Monthly Archives: September 2015

Third time through, Reconfigure

I have just completed a third triage of the manuscript for Reconfigure. I am now at the printing the thing off and reading it out aloud stage. Its a fair old chunk of work. 72,000 words, and with the double line spacing hilton 206 pages of A4. I am still very pleased with it. Whether anyone else will be I shall soon find out I guess.
Reconfigure printed out

Every pass I spot minor tweaks. Usually spelling and grammar of course. Starting sentences with So, a lot and Well, too. So those are getting filtered and adjusted. I also created a page and a url which is just a redirect to the page above on the navigation tab. On there is a description of the book, a first pass at the abstract that may, or may not entice people into reading.
I also had a go at a stylised cover, it is pretty much all built from Unity3d, it describes some of the images and ideas in the story, without giving too much away, I hope.
I am reposting the image here, but it all is subject to any changes I fancy doing of course 🙂
Reconfigure book digital cover
***Update this is the new book cover.
new book cover for Rconfigure

So head on over to to see what this science fiction, set today, is all about (ish).

Reconfigure – time to read and edit

Last Friday I finished writing the story that I had in my head for Reconfigure. I surprised myself at the speed it came out, but when you have to do something, you have to do it! I also learned a lot about how I thread idea together. The story is set now, the tools and tech in it is, for the most part, genuine and real. Constructing it form the initial plan to the first draft has felt just like a software project. Architecture, Internal Design, Code. It now differs in that there is not a “compiler” to help spot any errors. There is of course spell check. This stage is one of reading it, lots it would seem. Checking it makes sense, meets the spec and then adding or taking away from it to create a good user experience. As it has a basis in fact there is real world continuity checking. There is also speculative science fiction continuity that I can double check too.
My biggest surprise was the elements of the story, the little mental pictures and feelings that I discovered on the way. I had the structure, that was fun to conceive but the colouring in has been an interesting mix of conscious thought and of Flow.
When I started to re-read it for the first time I was not totally sure what it was going to sound like in my head. A few times I have written articles and looked at the end result and started again. Same structure just different words. I was hoping that was not the case this time. Of course this is all potentially self deluding, but I like it so far.
Another thing I was not expecting is in building the potential for a follow up, if not a series. The core elements have several threads that seem to be brewing as I re-read the text. I was thinking this would be done and dusted.
I am looking ahead to just getting it out there, probably just on Amazon Kindle store. I don’t think I can justify making actual print copy books though services like LuLu do over print on demand. So I have to think about pricing. There, like the app store, seems to be lots of discussion of people not paying over $0.99 or 99p for a book. Discussions of free, just for the publicity or of making something reassuringly expensive because it has enough words per pence. I don’t know, but I think I will release it and see if I can charge for it. Just enough that maybe my social media friends and colleagues might feel happy to sponsor me by buying a copy.
I have started to consider cover designs, an early one, just an alpha (rather like the text so far) was this last night.
Exploring cover art ideas for #reconfigure
It was using the iPhone app Typorama. I will have to rebuild the image in the right size and shape and may make the cubes in Unity3D instead of the stock image, that being more in keeping with the story.
I started to work on the back cover hook, the abstract. It was interesting trying o find a balance between telling the story and hinting at it. Introducing the central character and allowing her strengths and vulnerabilities to try and surface in a paragraph. I still have work to do on that but may share that in another post.

Forza 6 – 10 years in the making

Today Forza 6 arrived on the Xbox One. I have been a long time fan of Forza. It is now in its 10th year. A decade of what, at the time it came out, was considered to be a poor mans Gran Turismo. It has, in my opinion, surpassed all expectations and been a fantastic franchise. The driving feel and the exhilaration is always spot on. I have also been a big fan of their decal customisation. It was little annoying moving to the xbox one and not having my various logos I had created for forza 5 a few year ago. I still carried on and re-created most of my ‘art’ work on the cars in 5. I had a nice cool stuff collective TV logo back on the 360 and forza 4. However instead I created A Choi Kwang Do logo.
I was very pleased, once I got back to the main menu on Forza 6 to see the custom decals and the layouts for specific cars were available to import from Forza 5 now.
I did my first races in a very old impreza using one of the community designs
Forza 6
Now though I am back in a 2005 Impreza WRX complete with some feeding edge words and a logo on the back long with a bright CKD logo. So thankyou Turn 10 🙂 It now means my drivatar will be appearing random races advertising CKD across the world. Also any network race I am in I can show off the logo for my martial art of choice and also advertise feeding egde at the same time. It is an odd concept that there is still a lot of mileage in (Excuse the pun)
Forza 6 CKD scooby
It was also quite amusing to hear James May and Richard Hammond’s voices, albeit labelled at “Automative Journalist” as opposed to Top Gear presenters. I guess all the voice work was done before the demise of Top Gear as it previously existed.
**Update here is some video of one of the cars in action. It looks better in the flesh as this has been Xbox DVR captured, sent onedrive then uploaded to youtube 🙂

A longer video using the Forza vista, some driving and a photo of a newer scooby, with a black spoiler to represent a belt and orange wing mirrors to represent a belt tag 🙂

**Update 21/9 I noticed during night races another level of detail that impressed me. I have not noticed headlights behave quite so headlighty before. These my car had different bulbs and cast a different light to the other car on the track with me.
Forza6 headlights
I am going to reward myself with a massive driving session this weekend after I complete writing this #reonfigure novel first draft. Near there, the chequered flag is waving and I can see the finish line.
**Update I just finished the novel !

Making Movies – Flying around in Unity3d

Yes, ok, my latest obsession of writing #Reconfigure might make a greta TV series or Movie but that’s not what this is about. Instead it is about another set of skills I seem to be putting into practice.
Before the I spent a day editing up the school end of year video. I didn’t shoot it, but I did use al the various messing around and comedy moments from the teachers and staff to put a montage together. It had a story, some pace, a step change or two. It was great fun. I have now been asked to edit a few more things together. I like editing moving images, it is fun. Though I am not charging for this is just to help people out.
At the same time I am in the middle of a little project to try and jazz up a regular presentation in the corporate space. I demoed a little virtual fly through a building, past a couple of characters and onto an image using Unity3d. It turned into a slightly more complex epic but non the less I am using lots of varied skills to make it work. The pitch will be pre canned but I have built the Unity environment so that it runs on rails, but live. I have c# code in there to help do certain things like play video textures, animation controllers and even NavMesh agents to allow a character to walk around to a particular room and lots of flying cameras. I had used the first few things a lot. It is stock Unity. However I had not really had a chance to use Unity animations. All my animations had been either remade FBX files or ones that I created in Cheetah3D. Once you imported an animation like that it was then sort of locked in place.
However, Unity3d has its own animation dope and curve sheets, and its really handy.
The animation Tab brings a different timeline. It is different to the Animation Controller screen that lets you string animation together and create transitions. e.g. jump or run from a walk.
The animation tab lets you select an object in the scene and create a .anim for you. It then by default adds that anim to an animation controller and adds that to the object.
Unity3d Animation Timeline
The record mode then allows you to expand any or all of the properties of the object, usually transform position and rotation, but it can be colour, visibility, basically anything with a parameter. If you move the timeline and then move the object, like a camera for instance, it creates the key frames for the changed parameters. It removes any of the awkward importing of paths and animation ideas from another tool. It is not great for figures and people. They are still best imported as skinned meshes with skeletons and let the import deal with all the complexity so you can add any stock animations to them. Whoever for a cut scene, or zoom past to see a screen on a wall it works really well.
I have written a lot of complicated things in Unity3d, but never bothered using this part. It is great to find it working, and doing exactly what I needed it to do for my cinematic cut scenes.
You can have things zooming and spinning around a known path in no time. You have to break it down a little otherwise it resolves the easiest path through a wall or something, but it seems very robust to edit it afterwards.
The only pity is that its not possible to lock a camera preview window open in stock Unity3d when selecting another object. Having got a camera pan just right its trick if you was to move an object in the camera view. With camera selected you see it’s preview, with the object selected you see it. Never got around that yet, just end up with trial and error.
No matter, it works, and its awesomely useful.

Reconfigure – That book update

On Wednesday I embarked on the start of a journey, like many others have taken to try and write a book. A science fiction near future adventure. Currently called Reconfigure. Firstly thankyou for all the advice and mentoring and support. This while Author thing is something that many people have tried at various times with varying degrees of success, so Thankyou for sharing. I am writing in a bit if a frenzy at the moment as I am in some sort of zone. I start at 9:30am and kind of wake from the blitz of typing at 1pm. That leaves some time to decompress and then chase all the other pieces of work and jobs that might end up paying their way at some point.
Reconfigure whiteboard
Whilst not obsessed on the whole word count thing I am following some great advice to just go with it, but to keep it in mind. If there is stuff there, it needs to come out. The flow I am experiencing is very much like those really productive coding sessions. When you are just on it and away you go. I made a plan at the start, a story board with some key moments and discoveries within the story. I am mostly sticking to that, but as things pop up in this voyage of discovery I do pursue them.
The underpinning of the story is technology and approaches I know and that I do all the time. It is working as a substrate on which to grow the more esoteric elements of the story. The unusual limit breaking adventure elements.
Like everything I do there is an element of obsession to try something and see where it goes. Well after five days of blasting through I seem to have something that might just work. At about 25k words so far its feeling about 1/4 or 1/3 through. If it was a TV series, which it would work as one I know, it would be the start of the regular adventures. So writhe now it depends how many scrapes, twists and quirks I throw in on the ever increasing discovery arc.
Just like a good DVD with extras I have a couple of endings. One I really like but just don’t want to do and another that might be a bit of a cheat.
I am aware that finishing the main body is just part of the whole thing. Editing down and making sure they are no continuity errors or spelling/grammar errors will be very time consuming. Still I have no publisher to worry about so I will, as usual, do my own thing and see what happens.
Now time for a bit of background research that extends what is currently the books operating system. 🙂

Just got to try it – Book time

We just spent the past 2 weeks in a villa in Mallorca on our family holiday. It was, as with all holidays, great fun and a change of scenery and pace. Though I still was on the look out for some interesting new projects and had a few calls to discuss things. It is a time to reflect though.
I spent a lot of time doing my Choi patterns out in the sun, as well as us all swimming, eating and playing games like Exploding Kittens and Forgotten Dessert. We travelled around a bit in the hire car and visited some interesting places. Caves, mountains and beaches. I managed to read an entire book too. I finally go to reading Andy Weir – The Martian. It was an odd dichotomy to read the claustrophobia of being stranded on an unforgiven planet, but having to use maker and engineer wits to overcome the problems the faced. The technical detail in it was superb, the maths and calculations around how much water, oxygen, fuel, soil, potatoes etc that he needed kept whirring in my brain whilst in this baking heat and relaxed family atmosphere.
We were not cut off completely, we had WiFi in the villa. So the predlets were constantly streaming minecraft and other vloggers. Of an evening I found CBS Action on the TV and got the predlets into watching Star Trek The Original Series, followed by MacGyver which they had never seen before.
Somewhere this all seemed to come together in a blinding flash of inspiration and I suddenly realized I had a scifi story in my head. One I needed to write.
I know, its something loads of people do, but I do love writing. I realized that my technical know how spanning so many years had a value in bringing some genuine flavour to any story. Also I specialise in the near future with emerging technology. Often in articles, and in posts and tweets I extrapolate a little further. I have played a lot of games, watched a lot of films, and like to riff on ideas. My book reading is of course not great, I am not an avid reader, but I think that means the things I have read have a bigger impact on me.
So I came back home, sat down and started. Having mused over the idea for the second week of the holiday I thought I best storyboard it first. After all this is like trying to build software. You need to architect it first, based on the requirements. This requirements I had, mostly. The base premise, some of the development and potential end.
Yesterday was just day 1, it may take years but I got 2 chapters worth of 5,500 words in total out. As I wrote it flowed, it was like watching a boxed set on the TV. I didn’t totally know what was going to happen and things cropped up and needed to be addressed. Again this was very much like coding. You just do it, find the flow and ride it. I hope I can continue to find the flow. I didn’t have a specific character in mind but yesterday they just arrived on the virtual paper I was typing into.
Of course there is no money in this, but whilst I wait and chase those customers and even potentially a regular job I might as well try something that I should have done a long time ago.
It seems that despite my wide ranging experience both technically and sharing with people and doing the right thing I am not finding the right avenues to express those talents and get paid properly.
So my plan is to get it done and just self publish on Amazon or some such place. If it works great, if not then its another experience. I also get to keep my tech skills without writing too much software as the book needs to use the right tools and work in the right way. So I figured this is another excuse to keep up to date with everything.
I started off with Feeding Edge thinking I would write the book about the virtual world experiences in corporate life, some great positives to share but also some ridiculous negative human behaviour in big organisations too. It is the latter that stops me writing that factual book. I may do after this fiction on but I think the scars are still to fresh to want to open those up again.
So here we go, lets see what happens on this little experiment. If a massive piece of traditional work appears requiring my full undivided attention, well at least I have started 🙂
The working title of this is “Reconfigure”. I have not checked out if this already is used in places but I am not married to the title. It’s a real world sci-fi thriller. Full of true technical detail and science fact but asking some challenging questions of the world.
Right, time to write 🙂