And the Howard books duly arrive. They were sent from Texas on 23 February by Tom. So that’s under a week: excellent delivery from the postal service on that one.

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And the books themselves are very impressive. Well produced, clean, crisp, and on very bright paper. These are wonderful books and well worth the money. Of course the content is going to be brilliant too – I’ve never read anything duff from Howard.

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I’m really not too sure which one I’ll start reading first. They both have works from Howard I’ve not read yet, and they both have additional material which I’m sure will be illuminating.

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Not sure if it’s easily seen in the above picture but I got number 139 for both volumes. They are already on second printings. The books can be bought here.

I used another laptop to browse the Internet while my main laptop was backing up with Norton Ghost – I’ve found through experience that although you can work while important system programs are in progress it’s best not to. Even though my time online recently has gone way down – mostly at weekends, hardly every during the week – the second laptop has picked up some malware. This is probably because it’s hardly used, and I don’t have any anti spy ware or anti virus on it, although I’m pretty sure the built in fire wall is on. (It could be because the laptop hasn’t been upgraded with the latest windows updates for a while.) So I’ll put it to the side until I can find a cure for the particular piece of nasty software that is on it.

I’ve read quite a bit lately -  the books I’m expecting haven’t turned up yet; the Howard books are in the process of being shipped and the Farmer book hasn’t been published yet. I think Subterranean Press are doing a great job but it would be nice if they published books on time. All the books I’ve (pre) ordered from them have been late in being published.

I went on a Yurick binge. Sol Yurick is an American novelist probably most famous for The Warriors. I love the film of that book and years ago had a tatty paperback of that novel which has now disappeared; probably thrown out. He’s a very good writer and recently I thought I’d get a new edition of The Warriors. His books were so cheap on Amazon and Abe Books that I ended up getting practically his whole output – including a hardback edition of one of his books for one pence. Among others I’ve bought there’s been another 3 for 2 from Waterstone’s; two novels from Henning Mankell and a non fiction book. Menkell is famous for Wallander; the Swedish original TV series is quite good but the UK remake is pure drivel. I couldn’t get into the first of his books but ‘Italian Shoes’ is intriguing and interesting.

I’ve also switched back into old habits when it comes to reading. For the last few years I’ve been reading books exclusively; starting and finishing – or abandoning – a book before turning to another. Recently I’ve been going through more than one at a time. It’s pretty weird reading Neal Asher’s The Technician (a really strong book from this author) at the same time as The Histories by Herodotus, An Island Death by Sol Yurick and Menkell but it has been enjoyable. All these books were bought in the last week or so and I’m going through them at a pace. Maybe there’s something in reading more than one book at once.

I haven’t been reading much lately, but I’m looking forward to getting three new books. Philip Jose Farmer, Up The Bright River is due to be published soon. I bought it when it was announced and looking forward to reading it.

I also ordered two Robert E. Howard books, and am very much looking forward to these, not least because they are pretty hefty books with a lot of content; some of which I haven’t read. But also because Howard is a very powerful writer and his stories are always worth the effort.

I bought an upgrade to Amiga Forever and have been using it quite a lot, particularly after I learned where and how to download the floppy discs from Magazines which had a lot of full programs on them. I bought a lot of the magazines when they first came out and, like PC magazines at the time, enjoyed the full software on the discs.

The Amiga (A600) fell out of use when I switched to PCs and was put away and forgotten. Later on I bought another 600 and a 1200 for £20. I swapped the mighty 20MB – yes twenty megabytes – hard drive from the 600 to the 1200. Recently I got them out again and they still work perfectly. I fired up the 1200 and used it for a few hours. The 20MB hard drive has several programs on it: Real 3D, KindWords 3, Bars & Pipes, Octamed 4 and a few games but the program that takes up most of the hard drive is the Dice C compiler. Back in the eighties I was into programming a little and C was the best of a bad lot. I didn’t like Pascal and Assembly was too obscure. C was comfortable.

I also got out a lot of floppy discs for the Amiga and went through them on the 1200. For being over 15 years old a lot of the discs still worked quite well, which was a surprise. I copied as much as I could from some discs to the hard drive in case I can’t access them in the future. (A lot of the PC floppies I have are unreadable.)

I tried creating a lha archive and copying them to a DOS formatted disc then getting them from a PC to my USB drive then I could load them in Amiga Forever but the DOS floppies were too badly damaged – add to this the fact they had to be low density floppies, which was superseded  by the High Density ones a few years later.

Plan B was initiated and I bought a serial cable to connect a PC to Amiga. Amiga Forever comes with software to connect the two computers and transfer files. The XP machine however doesn’t have a serial slot on it. So I turn to the old Windows 98 machine. Great; this one has a serial port I can slip the cable into.

I set everything up and then turn on the Amiga and PC. The PC doesn’t switch on. It hasn’t been used for a few years but it was working the last time I tried it. Bugger. The PC is only about eight or nine years old and it appears to have broken down. The Amigas from the early nineties are still going strong. Survival of the fittest indeed.

My first computer was an Amiga, an A600 to be exact, way back in the early nineties. At the time they were sort of comparable to PCs, but the PC then went on to expand and grow while the Amiga stagnated and went through a few different owners before going kaput.

It was a brilliant machine though, and despite being known as a games machine had all sorts of software available for it: from compilers to databases, word processors to paint programs. A lot of TV graphics were done on early Amigas. They were very suitable for that environment having Gen Lock hardware that could do green screening and mixing of images.

I mention Amigas because I bought Amiga Forever, an Amiga emulator, a few years ago. Recently I have been using it quite a bit and even more recently I upgraded to the latest edition. Then I went on the net and downloaded a lot of programs for it.

The first Amiga magazine I bought was Amiga Computing, and I bought it on and off for a few years until it – like the Amiga – went bosoms up. Although I suppose Amiga Format was the magazine I bought most often: back then Amiga magazines were like the early PC magazines in that they would have full software on their cover discs. Half the time I was buying the magazine for the little bit of plastic on the front.

The Amiga I bought still works – or did the last time I tried it a few years ago – and the loft is littered with bags of the floppy discs, so it was nice to be able to download most of them from the net rather than try and find some sort of floppy disc drive to read them and copy them to a PC (Amiga Forever can read PC discs).

The best thing about them is that they are tiny: they were low density floppy discs – which meant around 800k of data. It’s amazing to think that they contained not only a full program but sometimes several full programs, and I’m not talking command line programs either but full WISYWIG GUI programs. I’ve downloaded buckets of them and they are still under about thirty megabytes on my USB drive.

I doubt if any program on Windows would be able to even fit into 30 MB let alone under 1 MB. And the A600 itself only came with 1MB of RAM. So, on a low density floppy with 1MB of RAM a fully multitasking Windowed OS would run quite happily. Nowadays a PC wouldn’t even boot with 1MB of RAM. The processor ran at 6Mhz. The later models of Amigas ran at such ridiculous speeds as 30 to 40 Mhz. It just shows how far computing has come; we’re only talking about twenty odd years here, not a couple of lifetimes. But twenty years in computing is several generations I suppose.

So I’m looking forward to trying out Amiga Forever 2011, which has been updated quite a bit since I bought it; it now looks something similar to Virtual PC. I’m also looking forward to exploring all those old programs too.

I hope everyone had a good festive season. It’s back to work for me, so holiday’s over. I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately, the latest, Crimewave (11), dropped through my letterbox today and I’ve dipped into it already. I wrote earlier about how a couple of Robert E Howard books went missing. Well they’ve turned up. They were found in a box that had old equipment in and had nothing to do with books. A tattered copy of The Book of Robert E Howard, a very fine 1980s edition (still smelling newish) of She Devil and one I had forgotten about, The Howard Collector, a paperback collecting various bits and pieces from the legendary small press magazine put out by Glenn Lord in the early seventies. I’ve had a browse through them all, reading bits and pieces here and there.

The bad weather seems to have rode off into the distance (fingers crossed) with rain now taking its place. Luckily the house scrapped through the cold and snow but there were some tricky times. It has certainly been the worst winter I can recall – temperature wise at least.

The credit card is weighed down this month, due to Christmas spending, and I’ve avoided any sales (which are year round now anyway and don’t end when January ends) while off work. Boredom can set in easily when off work and getting into the car and off into town centres is an easy option. Waterstone’s have a sale on at the moment with a lot of good bargains but I decided not to splash any cash.

I’m hoping that post hasn’t been lost over the Christmas break: I’m expecting an important document and a little unsure of how long to wait before phoning up about it.

I’ve got a new bookshop to investigate: I noticed a car while parking which was advertising the bookshop (probably belonged to the owner) and on doing some Google-Fu found out they’ve been going for years – established 2005. It might be worth the extra five or ten minutes to get to; I’ll find out next time I’m in Kirkcaldy. It should be worth a look at least.

Outside that is. I’m sitting in front of a nice hot coal fire. Third bad winter in a row here in the old yuckie but this one seems to be the worst because it is the coldest. A couple of times it has come close to frozen pipes but they haven’t as yet fingers crossed). The car regularly showed temperatures of minus six to minus eight. It’s supposed to be worse tonight, with temperatures going down to minus 14. There’s a wind here tonight which makes it that little bit colder.

The laptop is now starting to show signs of wear and tear. Two keys don’t work anymore. I don’t know when they stopped working but i noticed a week or so ago. The right shift button and the left arrow just underneath it don’t work anymore. But it doesn’t make the laptop unusable. I’m off work until the New Year so in theory I’ll be able to finish the posts I have that are three quarters done for the Bob Shaw blog and get some activity there again. But breath wont be held, particularly in this cold weather.

Arfur who? Arfur Phuxzake! Dear or dear that was bad. I haven’t blogged in ages, just never had the inclination lately. I have more or less finished a couple of posts for the Bob Shaw blog but haven’t put those up either. Just in my lazy period I guess.

The snow has arrived early, and it hit us bad. We have at least 1 1/2 to 2 feet of snow. Today (Thursday) was the first time that I could use the car in anger. The roads have been pretty bad but the paths have been worse; un-walk able most of them, which meant walking on the roads most of the time. luckily there was little traffic. A lot of shops near here haven’t been getting deliveries, so milk bread and the like have been a bit thin on the ground, but stuff gets through eventually – except the papers one day last week. It has been bitterly cold and I’m dreading the heating bills which will arrive January/February time.

I ordered this by Philip Jose Farmer ages ago and it’s due to get sent out any day now, although with the weather supposedly getting bad in the UK next week again I might not get it until the New Year, if at all – an item from eBay hasn’t turned up yet.

I also treated myself to these from Robert E Howard. The prices are ok-ish for limited edition books but the postage was very steep.

I’m getting a little pissed of with Google Chrome. I have Firefox 2 on my USB stick but a lot of sites say it is unsupported now, and I get some trouble from some sites I visit using it. So I install Chrome, which is supposed to be slick and fast – it is neither. The amount of times I have seen ‘waiting for cache’ on the bottom left hand of the window. … It’s extremely slow. It seems to clog up memory and slow other programs too. If I was paranoid I’d say Google were piping traffic through their own servers to gather data. I wouldn’t put it past them but I suppose I shouldn’t be so suspicious either.