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Perhaps my most eclectic shopping basket ever… What story do these items tell?

I had to pop into my local Target yesterday to grab a few things. As I stood in line at checkout (behind approximately seven thousand other people…couldn’t they open a couple more lines??), I realized I had the strangest collection of purchases. Judging by the looks I got from the people behind me, and subsequently the puzzled young lady behind the register as she scanned them, others thought the same. So of course, this being 2015, I took a picture.

What story does this basket tell? What lay ahead of me when I got home to use them? Any (clean) thoughts? WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

 

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Paralysis by Analysis: My Writing Tools Dilemma (resolved?)

I’ll be the first to admit, I have a short attention span. Some may brand it as a touch of ADHD, others impetuousness, others a lack of focus. It’s probably a bit of all three, with a sprinkle of impatience thrown in. I do believe it’s helped me in the business world – as in, get to the point, I have other things to do – and it’s made me value efficiency above most all. However in writing, it is most certainly a hindrance. One of those nasty drawbacks to being impatient and my strong desire for efficiency is my never-ending quest for the best writing tools. And it’s paralyzed me. I know I’ve spent a metric crapton of time on trying new tools and methods out, looking for the “a ha” moment of THIS IS THE WAY TO DO IT. So nothing gets done…

Time to narrow down the focus. A good carpenter never blames his or her tools, but a good writer shouldn’t worry about those tools – they are really secondary to the work at hand, which is creating a story.

As many of you reading this may know, I’m a big proponent of Scrivener, and have been since day one of my career. Every published work I’ve written has been written, noted, formatted, and created in Scrivener, right down to exporting the various ebook files. It’s a crazy powerful tool, and one I’m not sure I could do without, except for one fatal flaw which has reared its head in my busy worklife over the past few years: no mobile app. There have been rumors for years; there’s a cottage industry in online forums of discussing when and where it will be released, but so far, nothing. And since I physically need to remove myself from the dayjob workspace to get any writing done (I don’t attribute that to lack of focus; instead that’s a “if I’m sitting here, I’d better be working an paying my bills” attitude, which is not a bad thing), I’ve been bouncing around on Scrivener alternatives, hoping to find the magic solution.

I’ve got a Mac desktop, Chromebook laptop, iPad, and iPhone. To date, I’ve tried the following:

  • Google Docs – Specifically to use the Chromebook, but it’s unwieldy, gets bogged down with larger files, and still has a lot of quirks when offline
  • Writebox – Nice distraction-free web-based editor, but very limited file management capability (only one doc open at once, no note file, etc.)
  • WriteRoom – Not much different than Writebox
  • Apple Pages – Very nice word processor, far more capable as a page layout application than Word, but like Google Docs, gets unwieldy with one long document
  • LibreOffice – Yep, installed Linux on the Chromebook on an external SD card to be able to run an office program offline. Sheesh…
  • Simplenote – Nice cross-device syncing, decent file management, but very simplistic
  • Evernote – Very good cross platform compatibility, comprehensive file management, great for note taking including files/photos/web pages, but can be slow
  • Scrivener – The end all, be all, but only works on one device, the Mac I’m trying to avoid
  • Storyist – A program very similar to Scrivener (just Google “scrivener vs storyist” and you can settle down with a pot of coffee for a day full of reading), but with one massive advantage: an iPad app.

And that’s probably not even a complete list. You see, here’s the deal. I’ve come to the realization I need to consolidate my workspaces and tools. Keeping the Mac for work (mentally when I sit down at my desk and see the monitor, I’m in dayjob mode – no escape), and keeping the writing totally separate. And with the power of the iPad plus a slick little Bluetooth keyboard case I have for it, it appears the Chromebook is going to be the odd man out. It’s a great little machine – very portable, light, killer battery life, nice keyboard – but it’s got limits. The only applications that I can use for writing are either stripped down writing environments (nothing wrong with that, but I guess it’s not my style) that sometimes have offline issues, or full-on Google Docs, which taxes the poor little guy beyond his capabilities when the manuscript gets too long. And neither of those options give me any kind of file/chapter/scene management, or character/plot/timeline note capabilities. (Probably putting the poor little guy up for sale soon…)

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Storyist for OS X

Which brings me to the iPad, and Storyist. I’ve used it in the past; matter of fact, several incomplete WIPs sit in there as we speak. It’s got a lot of the same capabilities and features as Scrivener, like scene/chapter separation and management, index cards, outlining, character/plot/etc note sections, and so on. (It does have one personal drawback, in my opinion: though it has separate chapters per se, it’s still just one long block of text that looks for the hashtag character to separate chapters, which can get sloppy if misplaced, and ongoing word count is hard to determine based on chapter at a time.) It’s smooth, quick, light, flexible, and fits how I work, just like Scrivener. What it has all over Scrivener is the iOS app, and when used with DropBox, enables syncing of the projects across my Mac/iPad/iPhone.

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Storyist for iOS

With a Storyist project, I’m able to view/modify/edit/add to/blah blah blah from basically anywhere. No more copying/pasting from one app into another; no emailing myself a text document I worked on at Panera; no more wondering which app had my most up to date work. I can make notes in the Notes folder (imagine that!) from the iPad or Mac (or even the iPhone if on the go), and it’s perfectly synced with one tap*. It’s still a little complex of an application for quickie adds, so I’ll supplement it with Evernote (which again is on all my devices), but the whole of the project will be housed in Storyist.

* Storyist 3.0 is currently in beta testing and they promise “zero tap” syncing, which will be nice to not have to remember to sync before typing, ending up with those dreaded “conflicted copy” notifications. Plus 3.0 is adding iCloud support, so I can relegate DropBox back totally to the dayjob.

I know Scrivener has Simplenote syncing capability, but to me it was just too many steps and not perfect; I found myself still copying/pasting just to be sure. I don’t want a middleman just to sync, I lose efficiency. Scrivener won’t be going anywhere yet, as I still plan to use it for final formatting (its ebook export is excellent), and if the writing gods ever smile upon the company and an iOS app is born, I’m all in. But for now, I’ve decided it will be Storyist + Evernote, all the way.

I think.

steve

UPDATE: It seems the fine folks at Literature & Latte (creators of Scrivener) would like to throw some more doubt on my newly-acquired sense of focus!

I won’t get my hopes up…but I’ll be sure to stay tuned…

 

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HOLY CARP – This college thing just got REALLY real

If you’ve seen my sporadic ‘holy carp’ tweets over the past few months, you may already know that my family and I are in the midst of a sea change. My oldest son, who I swear was learning to ride a bike just a couple of years ago, is a high school senior, and since this past August we’ve been in college-decision mode. He’s a STEM kid through and through, and his grades are off the charts*, so at least we had a starting point – top science universities were well within his grasp.

*Every parent wants their child to do better than they did. However, this kid… Listen, I did really well in school. Graduated near the top of my class, kicked butt on the SATs, ended up with a full scholarship. My son? Blew me away. It wasn’t even close. He has humbled me…

We visited eight schools in the Northeast Corridor/upstate NY (not that he wants to stay near home; on the contrary, he’s looking forward to getting out on his own…he just feels he’s an ‘east coast’ kind of person). He ended up applying to six schools, none of which had any rolling admissions – meaning we’ve been in limbo since December, not having any acceptances, while many of his classmates already had a few schools “in their pockets”. Some were even planning roommate requests as they had been accepted, accepted offers, and signed the dotted line. So yeah, anxiety ensued. The danger was, he was shooting high on these schools. He didn’t go the safe-school route, which I sort of understand (go big or go home…or in his case, stay home), but until we received that one ‘yes’, things were a little on-edge.

Until last night.

Happy Pi Day indeed. At 7PM, my son goes upstairs and logs into his admissions account at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a Top 50 university in Troy NY that focuses squarely on STEM. This school fell right within his wheelhouse: small in size, nice campus, strong science curriculum, not in the big city, and still within his geographic preference. I hear a barking laugh, followed by marching band music. RPI’s site announced he had been accepted and played the school song through the computer’s speakers.

After seventeen years, the day had arrived. My son had been accepted to college.

Will he attend RPI? No idea. We’re still waiting on the other five results, expected to be out over the next three weeks. Could they all say yes and he has a difficult decision? Sure. Could they all say no and he attends RPI? Sure. Either way, or somewhere in between, it’s now officially real. And no matter where he goes, it will be perfect for him.

Couldn’t be more proud.

steve

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What in the world happened to my blog?

Wow. Just… wow. I simply cannot believe how neglected this site is. Who’s driving this ghost ship anyway? Who’s in charge around here?!

Oh, right… me. I suppose I should do something about it, especially considering it’s been sitting, languishing, for over a year now. Downright embarrassing. And what’s with the free WordPress theme? Good god almighty. That’s what I do for a living, for Pete’s sake – design and marketing. And here’s this site, bearing my name, littered with stock images and standard disclaimers. Powered by WordPress and Graphene theme. Good god almighty…

It’s been a very busy couple of years day job-wise, and over the past eight months in particular. No excuses, no begging for forgiveness — a man’s gotta feed his family, you understand — but I’m going to make a concerted effort to get myself back online here. Why? Sanity, my friends… pure sanity.

I started writing as a hobby; had been doing it all my life, really, but only sat down and really did it when I was at that big four-oh (and I don’t mean my high school grade point average). I did it as an escape, a way to keep sane after long days buried in website design, SEO, pay-per-click ads, content creation, employee management… you get the picture. And so I did it, and maintained my sanity. For a while. Not saying I’m insane now (debatable), but I have become a little too one-track-focused, and I fear my little creative muse is losing his voice, being shoved aside in my gray matter behind Cascading Style Sheets, PHP mailer code, and the like.

No promises, save for one: the first thing I’ll be doing is tearing down this amateurish site and rebuilding it. If you’re seeing this now*, it won’t look like this for long. Content will soon follow, and perhaps some long form content, written in Scrivener, subsequently.

*Your now and my now are much different. If you’re reading this at my now, otherwise known to the outside world as March 13th, 2015, my site looks like shite. If you’re reading this at your now, which may be two weeks from my now, perhaps it looks beautiful. If you have some way of entering my now from your now and telling me what it looks like, I can then design the site around that. In other words, “how do we know he didn’t invent the thing?

Signing off now. Will spend a wee bit of time shortly on some redesign. And hope to chat with you soon…

steve

 

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Have to share a most excellent review…

I don’t often post these (but when I do, I prefer Dos…ah, never mind). Had to share a really complimentary review of the Gabriel trilogy I just saw on Amazon. Yes, it’s a bit of crowing, but I’ll take the heat. I’m flattered and humbled, and gosh darn it, proud of my editing. (A little shout out to Jennifer Gracen for her editing goddess skills…) And a very nice closing compliment to the quality of self-published work out there, because contrary to popular opinion, there’s a bunch.

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This series had me hooked from start to finish. This is one of my favorite SciFi series indie published or not. I should note that I was so into the first book after only 20% or so that I immediately purchased the other two without regret. Also, this review was written for the omnibus addition Gabriel’s Journey. It applies whether you buy the books separately or together in one volume.

I am no reviewer and hate spoilers, so I will just list the qualities that had me so riveted to this story all the way through.

1. The author clearly knows his craft. The quality of writing and inventiveness of the plot never wavered. Descriptions were clear without rambling endlessly and the action scenes put me right in the thick of it. In other words, suspension of disbelief and ease of visualization were, for me at least, effortless. I also really liked the characters but was grateful that I did not have to sit through endless character introspection and angst. Life provides enough of that as it is. Unexpected twists were also done well.

2. I found the science to be very interesting and believable (albeit fictional). I enjoyed it’s role in the story throughout the series. No Star Trek “science” here. From maneuvering a ship in space to advanced weaponry, I was never jarred out of the story with nonsensical pseudo science.

3. This is military science fiction and while I am not a soldier (was in the sixties however), I was impressed with the tactical descriptions of special ops warfare. The main characters are very competent soldiers indeed without being super heroes who are immortal, invincible and invulnerable all at once (as in so many other books). They make mistakes and pay for them like the rest of us.

4. Finally, the editing. In my large format copy of Dune (an all time favorite novel by Frank Herbert), I found over 15 errors. In the Gabriel Trilogy I found less than five (two of those debatable). Great editing for no matter the publishing method. Kudos to Steve Umstead who has not only provided us with an excellent series, but cares enough about his readers to get it right. Thank You!

A bit of proselytizing before I close this:

In the last decade or more I’ve noticed that professional publishing has gone down hill quite a bit. Typos, grammatical errors and spelling have suffered as the publishing houses race to greater profits at less cost. I bring this up because Indie publishers have taken a big hit (deservedly so in many cases) for editing errors while the publishing houses have been allowed to skate. I am a very big fan of Indie publishing and have been noticing a marked improvement as time has gone on. Both in quality of writing and quality of editing. While there is plenty of bad stuff in both publishing worlds, I believe Indie publishing is coming into it’s own. With the outright price gouging that the big publishers are resorting to and the lack of quality and availability of their work (try to find a complete SciFi or fantasy trilogy at B&N) it is my hope that Indie authors and E-books will become the new normal. I think the big publishers are shooting themselves in the foot with their mercenary practices. Time will tell.

Much appreciated, J. Kirwan. Much appreciated.

steve

 

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Finally got around to watching Pacific Rim. My thoughts…meh…

pacific_rim_ver12_xlgOkay, when commercials for Pacific Rim first hit the airwaves, I thought it looked silly (I was probably right, but I’m getting ahead of myself). It kinda looked like Transformers meets Cloverfield meets Independence Day (I was very right, but again I’m getting ahead of myself).  I resigned myself to not watching it, but then when it came out, my Twittah was abuzz with like-minded folks (or at least who I think are like-minded) who seemed to enjoy it, if for nothing else than the absurdist entertainment value. So I thought I’d wait until DVD time, and last night I sat down and watched it.

Verdict? Entertaining, looks great in HD, wasn’t necessarily a waste of two hours of my very valuable (ahem) social life, had some cool tech, but really an average movie overall. But my biggest takeaway, what I can’t get out of my head, was the incredibly difficult time I had suspending my disbelief and hearing the echoes of plot holes in my head. And I’m usually very good about that when it comes to big, blow-em-up flicks. Just so I can clear my conscience, I’m going to list a few of the doozies even my 13 year old was scratching his head over.

Warning: There Be Spoilers Ahead

1 – In one of Pacific Rim’s mid-act battles, when the kaiju are surprisingly taking the upper hand on the jaegers, Gipsy Danger (the protagonist jaeger of sorts; I’ll hereafter refer to the machine itself instead of the pilots) is heavily damaged and about to bite the big one, plasma cannon down and so on, when it pulls out a weapon of last resort, a giant sword. Like it was a second thought, “oh wait, we have this giant sword left, hope it helps”, and without so much as an overused television SHRINNNNGGGG sound effect, the kaiju is dispatched. My immediate reaction: “WHY THE HELL DIDN’T THEY START WITH THAT?” I mean, it makes for great drama, but…WHY? And the very end battle, this same sword bifurcates a Level 4 kaiju. In one swipe. Shouldn’t all the jaegers have a sword? Maybe TWO?

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2 – The plan is to drop a fairly big (1.2 megaton) thermonuclear device into the breach to seal it, so Striker Eureka straps it onto its back and heads into battle, hoping to do the drop and save the world. Battle goes awry (no way!), so Striker decides to sacrifice itself, detonate the device, kill two kaiju, and allow Gipsy Danger to jump in and self-destruct its own nuclear power plant instead. So this big boom happens, underwater, just a few miles offshore from Hong Kong. Like, within sight of the beautifully lit skyline. Yes, it was deep, but wouldn’t this big ol’ pressure wave do something above? Like, maybe wash away the east coast of China with a massive tsunami, or at least half of Hong Kong? (Disclaimer: I am not an oceanographer or nuclear scientist, so I may be wrong about this…just looking at it from the surface, no pun intended.)

3 – Giving Max Martini a ridiculously bad Australian accent. He’s played essentially the same character (hard ass military dude) for a decade plus now; why make him struggle through this role sounding like a drunk Crocodile Dundee with marbles in his mouth?

4 – Requisite goofball scientist character shows that the kaijus are clones, identical DNA, essentially being grown. But at the end, one is pregnant. Why? Did the kaiju high council suddenly think that was a better way to clear a path to owning Earth? Hey, forget cloning, it’s too easy and predictable. Let’s let them fool around in the back of a kaiju car, steaming up the windows, yeah! Or was it just a convenient (yet predictable) way to get rid of a terribly-underused Ron Perlman?

5 – Who installed the giant Cuisinart food processor in the COCKPIT? What is this, Galaxy Quest?

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6 – Several of the kaiju show quite a bit of dexterity and leaping ability, not to mention brute strength and size. So our defense after they got too powerful to stop with giant rockem sockem robots was…a WALL? A wall that takes years to build, and that the next kaiju broke through in an hour? Did they have some special concrete they were using they thought would be better than titanium clad, nuclear powered Transformers with plasma cannons? Shouldn’t they have made the wall with millions of those frickin’ swords?

7 – Did Pacific Rim have to pull SO MUCH from other movies? Isn’t anything original anymore? Leaving out the obvious Transformers and Cloverfield stuff, this was almost Independence Day 2: Underwater. When the marshall was giving his “today we are canceling the apocalypse” speech, I fully expected him to follow it up with “this is our Independence Day!” Or maybe Gipsy Danger smoking a cigar, flashing two fingers at the under-breach overlords, and saying, “Peace!” One thing they did leave out: the Statue of Liberty, which is always the last place to be when global disaster strikes (since it’s always destroyed, just for movie posters I guess). But I suppose that’s because this was Pacific Rim, not Atlantic Rim. Just you wait for the sequel…

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8 – And just to wrap it up, a quick line of dialogue. The last half hour or so of Pacific Rim was destruction porn as kaijus and jaegers pretty much raze Hong Kong to the ground. Skyscraper after skyscraper, vehicle after vehicle, street after street, gone. Crushed like ten Avengers movies. So after a ‘victory’, the marshall says to everyone that “this is no time to celebrate, we lost two crews.” TWO CREWS? You just lost a million Hong Kong inhabitants, man, a quarter of whom you squished under titanium jaeger feet! I get it, you have a responsibility to your command and your people. But maybe, just maybe, give a little shout out to those hundreds of thousands of corpses first.

Okay, thanks. I feel much better. And Pacific Rim was a watchable flick. Good effects (easier to follow the battles than Avengers, that’s for sure), good editing and sound, meh acting, loved the term “neural handshake”, some holes. But watchable.

steve

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Acer Chromebook previewed at IDF forward angle_678x452

And just like that, I’ve been put in my place. Another new Chromebook announced, and it’s…what I expected.

Patience has never been my strong suit, I’ll be the first to admit. So when HP announced the new Chromebook for 2013 this week, I was underwhelmed, to say the least. How could they possibly release an all-new device with last year’s tech and still call it new, plus at a higher price point? I still don’t know HP’s reasoning for that, or Google’s for that matter, but late last night I stumbled across another announcement.

I’ve never been one to shirk  criticism or responsibility, so I’ll take my impatient lumps. Both on Google+ in a discussion with Alex Williams, and in yesterday’s post in a couple of comments with Joel Pomales, I expressed my doubt that any other 11″ model would be introduced, at the same or close price point, that would be any better. I thought they’d leave the HP as the entry level and go up from there, and I’m not in the market for an expensive Chromebook (oxymoron). Lo and behold, Acer, the creators of last year’s DOG Chromebook (heavy, terrible battery, slow HD vs SSD), went and shut me up:

Acer Chromebook previewed at IDF forward angle_678x452

Now this is what I expected. The Acer, now sporting a 16GB SSD (larger would be better, but the point is the Cloud), has significantly better specs than last year’s model, and improves on the Samsung quite a bit:

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The biggies I complained about yesterday? Pretty much taken care of, and they stuck with a $249 price point. A solid state drive, 4GB of RAM, a Haswell-based Celeron (albeit a slow one) vs the ARM chip, a very nice 8.5 hour battery rating, and they shaved its weight down to 2.76 pounds (still a touch heavier than the Samsung and HP, but close). Oh, and HP’s brilliant idea to eliminate the SD card slot, HDMI out, and USB 3.0? Acer puts them back in.

This merits serious consideration for those of you who can use a Chromebook. It’s not an everyday workhorse by any means, but if you have that niche use capability (like me: writing, email, web research, the Twittah), this looks to be a faboo value. And I dig Chrome OS. Stable, quick, easy to use, constant updates, secure (nothing stored locally so theft isn’t a concern), virus free, and so on. There is actually very little I can’t do “web based” (my one loss is Dreamweaver for web design, but I’ve actually been able to screen share from my Chromebook into my Mac desktop to do it – like webdesignception).

WAIT. As I’m typing this, a thought just occurred to me… my current Samsung Series 3 (with an Exynos ARM chip, basically a mobile/tablet processor) is set up to dual boot into Ubuntu Linux from the external SD card. Scrivener, hands down the best writing tool out there, has a flavor that runs on Linux, but NOT on an ARM chip. Now I wonder – would this model, once Ubuntu is installed on the SD card, run Scrivener? Scrivener on a Chromebook? As in, SCRIVENER ON A CHROMEBOOK? Oh, you had me at Haswell…

steve

 

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So much for upgrading to a new Chromebook after a year. Very disappointed in the new model…

I must say, I’m very disappointed in the new Chromebook announcement this week. I’ve owned the Samsung Series 3 since last fall and love it, but was hoping in a year they’d come out with one a bit more powerful with some extra doo-dads. And when I heard the rumors a few weeks ago, I was psyched. But then they release the “all-new” Chromebook 11 by HP, which:
stacked-chromebooks- Uses the same Exynos processor as the Series 3
– Has the same onboard 16GB SSD as the Series 3
– Has the same RAM as the Series 3…meaning it’s going to have essentially the same performance as last year’s Chromebook. It’s also listed at a fraction less than last year’s in battery life, but then also:

Eliminates the SD card slot (no more dual boot Ubuntu from a card, or plugging in a card full of photos from my camera)
Eliminates the HDMI out (so no more easily plugging into my LCD TV; now I’d need a micro-USB to HDMI adapter)
Eliminates the USB 3.0 port (not that I’ve ever taken advantage of it, but seems to be quite the step backwards)

It does apparently have a better screen (IPS), but from all accounts, it’s much glossier (read: sun/light glare) than the Samsung’s matte screen, with the same resolution. Oh, and it can use a micro-USB cord to charge it. Well, okay.

With using all of last year’s technologies and removing ports and using a less capable battery, it must be quite a deal, right? Uh, nope. It’s $30 more than the Series 3 ($279 vs $249).

I love using my Chromebook. It’s absolutely perfect for writing. I don’t need a new one, but I would have happily scratched up another $250 this year for a whiz bang upgrade to it, especially if it made a difference in performance or storage. Guess not.

Oh wait, I can order it with one of five colored lines on it.
*sigh*
steve
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My first impressions of iOS 7…and please keep in mind I don’t do impressions.

ios-7-logoI don’t often do product reviews – never actually, since an ill-fated Nook review where I was testing out posting a WordPress video and found myself turning Nook pages on-camera to some nice laughs – but I figured I’d sit down and write up my initial thoughts on the all-new, latest-and-greatest thing since sliced bread: iOS 7.

I will preface this by saying I’m a huge Apple fan. Not a fanboi, per se; you won’t find me camping out in front of an Apple store, or making an unboxing video, or commenting online responding to vitriolic Apple-haters. No, just a fan of the technology, the synergies between software and hardware, the build quality, the resale values, and the innovation. Up to a point.

Apple has, in my opinion, been at the forefront of innovation. Say what you will about “Windows CE had that”, or “they stole that from Android”, or “Xerox invented the mouse”, or “my old Atrix had a fingerprint sensor”, or “I still use my Zune every day”, and so on. Apple puts things together well and makes them work, and in the process has created three brand new product categories where nothing but a mishmash existed before (iPod, iPhone, iPad). And the stuff just works. But now that I’ve seen the iPhone 5s/5c announcement, and have spent a half a day with iOS 7, I only have one word to describe Apple’s 2013:

Underwhelming.

And this is coming from an Apple fan. I’ve owned a Mac since 1986 (my portable computer in college was a Macintosh SE FDHD I dragged to the Student Center for projects.) I’ve owned every model of iPhone save the iPhone 3G (went right to the 3GS back then). And I actually require all of my employees to use Macs, or they won’t get any tech support from me (my home is Windows-free – and no, I’m not referring to glass).

After a 2012 that saw the iPhone 5 released (which I did get; I was eligible for an upgrade and wanted out of my 3.5″ screen) that was a very nice upgrade, notably for the size and build, 2013 left me…wanting. Incremental at best, the new iPhone 5s/c series really blew me away with how little changed. In an age of intense competition, Apple seems to be falling behind. The iPhone 5c was theoretically a low-cost model to break into emerging markets, but at $549 unlocked (only $100 less than the 5s) that’s not going to happen. And the iPhone 5s bumped the processor to an A7 with 64-bit architecture, which most software can’t even take full advantage of yet anyway. Same size, same screen, same in most areas. This is probably the first year in 5+ that I have zero desire to upgrade. I’ll wait for a 6, or whatever is next. Again, this is coming from a huge Apple fan. (Oh, and the other 2012 product launch? The iPad mini. Crazy successful in terms of sales, but a more expensive/lower resolution device that was a direct response to the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and the like.)

But in any case, on to iOS 7. After rather impatiently waiting for Apple’s activation servers to allow me to activate it yesterday (2+ hours; what, didn’t Apple know they were releasing a major upgrade?), I got it up and running. First impression: visually stunning. Very clean, smooth, professional looking – much more so than the various skeuomorphic looks Scott Forrestal and his crew had been piecing together (why did one app have faux leather, one green felt, one grainy wood, one chrome?) But when Craig Federighi (man, has he come into his own now) called it “an exciting new beginning”, and others in Apple have said it’s the biggest improvement since the original iOS, I expected…more. More functionality, more features, more usefulness. More than just a facelift. But I’m not seeing it.

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Siri is still a novelty (though I admit, it’s nice to reply to a text while driving via voice). Notification Center still could use some work (I’d like to do something with those notifications, not just see them and have to launch the app). Camera filters? Don’t get me started on why I DON’T screw with my 8 megapixel photos I worked hard to get, overlaying BS frames and grainy looks. AirDrop looks like it’s on the right track for file sharing. But those are ancillary.

There are three (in my opinion and for my everyday use; YMMV) major functional changes in iOS 7 over iOS 6:

  1. Control Center: swipe up from the bottom of the screen to gain access to most used Settings, like wifi/Bluetooth/Do Not Disturb on/off, music player, brightness, and the flashlight (which has hundreds of flashlight app developers screaming bloody murder – and why are there so many flashlight apps in the first place?)
  2. Multitasking in “Card” format app switcher: double click the Home button to see a visual carousel of most recent apps and what their last state was versus just the app icon
  3. Automatic App Updates: the App Store now downloads updates in the background and presents a “recently updated” list when launched

So if these are uber-helpful, why do I still call this underwhelming? Simple: I’ve had all three on my Nexus 7 since late last year. Swiping down in Jelly Bean brings up Android’s version of the Control Center where I can turn wifi on and off – and by the way, also launch the wifi settings app so I can choose a different network, something Control Center doesn’t do. Google Play apps update when I’m not looking. And the app switcher is something I had taken for granted as necessary, so much so that I had installed a jailbroken app on my phone to get the same function.

I honestly expected a lot more from iOS 7, for all its hype. Again, it’s visually stunning and adds some nice (necessary) features, but I can’t shake the feeling it’s still playing catch up. There’s really nothing in it that I can’t also do from my Nexus tablet with a software that’s pushing a year old.

UPDATE: For some reason, Apple decided to remove the ability to delete a message in Mail by swiping from left to right, the “right swipe”, and now it’s left-swipe only. NO IDEA WHY, as right swipe now does nothing. After six years of deleting emails by swiping right, they removed that function, only to replace it with…nothing? Someone explain that logic to me…I’m annoyed.

Now all of that being said, iOS 7 is much smoother than Jelly Bean, and owning the respective companies’ flagship devices for a year and using them day in, day out, I can say that with confidence and experience. iOS just works, where Jelly Bean still has plenty of hiccups, pauses, timeouts, force quits, and so on. And Android is still missing some things iOS has had for a while (hello, badges). iOS is much easier to use with far fewer issues.

But I was expecting a big leap in functionality and features. I don’t think I got either…

steve

 

 

 

P.S. Wait, one other thing, and it’s the greatest improvement in iOS EVER: I can now put Newsstand in a folder. BE GONE!

 

 

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aud_logo._V383473417_

My little announcement regarding “publishing” and “contract”

Here’s my teaser tweet from last night:

While “contract killer” would make for a very interesting announcement, it’s not that. As a friend pointed out online, I’ve already got two jobs – I don’t need hitman as another one.

Not that I’ve got people waiting with bated breath, or any type of breath, but it’s fairly big news on my end. As many of you know, I’m self-published and happy to stay that way. I’ve got a long-time business owner background, so maintaining full control, full decision-making, and full royalties (disclaimer: as full as Amazon, BN, Apple, et al pay; no publisher/agent/marketing cut) is extremely important to me. Extremely.

I have absolutely zero interest in signing with a publisher. Zero. Keeping my work “in house” so to speak is a no-brainer to me. Formatting the ebook/paperback, designing (or hiring a designer – big plug for my man AJ Powers and his work on the Gabriel series), editing (or hiring an editor – big plug for my girl Jennifer Gracen for her editing goddess skills), and promoting the book(s) are all right up my alley. I can’t imagine outsourcing those facets of the book I can do myself, and in many cases, feel I can do better than someone else who’s handling X number of other authors and won’t give my work the time and effort it deserves.

But there is an aspect of publishing that is a bit outside my skill set, and it’s an aspect that’s been on my project list for the future: audiobooks. So with all that being said above, here is the official announcement:

I’m excited and proud to say I’ve signed with Podium Publishing for the audiobook versions of the entire Gabriel series (books 1 through 3, plus prequel), and they’ll be hitting Audible.com in the near future.

aud_logo._V383473417_How did this happen? I will say, it was a bit out of the blue. I certainly wasn’t seeking a publisher; audiobooks were on my project list to do, but admittedly in the far-future section. Podium found me through a referral of a referral, read book 1, contacted me, and after a long conversation, offered me a contract. Ordinarily I take unsolicited business emails with a grain of salt (especially if they say “Dear [%&NAMEHERE&%]), but James at Podium was very convincing and professional, and they have several very well-known authors in their audiobook stable (most notably Edward Robertson, whose Breakers series is excellent, and Andy Weir, whose book The Martian was just picked up by Random House and signed for movie rights). Robertson had excellent things to say about Podium, which is probably what tipped me over the edge, and yesterday the contract was signed.

Podium has the ability and technology that I simply don’t have right now, and may never get to. My focus is the writing part, and while I again have zero interest in ever signing with anyone for the paper/ebooks themselves, the audiobooks are another story. I know I’m giving up potential royalties versus doing things in house, or even hiring a narrator and keeping it mostly in house, but this is an opportunity and a growing outlet that I’m not going to be able to get to anytime soon. Podium gives me the ability to get professional audiobooks out there well before I’d ever get to them.

Stay tuned (hey, an audio pun!) – the process has just started, but I’m looking forward to it.

steve

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