Tag Archives: Reading

More Technology From The Future: Star Trek and the PADD

Star Trek has always been a decent predictor of technology, from flip phone communicators to turbolift doors, and even hyposprays. But probably the most prescient device was the PADD (Personal Access Display Device).

Image Source: iO9

Image Source: io9

Not only did the PADD predict hand-held data entry and reading devices like the iPad and Kindle, it’s also one of the early cloud based devices. The PADD had the ability to tie into the main computer and download data on a particular book, technical document, image, or tech specification. They were even used for gaming, as Jake Sisko had quite an addictive Dom-jot habit (ah the perils of distraction even for the 24th century writer).

The devices were limited and special use. It seems like there ones for every shape and size task, and that they were handed between officers like paperwork in the mid twentieth-century. Most people say that we can get by on only a single device, yet even those of us who have tablets probably also have smart phones.

I have four of these “PADD’s” knocking around in my bag, and while they may have more functionality and storage, they’re just as specialized. One device can read my books to me and play limited games (and doesn’t get glare in the sun). Another is my primary library device, containing over 2000 books. My Kindle Fire is primarily a comic book reading device, and my other Android tablet is my auxiliary comic book and visual reference tablet (currently being used to look through 1000’s of RPG Maker image files). I suspect I’m not alone in this.

Image Source: Memory Alpha

Image Source: Memory Alpha

Our modern PADD’s come in all shapes and sizes, from full sized iPads to tiny smart phones, and we often do use a stylus to write (probably the only way I’ll be able to text on a smart-phone with my meat fingers).

Libraries today are already experimenting with the idea of having Kindles and iPads available for checkout, and Jeff Bezos has at times tried to make the Kindle as cheap as possible so that everyone has easy access to reading. In Bezos’ case part of the aim is to get people into the Amazon infrastructure, but still the idea of everyone having one of these devices, or even being able to just hand them out freely is enticing. I’ll always be a bit possessive with my gadgets, but the barriers to entry for tech like this are getting fewer.

And the specialized PADD’s in Star Trek do suggest an interesting idea for the future of book reading. eReaders have often been perceived as a threat to physical books, but there are ways to transform the digital tablet into a similar device, whether if it’s displaying the cover of the book you’re reading on the back, or by making a one off cheap tablet with navigation for a single book. I’ve always been more of a fan of general rather than single use products, but I think there is a happy medium to be found here.

Do you have multiple tablets, or you try to keep it to just one? What about the cloud? Do you like to read books on the device, or connect to the internet to read?

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Filed under Trube On Tech

Just when I thought I was out…

I’ve been spending the month of July moving my office. Phase 2 starts this weekend with the assembling of some desk furniture and moving my files and stuff downstairs.

Phase 1 was moving my library, and as part of that I handled just about every book in my collection, making a brief assessment as to what to keep and what to sell to HPB. I am easily suckered in by bundles, whether it’s the digital comic book / game variety these days, or actual bundles of books or magazines tied together with twine. Through one such acquisition I’d acquired a full long shelf (double stacked of course) of science fiction magazines, which had a lot of cool covers that I never looked at, with stories inside that I never read.

Image Source: Sci-Fi Stack Exchange

Image Source: Sci-Fi Stack Exchange

Despite having recently listened to Neil Gaiman’s charming introduction to Cory Doctorow’s Information Doesn’t Want To Be Free, I didn’t suspect that I had the story in there that would change my whole perspective on writing (especially with a lot of these older works being available in much easier to consume form on ManyBooks). So I sold about half the stack, going through each one to see if I recognized the authors, or even liked the titles to determine which ones to keep.

This weekend was Half Price Book’s coupon sale, an exercise in trying to save the most money on a single item without getting suckered in by the clearance section. On the 50% day I did what my wife and I have termed “a trifecta” hitting up the Lane, Bethel and Graceland HPB’s. At both Lane and Bethel were beautiful crowd facing carts with vintage sci-fi mags, going for $1-2 a piece. Ironically the only store that didn’t have these was Graceland where I’d actually sold my books. Now other than suspecting I should have sold the magazines somewhere else, as HPB was making a lot more money off them than I had, I had a little pang of regret for getting rid of them.

Now bear in mind, I’d had these magazines for years and I still have a good stack of at least 45-60 (plus more than that many on my Kindle). I never read them, and only looked at them when I was down in the basement, which until my office moves down there fully was not that often.

But it’s weird how even when you’ve made the decision to get rid of something, that’s when you suddenly see it everywhere you go. It could be ex-girlfriends, books, technology, or whatever, but some things we don’t get away from easily.

Fortunately I stuck to my guns and came home with a short stack of graphic novels instead of old sci-fi mags, including a copy of Blankets by Craig Thompson that Matt suggested I’d like. Admittedly I’m trading one form of shelf fillers for another, but hopefully these are things I’ll actually read. At the end of the day I live in a small house, and much as I love to be surrounded by books, they need to be books I actually look at it and fondle more often than once every seven years (no matter what Churchill or whoever may say).

Have you ever gotten rid of something, only to be tempted by it the next time you go to the store?


Filed under Books + Publishing

Where perfection should be possible

Some people like math because problems have solutions. Most of the time, those solutions can be proved, and the right answer is unequivocally the right answer.

Math might be the only thing that works that way. Writing certainly doesn’t, and neither does programming.

Writing software requires a lot of math, creativity and logical thinking. Like writing books, writing programs have roughly two stages of revision (though in a different order).

The first thing you have to do with a program is get it to compile. Yes, there are interpretive languages like Java, but even those have to obey certain rules of syntax. In other words, your program has to not have any obvious flaws, a misspelled command, a missing semi-colon, etc. This is most akin to copy-editing which is usually one of the last things you do when writing.

Many young programmers make the mistake of thinking a program is finished and working if it compiles, just as many writers think a book is done after they first write it down.

But the next stage of checking a program is testing. My favorite way of saying this is to act like a drunken monkey is randomly hitting the keyboard. In other words, don’t assume that the user has any idea how to use the program properly. Can they still get the desired task done? You shouldn’t test program only in the ways it should be used, but in the countless other ways it could be used, even if those are wrong. Then you write additional code, or fix existing, to make sure the program can deal with all of those drunken monkeys.

This is what the writer does when they rearrange scenes, write bridging scenes, flip chapters, and put the story in front of beta-readers. You may have thought your narrative worked a certain way, but people reading it may show you otherwise, especially people who aren’t inclined toward your genre and its conventions.

But the last and most important stage of any story and any program is getting it out there.

It is impossible to code for every possible contingency, nor is it practical to do so. You could spend a month trying to solve a problem that might waste 5 minutes of 1 person’s time out of a million. That’s time that could be spent creating something else, or fixing the bigger flaws.

And you have to deal with the different ways people look at something. Anyone who’s tried to program cross-browser applications knows there is no perfect solution that looks exactly the same in all of the major web-browsers. We’re crazy enough people to get down to the pixel level and notice that Chrome adds a pixel where Internet Explorer doesn’t. And don’t even get me started about Firefox which insists on doing everything different.

Your readers will function much the same way. The way a scene will look in one person’s mind will play very differently in another’s. There may be ways they’ll look at a passage you would never have even considered. Sometimes this is wonderful and can teach you a lot about your own tendencies, and other times its annoying and you just want that person to shut up.

Whichever it is, you have to decide when a project is done, and what are the best things to fix before moving on to something else. Writing and software can be perpetual activities, but nothing would ever be finished if somebody didn’t throw up their hands and say, it’s done!

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Filed under Trube On Tech, Writing

Surreality Update

As some of you may have noticed I finished the final draft of Surreality last week. There should be about two months of proofing and formatting before the book is released on Amazon (not your summer beach read, but your fall curled up in a cabin by the fire read maybe?) There’s still a bit to do. I’m going back and forth on the formatting for chapter headers, first sentences and letters of each chapter, line spacing, scene differentiating and of course cover shooting and designing. And there’ll be a lot of Columbus themed posts before and after the launch to help you guys get even more immersed in the world of Surreality and city I write from.

But right now I’m fighting the urge that I think most writers have to face at some point. The urge to start another book right away.

This has been a bit of a pattern for me. I’ll finish a draft and be happy and pleased but exhausted. My brain wants to go in a different place for a while and I start writing on something else. Pretty soon I’m well into another first draft of a book. This so far has resulted in a queue of two more books in various stages of development, and untold numbers still in my head.

That said, I want to follow up Surreality with something exciting as soon as I can. I’m working on the outline (though admittedly all in my head at the moment) for the second book, and have a tentative idea of what books 3-4 (or 5) will be. Each of these are self-contained mysteries (but there are also series long arcs and character developments to think about as well).

And what I really should be doing is writing short stories, some for the blog, and some hopefully for some kind of publication. I have a problem though with coming up with short ideas. Everything that pops in my head wants to be a novel. I have been enjoying participating in a facebook writing group with Jo Eberhardt called Bradbury’s 52. There we write a short story each week with a brand new random theme (person, place or thing). So far the prompts have been very challenging but my mind always manages to come up with something. I think this will be a good exercise in keeping me from going down the same paths again and again, and getting me to think in different ways. Depending on how fully realized each story is, I may share some of these with you on the blog.

I’m trying to do some more reading (and more than just comic books though you’ll see some more NetGalley reviews on Thursday). I’m working through the first of the Kathy Reichs Bones novels, and I’ve got a couple of collections of short stories I’m reading to put me more in that headspace. I might try some Jeffrey Deaver as well or another Elizabeth George or Colin Dexter. I’m looking for good books in the thriller, mystery, suspense genre at the moment, so if you have any thoughts leave them in the comments.

And I of course will be working on the final text of Surreality. In fact I promise to do some work right after I post this and drink some more coffee 😉

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Filed under Writing