great software that isn’t available for the Heron. So wish me luck there – or if you’ve had horrible experiences with Lucid Lynx and want to tell me I’d be making a horrible mistake: just comment! Thanks.


National Novel Writing Month 2010 – Day 1

November 1, 2010

Stats Roundup:

Words written today: 2,588

Scenes written: 6

Times I’ve had to resort to brackets and [include something I’ll research later in here]: 1

Local write-ins attended: 1

Local writers that attended the write-in, including me: 6

Times my eeePC started flashing a low-battery light during the day: 1

Characters appeared from my outline: 3

Characters appeared who weren’t included in my outline: 2

A good start to the month, overall.


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