Friday, January 25, 2008

Linux for 2008

I've been using Linux for over ten years now, running various flavours on servers and even a desktop or two. Ever year since about 1999 has been touted as 'the year of the linux desktop', but ironically it seems the key to Linux adoption isn't dependant on coming up with a 'better Windows' ... it's the falling price of hardware.

I've been reading about the Asus Eee PC with much interest, given the price, the features and the fact it runs Linux. A mini-laptop for under A$500 isn't a bad deal at all, and it's not surprising they're selling out of the things all over.

But what prompted THIS blog post wasn't the Eee or some new Linux feature. No, I just cleared the mailbox and amongst the usual junk mail was a catalogue for The Good Guys (a white goods retailer) There's a regular, everyday laptop on the front, an Acer Aspire 4315-100508CI with all the usual features. After rebate, the price is just A$499, which is a couple of hundred bucks less than I've seen any laptop selling for before now. And right there in the features it says 'Linux operating system'.

I'm not a Windows-basher by any means ... after all, I started using it several months before picking up Linux, and I earn a living writing Windows software. It's just that I love a good David and Goliath battle - the battling underdog with no chance of survival, the giant's look of surprise at an unexpected wound, then panic, then the reaction ... fun.

If nothing else, people looking to buy Vista down the track will be able to thank the Linux OS for a lower price ... perhaps.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What I've been up to

Still have a bad back, still not mobile. I've been using the laptop and programming 12-16 hours a day, which is one way to keep the mind busy.

For the past two days I've been writing Sonar3, which is a refresh of Sonar2, my submissions tracking software. v3 has a new file format (XML), autobackups, improved forms and more. (Sonar1 and 2 were designed when 15" 800x600 screens were the norm, which is why all the dialog boxes are so tiny on modern screens.)

Apart from that I've continued converting apps to Visual Basic 2008, which involves learning a whole lot of stuff about the new graphics handling methods. yLaunch2, yGen2, yCopy2 are all complete and working, and on my own system I'm now using those live in place of the originals.

The problem with converting old code is that many of the tweaks and constructs no longer work. There are two ways you can approach a conversion:

1) Import the old project and set to work converting code in hundreds (or thousands) of places, rewriting everything which doesn't work

2) Still using the old language, take a copy of the project, bump the version number, and rewrite the code so it still works in the old language AND it will work in the new.

I was doing my conversions the first way, and the problem there is that you end up with two wildly different projects. During the conversion process I inevitably fix and tweak other things, until the new project has features not in the original. Then, if I add something to the original I end up with the opposite situation. And doing another conversion from the Improved Original involves losing all the new changes AND all the converted code.

This is what happened with yWriter, and it's the reason I abandoned the new conversion of yWriter 4 and instead wrote it in the old language. It wasn't wasted effort though, since every attempted conversion teaches me more about the new language.

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks I've been working the second way (hence Sonar3), and the difference is incredible. For example, when I imported yLaunch (a nifty little app, by the way) it only had seven errors to fix, instead of 300+. The result was a fully-working new version in under a day.

So, what next?

After Sonar3 I've got a pick of other projects:

Tweak yWriter4.
Write a new database for my charting software.
Discover how printing works in VB2008 (or rather, doesn't.)
Write BookDB3 with a new database format.

Fascinating stuff, eh?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another mad January idea

I've decided to offer my services as a programmer for hire, specifically with the idea of working on legacy Visual Basic projects (VB5 and VB6, although I've also designed and written major projects in VB3, VB4 and VB Dos .. even QuickBasic 4.5)

I'm not after a job, but I am interested in exploring the idea of contract work. Full details on the link above.

What prompted this? A comment on Slashdot, a discussion on SFNovelists, and a desire to continue working from home.

I mean, here I sit with over 20 years experience, and it's mostly going to waste.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Fantastic Planet top 50 bestsellers of 2007

Pinched from their blog:

1...Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
2...The Court of the Air, by Stephen Hunt
3...Temeraire, by Naomi Novik
4...The Prefect, by Alastair Reynolds
5...Black Man, by Richard Morgan
6...Bad Case of Loving You, by Lainey Cairo
7...Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds
8...The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
9...Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman
10..Engaging the Enemy, by Elizabeth Moon


23..Hal Spacejock: Just Desserts, by Simon Haynes


Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Helping hand

One of my new year resolutions was to try and help a few people in need, and I just found a great vehicle for lending a hand ... allows individuals to make $25 loans to low-income entrepreneurs in the developing world (microfinance). By doing so, individuals like you provide affordable working capital for the poor (money to buy a sewing machine, livestock, etc.), empowering them to earn their way out of poverty.

I just signed up and loaned a few bucks to Neba Ferdinand in Cameroon and Elen Suci and Normawati of Bali, Indonesia. Some of these folks are only asking for a $100 loan to start a new business, or to expand the one they're running now. (You can lend as little as $25, so a group of people can all chip in to help one borrower.)

Anyway, I've set up a Kiva profile, and if you have the wherewithal you might like to give Neba, Elen or Normawati a hand as well - or anyone else on the site, for that matter.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)