forthcoming video interview

I’ve been asked to do an interview on AT&T’s Tech Channel.  I’m no Steven Bellovin, but what the heck.  It’ll be recorded in NYC on 11 November 2010, the day before NYCBSDCon starts.  No idea when it’ll actually be available.

The TechChannel shows are available online.  It seems that they’re also used as content snippets in real TV shows.  One day, if I’m lucky, my head will appear on a TV near you, with a text label beneath it and my words taken completely out of context.  Probably in a faux-reality TV show about ghost hunting or something.  Ah, fame at last…

Short story by yours truly published

My short story Wednesday’s Seagulls was just posted on short-story.me.

For those who wonder why I don’t publish more fiction:  I have this weird idea that I should get paid for my work.  The amount doesn’t matter a great deal — this story made enough for a couple of hot fudge sundaes.  The Internet has made “getting published” almost meaningless, but:  if a piece of writing isn’t good enough that someone will buy it, I don’t want it out there with my name on it.

I’d much rather have less work available of higher quality than publish reams of sewage.

The unexpected risks of ebooks

Yesterday’s biannual royalty statement contained an unexpected surprise:  it included ebook royalties for Absolute BSD (published in 2002) and the first edition of Cisco Routers for the Desperate (published in 2004).  Both are out of print, and have newer editions.  While the royalties for these books played out over several years, I certainly never expected to see any new sales of either of these books.

It turns out that both of these are available through ebook licensing services, such as ebooks.com.

This leaves me with mixed feelings.  There’s no real cost to having ebooks available.  For all I know, someone has a serious, legitimate need for high-quality documentation on FreeBSD 4.  Reliable documentation from that era is hard to find, and you have dig to find answers.  I don’t want to forbid people from buying it.

But I suspect that most people who buy these older ebooks made a mistake.  They really wanted the newer editions.

In my mind, the obvious thing to do is to have the licensing service put up a warning along the lines of “This ebook is obsolete.  You probably want this other book.”  That’s what my publisher’s online bookstore does.  But licensing services are independent companies.  I can’t dictate to them.

I could tell my publisher to rescind all rights to sell these older books, and force ebooks.com to remove them from their catalog, and to heck with people who need documentation for older kit.

What do you think?

Proposal accepted for NYCBSDCon

NYCBSDCon accepted my talk proposal:

BSD Needs Books

If you wander into any bookstore, brick or virtual, you’ll see books on Linux, Solaris, Macintosh, and even non-Unix-like operating systems.  The BSD books are far between.  We as a community need to address this if we’re to expand our reach.

This talk covers designing, selling, writing, and promoting your own technical book, with a special emphasis on BSD books.  I’ll cover everything that I wished I’d known before I started, common errors, where the “generally accepted wisdom” is wrong, how to actually complete the book, how you can use your publisher to your advantage, post-publication work, and — most important — how to enjoy the process.

I’ve attended NYCBSDCon repeatedly, and have never been disappointed.  They always have interesting content and the after-hours events are fabulous.  (Yes, I like BSDCan as well, but there is no place in the world like New York City.)

Now to figure out how I do what I do…

first two reviews of Network Flow Analysis

In the time between when a book is released and when the first reviews appear, authors experience a variety of symptoms ranging from unease to outright panic.  “Did I miss something obvious?”  “Did I really screw up?”  “Am I the laughingstock of the tech industry?”  Web pages can be fixed, but printed books are immutable; any errors are immortalized.  Over the years, I’ve gotten the symptoms down to an ongoing gentle nausea.

Thankfully, the first two reviews on Network Flow Analysis are out.

I sent Justin at DragonFly BSD Digest a review copy of NFA, and he not only read the book, he’s planning to implement it at work.  I’d call that a thumbs up.

Then there’s a review from Dad of Divas.  DofD reviews lots of stuff on his blog, mostly stuff that he receives as a promotion.  The odd thing is, I have no idea how he got a copy of the book.  The lesson?  The publishing publicity machine is mysterious and inexplicable, even to those of us trapped inside it.

But, having read the reviews, my lingering dread and nausea is gone.  Thanks, folks.

review copies sent out, NFA a best-seller

I’m back from Toronto.  Now that I’m caught up on deleting spam, I’ve been able to get to the post office.  All of the free review books are now in the hands of the post office.

As I write this, somehow Network Flow Analysis is Amazon’s #4 best-seller in the category “Production, Operation, and Management.”  Amazon’s classification algorithms appear to be smoking some good stuff, but hey, it’s a best-seller list, so I’ll take it.

Can’t give the danged books away…

I’ve gone through the comments on my offer to give away review copies of my new book, and to my surprise found that several people I’d like to give books won’t be getting them… because I can’t contact them.

Leaving a comment that presents you as an intelligent, capable reviewer is great.  I appreciate that.  But if I can’t contact you, if I can’t write you and ask for your address, then I can’t send you a book.  Some people left Web addresses.  Fine, I can look there and get your contact information… if it’s on the page, or if you have a contact form, or something.  A few people have nice blogs, but no apparent contact form.  If your blog is not in English, and didn’t have something that looked like a contact or an email address, I looked at the front page source code to find a mailto: link.  That worked in some cases.

I’ve emailed people I can email, to get their snail mail addresses, so I can ship the review copies I have.  If you posted a thoughtful, insightful comment, but didn’t leave me a way to contact you… sorry.  Books will be shipped out next Tuesday or Wednesday, after my Toronto trip.  And if you ever get to Toronto, check out Mysteriously Yours.