A while ago, I wrote about FocusWriter and what makes it virtually unique among similar “zenware-themed” writing software. Unfortunately, some of the theme repositories I’ve linked to in the post have since disappeared into the great 404 of the internet. Instead, I’ve decided to try my hand at making some of my own!
Here are some FocusWriter themes using the following creative commons licensed photos from Flickr:
- “golden gate bridge” by baxterclaus (Flickr)
- “A cycle ride past the snowfields” by wit (Flickr)
- “Clear Perception” by Sean Rogers1 (Flickr)
- “The One and Only East” by lrargerich (Flickr)
I’ll try to update this post as I find more pictures.
The other day I was bumming around on IRC, decidedly not doing any sort of writing at all, when I happened across a conversation between several Internet folk about nothing other than writing software! One of these fine IRC-persons mentioned that they found a program called WikidPad most useful in keeping their thoughts straight. WikidPad, in a similar fashion as my note-keeping program of choice, Zim Wiki, acts as a personal wiki for your thoughts. It has an advantage over actual server-side wiki software, such as MediaWiki, in that it is easy to set up and everything is kept locally on your computer. However, the main advantage of using a wiki – being able to create separate pages and link them together at will – is preserved.
Doubtful I would find a program to replace my beloved Zim, I decided to give it a whirl anyway. Unfortunately WikidPad isn’t the most straightforward of installs, which is why I’ve chosen to spend this post talking about the actual steps I took to get the program up and running.
For Windows users, WikidPad comes with a single binary installer that takes care of anything for you. But if you’ve so much as read the title of this fine blog, you know we’re not dealing with something so simple as that. No, we Linux users get treated to a lovely little zip file of python code!
The first thing to do, of course, is to grab the zip file from WikidPad’s home page and extract it somewhere. Be careful, though, as this is one of those zip files you’ll want to unzip into a separate folder, lest the source files scatter everywhere in your Downloads folder. (Alas, I speak from experience.)
Next you’ll need to download one of WikidPad’s dependencies – wxPython. Open up a terminal and type in the following:
sudo apt-get install python-wxversion
After that, you can start up WikidPad by using cd to navigate to the folder you extracted its files to and running the command
But let’s be honest, that’s pretty lame. We’re in Unity here with a fancy launcher and dashboard – we can do better than running a command every time we want to it up! So instead, open your favorite text editor and let’s make a really simple script called WikidPad.sh:
cd ~/Downloads/WikidPad python WikidPad.py
With the first line modified to reflect wherever you dumped the WikidPad files, of course. Once you save it, don’t forget to make the script executable:
chmod +x WikidPad.sh
Now let’s add this to the Unity dashboard. Search for a program called “Main Menu.”
If, for whatever reason, you don’t have it, you can also find it in the Ubuntu Software Center. Open it up, click “New Item,” and write the full path to your bash script under “Command”.
Press “OK,” and WikidPad will be available in the dashboard.
And now, having gotten this far, I might just see what the program’s actually like. Who knows!
I’ll be the first to admit that this blog hasn’t seen a lot of updates lately. You know, for the last year and a bit.
But the truth is I simply fell out of practice with writing, and by extension, writing on Linux. I haven’t been writing on anything, you see, which pretty much puts writing on Linux out of the question. For this blog to exist, writing, as it were, must be done somewhere, preferably with that somewhere being at least near Linux.
Recently, however, I took up the whole “writing” thing again, and figured, well, if I’m doing this, I may as well write on Linux. After all, I was halfway there as it was.
And so, just barely managing to stop myself from uttering the words “what could possibly go wrong?”, I stuck Ubuntu 11.10 (“Oneiric Ocelot”) on a USB stick, stuck the stick into an old HP Mini 2133, and stuck Ubuntu on the hard drive.
Surprisingly little went wrong. I was even impressed at how the Broadcom wireless drivers – once the bane of any Linux novice’s first transition to free software – were quietly downloaded before the installation had even begun. The install was quick, smooth, and most importantly, pretty.
With very little struggle I managed to get Ubuntu up and running and get this party, as it were, started. After juggling files and fonts for a bit I realized that everything was rather tiny on the netbook’s high-resolution screen. Switching to a lower resolution looked awful, so I decided to increase the font size instead.
This is a relatively simple task in most, if not all, popular operating systems. Even during my first experiences with Ubuntu, I didn’t have to search much to find the option. No, it was in a pretty obvious place – “Appearances,” I think it was? – and simple to modify.
So I found myself in quite the position of embarrassment when, despite Ubuntu’s (relatively) new fancy-pants dashboard with its impossibly-simple-to-use search bar, I couldn’t find the option. I smacked the side of my head a few times, hoping to jostle the past few years’ accumulated *nix knowledge into finding a solution. And indeed it did. I opened up a browser and asked Google what to do next.
The consensus on the Internet was that the reason I couldn’t find the option to do something so incredibly simple as changing the font size was because, in fact, there is no option in a vanilla Ubuntu 11.10 install. For a moment I felt a small degree of claustrophobia as I became aware of the user preferences shrinking all around me, threatening to close me in with their idiot-proofing lockdowns of obscenely simple options. But then I remembered that this was Linux I was dealing with, and Linux, no matter what the flavor, is anything if not free. And indeed, wherever the problem was recorded, a solution was offered:
sudo apt-get install gnome-tweak-tool
Trying not to think about how stupid this was, I focused instead on how impressively shiny Ubuntu had become while opening up a terminal to run the aforementioned command.
The terminal was more than happy to help me on my epic quest to make the fonts a bit bigger, but first it had to download 80MB of archives.
When it had finished packing my system full of who-knows-what, a new icon was available on the dashboard. It was labeled Advanced Settings. I guess wanting to change my font size makes me some kind of incredible power user.
I know this experience doesn’t have much to do with writing, but I’m seriously wondering if continuing this blog with Ubuntu & Unity is worth it. I’m beginning to get the same feeling I got during my brief time with OS X – that I, as a user, am a bumbling idiot unworthy of changing even the simplest settings on my own machine. I know this can probably be rectified by using a different window manager, but I also know that Ubuntu, as a community project, is responsible for whatever’s available on a vanilla install. Choosing to leave out basic system settings on a fresh install… worries me.
I’m not too concerned with my own computer – I know I can get it up and running again the way I want it, and get back to discussing writing software. But I am definitely concerned with the direction Ubuntu seems to be headed towards.
Hi I’m awkisopen and I’m a terrible person because I didn’t have my laptop yesterday to do a post. But I’ve got it today, and so today, I shall post!
This is a pretty simple tip, and it’s got more to do with the “inspiration/research” phase of writing than the “writing” phase of writing. I’m gonna show you the easy way to grab snippets from the web and save ’em for later.
“How useful!” I say to myself and reach for the bookmark bar. But wait! What if I’m offline when I want to refer to this handy-dandy post? A bookmark in such a situation would be useless – nay, masochistic! – providing only a mocking reminder to a page that cannot be referenced.
So I do this instead. I highlight the relevant text – the list itself – omitting the introduction and conclusion, beauitfully written as they may be:
Then I simply drag the text out of the browser and drop it onto my desktop.
Doing this produces a file, like so:
Which I helpfully rename to something more useful:
Now the list has been safely copied to my hard drive as plaintext, ready to be referenced at any time!
Bonus points if you stick it in your Dropbox, syncing it across every computer and/or operating system you use.
Writer’s Tools for OpenOffice is supposed to be a collection of useful tools for writers available in an easy-to-install extension, manifesting itself in-program as an extra menu. What it is is terrible.
To begin with, it doesn’t install properly. Many of the options are totally dependent on a specific database being linked to OpenOffice. Well, it doesn’t link for me. I tell OpenOffice where the database is, hit “OK”, and the database disappears again. Whether this is the fault of Writer’s Tools or OpenOffice, I don’t know. What I do know is that either way this issue should have been addressed as a disclaimer or warning or even as an FAQ somewhere, so users wouldn’t have to deal with this. At the very least an extension should install.
So I can’t talk about the entirety of Writer’s Tools, but I can tell you what I’ve been able to work with, and it isn’t encouraging me to fix this problem:
- Lookup Tool: gives too many options about where to look up the selected word – everything from Wikipedia to WordNet to a quotations book. It’d be more efficient to give me a Google page at this point.
- Google translate: requires me to manually input the path to the default browser. Inexcusable.
- Show on the map: ditto.
- Every single backup option: virtually useless; you have to back up manually, so really, it’s almost the same thing as hitting “Save As” twice. You’d be better off writing a script. (Double the WTF points are awarded to the “multi format backup”, which “saves the currently opened Writer document in the Word, RTF, and TXT formats”. Why would you ever…)
- Start/Stop timer: runs off popups, doesn’t keep a running timer anywhere, ugly, stupid.
- Shorten URL: actually works flawlessly. Bravo.
- Visual word count: requires you to manually input your goal every time you use it (which can only be a number of words, not, say, pages or lines or paragraphs or any other measurement) and only gives you a popup with a percentage and a progress bar. You can’t edit the document while the window is open. This would have been really neat as part of the status bar or as a toolbar, or at the very least, something that updated in real time. Instead it’s just shit.
Writer’s Tools reminds me of some of the basic Java programs I had to code in the first few classes I ever took of computer science. It’s convoluted, clunky, and overall useless (unless you want to shorten your URLs, that is).
As if this isn’t enough, the extension’s author actually charges $9.95 if you want to read the user manual. Let me make this perfectly clear: the extension’s author, who made an open source extension, charges you almost ten dollars to read the manual. The manual, by the by, is a physical book that is shipped to your home. Oh yeah, it’s also offered as an eBook for $5.95, but what he advertises incessantly (on the Google groups page, the extension page, even the goddamn menu itself) is a physical book.
So you’ve coded an extension on par with a CS student’s homework assignment, and then you have the bloody nerve to create an actual book about it that you expect people to pay real money for? People buy books about operating systems, office suites, programming languages… Dmitri Popov, do you really think your extension is at the same level as these?
Anyway, terrible extension, stay far away from it. If you can point me towards a more useful OOo extension, please do!
This time, anyway.
In the past few days I’ve bitten the bullet and installed Linux on my primary machine. Before I’d only been dipping my toe in Ubuntu (and its close friend, Linux Mint) by way of virtual machines. But now I’m positively swimming in it. Swimming, and only occasionally treading water.
Why was I so hesitant to install Ubuntu? My reasons are as follows:
- Too chicken.
- Pretty sure I’ve seen “triple-booting” listed as a symptom of madness.
But most importantly: 4. Last time I tried that, Ubuntu possessed my MacBook and transmuted it into something demonic.
The Ubuntu of yesteryear
The screen was squished, the mouse impossible to use, and the brightness totally unadjustable. The wireless card was a hopeless case, and the graphics drivers even more so. I think I remember the fans not working, either, though that might be the memory’s tendency to dramatize. It was, in short, a disaster, turning a once-tolerable laptop into a blindingly bright and blisteringly hot deathbox.
Since the incident, I’ve been far more cautious about what I install Ubuntu on. This may seem a strange idea to some people, especially those new to Linux. “What, you don’t install it on every machine you touch?” I hear you asking. No. It’s unstable, it’s dangerous, and above all it is ugly.
There, I said it. I like brown, but really – too much brown.
But then Ubuntu 10.04 happened.
The Ubuntu of today
Knowing full well what I was getting into (this is always a lie when it comes to computers) I had my MacBook hooked up to an external monitor, an external mouse, an external keyboard, and an external drive. If there were any chances being taken, they weren’t here.
And then it worked beautifully. That’s probably some kind of irony, but I was too busy wondering what the hell just happened to categorize it.
Out-of-the-box: Touchpad support, button support, graphics support. It took only the installation of one single other package to be able to adjust brightness. There aren’t any fan problems, the wireless card worked after plugging my MacBook directly into a router and downloading the drivers (System -> Administration -> Hardware Drivers). It is mind-blowing. (Oh, and it looks like a real operating system these days, so that’s always a plus.)
So what I’m saying here is this: if you have a MacBook of any kind and you’ve been afraid to Linux it up, don’t be. Find your MacBook model in this list and be amazed at what Ubuntu can do these days.
The Ubuntu of tomorrow
Okay, so this has been a terribly optimistic post – possibly because my head is still reeling at the amount of MacBook support that appeared seemingly out of thin air in the past year. But there’s still work to be done.
For one thing, the touchpad is… weird. Not much more weird than it is running Boot Camp for Windows, but still weird. It’s extremely sensitive, but if I use traditional mouse utilities to decrease the sensitivity even a little it detects only one tap out of five. And supposedly Ubuntu shuts off your trackpad whenever you’re typing, but this is only true if you’re typing without any breaks whatsoever, and I can’t find a way to customize the wait time between “touchpad off” and “touchpad o– hey, where’d that paragraph go?”
For another, the battery life sucks. I can’t figure it out. Especially since I can dim the screen in Ubuntu far more than I can in Windows. Go figure?
Still, it’s a comfortable experience with an external mouse and the touchpad shut off. And that’s good enough for me – I’ve moved from virtualizing Ubuntu in Windows to virtualizing Windows in Ubuntu. It’s not my OS of choice when I’m going mobile, but if I’m just sitting plugged in somewhere, hell yeah Ubuntu.
In summary, thanks Ubuntu for being awesome. Now I can get back to writing!