Monday, February 28, 2011

What Are the First Six Applications I Install?

I have re-installed Windows from scratch at least five times since early January. So I know what applications I can't live without. Here the first six applications I install(ed)—not necessarily in the order of importance, as they are all indispensable. I leave out the virus checker (Norton at the moment):
  1. Firefox
  2. Thunderbird
  3. ConnectedText
  4. AutoHotkey
  5. Notetab
  6. Atlantis

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Robert Walser's Microscripts

For a review of Robert Walser's "book" Microscripts in English, see here. Walser, who had already gained some fame as a writer, wrote these texts in an insane asylum, where he later also died. Some people doubt he was insane.

In any case, he believed in the pencil and the tiniest writing he could produce: "With the aid of my pencil I was better able to play, to write; it seemed this revived my writerly enthusiasm. I can assure you I suffered a real breakdown in my hand on account of the pen, a sort of cramp from whose clutches I slowly, laboriously freed myself by means of the pencil.

I have tried to read this book in German, but I did not get far.[1] It seems close to this kind of artistry.

1. I got to this site by way of Orange Crate Art.


Ever thought about thumbtacks?

Me neither! But here is a German site that might get you thinking.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Luhmann's Zettelkasten Today

Here a video of where Luhmann's Zettelkasten is now and what it looks like, as well as some other stuff.

Attention: The language is German, but the pictures are interesting all by themselves.

From a 1988 Interview in Der Spiegel: "LUHMANN: Meine 26 Zettelkästen beruhen auf einem ausgeklügelten System von Verweisen. Die Zettel tun ihren Dienst willig und widerspruchslos. Doch es kann vorkommen, daß ich Zettel falsch einordne und dann nicht wiederfinde. Doch zu "Zettels Alptraum" ist es noch nie gekommen."[1]

Asked whether he thought that Habermas also used a Zettelkasten, he answered: "Judging by his publications, Habermas orders his materials perhaps more by authors. Therefore he could perhaps do with a more simple system."

Anyone who has read "learning how to read" knows that this is for him the ultimate put-down.

About the computer: "For my ten meters of slips, covered with small (hand-)writing, computers come to late."[2] This sounds somewhat melancholic (to me).

1. Luhmann: "My 26 Zettelkästen are based on a well-thought out system of references. The slips do their service willingly and without objections. Sometime I put a slip in the wrong place and cannot find it again. But a 'Nightmare of a Slip' has never happened yet" (Spiegel interview). The "Nightmare of a Slip" seems to be a reference to Arno Schmidt's Zettels Traum. For more information on this book, see here.

2. "Für meine zehn Meter dichtbeschriebene Zettel kommen die Computer zu spät."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sturgeon's Law

"Ninety percent of everything is crud" (crap).

How true!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Text Files

Here is an interesting post on why we all should be using text files and light markup rather than a proprietary format.

Some of the comments are amazing. Take this: "When I made the move over to Mac after years of Windows, I started to crave systems like this. I find it funny how a lot of people who think they have a list of things not to like about the Mac always manage to include the fact that 'everything is just designed to look pretty and not actually do anything productive', when in actual fact, quite the opposite can also be true."

Now, remember this is about the use of text files. Doesn't this person know that you can use text files (and a markup language) in windows just as well as on the Mac?

Wittgenstein Side-By-Side

You can get Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Side-by-Side-by-Side Edition here. It has the German text and "alongside both major English translations: the Ogden (or Ogden/Ramsey) translation, and the Pears/McGuinness translation."

Since I only need the German text, I have no use for it. But it is interesting.


On another (mostly) negative experience, loosely connected with note-taking: As I may have said before, my computer died in early January. I bought a newer faster one. This brought on the itch to make "my system" even faster.

As the Windows Experience Index was 5.9 due to the hard drive, with the next lowest one at 6.8 (for the Graphics Card), I thought what better way to accomplish this than switching to a Solid State Disk?

SSDs are small (the biggest affordable one being 128GB) while hard drives (HDD) are very big. Research seemed to show that it is very difficult to transfer the Operating System from a big drive or partition to a small one. So I thought of a hybrid drive. This is where SilverStone's HDDBoost came in. It is a drive enclosure with circuitry that combines an SSD with an HDD. It's "dumb," that is, it just mirrors the beginning of the hard drive on the SSD for very fast read speeds and writes to the hard drive with very fast write speeds, updating the SSD only when you power down. The overall speed increase should be about 70%, but by all accounts is more between 30% and 50%. I never really found out, how much it would have been.

I installed the thing as per instructions. It worked, so I booted it up twice, powered down, and installed everything firmly in the machine. Don't know what went wrong, but it would not boot up again ... just a black screen. Took it apart again, took out the hard drive from the HDDBoost assembly, connected it the way it was before. The hard drive had errors which were easily fixed by using the recovery disk. This took about an hour.

I re-installed the HDDBoost assembly ... black screen again ... waited for a long time ... shut it down again, etc. After about one hour I gave up, took out the hard drive from the assembly, re-installed it in the computer. This time it could not be fixed by recovery. I had to re-install Windows from scratch. Another two hours gone.

When the system was ready I downloaded Easus Todo Backup Home 2.0 and backed up all partitions on the C drive. Worked beautifully (about 20 minutes). I then (re)formatted the SSD drive (64 GB Micro Centre). It also worked fine. I then restored two of the Windows partitions (bootup and C:), installed it, took out the old system hard drive, stored it safely, and put in a 500 GB Seagate as a Data Drive (for D:). This took approximately another 40 minutes.

Everything now works fine. The Windows Experience Index is up to 6.8 (the SSD drive alone gets 7.9). It's faster, but is it worth $100.00 and four hours of work? Probably not. It will take a while for the gained milliseconds to translate into four hours.

Lesson 1: Some things that promise to be easier by compromising turn out to be harder. What went wrong? I am not sure, but my explanation is that it has to do with HDDBoost's mechanical "mirroring" of the beginning of the hard drive and the fact that it writes to the SSD only when you power down. Once bad information is written to the SSD that does not allow Windows to start, the hybrid system can only be fixed if the computer powers down properly. But this cannot happen because HDDBoost does not even allow windows to start. There may also be a way to do this from within Windows, but, again, this is useless, if Windows cannot start. If there is another way to solve this without reformatting the SSD, I do not know what it might be.

I could probably try to start all over after reformatting the SSD and make the hybrid work again, but the better solution (an SSD at 100% speed) is ... well ... better than a hybrid at 30% to 50% speed. If I had known how easy it is to transfer the OS to a smaller partition, I would never have tried to get a boost from HDDBoost.

Lesson 2. Today, "fast" is measured in milliseconds. Even an increase in speed like the one afforded by SSD is not dramatic. The computer is just a little snappier I'd say.

Lesson 3: Windows just needs about 32 GB. My files (some programs and document files, including several hundred PDFs) use even less space. I don't need 2 TB, nor 1 TB, nor even 500 GB. But hard drives under 500 GB are quickly becoming extinct.

Enough of this foolishness already ... back to work!

Paypyrus Autor, Again

As I posted in November 2010, I bought a rather expensive German Word Processor "for writers," called "Papyrus Author." It turned out to have some rather serious issues in windows 7 (64 bit). It crashes with beautiful regularity and it does not close down properly. There might be other issues which I have not found out, as I am no longer trying to use it regularly.

On December 31, a new version came out, which apparently fixed (some of) the issues, but I don't know, as I never could use it. I waited to be notified about where I could download it. This notification never came. On January 12, I wrote an e-mail to support, asking whether I was expected to pay the upgrade fee. I never received an answer.

Now, it appears that there is a free upgrade, IF you bought the previous version within the previous two months (which now seem to have passed), but you can only order it by giving a credit card number, bank connection, etc. I will not provide this, as the wording regarding the upgrade is ambiguous. Strictly speaking, I did not buy the previous version within the last two months (but bought it within the two months preceding the the new version), so I could be charged. But I will not again pay for something that might not work on my operating system.

I guess I am out of luck, and I now have a useless piece of software for which I paid more than $200.00.

Needless to say, I am miffed.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Derrida finds, commenting on G[erard] Genette's adaptation of Levi-Strauss's conception of bricoleur: "If one calls bricolage the necessity of borrowing one's concept from the text of a heritage which is more or less coherent or ruined, it must be said that every discourse is bricoleur" ("Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," in Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass. London: Routledge, pp 278-294).

Derrida has Levi-Strauss claim that the bricoleur is someone "who uses 'the means at hand,' that is, the instruments and materials he finds at his disposition around him, those which are already there, which had not been especially conceived with an eye to the operation for which they are to be used and to which one tries by trial and error to adapt them, not hesitating to change them whenever it appears necessary, or to try several of them at once, even if their form and their origin are heterogenous -- and so forth."

But if I recall correctly, Levi-Strauss, said not just that the bricoleur simply uses the means at hand, but rather that the "rule of his game always consists in restricting himself to what he has at hand." It's not just "one's concept" (whatever that may be), but all the concepts. This is rather different from what Derrida and Genette intimate! And it means that only the person who refuses to reflect on whether the materials or the tools are already extant or whether they need to be designed or obtained is a bricoleur. The bricoleur is the kind of researcher or thinker who is not looking for something that would go beyond the data collected and the concepts inherited from a tradition that is "more or less coherent or ruined."

I believe this means that not every kind of dicourse amounts to bricolage—at least not according to Levi-Strauss. This stronger thesis would need some more argument which, of course, is not forthcoming in this article by Derrida.


For a thoughtful post on minimalism, see Minimalism is not a Viable Intellectual Strategy. If the "minimalist" ideal amounts to "sitting in a bare room with a desk upon which sits only a MacBook Air, [a] backpack of possessions on one side, the broadband internet cable available but unplugged, fingers ready to type into the empty white screen of a minimalist editor," then it is all style, no substance. And as there is no style without substance, it is not even style. It's all show.

For a more substantial version of minimalism, one might take a look at Epictetus' Enchiridion: "Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions."

It has to with what you do, not with what you have. Put differently, it's not about whether you own a Mac or a PC, or whether you write and take notes with this or that program, it is about how you do these things. See also: Whose Distraction is it anyway?

Do I advocate minimalism? Sort of ... let's say ... minimally ... in a Kantian sort of way. I am not a Stoic. If that means to some (most) that I am not a real minimalist, so be it. It's one of the things not in my control.