Writers, Don’t Get Enamored With Technology

There are tons of offers out there that with this software or device you can, help you or make you, write better, successfully, profitably.


Resist the new word processor built just for novel writers. The word finder software that will find just the right word for your story. The AI powered editor and all the other gimmicks.

Hemingway did not use a computer. You don’t need the latest, most powerful and expensive computer. Mark Twain was one of the first people to use a typewriter to write a book. He did it to write faster not better. Have you seen his hand writing?

Ansel Adams took world famous pictures with a wooden box. It had a mechanical shutter. No built in light meter. No flash. No computer processing. No batteries.

No can write a book by hand. There is no shame in that. In the end only a writer would want to know how or on what you wrote it.

Just don’t use crayon and a brown paper grocery bag. That’s crossing the line.

Just write. You don’t need another course. You don’t need a new computer. Go borrow a pen from the doctor’s office. I find that the broker’s office has the best pens. Hotels are good too and you can usually get a couple there.

I have written scenes on the back of old envelopes.

You don’t need letter head to write your story on. Or colored paper. You can find paper at the dollar store or even at the Goodwill store. It’s 50 percent off next Wednesday at the Goodwill store here.

Stay Strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Steampunk and Photographing the Lunar Eclipse

I have photographed two solar eclipses. So when I saw all the hoopla on the web about the lunar eclipse on the twentieth I decided to photograph it.

What would photographing a lunar eclipse have to do with writing Steampunk? The experience and the problems of photographing a lunar eclipse could add so much to your story. Problems lead to tension and your story needs more tension.

So let’s start out with your spunky heroine. She has photographed two solar Eclipses. One under the wing of a famous photographer (which didn’t give her any credit and the next one she did on her own). She now is going to photograph a lunar eclipse in her own back yard.

Lunar eclipses are more common than solar eclipses. They can happen twice a year and cover a much larger area of the earth (like one quarter of the surface of the earth). But you can have a gap of ten years between eclipses visible in one spot. Since people were outside more often in the Steampunk era most everyone would have seen a lunar eclipse. You will need a reason for her to photograph it. It is not enough for her to want to photograph it. She’s busy and has too many other pressing things to do than to photograph something that everyone has seen.

The reason could be to discover a scientific fundamental. Or it could be money. I’ll go with money. People understand money. Readers, deep down inside want money so they can identify with a heroine that needs money.

Standard trope is the heroine needs money to build copies of her recent invention so she can sell copies and make money to pay off the loan and keep her business from being for closed by the greedy banker. There’s a rich industrialist behind the banker that wants the rights to her inventions to make more money. Women shouldn’t have rights or money, in his opinion. Or better yet make the banker and the industrialist both women.

To photograph a solar eclipse you often have to travel to a foreign place, sometimes a dangerous country, population, terrain. Photographing a Lunar Eclipse in your own back yard is a piece of cake, except.

  1. Lunar eclipses happen at night. Solar eclipses happen during the day. For a lunar eclipse you have to be able to operate your camera in total darkness. This is hard with new digital camera, many have a keyboard worth of buttons all over them. You have to practice in the dark till you can operate the buttons with your eye closed. What if the heroine doesn’t practice? What if it’s a borrowed camera because someone sabotaged her camera or she just bought or designed and built a new camera just to photograph this eclipse, and hasn’t had time to practice or use the cameras before the eclipse.
  2. What f the new camera is a new technology? The camera uses celluloid in place of glass wet plate technology. She knows how to sensitize wet plates blindfolded. But celluloid is very different. Think of it is like having used a 1990s film camera then rushing out with a brand new digital camera you never used before and you have to get a good photograph or you lose your house. What if she forgets to have a light or lantern with a red filter over the lens. She looses her night vision every time she shines the light on the camera’s controls. When she turns the lantern off she is blind for a minute. She has to invent a red light lantern on the spot. What if the first batch of photographs come out blank or very over exposed. A lunar eclipse last much longer than a solar eclipse so she would have time to make more photos, but she would have to guess or figure out what is wrong, fix the problem and make more photos.
  3. Totality for solar eclipses happen fast, they last usually two minutes or less. Lunar eclipse totality can last for 30 or more minutes. Your old camera battery can run out of power in thirty minutes when it will last just fine for a solar eclipse. Refilling a battery (usually done at a drug store or by a chemist) can take an hour and the old batteries needed to form for minutes and up to an hour before they could be used or they will not output enough voltage.
  4. It can get cold at night. You and your heroine will need proper clothing. May not think of it if it is nice during the day. I had to hunt up my old east coast jacket in the back of my closet because it got so cold. The night before when I practiced for the eclipse it was mild and nice. Also the cold can cause the battery to output to drop to a low voltage, cause gears to bind, thing stick (not slide), nub hands.
  5. Clouds can muck everything up. The weather bureau said that it was cloudy at my place 48 percent of the time for that date. It was cloudy that day and when the moon rose it shined through clouds. The wind came up and the clouds opened up. Still there were times clouds blew across the moon.
  6. There were a heck of a lot of airplanes flying around at nine to ten o’clock that night. None of them flew between me and the moon. It would have made a good photograph. Your heroine could have the problem of airships flying between her and the moon, too close where they block out the moon completely. This could be doing it on purpose. She could change locations and get a good shot of the airship silhouette by the moon. This could end up being her prize photograph or a photo she hated but everyone else loved.
  7. Moon tracking mounts are hard to use. The heroine can have lots of trouble getting the camera mount to track the moon to take a blur free photo. The moon moves across the sky and the camera has to follow the movement or the picture is blurred. Have to improvise. An alarm clock, string, pulleys and gears for a quick track mount.
  8. The totally eclipsed moon is dim, very dim. It’s hard to focus on. My camera’s auto focus did not work for a totally eclipsed moon. The heroine’s patented Thomson photo electric eye tube may not focus the camera on the totally eclipsed moon. Have to improvise. The batteries for the electric eye may run down and when she gets the batteries recharged the electric eye will not focus on the dim moon.
  9. Tripping over the camera mount/tripod is always good. My camera never hit the ground but I tripped good a couple of times. It’s dark out, and during totality it’s very dark.

The above are all based on mistakes I have made or problems I had. Not all at this eclipse.

So, go out and try photographing the moon one full moon night. Find out that the moon is very small in the picture you took with your camera. Figure out you need a big lens or to take the picture through a telescope to get a decent size photograph of the moon.

Figure out that the auto exposure of the camera makes the image of the moon too bright and figure out how the heroine would over come this problem.

Figure out how the heroine would keep from freezing while taking the photographs.

Stay strong, write on, and go and do what your heroine does then write about it.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Microsoft Windows 10 update another false hope

Warning rant. Lock the cranberry cannon on that ranting space turkey and let’s make Thanksgiving out of it.

When I shut down my laptop last night I got the “installing update do not shut off computer” warning. Of course I wanted to shut off the computer and go to bed. At least it was a small update and loaded fast.

I had a slight hope that the new update would fix Windows 10 so that my K330 Logitech keyboard would fully work again.

It didn’t. The special button of the K330 still brings up the Windows 10 calculator. The two different function keys will bring up email and the browser. None of the other keys work. If the function keys work then Windows 10 sees the keyboard but is not processing the output of the keyboard correctly.

The up arrow key on the laptop is where the shift key is on the K330 keyboard. I keep hitting up arrow instead of Shift when I want to capitalize letters on the left side of the keyboard, when I use the laptop keyboard. This waste a lot of time fixing the resulting misplaced words.

I want my old keyboards, that I have used for years, to work again like it did last week.

Microsoft said it was going to release only one big update instead of many small updates. Yet, I have gotten two small updates and there was no warning on cNet or any of the blogs I follow that they were coming.

Is Microsoft so messed up that they have to use stealth to push out bug filled (hey I found one small bug, but I’m sure there are more bugs in the stealth updates) small/stealth updates to fix problems in the last big update.

Is Microsoft telling anyone about these small updates?

Has Microsoft fired or driven away all the good programmers that work there? Is all that is left a bunch of new or second rate programmers?

I can see it now. One manager says; “How’s the new programmers working out?” Second manager; ” What’s not to like? They’re cheaper, profit is up, share holders are happy.”

You can’t stop the updates. How long can Microsoft go on junking up users computers till someone stops or bring Microsoft down?

Why isn’t the linux guys making hay out of this?

Stay strong, write on, and try linux.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Windows update is locking out Logitech Keyboards and Tackballs.

Warning this is a rant. Warning Will Robertson, Warning Will Robertson.

I was working away on my computer. I stepped away from the Lenovo ideapad FLEX 4 for 30 minutes to make lunch.
I return to the computer and the Logitech K330 keyboard and the Logitech T-RB22 tackball that have been connected to it for years will not work. Each has its own USB receiver. The two receivers are plugged into a Kensington USB hub and connected the the ideapad’s 2.0 USB port.

Using the laptop’s tack pad I restart Windows 10. Restart says that its going to update windows. So I think that the update has locked everything up until I update. There is no way to get out of updating.

After the update the keyboard and tackball still don’t work. I restart again. It doesn’t help. I shut down the laptop and wait. I start up the computer and the keyboard and tackball still don’t function.

I have the USB hub plugged into the 2.0 USB port. I unplug the hub and plug the keyboard USB receiver directly into the 2.0 USB socket. Nothing happens.

I plug the tackball USB receiver directly into the 2.0 USB port and nothing happens.

The keyboard and tackball are slow and I need the 3.0 ports for hard drives and DVD drives. I unplug the DVD and plug in the keyboard to the USB 3.0 port. It does not work.

I unplug the keyboard and plug in the tackball and on the 3.0 port and on the second restart it works. I unplug the tackball and plug the keyboard back in and it doesn’t work.

Every time I plugged something into a USB port I restarted Windows 10. In extensive testing (pressing every button on the K330 keyboard several times) I find that three keys on the K330 keyboard work. One bring up the windows calculator, another function key brings up email, and another function key brings up the browsers. None of the other keys work. When I plug or unplug the USB receivers the laptop beeps saying that a USB device has been plugged in, so Windows knows something has been connected. The “devices” pop up window says the USB device is working. I got news for the device window.

The tack ball is an old device. The keyboard is only a couple of months old. The K330 keyboard I had before got so dirty and worn I replaced it. I have a couple of K330 keyboards and none of them work on the Levono. They work on my Surface Pro 3 and the home built computer. All three keyboards work on other computers. It’s the software. It’s Windows 10. The other two computers have not been updated yet and I’m keeping them off the web as long as I can to keep them from being updated.

cNet has article after article of Windows updates hurting machines. Machines that have legal copies of Windows running on them. Sometime the updates brick the computer making it useless and no longer updatable.

I can only speculate, but having been in management I believe that the front office at Microsoft has fired all the old, more expensive, programmers and replaced them with new, cheaper, overseas programmers. With new programmers that may not speak English very well, and do not have the history of working on Windows there will be more and more bugs in the updates. Or Microsoft is trying to further increase profits by forcing user to buy only Microsoft keyboards. But that would be criminal. Profitable, but criminal.

My testing shows that the keyboard worked before the update, and still works on non-updated Windows 10 computers.

cNet has accused Microsoft of not even testing their latest updates of the Surface line of computers, computers made by Microsoft.

I have three different computers. Each came with a keyboard that was laid out differently. I have used the K330 keyboard for years (decades?) so I can shift between computers and not be hitting the wrong key all the time. That’s a big thing for a touch typist. How many programmers do you know that are touch typists? How many programmers do you know that care about the customer? They just want to code.

I feel that Microsoft is trying to kill itself with its own arrogance and it will succeed.

Stay strong, write on.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Boots and Writing

What does new boots have to do with writing Steampunk novels?

Last weekend I went to a western themed Steampunk event. So I needed to throw together a western styled Steampunk outfit. I dug through the load of junk I have to see what I could make out of it.

I found a huge brass belt buckle that I got back in the 1970s. Yes, I’ve never worn it, but I don’t throw things away. I in the past year I purchased a leather vest that would work perfectly.

I had some old tools that were made from bronze. I’m still looking for a pair of brass pliers. The bronze ones are commercially made non-sparking and used in area where there are explosive fumes.

What I didn’t have were the basic western clothes, and I grew up in a framing, cattle ranching community.

So it was off to the western clothing store. There I snagged a shirt and bolo tie. Not the best match to the vest’s color, but at least they were not the depressing black everyone seems to be wearing. Off to another store and I got a pair on pants that would do.

For a last minute impulse buy I decided to get a pair of western boots. I haven’t worn boots in a long time. That took a trip to three stores to find something that would fit. Luckily the ones that fit were in a color I liked.

I worked late into the night to generate a design and get the outfit mostly put together. There’s nothing like the last minute to get things done.

Why did I need an outfit or even need to go to a Steampunk event?

As an author I need to get out of my writing cave and sell books. Selling is hard. One way to sell books is to press the flesh of potential readers. Selling and politics are related and ones just about as slimy as the other.

I’ve gotten in the habit of taking pictures at Steampunk gathering and sending the picture to the people that I photograph. It gives me something to talk about and with a little luck I can get to talk about my book without being too sells-ee.

I can also ask what Steampunk readers are looking for. Market research with free food (the food was provided by the event organizers, but I brought a box of dark chocolate cookies).

Did I sell any books. I’ll have to check my Kindle sells. Go take a look at the Daemon Boat on Kindle. It’s different. Even if I don’t sell any books I still had fun, met some nice people, found that I have to make some modifications to my Steampunk outfit, and took some good photographs. I’m getting better at taking photographs at these events. It takes more than watching YouTube videos to get better at taking photographs. It’s like writing books. You have to do it to get better at writing book or taking photographs.

Stay strong, write on, and take a few photographs.

Professor Hyram Voltage