mirrorshard: (The Book of Rainbows)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Finally, I have connectivity again. On Monday afternoon, my laptop power cable finally gave up the ghost - it had been getting progressively more and more picky about actually providing any power, up to the point where I had to spend five minutes jiggling it about and physically forcing it in to find a position where it would work. Every time. So I opened the DC jack up to look inside, and it turned out that one of the wires had physically snapped. No wonder it was getting warm...

Step 1: attempt to solder the plug back on, better. Turns out that a) whatever soldering skills I may once have had have mostly deserted me, and b) Maplin's don't carry a plug in the correct size. 1.7/4.75 is too small, 2.1/5.0 is too large.

Step 2: visit PC World, where I originally bought the laptop, to try and acquire a replacement adapter. No luck - they don't carry specific replacements for their own-brand laptops (Advent), and the universal laptop adapter they confidently handed me (with repeated assurances both from the staff and from the packaging that it would work) didn't.

Step 2.5: come down with a streaming, sneezing, coughing cold and spend the next 48 hours in bed with hot tea, liquorice allsorts, a pile of good books, and feverish dreams of code I haven't written and friends I haven't kissed. (See later for book recommendations.)

Step 3.0: return to PC World in an attempt to extract either a) a working adapter, or b) my money back, from them. Failed at a), successful at b).

Step 3.2: another visit to Maplin's, this time a slightly larger and better-stocked one, without the assistant who confidently advised me that I'd need to go to PC World. Spend awhile dithering over their selection of laptop adapters, attempting to work out from the minimal information provided which ones will a) provide 18.5V at 3.5A, and b) have a tip which will physically fit into Iris's power socket and make enough contact to let the current flow. None of the boxes provided will admit even the existence of Advent laptops, let alone the potential suitability of their contents for the task, but since the one adapter I've seen that did failed, that didn't put me off. Besides, by that point I was getting quite desperate.

Step 3.5: get home, collapse after the Tube journey (am mostly recovered from the cold by this point, but not entirely - and it's still left me without appetite, so I'm working on whatever energy I can glean from tea, jelly babies, and irritation) and open up the package. Attempt to pick the correct adapter tip (not hard - only one of them fits and stays in) and cross fingers as I plug it in. Yay, blinking red light... which means 'please charge me' not 'yay, power'. On the other hand, it's registering the existence of power, so we're approximately 1,786% better off than we were in steps 1 through 3.2. A bit of jiggling, moderately gentle shoving, and maybe-it'll-work-better-this-way-up later, and we (finally) have an unsteadily flickering red light... which means 'power... no power... power... no power'. More shoving needed, and finally it cooperates! I am saved!


Early Sheri S Tepper is possibly the most appropriate reading I could have had while running a fever. Still haven't quite finished collecting The Chronicles of Mavin Manyshaped, but diverting to The Revenants was pleasant. Also re-read the latter two of John Barnes' Thousand Cultures novels - they make an interesting partnership with Steel Beach and The Ghost Brigades.

Charlie Stross's Halting State is good, but not as good as his others to my mind - that might well be because I know a lot more about virtual worlds and their economies than he goes into there. That still leaves a great deal of room for 'good', though, and I wouldn't disrecommend it to anyone.

China Mieville's Un Lun Dun is truly wonderful. It's like Neverwhere crossed with The Edge Chronicles. It's a quest story of sorts, very firmly in both the SF tradition and the tradition of children's literature, to the extent that I wouldn't have been surprised to open it up and see Kaye Webb's name on the title page. And if you don't know what kind of a compliment that is to a book, shame on you.

Tor have launched a campaign giving away free e-books, one per week - the most recent is Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson. Last week's was Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, and before that Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson is the designated successor who'll be finishing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series - when I first read about that, I thought 'who?', but he's a pretty readable writer. It's a shame, really, that I can't say more than that to his credit. He writes Very Thick Fantasy books, safe and fluffy, that won't challenge readers or present potentially unwelcome new ideas - the characters are all made of pure, noble, upstanding cardboard, and the themes are in the fine spot-the-inspiration tradition of Big Fantasy. The principal point of both Mistborn and Elantris seemed to be for both the main character and the reader to work out how the magic system worked. Nevertheless, despite all that, and despite his almost complete lack of technical ability as a writer, he still managed to keep me interested and more than happy to read to the end and pick up the next one. The closest similar writer, and I didn't think I'd ever say this about a fantasy author, is Jilly Cooper.

Next week's book is The Outstretched Shadow, by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. (Book 1 of a trilogy.) I've got it in paperback, never bothered re-reading it, will probably download this version, not read it, and donate the hardcopy to the bookshelf in the pub or something.

The campaign's still going, and there's another half-dozen or so to go yet, so it's worth signing up. (They email you a download link, rather than the huge PDF/html/mobi version. If anyone wants the links to previous ones, I can post them - they're free to share, though the licensing is ambiguous.)


Other than that, my life has been entirely dull whilst offline. What've I missed? What should I be doing any time soon?
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