I was going to write another article of mindmapping resources but meh, too much work. But here’s the short of it:

I’ve demoed a LOT of mindmap programs and some are super simple to the point of being painful and others are super shiny to the point of being ghastly expensive. I’ll put linkages at the bottom of this. Currently, I have a subscription for Novamind (which I will cancel) and I have a paid version of SimpleMind (which I will keep). But what I am falling in love with and wish I could justify the cost of is TheBrain. So very, very shiny.

I’ve cleaned up my Writing Brain and will share the link to it. The software syncs between the desktop, the app, and the web version. You can mark the entire brain as ‘private’ which means no one but you and whoever you choose has access to it. You can mark the entire brain as ‘public’ which means anyone with the URL can access it. And you can mark certain parts of the brain as private and other parts public. Which is what I have done with my Writing Brain.

The biggest drawback to the software, other than the price, is the help options. They only have videos for the latest version. There is a forum you can go to for assistance. And they are super duper fast to answer questions via email. But I’d really like a manual of some sort so I can play with it on my own. Like, there’s some cool shortcuts and “cheats” that you only find out about from others on the forum or if you glean it from a video. (NovaMind’s help is even worse)

I wish SimpleMind (SM) and NovaMind (NM) would merge into one software, though. Like, SM is complicated to use, sorta. And so is NM. But NM has a better set of map styles. NM lets you move a topic and all its “child topics” move with it. But while you can move them around, there is no preset layout to choose from. Sometimes I want it to go from top-down and other times to the side. All of which SM does. See? Merge them.

TheBrain (TB) is limited in layouts. You can choose normal (default), mindmap, or outline. But it makes up for it with a lot of customization of the background, color, and font. The biggest difference between TB and the others is whatever is in focus, whatever topic (they call them ‘thoughts’) is active, it is front and center. Even if you expand it out to a mindmap layout. You can do a lot with it from attach files both internal (the file is saved to the cloud, too, so is accessible from anywhere) or just a local link (only the source where the file is can the file be accessed). You can make tags and type then sort by those. You can link various topics/thoughts together all throughout the brain. For example, I have a huge fantasy project called Castenea Chronicles. The books within the series share a lot of the same research. Normally, I have a single worldbuild file for each project, even within a series. If there are similarities, I copy/paste. Which means if I add one to one, I gotta remember to add it to the other. I have started to have one main worldbuild file if it seems as though it is needed just because I got tired of referencing. But with TheBrain, I can link research from one project to another project and access that material (URLs, files, notes) from either project.

I’m have a ton of fun with this. But I don’t think I can justify the cost for several months. The free version is limited but usable.

So here are the linkages. Let me know if you use mindmapping and what software you use.

NovaMind – subscription based ($6 month); some links inside software are broken after their move to subscription; their website has limited help (as in none); Windows and Mac; no iOS or Android apps
SimpleMind – free, limited version and paid (fee is in Euros – 24.99eu for single); lots of help inside software and online; Windows, Mac, iOS, Android
FreeMind – opensource, free; donations; help in software and in a wiki; Java based; Windows, Mac, Linux
Freeplane – opensource, free, donations; help in software and in a wiki; Java based; Windows, Mac, Linux
XMind and XMind Zen (some company, slightly different UI); fee but free trial (Xmind, $129, Zen, $9.99 to 29.99); good help; great website; Windows, Mac, Linux
TheBrain – fee with free time trial then free with limits ($219, $299, $180); meh help (video based only); Windows, Mac, iOS, Android

Mindmapping – source of information and reviews
Wikipedia – Mind Map

My Writing Brain – https://bra.in/9pWZYv
If parts are empty, it is because either nothing is there yet or I have it locked. You can access almost all of Elements I believe. If you find yourself with a topic/thought with no upward link, you’ve gotten trapped (mwahaha). Just click on one of the “pins” at the top of the screen.

Writing Software and Stuff

If you read the previous post, you’ll know I just switched from OpenOffice to LibreOffice. Still loving it! And I was reminded I’d not done a “software I use” post in a while. So here goes.

– a built computer running Win 10. It is dying so I’m in the process of saving up for a replacement. Hopefully it will survive until then!
– a 17″ HP laptop. I use this when I travel or go out to write. It is running Win 10 as well.
– I don’t have a tablet anymore since Lorna broke my Note 10.1. I had been trying to accidentally kill it so I can get a new one. Should have saved myself time by just letting L use it! It won’t charge anymore. The tablet I would love to replace it with costs almost as much as the PC I want to build, though, so yeah, I’ll wait.
– keyboard is a Kinesis Freestyle Blue. It is a true split keyboard. I used a Kinesis Freestyle for a long time and love it. Then the N key stopped working. Sigh. This one is a Bluetooth which I like since it is one less cord. Plus I can easily toss it in the bag and go. It can connect to 3 devices (one at a time of course) so I have it hooked to my PC, laptop, and did it have it with the tablet but I may have re-worked it to be on the phone.
Logitech M570 trackball. You can get it from BestBuy for half the cost on the Logitech site, though. They have a new trackball out I’m interested in if this one dies. Trackballs are hard to find and Logitech and Kensington are the only two still making them. And the Kensington one is stupid.
Samsung Note 8 phone. I like using a stylus and I like a big screen. Sure I can get a rubber tipped stylus anywhere but where do I keep it? I’m not happy that the battery is not removable.

Ergonomics is a top priority with me which is why I am so picky about what sits on my desk or goes in my bag. Yeah, I have to pay more but it is worth it.

LibreOffice is my word processing as well as spreadsheet software. Love. It. (opensource/free/donations/community driven)
SyncBack Pro – I use it to sync/backup/mirror stuff from my PC to my DreamObjects cloud service, my laptop, L’s desktop, and a memory key. There is a free version. I’ve used this for, wow, a long time. They have an app to sync with a phone: SyncBack Touch. I like using it to keep my WiP folder updated to my Note 8. (free/paid)
CyberDuck – this is what I use to access DreamObjects cloud. I tried their MountainDuck but since it is dependent on the speed of your computer and uses Windows’ file system thing, it was too slow for me. Maybe with the next PC! (opensource/free/donate)
FileZilla – this is what I use as an FTP client. And another software I’ve used forever. I was trying out MountainDuck because it can do both cloud services and FTP. Actually, CyberDuck can do FTP, too, but I like the UI of FileZilla more. Anyway, using Filezilla, I can upload to a folder on my website where it is easily accessible. (opensource/free/community driven)
Clementine – okay, so this one isn’t really writing related. But I use it a lot as I write. It is a music player so I can use my headset vs playing over my phone. This keeps me “in the zone”. It can also stream music from various services but I don’t use any. It has an app (Android only) I can use to skip songs or change the playlist accessing it on my screen. (opensource/free/community drive)
WordWeb – Good golly, I love this program! Thesaurus, dictionary, resources all rolled into one. Love. It. Free version available. (free/paid)
TeamViewer – I used to use Ammyy to do remote access of my PC or laptop but it seems to be lacking in support and updating. So I made the switch to TeamViewer. It is free for personal use. It uses passwords although you can set it so X computer can always connect to the Y one. I used it a lot while I was up Nawth so I could access files and download email on my desktop. I really like it. (free/paid)
Fl.ux – This is a program I forget I am using. Until I turn it off. Wow, what a difference! It changes the color of the screen slightly to adjust to the time of day. It is great for my eyes at night since I am such a night owl. It has app versions but for Android, it requires root. (free/donations)
SimpleMind Pro – I am not using this as much as I used to. It is a mind mapping / brain storming software. I like it a lot though and when I use it, I ask “Why don’t I do this more???”

I reckon that’s all for the PC. I use a lot more programs, of course, but I am just listing those for writing or while writing. As you can tell, I am a fan of opensource. I donate a LOT to those I like and participate if/when I can.

Here’s some other, non-writing related programs I recommend:
Everything – search software (free/donate)
VLC – video player (free/donate)
Calibre – ebook organizer and upload-to-devices-er (free/donations)
Irfanview – image software (love this!) (free/donate)

Okay, enough of that. What do I use on my phone for writing? I have found I don’t like editing on my phone or tablet so most of it is for reference or reading over a draft or whatever. The phone is useless for actual writing. I use it for note taking while away from my desk. I did use the tablet for writing, though.

Android Apps:
(not going to provide links since it all goes to the Play Store anyway. Look ’em up yerse’f)
WordWeb – same as above
Squid – I’ve used a lot of stylus handwriting note taking apps over the years. And I love Squid. Love the name, too! The main thing is I can set it to where it ignores finger touching except for dragging down the page (two fingers I think). You can organize into notebooks, have multiple pages or just one looooong page.
OfficeSuite – this views pdf, doc, and txt files. Meh, it’s okay.
LibreOffice Viewer – just started using this so not sure about it yet. It is a better viewer than it is editor but it does have that capability.
AndrOpenOffice – bleh. It tries to emulate the PC screen of OpenOffice onto a phone or tablet. It twitches a lot.
Chambers Dictionary and Thesaurus – expensive, huge, but worth it.
Keep – I use this for easy to get to notes that I want to type. Or make real fast.
SimpleMind – app version of SimpleMind PC
SyncBack Touch – see SyncBack Pro above
AirDroid – meh, it’s okay. If I used it for what it was really for, I’d be constantly distracted. It is a cool app, though. I use it to transfer files semi-clickly. Just one or two files like images or whatever.

I reckon that’s it. No apologies to Mac or iOS users for having nothin’ for you. (grin)

OpenOffice vs LibreOffice

Long time no post! Life has been…intense.

Anyway, I was doing something with OpenOffice, wanted to see if an extension would help, but the extension page wouldn’t load. And other information pages were showing years old stuff. Then I remembered someone on Facebook had said something about it being bought out or something. So I went investigating. And about cried. Apache OpenOffice was officially discontinued in 2011.

OpenOffice has gone by a lot of names and transitions. It’s a good example of open source, licensing, proprietary, forking, and business politics. Kinda like a geek soap opera. Well, here, check out this image.

At any rate, OpenOffice is, essentially, dead. Which is sad, because it had a HUGE amount of users. Huge. And was beginning to make MS Office sweat.

Which brings me to a replacement for those of us who hate MS Office (the bulk, the embedding, the cost, the crap, the seemingly constant file extension changes, and more!) and those of us who are uncomfortable using OpenOffice with no security updates forthcoming. Enter LibreOffice (LO). LO has its own history (see the link to the image above) and could be (and should be) considered a better version of OpenOffice. LO is maintained by The Document Foundation (TDF) and is flourishing. Most of its programmers (and others) are from when Oracle donated OO to Apache Software. They didn’t like the direction it was going and left, got the source code (it’s all about the licensing when it comes to alleged open source), and made their own playground. Basically. Which means if you switch from OO to LO, there’s not going to be much of a learning curve since they are essentially the same. There’s subtle differences.

I’ve been using LO for a while now (few weeks I guess) and am liking it. First off, I like the landing page. Because of it, I was able to remove a line of shortcuts from my desktop. I kept a shortcut for each manuscript I was actively working on so I could choose whichever one I felt like working on that day. But I can now open LO and see a pictorial representation of my recent documents. I can clear the list or just remove individual ones by clicking an X.

Second, I didn’t like the standard icon set that appeared on LibreOffice. The standard OpenOffice icons are cleaner. I had to dig around and find the themes (something I never used in OO). I am a creature of habit and didn’t like pausing so long to figure out where the italic icon was. Ya know? (in image below, my OO toolbar, the default LO, and the one I chose)

I never used the QuickStarter for OpenOffice because I’ve never had enough PC memory to handle it. LibreOffice takes a little longer to load a document but not so much I worry it has hung itself. I turned the QuickStarter on for both and checked the memory use. LibreOffice uses a lot more memory, even without the QuickStarter running. BUT, I also have more of it installed, as you can tell by the fourth image below.

Both programs open with similar sized documents (odt format).

Both programs with just the QuickStarter going.

Both programs with similar sized documents and the QuickStarter going.

Options under the QuickStarter of both

There aren’t as many extensions for LibreOffice. But the good thing is it doesn’t need them. For example, in OpenOffice I had to put in a footer with the word count field, go to Tools>Word Count, or use an extension. LibreOffice has this standard AND shows the character count. And I heart it muchly. It’s the little things that make or break a relationship. I’m still exploring the extensions and will do another post about them later.

Things are hard to find on the LibreOffice website. Like, when I first starting using it, I tried to use the Help. It wasn’t there and it sent me online, telling me I needed to download it. But it didn’t tell me where it was. And I couldn’t find it. I finally got frustrated with that and just started digging (it is kinda hidden in the box where you download it and is called “offline help”). It is a hard to navigate site. The Document Foundation (LO’s handler) does not offer support. You have to either pay for it or go to the extremely simplistic “forum”.

I had an issue in the beginning that I had to go to the forum for help. I couldn’t use custom dictionaries. But I came up with the answer myself.

There’s two things about LO that has me very happy. When you save a file, it saves a backup. I could never get OpenOffice to do it. Yes, that’s double the data but I can clean that folder out every once in a while, getting rid of saves I don’t need. The other thing it does is save to or open from a remote server. Meaning FTP/SSH, WebDAV, Windows Share, Google Drive, and/or a CMIS server. I love that. I can do a quick upload to my ftp site and access it from my phone or laptop. Now, if only it could save to other cloud services, too.

LibreOffice backup

Remote File capabilities

If you are using OpenOffice, consider switching to LibreOffice. If you are using MS Office, consider switching to LibreOffice.

StarOffice Wikipedia article
OpenOffice Wikipedia article
LibreOffice Wikipedia article
The Document Foundation Wikipedia article
Ask.LibreOffice (the help forum)

How to Get Your Nook Books

We don’t do Kindle. Never have. Never will. Instead we get epub formats since they are quite universal. Nearly any ereader can view them with little to no converting. Which is why I dislike Kindle. And why I disliked Lorna’s Nook. When Barnes and Noble (B&N) dropped the Nook, we kept it alive for as long as possible. I even spent big bucks on chargers and cords since both were proprietary. Then it started dying and I couldn’t fix it. I got her a tablet, used Calibre to upload all her books, and she was happy. Then B&N got rid of the “download” button on their website. The only way to get your books was through a Nook or a Nook app.

I by-passed that by using Nook Study. It was designed for students to download textbooks and for years, it has worked. She bought her books, I used it to download them, then used Calibre to upload them to her tablet. Done.

Except today when she bought a book, Nook Study wouldn’t work. It tried to download and said they were “experiencing errors, try later” or something like that. Right. I knew the Nook Study was on the way out anyway because I tried to install it on her computer last year and it wouldn’t. They’d discovered the loop hole. And now they have tightened the noose.


Lorna got the Nook app on her Android tablet and it automatically downloaded the book. It also downloaded a book I had bought several months ago that was not on her tablet. I went to the “Library” and long pressed her new book (when in doubt on an Android device, long press). Ta freakin’ da. It let me move it to the SD card. I located it on the SD card and “shared” it via email to my desktop. I then put it through Calibre (which removes the DRM) and uploaded it to her tablet. Now she can read it in the app of HER choice, not theirs.

Take that, B&N idiots.

In the Nook app, go to the Library.
Long press the book’s cover. Select “Move to SD card”

A: use the My Files and go to the SD Card, then Android, then Data.

1: Scroll down to find com.nook.app.
2: Open Files then Download.
3: Long press the book you want to send.
4: Tap Share.

Once you know where the book is, you can also send it to your desktop via whatever file sharing method you usually use. AirDroid, usb, or taking the card out and putting it into your computer.

To make Nook epubs viewable in a reading app other than their own (bastids), you’ll need Calibre and the plugin to decrypt it. The user manual is quite extensive but all information on how to remove the encryption is left up to the plugins. Apprentice Alf has the one you need and this post has the instructions for Calibre.

If you have any questions, let me know.

Temporary Site Problem

Seems as though some one managed to get past stuff and “infect” this website and one other (not really a virus type of thing, just injection of some crap). I *think* I have found the cause. Until then, the themes may be jumping around and looking weird until I find one I like again. Dagnabbit.

Sorry for the weirdness. Everything should be working and all links are valid (at least those site based).

Please let me know if you see ANY advertisement on this site. I do not have any. I do not want any. I will remove any that make their way in.

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.

Back It Up

I’ve talked about this before. Lectured on it. Gonna do it again ’cause it’s been a while.

Back up your work, back up your work, back up your work. In as many places as possible in as many ways as you can think of. Some you do every day to catch ever new word, phrase, file change, whatever. Others less often and purely as backups. Others purely as syncs. Redundant? Sure. But when it crashes and you have a copy off site? One not touched by the virus? That’s not a happy dance, that’s a heart that is still beating.

First, let’s discuss terminology. A backup is just that. It takes the files and copies them. Any that are changed or are new on Source are changed or copied on Destination. Any file that is missing from Source is not deleted from Destination. So if I have file A, delete B, change C, and create D, the Destination (if I had done a backup yesterday) would now have Files A, B, an updated C, and the new D.

A sync is different. A sync is essentially making a mirror image of the Source onto the Destination each time. If yesterday my Destination had A, B, and C, today it would have A, C, and D.

A backup is good because you never lose anything, unless two files have the same filename and are in the same location. But backups can be memory hogs at the Destination. A sync is good because it is the exact copy you have on your computer. The Destination will only take up the same amount of memory as the Source. The drawback is if you sync the wrong copy.

Sync can also go both ways. Let’s say you work at your desktop and sync it to the cloud. You then go to your laptop, and now you can sync the cloud to the laptop. Any new work you had on the desktop is now on the laptop. No carrying a memory key around. Cloud files are accessible wherever you have a wifi location. But again, sync will erase one file and replace it with another if the size and/or date is different.

I have a desktop computer. On it are two hard drives. One is the main one, the other is a holder of sorts. Also on the computer is a memory key with a lot of memory on it. Holder drive and USB drive sync themselves to the Main Drive daily. If necessary, I just grab that key and go. On it are all my Works In Progress (WIP) files, emails, and some other stuff. The problem with all this is: it is all at one location, making copies of the main drive. If the main drive is corrupt or have a virus? So do they because they are directly connected. I keep a sync copy on Lorna’s PC, connected via the home network. But again, same location. Should the house burn down or lightning strike us because God has had enough of my sarcasm (ha, like that’d happen), all that dataz is gonez. Same location. You need at least one copy of stuff off site. Away from your house. Sure I can grab that key but, really, if a fire happens or lightning strikes, I got other things on my mind. Like saving my arse and my pets’ arses.

There’s a few ways to do that. One is a cloud service. Another is to remote location. For example, using a program such as Ammyy, you can connect to a friend’s computer and keep your files there. (I use Ammyy to access my home computers while away.) A third way is to have two external drives. Do your backup onto one, take it to work, bring home the one that was already there. Use it the next week for the next backup, exchange, rinse, repeat. Just keep it in a desk drawer at work. Done. External drives are getting smaller. I don’t trust memory keys for this. I consider them for simple file transfer use only. Maybe one of the newer, expensive ones vs the cheap models made in the shape of a ninja. Maybe.

Okay, onto the cloud! My webhost, Dreamhost, has a really cool cloud service called DreamObjects. To that I do a backup and a sync once a week. I like both because with the backup, I never lose a file. And with the sync, it is the latest where I had it last and uncluttered by all the stuff I deleted everywhere else.

Now, to access all that.

To do the backing and syncing, I use Syncback Pro. Love. It. Set it up with what I want it to do, set up a schedule, fuhgitaboutit. I can also tell it what to do with files that are different in one way but same in another. I can tell it to ignore certain file extensions. It does it all in the background. Or it can do the scan, gather the info on changes, and get permission before implementing any or all of them. I have this running on my desktop, my laptop, and Lorna’s PC.

To access the cloud, I use CyberDuck. I can access the files, download, delete, rename, whatever. I can upload too but don’t often use it for that. It is an easy program, small space, and good support.

Sometimes I use FTP to upload a file so I can quickly access it or send it to someone for them to download (which is easier to do than with a cloud, which I have set to Private). For that I use Filezilla. DreamHost use to allow us to keep non-webfiles on a server but they stopped that. It is where I kept a sync so I could access it quickly. Now I use Filezilla to maintain my websites and files for the sites. It is extremely easy to use.

On my tablet and phone (both Android), I use AndFTP for FTP stuff and S3Anywhere Pro for cloud access. S3Anywhere was a godsend when I found it and finally got it to work. Extremely simple to use and very easy to set up IF you understand what needs to be put into each blank. I think it may be the only one available for accessing DreamObjects on Android. If you use a Big Name Cloud like Drive, then your options are much better.

As for Drive and the others, I once used one. Which one is Google’s? Anyway, used it for a few months for a few files because I was writing between my laptop and my desktop and then we were editing that document. The cloud service corrupted the file. We found a spam phone number in the document. And twice it only had half the document. So I don’t use them. Somethings I try twice to give them a second chance. But this? Nope. Don’t go messing with my writing files!