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UK freelance journalist and author Sean McManus

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Time to check the Oyster source code...

29 January 2008

So, they've built this massive infrastructure for electronic payments on the tube. When you think of the scale of the thing, it's amazing. It works at every station on the tube network and you can charge up cards at stations or online. You can even charge up your cards in newsagents. The system debits your journey price from the card balance, and shows you how much credit is left when you leave the station.

I've just registered for automatic top-up. That means that when my balance gets below £5, they'll charge my credit card £20 and credit it to my Oyster card. Clearly, I need to have a lot of trust in them to grant them this authority. Firstly, that they're counting the cost correctly, and secondly that they won't mischarge or overcharge me.

So, what's my first experience with autocharging? Receiving the following email (I've made no edits to this):
You have successfully uploaded Auto top-up from <PickupStationName> station on your Oyster card, number <OysterCardNumber> and topped up your pay as you go. Auto top-up is now active on your card.<br><br>Whenever you travel on the Tube, DLR, Tram or Bus GBP<AutoloadTopupAmount> will automatically be added to your Oyster card at any station, using your credit or debit card ending in <HashedCCNumber>, when you enter a station and your pay as you go balance is below GBP5.00. You can change your Auto top-up arrangements at www.tfl.gov.uk/oyster.
This tells me that nobody has ever tested this system end-to-end, otherwise they would spot that the email merge isn't working. That doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

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University of Death: second edition coming up

27 January 2008

I'm going to be making some amendments to the cover of University of Death, so if you would like a first edition, I'd recommend ordering now. (There won't be any changes to the inside of the book for this edition).

I've been spending some time working on various promotions for the book, including going to Abbey Road today with Karen to take an author photo, which is why the blog's been a bit quiet. More news and stuff to come soon...


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My prog rock masterpiece

06 January 2008

There's this meme doing the rounds where you make up a band, album title and tracks by just using what comes up when you press the random link button in Wikipedia's navbar. The rules are you're supposed to use them in order and not miss any out. Thanks to Patroclus for bringing it to my attention.

Band: Nongpoh
Album: Walter Jona

  1. Rowing at the 1964 Summer Olympics - Eights
  2. Jan Van der Roost
  3. Southern League Cup 2007-08
  4. Blaine Capatch
  5. Selective Service Act

  6. The Avalon Ballroom
  7. CN Halton Subdivision
  8. Zinger
  9. Moncton/McEwen Airport
  10. José Clemente Orozco
Bonus tracks on CD release:Funnily enough, I tried this when I needed to find an automated way to generate band names for my novel. I didn't get such good results then but I did come up with another way to generate band names and listed over 100 of the best ones I didn't use in the back of the book.

I had a look to see if there was a button to deliver a random creative commons image on Flickr which could be the album cover, but there doesn't seem to be. Perhaps it's better left to the imagination. I'm sure there are more airbrushed dragons on Nongpoh's vinyl sleeve than there are in the whole of Flickr.

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University of Death: Author interview

03 January 2008

Book cover: University of DeathThank you to those of you who sent me questions for this: I've now published the 'University of Death' author interview. The interview reveals more about the book's characters, themes and inspiration and reveals what's in the ten pages of bonus content at the end of the novel!

I've also uploaded some suggestions for how you can help spread the word about this book. Simple things like mentioning it on your blog, making friends with Dove on MySpace, or posting a link to the sample chapters in Facebook, can make a big difference. Because this is self-published, there's no real marketing budget. Any help you can offer in stimulating word of mouth is greatly appreciated.

There are two reader reviews now on the book's Lulu page. Thank you to Kim and Anonymous for writing those. Thanks too to John and Julie for mentioning the book on their blogs.

If you haven't already done so, please check out the free sample first couple of chapters. You can browse them on screen or download a PDF to print out.


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