Archive for November 2009

Another Published Book

After much success with the Arch Linux Handbook, I have helped successfully self-publish another book. This one is a work of fiction, written by my dad, and I’m proud to announce it to anyone interested in the Western genre. In fact, I’m proud to present it to anyone interested in books at all; it’s a terrific read with some innovative topics and presentation. And trainloads of action!

The summary for Preston Diamond in Way-cross is copied below. Buy a copy and enjoy your read! In addition, visit C. C. Phillips’s website for free online ebooks. Check back for his newest book, Watershed, in a few months, as well as audiobooks in the author’s voice.

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Death doesn’t wait for Preston Diamond in Way-cross, it rides out to meet him. And when the “Presidents’ man” arrives in town, Death is not long in catching up.

Way-cross is the hub of an illicit finance and real estate game that has turned sour. High stakes and rampant lawlessness have attracted the attention of the Whitehouse; Diamond has been sent to investigate. Staying alive is a full time job for the emissary though he occasionally allows romantic diversions. Will the most beautiful lady Preston has ever seen be the one to capture his heart? Or will she put a bullet through it?

Arch Linux Developers IRL

I don’t like it when blog authors write a blog post and then later write a new related post and point an “update” link to the old post. So if this post looks familiar, it’s because I’ve revised to with some new data. It’s mostly chronological, so the newest info is at the end, but I’m not above editing my own content.

One of my missions in life is to meet as many Arch Linux developers as possible, and more than any other human being. I’m already well on my way, and was able to add to my list recently.

In the past, I’ve met Jason Chu, aka Xentac, one of the earlier adopters of Arch Linux, all round good guy, and most relevantly, the man currently holding the, “Tell Dusty he’s wrong,” record. We met up with Tobias Kieslich (neri) and Judd Vinet (yes, I met the founder!) for drinks and ramblings. That was several years ago. I’ve met Jason and Tobias a few more times since.

In November, 2008, I took a job with a Montreal company in November, which yielded an evening out with Eric BĂ©langer, more commonly referred to as (the fractal) Snowman.

This March, I had a terrific time at pycon including a (late) evening out with Simo Leone (Neotuli), Dan McGee (toofishes) and Aaron Griffin (the mighty phrakture), overlord of all that is Archly. To my knowledge, this was the first time four Arch devs were together in North America.

In May, I was able to spend a few hours with Kevin Piche. I was visiting Ottawa for PGCon, where I was a bit of an outsider, but Kevin and I were able to meet up for miscellaneous — sometimes Arch-related — discussions. Baked Brie and Poutine make terrific appetizers.

I left Toronto in July, 2009, but before leaving, I met up with Travis Willard (Cerebral), a retired Arch Linux developer. We watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Live Blog and were chased into his house by inclement weather when we tried to barbecue.

Now, I visited my sister in Victoria again last week, (November, 2009), and managed to convince Judd, Tobias, and Jason to join me for beers again. In addition, a little pressure on Thayer and Libby brought them over from Vancouver, and our party grew to a total of six.

This brings me to today. My sister is moving back to Saskatchewan now, with a long road trip down the US coast including a stop in Portland. I had the chance to meet the inimitable Eli(ott) Janssen, better known as Cactus. He quietly mentioned that he tried some poutine recently, though claims it isn’t as good as tacos.

So, counting my own reflection in the mirror, I’ve now been lucky enough to meet, in person, 13 Arch Linux contributors! I’m sure ArchCon will allow me to expand my pool. I want to add the few remaining North American developers (Dale, Don, Jeff, and Paul) to my list, then I’ll have to do an Australian tour to meet my favourite Aussies (you know who you are). Eventually a tour through Europe and South America will round out my collection. Then I’ll have to start all over, because so far I’ve met a bunch of terrific people who need to be seen more than once!

All that self-publishing stuff I've looked into

A while back, my sister asked me for some information on the self-publishing options I’ve been investigating. My response went into more detail than I expected, and seemed beneficial to more people than her, so I finally took some time to edit it for my blog.

I have found three ‘legitimate’ services that handle the print on demand process for you:

CreateSpace
LuLu
Unibook

Createspace is run by Amazon; a known company. They are by far the cheapest, but the drawback is they only do paperback books, and the smallest book is 8×5, which is larger than your average
pocketbook. I used them for the Arch Linux Handbook. Lulu is the oldest company, they do LOTS of different book styles including hard cover, but they are expensive. I didn’t look at unibook too much, they are quite new to the self-publishing business, but I think they’ve been around
for a long time in the standard printing business. I will probably use them for hardcover books.

All three are ‘free’ in that there are no up-front costs, but Lulu and unibook are ‘expensive’ in that you have to sell the book for much more than a bookstore typically charges to cover their costs. Createspace has a thing where if you pay them $40, it costs about half price per book, which means you can earn that $40 back in a few sales. Apparently Lulu, and probably Unibook, will do a bit of “massaging” to get your book into the proper format; In contrast, Createspace expects it to be copy-ready and it will be printed exactly how you send it.

All three services allow colour pages, but those are more expensive.

Createspace lists your book on amazon.com for free (I don’t think it lists on amazon.ca or similar international sites though) I think Lulu also has an option to list your book on Amazon.com, but you may have to pay extra.

Every book published has an ISBN associated with it. That’s a number to uniquely identify the book. All three of those services will give you an ISBN, but that means they “own” the ISBN. That doesn’t matter too much, but it has one drawback. There is a “catalogue” of books that bookstore owners across North America consult when they want to custom-order a book. If your book isn’t in that catalogue, your book can’t typically be ordered from bookstores. The catch is that only the owner of the book’s ISBN can put a book in the catalogue. Createspace will not do this with ISBNs they own; I’m not sure about the other companies. So if you are writing a book that you want in bookstores (instead of distributing it yourself or selling only online through Amazon) you may want to get your own ISBN.

In the US, it costs $150 to get an ISBN, but I read that it is free in Canada if you go through Library and Archives Canada. I’ve chosen to just use the free CreateSpace ISBN for now. If a book becomes popular enough to warrant marketing it to bookstores, I can always print a second edition of the title.

As far as actually writing the book goes, I recommend using OpenOffice. Its smart about formatting pages and layout, once you learn how to use it. That’s a big “once”, but its worth it. There are some terrific, “how to write a book in OpenOffice,” tutorials on Google. In addition, OpenOffice natively exports to PDF in a way that CreateSpace, and likely the other companies, will find acceptable.

Some things to keep in mind when formatting a book that aren’t immediately obvious:
* left and right pages need to have different margins because the “inside” margin needs to be bigger to accommodate the spine.
* typically, page numbers go on the ‘outside’ of the header or footer — ie: left side on left pages, right side on right pages
* New chapters always start on a right-hand page; sometimes a blank page on the left needs to be inserted.

I’m not sure how Lulu and Unibook do covers, but I would guess its similar to Createspace. You tell Createspace how many pages the book will have and they send you a template for Photoshop (Gimp will open it) that has the entire cover: back, spine, and front in one file, such that it will “wrap around” the book. You put the graphics and words on there in the right place (there are guidelines) and then send it to them. I suggest putting all the texts and images on different layers so they
are easy to move around, hide, and remove.

You also have the option of publishing ebooks. Createspace has a feature that allows you to publish a book to the Amazon Kindle, an ebook reader. There are also free programs that allow you to publish a book in a wide variety of popular ebook formats. I used one for Linux
called Calibre. There’s a lot of leeway in ebooks; there’s nothing wrong with publishing it as a pdf, web page, or word document if you so wish, but most ebook reading software expect them in one of a few specific formats.

At this time, I can’t provide much information on the marketing side of things. Marketing is definitely the hard part, but its all about knowing your audience and targetting them.

Releasing your book under a Creative Commons license will make it more appealing to a wider target audience. You lose some control over how it is distributed, but that means other people may distribute and market it for you.

Finally, some advertising: I offer proofreading, editing, formatting, and cover layout services if you aren’t comfortable doing any part of the formatting or layout. It really depends how well you know writing and image processing programs; I find it quite simple, but its taken me years of fighting with Open Office and its alternatives until I can finally managed to force it to cooperate.

ArchCon 2010

With a bit of discussion and a quick one-click deploy of a wordpress CMS, ArchCon 2010 turned from a “maybe we should do this,” into a “Let’s do it and see what happens.”

That’s right, folks, A few of us (and hopefully you’ll join us, we need more organizers!) are planning an Arch Linux Conference. Details are sketchy at this time, but we have a website, a location (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), and a timeframe (July 2010). We’re working out the details, and if anybody else wants to help work out details, we need the help.

Right now, we need presenters. If you have any ideas for a topic you can present at ArchCon, please let us know. We have a Call For Proposals open, but that basically entails “send your ideas to me and we’ll probably let you present.” Good presentation topics are a key to ArchCon’s success, and I believe each and every one of us have at least one good talk in us. So what’s your talk?

Hope to see you at ArchCon 2010, both as an attendee and a presenter or tutorial leader. Help us get this off the ground!

History Repeats Itself

Several years ago, I was honoured by an invite from Judd Vinet, Arch Linux Founder, to join the Arch Linux development team as Documentor. I did the job for a while, helped start and fill our first wiki, got bored, and resigned. I continued in the Arch Community doing notable activities like forum administration and moderation, and wiki maintenance.

Then, Aaron Griffin, current Arch Linux Overlord, posted a need for an Arch Developer to handle the Django projects for internal development and the Arch Linux website. I’m a Django coder, so I volunteered for the job. I cleaned up the code, ported us to Djngo 1.0 (and later, 1.1), implemented a few features, maintained some mirrors, got bored, and resigned.

Yes, this weekend, I resigned my position as Arch Linux developer, joining an elite group of ex-developers for the second time.

I do a lot of Django development by day, and found that I am less and less inclined to do more of it for Arch Linux in my free time. So I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m not dropping involvement in Arch, as I’m still maintaining and improving the product lines of Arch Linux Schwag. I’m also hoping to promote Arch Bounty and see it take off. Finally, I’m working with ralvez to organize an ArchCon this summer (more on this soon).

So I’m not cutting back my involvement at all, just switching to things that are currently interesting to me. I’m well-known for insisting that being an Arch Linux developer and being an Arch Linux community member are one and the same thing. The development team focuses on core Arch Linux issues and technical issues, stuff I was once interested in, but not currently. The community is left to deal with meta-projects, and I’ve got lots of those on the go right now.

So I hope I’m setting an example by stepping down: Being an Arch Linux developer doesn’t make you important, it isn’t an elite position. What makes you important is contributing to Arch Linux in any way. You are an elite member of a very powerful team if you’ve ever filed a bug report, answered a forum question, created a wrapper script, hosted your own repo, or edited the wiki.

Because of this, I’m not sad to leave the Arch Development Core. I’ve quit before, and I suspect I’ll be joining some of my best friends and most respected software developers when a core project takes my fancy once again. In the meantime, I’m a powerful community member and contributor, just like you.