The End Of The Affair

It always happens at about this time, with just under two weeks to go to the start of the funnest writing endurance exercise on the planet. I get the idea I need, or the spark, to get me going.

Last year it was as simple as a mutual misunderstanding between two friends that inadvertently gave me a title, and then a story. This year, I had a decent idea of what I wanted to do, but it was a slightly drunken trip home last week that gave me the small epiphany I needed. That, and thinking about the work of my favourite director John Carpenter. He’s been in my thoughts a lot lately, with the pointless remake of his 1982 masterpiece The Thing underway, his appearance on Mark Gatiss’ excellent History Of Horror on BBC4, and Simon Aitken coming within spitting distance of him while at the Spooky Empire festival in Florida.

So, slightly drunk, slightly dozy, the darkness outside the train window span past, and my thoughts… meshed. I knew, suddenly, how the story I wanted to tell could be told. And I could pay tribute to the siege mentality at the heart of many of Carpenter’s films.

I still have a chunk of plotting to do, and there are still gaps in the story wide enough to sail Jabba’s skiff through. But the heart and the spine of the story formed last week, and I can now tell you what I have planned.

It’s the sequel to last year’s tale of high adventure on the lunar plane, featuring the further adventures of Rory Armstrong and her family. We will find out (that’s not the royal we. I still don’t quite know how it’s gonna happen) where Arty the Artifact came from – and where her loyalties lie. We will find out that the villainous Van Hoek and the treacherous machine BOS-N may be down, but they’re certainly not out.

And above all, we will find out what happens when the people who built the cities under the moon come back to find their ancestral lands have been invaded.

This one is bigger, louder, crazier. I’ve got sequalitis, and it feels good.

It’s called GHOSTS OF THE MOON. And if you’re a Carpenter fan, you should now have a rough idea of what I have planned.

Strap in. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride.

The End Of The Affair

I knew that I would not be able to resist as soon as he walked into the room. He was tall, handsome and very French. He had a Dell Mini 10V balanced on one hand, and a USB stick in  the other.

“Rob”, he said in a thick accent that made my name sound like “rub”. “I think you will like this.”

He booted the netbook. It whickered quietly to itself for a moment, then fired up. Within a minute, it was running. It was running OSX. Flawlessly.

Readership, I was lost. I nearly grabbed the USB stick out of his hand. Gently, honourably, he took me through the procedure. Tweak this. Put this file… here. Wait a while. Be patient. Let things drift into place.

An hour after The Frenchman walked into my room, my netbook was running Snow Leopard. A few command line tweaks for sleep and keyboard issues and … done. It was a heck of a lot easier than my last Ubuntu upgrade.

No. That’s not fair. Ubuntu 10.10 dropped on Sunday (10th October, natch) and it’s a worthy move towards a proper, grown-up, easy to use OS. It’s stable, clean and quick. And better looking than Windows, too.

The trouble is, after a year of working with it, there’s still a lot about the system that I found wrong-headed or impenetrable. It struggled to pick up wireless networks on occasion, and installation could be a pain. I could never figure out how to hook up a programme from source code, even after following careful instructions from the very helpful forums. But then, I kept telling myself, it cost you £250, and it does everything that you bought it for without problems. It performs above and beyond your expectations. Stop whining.

But when The Frenchman told me about how easy hackintoshing the Dell had become, I instantly pricked up my ears. I had, after all, bought this particular model with the intention of doing that very thing, only to find the process a little more scary than I had anticipated. Downgrading your BIOS is not a job to be undertaken lightly, and it was one that I decided was beyond me.

No longer. With a hacked USB and a neat little programme called NetbookInstaller, it’s a simple job that’s easily within the reach of phucknuckled goofs like your humble author. You have to be a bit careful about OS updates, but that caveat aside, Snow Leopard runs like a dream on my little netbook. It jumps onto wireless networks like a hungry weasel, and is quick and responsive. I have two finger scrolling active, and I even think battery life is a tiny bit improved. This is the machine I dreamt of last year, and to an extent I think I was kidding myself that I would ever prefer Ubuntu to the OS in which I feel most at home.

But I’ve learnt a lot in the last year, I’ve learnt not to be afraid of the command line. I am now more than ever a gleeful advocate of free, open-source software. And I have no problem in recommending Ubuntu to people who are sick of Windows but can’t afford a Mac. If you need a machine for simple web browsing and word stuff, then I think you should give it a try. Certainly, some of the silver surfers I’ve shown it to found Ubuntu easy to pick up and less intrusive and naggy than Windows. And because the OS is light on system resources, it’s a perfect way to give an old machine a new lease of life. My gripes and grumbles are purely down to my intrinsic need to poke and prod into the inner workings of my machines. You should not be put off by them.

So, au revoir, Ubuntu. You have been a good friend to me in a time of need, and you will always have a little place in my heart. I am certain that you and I will meet again, somewhere down the line. But for now, my needs are met by a glossy, shiny mistress with a great looking keister.

I know. I’m a bastard. But I’m a bastard with a Mac netbook, and try as I might I just can’t wipe this big-ass grin off my face.

If anyone fancies giving this a try, here’s the heads up. First, read this: All the way through, and carefully. It will tell you exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. If that doesn’t seem too scary, pick up a Dell Mini10V (you need the V – it’s chipset suits the hackintoshing process in a way that it’s younger bro, the Mini10 doesn’t) from eBay. Follow the instructions to the letter. You’ll also need keyboard mapping for a British Windows keyboard, and three lines of command line typing to fix a problem where your new mackintosh might not wake from sleep. These are all easily Googlable. Or do like I did, and get a grown-up to do it for you.

Merci beaucoup, Laurent!