Feeding The Need

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

Those of us who write understand the gnawing of an idea that enters our consciousness through a dream or, perhaps, a simple crazy, disjointed, random thought that occurs during any given day. Eventually, it can lead to a story. That story may be several pages, a novel or several novels. But that is pretty-much how the process begins. And it isn’t like you can ignore the impulse to write. If you try, it will make you ill or turn you into an alcoholic. There is no other option but to write until having writ you can move on – usually to the next warped idea that comes to mind.

As a published author one of the frequently asked questions is: ‘When did you first know that what you were writing was a novel.” I have to qualify some things before I answer that, with regard to my present novel in release, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce). Unlike the other thirty-some-odd manuscripts I have archived somewhere or the other, FW started out to be a collection of short stories. Those stories had recurring characters and the world – or rather universe – was shared. But when I wrote FW in draft it was sixteen separate short stories. At some point, fairly close to when I decided to submit it to Pandamoon Publishing, I decided to stitch it together as a novel. After that effort there were a couple of other chapters feathered into the story, just so that it made some sense and had flow as well as a story arc. Even so, I submitted what are the first two chapters to an online magazine. Independently a friend edited them, gratis – which was all I could afford. I loved her suggestions and went with most of them. The result: I submitted the two chapters as a single short story, fully expecting it to become my launch pad, a series submitted as installments to the magazine. At some point I would assemble the whole into a collection. That was my idea, anyway.

I was pretty much homeless at the time, and would have lived on the streets if not for the accommodations and largess of my brother-in-law and oldest sister. I did odd jobs for him as a way of paying my keep. But mainly I wrote and made great progress on a lot of that manuscripts I had never had the time to deal with while working 55+ hours a week as a retail manager.

I was not in a good place after what most have termed a mental meltdown. Of course, I don’t see it that way. Leaving my last previous job made all the sense in the world because. I honestly believe, I’d be dead by now had I not done so. After living in my brother-in-law’s house for nearly a year he delivered an ultimatum about my writing: sell something, or find a real job – as in anything that pays a weekly wage.

He and I have very different perspectives on money.

He has always believed I was my father’s prodigal son. I have always understood that money is as worthless as the paper it is printed on – a more durable sort of toilet paper, actually, especially so if  the majority of people ever bother to consult Webster’s as to the definition of fiduciary – which defines our monetary system. My sister got in the middle of all that. Of course, she loves me as her baby brother. But the reality of my situation put a lot of stress on her, and I appreciated that. I was divorced. My ex-wife pretty much sapped all my savings away in the process of paying debts for an ill-fated business venture. We filed for bankruptcy just before we divorced.

I’m not blaming her for everything here. There were more than enough errors to go around. But had I done what I wanted to do instead of listening to her, I think things might have turned out better. But, then, really, who knows?

What I am certain of is that my kids were better off for having experienced the negative side of happens to an otherwise apparently successful, affluent married couple. We had the $300k home in Connecticut. Paid cash for it. We had cars we owned outright as well. My company was making money and selling my stock options afforded me a lifestyle I had not yet earned. Our kids were attending the best school system in the state. But, within the course of a year and a half, it all unraveled. The tragedy took a few more years to fully play-out, but that when the decline started,around the time I was hospitalized for endocarditis.

I had open heart surgery in May of 1995 to repair a failing mitral valve. As I was recovering I was following O. J. Simpson’s trial on TV. I died seven times during the surgery. I would have never known that had I not needed to fax the transcripts of the surgery to the insurance carrier. They were disputing everything, of course. From my side of the experience, I had a couple of very long and persistent bizarre dreams during that experience. And those are also incorporated into The Wolfcat Chronicles, a series I have under contract with Pandamoon Publishing.

I toyed with writing for most of my life. I wrote a manuscript called Tarot while I was in college. Some of that lead directly to The Wolfcat Chronicles. I really and honestly believed Tarot would be published. I retyped it – you had to use typewriter back then – and allowed someone, a friend I respected, to read it. I expected her to tell me, “I love it send it away to a publisher now!” What she told me was a bit more sobering. “This is really a great rough draft. What you need to do is find a good editor.”

Dream shaken but not shattered. I still have that manuscript in a box somewhere about. I have consulted it several times over the years whenever I was beset with excessive hubris. It grounds me. Think of it as the portrait of Dorian Gray that is kept in the attic.

I went on a hiatus from writing fiction while I served it the USAF as a crypto-linguist and unit historian. In that secondary role I composed a 400+ page document that is, technically, my first published work. The distribution was exclusive to those with Top Secret SCI clearances. Maybe four or five people every looked at it. It won an award though. So, at some point, I assume someone must have read it. As odd as it might seem for a fiction writer, that was the impetus for me to pursue my other stories.  All of it came into resolute focus when I was recovering for the surgery. I needed to do something as a legacy for my children if not for myself.

It’s been a long and often frustrating journey spanning twenty years to this point. Fried Windows completes one part of my life and begets another, the life of a published author. Imagine that!

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Review of Justin Lee Anderson’s Carpet Diem

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Imagine the big bang was a little mistake that rapidly spun out of control, the result of divine siblings messing around and being unable to stop it. Of course they roll with it, wagering on which species will evolve to dominate. But the game was rigged from the outset so that it isn’t supposed to end in a stalemate.

The title Carpet Diem is a play on the Latin for “Seize the Day”. In this case, Justin Lee Anderson’s novel might be called Carpe Vestis or Seize the Rug. A unique, ancient artifact that Simon Debovar inherits from his uncle, a renowned archeologist, is the source considerable divine interest. You see, what Simon has decided to keep as his living room carpet proves to be the thirteenth and final piece of the ages contest pitting angels against demons. It is all they need to resolve the eternal competition, but according to the Rules, they must have the present owner give it to one or the other sides.

The rug, along with the rest of Simon’s considerable inheritance, came into Simon’s possession thirteen years ago after nearly all of his relations die at a family reunion, the result of an apparent accident involving pudding. As the sole named heir he becomes instantly loaded. And he, an asocial sort retreats even further from society, holed up in an apartment as an antisocial hermit who generally hates people mainly because they smell bad. Simon has disabled his doorbell to prevent anyone from ringing it. But then, after more than a decade of silence, it sounds, waking him from his sleep. He doesn’t answer the door so much from the curiosity of who might be calling but instead to learn how, after all this time, it has managed to ring. Those responsible are an unlikely pair, an angel named Daniel and a demon named Lily who have come bearing propositions. They have long since thrown in together to find the last artifact and are about to make their tempting offers to Simon in exchange. Yes, this is that kind of story, stretching the limits of imagination in the process of advancing plot and having some laughs along the way.

Justin Lee Anderson writes in the tradition of heavyweights like Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams but with a style all his own. He provides a host of bizarre and seemingly unnavigable situations for his characters, which include just about everything supernatural from witches and wizards to teleporters, ghosts and, of all things, an all-knowing deer. There are even some beings that are undefined in the nature of the universe, with unlimited abilities – just to make things more interesting. With imagination unbridled Anderson writes an absurd adventure leaving the reader wondering where it might go next. And the answer is, just about anywhere.

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Preparing a Manuscript for Publication

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It seems that each time an ARC is created from a Word doc into Kindle MOBI a number of formatting errors appear. Amazon and CreateSpace have instructions on how to eliminate some common problems that will prevent a title from being accepted but, from experience, the guidelines do not cover every issue that may arise.

Part of the problem is that there seems to be as many different ways of creating a manuscript writing as there are authors. Some of us old timers started writing on typewriters and, at some point, graduated to word processors well before the advent of programs designed for personal computers. Since each word processor had its own set of rules, personal style was influenced by the hardware used. This created a lot of habits that complicate the use of Microsoft Word for producing a manuscript.

Here is a non-inclusive list of the known issues author can address and fix in advance of submitting a final version of a manuscript for editing and eventual publication. This list assumes you are using Microsoft Word, but it may apply to other, similar programs like Open Office.

  1. Do not use tabs when indenting. This throws off the spacing in an eBook.
  2. Use left justification only. At some point in the finishing stages of the editing process the document will be set for left and right adjustment.
  3. Do not use spaces to indent. Again this throws off spacing in an eBook.
  4. Regardless of what you were taught in school about two spaces between sentences, that is only used for scholarly work and is not done in novels. In the past typesetters charged by the character, including spaces, so publisher saved money by minimizing the use of spaces.
  5. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the end of a paragraph.
  6. Ensure there are no extra spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  7. Ensure there are no extra spaces between words throughout the document. A useful tool for finding extra spaces with Word is showing hidden characters. In the most recent version of MS Word it is turned on automatically when you show paragraph ends. Look for the paragraph symbol in the tool bar.
  8. Set the ruler in MS Word to automatically indent the number of necessary spaces at the beginning of a paragraph.
  9. Set up the Page Properties to single space between paragraphs. If your manuscript is later set to double space, as it should be for greater ease of editing throughout the process, when the document is converted, so will the spacing between paragraphs. Then, when it is converted to single space for publication, there will not be an extra 1 ½ lines between paragraphs (which is MS Word’s default). Word is designed mainly for business use. For writing a novel it must be adjusted.
  10. Book titles and chapter headers that are centered on the page need to be adjusted so that the centering is from the margin edge not the set paragraph indent. This also applies to any special characters used to indicate a change of scene in the body of a chapter. Also End or The End, if you have concluded your manuscript in that way, need to be centered from the margin not the indent.
  11. Now, here’s the biggy. Between chapters in a manuscript you will need to insert a page break. This forces the Kindle Conversion to start your next chapter at the top of a fresh page. Otherwise your next chapter will appear immediately after, as in the next line, following the concluding sentence of the previous chapter. Still, that may not be enough. If your chapter ends on the last line of the previous page, you will need to insert the page break at the top of the ensuing page, followed by a new line. For the sake of having the beginning of chapters look consistent through a book on Kindle, it may be necessary to insert a new line after each instance of a page break. A page break should be used on the title page, the dedication page, table of contents page and each blank page you wish you have in the body of the manuscript. If the table of contents page is longer than a single page allow the document to flow onto the ensuing page. Set the page break at the conclusion of the last page of the table of contents.

If manuscripts are created according to these standards or adjusted to them prior to submitting to a publisher in the editing process it will significantly reduce the amount of time and effort required for finding all the formatting issues created in the Kindle conversion process. Generally speaking, if the manuscript is set up for Kindle, the CreateSpace conversion will also go more smoothly, as will conversions to ePub and other eBook and print formats.

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Review of Chrissy Lessey’s The Hunted Book Two of The Crystal Coast Series

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The Hunted focuses on the interactions of the characters Chrissy Lessey created in The Secret Keepers and The Coven. The inherent conflict between the good witches of the coven in the small, picturesque coastal town of Beaufort, NC and the evil ones who are descendants of Blackbeard the pirate is extended in a thoroughly engaging way.

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First, Lessey reveals more of the backstory, allowing the reader to know about 17th Century events that precipitated the coven’s hasty departure from their homes in Salem, Massachusetts. As you will remember, under the leadership of their new queen Lucia, the founding members of the coven establish their own colony. Lucia’s daughter, Charlotte and two other young witches are sacrificed to deflect the interest of Blackbeard the pirate in their island home. The young witches are taken aboard Blackbeard’s ship and, in due course, transported to the North Carolina Coast.

Susan Moore and her daughter Vanessa are direct descendants of the notorious pirate. Queen Lucia’s lineage carries to the present as Queen Patricia, her daughter and heir, Stevie, and the five-year-old Charlie, Stevie’s son, who struggles with both autism and his emerging magical powers. Patricia possesses the fabled amethyst amulet that, in the past, Queen Diana entrusted to her daughter Lucia on the fateful night that Puritan Reverend Samuel Parris precipitated the witch hunts. Diana sacrificed herself so that her coven could escape.

The Hunted picks up shortly after the conclusion of The Coven as Stevie, Dylan and Charlie attempt to make a future together. But Stevie has yet to tell her ex-husband, Sam, about her new relationship. We also learn more about what happened to Vanessa Moore in the aftermath of the explosion of the boat she was on. And finally we visit with Susan Moore, Vanessa’s mother, who the local coven has stripped of her powers and had her committed to an insane asylum.

Susan befriends Chaplain Benjamin Parris, the proud direct descendant of Samuel, intending to use his interest in eradicating witches from the world to focus on the coven. Lessey sets the key players in place for the fiery confrontation ahead.

Despite Vanessa’s failure in The Coven to secure the amethyst amulet for her mother, Susan still covets it for its ability to enhance its bearer’s powers. If she can secure the amulet her bound powers will be restored and she will become the most powerful witch in the world. She plans to use her newly restored and enhanced powers to seize control of the coven and force those who banded together against her to bow down to her as their queen. In Chaplain Parris, Susan finds a willing, if at first unwitting, assistant.

The Hunted is very well-written, fast-paced and engaging. Lessey advances the storyline masterfully, more than fulfilling the promise of The Coven. The characters feel as real as their North Carolina hometown. You expect to be able to go there and meet these fictional people who are members of The Historical Society. At the conclusion there is little doubt where the tale is heading for the third installment. I look forward to reading it.

The Hunted is due out in the Fall of 2015 from Pandamoon Publishing. Review is based on an author supplied Advance Readers Copy.

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WIndows 10 – Plus Two Weeks, More or Less

WIndows 10 – Plus Two Weeks, More or Less.

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Windows 10 – To Update or Not to Update

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As the 29 July 2015 release date for Windows 10 approaches Microsoft has been releasing security updates in fairly rapid succession. These appear to be bug fixes as well as patches for security issues. Think of it as a kind of fix everything at once update. Unfortunately, there has been some device drivers updated as well, most notably NVidia graphics drivers. These appear to adversely impact people who are using SLI (multiple graphics cards) and multiple monitor configurations. In essence this is the serious gamer community that use Windows as a platform because, lets face it, Mac OS X has never been a great gaming platform and developer support for game development in Linux is primitive at best. In other words, Windows is the only significant platform for serious, cutting edge PC gaming.

Upgrading to Windows 10 may make a lot of sense for the gamer. It supports Direct X 12, which will not be released for any previous of Windows. So, even though there aren’t a lot of games out there that use Direct X 12, there certainly will be and their releases dates could come fast and furious with Christmas only five months away. What else would you get the gamer on your shopping list but a the latest and greatest game?

The problem with NVidia and Microsoft is that there appears to be two different version of drivers for the graphics cards. Now, normally you’d think the hardware manufacturer’s drivers would take precedence. But from past experience I have not always trusted the hardware manufacturer’s versions of any software to work out of the box. I’m not saying Microsoft has a great track record for releasing stable software but when it comes to drivers that work with Windows, usually the Microsoft version has been tested on a variety of systems. Gamers, however, want the fasted drivers for their machines and that is usually whatever the hardware maker has just posted. It may be barely better than a beta version of a driver.

Apparently what has happened in the past couple of days is kind of the reserve situation. You see Microsoft wants to increase its control, over the upgrade and update process to ensure stability of the installed base for Windows 10. That means they will release software updates and force them to be installed. Once released Windows will update on either a fast ring – immediately – or a slow ring – within a month of an updates release. The Windows 10  Beta Testers, aka Windows Insiders, are receiving these security updates that at present include display drivers and a number of other pieces of software that probably wouldn’t normally come in a security patch.  It may be to save time on execution of the patches, but it has cause some serious problems for some people out there with rather exotic configuration. I would point out that they should not be running Windows 10 in the first place but, being of a gamer mentality and wanting the latest and greatest…well, that’s why they are running Windows 10 and having problems with the upgrades. and updates. They want what’s cutting edge technology, even if it is a little buggy at times.

The bugs in these drivers range from not being able to boot a system normally to losing multiple monitor support, to having the driver attempting to install multiple times, once for each graphics card installed,  to having a system unable to boot at all.

I’m not a gamer, though I share the mentality of a gamer in wanting to run the latest updates and being at the cutting edge of things. My graphics driver is for the Intel chip on a Surface Pro 3. That driver works in all but a few feature functions that were supported with the original driver under Windows 8 and 8.1, namely being able to rotate the Surface while in tablet mode and have the chip change from landscape to portrait automatically. This may be something that needed to be ironed out between the touch screen LCD display manufacturer, Intel and Microsoft. And the way Windows 10 is made to default to desktop verse tablet mode (unless specified otherwise) I’m not too sure there will be a driver written that does support the feature. For me that is not a deal breaker in upgrading to Windows 10. As a writer I use the Surface almost always with either the portable keyboard or a Bluetooth keyboard while it is connected to a Surface Pro 3 docking station. In the latter configuration, I have an external monitor that allows pivoting to portrait mode for editing pages. This I have to tell the driver to do that, though supposedly the device supports the function with its software (on some operating system out there, perhaps Mac OS X). For the most part, that works for me, doing it manually at needed. There are a couple of minor glitches with the monitor when exiting from sleep mode and that requires me to cycle the power on the monitor, but it is a livable situation at this point.

I guess my point about whether to upgrade or not depends on how interested you are in running the latest software. You have to be ready for glitches and some inconvenience. So I’m not sure what all the online whining is about. Microsoft is sprinting to the finish line for the Wednesday deadline for the release of Windows 10. They are pumping out fixes for this, that and the other. But technically it is still beta software, regardless of whether this was the RTM version the OEM’s receive a couple of weeks ago. All things considered, I think this is remarkably stable as an operating system that is receiving new updates every few hours.

If you use your computer daily and need it to be as stable as possible and don’t really have the time to manage updating it and learning new features, DON’T upgrade to Windows 10 right away. If you are like me and see things as a challenge, like solving a puzzle, and don’t mind some inconvenience in the process just to be able to play with the newest technology, then DO upgrade. For all of those somewhere between those extremes, it’s your choice. If you hate Windows 8.1 and want to have something more like Windows 7’s desktop, then give Windows 10 a whirl. For everyone else, including those with some exotic configurations of hardware, give it a few weeks to a month for Microsoft to get all the driver support stabilized.

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Windows 10: Rethinking The Operating System

Being An Only Elgon

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Windows 10 is about a week away from being available to everyone. But in truth it has been available to everyone for a very long time, just they needed to sign off on having a potentially buggy beta version of software running on one of their machines. Yes, I realize most people do not have multiple personal computers. So does Microsoft. That’s why they disclaim the hell out of everything necessary to get into the Insider’s Program, which allows users to play with a new operating system that may or may not end up looking like the version you get. For a lot of techie people, like me, playing with new stuff is fun. Even the bugs and finding work around for them become an adventure. It’s kind of like getting a dare as a kid. You know? But for most people playing with really buggy software that you use…

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Windows 10: Rethinking The Operating System

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Windows 10 is about a week away from being available to the world. In truth it has been available to everyone for a very long time, just they needed to sign off on having a potentially buggy beta version of software running on one of their machines. Yes, I realize most people do not have multiple personal computers. So does Microsoft. That’s why they disclaim the heck out of everything necessary for a user to get into the Windows Insider’s Program. Once opted in users may play with a new, experimental version of an operating system that may or may not end up looking like what you get. AT least that was the case up to about a month ago, when Microsoft stopped adding on new features and shifted the focus on removing bugs and optimizing performance.

For a lot of techie people, like me, playing with new stuff is fun. Even the bugs and finding a work-around for them become an adventure. It’s kind of like taking a dare as a kid. You know? But for most people, playing with really buggy software that you use everyday on a machine would be frustrating and is ill advised. Having said all that, Insiders have the option of continuing to receive regular updates and experimental versions of Windows 10 even after it is officially released. You see, the version that was released a little over a week ago to the Insider community, Build 10240, is called TH 1 Threshold 1. Microsoft is already working on TH2, the next version of Windows 10 which may make it as a released update later this year.

The overall idea behind the perpetual beta testing is sound for a company like Microsoft that has always been in the business of making applications that work for the mainstream on a variety of platforms. Granted, they are probably best at writing code that works on their own operating systems but they develop stuff for other OSes as well. Most people are unaware, for example, that MS is one of the largest software developers for Mac OS.

The Redmond, Washington tech giant has always been focused on applications. That is where most of their money is made, licensing software to businesses and consumers of such programs as MS Office.

How did MS get into the operating system business? One day in the distant past IBM approached them with the idea of creating a disc OS that would work on a personal computer that would compete head-to-head with what Apple was making. The result was PC-DOS and, a little while thereafter later, MS-DOS that worked on brands of personal computers other than IBM.

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IBM and MS continued in a development partnership for a while in an attempt to create a more user-friendly Interface. Most people think this came in response to the first iteration of Mac OS, but in fact OS2 was in the works even as Apple was developing “Lisa”, which was the precursor to Mac OS. When MS and IBM had a falling out over the direction of the new operating system, OS2 emerged from IBM’s portion of the code and Windows was released from what MS took. The two systems were mutually compatible with DOS and, up to Windows 3.1 and OS2 Warp 3.0, could actually run programs cross platform. Sometimes new drivers needed to be loaded in order to get full support from things like sound cards and graphics accelerators, but you could actually run Windows in OS2. After all, up to that time Windows was really an application that rode on the backbone of DOS.

Apple introduced the personal computer world to using a mouse and a graphical user interface years ahead of the IBM-MS world. Although there were functions created for a mouse that worked in DOS-based applications, quite honestly, they felt primitive when compared to what was happening from the folks in Cupertino, California. Apple was driving innovation – sometimes, even often, in strange and unexpected directions that ended in failure. But that is the essence of living on the frontier. You fail more often than you succeed and, if you are smart, you end up figuring out how to market your failures, repackaging the idea under a fresh disguise. Apple has been good at doing that. I would dare to say that the ill-fated Newton of the 90’s was the conceptual precursor to the iPhone, iPad and iOS. Certainly, it was the first hand-held personal computing device, years ahead of those somewhat less clunky things Compaq, HP, Sony and others foisted in the early part of this century as handheld devices.

The evolutionary step, the innovation all others lacked in gaining mass appeal, came when Apple integrated a cellphone into the device. Remember the lambasting Apple received in the tech press for the first iPhone? “This is not the best cellphone out there” one reviewer said after completely missing the point of the device.  The access to the cellphone network made the iPhone a truly portable, handheld computer able to access the Internet from virtually anywhere and fit into your pocket. Oh, by the way, because it could access the Internet through the cellphone network, here’s a phone application and a text messaging application just in case you want to use those.  What’s more the keyboard for text messaging was integrated into the operating system! in 2007 those were major tech coups for Apple.

It’s easy to forget  – or perhaps we would like to forget – where we have been and what we have been through with recent operating system development.  Following the rollicking success of MS Windows XP, which was the first OS to integrate the nifty feature set and hardware support of Windows 95/98 into an operating system for the mainstream that shared the business OS, Windows NT, core, Microsoft decided to explore the possibilities of a really pretty and sometimes functional graphical user interface with the ill-fated Windows Vista. I can tell you, from personal experience, Windows Vista was so bad that it drove me to playing with various flavors of Linux as my home computer interface and eventually prompted me to cross-over to the dark side – using Mac OS X.

As a computer tech I had experience with Apple products over the years and had, on occasion, needed to use that knowledge to fix this or that for an Apple aficionado. It was just that I had never previously made the leap on my own home system until 2007. I switched to a Mac and, although there is a saying that once you go Mac you never go back, I have bucked the system by returned to using Windows earlier this year.

Here’s why I jumped off the Apple platform. Despite loving Mac OS and the Apple universe of things, I’ve been seeing some chinks in Apple’s shining armor. Maybe it’s just me but after Steve Job’s tragic death I think the vision in Cupertino is a lot more like it was in the mid 1990’s – when Apple ousted Jobs for a while and began a period of struggle that nearly ended the company. Yeah, I could be wrong. Apple is a giant in the industry right now and the most valuable company in the world. It is still doing a lot of things right. But I think its relative gain in PC market share over the past few years has been due to MS’s failings. Also the entire pie is shrinking as more and more people discover that their tablet and/or phone does most everything they used to do on their PC. More and more people don’t need at PC at home. With Windows 10 that trend may be ready to reverse to some extent.

Not only does Windows 10 do whatever you can do on Mac OS, but it also ups the ante a bit here and there along the way. In other words, the folks in Redmond, Washington are back to innovating things that people like as well as things people want to do with their computers, such as using them as virtual assistants and automating everything in a home or business with one shared interface. Overall, for consumers, the immediate future could be a lot of fun as Apple and Microsoft strive to outdo one another again – like in the old days.

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About a week ago, Microsoft released Build 10240 to Windows Insiders – aka beta testers. This was, in essence, the Release to Manufacturer (RTM) version of the OS. But, unlike what happened with every previous version of Windows, it did not receive the usual fanfare. Golden discs were not flown via helicopter to the major manufacturers that use Windows as the operating system for their lines of personal computers. Let’s face it, folks, the PC world has changed. It is not a growing industry anymore. It is actually in significant decline, near double digit decline on an annualized basis.

Despite how ubiquitous Windows has always been in the business world it’s market share in the home has been steadily eroded over the past few years. From personal experience I can attest that Mac OS is easier to learn. Also, it doesn’t require you to know how to build a clock in order to tell time – if you know what I mean. Windows has always had some maintenance issues like installing updates and running utilities in the background to correct things that don’t work right all the time. It has always been a huge target for viruses and malware not because it is inherently easier to attack than Mac OS but because there are more devices in the world running Windows. As Mac OS has become more prevalent viruses have begun to appear in that side of the universe as well.

Although there are updates and such in the Mac world the end-user does not have to do as much or as often as with a Windows-based machine. For the most part, the updates install in the background and many users aren’t even aware that it is happening until there is a prompt to accept the changes to the OS and/or reboot the system.

In defense of Microsoft, they have always had quite a load on their table -to write code that works over a broader spectrum of devices than does Apple. One of Apple’s strengths is that they control the hardware side of things and they do, at times, decide that certain machines are just too old to support with a new and improved OS. That happens about every seven to ten years.

Perhaps the innovation lag of late for MS products verses Apple was due to the amount of time and resources needed for MS to be all things to all users. But, in the past year or so there has been a subtle change in the PC industry. Microsoft is staging a come back in a huge way but has done so rather quietly compared to the fanfare, swagger and bluster of previous OS launches. I doubt anyone would have paid attention to such a campaign anyway. For the majority of people the launch of Windows 10 is receiving a group yawn. The people I know who are anxiously awaiting it are techies or people who hate the OS that came with their PC and want something that runs better and is more usable. The vast majority of the later group have machines that came with Windows 8.

Microsoft has taken some advantage of Apple’s stumbles, slips and falls over the course of history and these times may prove to have similar conditions. I’m not a harbinger or anything like that, but I switched to back to Windows in April for a reason. It was mostly a functional change because I liked the features of a Surface Pro 3 verses the best of the best (with a newer processor) that Apple was offering at about $200 more. Also I ended up replacing a iPhone 4 with a Windows Phone a while back. So a lot of the trouble others has getting used to Windows 8 was not something I experienced.

There is a lot a value to the integration of the Windows operating system across platforms, especially for gamers using Xbox but also for business users. Even if you need to keep your present iPhone or Android device, Windows 10 has a phone connection application that works, allowing you to easily transfer your files between devices. That may prove to be one of it’s most immediately ‘cool’ features that people enjoy.

Microsoft embraces the idea that an operating system should be usable for anyone, but they have also focused on creating an piece of software that is essentially the same across every computing device you use. Part of their failure with Windows 8 was trying to force a transition to a UI that was friendly to the mobile devices but also worked on non-touchscreen devices as well. That met with much resistance. Windows 8 and the somewhat corrected Windows 8.1 had many shortcomings for people who use mice and external keyboards. On a tablet like the Surface, Windows 8.1 may actually be the pinnacle achievement in functionality.

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Now we are at the cusp of change once more. Windows 10 is about to release and it promises to be an upgrade packed with a lot of fixes and some new features that merge the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Having never really used Windows 7 (I was living on the darkside by then) I can only say that Windows 10 returns the start button for those who may have missed it. By the way, do you recall the heat MS took in 1995 when they innovated the start button? How times have changed!

The start menu looks like Windows 8.1, Live tiles work to keep you up-to-date on the status of your news, weather, market and sports apps. And you can switch if you are using a tablet or use the OS in desktop mode.

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I’m using Windows 10 now to access the blogs interface on the Internet, and have a external monitor plugged into my Surface Pro 3’s docking station. Obviously it works. I’m also using Windows Edge, the new, faster browser.

Most of what is different in Windows 10 is how it bridges the gaps in function between Windows 7 and the attempted leap forward with the Windows 8, “Metro” GUI. There were a lot of things I liked about Windows 8 – like the “charms bar”. Many people hated that and I get the reasons why, but it was pretty easy to access with a touch interface the features usually found on top of any open window. I guess the average end-user couldn’t grasp that concept or perhaps it was just ahead of its time. I kind of hope MS brings the charms bar back as an option, but the settings for each application are now displayed across the top of the open Window. There is peace and harmony restored to the PC universe.

As for the rest of Windows 10, I like it. I recommend it. There are still some lingering things that need to be addressed, such as allowing the use of a PIN to log in while in Tablet mode and support for some email servers I use. If you are going to upgrade to Windows 10 you need to rethink things about your expectations of an operating system. As of July 29th, Windows is a service. That means, MS will be responsive – more so – to the feedback they receive from end users. Complain about something enough and, provided others are having a similar problem or need, things will change – hopefully for the better.

As a service, Windows is not really finished and it never will be. It has never been intended to be finished. It is not revolutionary but, instead, evolutionary. Like previous versions of Windows there is continuity with the past but, at the moment, the impending release of Windows is merely a snapshot due to go public next week. In time it will be upgraded whether it is “fast ring “or “slow ring” – terms beta testers understand and, as soon to be end users of Windows 10, you are about to learn all about. This OS will be an evolving entity for at least the next ten years that MS supports it. And it works on machines that support Windows 7 SP1 – so it runs on some pretty old hardware. That in itself is remarkable.

It is offered as free to upgrade from Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 – for the first full year after official release. So, if you decide to wait and see whether it is worth the time and effort to upgrade, you can. As a continually evolving system it will always be as new as the latest update you download and just as fresh. This will allow the OS to have security features and new integrated applications offered on-the-fly to address changing consumer needs and desires. Yes, in lieu of all that, you give up some of the nice, comforting feel you get from having just installed an operating system from a DVD that you can store on a shelf just in case things go haywire and you need to do a clean install. You can certainly purchase a disc or flash-drive version of Windows 10 but be warned, as soon as you complete an install you will be on the Internet downloading updates. The longer between the creation of the version on your disc and the present, the more updates.

A lot of people, some of them at Microsoft, have called Windows 10 the last version of Windows. With change coming every couple of seconds (if not faster) in the PC world there are always new demands and Windows as a service addresses the critical need for an operating system on your personal computing devices that is agile enough to rapidly adapt. The benefit is that your system will always be up-to-date and more secure than ever before. The downside is that you lose a modicum of control, feeling that you own something when, in fact, you never really did own previous versions of Windows but purchased a license to use software for whatever length of time MS supported it. In essence, nothing has changed except the wording in the End User’s Licensing agreement. From now on, once you upgrade to Windows 10, you will receive periodic updates for the duration of the product’s support period on your machine. You have only the option to select whether it will be done immediately upon receiving the update (fast ring) or sometime within a month of the update’s release (slow ring).

Windows will run on your machine and receive periodic updates for security and additional features you may or may not use. Microsoft is only going to support systems with the latest version of the operating system and despite the blowback they are receiving from some circles of end users, this is actually necessary for all concerned. People with unsecured operating systems threaten to infect everyone else’s computers. Not only that, but they create a lot of headaches for MS customer support.

Operating systems have come and gone but Windows 10 is here to stay for the next ten or so years. I’m excited about where the PC world could be heading. But time will tell, just as it always does, whether the latest and greatest operating system lives up to its potential. Microsoft has disappointed us in the past. My hope is that Windows 10 fulfills all expectations. So far, having used several early variants of it, I like it a lot.

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Windows 10 Is Here – Almost

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The final release date for Windows 10 is July 29, 2015. On or around that day everyone who has signed up to receive the upgrade automatically to their Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PCs will find a download ready for install. Be aware that the upgrading process takes some time to accomplish. So, don’t begin the upgrade until you have a couple of hours that you don’t need to use your computer. Also, from my experience installing the various beta builds your computer will reboot at least three times in the process of the upgrade and at times it may appear to have stopped working. There are points that the system needs to load large files and reconfigure your system and that can take a long as fifteen minutes even with the fastest systems. If your upgrade happens to fail, the program is set up to automatically restore your previous version of Windows.

Over the past couple of weeks Microsoft has been making a mad dash to the finish line with several competing builds being released to Windows Insiders (public beta testers). In fact, at one point, there were three different versions released over a two-day period. Of these, I found Build 10159 the most stable although it did have a couple of minor bugs. The integrated email application does not work with some POP 3 accounts, which is odd since those very accounts work with the email application integrated into Windows 10 Mobile. Another annoyance was with the task bar remaining visible regardless of whether it was set to auto hide.

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Build 10162 was released around the same time but I could never get it to complete the install on my Surface Pro 3. Several other testers had the same problem with it hanging up at around 40% and reverting to the previous version of Windows. I am currently using Build 10166 which installed correctly and, as I understand from rumors in the chat channels, this is a release candidate for the RTM (Release To Manufacturers) build that has been sent out to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) so that they can begin producing machines with the new operating system pre-installed.

Build 10166 has a flaky thing going on with the Start menu when it is set in Tablet Mode. It seems to time out rapidly. Annoying, but it works fine in desktop mode when Tablet Mode is switched off. Otherwise, except for the aforementioned issue with POP 3 accounts, the build feels ready for prime time.

The current Windows 10 Mobile version that installs on Windows Phones is also Build 10166, which kind of indicates that there is some level of cross integration of features between the Mobile and PC software. It might indicate that Windows 10 Mobile is nearing completion as well, though there have been many reports that the software might not be released until the fall and would be at the discretion of the phone companies. The Mobile Build 10166 seems stable and quick on my Nokia 920. The issues I had with previous builds have been fixed.

Build 10176 is reported to be the RTM version of the new operating system. This has not been confirmed by anyone at Microsoft. It is possible that it is merely another release candidate in the pipeline. It has not been released to Windows Insiders though there is a Chinese language version that was leaked out to the world. Although I speak Chinese I don’t think I’ll be installing that version.

The later builds have featured more and more integration of the Edge browser, formerly known as Project Spartan, which is the replacement for Internet Explorer in Windows 10. In previous builds, up to 10130, there was still a version of IE that could be used. As of Build 10158 the migration to Edge was required. One of the issues with that process was that Favorites would disappear. However, I discovered that if the import from other browsers feature was used, Edge actually found the favorites from IE that are stored in Windows system directories. As a back up, you might want to store your favorites with Firefox or Google Chrome before upgrading just to have a usable backup plan in place – just in case.

Edge has evolved nicely over the past few Builds and I find it more robust than IE. It is not 100% compatible with everything just yet but I am finding more and more sites that didn’t work well with IE, especially on Windows Phone, now work (but appear differently). They actually resemble how the sites appear on IOS or Android devices. Although I have heard some reports from others of problems with Edge working with sites that use HTML 5.0, I have not experienced those problems. Video feeds appear to work, even those integrated into FB. Adobe Flash player seems to work fine and I have played several YouTube videos even at full screen. There could be some features that don’t work or issues with files made with older versions of software, but I think the support Edge had integrated into it for existing Internet pages and software will be pretty much 100% at launch.

For those of us who have been using the beta software of Windows 10, we may or may not get an advance version of the final release. I kind of think we may end up using a Release Candidate that morphs into the final version overnight – as in the evaluation copy disclaimers will disappear during an update. Apparently we have the option to continue testing the updates or turning off that completely and opting for the final release of the software. The most recent Builds allow for the choice the Windows Update section of Settings, although I don’t think it works yet with the current Builds. I would expect a notice to be sent out to the Insiders when the update is the finished product. We’ll see.

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Update: What A Month – Or Two

Here I go again, apologizing for the absence of posts lately. I’ll use the tried and true excuse – I was busy – because that is true. But a number of things converged to contribute. For one thing, I am posting to a group blog with other Pandamoon Publishing authors. The link is accessible from the website at http://www.pandamoonpublishing.com . Most of what I will post there is concerning the publishing and editing process. Here I plan to continue discussing other things, mostly the progress on writing books and such, but other things of interest.

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As you may recall, back in April I purchased a new computer, a Surface Pro 3. Although I love the computer I had some issues with it after installing a preview version of Windows 10. And a wrestling match with Microsoft began. The end result of that was a replacement of the tablet.

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Once more I am playing with Windows 10, albeit a more refined version. The actual release is scheduled for July 29, so the builds are pretty close to finished product. I can tell you that the build I am currently using, (10130) is almost ready for prime time. There are a couple of annoying things about it, an error I receive at shutdown for one) but, otherwise, it is remarkably stable.

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I replaced a MacBook Pro as mu primary computer. I had intended to continue using the MBP for writing but it has an issue with its battery swelling up so I have not used it much over the past two months. I had occasion to boot it up the other day to look for a file and I have to tell you that my Surface Pro 3 is so much faster. I know a lot of that has to do with the access times for the Hard Drive. The Surface has flash memory as a hard drive. The MBP has a 5400 RPM disc drive. You’re talking about factors of 100 to 1000 times in speed for pulling stuff from the drive. Boot up on the Surface Pro 3 is less than ten seconds. The MBP takes over a minute. Also, there is so many background operations running on the MBP that it takes forever – it seems – for it to be ready to use once it has booted up. I could disable everything and it would run faster, I suppose. But what’s the point now that I don’t use it. I’m considering removing the battery and using it again, though. I just haven’t gotten around to that. It is a future project. But, for now, the Surface Pro 3 is my primary computer.

I’ve been working more hours for the past several months, so I don’t have as much free time. I have been reading, catching up on some of the manuscripts I have promised to read and comment on for other authors. I have a new favorite author, by the way. Laura Ellen Scott has a book coming out later this year titled The Juliet. You will be reading that one, I promise.  Later this month Jeff Messick’s long-awaited Knights Of The Shield is being released. That’s a supernatural cop thriller. It ranks high on my recommended reads list. Rose Montague has a new book coming out as well. I still have to read that one, but I will because there is a namesake character in it – all part of the global scheme of making Elgon a common name. Yeah, it will take a while before it appears on the label of a Coke bottle.

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I have been rediscovering music from the 70’s. So expect a couple of upcoming blogs posts about that. Otherwise, over the next several months while I am working on edits for BT and the first book of The Wolfcat Chronicles, I will be writing a sequel for Becoming Thuperman and one for Fried Windows as well. So expect progress reports on those.

#BecomingThuperman, #TheWolfcatChronicles #FriedWindows #MacBookPro #SurfacePro3, #Update

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