Category Archives: Computers

Coding A Novel

For the past week, I’ve been writing Kill Dash Nine in a text editor and saving my daily writing sessions by committing them to a code repository. This is pretty much what any programmer does on a daily basis. I’ve actually been coding a novel.

This is a short lesson learned post on how that is going for me. My initial issues seemed to be with what program to use to write my novel in text format. Text editors are serious business tools for programmers. Ask anyone who codes what editor they use and be prepared for some very opinionated answers. As someone who does a bit of coding for his job, I can tell you my favorite editor is Atom.

So it was with Atom that I started writing with this week. But code editors have to be modified to write prose. They don’t have standard features that word processors like Write and Word have for formatting and composing sentences instead of code. So I had to find the proper plugins and modify how the editor worked to suit my needs.

I was able to write in Atom without much difficulty, but I quickly realized that using the text format was not the ideal way to write a novel as a flat file. What I needed to be writing in was Markdown. Markdown or .md files are are a basically HTML files without all the crazy open and close tags. You simply put a # tag on your title to set it as an H1 font size. Once you learn these tags, you can write nicely formatted text that translates to HTML better than any .docx file and with none of the extraneous, proprietary junk that Word includes in every document.

This realization had me searching for a good Markdown editor that would work on Linux. I tried a few of them and settled on two – Caret and Remarkable. I could use either one, but for now, I’m using Caret now because I prefer how it looks.

The other program I’ve been using is GitKraken to commit my daily writing sessions to the GitHub repository. I use GitKraken at work every day and love it. So using it to store my writing is a natural fit. I commit my changes after every lunchtime writing session and this lets me comment on the changes I’ve made and lets me come back and see for every commit what scenes and chapters I wrote or modified. For stats junkies or anyone curious how a creative mind writes a story, those stats are very interesting.

Do I recommend every writer doing what I have done? No. Unless you are comfortable with using these tools and adapting your process to accommodate them. But if you’re a writer who also codes, you will be right at home doing things this way if you don’t already do so.

Caret Markdown editor.GitKraken Git client.

Android Ham Apps

My kids are studying for their Technician Class Ham license this summer. So I thought I’d upload a few fun Ham apps on the Droid. These are the ones I’ve found useful. Pop up your Market and enter these titles:

1. Ham Radio Study – Flash card like study tool with all the current test question pools. Great so far, but no diagrams.

2. Callsign DB – Lets you enter a call sign and find out who it is via the FCC records. Very useful.

3. RF Finder – Look up repeaters in your area or anywhere in the US. This is not a free app, but for only $4.99, it’s pretty useful. Now I don’t have to have that little repeater manual with me.

4. HamSatDroid – This app lets you see when any number of weather and Ham satellites are over head.

5. Call Log – A pretty basic logbook. This one has the call sign look up built-in.

Do you have a favorite Ham app that you use? Let me know in the comments.

The Social Network

I finally got around to watching The Social Network last night. As a geek who works in the tech industry, I have all kinds of opinions about Facebook and most of them are negative. I don’t like how they handle security and my general impression is that the company could care less about getting security right. My opinions on that have not changed since Facebook first opened to the world.

If you take into consideration that movies are art and even ones based on real life events are always going to be closer to art than the truth, the movie was fantastic art. If you for one moment believe that any of the events depicted in the film are true, you are sadly mistaken. It can’t be looked at like that. Movie scripts are constructed according to very precise formulas and real life does not follow the conventions of a script. You simply cannot take this film as anything other than a brilliant piece of art. As such, the film works very well as an engaging, modern drama about a brilliant man and his insecurities.

I loved the look and feel of the cinematography and the simplistic, yet powerful conventional film making style of the director. The screenplay was staccato and interesting and at times had me struggling to catch up. But I love films like that. It’s as if someone made a very intelligent film about a very intelligent protagonist. There are no gunfights and chase scenes, it’s all talking and character building.

Do I think this film is an important commentary on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook? No. I think it’s a great film that should be watched purely for entertainment. It’s rare that so intelligent a film is even made in this country anymore. But you can’t take what happens in this movie as anything other than fiction. Seriously. It’s a movie.

Google vs Apple

Who will win, Monopoly or Diversity? Just look at the PC vs Mac and then look at iPhone vs Android phones to see that eventually, Android tablets will outsell iPads.

Personally, I’m a Google Fanboy. I dislike Microsoft and Apple equally. Always have. Give me Linux or give me death. Free markets over controlled markets. Free Software over locked-down software. It’s a matter of freedom.

Ubuntu Annoyances

I have some things I’d like to bring to the attention of the Ubuntu developers. Some of these things are Gnome related and some of them are not.

1. When I have  a network drive shortcut, please don’t clutter my desktop with an icon. No other OS does this. It’s fine for jump drives and cameras and such, because those things are temporary.

2. Don’t forget my connection to the network drive when I reboot. I hate that. Not that I reboot that much but when I do and I have several network drives connected, reconnecting them is a bitch.

3. Give a higher priority to wireless network connection when laptops come out of sleep or when you first boot up. The Mac OS does this super fast, why can’t Ubuntu?

4. I have no idea what that red triangle with an exclamation mark inside it is. The message about repositories being out of date is unclear to a newbie. Make the message clearer or perhaps have a dialog box that walks them through deleting old repositories.

5. Make sure all pop-ups, and windows will fit on my puny netbook. Nothing gets my goat more than not being able to accept or deny something because I can’t see the damn option.

Unity

Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you know that Ubuntu has decided to steer away from Gnome Shell and go on their own for a desktop shell called Unity. I’m not going to debate whether that was a good decision. Progress marches on and all that.  I use Ubuntu and so I will have to adapt to Unity.

On first inspection though, I could not figure out Unity. Even after reading a tutorial I found online, I still find myself stumped about how to do some things. I believe that this confusion, more than anything is what Ubuntu needs to work on. Sure it’s buggy and needs further development, but what they need more than anything is a how-to web page with a video or something.

I’m using Unity on my netbook and my desktop. Even my son is using it on the desktop and he just told me he likes it. He’s seven. Kids, they learn much faster than adults. 😉

Ubuntu 10.10

I successfully updated two Linux boxes today to the latest Ubuntu release. An HP Mini 100 and an old Pentium 2 desktop home brew. Both computers handled the update wirelessly and flawlessly.

I’ve made no secret over the years that my preferred operating system is Linux. For the past five years now I’ve been a loyal Ubuntu user. I still get excited about each new release and I still wonder why more people are not using free software.

I don’t pay for over priced hardware and I don’t pay for using the best operating system in the world. In these hard times, some people are just smarter with their money than others, I guess.

Netbooks

I’ve been road testing an HP Mini 100 this past week. A friend of mine owns it and is looking to unload it. I’ve been using it to see if I could live with it. Sort of test driving it.

I like the fact that he has put Ubuntu latest full edition on it. I installed the netbook version of Ubuntu and I just didn’t care for it. As long as I can use the full version without noticing any slow down – witch I can, why would I want to submit to the funky netbook menus?

The keyboard is small and that takes a bit of time to get used to, but it’s not a show stopper. The biggest issue I have with it is the screen size. When I use it for an extended period of time and then get on a 13″ lappy, the lappy seems huge.I think in the end, I really have to have the bigger screen. Then again, for the price of half of a 15 inch lappy, is the size of the screen really that critical?

I think the size of a netbook is the biggest asset of one. It’s really no bigger than the paper notebook that I carry with me all the time. If I can ditch the paper and go digital, I would be a very happy writer person. I would be less likely to carry a 13″ laptop and an e-reader.