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Messages - johnk [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Re: 27 Good Reasons to Love Linux
« on: September 17, 2010, 10:14 AM »
Having tried to adopt Linux several times, I too get infuriated when people claim "ease of use" as a Linux attribute. It's simply not true, and wastes many people's time.

Ironically, I think that the one group Linux is suitable for is everyday users with very simple and unchanging needs -- people who only want a browser and email and will never update anything.

For advanced users (most people here, I guess) Linux is more problematic. I consider myself fairly well-versed in computer tech, but I have hit plenty of brick walls with Linux. And yes, like others, I found Linux support forums less friendly, and less supportive, than their Windows equivalents.

The other problem for advanced users is that you normally have a batch of key programs/utilities where Linux equivalents are not good enough (for me they would include Photoshop, IDImager, Movie Magic Screenwriter,  and Roboform, but there are others). Running two OSs in parallel seems pointless.

I accept the cost benefit of Linux for the most undemanding users. For others, the cost/benefit analysis is not that simple. I have wasted countless hours trying to make desktop Linux work for me. That effort was never repaid with anything approaching the ease of use of my Windows systems.

My Linux experience has not all been negative -- the Linux-based NAS OS NASLite is one of my favourite software products, which I have happily used on my home NAS for years.

General Software Discussion / Re: FinePrint vs. priPrinter
« on: September 16, 2010, 06:45 AM »
priPrinter is on BDJ again next week (Thursday Sept 23 -- $17.47 for standard version).

I have yet to try your program, DanJak, so forgive me for diving in here so quickly, but I have a strong feeling that keyboard navigation would be something that the kind of person who buys dialog box extenders would expect as a minimum. It's a small niche market, and keyboard fanatics form a significant part of that market (dialog box extenders and avoiding using the mouse are both all about efficiency).

I use a combination of File-Ex and the AHK script Folder Menu. Folder Menu overcomes some of the clunkiness of File-Ex, and one of its essential features is that it allows me to assign keyboard shortcuts to whatever folders I choose. The two work well in combination.

Living Room / Re: Will you miss newspapers when they're gone?
« on: March 09, 2010, 07:35 PM »
I dunno, I don't have a great deal of experience with local, professional journalism (though what little contact I've had has never particularly blown my socks off). But I do reckon government spending has ballooned quite nicely in the last 20 years. Maybe that's down to lack of proper reporting already creeping in during that time, though it hasn't really been a crisis for newspapers until the last 5, maybe 10 years. I'm also inherently skeptical of any "it was better in my day" subjective assertions, not that I doubt your experience or your character, just that it's not a particularly compelling argument. ;)

- Oshyan
The fact that you know government spending has increased by given amounts is probably down to the fact that you've read/heard/watched reliable news reports. And while reliable media sources will probably remain at national level for the foreseeable future, it's at regional/local level that media scrutiny is vanishing. And that just cannot be a good thing.

Living Room / Re: Will you miss newspapers when they're gone?
« on: March 09, 2010, 06:52 PM »

Then again, what about independent citizen journalism and discussion? Blogs, forums, even Facebook groups. I see them having at least as much power and relevance as a local paper, which may be more prone to influence from local deep pockets anyway. True though that sometimes not enough citizens will really run down a story to quite match up to *good* investigative journalism. On the other hand how many "towns" have good investigative journalism for local events?

- Oshyan

As I alluded to in a previous post, once upon a time (i.e. 20 years ago) more or less very town would have at least one newspaper with a well-trained team of journalists (I'm talking about the UK here). Today, falling newspaper sales mean that is a thing of the past. And no amount of "citizen journalism" will replace it. Again, going back to my previous post, 20 years ago, journalists would attend every local council meeting. Meetings were divided into "part 1" (public) and "part 2" (private), where everyone apart from councillors got thrown out. Of course the private meeting generally contained the interesting stuff. It was part of the journalist's job to leave the meeting with the part two documents in his/her pocket (no, they didn't steal them -- it was all down to contacts). Good journalists could turn a vague whisper into a finished, accurate 250-word story in 20 minutes because, somewhere in their overflowing contacts books, they would have the names and phone numbers of everyone worth knowing on their patch. Citizen journalists tend either to ride hobby horses, or dip in and out on an ad hoc basis as subjects interest them, or as they stumble across news. Citizen journalism has a lot to offer, but it's no replacement for a professional newsroom in every town.

Expect wasteful local government spending to grow exponentially in the coming decades. And you won't know about it until it's too late to save your taxpayer pounds/dollars.

Living Room / Re: Will you miss newspapers when they're gone?
« on: March 08, 2010, 07:23 PM »
As someone who spent the best part of 20 years as a local newspaper journalist in the UK (and seven of those as an editor), I'm bound to have a skewed view. But it's worth making a few points.

On one level, the question isn't so much "will you miss newspapers" as "will you miss professional journalism". Paper is just one vehicle for the content journalists gather.

The problem is that very few newspapers around the world have found a way to make online newspapers pay. In the same way that so many young people think they should get music for nothing, many also feel online newspapers should be free.

Well, running newspapers is a very costly business, wherever the content ends up. Back when I started as a young reporter, the local paper I worked for had a team of about 30 journalists. Every meeting of the local councils, all their committees and sub-committees, were covered by journalists. The councillors were spending millions of pounds of our money, and they had to be held accountable.

But people have stopped buying local newspapers, and the online versions don't make enough profit to fund proper journalism. So now, the vast majority of these council meetings go uncovered, all across the UK. The councillors must be delighted. Countless wasteful decisions will go unreported. And taxpayers will be worse off for it. Blogs and "citizen journalism" are no substitute for well-financed newspapers providing funds for professional investigative journalism (and funds to fight the legal battles that often follow). Maybe spending 50p on a local paper was worth it after all.

Have you read ANY newspaper recently - they are all written by crackpots with an axe to grind over something.

In the case of UK papers the so called 'serious' papers just toady up to one party line or another and the other newspapers just print comics for adults with lots of breasts and talk about celebrities (who are often only celebrities because they bared all in one of the tabloids).

What strikes me as most strange is that the political allegiances of the 'serious' papers are far more extremely differentiated than the political parties' policies they appear to be supporting.
-Carol Haynes (March 08, 2010, 06:23 PM)

Sorry, Carol, I have to pull you up on this. While you may have a point about the "comics" (although it's a lot more complicated than that), the serious UK national newspapers provide a quality of news journalism that has few serious rivals around the world. Yes, papers have publicly-stated political preferences -- it's an odd British tradition -- but that does not prevent journalists doing their job. I may not agree with the political leanings of the Daily Telegraph, but it does not stop me acknowledging the excellence of their news pages. Generally they are comprehensive, well balanced and authoritative. They save most of the politicized rants for the feature pages. And that's as it should be.

Thank you DC and Vladonai Software.

Unless Hearst and whoever else is backing Skiff plans to give the device away to subscribers, I just don't see that kind of closed environment gaining any kind of traction in the market.

I will buy an (A4/Letter size) eBook reader when it means that I can ditch all my print magazine and newspaper subscriptions and receive them all automatically on my reader. That day is still at least two to three years away, I reckon. I also cannot see how it can ever happen without some form of DRM. But the eBook reader should accept DRM-free content as well.

Yes, I know all the content is available on the web for nothing, but I happily pay for certain magazines and newspapers because of the intelligent organisation of content, offering me content I would never have expected, or searched for, expanding my horizons. If we're not willing to pay for that, that option will die away.

EDIT: "I also cannot see how it can ever happen with some form of DRM." should have read "I also cannot see how it can ever happen without some form of DRM."

This is back on BDJ today. I tested it and was impressed enough to buy it. Does what is says on the tin.

General Software Discussion / Re: Do you touch-type or hunt-and-peck?
« on: September 21, 2009, 08:49 AM »
I'm with app103 in that I'm not a touch typist, nor am I  "hunt & peck".
My fingers sort of know where everything is (but if you ask, I'm not able to answer, strangely enough), but are limited to 1-3 fingers on both hands.

It goes rather fast though, at least when I'm at a keyboard I'm used to (currently Logitech G15 blue).
When changing keyboards it can take 2-3 days until I'm up to speed.
Same here -- I'm very happy with my "four finger" speed. I get around the keyboard problem by never changing keyboards...I'm still using a Dell QuietKey I bought several years ago, before keyboards became commodity items that fell apart in a year or two. Great build quality and will probably outlive me. The first thing I check on any potential new motherboard purchase is whether it has a PS/2 connector...

General Software Discussion / Re: Do you touch-type or hunt-and-peck?
« on: September 21, 2009, 05:06 AM »
Advice to young people: don't worry about learning to type. Learn to spell. Learn punctuation and the basic rules of grammar.

Until recently, I spent the best part of twenty years in newspaper journalism (in the UK), and was involved in recruitment and training of young journalists for most of that time.

About 15 years ago, we noticed a pattern of rapid deterioration among job applicants: despite having an impressive collection of school qualifications and college degrees, they couldn't write. Spelling and punctuation seemed a huge mystery to them.

So we introduced a set of (very) basic spelling, punctuation and grammar tests for interviewees. About 50 per cent of candidates had frighteningly low scores in the tests. And most were utterly horrified when they were told they were doing a spelling test...

If I was in a particularly cruel mood and was having a bit of fun with our trainee journalists, I might ask them to tell me, for example, about possible uses of the semi-colon, or indeed whether the semi-colon performs any useful function in modern English (a hot topic in certain academic circles). I never received a sensible response, of course.

I remember one particularly depressing day when a student was doing a bit of work experience with us. The standard of his writing was so bad that I felt compelled to point out to him that he would never get a job in journalism if he couldn't write.

He looked at me with a worried expression and said: "Isn't that what grammar and spell checks are for?"

I'm not making that up...

General Software Discussion / Re: What is your preferred font?
« on: September 04, 2009, 10:29 AM »
Screen: Verdana, Tahoma, Calibri.

Print: Constantia mainly (very nice). Actually I think most of the fonts MS introduced in their Office 2007 pack are good, solid fonts. But Constantia is the gem.

Monospace: Courier New is superb on screen, but horrible in print -- thin and spindly. Decent Courier print fonts are harder to find. You will find that this is discussed in exhaustive detail on screenwriting forums, as scripts are still always printed in 12pt Courier. I have a few different Courier versions on my system to use for monospace printing. For anyone who is interested, there's an "all you ever wanted to know" essay on Courier fonts for printing (including a comparison of different fonts) here.

These days, whenever I start using a new text editor, I make sure it has an option to use different fonts for screen and print.

Another monospace font worth mentioning is Inconsolata, an interesting print font for programmers. Consolas is good on screen for code.

EDIT: Forgot to mention another wonderfully elegant print font I use regularly: Adobe's Garamond Premier Pro. Beautiful, and excellent "readability".

I seem to remember getting this as a freebie when I bought Photoshop. It's one of the best freebies I've ever received. I received the entire set, which I see has a retail price of $200...

Amazon, Sony, and all the rest of the players need to realize that, in the world of business, just because you own the bat and ball doesn't necessarily mean you also get to make up all the rules.

Well, actually, you do get to make up the rules. You can manufacture anything you like (within the law) and put whatever you like in your EULA (within the law). Then the market decides whether it wants your product. And although I wouldn't touch the Kindle with a bargepole because I don't like their approach to DRM, it seems to be selling very well. Obviously, many people don't care about DRM.

DRM (particularly in the music market) is simply an illustration that there are a lot of not-very-intelligent people working in the industry. It took them the best part of a decade to work out that the only people inconvenienced by DRM were the honest people who paid for the music anyway. The thieves carry on thieving regardless. I stopped buying music CDs when some particularly draconian types of DRM prevented me from making copies of discs for use in the car. I wasn't playing that game. My CD collection is frozen in time about three years ago. Once I stopped buying discs because of DRM, I just lost the habit of buying discs completely, and it never came back.

But most of the music companies seem to have realised their error and are offering non-DRMed product. It's just a mystery why it took them so long.

mouser: problem is the devices kinda tend to support only DRM'ed crap - which I guess is 40hz's point (and definitely mine).

Thanks f0dder. :) :Thmbsup:

That's exactly my point.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not sure that there are many eBook readers that only support DRM material. You'd have to be a brave company to go down that route today. Even the new Kindle DX (perhaps the most DRM-focussed brand of reader) allows you to upload and read standard PDFs. The new Sony readers handle EPUB, PDF, Text, RTF, Word and BBeB.

i use my laser printer a lot still.  I prefer reading papers in printed form then on screen.
however i must say that i have been looking at the handheld ebook readers lately .. my conclusion is that when they come out with one with a full letter page sized screen, i might take the plunge.
Same here. Last year I bought a laser printer because I was printing so much stuff to read. I can't stand reading on an LCD screen, even though I've got a decent one.

And like mouser, I am waiting, impatiently, for the first affordable, high-quality Letter/A4 eBook. I expect it to handle PDF/txt/doc etc, RSS feeds, magazine and newspaper subscriptions (I can still see a future for eBook magazines and newspapers)....

By the way, old (and little-used) office printers seem to sell for a fraction of their original price on Ebay. They get dumped because of these wasteful rolling replacement contracts that some big companies use. I bought my HP Laserjet for £80 -- a tenth of its list price. It has a print engine capable of churning out 25,000 pages per month. It had printed just 10,000 pages in its previous life. And the print cost per page is a fraction of the printers aimed at home users.

General Software Discussion / Re: Windows 7 evaluation
« on: August 06, 2009, 10:57 AM »
I've been testing Win7 and I think it's a fine product. Early adopters will snap it up, and eventually corporations that avoided Vista will switch to Win7.

But in the general consumer marketplace, I think upgrade sales of Win7 may well disappoint. I think the vast majority of home users will ignore Win7 (unless they buy new PCs).

Why? Well, with any technology, I apply the "good enough" test.

For example, audio: Vinyl was good enough for audiophiles, but for the masses? Nope. Too fiddly: all that cleaning, getting up to change sides, scratches....bleh. The mass market wanted portability, ease of use and decent sound. CD passed the good enough test with flying colours, audiophile gripes notwithstanding. SACD and DVD-A were doomed before launch.

TV? CRTs failed the test. They dominated the average British living room to an uncomfortable extent once you got to 28". Flat screens were always going to succeed.

Video: VHS was obviously not good enough, for too many reasons to list. Neither was Laserdisc (size, turning discs, no record facility). DVD? Passes the good enough test. Portable, fairly rugged and with video and audio quality that defy criticism for the average user. Blu-ray proponents beware. As SACD showed, early adopter enthusiasm is not enough.

Windows OS: Win98SE was okay for its time, but you didn't have to be a tech genius to see that XP brought a whole new level of sophistication and stability to your home PC. Particularly since SP2, XP has been a robust OS which does everything the vast majority of users need. The user base is also vast, much bigger than the days of Win98, so software developers will offer XP versions for many years to come. Crucially, in the Win98 days, a home was lucky if it had one PC. Now many homes have more than one. The proposed family pack upgrade would have to be priced very competitively to make it a serious option. XP passes the "good enough" test. XP was a giant leap. Win7 is gentle evolution. After the initial early adopter euphoria, Win7 has a fight on its hands. It may well rely totally on new home PC sales and corporate adoption.

Will I upgrade? No. We have four home PCs. Even if I had bought during the brief £50 upgrade offer, that's £200 just for a new OS. That's before we talk about essential software and hardware upgrades. Doesn't begin to make economic sense.

When I upgrade the home PCs, it will probably be Linux. Every year or two I run a test installation, and every time I say "not yet". But it's about 18 months since my last test, and Mint looks interesting...

Although I settled on File-Ex a few years ago, I've never been happy with the Recent/Favourite folder menus in the program, which are rather clunky to use.

Then recently I happened upon Folder Menu, an AHK script which I don't recall being mentioned in these forums when this subject is discussed. Like other dialog extenders, hitting a hotkey (or clicking the mouse middle button) brings up Folder Menu's flexible, customisable menu in file open/save dialogs or explorer:


It's quick and easy to use, and for me it's an improvement on the File-Ex menus, so now I use both programs together, and the set-up works very well.

EDIT: Just Googled Folder Menu and I see it got a mention on LifeHacker about a month ago.

I don't think there are Pro/Lite variants now? Just the full v4. Normally $80, down to $40 for the BDJ discount

I'm cross-posting this item from this thread, as I imagine it will be of interest to many members, and it might get lost in the other thread:

TopStyle will be available at a 50% discount on BDJ on August 5.

I am in the same boat as you with requiring roboform. It is the sole reason I do not use opera.
I have often wondered by how much Opera's user base would increase if the program supported third-party add-ons. Every time you see a thread on the browser war, there are always a few posts which say: "I'd love to use Opera but can't live without Roboform" (and I'm one of them). I understand Opera's standpoint re security of add-ons, but still...

Handy Folders is available at a 50% discount on BitsduJour today.

For me, FileBox eXtender (now free) achieves the same goal, but I'd be interested to hear from Handy Folders users on the benefits they see in the program.

General Software Discussion / Re: Note Taking Software
« on: July 23, 2009, 03:20 PM »
Yes, CintaNotes is very promising. Still in beta, but so far so good. The developer is determined to keep it simple, which is  a good sign. His design philosophy is a model of clarity and gives me cause for optimism.

I recently gave a trial to Vueminder Calendar. It's pretty, certainly, and loaded with features, but it fell down for me in two areas.

1. It doesn't support categories - you need to build a separate calendar for each category (as with Google Calendar). I find this is a clumsy way to work. But each to their own.

2. More seriously, although the program claims to share iCalendar (.ics) files with other calendars/users, it is not "sharing" in the accepted sense -- instead it is "importing" the existing ics file each time, then creating its own calendar, and then exporting the file back to ics again, deleting the categories (if they exist) and completely overwriting the original ics. That was a surprise to me.

At the moment, I share a single ics file between Rainlendar, Lightning and Google Calender, and all three play nicely with each other, as they should. Vueminder is not suitable for such a setup.

I have raised this issue with the developer in the Vueminder forums, and he said he would address the issue in a future update.

I would recommend Rainlendar, based on my experience. It is my hub, managing the ics file it shares with Lightning and Google (that's my "events" calendar). Then I also have a separate ToDo calendar in Rainlendar, which it syncs with Remember the Milk and Lightning. It all works seamlessly.

Find And Run Robot / Re: Farr and Rainlendar?
« on: July 11, 2009, 06:59 PM »
Okay, my first attempt at an alias -- for those who simply want to add an event or task to your default Rainlendar calendar via the command line:

Save the following code as rainlendar.alias to your FindAndRunRobot\AliasGroups\MyCustom folder.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="Legacy" ?>
<!-- This file defines aliases for use by the Find and Run Robot program ( -->
    <AliasSetDescription>Rainlendar command line alias</AliasSetDescription>
        <Regex>^rld (.*)</Regex>
            <Result>Rainlendar $$1 | %PROGRAMFILES%\Rainlendar2\Rainlendar2.exe --add=&quot;$$1&quot; </Result>

Then in FARR, simply type rld and the event details (without quotes -- the alias adds the quote marks), e.g. type:

rld meeting tomorrow at 7pm

The alias will add the appointment to your Rainlendar default calendar. Hopefully. Works for me anyway, with the latest version of Rainlendar.

You'll need to change the location of the Rainlendar executable (%PROGRAMFILES%\Rainlendar2\Rainlendar2.exe in the alias) if you did not install Rainlendar to the default folder.

I agree that OneNote is a very powerful piece of software. One of Microsoft's best creations, though it gets relatively little attention. My mini-review of OneNote 2007 is here.

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