5 Dec 2015

To Philosophise, or not to Philosophise; and Other Difficult Matters

Hail readers!

Previously, I spoke on matters of writing—on plot, detail, and other such questions as pertain to a writer. I did, however, mention one thing: I have upgraded my PC. Thus, today I will briefly explain this—what it will mean and so on—along with more general updates on my goings-on. This will be relatively brief, but informative. Without further ado...

Alex! What Have You Been Doing?

I have recently purchased what is known as a ‘Solid State Drive,’ or SSD as the acronym goes. For the non-technical among you, think of it like this: your computer stores data permanently on what is called a ‘drive’. It keeps your computer’s software, along with your photos, documents, etc. stored there.

When the computer boots, it has to load the software from drive and onto the RAM (random-access memory). It does this for a very simple reason: drives are slow. Copying, or indeed writing, data to a drive is much slower than doing so to RAM. Many software functions—like those you might find in a graphics editor like GIMP or Photoshop—do a lot of processing to this data; they would be unusable otherwise.

Loading from drive to RAM is why your computer might take half a minute to boot, or three seconds to load a web-browser.

And why does the computer not just keep all the data on RAM, you ask? The reasons are twofold. Firstly, RAM is ‘volatile’—you need to keep it powered on, or else all the data that’s on it will get wiped. This is obviously a bit of a concern if your computer stores e.g. a priceless manuscript.

RAM is also much more expensive on a per-GB basis. 8GB of RAM might cost around £30–£40; for that, you can buy a 500GB hard drive.

Anyway: what all this means is that the drive is the slowest part in your computer. Most common functions are bottlenecked by your drive. An SSD, then, is useful because it is much faster than a standard hard-disk drive (HDD).

This means that the computer boots in 10s instead of thirty, that a browser can be opened in one second instead of four, and so on. SSDs also have a number of additional advantages over HDDs which I won’t go into here.

The bottom line is: with this upgrade, I can spend more time writing and less time waiting on the computer.

Problems

Alas, my upgrade did not go quite smoothly. I spent two hours getting the SSD into a finnicky drive bay inside my computer case; I spent a number of hours, afterwards, installing Ubuntu to it. Installing Ubuntu took about fifteen minutes; however, a problem with my wifi driver for the USB dongle I use ended up requiring lots of troubleshooting...

Above: this little dongle didn’t play nice with Ubuntu. It had to go.

I ended up connecting the PC to my wifi extender, via ethernet. The extender acts like a router, and the PC gains access to the Internet through the (well-supported) ethernet cable. It’s not the most elegant method, perhaps, but it does the trick.

To cut a long story short: I am now up and running.

The Ark

As for the Ark, I have written chapter thirteen and have begun chapter fourteen. My technical difficulties prevented me from writing as much as I’d like to have done; but with such technical conundrums a-sorted, computer-time should now be better spent.

I have also received a substantial amount of feedback on everything so far from multiple sources. Chief among these is a beta-reader, whom I shall name simply as Peter, who has taken pains to read (almost) everything written thus far. He has been both praising—‘you have talent,’ ‘the characters are well-painted,’ ‘the descriptions of the architecture imaginative’—and damning (my overuse of certain words being a particular issue).

As you may also have been able to guess from this and other posts before it, I have also written a sex scene as part of the Ark. There I obtained feedback both from a romance writer (and friend) as well as a colleague. Suffice to say they were pleased, though I have decided on one or two changes.

Other than this, my work continues.

School

I have said relatively little on this, though it occupies a large share of my time. Previously, I was occupied by physics coursework. This week, I have the December tests. They are not too difficult, nor terribly important, but they are a good time to draw up some useful revision notes. My philosophy notes so far total over twenty pages, all in all.

Future Essays

You are probably wishing for fewer words on writing, and more words on—for example—my perenially favourite political economy writings.

Alas, I have not found any more issues I feel both keen and qualified to write on; instead, I shall write on a topic hitherto only alluded to: philosophy.

There are two specific topics I’m considering to cover. The first is moral philosophy. This will involve, firstly, some discussion on meta-ethics—questions such as ‘What is good?’ and ‘Are moral propositions subject to the principle of bivaliance?’ will be addressed. Thereafter, I will address normative, ethics—i.e. how to apply these principles to the real world, in general.

Alternately, I can address questions of logic. I could write a primer on the principles of logic, the fallacies, and ask you to consider some interesting examples.

To answer the above, take a look at this questionnaire

Conclusion

The life of a writer is a busy thing; the life of both a student and a writer can be hectic. Even so, there is plenty to come. Stick around. You might learn something.

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