Showing Off the Craft

I got this friend/acquaintance (seriously, I have several) who is this crafter/knitter/sew-er/creator kind of person. And a waitress who knows her stuff in that arena, too. I recently “friended” her on FB (wave at Sammi everyone). Most of her stuff on her page is all pics of her craft. Really cool stuff, really creative. Makes me uber jealous. Writers are crafters, too, but we really have no daily pics to show off. Sure, we have books as the final products but…you know, one every six years is just not enough.

So I thought I would share some of my work process.

This is the folder I have for To Dream.
– “Awakening” was its initial name but, obviously, I changed it. When I did the rewrite (Awakening is the raw-arse draft), I saved the original and started fresh, basically. I’m a document hoarder.
– “Beta” is what I sent to the Beta readers, bless their hearts. It also contains their responses in all its brutal honesty.
– “Edit chunks” is when I realized Google Drive had eaten a huge chunk of the manuscript. I was editing heavily, taking out what I had edited and putting it into a new document. I then had to go through both to figure out what pieces were missing. Yes, I saved these, too.
– “Images” are some drawings I did of maps and some houses I built in Sims3 so I had an idea of what their house looked like. Yeah, I am that freakin’ weird.

The rest are the actual current documents. The .doc files are the ones I put on my tablet. The program I use there only uses .doc format, dammit. There’s one that can use .odt but it is awkward as heck to use.
– The “~lock” ones are the currently open documents. It is how OpenOffice works in doing their autosaves and recoveries I think.
– “ack-ded” is the acknowledgements and dedication that goes into the front of the books. I keep track of this so I don’t leave anyone out. I have a short memory.
– “synopsis” is, duh, the synopsis.
– “cuts” is what I remove as I edit. I save those because sometimes there’s a word or phrase I can use later. I said I was a document hoarder, get over it.
– “edit” is, duh, the edit version.
– “wb” is the world build document
– “To Dream” is the final version before I started this edit.
– The .txt file is one that I brought over from the “To Sleep” folder. It contains some quotes about butterflies, mostly.

I use a variety of tools, just like Sammi. Although mine aren’t as colorful, dangit!
WordWeb Pro – way cool thesaurus, dictionary, reference. I have the paid version but the free one has a lot to it.
OpenOffice – a free word processing program that also has a spreadsheet (excel), database (access), presenter (powerpoint), a drawing something, and something to do math equations.
IrfanView – an image program that resizes and does other stuff. Simple and to the point, the way I like ’em
NovaMind 5 – it is called a “mindmapping” program. I call it a “brainstorming” program. Works either way.
SimpleMind – While NovaMind has a lot of bells and whistles, it doesn’t work with my tablet. SimpleMind does. So sometimes I use it instead.
Notepad 2 – a simple alternative for Windoze Notepad. Much better for those who do coding, too.
SyncBack Pro – After my disappointment with Google Drive, I needed some other way to keep everything together. My bro pointed me toward SyncBack Pro and I love it. Syncs, backups, both. Does both via FTP, too.
Dragon Premium – I recently got this again. I don’t expect my hands to completely fail but there are days where typing is impossible. And there are days where sitting is difficult. So I’d be stupid to not give it a go. The problem with Dragon is you cannot edit what you have not used it to write with so I can’t edit with it. I got the Premium because I can dictate into my phone and then load it into the program on the desktop later. My goal is to do one of the Butch Girl books completely with Dragon. One of the characters in BGCFA was Rain who had multiple disabilities including the loss of both legs. I plan on doing her book via Dragon as it feels appropriate to do so. I have two others to do first, probably three. That gives me plenty of time to learn Dragon before I jump on the Dragon Wagon. Heh.

On my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet, I use:
Kingsoft Office – good software.
LectureNotes – I am soooo freakin’ glad I found this. What a great program. And makes me glad I got the tablet with the pen! For real students, they have some other excellent software.
OpenDocument Reader – allows me to view (but not edit) .odt documents. But I can’t figure out how to point it to the external card
AndrOpen Office – OpenOffice for Android. Has nearly everything OpenOffice has which makes it clunky on the tablet. Not giving up on it yet though!
WordWeb – yep! Got it on my tablet, too! And my phone! And my iPod Touch! I really love this program.
SimpleMind – the Android version (which I don’t use as often since I found LectureNotes)

Oh, and one last thing. Want to know another reason why I prefer OpenOffice to Word? Go back up to that image. Look at the file sizes of To Dream Edit.odt and To Dream Edit.doc. See the difference? Totally unnecessary.

Software for Writers

I am making a big effort to get much more seriouser about being a writer.

First, I had to decide if this is indeed my “job” or was it a hobby, something to keep me sane(ish)? I decided that yes, writing is my job. A job that I love but a job nevertheless. I need to treat it as such.

Second, I had to look at my habits (most of them bad) and do some changes. I realized I needed to set a schedule of sorts. Not a day-to-day schedule, but a monthly and yearly one. Perhaps goals is a better word to use than schedule. Whatever.

Third, I had to look at the tools I use. Are they sufficient? Detrimental? Top notch?

Fourth, I have to get better organized. I have so many copies of drafts and rewrites and all that. I am a digital hoarder. I don’t need that many. Sure, they don’t take up much room but it’s a PITA when I need to find something or figure out which is the best version, the last version, the original, etcetera.

To accomplish these goals, I started by looking at the tools I use and trying some new ones. I briefly tried index cards. So many Big Name Authors use them that surely they were a useful tool. And I am sure they are. But for me, not so much. I don’t write by hand very well. Not only is it barely legible even to me, but I have a bad habit of gripping the pen so hard, my hand cramps before I have the first paragraph. Instead, I think I will carry a stack with me so I can do some thinking away from the desk. I have notebooks but sometimes the space needs to be bigger. Flipping over the page with a line saying “refer to x” isn’t as good as keeping it all on the same index card or even numbered index cards.

Years ago, I used a software for mind mapping / brain storming called Inspiration. I really enjoyed it and have done some cool brainstorming with it. I decided to look back into it and to also poke around to see what else is out there. Inspiration has come down in price ($40USD). I downloaded a trial version of it since I have no clue where my original disks are for the version I had. I also downloaded a trial of NovaMind 5 and another called FreeMind.

FreeMind is very simplistic yet complicated. There’s not much on the screen which keeps it uncluttered but then you have to poke around to find what you are looking for, which is not good. But it is free, which is great.

Inspiration hasn’t changed much, at least from what I remember. It is easy to use, very user friendly. This is because it is geared toward educational purposes, not business purposes. They have a slightly more grown-up version called Webspiration but I wasn’t impressed and I don’t need to collaborate with anyone. And what if I don’t have internet access? Inspiration is $40 for the boxed version and the download version. WebspirationPro is a monthly fee from $6 a month for one person, $15 per month for 5 months for mid-sized projects, and $39 a month for 12 months for larger projects. Not sure how the project size is determined. And the per month fee for the last two are per user, up to 99 users.

NovaMind frustrated the crap out of me. The only help I could find was via videos. I didn’t want to listen, I wanted to read, skim, and go right to what I was looking for vs analyzing the speaker’s Australian accent. I went to their forum to see if there were any written documentation. I found it and quickly figured out how to do what. Once I got the basics, I knew which one I wanted.

I bought NovaMind. It’s expensive. The “platinum” version is $150, the “pro” is $80, and the “express” is $40. I got the “pro” because it had almost all of the platinum and what platinum had, I don’t need.

I also am demo-ing Scrivener, a writing tool that lots of writers use. I really don’t like it. I am what they call an “organic” writer. I sit down and write. I don’t plan much ahead of time. Sometimes all I have is a title, other times a concept, other times just a “what if…”. So a software that helps me to organize ahead of time as well as as I go just is too much work. And learning it isn’t that easy. I just want to open a document and start typing. Figuring out where it should go is not what I want to do. Nor waste time doing.

Same problem with yWriter. Too many bits to keep track of. My brain just does not work that way.

What I have come down to is I will continue to use OpenOffice. I love it lots and lots. I will also use TimeSnapper, a time log/use whatever program. It will help me to track what I do during the day while sitting at the computer. It tracks whatever the active window is doing by taking screenshots and keeping track of time spent. It even gives percentages. I wrote about it a while back. Of course, I still have WordWeb (excellent program!).

I will spend this weekend getting them all to meld together with me in the middle. On Monday I will start my new job. My basic goal is to have at least 50% of the day (sitting here at the computer) working on writing. Anything over that is a bonus.

Below are links to the programs I mentioned.

Linkages:
Mind mapping software:

Word Processing / Writing software

Misc:

    TimeSnapper – $25
    WordWeb – $19 for single user, $59 for “language” pack. Also has additional dictionaries available individually or as a “bundle” for $99 (this is the best deal).
    F.lux – screen dimming software, easier on the eyes – free
    Lexia font by K-type – love this!

File Sharing Software

My brother was here visiting back in early August. One day we were talking about computers and the like and I mentioned the difficulties I’d been having with network file sharing. I used to use a decent program called Network Magic by Cisco/Linksys. It allowed file sharing, maintained the network, and did it well. Except it was flaky at times and then they stopped supporting it with no warning at all. It did great in keeping intruders out of the network but the file sharing was non-functional. When I got the laptop just prior to the GCLS con, I tried one more time to get it to work but gave up. I had been using MS Win 7 “homegroup” thing but it would, at seemingly random moments, kick everyone off the homegroup and I’d have to start over again. Plus the “share this folder” didn’t always share everything in it. And the homegroup only worked when you were, you know, home.

He said he uses a free program called Ammyy and some other program I have since forgotten the name of. VNS? VNDS? Something like that. That one he had used for a while but it was not reliable. He had just recently started using Ammyy and loved it. While on field trips, he can access files on any of the work computers that have it. Or grab a file on a computer in another part of the building without having to go to it and move it via a memory key. As long as the computer you are using and the remote computer have internet access, it connects. The only problem he has had (and I do as well) is it keeps forgetting the “contact book”. You can export the .bin file then just import it back when it has a brain fart.

No software is actually installed. There’s the initial file to download but it doesn’t install, it just runs the .exe file. Open it, run it, and it finds your IP and gives you an access code unique to that computer. You then go to Computer #2, do the same thing. Once it is “installed” and running on both computers, you access them via the unique code. He said it was a pain at first because you need both computers in the same room/building or someone at the one you aren’t. The program needs permission on the remote computer at the time of contact.

Then….done. You can view the entire computer. Open files, transfer files, run programs, everything. The only that that does not show up is the background image. No matter what the setting is, it changes the remote computer to the Windows 7 Basic color scheme. As soon as you disconnect, it goes back to whatever you had it on before.

I installed it that night on all 3 computers. Worked like a charm. (except when I got the codes mixed up and opened a connection to the computer I was on. It opened the window then had the image in the image in the image….cascade effect. Like a mirror aimed at a mirror.) The next day, I went to their cabin and could access my desktop (via the Internet) at home. Cool. I moved files, opened files, even played a game. If you click the X on the connect box, it closes it completely. If you click the minimize, it goes to the tray. It will not wake one up (like laptops that go to sleep) but it will work if the remote computer is in screen saver mode. The program has to be running on both computers before it will work. Since it isn’t installed, you have to open it again if you turn off the computer. For this desktop, that’s not a problem since I rarely turn the poor thing off.

One problem I’ve had (besides the contact book issue) is it is very sluggish. Even opening an OpenOffice file, it was moving slow. I don’t think I could actively work on a document that is on another computer because it would drive me nuts after just a few minutes. And I doubt you could play a graphic intense game (like WoW).

You have to be careful which keys you use, though. The Ctrl and the Alt keys on your keyboard won’t always work on the remote computer. There’s icons at the top to use instead.

You can’t drag and drop a file from one computer to the other. You have to use the ‘File Manager’ which works a lot like a FTP program. Easy to do.

I’ve used it a lot since I installed it. If I leave the house and know I’ll have the chance to work, I copy the latest files from the desktop to the laptop and off I go. Then, when I get home, I copy them back. You can sort the File Manager by date which makes it quick to compare time stamps. It also helps me in keeping backups of files on both computers. If I need another file that I didn’t update, and if I am somewhere that has Internet access, I can get them. Way. Cool.

http://www.ammyy.com/en/

Contact book

File manager

Main screen options

New Software Trial

I’m trying out a new (to me) software called F.lux. What it does is adjust the output of your monitor depending on the time of day. Daylight it has the full “sunlight” and night time has a “warm” tone. I tried to take screenshots but since it is the monitor, it doesn’t show up.

It is an odd program and it took me a while to figure it out. When it installs, it goes to the task menu section and is already on. You right click the icon in the tray and access the options from there. Clicking the program name in the start menu does nothing. I almost uninstalled it, thinking I had screwed it up.

Accessing the menu:

The Change Location allows you to put in your zip code, city, or GPS coords. and it will know your sunrise/sunset times.

The Change Lighting is the fun part. But it is also where I got lost again.

See the greyish dots at the daytime and nighttime? Those slide to change the settings. When you first look at it, that area is kinda further greyed out and it gave me the impression it was unavailable or already set.

The next fun part is the Preview.

You select it and it it will do a speedy time lapse and your monitor will change as the “sun” goes along the line.

There’s also the disable option like if you are doing photos at night or whatever.

Like I said, screenshots won’t work and I tried to take a photo and it really didn’t show up then, either. My screen is kinda beige-ish to orange-ish. When I click the ‘disable’ option, it slowly fades back to regular then, when I uncheck it, it slowly fades to the nighttime. It will take some getting used to. I am interested in how it does with eye strain.

One potential issue is with games. I was playing a full screen game when it dimmed. I thought we’d had a power surge or something until I remembered the software. It was sundown! Some games will be too dark and I’ll have to exit F.lux then remember to turn it back on.

I do like how it softens the white screen of OpenOffice. I used to have a ‘migraine’ color schemed I’d set up for myself but no longer use it. I think this will be better maybe.

The software is free and my download was bug free. For now, I have the firewall set to ask me whenever F.lux wants to access the internet. Their F.A.Q. page has some good information, including how to use it (duh, should’ve looked there first).

I’ll use it for a week or so then let y’all know how it goes. If any of you try it, let ME know!

Fonts

I have migraines that are mostly related to neck position. As in if I move it, I get a headache. Fun and joy all around. Some of the things I do to lessen the pain is I have my monitor’s brightness turned down, I have background colors in the word processor (although not at the moment), and something new I kinda like.

It is a new font. It is called Lexia and was developed to assist those with dyslexia. I find it real easy on my old, tired eyes and I find it especially nice when a headache is on.

screenshot of Lexia font. click for larger version

It is considered an alternative to Comic Sans.

screenshot of comic sans font

Personally, I find Comic Sans kinda hard to read and tend to make it larger (the above examples are both in 12pt). Before Lexia, I used Verdana which is a bigger font anyway.

Lexia is free and doing a Google search, I found it in a lot of places. But font sites tend to be malware sites so, as always, check it before opening. I got it from K-Type which is where several dyslexia sites suggested.

As long as I am just writing, I’ll use the Lexia. But when I am in the final edits, I’ll have to switch to whatever the publisher prefers, that way I see the layout correctly. Never ever submit anything in a bizarre font. Always always read their guidelines to see what they prefer. Some like Courier, others like Times New Roman.

Keyboard Revisited

So I’ve had this keyboard for a while now, the Kinesis Freestyle (I wrote about it a while back). I’ve almost gotten used to it and can now give a decent review of it.

For one, the keys being separated is weird. It truly feels as if each hand is doing its own thing. I mean, they’re doing the same thing if they’d been on a single keyboard piece but for some reason, it feels really weird. It took longer to get used to than I thought. I have slowly been putting them further apart, trying to find that placement as well, but the further I go, the more I have to relocate my hands on the keys. Weird.

Instead of resting on the keyboard like usual, my hands kinda float over them. I really really hate the placement of the backspace and delete key. I’ve slowly gotten used to the backspace location but I have to stop and look to find the delete key. The home and end buttons are odd too but I don’t use them that much. I do miss having a keypad. I’d just started to enjoy it now that I am using a desktop and now it is more like using a laptop again. Sigh. I am a touch typist and have realized, with this keyboard, that I am having to relocate my hands to the proper place. I have gotten into the habit of twitching my index fingers to make sure they are on the F and J keys (the ones with the bumps) whenever I stop to think or first start typing. It is almost like learning to touch type all over again. I am constantly hitting the / key when I want the . one. Which is probably why I know the backspace key location so well!

I’ve also been surprised at the horizontal angle my hands feel the most comfortable with. The left is not much different than before, straight on. A little turn (top toward the right) but not by much. The right one, though, wow, what a tilt. The top is really angled toward the left. That shoulder is my loosest and tends to splay outward so that is probably why. But it is strange to see it revealed this way. The right one is also more forward and the left is closer to my body.

I’ve tried the different ‘tenting’ angles. I don’t like the full one so far but I’ve not used it that much. I switch between the lowest and the mid one. (can’t recall the actual degrees). The left hand likes the midrange tilt. The highest one makes the hand hot faster. And that’s the other thing. My left hand gets very warm the more I type. No clue why. I need to ask my PT friend if she knows. The right one may eventually like the highest tilt but, like I said, I’ve not used it much. I am finally starting to type more lately and will do another review later.

In some ways, the keyboard seems solidly made. But in other ways, it feels cheap. Could just be the keys themselves and how they react to pressure.

I keep the mouse between the two pieces. It fits nicely, even when the pieces are fairly close together.

Overall, I like the keyboard. I like that my hand placement can be nearly anywhere, depending on how I am feeling and how I am using it. Ergonomic? Yes, definitely. Worth the money? Yes, definitely again. Recommend it to others? Only if you touch type. If you use the ‘hunt and peck’ method, you will hate hate hate this keyboard. But then, if you hunt/peck, you don’t need it.

New Toy – Keyboard At Last

Several years ago (2005) I wrote an article on alternative keyboards. In that article, I briefly talk about a lot of different keyboards and the various options available. I also say that I will get the Kinesis Evolution with the desk mount option. Sadly, that particular keyboard was discontinued a short time later. However, Kinesis has several other very ergodynamic keyboards now.

First there’s the tried and true Contoured. Very similar to the Maltron ($825), the Countoured ($399) keyboards are very popular. But without being able to try one, I wasn’t willing to spend that amount of money.

I revisited the Kinesis website and was pleased to see that their Freestyle and Maxim were still being produced. I wandered over to The Human Solution website and did some more research. I was stuck between the Freestyle (true split keyboard) vs the Maxim/Goldtouch (split but attached to a base). I found an article about just that sort of decision and, based on that and in discussions with Elena, I decided to buy the Freestyle with the V3 riser thingy and the 20″ extension.

And it came today!

I have the riser thing on and I’m not quite sure if I like it. I didn’t go with the other kit, the VIP, because I knew that plastic on my wrists was going to kill me this summer. I have it on the 2nd setting (10 deg). My right shoulder is pitching a fit lately so I’m not sure which is to blame for the uncomfortable-ness. It will take a while to get used to it. I am a touch typist which helps I’m sure! Hunt/peck method with the keyboard split apart would be a major pain in the ass.

I just switched to the highest incline (15 degrees) and while my left arm is still quite comfortable, my right is not. I am fairly certain it is the shoulder and not the keyboard.

Anyway, there’s a few different things (besides the fact it is in 2 pcs on purpose?) about this keyboard.

It has some built-in macros. For example, it has cut, paste, and copy buttons on the left side. But I’ve used the right click and the Ctrl C/V/X for so long, I doubt I will easily switch to a button format.

It doesn’t have a keypad. It has a function key to access a keypad like setup (just like most laptops). Twice now I have hit that Fn key instead of the Ctrl key. Kinesis sells a “low force” keypad. But the price ($54) is outrageous compared to the $19.99 one I can pick up at BestBuy.

The Delete key (a writer’s most used key, second only to the Backspace) is oddly located. It is way up on the top row, well out of easy reach. That’s going to take some getting used to. On the left, with the copy and paste bound keys, is another Delete key. The Escape key is way up there as well but everyone is used to that.

I’ll use it for a few days then let y’all know what I think. And let me know if you want more or different photos of it.

(click image for larger version)