There's an interesting profile in today's San Francisco Chronicle about Grigory Chkhartashvili, a Russian translator and intellectual who was inspired by boredom to start a new career as mystery novelist Boris Akunin, the creator of the kickboxing, czarist-era Russian detective Erast Petrovich Fandorin: His novels ... wear their period politics lightly. Each plays on a familiar genre. There's the contract killer, the spy and the picaresque swindler. There's a closed-room mystery. And the sixth book features a ... read more

I've written 21 computer books in the past decade, documenting thousands of subjects in tree-killing detail. One of my pet peeves as a technical writer is covering something that readers are unlikely to need and should never, ever use, like the discussion board component in FrontPage 2000. I devoted an entire chapter to it in Sams Teach Yourself Microsoft FrontPage 2000 in 24 Hours, a mistake I rectified in subsequent editions. (Buy a copy of the book on Amazon.Com for 92 cents!) FrontPage 2000 supported ... read more

I took the boys last night to see Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Film Franchise We Hope Will Be a Cash Machine Like Harry Potter. The film's a wonderfully realized vision of the book, at least through my hazy recollection of tearing through all seven novels 25 years ago in the Collier boxed set, which I've kept all of these years. But the logic of the C.S. Lewis novel makes less sense than it did when I was a child. I don't care if they're just a bunch of dissident animals and sympathetic ... read more

Whenever a new biography is added to Wikipedia, an "articles for deletion" debate is likely to happen on whether the subject is notable enough to merit inclusion. If the subject's a computer book author, you invariably get a comment from a Wikipedia editor like the one that was just made about best-selling O'Reilly author Shelley Powers: I really don't believe that authoring a how-to technology book makes one a notable author. We might as well have articles for writers of toaster manuals. He has a good point. I'm ... read more

UserLand Software is discontinuing free Manila hosting, as I discovered last week when one of their users sought refuge on Buzzword.Com. Edit This Page shut free service on Dec. 1 and ManilaSites will do the same Dec. 31. I can offer free hosting on Buzzword, but webloggers who are committed to publishing with Manila should be advised that I'm migrating the server to new software by May 1, 2006. A better long-term option for those folks is to subscribe to Weblogger.Com or UserLand. (As an aside, if you're a fan of ... read more

I just launched the web site for Sams Teach Yourself Programming with Java in 24 Hours, my 21st computer book since I began writing them in 1996. I'm not sure how this happened. I went to college to learn interpretive dance. This is the fourth edition of the book, updated to cover Java 2 version 5. I wrote the first in a 17-day haze in 1997, covering Java 1.1 and its class library, which is less than one-tenth the size of the Java 2 class library today. Over the years, the book has grown to 558 pages and been ... read more

I've been tracking the Google page rank of my web sites for the past year, trying to learn about effective, non-abusive techniques that improve their positions in search engines. You can really see a difference in a site's traffic when it goes up in rank. SportsFilter jumped to PR 7 in the last three months, and the site's membership is booming as a result. A lot of publishers are losing page rank because they use two different domains -- one that begins with www and one that doesn't -- for the same site. Most ... read more