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Messages - grapeshot [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Re: software to write gamebooks ?
« on: September 25, 2011, 02:17 PM »
I tried Twine, and found it interesting but ultimately I abandoned it. (Example.) It isn't being actively developed, and not being being any kind of a coder, I found that to be limiting. It has some basic commands and formats all set up to use, but anything beyond that requires tooling around under the hood. I just want to write the story, not also have to code it or debug it. Initially, I also found that the story I wrote seemed to work differently between various browsers, and couldn't ever figure out why. Yet today my example seems to work okay in IE8, IE9, and Firefox. (Can't speak for Safari or Opera or Chrome.) There is still a Google group for its support, but the owner has confessed to not having time for it, and nothing much is posted there anymore. It's too bad, because I thought it was a great concept, and if someone put time into it, and provided more UI "canned" features, it could really work well.

heh. Been there, done that!

Had I checked in here a month ago, I'd have found this thread sooner, and I could've given you my disks for Leopard. My Mac bit the dust just after I bought the OS upgrade, and I would've been HAPPY to package my set of Leopard disks and send it to you at no charge. Really! It's brand new and has never been opened. If you like, I can offer to send them to you anyway.

I never cottoned to my old Mac mini, and when it finally died, frankly I was relieved. The only thing I will say in its favor is that iMovie is pretty awesome. If you do anything at all with videos, you'll appreciate how easy it is to use, and how it makes a very nice looking video. For a "simple" product it has some surprisingly sophisticated tools. Just be prepared to have to hunt around for external format converters if you want to share videos with your PC pals. Even those, however, are available, and are more polished than their PC counterparts.

GarageBand is a lot of fun, too. I thought iPhoto was overblown and way more than I needed. Whenever I tried to use it, I found it to be quite counter-intuitive and confusing, and after a while just avoided it. I found other means for working with my photos -- like using my PC instead. All of these are part of the iLife family, but rather surprisingly, none of their user interfaces have much commonality.

Like you, I discovered that the Mac's greatest proficiency is extracting money from my pocketbook. And I don't mean solely because it's expensive to buy one, but because almost anything you need to do to it is going to cost you, and often the only way out when you have trouble with it is to buy your way out.

Still, I believe I'm a better person for having wrangled with one for 3 years. Now I know for a fact that those Mac fanboys have no idea what they're talking about. Having tasted the other side, I know that Windows is the OS for me.

Finished Programs / SOLVED: Freecell Request
« on: December 04, 2010, 09:42 AM »
Gosh, I don't know where to put this request, so I'll start here, and you guys can send me to where it should go, even if it's off this site completely. goes nothing:

The ONE single thing that keeps me from upgrading to the newest Firefox versions is that my absolute favorite add-on has lost its developer. That is the add-on called Cards, which includes among other things, free-cell. The reason that I liked this add-on so much is that in the portable version I could play it at work where free-cell was not installed on our computers (yeah, I know it's wrong to play it, but what are you going to do while you're on hold, or waiting for an application to crunch out a result, or while you're on a boring conference call, etc.). It also allowed me to play free-cell on a Mac. Besides, that, I just liked how the game functioned better than the Microsoft Windows one.

So, my question is, how can I get the actual game extracted out of the extension? (I have the Cards .jar file and the .xpi file, and for a while I toyed with the idea of trying to do this myself, but I simply don't know where to start.)  Ideally, I'd like to get the game to be an add-on to the new version of Firefox, but I don't know that this is a fair request to make here, so I'd settle for just getting the game as a stand-alone application which doesn't rely on being installed (so it can be played from a jump drive).
I'm a real addict to this little game and in the spirit of this site, I'd gladly make a sizable donation here -- Hey! I'm not above incentivizing this effort! ;) Plus, I'd like to be able to move on to the latest version of Firefox.

If there is already such an application out in the wild, I would love to know about it -- although I've looked around and haven't been able to find one that fits the bill. If this is the wrong sort of request to make here, then can someone point me in the right direction or give me some tips on how I might go about getting this done myself.

Thanks for everybody's patience in reading this.

A couple of movies that blew me away are The Fall and The Brothers Bloom.

The Fall is about a movie stunt man recuperating from a failed stunt, and a little girl, who's also in the hospital while healing from a broken arm.  She is ambulatory, he is bed ridden.  He starts telling her a story, and pretty soon we begin to see the story as it grows in her mind.  The movie shows us everything from the little girl's point of view while allowing us, with our adult perspective, to recognize the deeper things that are really going on.  The story grows in meaning and depth, until we realize that the fantasy and the real world events are intertwined.  The director traveled to the ends of the world to bring indelible images to the screen -- nothing here is done with CGI.  It is the most beautiful, eye-catching movie I've seen in a very long time.  Despite one of the main characters being a little girl, the story is for adults, and by the time the story ends you'll have examined themes of life and death.   I might add that don't let the deep themes fool you, it is also a very entertaining movie, with an especially colorful story-within-a-story.  

The Brothers Bloom is a story about two con men who have grown rich at their game, but now one of them has grown tired of the games and wants to leave.  So the other devises one last con, to fool a rich girl out of some money.  All goes well, until one of them falls for her.  Ah, but it turns out that this, too, was planned for.  The movie is full of interesting, quirky characters, charmingly offbeat locations (Prague, Montenegro, New Jersey), and is told with a dark, dry wit.  It's like a Wes Anderson movie, only deeper, and by the time the movie ends, you'll realize that it's been about love and loyalty all along.

For fans of dark humor, I can also recommend a few more choices:

In The Loop is a dark comedy about politics.  It's based on the British series The Thick Of It, and is told in a fast-paced faux documentary style, and you have to pay real close attention to figure out what's really going on.  The premise is that politics is all about spin and PR, and the story takes place as the US and the UK are about to drift into a war.  If the story resembles real life, I'm sure that it is on purpose.  The characters are all scheming for political advantage while simultaneously preening for the press. (Careful, there's a lot of foul language, which I found funny, but is not for the faint of heart.)  I liked this so much that I troubled myself to hunt up the British series, and watched it in complete fascination, not the least because of the artistic heights that the use of foul language reaches.

You Kill Me, starring Tea Leoni and Ben Kingsley, is a dryly funny movie about a Buffalo hitman who's sent by his family to the west coast to dry out.  He takes up work in a morgue, and meets a beautiful but sharp tongued woman.  IMO, the idea of making a living in Buffalo as a hitman, or going to the west coast to dry out and THEN getting a job in a morgue should give you an inkling of the type of movie this is.  (If you don't see the inherent humor in this sort of incongruity, you might want to give this movie a miss.  It's humor is very dry.)

If really dry and really dark comedies are what strikes your fancy, take a look at A Film With Me In It.  It's a black farce starring Dylan Moran (Black Books, Run Fat Boy Run, Shaun of the Dead) who's the best friend of a hapless actor played by Mark Doherty (no, I don't know what else he's been in, either) who cannot get a job.  The film has only six major characters, who enter and and then accidentally die with alarming frequency.  I know that doesn't sound funny, but yet it is. I don't like farces, or comedies that are this black, but this movie held my attention at the sheer nerve of creating a story this bleak, while so deeply funny.  (Er, I caught this on pay-per-view, and I see it's not out yet on DVD.  I see no ETA for it, either.  Sorry to get your hopes up.)

Heh.  Several years ago I got suckered by all the Mac hype, and bought one - a Mac mini.  I quickly came to regret it, and now, despite all the raves and hoopla over iPhones and iPads, I just cannot bring myself to even consider getting any Apple product ever again.  (Oh, and I positively LOATHE iTunes.)

I can't make any recommendations for what you, or anyone in your shoes, should do.  It seems to me that your choice is extremely personal, and depends on what your daily activities are, and what you expect from these devices.  I love my Asus eeePC, and you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands before I'll give it up -- even though, yes, the screen is small and the processor is underpowered.  It boots up faster than my other PCs, and it does whatever I need for it to do.  But then, I don't game, and I don't do graphics intensive work.  Whenever I'm on the road, the netbook is with me, and I have used it at friends/ and relatives' houses to kill time.  I use a pay-as-you-go mobile broadband plan, which limits my monthly data expenses, and which I believe is not an option with the iPad.  I like it for blogging, for writing projects, for surfing, and as a convenient way to dump my pictures from my camera.  I also use it a lot for doing work related stuff while on the road, which involves MS Office (fortunately, we're still stuck back on Office 2002, so it doesn't especially overtax my netbook.)  Since I touch-type, A regular QWERTY keyboard is also a must.  Even if I wanted to buy an iPad, it just couldn't do these particular things well, and that's a deal breaker for me.  

I am also in the process of moving from a Palm T|X to a Blackberry.  This isn't by choice, but is being dictated by work.  I must say that although the old Palm was long in the tooth, I am shocked to discover the paucity of apps for the Blackberry.  It's been around for a long time, yet there doesn't seem to be much variety among available applications.   Although the Blackberry is better at the "internet-y" stuff (twittering, surfing, instant messaging), it's much worse at the things that I loved about my old Palm: note taking, memo's, database, and profession-specific applications.  (Where's the resistor color code app? The steam tables app? and how come I can only find one scientific calculator?)  I was also surprised that the old Palm provided me a better user experience with its native email, contacts, and calendar apps.  Really, the "crackberry" has been somewhat of a letdown.  (Google Mobile Apps, however, are awesome.)

Since my day job dictates that I have a netbook and a Blackberry, and between them I get most of my portable electronic needs met, something like the iPad would only add more weight to my bag without any noticeable benefit.  Although I've been intrigued by the thought of a portable tablet, I'm not convinced that one can take the place of both a laptop and a phone.   If I were in your shoes, and had an extra $700 to spend on something, I think I'd get myself a Wii and, with that stupid ol' Mac of mine finally biting the dust, a small form-factor desktop (Win7, thank you) to act as a media server.

Living Room / Re: Some initial reflections on using an ebook reader
« on: August 14, 2010, 06:32 PM »
I purchased the Barnes & Noble Nook several months ago, and like most people here, I find it mostly useful, but I don't think it will completely replace hardbacks.  (Paperbacks, maybe, but not a good, quality hardback edition of any of your favorites.)  Also, to clarify, I read lots of novels, and some non-fiction, mainly history related and current events, and sometimes biographies or humorous works.  I never intended to use an eReader as a way to carry a lot of reference works around, and after seeing how they work, I'm not entirely sure that this is better than pdf's on a laptop.  I did install a thesaurus, but found that the edition I purchased isn't what I imagined it would be.  Searching is slow and awkward, and although the backbone of ePub files is XHTML, this thesaurus was surprisingly link-free.  I would have thought that linking words upon words would be the prime reason to have a thesaurus as an ebook.

Here's what I don't like:

The Nook has had some hardware issues which I had to contend with and overcome.  (I've had to shim the battery in its holder so that it made good contact with the electrodes, and two of the paging buttons are cracked -- although the unit still works fine.  By all accounts, B&N will exchange mine no questions asked; I just haven't gotten around to it.)  However, even with these issues, I'm still happy with it and have no regrets.

Page turning was a little slow at first, but a software revision fixed that. 

The Barnes & Noble book browsing experience is nowhere near as helpful as the Amazon website experience is.  I find myself browsing at the Amazon site, then buying the books I find on my Nook.  The Barnes & Noble book browsing experience is pretty much limited to searching through lists beginning with the best sellers.  If you're happy with reading those, you'll quickly find reading material.  If you prefer reading off-the-beaten path works, browsing for books really sucks.  Otherwise, you have to know what authors you want to search for, as it is unlikely you'll make any serendipitous finds.

Maybe it's because I'm an old school gal, but reading with the Nook is just not the same as curling up with a good book.  It is by no means bad, but it doesn't feel quite the same, either.  (Although, this could be an old-dog/new-tricks problem.) 

On airplanes, during take-off and landing, you have to turn these off.  You don't have to do that with a paper book.

I don't necessarily mind re-purchasing some of my favorite books, but the medium is still too young to have extensive back-lists available for many of my favorite mid-list authors.  I scanned one paperback that I desperately wanted an e-version for, and went through the conversion (from pdf scan to text) and re-conversion (from text to ePub) and successfully got it on the Nook.  Whew!  It took a lot of work, and I would gladly have paid for the convenience of not having to go through all that.  To be fair, though, this isn't a problem specific to the Nook; it exists with all eReaders to varying degrees.

Remembering to recharge a battery can be a challenge for me.  (This challenge is paradoxically easier AND harder when faced with re-charging all my other electronics.  I have SO many things that need re-charging that it reminds me to add the Nook to the list, but....I have SOOO many things that need re-charging that I feel overwhelmed!)

You still need an external light to read by.  This is not usually a problem, as most of the time one is available, but it is something to consider.

It cannot replace picture books or art books.  The screen is monochrome. 

What I Like:

It's perfect for travel.  I travel a fair bit, and sometimes to some pretty out-of-the-way, rural places.  I used to try and pack enough reading material, but the weight of all that was a constant nuisance.  That's no longer an issue.   

It's especially nice to be able to subscribe to one of the major newspapers using my Nook.  When I'm traveling in rural Alabama or Arkansas, I am at least assured that I'll have a newspaper to read, which makes me feel in touch with the rest of the world.  Even at home, it's nice to not have to run to the newstand to buy my daily copy, nor do I have the bother of recycling the piles of newsprint every week.  I hope more magazines will also come on board; that would be far more convenient than searching high and low for a newstand that carries obscure journals.

It conveniently fits in my purse, or my bag, and is always available whenever I find myself waiting in line, or at a restaurant.  And it remembers exactly where I left off reading; no more fumbling for something to use as a bookmark.

As many others have pointed out, the classics are all freely available from sites like Project Gutenberg.  You can, if you wish, buy them, too, and for only $1 or $2 dollars you can get them downloaded without hooking it up to a computer and downloading and sideloading the work.   (You pay for convenience, in this case.)  Even some early to mid 20th century works are available at low cost.  For example, Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples is available at $4 per volume, which for me is low enough to consider buying one to see what it's like.  I've always wanted to try this work, but didn't ever want to pay full paper edition prices for something I might find uninvolving.  (Yeah, yeah, there's the library for that, too....)

I like being able to change fonts (the Nook has 3 available) and to re-size the fonts. 

The Nook gets two small essays downloaded every morning.  One is a humorous piece, and the other is a related to literature.  While I wouldn't make my purchasing decision on this feature alone, it is a nice touch.

I like the user interface, which is a combination of a color touch screen and buttons for turning pages.  I found it pretty intuitive to figure out, and haven't had to resort to any user's manual yet.

I like being able to buy books via 3G.  Yes, the B&N book browsing experience leaves much to be desired, but even so, if you're not near a bookstore, and you've run out of fresh reading material, it's still pretty awesome.

I have sooo many books, that I've started to have to prune my collection.  An ebook edition is a painless way to still have some of your favorites on hand -- especially if like me, you like to reread them a lot.

Things I Don't Care About One Way Or Another:

Lending books.  My tastes are so different than most that no one bothers with what I read, and it's rare for anyone to have what I like on their shelves.  While I think it's a shame that digital editions are so locked up that one cannot lend something to a friend, the way you can with a paper edition, it hasn't proven to be any special hardship for me.   

The Nook has a couple of games on it that you can play.  One is chess, the other is sodoku wordgames.  I don't do either of these.  (But if they ever get freecell, or mah-jong, look out baby!!)

The Nook also has a web browser, but it isn't especially fast.  (It's still in Beta.)  I have used it, but with the grayscale screen, most color websites aren't all that easy to read, and one has to use the touchscreen for scrolling, which makes it awkward to navigate websites.  Still, in a pinch, you can use this to catch up with a favorite blog -- assuming you can find a wifi access point.

This looks like just the ticket for me.  Among my computers I also have a Mac, with the much vaunted iPhoto.  I loathe that software and find it to be way too bloated for my needs.  (Even thinking about firing it on just to do a quick run through to find a photo from, say, two years ago gives me the heebie jeebies.)  I have been afraid to try other picture organizers because I'm afraid they'll be just as bloated.  Like 40hz, I keep my files on my computers fairly well organized, so finding a specific photo on my Windows machines isn't usually a lot of trouble.  (It's a lot more troublesome for me on my Mac, and I've nearly abandoned using it for any kind of photo storage.) 

My primary computer is an XP machine, and I hesitate to install Windows Search, which sounds like a whole lotta trouble for something that I don't really need, but I've installed the non-search version and have started trying it out.  So far I like it.  (Like 40hz, I use Everything as a fallback on those occasions when I can't find something.)

I have a dumb question, though.  Would it work on Vista?

Heh.  It's funny how the ads in the UK seem to have gotten the exact same two types of characters to represent the Mac and the PC, too.  That can't have been a coincidence.  Surely that indicates the universality of the essential difference between PC users and Mac users?

But, to be fair, most Mac users seem entirely satisfied with their machine.  I just happened to be one who disliked it almost from the start.  I've had it for over three years now, and the only use I get out of it for transferring my recorded TV shows to DVD.  Oh, and I use the iTunes store sometimes.  Otherwise I find iTunes to be way overkill for my "not an iPod" personal media player.  Having it on my Mac at least prevents me from having to install iTunes on my PC while occasionally allowing me to see what I might want to buy on iTunes.  (Not that much, usually.  But then, I'm not a kid who needs all the latest releases from all the newest artists.)

I hear that from Mac users once in a while and to me it's almost incomprehensible, I don't mean solely from a technical stand point but from a practical one

I was dumbfounded to discover that new versions of Firefox and OpenOffice won't work on my version of OSX.  I read last year that nearly half of all Mac users still operate Panther, so why no one will make software that runs on Panther is beyond me.  Snow Leopard, which is imminent, won't be able to to run on my "old" hardware.  I think Mac users must have deeper pockets than I do, and can afford to keep upgrading their OS and their computer.  Meanwhile, I keep getting annoying nag messages from both Firefox and OpenOffice that I need to upgrade.  (Every time it makes me gnash my teeth and tear my hair at the loony Catch-22 of it all.  Now... to be sure, over the years, my various PCs have annoyed me, but none of my Windows machines, not even my Vista one, has caused me to gnash my teeth!)

Earlier in this thread someone said that if Windows is so great, how come those who've switched to OSX aren't switching back.  That's a good point. 

But, I am an example of someone who switched back.  That is, I still have my Mac machine, and it's on, but I only use it occasionally.  I never liked the OS, and found it to be about as much trouble as my XP machine was. 
  • It has trouble working with some of my peripherals, it occasionally doesn't want to find an external drive, and locks up a surprising amount, requiring a hard re-boot.
  • For me, it wasn't particularly intuitive to learn to use, either.
  • I was always running into software limitations.  That is, in the Windows world there is a plethora of software available for any little thing you might want to do, ranging in price from free to expensive (and with commensurate sophistication, support and documentation levels).  In the Mac world there's usually one, two, or maybe three softwares for any given thing you want to do, and rarely is there a free one.
  • If your OS version is a couple of years old, you begin to find that new software won't work with it, forcing you to upgrade.  In the Windows world, you can reasonably expect your OS to last you for the better part of a decade.
  • I also found that when I did have trouble with my Mac, it was difficult to find a solution on the web.  With the PC, I can almost always find a solution somewhere.
  • Once upon a time, many years ago, all I wanted from my computer is that it "just works", without me having to go under the hood -- either in the depths of the OS or inside the case.  However, I've come to rather like becoming self-sufficient in upgrading/fixing/modding my computer and/or its software.  The Mac, on the other hand, wants me to just shut up and look at the pretty window.  Personally, I find that a bit insulting.
Sure, a Mac is a cool looking machine, and uses a spiffy looking OS, but like that Coding Horror article, my computer is a tool, not an accessory to my lifestyle.  I recognize that not everyone thinks this way, and everyone operates the computer they prefer for their own deeply personal reasons.  For years I've driven Buicks and have been supremely happy with them, but my brother wouldn't dream of owning anything other than a Toyota. 

What crawls up my shorts, however, is the snobbish, sneering attitude of the Mac fanboys.  I don't think they even realize just how obnoxious they are.  Here's a great opinion column that was published in The Guardian a couple of years ago that sums it up well.  I reread it occasionally whenever the noise from the Mac fan community gets a little too much to bear.

Living Room / Re: Star Trek 2009 - Discussion [SPOILERS]
« on: May 31, 2009, 12:21 PM »
I thought it was GREAT!  I'm a trekkie -- although not an obsessive one, and I had no trouble with the reboot.  After the dismal Voyager series, and the awful Enterprise series, I fully expected this movie to be lamer than lame.  But no, it was FUN to watch. 

I thought all the actors captured the essence of the characters without descending into simple mimicry, and I could easily see the older characters in these younger versions of themselves.  I don't mind seemingly minor story faults, (although there's less of them than you might think) and was happy to see a story that felt true to the spirit of the original series.  Heh, even the slightly lame villain seemed true to the original series. 

This movie recreated the original feeling that I had when I first saw the show, which was a feeling that I never thought I'd experience again.  I can't think when the last time was that I saw such an enjoyable movie.

I admit that I am a "CRIMP-er"  (Compulsive Reactive Information Management Purchaser).  However, after every software package that I've ever looked at, I have always ended up back to using the venerable old Keynote, which has been around since the last century!  (heh.) 

From what I've seen of Action Outline, it doesn't look all that different than Keynote, except with an up-to-date appearance, and maybe some fancier word processing.  Keynote is free, whereas the Lite version of Action Outline (which is presumable free, too) places some limits on its use that I could not live with.  As for the Pro version, looking at the screenshot and comparing it to the old Keynote screenshot, they look shockingly alike, except that Keynote still has the old Win98 look and feel.  Action Outliner is better looking, that's for sure. and there is a lot to be said for a good looking program.  After all, who wants to always experience a mental cringe when opening up software that you deal with daily. 

In my opinion, Keynote's one real limitation is that it can't collect Word files, or PDF documents or websites very well, and perhaps Action Outliner does this better.  Keynote can only link to these document files or sites, but it can't display them, and some people want to be able to see the entire body of their notes collection within the confines of their software, rather than to have to open them up in external applications.  Keynote's limitations are perfectly fine for me, since I write a great deal of my own notes, and only occasionally link to a website or an external document. 

Keynote, and presumably Action Outliner also, have a very quick learning curve.  I've also been looking at General Knowledgebase (to help organize all the various help files I've built up over the years for all my computer software and hardware), but it's been complicated to learn, which discourages me from opening it up as often as I should.  By contrast, with Keynote I was up and going right away, and presumably Action Outliner looks to be just as easy to learn.  (I'm the kind of person that doesn't take kindly to struggling with the GUI  on software, and just wants to be able to get on with whatever it is that I want to do with the software.)

After spending years looking at outlining and note taking software, I'm convinced that they're valuable, but I'm also convinced that the value of each software application is completely subjective AND also dependent on the type of project for which they are being used.  Some people are perfectly content with a simple Notepad document, others like a system that combines with their browser (Evernote, Google Notebook), still others like a system that interacts with Office (Microsoft One Note).  Some like a wiki style note taking system, which allows tagging, and others like a simple outliner, or outliner with tabs, and yet others like mind-mappers. 

Furthermore, if you're taking notes for a dissertation or for something of a scholarly nature, then you might want something that's better at tracking not only the information but the source of that information.  If you're simply looking for something that tracks the flotsam and jetsam of your life -- ie miscellaneous project ideas, contact info, interesting avenues for further exploration, etc. -- then a simple listing in some sort of long text document might be sufficient.  So not only is the value of note taking software dependent on each person's style of thinking, but also on the purpose of the information collecting.  All this makes selecting note taking software difficult and subjective. 

The good news is that there's at least one of every different kind to fit EVERY budget, from no-cost to extremely pricey (and which comes with commensurate hand-holding and support), and every style of thought-processing, and for every kind of need. 

General Review Discussion / Re: Free PDF tools review?
« on: March 29, 2009, 11:23 AM »
I thought I might add some of my observations to this thread.

I found a portable application version of PDF-Xchange Viewer (scroll down to find the link), and as far as I'm concerned it is The Bomb.  Yes, the program has some quirks, but this past week I had to to annotate a diagram of a machine to explain its functions to a non-technical audience, and it worked out better than I expected.

  • I have discovered that my annotated PDF documents will not work in Adobe versions older than version 7.  Believe it or not, in our corporation, with its hugely centralized IT department, there are still many computers with only Adobe 6 on them.  (I think its because a user has to call and ask IT to upgrade it for them, and if Adobe 6 seems to work fine, why annoy the IT folks with your petty little requests.  And besides, most users aren't even aware that they're using an old version.)  Fortunately, PDF-Xchange Viewer let me save my annotated document as a .tiff file, which anyone could open with a picture viewer.
  • I used the line draw feature to draw highlighted lines around the relevant sections of the machine in question, pick different colors for the highlight lines, and I used text boxes to create a color key for the lines, and for writing explanations of the functions of the various highlighted sections.  PDF-Xchange Viewer let me control the opacity of the lines, and it let me create text boxes with fill, no fill, or transparent fill.
  • The typewriter feature is a little quirky.  It only seems to let me change the font and font size after I've already typed some words.  Once I've typed some words in, then I can highlight them, change the font and font size, etc.  Afterwards, if I decide to change what I typed in, it keeps that font.  It's just that the initial typing is always rendered in New Courier, 12 point size, black.  This is a little odd and requires a little bit of extra work to keep changing the font each time I write something, but not a show stopper for me.
  • I like that I can create a cloud box, which is very traditional for engineering drawings.  (Yes, we use PDF versions of engineering drawings frequently because not everyone has a CAD viewer on their computer whereas everyone can open up a PDF.)
  • I like that I can open up new PDF files in tabs, which helps greatly to control the number of windows open on my screen.
  • It can capture an image (as long as the document isn't locked) which you can paste into another locations, such as a Word document, or Paint.  You can copy text this way, too, but it becomes an image, not editable text.
  • It can highlight text, but not images.  You can highlight an image by creating a box or a circle, with fill, and selecting a low opacity value.

At work we cannot install new programs on our computers (they're locked by IT), and only a handful of people are allowed to get a purchased copy of Adobe Writer, so being able to use a portable version of PDF-Xchange Viewer has been extremely handy.  I was particularly tickled by my experience this past week, which allowed me to explain a machine's complexity to a far-flung audience by making a picture, rather than having to write a long, boring explanation.  (And without having to subject people to my messy hand-drawing and hand-writing!)  After this past week's exercise with PDF annotation, I was so happy with PDF-Xchange Viewer, that I decided that I'd like to buy their pro version.

What PDF-Xchange Viewer cannot do:
  • Merge or split PDF documents.  (I use PDF Split and Merge for that, but it's not portable.)
  • It can rotate a page, but it cannot save that rotated page orientation.
  • It cannot turn a PDF document into a Word document -- but I wouldn't necessarily expect it to do that.  (I use a FREE PDF to Word Converter program for that.)
  • It cannot convert any file to a PDF document.  I use either portable OpenOffice, or doPDF, depending on whether I'm at a work computer where I cannot install doPDF, or using my personal computer and need a PDF version of whatever I'm working on.

I mentioned using PDF Split and Merge and FREE PDF to Word Converter program, but I haven't used either of these very much.  They are both adequate for my meager needs, and I haven't found any problems with them.

I like doPDF, but mostly what I use it for at home is to convert eCommerce receipts into electronic documents.  At work, where I installed it before a new, draconian IT policy of NO NON-APPROVED, USER INSTALLED SOFTWARE EVER, AND I MEAN NEVER EVER was enacted, I use it frequently to turn CAD drawings to PDF, or to make PDFs of MS Project schedules for people who don't have MS Project installed on their computers.  (If my computer ever goes toes up and has to be replace, it'll be goodbye doPDF, and I don't know what I'll do then!) 

I have also used portable IrfanView for creating PDFs out of graphics images, and it is another tool in my portable applications arsenal.  I haven't used it much, but it seems to have done a fine job for the times that I have used it.  My only wish is that IrfanView could let me view CAD drawings (.dwg and .dwg) as Autodesk's CAD viewer is a buggy, sucky, POS.

Living Room / Re: Why I Avoid Apple Products
« on: March 07, 2009, 04:29 PM »
However if you buy an apple desktop / laptop you got as much choice to run things on it as a windows based one, which disproves the quotated text. What's with the apple hate?

A few years ago I bought into the Apple myth and got myself a Mac mini.  It was very nearly the dumbest thing I ever did.  Not because the Mac didn't work, or wasn't "cool", but because I found that it didn't work better than my XP machine did.  It had it's own quirks and PITA (pain in the a**) features.  In the four or so years that I've owned it, I've never cottoned to it, and it's little more than an expensive toy that I occasionally use for some video editing.  (Which I admit, it does an excellent job at -- but it's not something that is essential for the things that I do for work or recreation.)

What especially has crawled up my fanny is that smug jackass who plays the Mac guy on those ads.  He epitomizes the smirking, holier-than-thou, patronizing attitude that I catch from a LOT of Mac users, all of whom seem to think I'm dim for using a PC, and that Windows is just a very shabby poor country cousin to the hip OSX.  Well, darn it, I LIKE my XP machine, and use it DAILY for everything.  I even like my Vista machine, which serves me as a media center. 

One thing that I have discovered about the Mac is that yes, it's true that anything you can do with a Windows machine you can also do with a Mac -- but it will cost you $$ and your choices will be much more limited.  I found that even for simple utility programs, I would be nickle and dimed for them.  Nor was I happy when I realized that my version of the OS became nearly obsolete since I've owned it, and I will have to keep upgrading to the latest one if I ever want to keep all my Mac software up to date.  (Just try buying software for Panther.  Go ahead, I dare you to find anything.  For pete's sake, Firefox 3 isn't compatible with it, and I'm stuck with FF2!)  As near as I can tell, the principle that Apple operates under is how to maximize what they take out of my pocket. 

As for the iPhone...well, I think I'll just wait for the Palm Pre.  I've had quite enough of Apple for the time being.

Living Room / Re: Show us the View Outside Your Window
« on: August 15, 2008, 11:16 AM »
Delurking to show my view in sleepytown Wisconsin

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