Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goodbye Brainstorm

I have written about Brainstorm before, as I liked it a lot.[1] It was/is a capable program, a good alternative to an outliner and great for sorting things out.

Nothing really happened since the original developers sold the program a few years back. The last release date is June 23, 2008. It seems to have changed ownership again, and a lot of things have happened: none of them good!

I understand the reason for the new name "BrainstormWFO"—at least “sort of.” Searching for “Brainstorm” returns many irrelevant results, if you want to find out about this program. But Brainstorm is not an outliner.

What is much worse is the hype perpetrated on the new Website. I find it absolutely distasteful and irresponsible. (If you don’t trust me on this, check it out yourself.)

There may be others who like this sort of thing, but I doubt that I know anyone like that.

It seems that the new owner is not a programmer either, but even if he is, I fear for the integrity of a program that I have used for such a long time.

This program would have deserved better!

1. See Brainstorm Search.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Earliest Fountain Pen?

Friedrich Nicolai published in 1783 a travelogue: Beschreibung einer Reise durch Deutschland und die Schweiz im Jahre 1781, Nebst Bemerkungen über Gelehrsamkeit, Industrie, Religion und Sitten.  Band I, (Berlin und Stettin, 1783). In it he describes what might well be the first fountain pen:

A traveller must necessarily keep a detailed journal of his observations and notes. He must continue it on a daily basis because otherwise the multitude of subjects will certainly cause  him to forget some things entirely and lead him not to remember the circumstances correctly. It is thus necessary to write down everything as soon as possible. For, if you rely only on your memory, your imagination will, even given your best intentions of telling the truth, deceive you. You will represent things not as you really saw them, but as you later imagined them. I became acquainted  quite by accident in Leipzig at Professor Füllte’s with a kind of Writing Implement (literally: Feather) which can be carried in your pocket and which always contains ink. This useful invention seem to be really unknown and not as much available [as it should be]. It will be convenient for everyone who wants to quickly record his thoughts while taking a stroll, being in the country or anywhere else. It is especially useful for a traveler. Writing things down  with a pencil, which quickly fades, or continuously copying things from slates or cards, is very tiresome. Writing in Inns is difficult because often your time and motivation is gone before you have prepared ink and feather. But the new implement allows you to use every moment. You can even use it in libraries, galleries, museums and faithfully record; all objects and the impressions they made on you.[1]
Nicolai added a picture of the new pen. It even looks very much like a later fountain pen (with cap and all).

Nicolai Pencil

Click to enlarge! Try to tune out the Ionic/Doric Columns in the background.

1. Here the German: “Ein Reisender muß nothwendig ein ausführliches Tagebuch von seinen Beobachtungen und Bemerkungen halten, und taglich fortführen; sonst wird die Menge von Gegenständen, gewiß verursachen, daß er manches vergißt, und manches sich unter nicht völlig richtigen Umstanden vorstellt. Es ist also nöthig, alles so geschwind aufzuschreiben , als nur immer möglich ist. Der Unterlaßung dieser Vorsicht ist gewiß ein großer Theit der Unrichtigkeiten, die sich in Reisebeschreibungen finden, zuzuschreiben. Denn wenn man sich bloß auf sein Gedächtniß verlaßt; so wird man, bey dem besten Willen die Wahrheit zu sagen, von seiner Einbildungskraft betrogen, und schreibt die Sache auf, nicht wie man sie wirklich gesehen, sondern wie man sie sich nach einiger Zeit vorgestellt hat. Ich lernte zufälligerweise in Leipzig bey Herrn Professor Füllte eine Art von Schreibfeder kennen, die in der Tasche getragen werden, kann, und in welcher bestandig Dinte enthalten ist. Diese nützliche Erfindung ist wirklich nicht bekannt und allgemein genung. Einem jeden, der beym Spazierengehen, auf dem Lande, oder sonst, Gedanken geschwind aufzeichnen will, ist sie sehr bequem, aber besonders ist sie einem Reisenden von großem Nutzen. Das Aufschreiben mit Bleystift, das bald verlöscht, und das beständige Abschreiben aus Schreibtafeln, oder von Karten, ist höchst beschwerlich; und wenn man oft in Wirthshäusern etwas aufzeichnen möchte so ist Zeit und Lust vergangen, ehe man Dinte und Feder bekommt. Vermittelst einer solchen Feder aber kann man jeden Augenblick benutzen. Man kann sogar Bibliotheken, Gemäldesammlungen, Naturalienkabinetter, mit der Feder in der Hand besehen, und von allen Gegenständen den Eindruck, den sie gemacht haben, getreuer verzeichnen.

Windows Live Writer

I published the last post with Windows Live Writer. It’s a Microsoft application that  makes writing posting blog entries easier. You do not have to add html code for bullet points, ordered lists, italics, etc. Inserting pictures should be easier as well. A slick Preview is available. Publishing takes just two clicks. It also allows you to save a local copy.

Installation and setup was easy, completely painless. So far so good, even though it sports “The Ribbon” as well.

The new-found ease of publishing will most likely not result in more posts in the immediate future, as I am very pre-occupied with producing final draft of my book (and a number of unexpected events made my life more difficult than I would have anticipated two months ago).

Befriending MS-Word (Again)

I used to write all my papers with MS-Word, wrote more than one book and many book reviews with it, and I still had Word 2002 on my computer. I tried Word 2007, but the ribbon and its unfamiliar Interface put me so off that I never used after giving it an extensive trial.

My University has a new site license for MS products. so I downloaded MS-Office 2010 and installed it to work on the very last version of my book manuscript. Atlantis, which I did use for the last four months, crashed with relative frequency on my office computer recently. It seems to have to do either with the size of the file (1.77 MB) or with the settings for “auto save,” which was set to the same USB Drive I save the document too. (I have a hunch it was the latter, but don’t have the time to figure it out.) I had bought Papyrus for this phase anyway, but the version I bought crashes constantly (and the developer does not respond to any e-mail I sent to him about this problem).[1]

So, I am now using MS-Word. The Ribbon still bothers me. So, I “replaced” it by something that resembles the old Menu bar, using the following procedure:

  • Press CTRL + F1 hides the ribbon (it's a toggle)
  • Right-click anywhere on the Menu Bar; select Show Quick Access Toolbar below the Ribbon
  • Click on “Customize Quick Access Toolbar” icon (last item on the toolbar)
  • Select “More Commands”
  • Click “Choose Commands from…” and select All Commands
  • Select the command you want and click the “Add button”
  • Click OK

I found the instructions on the Internet after searching for a considerable time. It should have been easier.[2]

There are rumors that Windows 8 is going to have The Ribbon everywhere. I hope they will include a toggle to turn it off easily. If not, Windows 7 will be the last version of Windows I’ll buy.

But, however that may be, MS-Word 2010 now works well (or so it seems right now).



1. Do I need to say that I do not recommend Papyrus? It’s expensive, unreliable and lacking in support!

2. Here!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Batch Processing Text

Sometimes it is necessary to search and replace in several text files. Here is a review of twenty five applications that do this. Most of them are for windows, but there are also some for the Mac. Most of them are shareware or commercial applications, but there are also some worthy freeware programs.