Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Day in the Life with Android (Part 4)

This is Part 4 in my continuing series in which I share how I use my Google/ASUS Nexus 7 tablet on a day-to-day basis. Part 1 covers my hardware accessories and business apps; Part 2 focuses on a variety of utilities; and Part 3 deals with social media and related apps as well as ebook readers.

This time around I will be covering most of the apps that are left -- a combination of utilities, news apps, and apps that didn't fit in the previous three posts, excluding games and audio-video apps. I'll delve into a few of the games I have, as well as my audio-video apps in Part 5, the last (hopefully) of this series. Really, though, what would an Android device be without at least a few games, some tunes, and a movie or two.

But before proceeding forward I need to go back a step, or two.

To quickly recap something from Part 1: I stated that I was using the Swype beta keyboard, which I was quite fond of. Then, Swype released a revision to the keyboard, and in the process broke a number of the keyboard's key (no pun intended) features. So, I switched to a competitor's keyboard, SwiftKey beta keyboard. Well, as is typical with Android apps, Swype released yet another revision to their keyboard that fixed all the issues and, in addition, included some new features. As of this writing, I have now switched back to the preferred Swype beta keyboard and, so far, all is well.

And in Part 2, I mentioned the four "cloud" services I am using. As of today, I can now add a fifth cloud service to the list: MediaFire. I learned about this service just this morning, but unfortunately the app was not compatible with the Nexus 7. Someone posted in an Android forum that they contacted the developer about this incompatibility, and a few hours later the problem was resolved. That's the kind of action Android users like to see from a developer (and it's a free app as well). MediaFire provides 50GB of free storage at signup; additional storage is available for a fee. I didn't mention this previously, but when using cloud services always be aware of their file size limitation on file transfers; typically it's between 100MB and 250MB per file, depending on the service, which means no movie streaming.

Speaking of cloud services, I use Cloud Print, which allows me to print from my N7 to my (new) wireless printer. (During Christmas week I installed a new Epson WorkForce WF-3540 Wireless All-in-One Printer; it replaces my tired HP deskjet, a true workhorse that has served me well for more than 15 years.) To use Cloud Print you must first configure your PC and wireless printer to work with Google Cloud Print.

I also have a new addition to my social media apps listed in Part 3: Until just this past week, Facebook Pages Manager was only available in Europe (I believe), but the app has now been released in the States. This app will allow me to manage my Alien Contact Anthology page on Facebook via my N7.

And just when I thought I was caught up, I learned of a new utility app just last night while reading posts on one of the Android forums. History Eraser is a multi-faceted app for deleting the cache on the N7. Just doing a quick delete of the cache on my N7 gained me 0.50 (and change) gigs, which is equivalent to more than 500+ megs. For the sake of comparison, the size of the History Eraser app is just under 2.50 megs.

Whether you are new to Android and the N7 or an experienced Android user, I recommend that you join the Nexus 7 Forum, a community devoted to helping each other and providing information (reviews, announcements, etc.). I added the forum to my Feedly app so I can scan the posts without having to actually visit the forum site. Of course, I also read Android Central, Android Police, and Droid Life, to name three others sites/communities.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"Curse whatever gods you believe in...."

"Curse whatever gods you believe in for taking George Alec Effinger from us far too soon. And curse them if you will for making him suffer for most of his life in pain far more severe than you want to even imagine. He deserved better, much better, as he was without doubt one of the most brilliant writers that ever graced our presence."
~ Cat Eldridge, The Green Man Review

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, George Alec Effinger (Part 3 of 3)

In memory of author George Alec Effinger (January 10, 1947 – April 27, 2002), who would have been 66 years old this month, I am reprinting a series of three blog posts I published in the first half of 2009. This third, and final, blog post, originally published on June 8, 2009, focuses on the book A Thousand Deaths, which contained George's personal favorite, the novel The Wolves of Memory -- and my favorite of his work as well.

* * * *

Since my blogs tend to be more essay rather than random comments, like blogging about my great cup of coffee this morning, they take longer to compose. If you enjoy reading what I write, then I thank you for your time and patience, and I ask that you just keep checking back -- and/or subscribe to this blog's RSS feed -- for my next entry.

At least for now, this will be my final blog post on author George Alec Effinger; one blog entry for each of the three collections of his work that I acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press between 2001 and 2007. Part One of this series focused on Budayeen Nights and Part Two pertained to collection Live! From Planet Earth. I have a couple ideas for possible future projects of Effinger's work, but only time -- and the economy -- will tell if these ever come to pass.

In late 2002, once I had completed Budayeen Nights, and the book was in the hands of the typesetter, and then the printer, I began thinking about the next Effinger collection. During my email communications with George between 2001 and 2002, I promised him that I would do my best to help him bring his work back into print -- and even though George was no longer alive at this point in time, I felt a personal responsibility to honor that promise.

Obviously the second collection published by Golden Gryphon Press was George Alec Effinger Live! From Planet Earth -- but this wasn't the book I had initially intended to publish next.

In the latter part of 2002, I had written Barbara Hambly, executrix of Effinger's literary estate, for a list of her favorite GAE stories. On December 2, 2002, Barb wrote: "I've sorted through George's story titles, cut out all the Maureen Birnbaum and Sandor Courane stories (which have or are getting anthologies of their own) and still have quite a few." Of course, I knew about the Birnbaum collection, but a collection of Sandor Courane stories? This was a complete surprise to me. So I inquired further of Barb about the Courane collection, and later that same day she responded: "There's a fellow in the Midwest who's doing Sandor Courane -- George was working on it with him at the time of his death." Unfortunately, Barb could not recall this fellow's name. Now I was intrigued: during my email communications with George before he passed away, when he spoke so personally about all of his work being long out-of-print, he made no mention whatsoever of another editor working on a collection of his short fiction.

And so my search began.

Eventually my net searching found a website for Wunzenzierohs Publishing Company1, which noted a "forthcoming" GAE collection entitled A Thousand Deaths. But then the announcement went on to state that the collection was currently in limbo due to Effinger's passing. Using the "Email Us" link on the home page, I contacted the publisher on December 19, 2002. I expressed my interest in seeing GAE's short fiction back in print, and I asked if the publisher still planned to pursue this particular collection of Sandor Courane stories. I also requested a list of the proposed stories to be included in the book. I was thinking that if the publisher was willing to give up the rights to this collection so that it could be published by Golden Gryphon -- and if he had all the stories pretty much ready to go and was willing to share them with me -- then I could get this book into print more quickly than the other collection I was planning (Live! From Planet Earth), which I was having to start from scratch.

Gordie Meyer, Wunzenzierohs publisher, responded to my email the following day. Apparently, WunzPub (to use Gordie's abbreviation) was more of a hobby venture, and he had, in fact, been considering if he really had the time to do the Sandor Courane collection. Gordie wrote: "I've known George from his being online at Delphi long ago, and we'd occasionally touch base via email or meet in person at a con, but I didn't really know him all that well. Mike [Resnick], however, did, and when I mentioned that I thought it was a shame that all of George's work was OOP, he suggested that I consider a collection of...the Sandor Courane stories, as they were an identifiable group to collect and were some of Mike's favorite Effinger stories. So I ran the idea past George at a con, he and Barbara [Hambly] liked the idea..." Evidently this all occurred four years earlier, in 1998. Gordie went on to say: "If you'd be interested in taking over the publication of A Thousand Deaths ([the title of] which both George and I came up with independently -- cue Twilight Zone theme...), it'd make my decision a bit easier.... It was [always] about getting George's work back into print. So if I can make that happen, even without actually publishing it myself, I'd still feel good about the project.... Barbara has already approved having Mike Resnick do the introduction. And actually, Mike threatened physical violence if he didn't get to do the intro. {g}"

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Happy Birthday, George Alec Effinger (Part 2 of 3)

In memory of author George Alec Effinger (January 10, 1947 – April 27, 2002), who would have been 66 years old this month, I am reprinting a series of three blog posts I published in the first half of 2009. This second blog post, originally published on May 12, 2009, focuses on the book George Alec Effinger Live! From Planet Earth, which I helped a wee bit through publication.

* * * * *

This is the second of three essays on author George Alec Effinger -- one for each of the three collections of his work that I acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press, between 2001 and 2007. Part One of this series focused on Budayeen Nights, a compilation of all of George's Marîd Audran and related stories.

Once Budayeen Nights was complete and in the hands of the typesetter, I began thinking about the next collection of Effinger's work. But now that George had passed away, I didn't have his input on this second book as I did for BN. All I had was my commitment to him to help bring his work back into print, and his email of August 30, 2001, in which he suggested a collection featuring "a hefty selection of my 200 stories, with introductions to each one, and calling it GAE: The White Album or GAE Live! At the Village Gate or...GAE: The Prairie Years." When George and I were communicating by email (albeit sporadically, due to his health and domicile issues) between 2001 and 2002, I had asked him to put together a list of the stories he would like to include in a "best of" collection, but time just wasn't on his side. And George wasn't kidding when he referred to his "200 stories" -- I know, as I've tried to track down a goodly portion of them! In fact, I probably have the largest "collection" of George Alec Effinger short fiction, only second to Barbara Hambly, who now has all of George's files and books in her possession.

The Concept
I'm a bit fuzzy on the details, considering it was six years ago [2003], but if ye olde memory still serves me, I came up with the basic idea for the second collection during a telephone conversation with author George Zebrowski. Unlike archived email, I'm not able to replay and quote six-year-old telephone conversations, so memory will have to do. (Maybe AT&T has the conversation archived in some illegal-wiretapping file? GeorgeZ and I may have mentioned the words "Budayeen" or "Islamic" or "Arab" in the course of our conversations about GAE!)

I had worked with GeorgeZ on his short story collection entitled Swift Thoughts (Golden Gryphon Press, 2002). During that project, and for some time afterward, we spoke quite often on the telephone. George had unlimited long distance at the time and enjoyed calling and chatting with his many author friends and editors. It was the "author friends and editors" that gave me the idea. Since GAE was no longer with us, to select the stories for his next collection, I decided that I would ask his peers -- his friends and fellow authors, and editors -- to select their favorite GAE story. And then, once they told me their favorite story, I would ask them -- as a tribute to GAE -- to write a mini introduction to the story. I wanted to first hook them on the story suggestion, and then seek their cooperation to write an intro. GeorgeZ wholeheartedly agreed to contribute, as did many others.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, George Alec Effinger (Part 1 of 3)

In memory of author George Alec Effinger (January 10, 1947 – April 27, 2002), who would have been 66 years old today, I am reprinting a series of three blog posts I published in the first half of 2009. This first blog post, originally published on April 11, 2009, was only my twelfth blog post. Whether or not my novice status shows, well, I'll leave that up to you to decide, but I certainly was (and still am) very passionate about these three Effinger books in which I played a role.

* * * * *

This is part one of a planned three-part blog posting on author George Alec Effinger, one part pertaining to each of the three volumes of his work that I acquired and edited for Golden Gryphon Press. In this first part, I'd like to step you through my correspondence with George leading up to the publication of Budayeen Nights, the first collection, published in hardcover in 2003 and reprinted in trade paperback this past September [2008].

I've always been a fan of George Alec Effinger's work. His Budayeen novels (When Gravity Fails, A Fire in the Sun, and The Exile Kiss) did indeed impress me, but I was more captivated with his short fiction: the subtlety of his writing, his sardonic wit, his very unique craft and range. In my opinion, George is (was) one of the most underrated and underappreciated authors within the science fiction and fantasy genre, and much of his lack of notoriety was due to his chronic illness, which affected his output over the years. By 2001, when I first made contact with George, I believe all of his published work was out of print, though all were obviously still available through the used book market. As an acquisitions editor with Golden Gryphon Press, from 1999 through 2007, I was finally in a position to do something about bringing attention to his work once again.

I knew that George surfed the Usenet groups and thus I was able to track him down in this fashion. Between late July 2001 and early April 2002, I received a total of eleven emails from George. I probably sent him three times as many in return, but I was grateful to have received the few emails from him that I did. At the time, I knew somewhat of George's medical problems and financial difficulties; what I didn't know is that, because of past due medical bills, a local (New Orleans) hospital had threatened ownership of George's intellectual property in order to recoup their expenses. Because of this, for a number of years, George only wrote stories for themed anthologies so that he would at least have some income, while refusing to write any further work involving his own characters and worlds. He should have written the fourth Budayeen novel, continuing the tale of Marîd Audran -- it's what his fans and readers were clamoring for, and the only real source of income before him -- but George didn't want the hospital's lawyers to become any wealthier off of his work, and so he continued his "for hire" writing. Fortunately, the legal case was dropped when the lawyers failed to appear for a court hearing, and George finally got his life -- and his characters -- back. But the damage was done; the best writing years of George's life were now behind him, as I would soon learn.

In my first email to George, I introduced myself and provided some details on books that I had previously edited, and then I presented a couple ideas to him. George's response, on July 31, 2001, was very brief but to the point; he wrote: "I am flattered by both your suggestions. I've been frustrated by how the whole body of my 30-years' work has already disappeared. Please let me know how I can help you in your projects."

I was so excited, I responded that very same day, but it was another month, on August 30, before I received a reply. George suggested a collection featuring "a hefty selection of my 200 stories, with introductions to each one, and calling it GAE: The White Album or GAE Live! At the Village Gate or...GAE: The Prairie Years." I again responded immediately, but a number of months went by with no word from George. In fact, I had to go through another individual in New Orleans who tracked George down and told him that he needed to contact me. I learned much later that during these months George's health and housing issues had once again returned to impact the quality of his life; he had no regular Internet access because he was being shuffled from one residence to another.

Finally, on February 25, 2002, I received an email from George. He informed me that he's "online regularly now and back to work, too," and concluded his brief email with: "Let's get to work! I could use... a good project to work on, and something to put out so that people will realize I'm still around and kicking. Typing, I mean." Even in the few short sentences contained within this communication, I could sense his new-found energy, and I was anxious to get to work on a project with him as well. Earlier, George had also suggested a collection of his Budayeen stories, and since I felt these stories had the most commercial potential, given the continued popularity of his Budayeen novels, this was the book we began work on first.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Day in the Life with Android (Part 3)

[Updated: January 8, 2013; see the app gReader Pro below]

This blog post continues my efforts to present the Android apps I use -- and how I use them -- on my Google/ASUS Nexus 7 tablet. In Part 1 I covered hardware accessories and what I think of as business apps. Part 2 dealt with utility apps, including cloud services.

I assume that if you are still with me on this series of blog posts, then you currently own an Android device, or at least are thinking about purchasing an Android device. So, if you haven't noted this already, each app links directly to the Google Play store where you can read more about the app, including a lengthier description, a list of permissions, and user reviews; and if you are currently an Android user, you could also install the app at that time.

With this third blog post, I plan to cover all the social media and related apps that I use: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader; apps that support social media posts, like Skitch and Snapseed; and ebook readers: Kindle, Nook, Google Play Books, and support apps, like ED PDF Reader Pro and Calibre Library.

I realize these aren't the most exciting of blog posts, but I'm hopeful that Android users, or potential Android users, will find something of value here. These posts also allow me to indulge in my latest passion.

The official Twitter app has too many holes, so I initially used Tweetdeck Web, which I also use on my desktop and laptop. Unfortunately, it's not designed for mobile devices and was very difficult to use on the N7. And then I found Falcon Pro: a beautifully designed app that features the Google "holo" design. I've submitted a few suggestions for updates, which I hope will be addressed in the near future. If I want to view (and delete) one of my own tweets, or unfollow someone, I still have to use either Tweetdeck Web or Twitter itself.

The official Facebook app was virtually unusable until founder Mark Zuckerberg "encouraged" his employees to use the Facebook Android app -- and then multiple updates were forthcoming. Until those updates, however, I used FaceDroid, but this app would freeze quite often (and still does) so I welcomed the "new" Facebook app.

I don't use Google+, per se, but when I post to Facebook I also post to Google+. However, I do get Google+ notifications on the N7 (and Facebook and Falcon Pro notifications as well), which keeps me informed of incoming posts.

On a daily basis, I read a ton of blogs, forums, RSS feeds, etc., so I need an RSS reader that will sync across all devices; the obvious answer is Google Reader. But, GR on the web is nothing more than a list of feeds and the official GR app is just as dreadful (it hasn't been updated since the Nexus 7 was shipped in mid-July 2012). I use Feedly on the web, an excellent RSS reader, which integrates with Google Reader; but the Feedly Android app crashes on my N7 constantly, nearly every time I access a link within a feed. (To recover from the crash I have to either reboot the N7 or go into the app's settings and delete all data.) But then I read a lengthy, detailed review of the gReader Pro app on Android Police -- and gReader Pro has since become my preferred RSS reader on the N7. (It's optimized for use on tablets, too.)

[Update: Yesterday, the Feedly app had its first update since last July; the update includes some UI changes as well as bug fixes. I have used it now for about a half-hour, accessing various links, and not a single crash -- so far. The wonder (and frustration) of Android, as I previously mentioned, are the updates: sometimes one waits for six months for such an update, as with Feedly; other times an app can be updated daily, or even multiple times during the day: the app may have worked perfectly on your device to start with, but after an update, not so much anymore.

So I have set aside gReader Pro for now and returned to using Feedly, which had been my favorite RSS reader (crashes aside).]

When a photo needs an extra touch -- a border, annotation, essentially any kind of photo editing -- then Skitch or Snapseed will meet those needs. Skitch, from the makers of Evernote, has sketching capabilities as well as picture editing; and before being ported to Android, Snapseed was the 2011 iPad App of the Year. (Please forgive my indiscretion for mentioning the "i" device.) The photos from either app can then be shared with social media apps, Evernote, cloud services, etc.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Day in the Life with Android (Part 2)

In Part 1 I reviewed the hardware accessories for my Nexus 7 tablet, as well as one set of apps that I use for work; let's call them my "business" apps for now. Though the dividing line as to whether an app is business or entertainment can be blurry at best, given the nature of some of these apps....

With this blog post I want to cover the utilities that I use on a day-to-day basis. Again, in most instances, they can be used for both business and entertainment.

As is the case with Chrome and Gmail, mentioned in Part 1, many of these apps can be installed in some fashion as both an Android and a Windows app, allowing them to be synced across all devices. In a lot of ways, it's like having my desktop and laptop at my fingertips wherever I'm at, as long as my Nexus 7 is in hand (and a wireless connection is available).

Pocket, formerly "Read It Later," is one of those essential apps that appears regularly on "best of" lists. Pocket allows you to save a website, or just the URL, or a tweet, or blog post, or -- pretty much anything -- with the ability to read it later, WiFi connected or not. I also have the Pocket Windows add-on installed on the Chrome browser on my desktop and laptop: I can save an online short story to Pocket on my desktop and read it later on the Nexus 7.

Evernote is like One Note in Windows 7, but far less complicated, and thus easier to use; and, unlike One Note, Evernote can be installed and synced across all devices. Any text and graphic can be saved to Evernote; it's for notetaking, lists, essays, drafts, whatever.

Clipper - Clipboard Manager stores my 20 most recent clips, or copies, so that nothing is lost from the clipboard. The clips can then be stored in lists with an unlimited number of clips; clippings can be searched; and, under Android Jelly Bean, the clipboard manager is accessible from the notification bar.

With the N7 I can make outgoing telephone calls and send SMS text message; however, since it is not a mobile phone, the N7 cannot receive calls. I use Talkatone free calls & texting. Talkatone also requires a free Google Voice account for incoming calls: if a voice call is sent to my N7, the call gets routed automatically to another number of my choice that is able to accept incoming calls (this number must be provided when the Google Voice acct is set up); if a text msg is sent to my N7, it is automatically routed to my Gmail account.

Battery Widget? Reborn! Pro and Easy Battery Saver: I use these two apps to manage my battery usage. The N7 battery, at least in my few months of experience, requires frequent battery charges, so I rely on Easy Battery Saver to monitor and control the battery usage, and the widget to keep me informed of same. The widget maintains a graph in the notification bar, showing usage and hours remaining or charging time.