Contest winners for The Pericles Commission

The 15th has ended for everyone in the world, so here are the winners of the book giveaway!

How the winners were calculated:  I used Excel to list everyone by country, and alongside each name, the number of their entries.  Then I ran a little macro that totaled the entries by country, generated a random number, and counted down that many entries to give a winner.

Catherine was the only New Zealand entrant, so I made Gautami in India an honorary New Zealander.  On the roll, Catherine won it!

In South Africa, T Lockyer with 7 entries had a high chance of winning, and unsurprisingly, he did.

Taymalin won the Canadian copy.

Seth (LQQ) got the UK copy.

Caryn defied the odds in the US to win a copy on a 1 in 32 chance.

In Australia, the two copies went to Alli and Sean.

Could Catherine, T Lockyer, Taymalin, Seth, Caryn, Alli and Sean please email me a postal address?  The northern hemisphere books will be posted from New York, and the southern from Melbourne (I think).

I really appreciate everyone taking part.  Thanks so much!

A book giveaway to celebrate the Oz release of The Pericles Commission

The Australian edition of The Pericles Commission has gone on sale!

To celebrate, we're giving away some free copies. But you don't have to be in Australia to get one.  We're sharing the love.

2 copies will be sent to Australian readers
1 copy will go to a New Zealand reader
1 copy to a US reader
1 copy to a UK reader
1 copy to a Canadian reader
1 copy to a South African reader

The copy you receive, no matter where you are in the world, will be the edition with the Australian cover.

To win a copy, you must comment on this post and either be, or else join, the followers of this blog. You score an extra entry for tweeting about the contest, for posting about it on facebook, for mentioning it on your own blog etc. The more you pass word around about the book and the contest, the more entries you have in the competition. Winners will be selected using a random number generator, with one draw per country (and two for the Aussies).

1 entry for being a blog follower
+1 Twitter about this contest
+1 Facebook about this contest
+1 Goodreads mark the book as to-read (or read!)
+3 Blog about this contest

+1,000,000 get Oprah to recommend it.

The contest will run to the 15th January. Blog contests tend to peak quickly, but there are lots of people on hols in the antipodes at the moment, so if entries are still coming in I'll extend it by an extra week.

Please total your point score in the comments below. Put your email address in your comment or else email it to me, so I can contact winners, and please tell me your country!

Penguin is very kindly picking up the postage for the southern hemisphere countries, and St Martin's generously offered  to post out Penguin's edition in the north.  Thank you both!  Since I'm not paying for it, it would be very cool if we could have some entries from totally inaccessible places such as the Flinders Ranges, Death Valley, or an Antarctic base.

Blog stats: 2010

There seems to be a tradition around of mentioning some blog stats at the end of the year. So herewith are the basic numbers for this humble blog in 2010:

Total hits: 44,829

That number excludes my own hits. It's real readers only.

Individual readers: 35,007

There'll be some duplication there from regular readers who use multiple IP addresses, but the true number is clearly well in excess of 34,000. Most of those people came in via external link recommendations, not, to my surprise, from google searches.

Most hits on a single day: 852

That was the post on how to use the autocorrect feature in Word, which stunned me with its popularity. Is Word really that interesting? People still hit it heavily to this day.

Average hits per day, every day, over the entire year: 123

Average unique readers per day: 96

Number of posts: 147

One every three days. I'm such a slacker.

So that's it for the stats that are Gary-specific. Now for some general technology stats that fascinated me.

Most popular incoming search engine: Google at 98%+

Next is Yahoo at 1%, then Ask. If I were the product manager for Microsoft bing, I'd slit my wrists now.

Most popular browsers: Firefox (43%), IE (23%), Chrome (15%), Safari (8%)

IE is dramatically down, but that's no surprise given the rise of excellent alternatives. I started using Chrome in 2010 once AdBlock became available for it. I'm a bit surprised Chrome adoption isn't higher.

And here comes what for me is the stunner. Most popular operating system:

30.80% MacOSX
24.60% WinXP
18.60% WinVista
18.00% Win7
2.80% Linux

For the first time in history, MacOS beats out Windows on a per-version basis. Granted the total Windows is 60% of home machines, but that is still a massive degradation. It's not hard to work out where to point the finger: Vista is the Worst Operating System Ever. I'm amazed 18% of people still use it.

25% cling to XP to avoid Vista. My guess is many of those that had to shift off XP, probably due to forced hardware replacement, obviously decided that they might as well go to the Mac to avoid Vista.

BillG used to talk about "betting the company" on each new release of Windows. With Vista, they might finally have lost. That only 18% are on Windows 7 has to be depressing my friends in Redmond. They desperately need to convert that into 60% on Windows 7, and then start clawing back the lost users.

Pirates of the Aegean

The Greeks get credit for inventing a lot of things, but did you know one of them is piracy?

There've been pirates in the Aegean Sea for at least three thousand years. The Aegean is ideal for this sort of thing. There are a zillion islands, the coastlines are rocky, and the only way for trade to move about is by sea.

The world's first known pirate was a Greek: a guy called Piyamaradus. He's mentioned in a tablet written by the King of the Hittites to the King of Mycenae. That tablet has to be older than 1,200 BC! The Hittite king complains that Piyamaradus has been using the Greek city Miletus, in Ionia, as a base to raid Hittite towns, and he expects the King of Mykenae to do something about it. The Mykenaeans agreed to hand over the pirate, but Piyamaradus escaped, no doubt in a daring escapade.

Pirates were still a major problem more than 1,100 years later. It's a well known story that the young Julius Caesar was captured by pirates from Cilicia, which lies along the Aegean, and he had to be ransomed. In fact, when he discovered how much they were asking for him, Caesar was offended and demanded the pirates more than double their price. While they waited for the ransom, Caesar hung out with his captors and joked to them that when he was free he'd return and kill them all. Caesar was duly ransomed, at which point he returned and killed them all.

The Roman Senate eventually sent Pompey to clear out all the pirates. Pompey offered them lots of money to go away. The pirates took the money, and then ten years later they were back.

Pretty much every ship on the sea was a potential pirate if a safe opportunity arose. If a larger merchant ship came across a smaller, much weaker one from another city, why not take their cargo? If it led to fighting, well, tough luck for the small guy.

Nor was piracy necessarily frowned upon; in archaic times it was an acceptable way for a noble chap to behave. Mary Renault in The Bull From The Sea has her hero King Theseus spend time raiding merchant ships after he's tossed out as king of Athens. In the Odyssey, Homer has characters boasting of their skill at piracy.

Pirates made their money in the traditional way by stealing from other ships. But they also exacted tribute from nearby towns in return for not raiding them, and raided towns that didn't feel like paying. Pirates took any rich men they came across for ransom, and they collected innocent victims to sell as slaves. It's said that Plato himself was once captured in a pirate attack when he travelled overseas. They sold Plato as a slave, and his friends had to buy him back.

By classical times there were highly organized pirates with for-real pirate bases. I'm afraid you'll have to do away with ideas of eye patches, peg legs and parrots screeching for pieces of eight. Your average pirate looked like any other sailor. Successful pirate chiefs became wealthy and could marry well.

I suspect one of the reasons the island states stuck with Athens, even through the hard times, was that the Athenian fleet could suppress piracy. The Athenians ripped off their client cities something chronic; so it was totally in their interest to keep trade flowing to increase their own takings, and when you've got 300 triremes to work with, you can afford to assign a few to patrolling trade routes.

No pirate in his right mind would have taken on a trireme. The most powerful pirate ship would have been a pentekonter at most. As the name suggests, a pentekonter has 50 oars arranged in a single row (pente: 50). But even a pentekonter is expensive; the vast majority of pirate ships would have been converted merchantmen.

Even the word "pirate" comes from Ancient Greek. When he wrote about pirates, Plutarch uses the word peiratiko (πειρατικo) to refer to a pirate.