Tag Archives: how-to

They’re on their way!

Proof copies of Miira, The Godsend and Nabatea are on their way! Expected date of arrival is Wednesday, 23rd of August, 2017. I don’t know how I’m going to wait that long without going nuts.

I know you old hands are probably trying not to smile at my excitement, but there’s a part of me that won’t really believe I’m a fully fledged writer until those physical books finally arrive. I guess they’re not called ‘proofs’ for nothing. 🙂

Of course, the pragmatist in me knows full well that these print books won’t make an ounce of difference in terms of sales – POD books are expensive and I know they won’t sell. But…I’ve taken screenshots of every step of their production – both in Word and in Createspace – and I’m seriously thinking of turning all that information into a proper how-to print book. And then there’s the satisfaction of having something physical to hand out as samples, prizes and gifts.Those kinds of intangibles really are priceless.

-rubs hands with glee –

Plus I’m going to have a lot of fun along the way. 😀

cheers

Meeks


Corel X8 tips for beginners – moving objects precisely

I have to start this post by saying I am not an expert in Corel X8, but I have been using vector graphics for a very long time, and there are some labour-saving tips I’ve learned along the way that I’d like to share. The first of these involves a basic feature called ‘Object position’:

The ‘X’ and ‘Y’ numbers describe the left/right and up/down position of the object on the page. But they’re more than just co-ordinates – they can also be used to change the position of the object on the page, precisely. So precisely in fact, that you can use ‘Object position’ to move your shapes one pixel at a time.

What’s a pixel?

If you zoom in on a digital image far enough, you will eventually see a grid of coloured squares. Each one of those squares is a pixel, and they are the building blocks of the most common digital images:

In the screenshot above, the image has been magnified to over 3000%. Despite this extreme magnification, however, small errors of alignment can and do show up in much large images. In the following screenshot I created two, almost identical pairs of shapes. The pair on the left is just one pixel shy of being aligned perfectly. The pair on the right is aligned perfectly. When you place the images against a contrasting background, the small imperfection in pair A can be seen as the hint of a ‘bump’:

The next screenshot is a super closeup of that one pixel difference:

 

In bitmap images [the kind you get from photographs], there are so many shades of pixels that you would never notice such a tiny imperfection. In vector drawings, however, especially of objects with straight lines, one pixel can make a difference.

The magnitude of the difference one pixel can make was brought home to me over the last few months as I’ve been working on the covers to my books. Like most people, I began by eyeballing the position of the shapes and moving them around manually. If I’m careful, I can line them up perfectly, most of the time. But if I have a lot of shapes, and they all have to be aligned perfectly, the strain on my eyes, neck and shoulders can become intense. That’s where the ‘Object position’ comes in. Instead of relying on hand-eye co-ordination, I simply type in co-ordinates, and X8 does the work for me.

So how do you use ‘Oject position’?

The first step is to ensure that your ‘Object position’ is counting pixels not milimetres etc. To change your page setup to pixels, click on the Layout tab and select ‘Page setup’ from the drop down menu as shown:

Next, select ‘Pixels’ from the drop down list and click ‘OK’:

 

The next step is to learn what those X and Y numbers actually mean.The X numbers show the object’s position from left to right, and increasing the number moves the object further to the right. For example, if the object’s starting position is 50, changing that number to 60 will move the object 10 pixels to the right. By the same token, changing the number from 50 to 40 will move the object 10 pixels to the left.

The following is a before-and-after screenshot of a real project I’m working on:

The X position of the shape in the pic on the left is 2266. The X position of the shape on the right is 2273. In other words, the shape moved 7 pixels to the right.

Unfortunately, using the Y numbers is not so intuitive. For reasons I will never understand, you have to decrease the number to move the object down and increase it to move the object up. In the following before-and-after shot, I increased the Y number from 406 to 411 in order to move the object up into alignment:

Using the Y position, in particular, is a bit hard to get used to, but once you do, a combination of up/down and left/right adjustment will ensure that your objects align with each other perfectly, every time.

The mantra to remember is:

  • Left = less
  • Right = more
  • Up = more
  • Down = less

In the next post, I’ll be talking about converting shapes to curves, adding and deleting nodes via the right click menu, and how to create a ‘mitred’ joint between two shapes.

cheers

Meeks

 

 


Smithing in Vokhtah – how to forge the links of a chain

The creatures of Vokhtah possess many ‘skills’ that owe more to fantasy than sci-fi, but their world is as real as I can make it, so here is some real blacksmithing that I had to research today:

Those who’ve read the first book about Vokhtah will know that the technology of the iVokh is somewhere between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age of Earth. They have Smiths who work starrock – i.e. rock that falls from the stars – in firepits. Of all the items crafted by the Smiths, two play a vital role in Vokhtan culture – timepieces and shackles.

I introduced the concept of a water-driven timepiece in book 1, and the following is a concept drawing of what such a timepiece [with extra ‘alarm bell’] might look like:

 

In book 2, however, I’ll be introducing the idea of the shackles. Think old convict shackles like these:

If you go searching for images of shackles, please be careful how you word your Google search. I learned some eye-opening things about bondage before I found the above image on Ebay. Apparently you can ‘Buy Now’ for $25.97 USD…

But after all that research, how much actually ended up in the story?

Not much. The one thing that truly hit me from the video was that without that shaped anvil, the calipers and the hammer, the blacksmith would have been struggling to make anything resembling a chain link. So how about my Smiths. Would they have possessed such specialised tools? Probably not, at least to start with. So my research boils down to half a sentence, shown in bold below:

The silence of the small chamber was broken by the clank of starrock as Tatah strained against the shackles that bound her to the cot. Held aloft by her huge, red wings, she thrashed from side to side in a vain attempt to break free, but neither the shackles nor the cot showed any signs of weakening.

Exhausted by her efforts and still not completely recovered from the Cut, she slumped back onto her belly and lay there gasping as her wings slowly deflated.

She was bitterly disappointed at not being able to free herself but was not surprised. She had commissioned the shackles at a time when she thought she could conquer the world, so her Smiths had been ordered to produce nothing but the best. They had taken her at her word, spending a year just to craft the tools they would need to forge the shackles. Then they had spent another year refining the starrock and forging it into a set of bindings strong enough to hold even the strongest Vokh.

Tatah had been delighted. But, of course, she had never dreamt that the shackles would be used against her…

Happy weekend all. 🙂

Meeks

 


Spotlight on #Indie, Chris James

Six months ago I published Repulse: Europe at War 2062-2064, and those of you who know me well, also know what I saw when I looked at that word “Repulse” on the cover, and therefore why its modest success is just a mite ironic. Altogether, this little book has managed to get itself over 3,000 […]

via Repulse: Six months of #Gratitude — Chris James’s blog

Chris James is an Indies Unlimited buddy from way back, and he’s also a very good sci-fi writer, but that isn’t the reason I reblogged his post today. I did it to give the rest of us a good news story with a dash of hope.

Self-publishing can lead to success, Chris is proof of that, but it rarely happens ‘overnight’. Behind every ‘Repulse’, you will find years of patient effort during which the only thing that keeps you going is pig-headed obstinacy.

The moral of ‘Repulse’ is that success is possible, if you have the intestinable fortitude to keep slogging away at it. Please read Chris’ post and take heart.

much love,

Meeks


#Amazon, US #Tax and #Australian Citizens

meeka thumbs upAnything sold on Amazon – including self-published books – is subject to a 33% withholding tax.

This is a tax that Amazon must take out of the sale before you get your share.

This tax is applicable across the board and non-US citizens are not exempt.

 

Unless………..:

  • their country of origin has a trade treaty with the US
  • and they apply for an exemption under that trade treaty

As an Australian citizen, I am lucky enough to meet the ‘trade treaty’ criterion but until today, I did not apply for the exemption because:

  • I was not making enough money for it to matter, and
  • the process was just TOO HARD

I’m not sure what changed, or when exactly, but suddenly the process of applying for an exemption is so easy I’m still pinching myself in case I’m dreaming.

So what’s needed?

  1. Your country of origin must have a trade treaty with the US
  2. You must have an account with Kindle Direct Publishing [nah..really? lol]
  3. You must have a tax file number [or equivalent] from your country of origin

Seriously, that’s it. With those three things you can log into Kindle Direct Publishing and fill in a very VERY easy online form and you’re done.

  1. Log in to your KDP account
  2. Select My Account
  3. Select the option for Tax Interview
  4. Have your tax file number handy
  5. And start filling in the questions.
  6. When you get to the page that asks if you want to do an electronic signature* – select YES
  7. The electronic signature is nothing more than your typed name, email address [same as for logging into KDP] and ‘Submit’.
  8. Be sure to print off a copy at the end and you’re done.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sit there scratching your head and wondering how you can send an electronic signature. Is there a special program you have to invest in to create such a signature? Or do you have to print the page off, sign it manually and then post it off? Hah!

The answer to all those questions is a big, fat NO. There appears to be no valid reason for doing things the hard way, so don’t.

Having procrastinated for years, literally, I am so relieved to finally have this Sword of Damocles removed from my halo. Thank you IRS and thank you Amazon! Now if only I could be paid via PayPal or EFT I’d be delirious with happiness…

-smack- Don’t be greedy, girl!

Much happy dancing,

Meeks


#howto delete – Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI

Before I tell you how to delete Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI, there are a few important things you need to know:

What does Flash Player do?

“Adobe Flash Player is a plugin that allows browsers such as Firefox to display Flash media on web pages. Flash is often used for animations, videos and games. This article explains how to install Flash.

When you visit a webpage that uses Flash and the plugin is missing, you will see the message “A plugin is needed to display this content” for parts of the page that require Flash (if at all)..”

That’s a quote taken directly from the Mozilla website. But what does it mean in practical terms? It means that animations created in Flash need Flash Player to work. This often means parts of certain websites that use Flash for bling won’t work…but only ‘parts’. It also means that browser games created with Flash need Flash Player to work. Get rid of Flash Player entirely and those things will no longer work. As far as I know, many of the browser games available via Facebook [?] use Flash. So if you play them, be warned [of course you don’t have to use this version of Flash Player!]

But…having just completely deleted Flash Player from my computer I can tell you that nothing I use on a daily basis has been affected. And by nothing I mean:

  • Youtube works fine [for music videos, haven’t tried anything else]
  • Jigsaws work
  • WordPress works [obviously]
  • Soundcloud works
  • My internet banking works [Bendigo Bank]
  • And my MMOs work

In fact, everything seems to be loading faster, not just Firefox, but that could just be a weird kind of digital placebo effect.

Why delete Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI in the first place?

In a nutshell, the latest version of Mozilla Firefox uses this version of Flash Player, but the Flash Player is crap. Mozilla Firefox whined until I updated Flash Player and I’ve regretted it ever since. Despite being a supposedly agile little browser, Firefox became slower and I noticed that crashes increased in frequency. These crashes were preceded by a sudden massive slowdown – as if I were typing each letter of a word with a sip of coffee in-between. And then, instead of getting better, it would completely freeze to the point where I would have to do:

CTRL + ALT + DEL to open Task Manager and then manually END PROCESS on Firefox and Flash Player.

The reason is that this version of Flash Player gobbles up RAM [short term memory for your computer]. I suspect there is a memory ‘leak’ responsible, but Adobe isn’t admitting to it, yet.

Anyway, when your computer runs out of ‘memory’, it’s like a car that runs out of petrol – it stops. The latest version of Firefox isn’t that great on memory either, but I might save that for a future post.  For now, if you use Firefox [which uses Flash Player] and you experience ‘freezes’ then check your Task Manager to see if Flash Player is using oodles of memory.

[Note: as knowing how to use Task Manager is a great computer survival skill, I’m including it below]

How to open Task Manager in Windows 7

  • On your keyboard, press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys all at the same time.

You will see a pale blue screen with just a few options on it.

  • Click ‘Start Task Manager’.

[Note: it’s not possible to take a screenshot of the blue screen as it seems to be ‘outside’ the Windows environment]

After you select ‘Start Task Manager’, the following screen will be displayed:

firefox taskmanager 1

The default tab [Applications] only shows which programmes are currently open. You can close programmes from this window but it’s easier to do it from the Processes tab where you can also see how much memory they are using.

  • Click the Processes tab to open it.

I can’t show you the Flash Player memory usage because I didn’t think to take a screenshot before I deleted it completely. Mea culpa. Anyway, this is the current list of processes on my computer and will do in order to show you what to do next. So you should now be looking at your version of the Processes tab:

firefox taskmanager 2

In order to see which programmes [i.e. processes] are using the most memory [RAM]:

  • click the column heading for ‘Memory [Private Working Set]’. This will sort everything in that column. If you don’t get the largest usage up the top, click the heading a second time.

Now a word of warning – unless you know what you’re doing, don’t go shutting down processes willy nilly. Some of them use a lot of memory BUT THEY’RE MEANT TO! All you want to shut down at this point is the process for Flash Player and the one for Firefox.

[Note: As a rule of thumb, only shutdown processes which bear the user name – ‘user’. NEVER shutdown anything belonging to ‘SYSTEM’]

  • Click the line that holds information about firefox.exe *32 so it’s highlighted,
  • and then click the button down the bottom that says ‘End Process’.

In the example shown below, I’m ending the process for MSPaint instead of Firefox so I can keep working on this post – because, of course, WordPress only works within my browser. But you knew that, right? 🙂

firefox taskmanager 3

Now do exactly the same thing for Flash Player and then exit from the Task Manager.

How to uninstall Flash Player for Windows XP, Vista and 7 only

If you’ve used Windows a lot you’ll know that uninstalling programmes via Control Panel doesn’t always get rid of all those pesky bits and pieces that end up as programming debris. Unfortunately, that programming debris can keep having an effect on whatever you install afterwards, so this is how to get rid of absolutely EVERYTHING belonging to Flash Player.

  • First, you will need to go to the Adobe page below and download the uninstaller.

https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/uninstall-flash-player-windows.html

The page looks like this:

firefox Flashplayer uninstall 1

  • Click ‘Uninstaller’ as shown in the screenshot above.

You will be asked to either run or save the uninstaller. I suggest saving it to somewhere that you’ll be able to find it again. On my computer, I have a special folder called ‘Software downloads’ and everything I download off the internet goes there first. Then I scan it with my anti virus software before I actually install it.

  • Next, find the uninstaller – the file is called ‘uninstall flash player.exe‘ – and double click to make it run. If you get a message asking if you really want to do this, click yes.

All done? Okay, we have now uninstalled Flash Player from the main areas of the computer, but there are still some leftovers to get rid of. This is not hard, but if you have not done anything like this before, it can feel a little scary. Just take it slow, check each step and generally do NOT go messing with anything else. At least not until you know what you’re doing. 😀 [I learned that the hard way]

How to find the leftovers

Now you will navigate to 3 different locations on your computer, deleting Flash files and folders in all three.

  • Click on the Start button and

firefox run 1

  • type the word ‘run’ into the search box as shown above:

Windows displays the closest matches to your search word and displays the Run command at the top of the list.

  • Click the Run command as shown.

With the Run dialogue box displayed:

  • Click inside the box as shown and type the following EXACTLY:

C:\Windows\system32\Macromed\Flash

The colon is a colon, not a semi-colon. The slash is a backslash [found under the Backspace button on most keyboards] and THERE ARE NO SPACES.

firefox run 2

When you are sure you have typed the address in correctly [it’s an address on your computer rather than the internet],

  • click the OK button.

At this point you’re just driving to your destination. Nothing will happen if you take a wrong turn! If all went well, you should now be looking at a screen similar to this:

firefox run delete 1

Essentially, the Run command we used simply acts as a shortcut to the folder we want to delete – i.e. Flash.

How to delete a folder

Now that we’ve arrived, we’re going to delete the whole Flash folder, including whatever is still inside.

Make sure the Flash folder is selected – i.e. click on it to highlight the folder like so:

firefox run delete 3

Next, RIGHT click on the Flash folder. This will cause the context sensitive menu to be displayed. One of the options on this menu is Delete. Click the Delete option to delete the Flash folder:

firefox run delete 2

Just two more folders to delete and we’re done!

**Go back to the Start button and type Run into the search box as before. But this time when the little dialogue box opens,

  • type in the following:

%appdata%\Adobe\Flash Player

% does mean the percent sign on your keyboard! And don’t forget to use the backslash under the Backspace key. Your Run dialogue box should now look like this:

firefox run delete 5

  • Click OK.

Again, the Run command will take you directly to the folder we need to delete. In this case it’s called ‘Flash Player’. Click on it to make sure it’s highlighted, then RIGHT click on it to display the context sensitive menu. Select the Delete option to delete the Flash Player folder.

Lucky last!

Repeat all the steps from ** above but this time, the Run dialogue box should contain this :

%appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player

The Run dialogue box should look like this:

firefox run delete 4

  • Click OK.

When you are looking at the Macromedia\Flash Player folder, RIGHT click on Flash Player and select Delete from the context sensitive menu.

And that’s it. Flash Player is completely gone from your computer. At this point, you are ready to install an earlier, less buggy version of Flash Player, safe in the knowledge that there are no leftovers to screw things up. Or, you can do what I’m going to do, which is to leave Flash Player off entirely.

If anyone is truly desperate to put a version of Flash Player back on, please let me know in comments and I’ll put together a separate how-to for that.

Phew.

Cheers

Meeks


#howto – search for an image on the internet

My thanks to Pinky for showing me how to do this! Now for the why. The answer is the big C. No, not cancer, copyright.

If you are just downloading pictures off the internet for your own enjoyment, and no, I’m not going to go there, then copyright is not an issue. The instant you use one of those images in anything vaguely commercial, even a simple blog post, you have to be sure you’re not infringing on someone’s copyright.

But how do you do that when you have no idea where the picture originally came from?

This is where Google Images comes in. Google has long been the king of word searches, but now it also lets you search by picture [and voice], and it all starts in the familiar Google search box…sort of.

How to find Google Images

If you are using Google Chrome then it’s easy. Simply click on the ‘Images’ option in the top, right hand corner of the screen:

googleimages 1

That will lead to this:

googleimages 2If you’re using some other browser [I use Firefox], type http://images.google.com into the address box of your browser and hit Enter :

googleimages 3[Note: as soon as the page is displayed, the URL changes to ‘https‘. As I’m a purist I always type the plain ‘http’.]

You should now be looking at this:

googleimages 4[Note: in Firefox, the Google search box does not include the ability to search by voice. This is only available in Chrome.]

How to actually do an image search

Whatever route you took to get here, you should now click on the small icon of a camera as shown above. That will lead to this:

googleimages 5

The ‘Search by image’ dialogue box contains two tabs – Paste image URL, and Upload an image.

Click the tab to Upload an image. This is what you will see:

googleimages 6

Click the ‘Browse’ button as shown. This will allow you to browse your own computer in order to find the image to be searched:

googleimages 7

The next bit assumes that you know how to find your way around the Windows files and folders. If you don’t, you can find a step-by-step how-to here.

Find the folder that contains the image you’re interested in. Click on that image and then click on ‘Open’ [as shown in the screenshot above].

And now the magic happens. Google search will think for a moment or two and then it will present you with the closest match it can find on the internet. This is the result for my image:

googleimages 8

As the image I chose is from a game, I did not expect to get a perfect match, and I didn’t. That’s because game avatars, even when customised, are based on a preset image. So they’re not unique. Photos of people and/or drawings etc., are unique, so they’re easier to find.This also means that if you use a copyrighted image in your blog, it can be found. So be careful!

cheers

Meeks

 


Making #charcoal without tools

It’s been a while since I researched primitive technologies [for Vokhtah], but I couldn’t resist this one:

The thing I love about it is that every single thing he uses comes from a ‘natural’ source [except the starter flame]. It’s almost like a how-to for post-apocalyptic living. If you’ve ever wondered how primitive people did things, this is one video not to miss.

cheers

Meeks


Amazon #LookInside – how to install it

Part 2 of my Amazon LookInside article is now live on Indies Unlimited:

Amazon’s New ‘Look Inside’ Feature for Blogs and Websites [Part Two]

The LookInside feature allows you to turn static images of your books [or anyone else’s books] into portals that allow visitors to read the LookInside excerpt that goes with the book.

Part 2 is a step-by-step guide to installing the feature onto WordPress.com blogs.

cheers

Meeks


Blade and Soul – system error #3746

takhahn pic

The pic above shows my assassin character on Blade and Soul. I have not been able to play him for three days because I keep getting the system error shown in the title of this post. Not fun.

I have just checked the forums and there seem to be quite a few people in the same boat as me – when we try to login we get a system error and login fails. For me, login fails at the verification code stage – I get the verification code, cut and paste it into the verification box and then …system error blah blah.

I have tried resetting the password, but now I get a new message – account locked due to suspicious activity. Apparently, attempting to follow their procedures is suspicious.

Oddly enough I agree. I suspect there is a massive problem in the whole security/gameguard area of the game. For starters, having to enter a verification code every time the IP address changes is insane – most people, myself included, do not have static IP addresses. Change is part of the definition! And now this.

In some ways, though, I am thrilled. I am thrilled that I resisted the urge to go for one of the premium packages. I am also thrilled that I resisted buying anything in the cash shop. At least, now, all I’ve lost is some time and about 20 GB of bandwidth. Some people who can’t get into the game are paying for that privilege.

Talking about paying, another reason I am thrilled by all this is that I hate how closely the game is tied to the cash shop. I don’t mind paying for cosmetic items, but having to pay just to upgrade your weapon is a bit rich.

Weapon upgrade a.k.a. Breakthrough

Basically each class gets a purple weapon very early on in the game. Then as you progress you upgrade that one weapon.  So far so good. But then you very quickly hit the ‘Breakthrough’ point, and suddenly things get sticky.

Breakthrough is like a plateau in the weapon’s power. In order to take your weapon to the next plateau, you have to breakthrough by using a special, low grade weapon that is class specific. Now the packages that contain these low grade weapons are easy to get BUT, they have to be opened with a key. Ordinary keys are easy to get as well, but if you use ordinary keys to unlock the weapon package it’s up to luck as to which class specific weapon you get.

So far my character has accumulated 4 of one class weapon, 2 of another and one each of every other class in the game. The only thing I don’t have is my own class specific weapon.

But wait! If I go to the cash shop and buy a Veridien Key, it is guaranteed to unlock my class specific weapon. Do you see the trap here?

As I refuse to pay for such a basic and necessary item, my character is a level 14 assassin using a level 5 weapon which I cannot upgrade. Not without paying.

I don’t know if I have just been extraordinarily unlucky or the game is rigged to push your frustration levels to the point where you cave in and pay just so you can continue to level. Either way, I hate it. This is game design at its most greedy.

So I guess that’s it. Bye bye Blade and Soul. What a disappointment.

cheers

Meeks

 


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