I'm a writer. There, I've admitted it. I wonder if there's a 12-Step program for folks like me...

Most of this blog will be about writing for a living. Or maybe about trying to earn a living as a writer. Or maybe about trying to have a life while you write.

And maybe I'll be able to avoid the driving temptation to write about politics. But I'm not very good around temptation, so all I can promise is that I'll try to avoid writing about politics.

But I will write about the software I use, and the software I try out, and what I think about it. I actually spent lots of years in software testing - as a tester and as a manager of testing departments. I actually started work in software development in 1971, so I have a bit of experience with computers to back up what I have to say on this subject.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Uniblue wrap-up, “Twisted Key” and number 4


Just a few words regarding Uniblue software. As I mentioned last week I submitted a request for a refund of my purchase for their SpeedUpMyPC application one day after I purchased it. They provide a 30-day money back guarantee on any purchase, and I wanted to take advantage of the offer. Twenty-four hours after I submitted my request the money WAS back in my account, so kudos to Uniblue for that.

Kudos also to GeeksToGo (www.geekstogo.com) for their invaluable help in recovering from the changes the Uniblue software made in my Registry. I strongly recommend them to anyone with any questions or problems about hardware or software. They are a fine bunch.

My third novel, “Twisted Key”, is complete and off to the editors. While I wait for feedback I am busy working on the first three chapters to my fourth novel, “Lonesome Cove”. I figure a month to six weeks for the editors to do their thing, and if I can’t get the first three chapters written in that time I’d best see if I can get a job as a Wal-Mart greeter. For sure it has to pay better than writing for a living.

Once I have the changes from the editors I’ll clean up the first three chapters of “Twisted Key” and post them on my web site to replace what’s up there now (which is seriously out of date). And when I have a clean copy of the first three chapters of “Lonesome Cove” I’ll get that posted as well. Again, you’ll be able to read them on-line or download them as *.PDF files and print them out if you prefer.

I’ve got a few events in February:

12 February – Book signing at Historic Grounds Bookstore on Walnut St. in Green Cove Springs, from 4-7 in the evening

17 February – On-Air interview on WPLK AM 800, Palatka, Fl, at 8:30 in the morning

19 February – Book signing at Andrea’s Bookstore, 308 S. SR. 19, Palatka, Fl, from 12:00 – 3:00

If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello.

I hope you have a good week.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Uniblue software – scam or not, don’t touch it

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This is one I will warn you against. I’ve been propositioned by them before and seen their adds on the internet in several places, as most of you have. So the other day I went to their web site – www.uniblue.com , downloaded the software and ran the demo version of their “SpeedUpMyPC” application. Now, I use a lot of software and I don’t mind trying out new apps. I’ll even buy a license for one if it does what I need it to do.

So I paid out the $25.95 off my credit card and registered the product. Along with their “SpeedUpMyPC” I received their “System Tweaker” app as a bonus. When I ran the (now) registered version of  their SUMPC app the first time, things began to go south in a big way.

First, I found that well over half of the icons on my desktop had disappeared. Then I learned that I was now locked out of my desktop and could not make any changes.

When I went to the Start menu (I work in Win XP/SP3) I learned to my horror that my formerly well-populated All Programs menu showed only six applications (why those six in particular? Who knows?).

When I tried to check the Properties of the Start menu, a message bar appeared notifying me that due to restrictions on the computer I had to contact my Administrator. I am the administrator – or, I thought I was until Uniblue decided otherwise.

My printer software has disappeared entirely. Nothing in the program files, even after reinstalling the software, and no desktop icons.

I have not yet had any luck in repairing the damage to my system, though I can still use what has not been damaged or what I have not been locked out of.

No amount of “Tweaking” using the Uniblue apps would restore things to the way they were.


Here’s the complaint email I sent them this morning:

My biggest gripes with SpeedUpMyPC - there is insufficient interaction with users:


1. Removed Desktop Icons without Asking User

2. Removed programs from All Programs list without asking the user

3. There is no option to restore lost items to the desktop or to the All Programs list

Perhaps of greater concern:

1. There is no option to prevent the software from operating in the background. On systems with limited RAM - 1 gigabyte or less - this can seriously hamper the operation of the computer.

2. Even after deleting Uniblue software from Start Menu the software, the next time you run SpeedUpMyPC the software
will reset itself to run in the background.

3. In the menu bar of the software, under the Settings Menu, there is no option to prevent software from operating without users authorization.


1. While the software will speed up your PC, it is way too aggressive in the decisions it makes.

2. This software could only benefit by giving the user more options.

3. I am taking advantage of the  30-day money back guarantee for this software.


I received an automated reply about ten minutes later and escalated the issue. Later this afternoon I received a notice that my refund had been credited back to my account. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and wait until tomorrow morning to see if it has actually been credited back.

Needless to say, the Uniblue software has been removed from my system and will not be reinstalled, ever.

In the meantime. I cannot recommend this company’s software to anyone for any reason.

A very brief Google search on the word ‘uniblue’ will give you plenty of reason for concern. I am only one user, on one computer; however, it appears there are many others who have similar stories to relate. Whatever the reason for the poor performance of the software – scam, incompetence, a sad lack of organizational skills or whatever, I cannot recommend this software to anyone.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Talk about twists and turns…

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Several months ago, I arranged a book signing with the owner two independent book stores in The Villages, a very large and wealthy retirement community between Leesburg and Ocala here in Florida. I was to be there between eleven and one in the afternoon. I had made arrangements to place an advertisement in the local Daily Sun newspaper that serves the community.  Unfortunately, I had some urgent medical issues that prevented me from buying the space in the paper.

I was up at four-thirty this morning and out of the house a little after six for the drive down to The Villages. Not knowing exactly what to expect since there was no promotion for the event, I brought twenty copies of both novels. It was raining cats and dogs the entire trip. Two and a half hours through one tropical downpour after another. I still got there early.

Oddly enough, the manager of the store expected me, and we had my table set up well before time. Oddly enough, we realized after a few minutes that while she did indeed expect an author, that was not me. Apparently the owner had not told her she had made arrangements with me for that day. The other author showed up around eleven. No one else did until around noon, due to the very damp conditions. Damp? Try downpour.

I sold one copy. The other author, with his very first mystery novel ever, sold around a dozen, mostly to friends and relatives. We got on famously. It isn’t all that long ago that I was doing my very first ever book signing.

Around one o’clock I packed up, thanked the manager and left her with a few copies of “Hog Valley” to put on her shelves beside her copies of “The Big Bend”.

I spent some time in Ocala visiting friends before heading home. Then I decided to stop by the 88 Bar & Grill on Forest Road 88 near Salt Springs in the Ocala National Forest. The usual crowd was there in the early afternoon, drinking beer,  a few playing the WII Bowling game on the big screen television, everyone talking and visiting quietly. It really is a very homey and comfortable place to relax with friends. I spoke with Deb, the barmaid on duty, and gave her the signed copy of “Hog Valley”. She gave me a beer, wouldn’t let me pay for it. Then she said she wanted a copy for herself.


The 88 Bar & Grill

I was glad to oblige, and went out to my car to get her copy. After signing it for her I tried to refuse her money, but she wouldn’t take it back. Then someone else wanted a copy, then a local marina operator wanted two copies and the owner of another local bar, The Pig Pen, wanted a copy for herself. By the time I left I’d sold and signed seven.

That more than made up for the lousy turn out in The Villages and restored my faith in my fellow man. And the beer was ice cold. And free.

Salt Springs is a very nice little town, a real tourist attraction, and hosts a large and growing retirement community. But the 88, as it’s called is a bit off the beaten path and the locals like it that way. Don’t get me wrong; you’ll be very welcome if you can find it. They have live music – country, of course, and bluegrass, and real wood floors and very down home decor (not designer down home decor, mind you, the real thing). The 88 Bar & Grill is a ‘juke’, a road house, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Pretense does not go over well in a place like the 88.

But if you’re ever in the area, drop by and mention my name. Tell Deb, and Anne and Mike and Trish that I said hi.

“Twisted Key” is essentially complete (hurray). I’ve got some editing and fleshing out to do over the next few weeks and then it goes to my editor. When I get it back I’ll be another month working the edits into the manuscript and then it’s off to the publisher.

Have a great week. Drive safe, and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lots of progress on “Twisted Key”

I apologize for not posting on Monday (again). I’ve been concentrating on writing and keeping to an absolute minimum such things as researching, fact checking and verifying. Researching, fact checking and verifying are all excuses to avoid writing, and I don’t want to do that. I am  a professional liar, a storyteller, not a fact checker or an editor. Everything that is not writing is a distraction. Necessary perhaps, but a distraction nonetheless. Since I have made a point of ignoring those things as best I can instead of indulging in them these last few weeks, I have managed to add well over a hundred pages to the manuscript. I have now 230 good pages, out of a novel that should run to 320 pages.

I really enjoy the writing process, and rewriting can be fun as well, since it clears up the story so others can enjoy it along with me. I’ve got one reader in California who is now sharing his new copy of “The Big Bend” with his wife. Every few hours I get another email from him, and the excitement and pleasure he and his wife are getting from the story shines through his short notes.

That, above anything else, makes all of the hours I spend at this keyboard worth the effort. Well, that and money. Let’s be honest, here. But hearing from readers really does cheer me up no end.

My web site, www.garyshowalter.com, has gone through some changes recently. I’ve added a Photo Gallery and an Events Calendar. The gallery holds photos and descriptions of some of the furniture I’ve built and restored over the years when I actually worked for a living, the ornamental pieces I’ve built using gold, silver, ivory, mother-of-pearl, abalone and exotic hardwoods and photos of the Holtzappfell ornamental lathe I restored and worked on for several years.

The Events Calendar is a listing of events here in Florida where I will be signing and selling my books. My next event is in The Villages, between Leesburg and Ocala, at the “All Booked Up” bookstore on Bichara Blvd, on Monday 17 January, between eleven and one in the afternoon. If you’re in the area, please stop by and say hello.

Have a good and safe weekend.

Friday, January 7, 2011

“Twisted Key” and Advanced System Care 3

I keep shooting to get this blog out on Mondays, but apparently I’m a lousy shot. Today’s Friday. At least I got it out in the same week.

“Twisted Key” is now 183 good pages. I spent this morning on editing, starting at page #1 and worked my way through page 183. I’m happy with the result, but then, I’m not my editor.

It’s a good story, with more twists than your average garden snake. And I guarantee that you will never figure out the ending. I haven’t, and I’m the writer.

My characters drive my stories. Well, my characters and the situations they find themselves in. Each story has a series of events that have to occur in some semblance of order. But how each character reacts to those events is defined by his or her personality, the constraints placed upon them by their jobs,  and their relationships with the other characters.

It’s been said before, but the big difference between life and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. In my stories I try to blur that difference just a little bit.

I’m a big fan of Advanced System Care by IOBit (www.iobit.com). This is one of the best system optimization tools I have run across in my years (lots of years, folks) working with computers. ASC has been on my desktop computer for the better part of a year, along with one or sometimes two other system optimization tools. I rarely use the others. ASC has an easy to understand interface and it works very well, indeed.

IOBit recently offered a Beta version of ASC 4 and I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. I like the interface even more than the release version and it runs through everything from a malware checker, Registry cleaner, security tool, Windows optimization tool, defragger and I don’t recall what else in a matter of a few minutes. With a simple click you can turn on or off any of the operations and once the checks have been done the software will wait until you’ve had the chance to look at the results before clicking on the Repair button to implement the fixes.

At the end of the repair process a text box opens with the fix report for you to read through.

For a Beta version, ASC 4 is rock solid, and it works. Fast. I like this tool.

Have a great weekend. Drive safe, and remember to wear a jacket when you go outside.