In A.I. Apocalypse, Leon Tsarev, the main character, uses a mobile phone that goes back and forth between phone and desktop computer. By merely knocking the phone against a display, it syncs its output to that display device.

In the novel, Leon uses it with a display in his bedroom, a wall-mounted display at the kitchen table, and on his desk at school.

The Ubuntu Edge is very similar in concept. The phone would run the Ubuntu OS, a Linux based operating system, but could be docked to become a complete computer.

The phone is currently being funded via a IndieGogo campaign, and has raised eight million dollars already.

It is described as “Dual-boots into Ubuntu mobile OS and Android; converts into a full desktop PC”.

It’s a pretty piece of hardware too, futuristic and sleek.

This is exactly where I hoped we would have been a few years ago. Now with the advent of applications moving to the cloud and seamless data synchronization with apps like Dropbox, it seems a little less necessary: I can effortlessly move between my work PC and either of two personal PCs, and I can access all my mail, documents, and applications no matter where I am.

But it’s possible that the privacy concerns over the NSA could cause backlash against cloud computing. We might just be better off carrying a secure device with us whereever we go, and avoiding the cloud as much as possible. In that case, the Edge becomes pretty compelling.

Either way, it’ll be fun to see where this goes.

Two months ago I gained access to a MakerBot Replicator 2X, their top of the line 3D printer. Between writing, work, and kids, I haven’t been able to use it regularly, but I’ve spent several large blocks of time with it.

I’ve used it with both ABS and PLA plastic, including designs I’ve downloaded from Thingiverse, as well as creations I’ve made coding with OpenSCAD, a programming language for 3D stuff.
It’s been both awesome and kind of sucky.
First off, it’s undeniably cool. I’ve been using it mostly in an open work space, and it attracts passerby like crazy. The process of printing is entrancing, and it’s easy to spend thirty minutes just watching it construction a shape layer by layer.
When it builds something successfully, it’s awesome. I can put a simple cube into someone’s hand, and they marvel at it. My kids beg for me to print them stuff, my wife is wearing a 3D printed bracelet, and we’ve got stacks of nested boxes all over the place.
But it’s not easy to use. In fact, it bears a lot of similarity to operating an offset press, something I did in high school. It requires training, an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the machine, and the ability to troubleshoot myriad problems. 
Other periods of computing were like this: connecting with modems in the early 80s, managing memory within the 640KB limit of MSDOS. I’m sure 3D printing will get better, because the promise is so great, but it’s still very much in its infancy.
For example, the build platform requires a very precise calibration to ensure the print heads are the correct distance above the platform, especially with ABS plastic. This process requires frequent recalibration, as the repeated heating and cooling of the platform seems to throw off the calibration. 
ABS plastic is also super-smelly, throwing off all sorts of toxic fumes, so I switched to using PLA plastic. But for PLA, the 2X seems to have problems feeding the plastic into the print heads. If it sits for even a minute with the heat on, or if it prints a piece where the plastic is feeding slowly, then the 2X suffers from something called heat creep, where the PLA plastic slowly softens such that the feed drive doesn’t push the plastic down. Few things are more frustrating than having a nearly complete model that’s been printing for an hour suddenly stop building, because of heat creep. I have more abandoned PLA builds than completed ones.
As a result, I’ve tried to play with printing temperates and speeds and added supplementary cooling fans. I’ve also become attuned to the sound of the feeders losing their grip, so I’ll quickly add manual pressure until it feeds correctly again.
Hopefully we’ll see a future generation of 3D printers that includes automatic calibration of the build platform (should be relatively simple, and more accurate than the manual process). And print heads that manage the temperature, feed pressure, and cooling to prevent such feed problems.
I’ll follow up with some photos soon.

From a review at Boing Boing of the new Galaxy S4:

Purchase and service costs over two years start at $2,069.75 with Sprint–add $100 if you’re not porting your number over–then $2.069.99 at T-Mobile, $2.359.75 at AT&T and potentially 2.599.99 at Verizon.

That’s the only way that really makes sense to share what a phone costs. It’s not the upfront price. It’s what it costs you over the long term. And it really makes clear the different between Sprint and Verizon.

Downton Abby, the British period drama television show, has a time dilation of approximately 3.1.

Highclere Castle, location of period drama Downton Abby.
Src: Wikipedia

The first two seasons cover the period of time from April, 1912 to sometime in 1918 (assumed to be July 1918), an elapsed time of 6.25 years. But these two seasons encompass two years of our current time, hence time passed on the show 3.12 times faster than it passed in our reality.

This will have some odd effects if the show continues indefinitely. For example, by doing the math, we can see that in 2041, Downton Abby will cover the period of time from 2009 through 2012, overlapping the broadcast start of the series. We can call this the meta-phase of the show, wherein for the next fourteen years, the show will be primarily concerned with the making of the show in previous years.

The real hiccup occurs in 2056, when the show will cover the period from 2056 through 2059. Then it will transform from a period piece to a futuristic speculative fiction series.

New landing page for
A.I. Apocalypse

I created new landing pages for A.I. Apocalypse and Indie & Small Press Book Marketing.

In the case of A.I. Apocalypse, I felt it needed a proper landing page without the distraction of the blogger right hand nav column. You can find it at aiapocalypse.com.

In the case of Indie and Small Press Book Marketing, it really needed it’s own blog, a place where I could have both publishing news as well as more in depth articles on book promotion. You can find it at indiebookmarketing.com.

Please check them out, and let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

New home for Indie & Small Press Book Marketing

Wow, somehow I neglected to post my notes from the March Willamette Writer’s talk by William Nolan. Sorry!

William Nolan
Co-author of Logan’s Run
Willamette Writer’s Announcements
·      Open house at Willamette Writer’s House on April 21st from 3pm to 8pm
·      WW Conference will be a little different this year: new tracks on self-publishing, Thursday night master classes.
William Nolan
·      Started writing at the age of 10.
·      Made his first sale at 25.
·      Been writing for 75 years, 60 years of it professionally.
·      My mother kept the first piece of writing I ever wrote. A terrible poem with misspellings. She keptI still have it.
·      By age 10, writing adventure stories.
·      Wrote a story about a crime fighting snake.
·      You can do a lot of bad writing when you’re young, and you never know it.
·      If I saw those stories for the first time, I’d say that the author should not become a writer.
·      Most famous for Logan’s Run.
o   There’s been a remake in the running for 19 years
o   Would love to see a remake because the 1976 movie had so many dumb mistakes, and lacked special effects.
·      How did you write Logan’s Run?
o   I was 27. It was my first novel.
o   I went to a lecture at UCLA. Charles Beaumont (Twilight Zone) Challenge to distinguish social fiction and science fiction. Came up with an idea, then thought maybe he could make $50 on a short story.
o   Then George Clayton Johnson said let’s write a screenplay.
o   Nolan said let’s write a novel first, and then the screenplay.
o   They took turns writing in a motel room for three weeks, spelling each other at the typewriter.
o   Nolan wanted to just sell it for $250 to Ave.
o   George said “you promised a screenplay”
o   They wrote the screenplay, got offered $60,000 by MGM.
o   Went for an agent. Decided to hold out for $100,000.
o   From Friday to Monday the offer went up from $60,000 to $100,000. (A ton of money for the 1960s.)
o   They threw our Nolan and George’s script
o   The commissioned one has illogical stuff.
o   The directory said “Science fiction doesn’t need logic”.
o   But science fiction needs logic more than anything else. You’re developing a fantasy world, and you need it to hang together coherently.
o   The MGM movie was a disaster. The actors were good, because they were British trained on Shakespeare.
·      Hollywood is just bizarre: Got asked to make a movie just like Zorro, except not named Zorro. They wanted a guy in a mask, with a sword, who wrote his initial on walls, and with a mute Indian sidekick . So he wrote “Nighthawk Rides” at their request, then they sent it to the studio, and the studio rejected it as being too close to Zorro.
·      Written 200 short stories. 88 books.
·      Ray Bradbury, one of his closest friends for over 50 years.
o   Nola did first scholarly article on Bradbury.
o   Would go to the magic castle. Could only go if you were a magician. Ray was. They’d went to a Houdini séance at the castle, but Houdini never showed up.
·      Grew up in Kansas city, for 19 years, then went out to California, then up to Oregon, now in Washington.
·      See The Intruder
o   Written by Charles Beaumont
o   Directed by Roger McCormick
o   William Shatner’s first role
o   Gene Cooper was in it.
o   Lots of science fiction people in it.
o   The actors only got a single sheet of notes each, didn’t even know what the picture was about, or what was going on.
·      Scriptwriting is one thing and prose is another
o   You have to change the whole method of presentation for a screenplay.
o   A novel has a character with interior thoughts and desires.
o   With a screenplay, you’ve got visuals and you’ve got dialogue.
o   You have to completely eliminate interior thoughts.
o   [You have to rely on the director and actors]
o   Novel -> Synopsis -> Coverage (one paragraph) -> Sentence
§  “High Concept”: originated  with a producer who was too coked out to read the coverage
o   The first thing they do when they buy a novel is throw out the novel.
·      Writing is also a choice of what to expand and what to condense.
o   Beginning/bad writers focus on exactly the wrong things: they’ll spend a page on walking into a room, and then say “he meets the girl”.
o    

3D portable printer,
big theme at SXSW 2013

I attended SXSW Interactive for the fifth time this year. My first South-by was in 2003, when hot topics  that year included wikis, blogging, and augmented social networks, and all the panels took place within the confines of the third and fourth floors.

SXSW has come a long way since this, but it’s still a mind-blowing and fun week, full of networking opportunities, chance encounters, amazing speakers, and new technology.

Here are the highlights of this year:

1. 3D Printing is big. No, huge.

Multiple panels covered the topic every day of the conference. 3D printing isn’t just about devices churning out plastic trinkets. It’s about revolutionizing the world of all manufactured objects, in the same way that the moveable type printing press revolutionized printing, and more recently, ebooks and print-on-demand revolutionized the publishing industry.

Future of 3D Printing Session

Current state of the art is single-material composites and metals, but coming within a few years we’ll see multi-material printing as well as embedded circuitry.

Although it wasn’t really discussed, one of the big missing aspects of the 3D talks was the topic of an ecosystem play. In the same way that Apple came to dominate the world of music for years, and then later the appstore ecosystem, and in the way Amazon dominates ebooks, there will be the opportunity for someone to own the object-store ecosystem, which will dwarf every other platform out there.

3D printed custom
doll from Makie

Some of the things currently being 3D printed include: dolls, clothing, dishes and glasses, plastic items of any design, toys. And in the design labs they are experimenting with: meat, living (and re-attachable) mice limbs, circuitry, and morphable objects.

Panels:

2. Artificial Intelligence is the future of user interface design.
Many panels also covered artificial intelligence, but the kind that makes user interfaces smarter, more predictive and personalized. 
A Robot in Your Pocket Session
Examples of this include filtering from among many options to provide the most relevant. An example would be a smartphone transcribing voicemail, using a history of the interaction between two people to figure out the right vocabulary to use, to figure out which “Tom” two people would be likely to refer to, to understand a voicemail reference to “the address I emailed you”, and be able to resolve it.
Example progressions:
  • Progression
    • Analogy: Brakes
    • Digital: Antilock
    • Robot: Crash avoidance
  • Progression
    • Analog: thermostat
    • Digital: timer thermostat
    • Robotic: Nest
  • Information
    • A: Encyclopedia
    • D: Google Search
    • R: Google Now
Panels:
3. Self-Publishing is More Powerful Than Ever
Self-Publishing in the Age of E Session
This is obviously a personal interest of mine. There were actually very few panels at SXSW this year on publishing, content, or journalism, especially compared to years past when there were entire tracks on these topics. I heard a large number of people echo my disappointment. Publishing and journalism are still very much industries in turmoil, changing daily, and it seems like a shock that SXSW has moved on past that.
That being said, there would two very good talks:
4. Design as Innovation / Responsive Design
Design was a big topic, including both theme of designers are the new leaders and drivers of innovation in company, as well as the responsive design, the UX pattern of how to deal with different devices. Although I attended only a handful of these panels, it was a big topic of discussion, and there were many more panels I didn’t get to attend.
Changes from Past Years
SXSW is always evolving. Some things I noticed:
  • They had less total talks. Last year I remember that there were 65 different sessions in a single timeslot. On the plus side, things were more centralized, but on the negative side I heard many stories of people who didn’t get into talks they wanted to. There also wasn’t a journalism/publishing/content track, and perhaps that was one of the things to go.
  • There were many more foodcarts around, and for once it was relatively easy to get food between sessions.
  • Wireless access was better. I had only a single half hour without access, and that was at the Omni hotel. 
  • Twitter and Foursquare still in heavy use.
  • The bar at the Driskill is still the go-to place for networking in the evening.

I just noticed that Amazon has put Indie & Small Press Book Marketing on sale for the crazy low price of $3.82 for the print version. (It’s regularly $5.99.)

If you are, or know, an author looking to marketing books, don’t miss this opportunity to get a great book on how to market your books, what to focus on for your website, how to use social media, and how to connect with readers.

Here’s the link to get a copy. Do it before the sale ends to take advantage of this great deal.