Shutting Down Cortana

I don’t like Cortana. Don’t want it. Didn’t ask for it. I find the entire thing not just a waste of resources on my already choked computer, but an invasion of my privacy.

If you want to turn the dang thing off though, ha. Microsoft took care of the “off” switch a long time ago. And now even the registry change isn’t quite enough. (see how to do that here but know what you are doing!) There is one way to turn her off but it has to be done after nearly every major update it seems. It’s a simple matter of renaming a folder.

You will see “Cortana” running as a process in the Task Manager. Right click on the little darling and select “open file location”. This will take you to the folder you need to rename.

Right click the name of the folder and select “Rename”. You want to simply add “.old” to the end of it. Change nothing else. Hit the Enter key. It will tell you the file is in use and do you want to try again. Leave this window alone.

Go back to the Task Manager. Maneuver it so that it is near the “try again” window.

Select the Cortana process and click the “end task”. Then quickly move the cursor over and click the “try again” button. If you were successful, you won’t see that window again. Cortana wants to live and she returns very quickly. If you see that window again, then just simply repeat the end task but be faster, grasshopper.

Next time you see that dang Cortana process running, you’ll have to do it again. This will make the 3rd time I’ve had to do it. I’ve turned it off in the registry so I don’t know what the program is doing. And that is what i don’t like.

Writing Apps

So what mobile apps do y’all use to do your writing? Even research? And by mobile I mean not laptop or netbook, but tablet or phone.

I use all Android on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone (soon to be upgraded) and my Samsung Note 10.1 tablet. When I do write away from home and it is not on the laptop, it is on the tablet. With the Note’s pen, I can either do it by hand or use a keyboard (bluetooth or onscreen). I went with the Android because, as a writer, I wanted the ability to easily get to my files and keep backups on a card vs being forced to use a cable or cloud the iWhatever is limited to. My Note has a 32gb card that holds all my WiP files as well as my music, ebooks, and bunches of other stuff. My phone has a 64gb card because it has ALL of the music and a ton of other useless stuff. I keep the tablet more “professional” (less games, for one).

If I like a program, I don’t hesitate to buy the pro or premium version. And if it is free, I like it, but the ads are annoying or I don’t like the permissions, I won’t use it.

The two I use the absolute most are OfficeSuite Pro and AndFTP Pro.

OfficeSuite Pro – word processing. Tracks changes that actually transfers to the desktop. Reads the .odt format (open document, which is what OpenOffice uses) but cannot save in it. It can, however, edit that document then save in .doc which OpenOffice can then handle. Which is why I love OpenOffice.

LectureNotes – I heart this muchly. You can import an image or pdf file then take notes on it or beside it. It is mostly for college students to use this way. You can also create your own drawings, notes, or whatever. There is a fully functioning trial version (has some limits, of course).

Write: Tablet Journal – well organized note taking or journaling kind of app. I use this for world building and idea growing when away from home. I can export them in .txt format when I get home. Easier to manipulate the text than a simple note program yet not overly complicated. The notes can be organized into folders. There is also a version for phones.

WordWeb – I use this on my desktop, too. Dictionary and thesaurus program that can also tap into Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Freakin’ way cool program. On the desktop, I use this a lot.

Aldiko Premium – eBook reader. Reads epub, pdf, and acsm formats. I upload the books (including L’s Nook books) to my tablet via Calibre, a free ebook organization program. I just now found a Calibre Companion app which, somehow through wifi, works with your phone/tablet and Calibre on your desktop to keep your books organized. It won’t read them, but it can help you tag them, mark them as read, etc. I haven’t tried it yet but I will soon!

SimpleMind – a mind mapping / brain storming program. I have it on the desktop, too. I prefer Novamind, however, but that program doesn’t have an app just yet so when I need it while away from home, I can explore the thought process with SimpleMind then transfer it when I get home.

Rory’s Story Cubes – excellent and fun way to get a little spark back into your creativity! Hard to explain so you’ll have to check them out. They existed in “hard format” first and I think I would prefer them that way.

BeyondPod – I was into podcasts for a while but then if I missed a day or week, I got behind and then it is hard to catch up and and and…so I don’t anymore. But I still have the app for if I ever want to get into it again. This was THE best app I tried (and I tried a lot of ’em) for finding the source, downloading, sorting, and then finding the download to listen to it.

And finally, AndFTP Pro and S3Anywhere Pro. AndFTP is an ftp app that lets me upload/download to/from my backup ftp site. I do regular backups and syncs (yes, I do both) from my desktop and when actively writing, I do daily syncs of the active project. That way, when away from home, I can access the most recent version from my tablet, even if I haven’t put it on there. S3Anywhere allows me to access the cloud service I use (I use DreamHost’s DreamObjects). I don’t often use it but in case something happens to the FTP version, I still have the cloud version. And ya never know! The two apps are made by the same company.

There’s a few more that I tap for reference but these are the faves. OfficeSuite and the ftp one are used the most. I’ve tried a LOT of different apps over the past, what, two years? I really liked Kingsoft, which became WPS Office but it couldn’t handle the odt format. Remembering to save in doc and to upload it was a pain in the arse. It had some other issues as well (clearing the “most recent” list had a tendency to delete the files themselves!) and I was pleased to find another app.

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!

Apps for Writers – Reviews

Today I finally got a new router and finally got the laptop to working through it. I said some words, banged my head several times, plugged, unplugged, replugged, reset, called my brother twice, said some more words…you get the idea.

So now the laptop is attached to the net via wireless. Cool. Once I was certain I had that down and everything was working, I then went to work on getting the iPod Touch to also be on the wireless network. This wasn’t as painful but there’s a lot of info out there (better than I could find for the router) on how to do it. As soon as it was connected, I got to work on figuring out how Quickword and DocsToGo can be synced with the laptop.

Quickword was so easy. I opted to “mount as a drive”. At the bottom of the opening page is a URL (http://192.168.1.103:4242). You then go to the Network section of your computer and make the Touch a part of the network using that URL. It is easy and I did it the first time. Once that was set up, it is a simple matter of dragging and dropping documents in and out of its network folder. The other way, and is even more simple, is to enter in that URL into your web browser. Quickword can only read .doc (and I think .txt) so I had to open and save a document from .odt (openoffice format) to .doc. Then drag the folder into the other and boom, there it was on the Touch. However, and you knew there had to be, the Quickword app has to be open before it will transfer.

And I found out why. That URL? That’s for Quickword only. DocsToGo has a different port it uses so the URL ending is different. So unless Quickword is open, the network won’t see it, just like if a computer on the network was turned off.

DocsToGo wasn’t quite as easy. First, I had to download another software for the desktop. Then I had to add the device. Then I had to enter a code into the device. DocsToGo has a URL, too, although I’m not sure what it is for. The other software is simple enough, although I can’t seem to get the document on the Touch to transfer to the computer. I’m trying again right now and the transfer, if that is what’s happening, is taking a very long time.

The third app I tried, and may have actually liked, is called Notebooks. But it has a major flaw, in my opinion, and that is in editing. Here’s an example. I write this sentence: “Sitting in the waiting room, doing nothing but wait, is a pianful experience.” With DocsToGo and Quickword, I can put the cursor directly in the middle of the misspelled word and correct it. With Notebooks, just like the built in Notes, you can’t select the middle of a word. I can only select the end of the word and hit backspace. Rather annoying. I kind of liked its ability to stack a “book” within “books”. Meaning I could have a “book” named WorldBuild and inside it have books called characters, geography, archery, etc. But that annoying edit bit will drive me nuts far too soon. And I’ve tried software like that before and grew to dislike the dozens or more folders with bits of the novel scattered throughout.

As much as it pains me, I will (probably) be using Quickword. The syncing of documents is the easiest and requires no additional software. Now that I can sync, I will be using it to do actual editing in the form of writing bits as it comes to me then pasting it into a document either on the computer or on the device.