Saturday, January 25, 2014

I've got a definition of insanity for you:

Trying to build a program from source when it's already in your OS's repository. Oh my goodness do I feel dumb.  I really spent quite a lot of time trying (and failing) to this build script to run, including installing a lot of build dependencies I ultimately didn't need.

The funny part is, before I moved on to my netbook I had just installed the same app on my laptop, which I've just put Linux on (Lubuntu, which I love times a million if only because it shares a lot of shortcuts with Windows).  I'm so used to ARM Ubuntu getting the short end of the app stick I didn't even try apt-getting it.  I was knee deep in troubleshooting this fairly recent install script when figured, if someone wrote a script to automate the build, surely there's a deb or something floating around.  I did another web search and found that people were talking about a build target in fact existing for ARM processors.

Side note for future David, why did I install Xubuntu and not Lubuntu on my Chromebook?  Surely Crouton has a Lubuntu option.  I'll have to look into that the next time I re-stage it.

Then sheepishly, I remembered that I installed it from the repo on my laptop.  I typed in the same apt-get string and it worked.  I'm assuming it fully worked, but I'm still waiting for some software on the laptop to finish installing.  Well, re-installing.  System Administration's a pain in the ass if you (meaning me) can't be bothered to remember your (my) password.  Yes, this process is relating to my issue with Bittorrent Sync.  No, I won't talk about it yet.  Not until I actually have something to report.

Til then,


Friday, January 24, 2014

Syncing has failed me (again)

A few weeks ago I was going to write a rant about Bittorrent Sync and how it was giving me all sorts of strange problems.  At the time, the problems boiled down to deletions on my phone not persisting in my netbook folders.  Then I realized I might have made a huge mistake in my installation (which I did).  I uninstalled everything and started over, and that problem was solved.

So let the new problems begin!

A week ago I edited one of my documents.  It was a major edit, a final edit one might say.  Then, within a minute of saving it, jEdit popped up a warning that the file had been changed, and it reverted to the changed version.  First of all, excuse me jEdit?  Perhaps I've been spoiled by Notepad++, but you just automatically load the changed version file?  You don't even ask? There is an option to ask the user how they want to handle it, which I enabled immediately afterwards, but I'm actually shocked that isn't enabled by default.

Looking at the file that was changed, all my edits were gone.  It was nothing I couldn't replicate, I had just renumbered some headings and fixed a few paragraphs, but it was boring tedious work and I didn't fancy re-doing it all.  Okay, so I might have mentioned before that I have a ridiculous series of backups.  I plucked the last file I'd saved out of the backups and I restored it, and it hasn't changed back since.  This is worrisome, I thought, but I'll let it ride for now and keep my eyes open for anything else fishy.  (and just a side note, BTSync's history folder had a copy of my edited document pre-wipe, so I assume it replaced it the file, as it only seems to save revisions when it's replacing them.  I think.  I don't know, it's weird)

And let me tell you, now that I'm paying attention I'm having all sorts of weird issues.  Today I had just created two text files, saved them, and then was told that the source files had changed, which I ignored.  I have no idea what was going on there.  Then I went and looked at some other document folders.  Documents were missing.  One folder had duplicates, which I expected.  I'd changed a filename's case from Name.txt to name.txt, and I had a feeling BTSync would leave me with two copies.  I knew the lowercase version was the newer one, so it was okay.  But other files were missing.  Once again, I found copies in BTSync's history folder, so I'm assuming it deleted them.  Why, I don't know.  I certainly hadn't deleted them on any of my other devices.  It's possible a device that was a few weeks behind on syncs got on my wifi and caused some havoc, but a) that shouldn't happen, I mean BTSync should know better and b) I don't think that happened.

My primary device is a Chromebook that does get a little confused when it wakes up, meaning the clock can be off by a few hours and stuff like that.  Could there have been some timestamp related issue?  Surely not, but I suppose that's a possibility too.

The biggest issue is I'm in the middle of nowhere right now with no internet, and I doubt I'll have a solid (ie non-cellular) connection for a few months (then, if all goes well, I may get me a fiber connection!).  That means Drive, Dropbox, etc are out, even though they didn't have ARM versions last time I checked anyway.  I did a cursory Google search on my slow-as-molasses connection for any other offline file syncing apps, but I couldn't find any that seemed relatively easy to set up and also synced to my phone.  For now I'm relying on a bash script that uses rsync to keep everything backed up (one-way sync) to a SD card, and I'll just have to deal with not being able to edit my files on my phone.


So in short (hahaha) I still have BTSync installed, and I'm still using it to transfer files back and forth between my devices, it's faster than AirDroid and more convenient than USB.  But either BTSync's got some big syncing issues or there's something in my workflow that's keeping it from doing it's job properly.  Since I'm in the middle of nowhere, no sync for me.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Google has the worst mobile apps

Society as a whole can agree on this, yes?  No customization, no advanced options. It's pretty messed up that I regularly have to resort to third party apps to use fully use Google's services on an OS they manage.  Was writing a post in their Blogger app, which I actually thought better of but what the hell, I decided to give it another whirl. I looked at a notification this app itself was bringing to my attention, and when I returned the post was gone.  Which means they don't autosave, which is admittedly my fault for not knowing that and saving it.  But really, no autosaving?  I know that's not a new concept to Google because the in-browser versions of  products do it near-constantly.  But then again it would require saving locally, which Google seems to hate with a passion, prefering instead for everything to exist in their proprietary cloud.

Maybe Google should stop 'me too!-ing' Facebook and focus on making Android a power OS, which means making everything one can do on a "full" desktop OS possible on your phone.

"Simple things should be simple, complex things should be possible."  That's a quote from Alan Kay, and as an end user it epitomizes what I see as the height of software (or any) design.

Simple things should be simple... - Google's mobile team has nailed this part of the philosophy, with the exception of things like saving files, which they seem to hate with a passion. "No, um, pin it! Star it! Fuck it, they can always just share it to Gmail and download it as an attachment."  But to be fair, very few mobile apps seem to want facilitate saving in a user-specified location, though that could be simply them taking Android's lead.

...complex things should be possible. - And this is where they mess the bed. "Nah, we've already got the most basic functionality working, let's drop this and focus on closing off more parts of Android's source code!"  It would bog down the interface far too much to have an advanced options menu, amirite?

I doubt the people making Google's mobile apps are the same people responsable for Google+ or the closed source creep, but clearly their detriments are starting to outway their benefits. Did I use "detriments" correctly?  You know what I mean.

All right, rant over.


Spirits Broken

This man, who once saw a 3MBps download via Steam and yawned---I yawned, World!---now gets excited at seeing a download reach 40KBps.

Thanks for finally breaking my spirits, small town Kansas.

Once I get out of this informational dead zone (ie in 3 months) it's fiber optic til the end, even if that means I can never leave my house.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

I give up!

I'm working on creating a script, or a series of scripts, to take a bunch of markdown files and cover images and create epubs suitable for every online marketplace my employers want to publish on.  It's going very smoothly.  Pandoc is great, and Calibre's ebook-convert isn't so bad itself.  Throw in a little ImageMagick and it's very doable.  I may someday write a big post about my workflow, but right now it's going like this:

The title page is it's own document, with:
%(Book Title)
and that's it.  The Smashwords one will say "Smashwords Edition," but all of the other publishers can use the same title page.  All the other info, like publisher name, date, copyright info, etc is contained in a publisher-specific xml file.  This file is named "(booktitle)(no spaces allowed!).title".

Then I have the promotional copy (blurbs, about the author, whatever) in "(booktitle).about".

The book itself is named "(booktitle).txt" and I keep it separate for reasons of accurate word count as much as anything else.  Some people separate books in chapters but I don't bother with that, especially since I've worked out how to have markdown headers show up in a TOC-style sidebar I can use for navigation.

Finally we have the links document, which are the real reason for so many different epubs.  Being a nice company that wants to help people find things where they normally shop, each epub will have a link to the publishing company's web site, but it will also point to a few other books, a "You might also like" sort of thing, with links back to the marketplace the book was bought at. I know some people do this for Amazon but just have one version for all of the other marketplaces that just link to their own web site.  It's really not that hard to give each site their own links page though, as I just have copy and paste some links and my scripts will do all the heavy lifting.

Okay, this is a fairly cheery and optimistic post so far.  So why the frustrated title?  Because Smashwords.  Because Smashwords is a great site built on a great ideology that was far ahead of it's time. It has some issues though.  It's web site is ugly, and it won't allow two authors to be credited on one book.  But theystill provide a great customer experience, for instance providing all sorts of formats for downloading.  Html, pdf, epub, mobi, more I'm sure.  But in order to make those available, you as the publisher have to send them your book in a Word document.  In 2014, when I'm working in Markdown and pandoc can convert it to every format I could ever want, Smashwords wants an awful, kludgy, closed-source software created Word doc?  I know I can use Libre or Open Office, but they recommend you use Word.  And they have a 177-page (according to FBReader) book, the Smashwords Style Guide, which explains how to format that doc file.

The Style Guide is necessary because a Word doc can get messy if you're not super careful, and even sometimes if you are.  You know what won't get messy like that?  Markdown.  It allows for basic formatting and then you convert it to clean html, or whatever else you want.  Just the same, I've been looking for a way to automatically convert my file to a doc that Smashwords can use, inserting page breaks at the end of chapters and using custom headings, but no dice.  I could format a doc for each book, but it would require a ton of hand-formatting, at least an hour or so per book.

The good news is, I can just submit an epub to Smahwords.  The catch is they won't be able to offer html, pdf, et cetera files unless you submit a Word doc.  So Smashwords users will only have an epub option, because it literally means the difference between five minutes per book and one or more hours per book for me.  The ironic bit is, I could automatically convert to any file type Smashwords provides with a few extra lines on my script, but they only allow uploading epubs.

Oh well.  If we get some serious feedback about this we might work something out, but if someone wants all the formats available we'll also have them on offer through a direct sales service, like Gumroad perhaps.  And I mean all formats available with one purchase.

Til then,


Friday, January 10, 2014

Nailed it!

So that one big thing I wanted jEdit to do but couldn't?  I figured out a workaround.  It isn't the cleanest, but it works.  I wanted Markdown headings to show up in Sidekick's tree view so I could easily navigate my documents by heading (aka chapter title).  I looked again for plugins no avail.  I played with Sidekick's settings, read it's manual, didn't see anything to help.

Looked at the settings for the custom fold handle plugin, but while I could set custom folding handles for each document type, I couldn't have my other handles "[" and "]" active at the same time.  Darn it.  Since pretty much all my work is saved as *.txt files, there's no easy way to change edit modes on the fly.  Then again...

I tried setting a custom handle for tex, I changed the mode in buffer options, but there are two problems.  One, if # (Markdownese for "header") opens the fold, what closes it?  Markdown doesn't use closing tags.  I set the tilde, a character I never use, and went to see how Sidekick handled it.  Well, all my headings showed up, but since there were no close tags every one was nested in the one before it, making them a little hard to navigate.  Okay, well I use italics some, maybe I can have an asterisk close them.  That closed about half my folds, still not a good solution.  I thought about using a forward slash, which I don't think shows up in converted Markdown, but it would clutter up my text.  Finally I realized how stupid I was being, and set periods to close tags.  I know I don't have one single section that doesn't use a period.  That problem is solved.

The second problem is that changing the buffer's edit mode is a one-time only thing.  Could I set up a macro to do it, thus enabling me to bind it to a keys combination?  Hmm, if only there already were a macro to switch modes.  A Mode Switcher, if you will.  And alas, I found one, in fact it's included in jEdit by default.  So I set up a shortcut to the macro, and now when I want so see my headers in an outline-style tree, I simply hit the shortcut, type "tex", hit enter and browse away.

I could make this cleaner.  I have two types of files.  Actual prose files which are written in Markdown, and planning files, which are huge and blathery and require very strict organization.  I could give one type one particular extension, perhaps giving proper Markdown ones the standard *.md, and set up jEdit to always open that extension in a particular edit mode, but that's just not how I roll.  Also I'm lazy.  I may do it.  It seems a much more elegant solution, but for now I should probably focus on actually working.

Working?  You know, that thing I was supposed to be doing when I ended up looking into custom tree views and blogging it later.


Monday, January 6, 2014

The One Thing...

I finally found one thing I want to do with jEdit that I can't find a plugin for.  Well okay, two things now that I think of it.

There is a plugin called Outline, which displays your document's folds in a tree view for easier navigtion through large documents.  Now that I know such a thing is possible, I desperately want a similar plugin which will show markdown headings in a similar tree view. I bet it'd be a cinch to write, if I knew anything about writing code or plugins.

The second wish is that jEdit would save a backup upon each autosave. Looking at the settings, I sort of assumed that's how it would work. I have an innate distrust of any file syncing service after I've had so many files eaten or reverted without reason by so many of them.  I have autosaves set up in an interval of every 30 seconds, and a unique backup file created with every save.  Alas, it doesn't create a backup file for each autosave. Only on manual saves, which is a little disappointing. I'll just have to step up my frequency of "real" saves. It'll take me back to my days of video editing, where every program in our pipeline could and would crash for any or no reason.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

How the Saints Save Christmas

I finally played the Saints Row 4 DLC:  How the Saints Save Christmas.  I meant to play it on Christmas day, but I ended up being too busy.  Or at least too easily distracted by other things.  I wasn't busy/distracted with Christmas related things, oddly enough.  Both Christmas and Thanksgiving were very laid back, more or less solitary days this year.  I still got to celebrate them with family on other dates though.

My short review:  It was fun.  I did keep running into my two biggest problems with the game though.  One, you can't shoot guns while mid-air.  Maybe this is a holdover from the very little I played of Crackdown, but it just feels like you should be able to.  Two, the most fun weapon in this game of a million zany weapons is the energy sword.  It cuts enemies in half, and they evaporate into pixels or something.  It's powerful and really fun.  But it's fun is limited by the fact that you can't run up to someone and cut them. You run up to them, wait for the running animation to stop, and then you can stab them.  Also once again, you can't jump and cut mid air, which makes it near-impossible to kill certain enemies with it.  Walking through a mob of enemies and slicing them up was fun, but imagine how much more fun running through a mob and cutting them up would be, or jumping up and slashing down from above.

I realize that Volition added a ton of extra features to SR4 before releasing it.  I realize that and I appreciate it, I love this game.  But those two things kept jumping out at me, because as I said even though I knew couldn't do them I kept feeling like I should be able to.

The missions were repetitive, but they were by no means frustrating.  The story was cool.  The little video at the end with the Christmas stuff was very cool, even touching. Worth playing for the video at the end alone, in my book.

I'm actually worried about the next Saints Row game, if there is one.  It will be hard enough if it's a reboot and there's no superpowers, just because it's hard to come back from that.  It's hard for me to play other shooters without superpowers now.  Mostly it's because I don't know what else they can do gameplay wise.  The mission types do get repetitive after a while, and they haven't added much past adding new elements to old mission styles.  They had two good "fun extenders" in SR4 in the form of adding superpowers and also by having each character request that you do the side missions for them in a sort of playlist, with specific rewards for completing each list.

I worry that doing the exact same mission types in a new setting will get more wearing if the series goes on, no matter how self-aware it is.  I have faith in Volition to make it work if they try and tackle it, but those are the thoughts creeping around in the back of my mind.

Til then,


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Steam Sale

Didn't get much from the Steam Christmas sale this time, mostly because I was fairly flush throughout the year and I bought a lot of games as they came out.  I had my usual list of games to buy, though it was miniscule compared to previous years (on it was Paper's Please, Wolf Among Us, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, I forget the others).  I also had my eye on Rayman Legends, though it never went on sale.  I bought it anyway.

I bought Rayman Legends, and now it's sitting, fully installed, on my computer.  And I'm sitting here, mostly working.  There's a little ticking countdown inside of me that I'm mildly aware of.  At some point, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, I'm going to drop everything, run to my computer, fire up that game and crank the volume way up.

And it's going to be super fucking fun.

That is all,


Friday, January 3, 2014

jEdit wins again

So jEdit has some problems.  It's gotten a little buggy on my every now and again, and some shortcuts are a bit hard to figure out how to actually use, but I like it and it's still my text editor of choice.

I re-stage (wipe and re-install everything) my computers regularly.  This was a Windows habit that came about partially due to fear of viruses (think I see a sign of a viral infection, wipe Windows and re-install it) and also because of the inevitable slowdown that resulted from running a Windows install for too long.  (I don't see that slowdown in Windows 7, btw, and haven't re-staged my Win7 pcs in a while)  I suppose another reason is I have a habit of installing a dozen programs before I find something I like (see my quest to find a text editor, only partially documented here).  I end up with a cluttered PC because I don't delete them once I've moved on (a habit I've since adopted, keeping only the apps I need on my PCs and phones).

Anyway, I just re-staged my Samsung Arm Chromebook, which I'm officially now calling a netbook.  It's a good piece of hardware, but if I couldn't install Ubuntu on it it would be completely worthless to me as a work device.  ChromeOS itself is the least appealing thing about it, though more on that in a possible blog post in the future.  For my purposes and configuration, I'm going to stop lying to myself and all of you good people.  It's a netbook.

It's a little silly to say I've re-staged a Chromebook, because the thing is perpetually wiped, if I understand it correctly.  All your stuff is saved in the cloud, and only brought forth once you log into your Google account.  A commendable effort and a good reaction to online malware, but worthless for my purposes if I can't install proper apps as opposed to web apps (no offense).  No, I re-staged the Ubuntu part.  Being a chroot, I was able to easily delete and re-installed it.  I did this for two reasons:

1)  An annoying mouse cursor flicker that I was hoping would be fixed.  It isn't, but I can deal with it.

2) BTSync was messing up.  It was only messing up on my Chromebook, and I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt and see it was because of something wrong in my Ubuntu install.  For instance, if I hypothetically installed the server version of BTSync, then installed the client version on the same device, and perhaps due to auto-running on start they might conflict with each other and cause strange behavior.  Hypothetically.

And success!  Re-installing BTSync, correctly this time, did see it working right.  Who knew?

I've now been going through the boring and frustrating task of setting Ubuntu back up like I like it.  That means setting up global shortcuts, installing all my apps (really easy, just name them all after apt-get install), and worst of all, configuring all my apps.

The program that requires the most configuration is, by far, jEdit.  But it's also the easiest to reinstate.  Just backup the .jedit folder from your home folder, and paste it into your new install.  Run jEdit and it's exactly like you left it.  Exactly, like the same files are opened and everything.

So that's why jEdit wins.  Yes, it did take me quite a while to get at that point.  What do you want, I'm stalling.  I should be doing real work right now.  Right now, like right this moment.  I should just publish this post, and get to doing real work that I have to do as part of by job.

Like, any minute now.  Any minute.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Headphone Shopping


It's a little hard to shop for in-ear headphones.  You can't go to a store and just try them out.  It wouldn't exactly be sanitary, and you'd have to play with them, change the ear-pads, make sure you get a good fit.  There's also the possibility that headphones may need to be "broken in" for 15-20 hours before they sound their best.  I've heard people make this claim before, but I don't how true it is. Another sticky part of it is the naming conventions.  They tack new letters and numbers onto old model numbers with little to know indication of if or how the models are connected.  The B3st is succeeded by the B3st-1.  Did they change the design, alter their manufacturing process?  Perhaps this is exactly the same model with an in-line mic or remote.  Or is it a completely new set of cans with a popular-looking number slapped on it?

I don't want to sound too much like Andy Rooney here, but if they have a model that has a good reputation, why do they discontinue it to be replaced with a potentially bad model?  If researching online has taught me anything, every company that has a few good models also has a few shitty ones.  Name brand doesn't mean much---it certainly doesn't mean you can go pick a new model off of the shelf without reading some reviews first.

Well I was looking for a decent buying guide for earbuds.  There are a lot, some are more useful than others.  My favorite so far has been on The Wirecutter.  Towards the end of last year they published a few lists, but the two I got the most use out of are The Best $100 In-Ear Headphones (of which the best was actually $50), and The Best $200 In-Ear Headphones (of which the best was $180).

This is an interesting list, first by how they narrowed down the finalists: