Monthly Archives: May 2011

Book trailer for Saturdays Are Gold by Pierre Van Rooyen

‘An adventure thriller with paranormal overtones set in 1940s South Africa. If Stephen King, Roald Dahl and Gerald Durrell had ever teamed up to write a South African book with a flavour of To Kill a Mockingbird – they might have come up with something like this.’

I am not sure about the effectiveness of book trailers. Instead of just trying to get people to notice your book, you now have to get them to notice your trailer – and then be interested enough to chased down the book.

As a stand-alone work of art, this trailer is a very evocative short film. I think people are going to enjoy the clip, and that it’s going to make people interested in the book.

Messages of Truth

In fantasy novels the messages of Truth are often disguised. The Oracles have always been notoriously vague. Sages are always loath to speak directly for fear of affecting their visions of the future. And then there are those annoying riddles.

In the modern, democratic, world we are brave enough to put the Truth upon the walls for everyone to read.

Starting ‘The End Of The Nightlord’

I wrote 1,000 words yesterday, starting ‘The End Of The Nightlord’. It felt good to be getting back to writing. Since I have less written on this novel it’s not going to be the ‘simple re-write’ that the first two novels have been. I’m not completely sure of the outline at this point – but I feel the need to incorporate ‘more plot’ this time. The characters have woken up in ‘The Binding Returned’, and developed in ‘The World Revealed’, and now need to start pushing their weight around – and getting some serious resistance to their actions.

It’s a bit hard to have your main character start throwing punches – when he feels morally compelled to not simply replace the existing dictatorship which has been holding The World in a stasis it enjoys. It’s a bit like having The Buddha being called upon to act like Che Guevara.

Knights and their shining armor

Although war is the plaything of the nobility, it has always been up to the peasants to do the work.

David killed Goliath

Mythical stories resonate through time. This is why writing fantasy novels is so interesting.

Bill Gates is Satan

Having recently purchased a DELL mini1018 I was once again confronted by the monopoly Bill Gates has on the single most important commodity in the modern world – information.

When purchasing a new piece of hardware, I was forced to buy an unrelated software product – a copy of Windows 7 – which I did not want, and promptly had to set about removing – if I could.

Just like the biblical Satan, Bill Gates doesn’t want to hurt us – he’s not a Hitler, he simply wants to own us. In an era that is all about information, Bill Gates wants to make us depend upon him for the creation, storage, and manipulation of this global commodity which defines the modern age.

Like Satan, Bill Gates knows what is best for us – and that is that no computer hardware devices should be sold without software that makes them work. He has always been very gentle about giving us an operating system, but now he is cleverly only passing out an emasculated version of what we’ve always had, that no longer has the basic functionality we’ve come to expect. To simply get back to what we had in earlier versions of Windows we now have to pay more.

I’m one of the users who decided nothing good was happening in the Microsoft world once XP was killed off. I didn’t want to drift down the path where Bill Gates can come look on my computer to see what I’ve installed, etc. I’m not one who wants to get sucked into ‘the cloud’, where he will kindly keep my data safe for me (like the Sony Playstation network recently did).

I had played with distributions of Linux back in the pre-GUI days, where after building yourself a kernel with your own compiler, you got a nice screen with a ‘Hello World’ prompt. But the Open Source World was getting slicker, and of all the Linux flavors floating around, I decided I’d avoid Windows Vista by moving to a SUSE Linux distribution which seemed a little slicker than the Slackware I’d had in the past. But then I stumbled onto Ubuntu, which seemed like an even smoother environment, with the desired software all packaged and ready to go.

So I installed Ubuntu on the DELL computer I had at the time – and ran into problems. The same kind of problems I ran into yesterday with a new computer, and a much newer version of Ubuntu.

It’s back to Satan. Bill Gates and Microsoft are probably the least innovative of people and companies in an industry that is all about innovation. I had always thought Bill Gates and Paul Allen had written their first products themselves. But that’s not what Bill Gates does. He follows the creative innovators of the technology/information age, and picks up good ideas, and the devotes his energy into creating barriers to entry for competitors who have similar products, or would try to catch up and compete with him.

Bill Gates and Microsoft are not interested in developing products – they were late on GUI’s, and only followed Apple, and figured the internet was a waste of time – and are now scrambling to buy concepts like Skype so they can close the door to Open Source/Freeware products.

On all my new computers I’ve had problems with specific hardware chipsets. The hardware companies write drivers for Windows … and then leave it at that. They do not bother writing generic drivers which could be used by any operating system – they concentrate on building the ‘best drivers’ using Windows-specific, and propitiatory, software. They don’t want to tell people what is needed to make their hardware work. They close ranks with Bill Gates and make things only work with Microsoft – so everyone else’s operating systems look bad, and function even worse.

My brand new Dell mini1018 seems to have a Realtek 8188CE Wifi chipset. Dell has the drivers for Windows 7, but does not offer drivers for any other software. After installing Ubuntu 10.04 Netbook I was left with a computer with no internet connection to get upgrades, and no ability to load anything from the CDROM, because the machine doesn’t have a CDROM.

In theory Ubuntu ISO distributions can be cooked onto a USB stick, and then by abusing the BIOS you can boot off the stick – and boot into a Ubuntu install mode. This worked, after a bit of a war. I’d tried installing the latest Desktop version of Ubuntu 11.04, but the install only got as far as a recovery screen prompt.

As an aside, where I am – in the real (third?) world, it takes a day to download a 700M Ubuntu distribution.

To make a long story short – I told the installer package to look for a CDROM source for the needed packages to get my Wifi working, and then had it save the necessary script. I then loaded each deb package off of the stick in sequence.

This worked well, except that I was trying to build drivers for a Broadcom chipset that Dell has replaced with a Realtek chipset – without telling very many people. When I realized I needed the Realtek driver, I managed to locate the source code. But it needed a g++ compiler. The trick there was the deb package for the g++ compiler wanted the header files first – while the header file wanted the compiler first. A clever catch-22 that Ubuntu had set up.

Then, on one bulletin-board, there was a link in small print to a guy who had compiled versions of the needed driver. I tried that in desperation. At this point I was grabbing any deb package that looked useful and double-clicking on it. The deb installer sucks the upgrade somewhere – and sometimes it helps, and sometimes it doesn’t.

The cooked version of the Realtek drivers patched Ubuntu 10.04 on my netbook. I had Wifi. After downloading 700M of the netbook distribution of Ubuntu 10.04, I only had 350M of patches and upgrades to install. I guess Ubuntu thinks it’s funny to release packages as historical artifacts – and not statements of the current state of the art.

Overnight I’d managed to get half the fixes when I also had the Alternate 11.04 Distribution arrive on another computer. It had been downloading for days. My Desktop distribution of 11.04 didn’t seem to have a proper checksum – and I’d stumbled on something saying I’d need the alternate install anyway to work off of a USB stick.

So I killed the version of 10.04 that I’d worked so hard to patch, and installed the Alternate distribution of 11.04. That was another DOA. I think it was the GRUB loader stage. GRUB is a nasty beast that never seems to work. I got a version of Ubuntu that did nothing.

After waiting another day I managed to download a copy of the desktop distribution of 11.04. The checksum was right this time. I’ve never checksumed anything before – but I guess it’s important. There are some bogus versions of packages floating around.

So I cooked another USB stick. This requires Unetbootin, as the Ubuntu ‘build a start disk’ doesn’t build …

With fingers crossed I installed the Desktop distribution of Ubuntu 11.04 on my Dell mini1018 from a USB stick. It woke up, and had Wifi!

I had been spending days pushing shit uphill. If I’d checked my checksum and then started with a valid Desktop distribution of Ubuntu 11.04 I’d have been away.

Except my wifi was really weak. That’s nothing new, I’m several hundred meters away from the source antenna – in a marina filled with metal sailboat masts. But this was trickily painful. I could almost surf the net – but not download any upgrade packages. I figured ‘what the hell’ and slapped the complied drivers at my kernel. They are supposed to be for 10.04 and 10.04, but all they could do was bounce off (or what ever incompatible deb packages do).

Lo and behold I got booming Wifi.

So I can report that Ubuntu 11.04, with the Realtek driver patches, seems to work on a Dell Mini1018.

The new Ubuntu Unity interface really clutters up the small screen on netbooks. It looks like it was meant for touchscreen toys rather than computers. I like it when guys describe the version of their product that all the customers want as ‘classic’, while what they want us to suck into is the ‘regular version’. Remember ‘Coke’ and ‘Coke Classic’? I hope Ubuntu will follow a similar path, and quietly return to GNOME. There is no point in cluttering an operating system GUI with unnecessary gaudy menus. It doesn’t make it easier to use.

Having killed the ‘Ubuntu’ GUI and gone back to the dinosaur version of ‘Ubuntu Classic’ I then only had a small problem to figure out – how to network my two computers with Bluetooth. In doing that I discovered the Dell Mini1018 has a keyboard button of death – it’s supposed to bring up a menu allowing Wifi to turn on/off and-or Bluetooth to turn on/off. What it actually does is turn both off with a press or two, and then with a press or two turn the Wifi back on … leaving the Bluetooth permanently dead.

What I love about the information age – and what Bill Gates wants to control by hosting on his Windows-only computers – are the bulletin-boards that can be discovered by Metacrawler, which used to be the best search engine until Google bought them and killed their independence.

In panic, you can type in some key words like ‘bluetooth on Dell mini1018 doesn’t work in Ubuntu’ and it turns out some other poor bastard has had the same problem, and written up his fix.

The bluetooth fix sent me back to Dell – which has some Windows-only drivers to fix their hardware switch problem. I saw no sign of a patch for any other operating system than the one Bill Gates controls. All I can say there is the turn it off – wait – and try again worked for some random reason.

But the final fun thing is the fact I have two Dell computers sitting next to each other, each running Ubuntu 11.04, and they behave differently. On one box I can set up the ability to define which directory I want to connect to, while on the other box I can only hook up the public directory. The old box has a series of legacy issues from earlier versions of Ubuntu. But to feed it a new, clean copy of Ubuntu 11.04, I’d have to find a home for 175M of my good stuff.

Back to the barriers of entry that Bill Gates has worked so hard to create. Sure – the market is free – anyone can pay Bill Gates some money, and then erase the software he forced us to buy. But it is not easy. And even then, who wants to upgrade the Open-Source Unbutu properly, when it means rebuilding, and maybe recovering, what’s currently working.

As a final side note: Only Satan would take all the money he squeezes out of the monopoly he holds over all the information the world and use it for charitable acts completely unrelated to the people he is continuing to steal from. Curing malaria is a wonderful smoke and mirrors disguise for the fact that he continues to act to prevent anyone from competing with his empire which dominates the world. The devil is a parasite which needs us, and works hard to keep us from leaving him, rather than giving us a better world.

History is slippery stuff

The fact that history is as illusionary and flexible as the future is one of the central themes of my novels ‘The Binding Returned’, ‘The World Revealed’, and ‘The End Of The Nightlord’.

It’s rather frightening that I am writing a series of epic fantasy novels, while the US Government and the ‘Independent Media’ are busier with ‘reality’ than I would ever dare to be with Magic.

SATURDAYS ARE GOLD by Pierre Van Rooyen

SATURDAYS ARE GOLD by Pierre Van Rooyen – coming soon from Endaxi Press

Two young children in 1940s South Africa are told to stay away from lonely places while a child abductor is at large. What could possibly go wrong?

Pierre and Faith are friends sailing on ‘Senta’ and currently are in the Telaga Harbour Marina here on Langkawi with me. They have been a great inspiration and gave my book ‘The Binding Returned’ a proof-read even when ‘fantasy is not their thing’.

Changing Education Paradigms

The last 25,000 words of ‘The World Revealed’

Finishing ‘The World Revealed’ demonstrates that slow and stead wins the race. I can’t actually believe I wrote 25,000 words, or that the whole novel is about 185,000 words.

The last 25,000 words took two months. That doesn’t come to much getting done every day. But since something did happen every day – the end did arrive.