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NaNoWriMo Software Update

Robbert de Groot

2020-10-01 18:54 PDT

I thought, "Why spend money when free should do."

So I tried my hand at setting up LibreOffice Write template for defining a character/location sheet, notes, and manuscript documents. One template to rule them all. Basically setting up paragraph styles for various text elements. Nothing too strenuous for a word processor.

My god, LibreOffice is not up to the task. One it feels slow. The UI is quite painful especially when you want to update a template. Also when you update a template, that does not update existing documents created from that template. Which means if you want the same formatting changes in that document... You have to create a new document and copy over the text or make the manual changes to the paragraphs.

LibreOffice has a default set of paragraphs WHICH YOU CANNOT DELETE! I would love to just start from scratch but not bloody likely here. You can 'hide' the default items but as I said above, the program feels really slow! Mousing around is slow. Using the context menu keyboard button in hopes that will speed things along will change your current selection to something else! Battling the interface just to set up simple templates. Ugh.

Then it crashed. That was the nail that killed it for me.

I thought about Word with RTF or using their own Docx format but Word makes a mess of the RTF and Docx is dangerous in my opinion.

I then played around with beefing up Zekaric:Word for RTF export and that is to the point where it will work. The problem is most text editors do not even have a basic spell checking and NaNoWriMo requires a lot of quick and nimble writing that also keeping in mind the mark down format to use for Z:Word will pull you out of the process of just core dumping out your thoughts.

So in the end I plunked down the $67 (CDN) for Scrivener. Enough dicking around with the various programs and options and time to start concentrating on prep work for the writing month. And I think I need that prep work if I am going to get remotely close to completing the task.



NaNoWriMo Software

Robbert de Groot

2020-09-26 10:34 PDT

Right now I'm playing around with software. What to use to write with. There are quite a few choices.

  • Google Doc
  • Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Write
  • Microsoft Write
  • YWriter
  • Scrivener
  • Bibisco
  • SmartEdit Writer
  • Notepad++
  • Zekaric:Word

I like Google Doc since it is online and connected to my Google drive so I expect it to be very safe and secure. The only issue I have with it is that you NEED to be online to use it. I think if I am going to be successful at NaNoWriMo I may need to disconnect from the net to remove distractions. Also, if the net is involuntarily disconnected from me, then I'll be SOL. And fall is usually very unpredictable with regards to the weather here that power outages and internet connection may potentially drop. So I would rather have something that will work offline. The last plus side is that anything online will have Grammerly, or at least the free version I am using, active. It is helpful but also potentially annoying in certain situations

I like Microsoft Word. It cannot be beaten with respect to features and usability. The main gripe I have with Word is the native file format. Really, only Word can read that monstrosity of a file format. If anything bad happens to the file, you are SOL.

LibreOffice Write is a Word clone. It has everything I would need for this challenge. It saves to OpenDoc format which is "Open" but honestly no one, in my opinion, supports it really. It is also a binary format similar to Word and that does not really lead to good support for version control software (like GIT.) Not sure if I will be using version control software yet but it is useful in software development, I do not see why it would not be useful here.

Microsft Write is a super simple word processor. Unfortunately, its simplicity may be its downfall. It saves to RTF which is nice since RTF is, for the most part, an ASCII file format and so works really well with version control software. I suppose I can use Word to read and continue to write RTF files but I have just tried that and looked at the results... Ew, what the hell did you do to a very simple RTF file WORD! You Beast! Similarly, I could also use LibreOffice in the same way. LibreOffice still does a lot of nonsense to the RTF but at least it still looks sane and version control friendly. Less of a beast.

YWriter is a piece of software that a programmer wrote himself to aid in writing novels. This is one of many programs that are specifically geared to managing and performing the business of writing a novel project. It saves to RTF files but I have not looked too closely. The software is simple and I can see benefits to using it. I do not have a huge gripe with the tool except that my little use of it felt a little clunky. I know, terrible review. But see further.

Scrivener is the other piece of software that is specifically geared to help in writing a novel. I have just started with this tool so I cannot say too much. It does not cost too much. It is much cheaper than Word or Microsoft Office when I bought that, and currently to buy a Microsoft product you are buying a subscription which I hate. I do not want to rent software, I want to own it! The Scrivener project is a folder on your harddrive and it can be a bit of beast in there but it looks like the files are ASCII based so it should work well with version control software. You probably will not be monkeying with the data files anyway so that is not an issue. The beauty of this software, I believe, is that it has export options which make it easier to deal with publishers, editors, self publishing, etc. I am currently trialing the software but once November comes around, I will have to make a decision if I am going to spend money on it.

Bibisco is another piece of software. It has a limited scope version that is free as well as a paid for version (you choose how much to pay) for all the bells and whistles. It may have certain things that are missing from Scrivener but when I used it I was so annoyed with the interface that I feel you end up hopping around the UI to get to what you want. To me, that will break my concentration and pull me out of a zone. But I felt I was annoyed with the UI even before having to use it seriously. Not a good sign in my opinion.

SmartEdit Writer is a little like Scrivener in design. It is clean and appears that it would work reasonably well. I have not look close enough at it though. I felt Scrivener was more polished and capable. I could be completely off base here.

Notepad++ is an ASCII/UTF editor. Absolutely nothing fancy. The brilliant thing about this program is that it can easily handle huge files. It will take whatever you can throw at it. The only downside I can see is that I can't seem to find a word counter. There's probably a plugin for that somewhere but the base program doesn't show it.

Zekaric:Word is a small command line tool that I wrote recently. It takes wiki/mark down like ASCII/UTF8 text files and converts it to another format. Recently I just added RTF conversion to the program. The beauty is that you work in simple text files and can use a simple text editor like notepad++. The downside is that, in order to get pleasing output, you have to run a program to get that. The pleasing output generation will not have near the same amount of options as you will get with a program like MS:Word or LO:Write. The text files are supremely good for version control, better than RTF files. They will also be very small in comparison. Project management is completely manual.



NaNoWriMo

Robbert de Groot

2020-09-26 09:35 PDT

I have never been a writer. English class in school was usually near the bottom of the marks department. Maths and Sciences were mainly my cup of tea. However, I have been writing a ton lately. Or it would seem like I have been writing a ton. At work, it has been writing for the help documentation for features I have added to the program, technical documentation for other programmers in the company, and reports and emails for the manager types... Sometimes it seems I have written more documentation than code for the program.

So, I have a few stories kicking around in my head and I was doing some googling to see what it would take to write a novel. I ended up stumbling across something called NaNoWriMo. Which stands for National Novel Writing Month. That month being November. So for the whole of November you are tasked to write a 50 000 word novel. That means about 1 660 words a day.

For me, this will be a monumental task to fulfill. Even though I have been writing a lot, at least for me it feels like a lot, I have never ever written anything like a novel. A short story maybe. The last short story I wrote was years ago. I can't guarantee that I will be successful this November, but I can guarantee that whatever I write will be utter garbage. I'm looking forward to it!



Boot Drive Failure

Robbert de Groot

2020-08-18 20:28 PDT

I was lucky. Last few weeks I have noticed some oddness with main machine where it would sometimes just hang when booting up. Funnily enough, Denise never saw the behaviour but it happened to me more than I liked. Thankfully I was already prepared for this eventuality with a backup SSD ready and waiting. The problem was that it actually didn't have a copy of the boot drive on it.

So I dug up my oldish Acronis backup which should have the necessary software to do a clone of a drive. Tried installing it and it complained that it can't install on Windows 10. Hrm... Time to look for other solutions. I had a CD for the Samsung drive that was failing, somewhere but that brought out another problem, my CD organization is a bit of a mess.

Time to look at what is out there. I figure there should be free tools out there already that should do this already, maybe even something from Microsoft themselves... Nope! Some tools say they have free options but to clone a drive and have that drive bootable is not part of the free option. Sigh.

Acronis is a developer I trust but their latest offerings are basically subscription-based. Pay a fee yearly. I really hate that considering I only ever need something like this once every 5 years or so. And I have never used a backup tool as people should. I have a QNAP NAS which I just basically clone all the hard drives on my main machine to and that's my back up. So in this case I just need a simple tool that does one thing.

I ended up going with MiniTool Partition Wizard. I can't say I like their trial software. They let you believe you are about to do something but at the last minute they hit you with a "Sorry, this is only available in the paid version." I get it but I feel they should be more upfront about it. Tell me earlier that I will not be able to complete the action in the trial version. However, I have to say, the tool was clear and simple and just worked. Unplugged the Samsung SSD and adjusted my bios to boot from the Intel SSD, which is also twice as large as the Samsung was, and Windows started up without complaining about being on a new drive or anything. Brilliant. I can't say other times when I had something similar was as painless as this.

So crisis averted. Now I need to get a new SSD just so I have an emergency backup like I had here and this time, keep it up to date unlike what I had done. I got lucky that the Samsung drive failed rather gracefully. SSDs are not known to do that. And thankfully I didn't leave it till too late before doing something. I have to say I did luck out. Played a little dangerously with this situation.



WE Scandal Exchange.

Robbert de Groot

2020-08-01 15:38 PDT

I have not kept up with the entire questioning but I really dislike how people just simply refuse to answer questions simply. I guess this goes for the questioner as well when they take a dogs age to just ask a simple question. At any rate, this exchange between Mr. Pierre Poilievre (PP) and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (PMJT) got to me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bGVNPw9R8o

The comments section is really pro CPC (Conservative Party for those of you outside of Canada, similar to the Republican party in political leaning for Americans.) They all seem to think PP did an excellent job in berating PMJT on his questioning but I had to take a step back...

PP is trying to establish there was a conflict of interest and so an ethics violation.

However, my understanding from this exchange, that both PMJT and PP both understand that conflict of interest would be restricted to direct family only (spouse and children, as defined by the rules and which was established near the end of the exchange when PP adjusts his question to be limited to just the PMJT's spouse) and not siblings and parents of the PMJT. So PP's questions asking about how much the PMJT's Mom or Brother enriched themselves from past dealings with WE (not current or future dealings) should be directed to the PMJT's Mom (unless the PMJT has the power of attorney which I do not think applies) or Brother (power of attorney, yadda, yadda) and so not really a question for PMJT to answer on their behalf (because he does not represent them legally) nor would it be material for the conflict of interest assertion that PP is trying to establish.

So the only option left is to ask about PMJT's spouse and children for which only his spouse really applies. Again, apparently according to the ethics commission, being reimbursed or having your expenses paid for when doing volunteer work on behalf of an organization is not considered being paid for or profiting from that work. So PP's question about how much those expenses were (no matter how extravagant they may have been) is immaterial to the conflict of interest assertion he is trying to establish and from the sounds of it, PMJT's spouse received $0 in pay for the work performed for WE. It would seem PP didn't contest that.

So... I fail to see if PP managed to show there was a conflict of interest at all with regards to the established ethics rules from this exchange. In the end he may have just cleared it up that there was no conflict of interest.



MacOS X High Sierra Pain

Robbert de Groot

2020-06-26 18:03 PDT

Well, I have tried. Any more time wasted on trying to get my MacMini 4,1 machine to work 'normally' under High Sierra will be time poorly used. As Apple states, "It just works", but I state, when it doesn't, flip the table.

Apparently I could upgrade to Catalina but then may authentic Machintosh becomes an semi-legit Hackintosh. And there is no guarantee Apple fixed anything for my little beast. So...

Currently trying to downgrade to El Capitein 10.11, and hopefully that will be reasonably spunky for the little machine.

If I want a newer version of the OS I will need a newer computer. And considering that Apple is now looking to go ARM for all its products I think I'll wait at least the second generation MacMini ARM before upgrading to that.

I hope the frustrations end soon. However I have my doubts because I will need to try and find software versions for El Capitein after this.



Adventures In OS Upgrading

Robbert de Groot

2020-06-21 17:07 PDT

Wow... Never really had problems with most computers but Apple Macs, My God! Ok I'm dealing with some rather old hardware to be fair, but still, I have some old Windows hardware and had fewer problems.

Pain 1, I have an old iBook G3 800 laptop. This is a pretty, white laptop that Apple made. I initially wanted to get it to run Mac OS System 9 on it because, 1, I never actually used the old OS before and wanted to play with it, and 2, I remember the computer could do it.

Booted up the system and noticed it was using OS X 10.4 (I think, that last version that handled Power PC chips?) and dug out my system CDs and looked to see how to get System 9 on it. Apparently, with this computer, you had to install OS X before you could install OS 9. The additional software CDs had the System 9 install files on it. Installed them. Reset the boot to system 9 and rebooted... And the machine got stuck at the happy Mac image and stayed there. Hmmm...

Googled a bit to see how I could get back to OS X and nothing worked. Sigh. I did find a post about having to do this operation using the original OS X that came with the laptop. Ok. Reinstalled OS X 10.2 on a cleaned hard drive. Installed the System 9 stuff again and reset the machine to boot into System 9. Again, happy mac image but nothing else. Hmmm... Ok looks like that idea is out the door. Time to put the machine back into OS X.

Reinstalled OS X 10.2 and then 10.3... I think I could have just jumped in with 10.3 but wasn't thinking clearly. I then realized my 10.4 disks were DVDs which the laptop couldn't handle without me digging in the closet for the Lacie DVD external drive. I didn't want to do that so the machine is stuck at 10.3.

So that was pain 1.

Pain 2, I have a MacMini (4,1) machine. It has been sitting neglected for long enough. I thought it would still be current but when I went to the App Store to see if I can move to Catalina (10.15), the App Store refused saying my machine is not supported by that version of the OS. I feel sad. So what is the highest version my machine can support? Apparently High Sierra (10.13). Great, App Store, High Sierra please! App Store: Nope! Huh? Google how to get High Sierra for may machine and find a page with an App Store Link and sure enough there it is in the App Store. Why didn't you give me that in the first place. Try to 'get' the download and... App Store: Nope! You need a more modern App Store to 'get' the software, which means I needed Mountain Lion (10.8) at least. Sigh. OK APP STORE! Can I please get Mountain Lion. App Store: Nope! Arg. Google, App Store Link, App store link requires I pay for Mountain Lion. Fine. $30 and wait for an email from Apple in a day's time.

Sheesh. A day later I get a link. Yay! Ok, App Store, 'get' Mountain Lion! App Store: Ok, but it seems you haven't agreed to Terms and Services in a while. You need to agree to that before we let you have the download. Ok, App Store, how do I agree to that? App Store:... Me: Hello? When it gives you that error, App Store is not helpful enough to present you with a dialog to agree to the terms of service so you can move on; and here I thought Apple was all about the use experience. My experience is starting to affect my calm.

Google search and apparently it will be in your Quick Links, account information. Ok. The main page of App Store DOES NOT HAVE the quick links section. The main page is 'Featured' stuff, but you have to go to 'Top Charts' to get to the quick links section. Oh this makes perfect sense, uh-huh. Click on account... and... App Store: I'm sorry, you need the updated version of App Store that comes with Mountain Lion in order to monkey around with your account settings... Are you messing with me now? This is insane. Chicken an egg problem.

Google to the rescue, apparently downloading a free app will also bring up that terms of service query... Which begs the question, why couldn't the App Store do that happen for an OS download. Ok, find the first free app in the featured section and 'get' it. App Store: Nope! You need OS X 10.14 at least to install this app... Oh crap. The realization that there are probably very few apps left that will work with 10.6. So it is a needle in a haystack problem to find an app that looks stupidly simple enough that it would still work on such an old system. Thankfully I found one. Some stupid postit note like application. Yay! Terms of Service Achievement Unlocked!

Ok, back to the business of upgrading. App Store get me Mountain Lion! App Store: Sure thing! Wait, seriously? No back talk! Oh thank God. Mountain Lion upgrade was smooth.

Ok, App Store 'get' me High Sierra. App Store: Sure thing. Install... At one point it was telling me it would take about 45 minutes. Ok, fine, leave it be and did something in the garden. Come back in about an hour and I see a screen with the Apple logo and a progress bar that was at about 80% mark and no other information. Ok, still working. Go back to the garden to do some more work. About 2 hours later check again, same screen no change. Hmmm... Leave it from some time more to see if it was still actually doing something and nope. Looked like it was stuck. Sigh. Hard boot, brought back the screen and still stuck. I'm really sad.

Ok, reinstall 10.6. Wait. Reinstall 10.8. Wait. Back in sort of business. Maybe the leap from 10.8 to 10.13 is just too much for the installer so I will try and tackle it more incrementally. Find the list of versions and tried to find those versions in App Store. App Store Mavericks please! App Store: Nope! And your never gonna get it either. Huh... Google some more. Apparently the next version after Mountain Lion that you can get is El Capitein. I guess Apple have their reasons. App Store El Capitein Please! App Store: Nope. God damnit! Just get me to the blasted link page you useless PO...! Google, El Capitein please! Google: Here's an Apple page with a link to a download file. This time I decided to get smart and store all these upgrade links onto a USB drive. I do not want to go through this nonsense again. I ended up downloading Sierra and High Sierra as well just so I can avoid the App Store. El Capitein and Sierra were full install downloads, I.E. 5-6 GB images while Mountain Lion and High Sierra seemed like internet installers. And nothing like file name consistency on Apple's part for these files. Oi!

At any rate... Install 10.11, and wait... Install 10.12, and wait... I may have been able to jump to 10.13 from 10.11 but I was at this point not trusting Apple. Install 10.13, and wait... I got nervous a little when I saw the same Apple logo and progress bar screen that I saw earlier in the failed High Sierra install but thankfully, no problems this time.

FINALLY! So my MacMini 4,1 is now on High Sierra. And it is absolutely... Turtle slow. But at least I'm am semi-current. Ok, now to get some software for the beast. App Store some software please! App Store: Nope! Most of the software I'm going to show you will require 10.14 or 10.15. Too bad for you I can't show you which ones will work on High Sierra. App Store! You are absolutely USELESS! App Store: I know.

Google, Xcode, apparently for High Sierra I need version 10.1 and there is an Apple Developer page with has all the old versions. But this brings up another issue. Safari is horrible. It failed to download the large Xcode package quickly. I ended up getting Chrome and it downloaded the package in half the time Safari did failing. Who the hell uses Safari. Even the tabs cut off part of the web page you are viewing. I can't believe anyone at apple thinks Safari is giving a great user experience. Even when I was using the iBook's version it was rubbish. I see it still is. I do notice that Google just downloads the xip file which is fast. Then you have to expand it using Archive Utility which is super slow. Looks like Safari was doing this at the same time so that you didn't have to do this after the download. So Safari may have been given blame where it may not have warranted it.

As of this moment I'm still 'expanding' the Xcode download. And wow, pkzip, 7zip, Winzip have never been so slow even on machines which have specs much weaker than this MacMini. What is it trying to do?

I wonder if I should even bother with my other MacMini (3,1) which is even older and less supported. Plus that machine has given me a lot of grief. I tried upgrading the HD to an SSD and it worked for a while. I even had it become my LINUX machine but at one point it ended up dead and could recover. I tried to reinstall OS X on the SSD but that didn't work for some reason. I ended up popping back in the original spinning disk hard drive and it started to work again. I think the DVD from on the machine is also misbehaving. I still have the cover off because a disk got stuck inside and there was no other way to get the disk out. Disassembling that machine is a nightmare.

I think for now I have had enough frustration. I'll try and use this MacMini 4,1 for my development until I reach my limit an consider a new MacMini or another Mac Laptop. I'm not entirely a fan of laptops though. I hate ALL laptop keyboards. No exception. Cursor keys are always useless and prone to error input with my fingers. The extra 'fn' (function) key to get at certain features of the keyboard. Insert, delete, page up, page down, home and end are all in different places. F keys are not always F keys. So much frustration with laptop keyboards I end up connecting a normal keyboard to the machine just to remove that frustration from my life. Track pads are another device I despise which I end up connecting a Logitech trackball mouse to solve. I'm glad OS X recognizes multi-button mice otherwise I would be all sorts of rage.



Zekaric.com has a pulse again.

Robbert de Groot

2020-01-12 14:40 PST

I have finally got Zekaric: Log Your Thoughts (LYT) blogging software to an initial release state. It took me a while. I am not a web developer by trade so quite a few annoying road blocks were found when getting this far.

The software is very minimal right now. No commenting just yet as I need to design that to take care of potential spammers and possibly user login using facebook, google, or anything else instead of writing my own login and user management system.

LYT code can be obtained from GITHUB, link is in the footer of the web site.

I am looking forward to adding posts and such now that I can again fairly simply. What I like most of all is that I have full control. WordPress and all those other web software is nice and all but I felt I was working with a black box and not actually knowing what I was doing. Having coded this myself. I know everything. But as you can see, it took a dog's age to get this far and for users, this site is rather anemic compared to other web sites. That will change, slowly.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

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