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Forged In Blood
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A long and infuriating process

At one point I was wondering if I'd have to remove the shelf from my desk to fit this thing in.
At one point I was wondering if I'd have to remove the shelf from my desk to fit this thing in.

At one point I was wondering if I’d have to remove the shelf from my desk to fit this thing in.

Getting a new computer set up just as you want it is a long and infuriating process. Today I bought a new iMac, as I’ve been needing to replace my main office computer for quite some time now. The one I’ve created my comics on, written my stories on, and run my business on has for the past three years rumbled and whined whenever it is turned on. It fires off warnings about problems that turn out to be intermittent or simply non-existent, and it often fails to turn off when it’s told to. In short, it’s quickly reaching the end of its life and it’s time to move on. So move on I have.

This new iMac is the 21.5″ model, which is huge compared to the 17″ monitor I’ve been using in the office. It runs at a lovely 2.7GHz and sports 8Gb of DDR3 RAM running at 1600 MHz. It’s not a top-of-the-line beast of a machine but it’s far, far more powerful than any computer I’ve used in the past, and it will undoubtedly serve me well for many comics & novels to come; which is what I want it for. It should also do very nicely for editing the short films & web TV shows I’m working on, so that’s great news, too.

Setting the damn thing up has been a bit of a farce, however. It’s amazing to think how many passwords I just can’t remember off the top of my head because I use them precisely once in a blue moon. When I install Dropbox on a computer, I need the Dropbox password. When I log into Steam I can remember its password, because I type it a lot. I can’t remember its username though, as that’s autofilled for me. I need to set up my iCloud account to run iTunes and so forth. There are passwords everywhere, they are all different and I can’t remember a single one of them. It may be time to start writing the bloody things down, even though that’s supposed to be a big security Bad Idea.

New iMacs don’t come with DVD drives. This is a pain in the arse because I had to install Photoshop, and my ancient copy of Photoshop (version 7, bought when I was still a student at Durham oh so long ago) comes on CD. In the end, I stuck the CD into my MacBook, copied all the files into a folder on its hard drive, then shared the folder over the network so I could pull the files onto the new computer (which I have cunningly named McDonald, as it’s a big Mac in comparison with my trusty old MacBook). While I was doing that, I ported over all my music from iTunes, too. All 38Gb of it. No wonder the MacBook has hardly any free space left when I’m working on videos.

This is how I used to broadcast to the world. Just me, a computer and a microphone sellotaped to a bottle of Jack Daniels. Livin' the dream.

This is how I used to broadcast to the world. Just me, a computer and a microphone sellotaped to a bottle of Jack Daniels. Livin’ the dream.

I had never stopped to think about just how much music I have on that old computer. Way back when I was a DJ on Catnip Radio I decided it was a good idea to import all my CDs to iTunes, so I could pick playlists more easily. So I sat at the PC I have just replaced (which was still running Windows XP SP1 back then, so you can imagine how old that computer is) and spent an entire weekend importing music from box after box of CDs. It’s been worth it, I’ll admit that, but my goodness, there’s a lot of crap in there that I’d never listen to now. I sometimes wonder if I listened to it then, to be honest. I don’t remember being into Atreyu for example, but I’ve got two of their albums. I’m going to assume I used to get requests for them on my show.

It took two hours to pull all the music over to the new computer, during which time I managed to recover all my passwords and get Photoshop up and running. It runs very nicely on the new Mac, despite having to run through Wine because it’s a Windows version of the software. I couldn’t get Photoshop to turn into an App using Winebox but at least I could get it running, which is good enough for me. It was at this point that I discovered I would need drivers for my Wacom Intuos 4, as the Mac was acting like I was drawing in treacle when I tried to use the stylus and draw anything. Mac Wacom drivers come set up to emulate painting on glass in a zero-friction environment. I will have to do some serious tweaking of the settings to get the damn thing anywhere near a workable level of responsiveness. Still, at least it’s all up and running.

So there will be no comics today. I’m going to spend the evening tweaking the settings so I can get everything ready to restart comic creation in the morning. Hopefully it won’t take too long, as I’d really like to get some writing done on this new system, too. Scrivener was clearly built to be used on a massive screen and I’m looking forward to giving it a test run.

A day and a night

Yesterday, Jennifer attended her first book signing in Preston, Lancashire. It was part of her major signing tour for Bringing Home the Stars and although things got off to a traditional bumpy start (all signing tours for small authors who are just starting out lack the fans who will line up outside the shop before the signing starts, so the author has to wait for the crowds to start gathering in the shop before they can get many people interested).

However, as is a testament to both the quality of the book (people often flick through it before deciding to buy) and the quality of Jenny’s ability to relax, get into the swing of things, and just chat with anyone who walks by, she managed to sell the store’s stock of her books. This is the second time in a row.

I’m very proud of her. From a publisher’s point of view, her selling out the shop’s stock is great news. It means we have a lot of confirmed sales. She did sign some extra copies (we always take a box of extra copies from the stock room along with us, just in case) for the shop, so anyone who wants a copy in the Preston area can pop in and get one.

After the signing, I took her for a coffee and a chat in a local branch of Costa (my favourite coffee shop chain – they use nice beans that aren’t as bitter as those from most other chains). She was really happy with how the signing went and told me very excitedly about having met Lenny Henry; who was browsing in the shop while she was there. I think he was in town as part of a tour.

A load of sketches on a paper tablecloth

This is what happens when you leave a cartoonist alone with a pen and a large sheet of paper

Following the coffee and a quick look around the shops before they closed, we headed off to a friend’s fiftieth birthday party. Malcolm is a guy Jenny and I know from CPR Radio (formerly Chorley Hospital Radio but now covering Preston and somewhere else, too) and he invited us along to his half-century party. A very good night was had by all.

While there, I noticed that the tables had all been covered with paper tablecloths, to prevent drunken spillages damaging the woodwork. Being the cartoonist I am, I whipped out a pen and made some impromptu doodlings. Malcolm (and several other people who saw what I was doing) seemed to love what I’d done, and was very happy when I presented him with the finished product at the end of the night.

Since I’d had only four hours sleep before getting ready and heading out for the book signing, I was totally zonked before we even got back home. I think I fell asleep in the car and once I got home, I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Ten and a half hours later, I woke up.

As my Mum would say, I “must have needed it”.

Update: Jennifer has written her own account of yesterday on her blog. You can find her post here.