I am kaitco

a writer's log

My brief flirtation with LibreOffice Monday, November 4, 2013

Filed under: Coding,Writing — kaitco @ 3:13 am
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From blog.doriennesmith.com:

I’ve not written here in ages, but it is time for another review.

In my zeal to have full computing capabilities available in the thinnest, lightest form, I bought a Mid-2012 MacBook Air back in January. Initially, I was in love with the thing despite being staunchly anti-Mac since middle school, but when I began to utilize it for “real” work, I started to remember why I have always claimed that I hated Macs.

As an aspiring author, I write all the time and all writers who don’t wish to waste forests of trees and rivers of ink need proper word processing software. The de facto has been, throughout my lifetime, Microsoft Office Word and, despite disliking what Microsoft has done with the product line in the past six years, I’ve come to depend on Word like I depend on Firefox. So, in using my new Mac, I sought out Mac Office 2011, thinking that since it was Microsoft-produced, I would have the best option for document compatibility and “ease” of use.

Mac Office 2011 sucks in ways that would require a completely separate domain, server, and blog to explain entirely. To put it succinctly, Mac Office 2011 contains everything that you dislike about Office 2010, with none of the familiarity, and none of the features available in Mac OSX since Snow Leopard. What irritates me most is that Microsoft could have easily ported Office 2010 to Mac OSX without hardly deviating from the original product, but they refused. Note, that the blame for Mac Office’s lack of usability and general crumminess lays with Microsoft, not Apple.

With Mac Office acting barely usable, I sought other options for word-processing on the Mac. Pages was a possibility I considered right up through the last two weeks, when Apple made drastic changes to their iLife products. I tried Pages through iCloud in Safari, but gave up within ten minutes as I could not find simple a word count utility and nothing about the application brought any familiarity. Additionally, Apple insists on keeping all of its users within its “walled gardens,” which does not trouble me on iPhone/iPad because of the multiple workarounds, but is intolerable with a full laptop. Apple refuses to allow Dropbox integration with its apps, thus everything I’ve carefully organized and used with Dropbox on multiple platforms, operating systems, whatever, is unavailable to me when trying to use Apple’s Pages. Here the blame rest entirely on Apple and it was here that I began to once again mumble to myself, “I hate Macs.”

As neither Apple nor Microsoft could offer me what I wanted, I turned once again to LibreOffice. I say “once again” because I’ve experienced this application several times in the last decade with mixed results all placing me back into Microsoft Office’s slow, bulging, buggy arms.

Back when OpenOffice.org was whole, I found gross incompatibility with Word documents, few of the fonts available in Office, difficult to use features such as Word Count, and corrupted files upon going back to Office. I later tried LibreOffice when it was first forked from OpenOffice and still found that it was not anything close to Office’s usability and quit once again. Some time even later, however, I began to play with using Ubuntu and LibreOffice, installed with the operating system, was attempted again before I gave up and finagled Wine and Office 2007 to work relatively well together.

With my fifth or tenth or so attempt at LibreOffice, I was determined to make this application work for me as both Apple and Microsoft had spectacularly failed me. I installed LibreOffice 4 on both PC and Mac and spent an hour tweaking Writer on each operating system to make it as close to Office 2010 as possible.

My initial impression this time around was moderate joy over how LibreOffice had improved over the years. Built-in Word Count utility, default fonts from MS Office, and perfect Word doc compatibility through Windows, Mac OSX, and Ubuntu. At last! I had hit the jackpot! Then, I began to melt into the fictive dream and write like normal…

First came even more tweaking and searching and further tweaking to counter app deviations that were not immediately obvious. Then, I had to resign screen space in Windows and Mac OSX to some immoveable toolbars. The final straw, however, came with Autocorrect.

Writing in a plain text word processor provides straight apostrophes and quotation marks that, lacking the technical term here, do not have “curves” that are typically used in writing drafts. I have no issue with this, but I cannot stand a mix. Either all of the marks in a document are plain text and straight or all have “curves,” but a mix of the two completely throws me when I’m writing. I found myself paying closer attention to whether LibreOffice’s Autocorrect was automatically correcting these marks than on my actual writing and, even after triple checking Autocorrect settings, I was often forced to stop in the middle of prose or dialogue to adjust what LibreOffice called a grammar issue due to Autocorrect failing.

I also use ellipses when I write. A lot. I’ve remained conscious of it, but when I need to use them, I need them. LibreOffice’s Autocorrect includes switching three periods … to an ellipses, which is a very specific character that looks similar, but is functionally different in word processing. The problem is that unlike MS Office, LibreOffice does not take into account Autocorrect “wildcards.”

For example, three paragraphs above this text, I used a word and followed directly with an ellipsis, “normal…” In MS Office, the three periods directly following a word is auto-corrected in the same manner as it would be if it was typed “normal …” with a space between the word and the ellipsis. LibreOffice does not do this. To LibreOffice, “normal…” becomes a grammar issue that I have to stop and correct because the Autocorrect does not recognize that, despite coming after another character with no space between them, three consecutive periods should be automatically corrected into an ellipsis.

These may sound like minor trifles to an average user, and they very much are. To a high school kid writing a two-page essay on The Scarlet Letter, these aggravations would hardly be worth mentioning. To a writer, these minor trifles completely disrupt the flow of thought, which renders the application unusable.

Often times, when seeking to write with no distraction or interruption of any kind, I will utilize Microsoft’s Notepad application just to get down my thoughts without regard to grammar, redlines under spelling issues, or paragraph, spacing, and font. Ultimately, I have to take whatever I write in a blank atmosphere and add it to a true word processor to make the proper literary adjustments and continue writing from there. That word processor must include a Word Count and page number utility, it must be compatible with Microsoft Word’s formatting, and it must enable one to write without the need to pause the writing experience to fix what the application should be able to do on its own.

A word processor should be able to correct simple errors, like “teh” for “the” and three consecutive periods for an ellipsis, without the writer’s intervention and sadly, LibreOffice is still not quite there.

It could be argued that after several months’ use, I could grow accustomed to these differences, but I see no reason to force myself to ignore problems that should not exist in the first place. Were I further along in my programming knowledge, I would hack the application myself or even be so bold as to make the specific recommendation that the LibreOffice team focus on perfectly mimicking Office’s simple functions before adding all the bells and whistles.

I suppose no application will ever meet the expectations of everyone all the time, but I’ve never had to return to Microsoft Office with such dread since I began using Windows 95 versus the old typewriter my mother let me play with as a child.

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Pink on the map Friday, June 10, 2011

I was a little disappointed when this storm finally hit. Aside from some rather loud thunder, we didn’t really get much of anything. Still, it is a bit unsetting to look at the weather and see pink on the map.

20110610-113749.jpg

Instead of another day of Rock Band, I started to peruse my poor and unloved main website to see if I had even remembered to renew the domain for another year. I started to make a minor update and then decided to add my Twitter feed to it and then decided to update my About Me page and then decided that the About Me page needed some layout changes and then decided…well, it was late in the evening when I had finally reaching a coding and design stopping point. I tried to do some laundry only to find that the flooding had got even worse and showed no sign of stopping.

The plumbers came very quickly and seemed to have corrected the problem, but I’m a little worried to go back down there and see what they’ve done to my basement.

Even with all the code written today and playing with Photoshop, I managed 297 words (clean her up like you did when you were little) and practiced a little piano too.

I started up Lego Rock Band and was quite tickled at the first little video that showed the band coming together. I also learned I could play guitar and sing and dance at the same time as I played “I Want You Back” for the first time. I can tell I’m going to have great fun going through these achievements and may even hold onto the game just for the heck of it.

As I predicted, my Frasier Season 7 has arrived and I’ve got hours worth of Niles and Daphne wonderfulness coming my way, so I won’t be doing

 

Long days Monday, February 28, 2011

Since I made it to church on a day when they handed out the next month’s church calendar, I was moved with the urge to update the church website, which had needed work since at least September 2010! Once I begin coding, however, I enter this phase where I want to edit every page I’ve ever created on the Internet and so, made updates to my main site, added a blog post to my Dorienne’s Log (albeit it was copied from this one, but it’s hard to write for two separate blogs like that) and also added an awkward post to my diet “journey” blog.

At the end of all these updates, I still felt like there was something better I should have been doing with my time…like writing.

A long while I ago, I realized that every word written in an online forum was one word I wasn’t writing in my novel. This helped me break some of my obsession with posting to SVU, X-Files, Sims and whatever else was under the sun forums, but I still get sidetracked quiet easily and quite often. It doesn’t take much.

Today’s sidetrack and long-dayness was part wonderful and part annoying. The wonderful part was meeting little baby Reagan – so wonderful! The annoying part was waiting to get my braids done. All in all, my long day has ended well, especially since I was able to wrap some notes made earlier in the day into some worthwhile prose and dialogue.

Today, I managed to write 2413 words (he could hear the entire conversation). Tomorrow, is March 1st and so I need to set another goal for the month.

January 2011 was just posting something every day to hold myself accountable. February 2011 has been about writing something every day. March 2011 will be about…

…word count. I know myself very well, however, and I have no desires to see myself fail for something as simple as not reaching a word count when I’ve come this far. In four months, I’ve completed nearly seven chapters wheres it took eleven months of 2010 to write three and a half, so in the spirit of not deterring myself, but keeping the momentum going, I’ll set the goal at 250 words a night.

I want to eventually say to myself that the goal is to stop using the “500 less” tag for a month, but just being able to say that I’ve gone 28 days without using the “None” tag is something and I don’t want the little goals to hinder the big ones. As my pastor would say, I need to remember to keep the main thing, the main thing.

 

Back to reality Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things I’ve done today:

  • Completely edited a WP theme and fit my main blog.
  • Retextured a sims hairstyle in both a Maxis-match cartoony look and a more realistic texture, including more than 8 colours for each and renamed and binned all the new hair. (Took close to two days to complete all this and I still doubt it’s share-ready)
  • Deleted a bunch of purple, pink and cherry red sim hair from my Red bin and made appropriate natural red recolours.
  • Watched at least six “Seinfeld” episodes.
  • Went to the gym.
  • Uploaded a pic to my Project 365.
  • Wrote 510 words.

I say actions speak louder than words and I’ve had an outstanding day! 🙂

That last one was the one that took the most out of me, even more than going to gym when I hadn’t been since probably August. I’ve never worked so hard for 500 words in my life. By the time I got to 400, they were coming a little easier, but I must have written the tie-between scenes for when Damen first meets Corey and when Corey invites him to his grandfather’s house, three or four times before I came to something worthwhile. Each time I attempted to write a scene, everything seemed like it was happening too fast.

Damen was suddenly happy and all I had to “show” how it happened was half a paragraph where I just told what happened. Very lame.

I’m on a roll now, so I’ll keep writing for sure. I said that yesterday as well, but got sidetracked by trying to edit a theme for my main blog (blog.doriennesmith.com) to death. I figure I’ll just have to create my own theme at this point to get everything that I want in a theme, but that’s a project for another day.

I have to say, I was little perplexed earlier this evening when I started to sit down with my tomato soup and fire up an episode of “Coupling.” I realized that I hadn’t updated this blog or my Project 365 and I leapt from the sofa, soup in hand, and ran upstairs to do some writing and uploading.

While I think I’ve got it a little backwards, writing so that I’ll have something to post instead of posting because I’ve written something, I like the idea of it. I’m kept honest by the fact that I’ve got a real deadline and if it works…it works!

 

A small success Saturday, August 8, 2009

Filed under: Coding,The Sims,Writing — kaitco @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Finally! Got a full scene done tonight last night!

I finished the scene where Damen realizes he’d met Brit before, but I hadn’t had so much fun writing any of the scenes this far. It was just full of all kinds of literary awesome. I  just kind of drifted in and out of perspectives and it felt beautiful!

I was hoping for a little more of a release or a little more relaxation after I’d completed the scene, but it was just like “Okay…but now there’s still a million more scenes to do…” I’m actually reached another rocky patch in the novel again. It happens after I finish each major scene, which I suppose will work well in the end since it creates some very concise chapter breaks in the project.

I also had an interesting experience yesterday (and really today as well) regarding what I think the Lord wants from me. In deciding that I wasn’t going to go to chuch for a bit, things fantastically fell apart for a bit. Once I’d made the “right” decision, things fell into place. I even said to myself “Well played, Old Man” once more.

I’ve fallen out of practice with my coding which has been proving rather disastrous with the church website. I forget how to do simple things and troubleshoot like I used to be able to do. Very frustrating…

I’ve been playing four sim families for the last couple of months. I want to create some depth and history as I also inject some new genes into the neighborhood. I don’t really want to just add a bunch of new sims without families or history, but this is a very trying experience. I’d tried to do this before, but it didn’t work very well. I ended up intertwining them with several other families and linking them to the Wests, but this has been going much better.

So, rather than work through my struggles at defining Damen’s reluctance to fully befriend Corey or work on my church website or anything else of any importance, I’ll just waste another night playing the sims.

Coincidentally, I had a mini panic attack about the fact that I’ll one day die and each day of life is rather precious…

 

Simmin’ vs. Storytellin’ Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Filed under: Coding,Reading,The Sims — kaitco @ 5:23 am
Tags: , , , ,

I’m getting into a bad spin. I wrote a little on Saturday and a little on Friday as well. I was definitely in a “I just don’t feel like it” kind of mood today, but I was still able to read loads from The Stand. What I love most about The Stand is that it’s been able a decade since I’d last read it, so it’s like reading it for the first time…only, there are bits and pieces that stand out to me, like a bizarre foreshadowing.

Even though it’s 5AM, I did have a bit of an excuse in writing because I had to take down my braids, but for the most part, I blame my increase in Designing and Simming.

I’m going to take another stab at a rather simple Flash effect and see if I can bring a sketch into a full creation. A lot of my time today, though, had been taken up by taking pictures in the game to fully tell the tale of my favorite sim family, The Wests. I’ve been playing this family since 2004 when I didn’t really know how to take pictures or even how to play the game, so many of the originals I’d taken are small and blurry and just don’t cut it. I won’t be going into the extreme lengths of making sure all my walls are up and etc., especially since I’ve got five years worth of pictures that involve mediocre lighting and view of multiple rooms, ie: they look they way I play the game.

I just want to retake some of the small and blurry pics and add some shots that I’d neglected to take when the sims of the first generation were raised. The best thing about all this was creating a new neighborhood where I could move around sims and divorce and un-age them as I needed to “get the shot.”

My first sim family included Mason and Tara Bramble. I’d made them when I was about 20 and I’ll admit that they were made with Mulder and Scully in mid as I created them. Mason had dark hair and green eyes and Tara had red hair and blue eyes. I let them pass away about year or so ago, maybe two, but I was really, really upset when I did. I just miss them a lot even though they’re just sims. I guess it’s because so much of my neighborhood’s story comes through them and their offspring.

I found a way to replicate them in the game and got to “see” them again, after they’d been gone for so long. I’d also been able to un-age the parents in the West family and view them in all their beauty and splendor once more, which gave me all sorts of chills and happy memories.

There is something so wonderful about The Sims 2 that it’s difficult to describe. The game is intrinsically designed to tell stories; I’ve even attempted to write full short stories revolving a sim and her family drama. I do intend to write my sim Jill’s story in the near future because I just can’t not write a story about a black female raised by her two gay white dads with her other three adopted siblings. With many of my sim households, I just start with a few sims without having any real direction, but allow a story (a good story, too) to develop from there.

I’m also very amused at how my sim neighborhood manages to reflect American life. Most of the black people live “Downtown” (I realized I was doing this while it was happening, but it was when I was attempting to “blacken” my game and I only had one place to put all of them.)  Most of the college graduates are starting families in newer, start-up communities. There is a shortage of “suitable” black men for all my black females and, biracial families are on the rise as are teen pregnancies.

The fact that the game manages to mimic real society gives it that extra edge that not only makes it fun to play, but gives me an everlasting outlet for storytelling. Many sims storytellers go through a lot of trouble in creating something that is visually pleasing, but I’m not one to create a picture book; I focus on the story first and hope that the images match what I’m trying to do.

I’ve some general stories in the works based off of my simming, but I’m not sure what excites me more: the sim stories or the sim-based stories…

 

A weird kid Thursday, June 4, 2009

Filed under: Artwork,Coding,The Sims,Writing — kaitco @ 11:35 am
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I haven’t been writing at all lately.

I haven’t even looked at the notes for Damen since at least Monday. I guess I’m in some kind of slump or the old bipolar monster has reared her head again and I’ve been too low to think creatively.

Anyhoo… Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve coding and designing the crap out of my site. I completely finished my About page and made it a little more asthetically pleasing and hopefully it makes a little more sense than the list of words I’d had there previously.

I’ve still got to create the “Dorienne Presents…” page and redo the links page before I’m ready to “launch” version 3.0 of the site. I suppose another week of heavy coding and designing should get me ready.

Also, I’ve been simming a lot in between all this coding. I’ve been playing a lot of sims that I hadn’t played in probably close to a year. It has been wild fun re-discovering some of the dormant stories in the game. I think I’m ready to bring the neighborhood to a new generation, but this may be a result of the BPD monster working her magic, so I’m not really sure.

In the midst of the coding and the simming, I have been trying to rescue my Geocities pages. It took about an entire day to get through all my sites because I’d definitely abused their services by creating about a half dozen names and linking them all together to get a site that was close to a small site with about 50MB of space total. I’ve not really made use of Geocities’ services since 2004 when I’d created Dorienne Smith.com, but I wanted to keep everything for posterity sake. My hope is that they allow a redirection service for all those sites that have owners that continually log into their accounts, but I doubt that is going to happen. I had to save a Japanese writing site that had a mirror through Geocities as well and that took a couple days by itself, but getting all my own site was a chore that really wasn’t necessary and if Geocities when just went a little extra mile, they wouldn’t have to close the service in the first place.

What got me writing, though, was that in my zeal to recover my Geocities’ pages, I had to search through this pile of papers and notebooks in a shelf that I have just moved from my parents’ house to the dorms to two different campus apartments and to my current house without having gone through all the crap that was in those papers and notebooks. Most of the stuff were just notes on sites I’d planned to make and the preliminary stages of Dorienne Smith.com, but a good many of the pages were old things I had written in the past decade.

I found my first attempt at a novel that I had started when I was ten years old, Twelve Years. I remember quite clearly that the original title was Seventeen Years, but since I was only ten at the time, I reasoned that I didn’t really know enough about being seventeen to write a book about seventeen years of life, so the obvious action was to only expand the book for twelve years because surely by the time I finished the book, I would be at least twelve years old and would be able to write accurately. The fact that I remember thinking something like this just made me realize that I must have been a really weird kid when I was younger.

In the mess of paper and notebooks, I found a spiral-bound notebook that contained the beginnings of an X-Files’ story that I had first created when I was fourteen years old.  The opening scene was rather disturbing, even for an X-File, and it got me trying to remember what my middle and high school years were like. Whether I’ve blocked them from memory or not, I can’t really doing much more than writing, drawing and making lists to categorize how I was changing. I remember knowing a lot of people, but honestly, I had very few real friends, and after viewing that old X-Files story, and I’m surprised that I’d had any at all. I was definitely a weird kid.

As a kid, I wrote zillions of notes for stories, some of which have materialized (albeit subconsciously) into Damen, I created the beginnings of many stories from those notes and I sketched all the time. I’d gone through college looking back at my high school years as someone who just followed the popular crowds and was real bitch for much of the time, but finding all these notes and writings tells me I was far different from how I’d imagined myself.

I sat down to write my first novel when I was ten years old. It wasn’t like I wanted to create a long story or just write something for my mother. At only ten years old, I had it set in my mind that I was going to write a novel and would someday be able to publish it for others to see. I had actually hand-written 98 pages of this novel before I realized that it wasn’t much more than a thinly-disguised fanfiction and, at twelve years old, I began my first real novel, one that contained characters that were wholly my own. I remember writing it off and on over the next few years and, in late 1999, I finished A Ten Minute Speech. I created a sequel to it, The Martin Drama, and finished it before I went off to college in August 2002. Just thinking about it intrigues me: I had began three “novels” and completed two of them before I was eighteen years old.

Now, while neither completed novel is even remotely publishable in their original forms, I still hold the desire to fully complete them and make them into something that someone without a learning disability could read and enjoy. The fact is, I have been doing this “writing” thing for more than a decade and I can’t believe I’d been trying to do other things with my life for so long, when one look at the piles and piles of notes and story ideas could tell any passerby what I should be doing.

I have been writing novels since I was ten years old. I was a weird kid.

 

 
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