Oh, not much.
Just commanded the Starship Enterprise.
This was taken at the PNE. My wife is handling Riker’s duties (she didn’t want to be Counsellor Troi-- who does?) and my brother-in-law is ably manning the science station. Or maybe it’s the weapons station. Or the security station. Well, it’s whatever the script needs it to be, okay?
This was part of the awesome Star Trek exhibit. It’s a full-size replica of the original bridge set, which was destroyed in the disappointing Generations movie. I also got to sit in Kirk’s original chair, which was pretty awesome.
EDIT: Okay here’s a pic of me in Kirk’s chair.
EDIT AGAIN: And here's the NCC-1701D's transporter room:
We are all told: "Don’t judge a book by its cover". Unfortunately, this is just another of the many lies that people propagate. Books ARE judged by their covers, and this is one area where independent authors are at a disadvantage compared to traditional publishers. Sure, it would be great to contract out to a real artist or graphic designer to make a stunning cover (and certainly better in the long run than letting a publisher do so in exchange for taking more of your royalty forever) but what if you don’t have the money? What if you are just starting out?
Well, it turns out that if you are short on money, there are actually lots of great tools that will let you produce a stunning book cover for free.
<h4>Start with a pencil sketch</h4>
Pen and pencil are as near to free as can be, and even in today’s digital age they are still an effective way to quickly sketch out a number of ideas. For my second novel, Heart of the Maelstrom, I had an idea of two figures in spacesuits looking out at an image of the Milky Way galaxy rising over a rocky landscape on a distant planet. The idea is one thing, but sketching it out makes it clear how it will come together. You can make a whole bunch of these sketches really quickly and refine them until you get what you want.
<h4>Need a landscape?</h4>
There is a great application called Flickr for some free background images that are licensed for commercial use.
<h4>Free 3D models</h4>
I needed an astronaut model in a spacesuit for my cover, but many sites offer only expensive paid models. NASA, however, had a page full of free models of all their satellites and space suits. I chose the Advanced Crew Escape Suite (ACES) which fit my story perfectly.
<h4>Free 3D rendering software</h4>
I have an old copy of 3D Studio Max from when I took an animation class, but there are free alternatives out there. One of the most popular is Blender, which has been used to make some stunning images and movies. Yes, Blender is a bit harder to learn than some commercial 3D packages, but remember, we are working from the assumption that we have little money to spare. If you have little money, you can use your own time instead.
<h4>Putting it all together</h4>
You need some 2D compositing software to put everything together and make it look good. One of the best free programs to do this is Paint.net, which does everything you need, including layers, lighting, filters, text, and so forth.
Many independent authors get the fonts wrong. The most common mistake is making either the title or the author’s name too large. There should be some whitespace around the title, and it is best to choose a font that isn’t too "thick" or fat. There are lots of free fonts out there. Choose something that is simple and not too fancy, but that isn’t Times New Roman or Arial. You don’t need to put your name in giant letters, either. Publishers selling books by famous authors sometimes do this for marketing purposes, but you aren’t there just yet. Keep your title larger than your name. If the text is hard to make out against the background, some judicious use of drop shadows can help.
For science-fiction titles, the Hubble photos are the best source for high-quality imagery, and they are free for the world to use. I took an image of a barred spiral galaxy as a stand-in for the Milky Way (which is also a barred spiral) and found a deep-field image to use as the
In the end, hopefully you have a great-looking cover image that you made for free or close to free! This is the end result for my upcoming novel Heart of the Maelstrom, the second book in the Master’s trilogy. Good luck!
Here's my pet peeve of the day: Blogs that say things like: "Find out the answer after the fold" or "More after the jump".
YOU ARE A WEB PAGE. THERE IS NO FOLD. THERE IS NO JUMP. If I want to continue reading, I will continue reading. Maybe I'll have to scroll down. If I care enough, I will. I've never once gone to a blog and thought to myself: "Well, this wasn't interesting enough to keep reading, but I have to find out what's after that jump!" What the hell is a jump, anyway?
Oh, you put a stupid ad to break up your content? Is that what you meant? Wow, I've almost lost interest in your page now. Oh look, there's the "Close" button on the tab. I wonder what happens if I press that?
It’s hard to believe the last time I did one of these articles was 2005, and since then not one but TWO new product categories have been introduced to the world.
I’m pretty happy with the way this article turned out, which is pretty much exactly how I wanted it: a nostalgia trip for the personal computer industry and a comparison with the new smartphone and tablet world.
Oh, here’s the link:
August 13, 1982. A young, precocious ten year-old boy finally convinces his family to let him tape record the evening meal.
Thirty years later, a much older boy finds the tape in a closet and decides to try and preserve long-lost family memories. (Digitizing and cleaning up the audio was an interesting process, and I’ll blog about that later).
I was a bit of a twit back in those days, a bit of a know-it-all, and I liked to interrupt people a lot. I think a lot of it was being ten, and the rest of it was due to my excitement at finally being able to record dinner. It was kind of a like a very early podcast!
Hearing my mom and dad’s voices again is very bittersweet, but I also laughed a lot. Check out the coffee grinder at 26 minutes in!
You can read more about the "Flying Bandit" that my dad referred to (and once met) here: http://thiswaswinnipeg.blogspot.ca/2008/07/flying-bandit.html
Direct download link for iPhones and iPads
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In a special Knotty Geeks recorded deep inside the new Surrey campus of Simon Fraser University, we look at our accelerating world and ask if technology is really progressing in all areas or are we sliding backwards in some? From flying cars to asteroid mining, what does the future really hold?
Links from the show:
Ray Kurzweil on acceleration: http://www.amazon.com/The-Singularity-Is-Near-Transcend/dp/0670033847
Ronald Reagan declared GPS should be free to everyone: http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2006/February/20060203125928lcnirellep0.5061609.html
Flame virus: http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/05/spy-malware-infecting-iranian-networks-is-engineering-marvel-to-behold/
Where are the flying cars? http://www.thebaffler.com/past/of_flying_cars
You are not so smart: http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Not-So-Smart/dp/1592406599
This will make you smarter: http://www.amazon.com/This-Will-Make-You-Smarter/dp/0062109391
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Tomorrow I'm getting on a plane for San Diego, headed for Comic-Con!
I've never been to a Comic-Con before, so I have no idea what to expect. I've downloaded the schedule on a great iPhone app that I used for PAX called Guidebook.
The Barcraft was a huge success! We nerds took over both sides of the bar and every single TV screen was showing Starcraft II.
Plenty of drinks and fun were had while we cheered Park "DongRaeGu" Soo Ho as he won his first MLG Championship title on a live stage.
It was completely awesome and I will definitely be back for the next one!
I was re-reading my article on the history of professional Starcraft and I came across this comment:
Kraicat - about a year ago
I don’t like traditional sports. I’ve never gotten into or really enjoyed any typical game of Football, Basketball, Baseball, etc... When I go into a bar, I would rather watch Simpsons instead of some random college teams playing each other in some sport.
I dream of the day when I can go to my local bar, look up at the big screen and see a StarCraft competition going on. I will scream and holler at the screen, chat with other guys about their strategy and finally be able to enjoy competitive games in public.
But I’ll bet that day is still pretty far off.
Well, this Sunday, I’m heading down to the MLG, live from Anaheim.
About a year after the article was published and the comment made, it has actually happened. I am going to go to a sports bar in my home city and watch live Starcraft on the big screen.
I can’t wait.
I'm a writer and occasional programmer. I write science fiction stories and novels.
I also write technology articles for Ars Technica.
I'm the creator of newLISP on Rockets, a web development framework and blog application.