11/11/20

I’ve started switching my workflow from mac to windows. I know this probably isn’t of interest to most, but it marks a serious and time consuming change for me and how I prepare posts for publishing here. Before this I used MarsEdit as my desktop editor, unfortunately it isn’t available for Windows and after a fruitless search, I’m forced to admit I’ll have to be creative in using other software such as Scrivener and WordPress’s online editor to make up the loss. It isn’t as efficient or elegant, but it should work well enough to meet my basic needs.

This would be time consuming enough on its own but I’m also moving all of my other computer based activities to Windows as well which has meant acquiring all of the apps and settings or a usable equivalent to match what I spent the better part of seven years getting just right on my old system.

Really, I’m not complaining, it’s just time a little frustrating to have to change platforms like this, but at least I have options, which is better than the alternative.

~Kira

Computer Life

Apple logo

 

I thought I would share some of the products I use. I understand many people are using Microsoft Windows in which case, none of this is going to be very interesting but if you use or are thinking of using an Apple computer, then some of this might be useful.

I’m not a specialist or professional in any sense of the word, but I have been using computers and the internet long enough to know what products and services work best for the things I use electronic devices for. 

I’m also not paid to test, review, or recommend any hardware or software. Again, I just know what works for me. Having said all of this, I did want to share those things I use on an almost daily basis. Would it be nice to be paid for this sort of thing? Well of course but I don’t see it happening anytime soon!

 

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MacBook Pro (w/ Retina display)

Last year I took part of my income tax return and made the jump from desktop to laptop and I have no intention of ever going back. I can’t point to any one thing I like more than another with this computer, the overall package is a joy to work with.

 

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Mac OS X (Mavericks)

The latest version of Apple’s operating system which either comes preinstalled on new Macs or is available as a free download via the App Store.

I’ve used MS Windows 8 and Linux and both have their good points and bad points, but I prefer Apple’s OS above and beyond the competition. As you might guess, such things tend to rather personal in nature, so if you have different preferences, then great. I say to always use what works best for you. 

 

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iTunes 12

There is a lot of discussion around iTunes, both pro and con. As with any software, using it is a personal decision. There are a number of excellent alternatives available. For me, it works well enough and does what I need it to do.

 

Google Chrome

Google Chrome

I’ve used more browsers over the years than I can count. Google Chrome works well and uses less memory than either Firefox or Safari, especially when I have a lot of tabs open.

 

 

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iPhoto 9

This is a simple but powerful imaging software available for free on new Macs or through the App Store. It isn’t profession grade, but for the average user, it is more than enough to keep your photos organized.

If you need a more powerful solution for photo editing, I suggest looking at  Aperture, Apple’s professional editing software.

 

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MarsEdit 

I broke down and forked over the $40 for this app because it has proven to be the best solution for me. I tried a number of “free” alternatives, but none of them came close to the ease of use you get with Marsedit. Sometimes it’s simply worth spending the money.

 

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Scrivener

Much as with Marsedit, this is simply the best all around solution for all sorts of writers, from novelists, to screen writers, to poets. I was fortunate for by this for half price but I would pay full price if I had to and never regret the decision.

Adjusting My Workflow

I’m in the process of learning ways in which I can use Scrivener to write my blog posts. Unfortunately because I am using the free hosting from WordPress, I am somewhat limited in my options. As it stands, I’ll have to write my posts separately and then ‘cut and paste’ into the WordPress online editor through my web browser. If I were to ‘go pro’, then I believe I could export a post in either Markdown or HTML and send it directly to my blog. Well, I’m just notthat professional… actually I’m not a pro at all, which is why I am using free services and looking for alternatives to paid software to build a workflow with which I can work with on a daily basis.

Now, after such a long introduction, you must be asking yourself; so what? There are several answers to this question.

For one, I’m trying to clean up my computer and get rid of programs which I don’t use or whose trials have expired. In doing so, I have been looking at using free software or making better use of the programs I already have. The sad truth is I’m not rich, so I can’t just go out and buy whatever I want no matter how useful it might be.

(This is true for my music as well. Thanks to having as basement, I have a collection of old CDs which at one point was transferred into iTunes. Well, I don’t listen to those CDs, nor do I tend to add any those songs to my playlists which means they have been taking up space foryears. I just don’t need or want them any more and they need to go. In their place I am gather new music from free services such as NoiseTrade). Which leads me to the second reason for all of this work…

In this wonder age of instant information and access to pretty much any program, provided your willing to look in some questionable places and don’t mind using the electronic version of a five finger discount, you can find pretty much anything you desire for free. Of course this has been a touchy situation for musicians for years and complains and programmers alike have gone to great lengths to try and stop this practice.

As a parent of three boys, two of whom will be teenagers this year, I have a hard time trying to use the old “do as I say and not as I do” method of teaching them right from wrong. So if I want them to be responsible adults, I have to show them now there are ways to meet their needs without stealing and the best way to do so is to practice what I preach.

It doesn’t guarantee they will do the right thing, but if they don’t, it will not because they learned such behavior from me.

Which brings me back to the issue of either free software or using what I already have.

As it happens, I bought Scrivener several years ago and have kept it around mainly for use during the annual NaNoWritMo every November. There were several reason for doing so at the time, I really liked the software, it was on sale, and I thought it would be useful for writing poetry as well as anything else I wanted to write. As too often happens, I have failed to use this resource to its full potential which means I pretty much wasted my money. As it happens, I can’t afford to toss money around in such a way so I really would like to find every possible use for it.

Now I could spend a great deal of time going over all the aspects of Scrivener, but I think it best if you went and looked at their webpage at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

Has it happens, most of the solutions I found make use of similar methods of using a Word Processor to create your post and then pasting it into the WordPress online editor. The main reason for using Scrivener as compared to MSWord, Pages, or any of the free WPs available for Mac, Windows, or Linux is because it gives me a single location to keep all my information instead of having it spread out over dozens of separate documents.

This can be reduced by creating a single folder to hold all of your posts, but there will still be many subfolders depending on how often you post. So if your like me and post every day, your looking at a minimum of 365 separate documents!

I learned the method I’m going to use at http://thaddeushunt.com/writing-scrivener-as-a-complete-blogging-system/

It’s really simple when you think about it and if you already have Scrivener then it makes sense to use it. Which brings me to my final thoughts.

Scrivener costs $45US and is available for both WIN and Mac. It can be downloaded from their website or the Mac App Store.

MarsEdit costs $40US, is specifically designed for blogging but is available only on Mac. It can also be found on their website or the Mac store.

Maybe you noticed something, both of these programs cost money, not as much as some games you could buy, but still a difficult stretch for people on a tight budget, which is why I have spent so much time trying to find free alternatives. As it happens, I have only looked at what is available for Mac and Linux and I am aware there are many more Windows users out there. Thankfully, the one thing I have found is almost universal praise for Windows Live Writer which is part of the Live Essentials bundle. I know there are a number of other free options out there and you can find them fairly easily through a simple Google search.

As it happens, there really aren’t too many options if you have a Mac or Linux computer. Most of what I found was either sadly out of date, no longer being developed, or else it simply didn’t work the way I needed it to. This is one of the times I wish I was a programmer so I could design something useful and free, but wish in one hand….

If you have any thoughts, suggestions, or comments, please feel free to share.


Weekend

Well, I didn’t intend for this, but it seems as if I’m writing a weekend post more than anything. Of course more happened on Saturday than Sunday but I need to cover both.

So, Saturday…

First off, it was A and my seventeenth anniversary. Hard to believe it’s been so long, often it seems as if we just met then we look at our oldest who is fourteen and I know it has indeed been this many years. I hope we can look forward to just as many more. 

Saturday was also another therapy session, though this time it was more like a chat over coffee than therapy which was nice. We talked about many things both related to trans* issues and not. I mention this just because I told her about the trans-girl who won homecoming queen which lead to talking about how, with hormone blockers, HRT, and surgery, it can be difficult if not impossible to know if someone was born female or transitioned, the case being made by Jenna Talackova who competed in the Miss Universe competition. I told her there are those who can pass and those who like myself most likely cannot… which earned me a rather strange look, though Jodi didn’t day anything. Yes, I am way too critical of myself.

A and I then took some time for ourselves and went out window shopping, just some quite time for us without the kids. Of course having a nice day meant something had to go wrong… which started with my wifi router going on the blink. I had to reboot it and do a diagnostic which which didn’t tell me anything, it seems to think it’s just fine, thank you very much… while I watch all the lights go off one by one like the eyes of a terminator…

It started working again, though I don’t know how long it is going to last, so my next purchase is going to have to be a new router.

This wasn’t as bad as Sunday though when the computer we received from A’s parents decided to just quit working. I have no idea what’s wrong as it only gets me through the boot screen before it stops working, leaving me with a black screen. At least it was free so I am only out the cost of a mouse, and I’ll let my oldest have it for his computer.

Other than that, I have been going through and doing software updates and other general maintenance. The good news is I have my firewall and internet settings such that’s it’s pretty much impossible for the kids to download malware so my virus sweeps came up clear.

How Not To Be A Pirate

Pirate

Let me apologize to all of you who may not be interested in this sort of thing, I know it isn’t what you normally expect from me, but it is something I am interested in and I felt it was a good thing to share.

For as long as I can remember, certainly since I was middle school, copying and sharing was just part of what everyone seemed to do. Back in those days it was copying music from vinyl records to cassette tapes or recording off the radio and sharing with my friends. When I became aware of computers, it was much the same. The difference was, with software it was an accepted practice, in fact there magazines dedicated to providing the code for different uses especially games. The music side was different, with songs being copyrighted, but as long as we weren’t selling anything we thought we were fine. Of course we know now this isn’t the case and getting music without paying for it is theft.  Which brings me to the point of writing this. Unlike those early days, much of mainstream software is intended to be paid for, thus the whole End User Licensing Agreement or EULA. If you have ever had to reinstall Windows on your computer then you are at least aware of this. Commercially available games are the same and if you use a computer for work, then odds are all the programs are licensed.

The problem comes in when someone decides, for whatever reason, to make otherwise paid for goods available for free without the permission of the people who created it. This is know today as Piracy, though to be honest, the name doesn’t quite fit. Still it is the point behind it which matters… getting something which would otherwise cost you money for free when it isn’t your right to do so. This has been an ongoing issue for both the music industry and software companies. Despite all of the rhetoric, it really is a serious problem especially for small developers and independent artists who simply cannot afford the lost sales. It may not be as expensive as providing physical media, but making a product available online still cost something and the money has to come from somewhere.

On the other side of this is us. The consumers. Some can afford to pay for all the things they want or need, some of cannot. In fact, with the global economy the way it is, many cannot afford even the smallest of budgets for anything that isn’t a necessity to live; food on the table, a roof over our heads, clothes to wear, and a way to and from work…

It is true, there is more to life than just surviving. Anyone can do it but it isn’t much of an existence. We need something more, an occasional distraction, a way to lift our spirits, something to make life enjoyable. That is the purpose of entertainment. Add into this the tools someone may need to compete for a job, or to try and better themselves, or to learn something new and you have a market for for “Pirated” goods.

Most people aren’t out to make a statement, or to cause harm, though those people do exist; they just wish to share in something they otherwise could never afford. I’m not making excuses, just being realistic, unlike the majority of corporations and their lawyers but that is a different argument for a different time.

The question then is, can people find the things they want, and/or, need or at least a product which will provide it to them at a reasonable cost or free and do so easily?

The answer is “yes” though maybe not as easily as clicking a “Buy Now” button.

Truthfully, it takes a little motivation and perseverance, not to mention time, to scour the web to find things which are worth the effort, but it can be done and in the end you have something your not ashamed to have sitting on your hard drive.

Now before I go any further, I want everyone to have a safe experience which means taking some precautions. First, look for reputable sites such as NoiseTrade for music, SourceForge for software, or YouTube for video. Also be sure you have a Firewall and antivirus software. If your careful and use common sense precautions you can find what you need safely. There are many, many places out there in cyberspace where you find dishonest people who will do some very nasty things, so taking the time to do research and due diligence is key.

A Free Ride

Technically, nothing is free. You had to pay for equipment, an MP3 Player, a computer, a DVD/Blue Ray player, television, etc., etc. You also have to pay for an internet connection or phone line. Yet it is possible to reduce your costs to as near to free as possible.

Everyone’s first stop should be Google. Say what you want, but odds are, if your looking for something, you’ll find a link to it with a Google search. Use search terms such as “Free (what your looking for)”, “Copyright Free”, “Free Download”,  “Royalty Free”, or even “No Cost”. There are also any number of reviews and opinion pieces out there where people have taken the time to do the hard work for you and tracked down some very good sites, artists, and software available for free or little cost. For those use, “Review Free (your operating system)software”, or “Freeware Reviews”, or anything similar.

Oh, there is another cost associated with going this route… your time and effort learning something new. So far I have found it to be well worth the investment…

So, need a jumping off point? I’ll share some of the sites I use the most.

Music:

NoiseTrade

ReverbNation

Software:

SourceForge

Cnet

Television/Movies:

HULU

YouTube

A note about YouTube. Clicking the link will take you to the main page, if your interested in movies, Google “youtube movies” and it should take you to their movie page. You will find there a lot of pay per view titles, but if you scroll down, there is a listing for “Free Movies”. Most of this is old, cheesy flicks, but there are some fun and interesting things to be found.

Another note… about software. More often than not you can find direct links to developers sites, the harder part is finding the type of software you want and then finding something free of cost which will do the job you need. I recommend doing a review search first for the type of software you want then doing another “free alternative” search.

Setting Up My New, (To Me), Computer

Cinnamon

 

My in-laws gave us their old computer and I’ve been messing around with it trying to see if I could use it as a blogging platform, but I think I’ll stay with my laptop for the time being.

The computer didn’t have a working operating system when I got it, though it was suppose to be running Vista or Win7, I’m not sure which. It didn’t come with any restore software and I can’t afford to pay what Microsoft is asking for Windows, so I installed Linux Mint 15. It runs fine, was a great price, (the cost of a DVD RW disk), and works well as a spare computer for web surfing and watching YouTube videos, but as a blogging platform, it leaves a lot to be desired. There are only two programs I found which even seemed as if they might work, QTM and Blogilo both of which are on par with PixelPumper which I have already reviewed. Neither could auto detect this blog and instead wanted to post to an old, deleted blog. None of these choices offer the features and simplicity of MarsEdit, which at $40 is really a bargain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a Linux version. Since I prefer to use my laptop for most of my computing needs, it isn’t a major issue. It is simply frustrating… 

In case you haven’t noticed, I love electronic gadgets, I have since I was a kid and got my first transistor radio which I carried around with me everywhere until I wore the poor thing out. With the rise of Personal Computers, which I was introduced to in high school, learning programming on a Apple IIe, Yes, I know I am dating myself, but it was so amazing to be sitting in front of this thing, typing out commands in glowing green letters and then watching as all those lines of seeming gibberish made the computer do what I wanted it to.

Back in the early Nineties I got into building my own computers. At the time it was more cost effective and I knew everything inside those ugly beige towers. At about the same time Linux was making a splash with all the geeks at the local computer store and I dove in right along with them. It was fun and exciting to be working with something new, not to mention free. I suppose even back then money was a driving factor in my software decisions as I simply couldn’t see how the cost of Windows was justified. Add in some of the horrible decisions they made, WinME anyone? Of course I drove poor A nuts with all my tinkering. I was changing versions of Linux like most people change underwear and when I wasn’t, I was more than likely trying to fix whatever I had just broken by making changes… and reinstalling the software too many times to count.

I finally made a decision to go with a brand name, prebuilt system when Apple unveiled Mac OSX and I haven’t looked back since… until now. At this point I have to put back money for several years to afford a new computer and so I want my dollars to count and I haven’t seen a version of Windows which was worth the cost since XP came out. I also couldn’t afford to buy more than one computer every few years and as I said, my choice has been Mac. Of course now I have a new toy to play with which has only cost me the price of a new mouse and a DVD RW disk. I did look into buying Win7 but why should I fork out over a hundred dollars US for an operating system when I’ve got something which does the basics I need and cost me nothing?

Now getting back to the issue of blogging. As I said, I prefer to use a desktop editor, but I can use WordPress via the browser if I have to, or even the WP app on my phone, tho there are downsides to both, which means, if there was no other choice, I could use Chrome on the Linux machine which I suppose would meet my needs of both usefulness and cost effectiveness as Chrome is free. 

The question is, what works best for a given situation? For some things free or low cost works fine, but for others it is worth paying for something which does the best job.

PixelPumper Review

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PixelPumper is the new kid on the block for WordPress blogging software from your desktop for Mac OSX.

(Before I begin, let me just point out I had planned on using the software for a month before reviewing it but the developer has just released an update and I wanted to add my thoughts so far to the discussion.)

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If you use a Mac and you blog then you know your choices are limited at best when it comes to how you get a post written and on your site. You can either use the browser based interface which can be problematic or you can use a program such as the defacto standard MarsEdit.

While MarsEdit is an excellent program, it isn’t cheap, costing $39.95. As far as software prices goes this is fairly reasonable in a world where games can cost $60 and professional applications can go for hundreds of dollars. For the not so professional blogger, though, it can be hard to justify the cost for a hobby.

The browser based interface offered by WordPress is adequate for putting up a quick post, but for anything more involved can be tedious, not to mention you have to be online to use it. There are times when this just isn’t feasible or you want to take your time and put together a more visually interesting post and for that you need something which allows you to save a draft locally on your computer. To do so you need an editor such as the above mentioned MarsEdit or PixelPumper.

Why PixelPumper?

Well, for one the basic version is currently being offered for free as the bugs are being worked out which makes the price hard to beat. For another, it allows you to create blog posts quickly and easily as long as you don’t need to do anything fancy such as add video or other embedded content.

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As you can see, the interface is clean and straight forward, (which is good since the online help leaves a bit to be desired.)

Adding text is the same as you would in any basic word processor and you can adjust the text as needed, though I stayed with the default settings as they worked well enough for what I wanted.

If you want to add a picture to your post, this is the first place you find one of the programs little quirks. Unlike with almost all programs for OSX, PixelPumper doesn’t support Drag and Drop, which means a few extra steps are needed to get your image onto the page. First you need to download the picture you want to your computer, then click the “Add Photos” button on the toolbar. Find the folder where you downloaded the picture, choose it, then click “select” and it will be added to your post. A bit more time consuming than MarsEdit’s Drag and Drop functionality and while it might be a minor inconvenience, you will notice it.

Want to give people a link to follow? It’s pretty simple. Click the “Hyperlink” button in the toolbar, add your information and “Set Link” and your done.

Now with the basic version, you cannot embed video directly into your post. I haven’t read if this is now possible with the new “Nerd mode” or not as there really isn’t much information available yet. I found this lack to be an issue for myself, but if you don’t usually embed things into your posts, then it isn’t something to worry about.

Speaking of “Nerd mode”…

This is an in App purchase which cost $11.99 and adds HTML editing and Online Drafts. I’m just not convinced this is going to give me any additional functionality which would justify the expense.

Now, there are a few issues I have, which in and of themselves are not deal breakers but which show this is still very much beta software…

For one, the “Featured Image” is pointless right now. When I first tried it, it froze the program, the next time it simply didn’t do anything I could see. For the time being it seems best if you ignore it all together.

The second thing is a real issue as far as I’m concerned and I hope it gets fixed soon. When I linked to my WP sites, they all show up as the same blog even though all of addresses are different. What’s more, the name it found to use was of a very old blog which I deleted a long time ago and it refuses to change it to my current primary blog or any of my other blogs for that matter. I have to go and look at the settings for each to see which blog they are linked to.

Another is not being able to edit “Categories” directly. MarsEdit has the same issue and it really needs attention. It’s a pain when you accidentally add something which is already in your list and then every time you want to use it, every version is added to your post.

So, what’s my verdict?

If you need a basic program to create content for your WordPress blog and you want to be able to save local drafts so you can come back and work on it as you have time, then PixelPumper just might work for you. Just be aware it’s not for every situation or need, but for what it is intended to do, it does well enough to earn you consideration.

If nothing else, download it while it’s free and give it a test drive. You really don’t have anything to loose.