NaNoWriMo 2016

Ever since Marie wanted to learn to program in 2009, I’ve wanted to write a book to help her. But I never could get started.

The National Novel Writing Month is November every year for just this purpose: to motivate people to put 50,000 words on paper (about the size of the novel, Slaughterhouse-Five), editor be damned.

I first heard about it in 2007, when I started using Scrivener, but dismissed it because the requirement that a novel be fiction. I only just found about NaNo Rebels, which allows you to customize the “50,000 words” into nearly any other creative exercise, including non-fiction. So yesterday, this was born:

NaNoWriMo 2016 Participant Badge

Nowadays, I use Ulysses. I simply created a group in the software and set a 50,000 word goal and started typing away!

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 2

Goal setting on my iPad.

I don’t know if I can finish since it’s about a good sized blog article each and every day. We’ll see how it goes. So far it’s been a bit strange writing a book. For instance, I can’t use my WordPress shortcode macros lest I ruin the word count.

Periodically, I’ll dump the output to my blog, which you can track here. Wish me luck!

If you want to buddy up, I’m “tychay” there.

A little about WaterField

Gary Waterfield:

Subject: Thanks for finding us!

Congratulations on being part of an exclusive group of people who own a San Francisco-made WaterField product. You might see another one— at an airport, a café in Florence, or a business meeting in Austin.  The best cases in the world attract some of the best and most diverse people in the world and we are glad to have you be part of our community. 

All our bags and cases are made by the most skilled sewing team in San Francisco. Please keep in touch and let us know what else we can do for you.

BTW, how did you bump into us? 

Thanks again,
Gary Waterfield

Continue reading about Waterfield bags after the jump

Not every Apple product is for you

(An article I started in May of 2015)

“The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”
— Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

In 1992, one of my first postings on Usenet was an article on comp.sys.mac.* titled “Zen and the Art of Buying a Macintosh.” As someone whose first computer was an Apple ][+ in 1979, used Macs since they came out in 1984, and owned them since the “Fat Mac” in 1985, I was the very definition of an Apple-lover. In writing that post, I wanted to express the confusion and helplessness I felt when recommending a Macintosh to anyone. There were PowerBooks, Performas, LCs, Centrises, and Quadras, some of which were the same exact computer with different names. If a Mac fanboy like me couldn’t make heads-or-tails of it, something was seriously wrong for the Macintosh. It was clear to me that Apple had lost the very quality that attracted people like me to it in the first place. That post became popular enough that a number of Mac user group newsletters asked to republish it.

That Apple, the one that made infomercials, is no more. Steve Jobs retook the helm in 1997 and radically simplified its line into a quadrant based on two questions: Do you want a laptop or desktop computer? Are you a professional or consumer?

Those days are gone, but I can’t help but feel that Steve Jobs embedded in the DNA of Apple something to ensure they’d never again lose the very quality of “Apple” that would take it in a wrong direction. Apple became a company that stopped making something just because some business analyst said that they need to because it was “disruptive” or ” would protect their market share,” but rather a company that would only introduce a product when they had an idea who that product would be for.

Now to you kids, I want to tell you this: not every Apple product is for you.

Continue reading to have your bubble burst after the jump

Ulysses

The new version of Ulysses is out for Mac and iPad. (The Mac version is a free upgrade from Ulysses III; the iPad app is new).

Screenshot showing Ulysses for Mac with a three-paned window  editing notes from _Practice Perfect_.
A screenshot of the updated Ulysses for Mac. The theme is “Tomorrow” and the font is Inconsolata.

It’s really hard to explain what this app is. In fact, I’ve been purchasing (and not using) this application for years before I realized that it strikes the right balance for a certain set of work.

Continue reading about Ulysses after the jump

Learning to smile

Learning to smile

I’ve been a manager for 2.5 years and I’ve been too long away from programming. There is something just so wonderful about being able to work again in a world where there is a right and a wrong.1

I decided to start to finally2 teach myself iOS development today for: first, because I’ve never done it before and second, because it’s an opportunity to learn a new language and re-learn an old one3 I haven’t done for over a decade.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m not optimistic.


  1. …and getting the feedback to know which is which! 
  2. This does not count. 
  3. If you call writing a median-based BPM counter for Mac OS X, “learning.” I think the jury is still out since Xcode, memory management, and the user-interface are so different now. 

Scrivener Ninja

I recommend [Scrivener][] as **the** application for doing long-form writing. But since I’m no longer in academia and I don’t write creatively, I don’t often use the program—unless my blog articles run away from me. (Besides, my [vim][macvim] keybinding addiction is enabled by [QuickCursor][]). Even when I do, it is pretty much limited to its [MultiMarkdown][] export to HTML for notetaking.

The other day, I noticed they added a tutorial document to the application itself. I decided to go through it.

Scrivener Tutorial

This screenshot shows both normal and “smart” collections, split screens with audio dictation handling, custom templates with custom icons, and that I love my boo 🙂

Very cool. I learned a lot that I didn’t get (not) slogging through the complete(ly boring) user manual.

Now if only if I can figure out some reason to actually use the program… 😀

[Scrivener]: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php “Scrivener—Literature and Latte”
[QuickCursor]: http://www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/quickcursor “QuickCursor: Your Text Editor Anywhere for Mac—Hog Bay Software”
[MultiMarkdown]: http://fletcherpenney.net/multimarkdown/ “MultiMarkdown”
[macvim]: http://code.google.com/p/macvim/ “macvim: vim for the Mac”

Why Siri

[From The iPhone Blog][tipb]:

> Equally interesting is what [[Siri][siri]] portents for Apple. Just like the App Store began the intermediation and exclusion of Google by offering users a better experience interacting with data in apps than via a web search, Siri continues it by theoretically making it easier and more enjoyable to engage in query/response with Siri than with Google. In typical fashion, Apple isn’t building a search engine to compete with Google, they’re building something to obsolete the current conception of search engines. And they’re not doing it by becoming a walled garden — there’s no profit in that. They’re doing it by becoming a walled gate with a multi-directional toll system.

Great observation. Reminds me also of how Apple got out from under the [Microsoft Office Sword of Damocles][microsoft 150] with [Safari][safari] and [iWork][iwork].

[tipb]: http://www.tipb.com/2011/10/12/ios-5-iphone-ipad-walkthrough/ “iOS 5 for iPhone and iPad walkthrough—TiPb”
[microsoft 150]: http://www.apple.com/ca/press/1997/08/AppleMicrosoft.html “Microsoft and Apple Affirm Commitment to Build Next Generation Software for Macintosh. The $150 million was a smokescreen to avoid the obvious anti-trust move of bundling Explorer in order to keep Microsoft continuing to develop Office for the Mac.”
[safari]: http://www.apple.com/safari/ “Safari: Browse the web in smarter, more powerful ways—Apple”
[siri]: http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/siri.html “Ask Siri to help you get things done—Apple”
[iwork]: http://www.apple.com/iwork/ “iWork: Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The Mac way—Apple”

MacPorts vs. HomeBrew

A friend asks whether they should use MacPorts or Homebrew.

What they are, are ways of installing Unix (Linux or BSD) software on your Macintosh in a way that they get updated. This is useful if you need to customize your (L)AMP stack, or process a document in LaTeX, or do graphing visualization or -code optimization… there are a lot of uses and having a consistent Linux-like or BSD-like tree of libraries and applications is usually the best option.

I use MacPorts and I’ve used Fink in the past. I never tried Homebrew.

Continue reading more ignorant comparisons between Fink, MacPorts and Homebrew after the jump