Matt Gemmell

My new book CHANGER is out now!

An action-adventure novel — book 1 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon

Announcing CHANGER

Books & Kestrel 2 min read

Today is my birthday, and I’m extremely excited to announce that my novel CHANGER will be available later this month!

It’ll be on the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks stores (and you’ll also be able to buy the book directly, if you’d like to get an ePub file for your device). Paperback copies will be available a little later.

Shelf 7

Personal & Writing 5 min read

The little book shop was called Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights.

It was painted a very light cream colour, it was on the same street that I grew up on — but in a different city and country — and the cheerful Englishman behind the counter had the improbable name of Mr. Scotland.

The shop had an upstairs, and also a basement reached via another staircase hidden elsewhere. There were typewriters beside bookshelves, handwritten recommendations all around, and appropriately to its location in the eponymous spa town, one of the display tables was a full-sized claw-footed bath with boards across the top.

Writing in Markdown

Writing, Books & Tech 1 min read

It’s no secret that I constantly write in Markdown, which is a brilliant solution for the problem of keeping files in readable, portable formats, but also allowing for useful structure and formatting. In a nutshell, Markdown lets you write plain text in a way that’s not only readable as-is, but can also be converted to HTML.

If you’ve ever emphasised a phrase *like this*, you’ve used Markdown. If you’ve ever used a series of asterisks to create a makeshift horizontal separator, you’ve used Markdown. If you’ve ever made a list by starting each line with a hyphen or a number, you’ve used Markdown. It’s intuitive, it follows very common conventions, and it’s simple to learn and use.

Power Unused

Productivity & Tech 3 min read

I’ve been thinking about my set of productivity apps here on my Mac (I do almost no work on my iPhone except for making notes, and I don’t own an iPad). Taking productivity seriously means always being willing to refine your setup, I think. Sometimes you have to live with something for a while before you can see the areas where it doesn’t quite suit you.

I’ve crossed a threshold recently whereby I’m now working exclusively in open formats. It wasn’t a philosophy; just an accumulation of aesthetic and practical choices that had an unsought but pleasing side-effect.

Conduit

Personal 4 min read

Once in a while, someone asks me if I’m Matt Gemmell. I always tell myself that next time, my reply will be a wry Only if he doesn’t owe you money, but in reality I just say yes then silently curse the missed opportunity.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about losing my surname then taking it back, and the story will always be a defining part of my past. It shook my identity loose for a time, and I’ve never regained ownership of the person I was during those years. I did learn something, though, or rather I relearned some ancient wisdom that we’d do well to keep in mind.

TaskPaper 3

Productivity & Briefly 1 min read

Jesse Grosjean has released version 3 of TaskPaper, his plain-text to-do list app for Mac. I’m a big fan.

TaskPaper’s syntax is like the to-do list version of Markdown (about which I wrote a little book), and the app provides an augmented interface for the kind of plain-text lists we all make. It’s deceptively powerful, with projects, tasks, notes, and tags for anything you want: contexts, priorities, and more. All in beautiful text.

As an OmniFocus fan, I’ve created a TaskPaper theme to mimic its aesthetic; you can download the theme here. Themes are just Less-flavoured CSS, and you can read about creating TaskPaper themes here.

Household Wiki on Raspberry Pi

Tech 2 min read

I decided to use my new Raspberry Pi 3 as (amongst other things) a web server for a household wiki, where we’ll keep useful information: things like home, motor, and travel insurance details, utility accounts and contact information, and all the hundreds of other things that one or both of us may need to check at some point.

Very handy, but of course there are some major security concerns. The wiki’s contents would be a treasure-trove for identity theft. Here’s how I set everything up.

Regular Expressions

Tech & Briefly 1 min read

I have a degree in Computing Science. I’ve had a formal higher education. We covered a lot of ground.

I’ve learned about information retrieval, database normalisation, memory management schemes and paging, functional programming, distributed systems and synchronisation problems, matrix mathematics and image convolution kernels, Bézier curve construction, Fourier transforms, maps and trees and tries and doubly-linked lists, sorting algorithms, O-notation and time complexity, SQL, OO, NP-completeness and hardness and polynomial-time approximations, cryptography, multitasking models, user experience design, affordances, safety-critical systems, at least a couple of dozen programming and scripting languages, finite state automata, grammars and Backus–Naur, graph theory and colourings, compiler design, language design, hardware design, and… a hundred other things.

I’m a writer now, but all of that stuff still interests me, even if I have little reason to use it. If you were to ask about the single most useful thing I’ve ever learned within the sphere of technology – the thing I’ve most appreciated, found most satisfying, and had most use from, in diverse situations, all the time – I could answer easily.

I’d say: regular expressions. If you’d like to learn something new today, you could start here.