Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

2/1/2011

LibreOffice Ready For Prime Time

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Remember how I mentioned the new Microsoft Office replacement last month?
Well, it’s golden, finally.

A number of months ago, my favorite free office suite, Open Office, forked for various reasons relating to the “openness” of the open source of that project.  The forked code, or, for those of you not familiar with the terminology, the new branch of the on-going project, was called LibreOffice and drew most of the heavy-hitters development-wise from the old project.  They’ve been working quite hard and have gotten their new release out; LibreOffice 3.3.
There’s a pretty good review of what’s new and great about this latest release over at eWeek.com.  Check it out and then go download the latest version and install it for yourself.  Trust me on this.  It’s pretty great.


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself."
   --Abraham Maslow

6/19/2020

Money Management

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Life Goals,Marginalia and Notes from the Editor — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I always seem to have more expenses than money.

The other day I was working from home and my wife came to get me in a little bit of a panic. There was a considerable amount of standing water in our back yard and right at the edge of our house. Definitely, not a good sign. She was sure we had a leak and I started to hyperventilate. If you’re a homeowner, you know that problems seem to come in roughly $5000 increments and from the size of the puddle in the yard, this was looking like about a $15,000 problem, at least. Like I said, definitely, not a good sign. Luckily, after calming down and checking the neighbor’s yard, it turned out that they’d just left their hose on over night and the water had run from their driveway to yard. It was gone by the end of the day.
But, that really got me thinking about money. I know that most Americans can’t handle a $400 emergency, much less a $15000 emergency. No one really ever taught me to manage money. I’ve had to learn on my own, which is why I carried so much debt for so long. The irony is that along the way, I started keeping track of everything with Quicken. I used to be able to connect to all my various accounts and reconcile everything easily. They’ve made that a paid service now, and I’m not quite willing to pay for that.
I did see Thursday, that you can now “Track Your Spending with Microsoft’s New ‘Money’ Template for Excel“, which sounds great, until you realize that you have to pay a monthly premium for that, too. And, it’s only good if you have a personal or family subscription to Office 365. My corporate license won’t give me access to the template. The good news is there’s a free alternative that does everything but directly link your bank accounts. You can download it from Vertex 42, The Guide to Excel in Everything, at Free Money Management Template. You’ll have to manually enter and reconcile your accounts, but, for most of us, that’s not that many accounts. And, this is free. No monthly fees. They even have a version for LibreOffice, if you scroll down a bit. In fact, they have quite a collection of free templates.

And, when you get a handle on all your money, if you have any left over, you might consider donating to causes that support a United States of America that is truly free and equal for all of her citizens, like the ACLU or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or some other civil rights cause that scratches your political itch. Not everyone may be willing to risk their life or incarceration to protest injustice, but a monetary donation can help support those people who are fighting that fight.
Or, if you still can’t afford a straight donation, we can support more minority businesses. There’s a great list of resources for Black freelancers at Freelancers Union that include lists of Black businesses we can support.

And, of course, we can continue to educate ourselves, because it is OUR responsibility to educate ourselves as to the condition of our fellow citizens, not theirs. If you’re not sure where to start, this list from the Chicago Public Library can help. We can read books from lists like that and continue to educate ourselves because this is an issue that we can’t ignore any more, no matter who you are or what you do for a living.

Yes, I’ve posted that last bit a couple times already. With everything going on lately, I thought it bore repeating. Next month, I may highlight some other minority causes. I’d say I’d take suggestions, but I’m afraid of some of the suggestions I might get. The internet isn’t the friendly place it was when I started my blogs!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words!

10/27/2017

NaNoWriMo Prep – Templates and Worksheets

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is mid-morning or 10:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Trying to get all your ideas and characters organized for National Novel Writing Month? I can help!

It may not always be obvious, especially to those closest to me, but I love being organized. What’s probably more obvious is that I played a lot of role-playing games growing up. I think it’s safe to say almost every hopeful writer or professional geek my age or younger played Dungeons and Dragons, or something similar. But, for me, the best part of that was always before the game started when we were making characters and filling out their character record sheets. I absolutely loved thinking about all the things they might buy at the market for use in surviving their adventures. And, along with that, describing their looks, their clothes, their family relationships and other background details. Not everyone did all of that, but, like I mentioned, it was just about my most favorite part. And, now, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing. Unfortunately, it can also become one of my favorite distractions from actually writing. Don’t let that happen to you! But, also, as you’re planning your novel, it’s good to try and think about who’s going to be in it, what they’re going to do and where they’re going to do it. So, toward that end, I’ve got some, hopefully, fun novel planning worksheets, or “printables” as the fancy kids call them these days, for you.
First, from the All Freelance Writing website, I’ve got an article by Jennifer Mattern which collects her favorite Novel Planning Tools and Worksheets. It’s a short list, but it’s also a great place to start if you’re just looking for the bare minimums to get you started.
Much more complete is the list of links gathered by Eva Deverell in her Creative Writing Worksheets post. Frankly, it’s a pretty complete list and you could stop there without worrying about missing out on anything, even if you do have to chase them to all their respective sites.
If you’re a more visual guy, like me, then maybe you should try this collection of “pins” at Pinterest titled “Novel Writing Worksheets”. It’s got a lot of “printables” besides the planning worksheets that might help, especially if you find yourself needing a little help creatively in a crunch.
My personal favorite, however, is the group of Evernote templates for planning your novel (or story) at the Evernote blog. I’m 99% sure I’ve mentioned these before, but they’ve updated them and added a few. If you use Evernote to plan and organize any other aspect of your life, I highly recommend that you take a look at these templates. They’re really well done and should cover any creative writing need. Seriously.

The next question is, of course, what are you going to use to actually write your novel?
If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

This post originally appeared at the Fantasist’s Scroll.

10/28/2016

Actual Writing Tools

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Now, you’ve got your setting, characters and story, so all you have to do is write it. Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much, but still totally doable, so don’t despair.
This week I’m going to talk exclusively about tools to do the actual writing with.  There are a lot of fancy software packages for this out there and what you choose to use is a personal choice based on who you are and how you write.  That said, let me share some of the more popular programs and tools to go with them.  First off, I would imagine a majority of people use Microsoft Word, because they have it available to them.  It’s not a bad way to go, actually, because you’re probably already familiar with it via school or work, so it won’t get in the way.  If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format.  If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead.  It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer.  And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo.  And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator.  I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text.  I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools.  I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs.  I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one.  Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level.  So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers.  Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

So, now, finally, you should have all the characters, setting, plot ideas and writing tools you need to get started with National Novel Writing Month.

This post originally appeared on The Fantasist’s Scroll.

8/24/2012

Enough Money?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Fun,Life Goals,Life, the Universe, and Everything — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:18 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Yes, I’m a little obsessed with money this month.

No, it’s not because I can’t pay my bills.  Rather, it’s about work.  Now, for the most part, I enjoy my work.  I find it challenging, but not too challenging, and interesting and the pay is pretty good.  Also?  I have a ten-minute commute.  Hard to beat that!  But, the reality is, at heart, I’m a lazy bastard.  If I could skate by without working another day in my life, I totally would do that.  For real.
The problem with that, of course, is paying all those bills.  So, how to do it?  What kind of money do I need to be able to tell the world to, essentially, and pardon my language, “Fuck off”.  (Yes, what I’m talking about is commonly referred to as “Fuck You Money”.)  So, what would that take?  I don’t need to live like a king, but, to not work, I will need to keep getting money somehow, like through investments.  But, the question is, how much will it take and what kind of investment do I have to make to keep it coming steadily enough to pay the bills?

Luckily, a smarter gentleman than I, Nilesh Trivedi, has posted an Excel spreadsheet that will help you calculate just how much you need to start with and how good your investment needs to be so that you never have to answer to another boss again.  Download that, and read his explanation, here: How Much Is Enough? : A Formula for FU Money.  (And, if  you’re like me, you’ll start by saving the money you might have spent on Microsoft Office and open that spreadsheet in LibreOffice instead!)

So, there’s a little something to think about while you wait for the weekend! Enjoy!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong."
   --Warren Buffet

1/6/2012

Free Installers

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Let’s start the year slow.

So, I’m sure a lot of you got new PCs or laptops, or upgraded your old ones, this holiday season.  Maybe it was a Christmas gift.  Maybe a Christmas gift to yourself.  Maybe you just took advantage of the post-holiday sales.  Whatever it was or how ever you got it, you probably are feeling the pain of reinstalling all those “essential” programs that you use on a regular basis.  Things like Firefox and Mozilla or Chrome and Skype or Winamp or Flash or .Net or iTunes or LibreOffice or any number of similar little things.  You’ll be feeling the pain of having to go to all those individual websites to collect the various install files to run.

Well, I have the solution to the problem you didn’t realize you had.  It’s a little site called “Ninite” and they call themselves “…the fastest way to install, reinstall or upgrade free software”.
You go to the site, check the different bits of software and click the “Get Installer” button and the site will serve up a downloadable installer file that will install the free software you checked on the form.  You run the file and your software gets installed.  That simple.  Oh, and the basic service itself is free.
Now, if you want to maintain that free software and keep it updated, they have a very reasonable service for that, too.  For the personal edition for a single computer, it’s just $9.99 a year, at the moment, but, of course, that may change.

Both the free and pay services are available for Windows or Linux, which I think is pretty damn extra cool.

Anyway, there’s your first fun/cool/useful link for the new year.  I think it bridges the fun, the free and the very geeky stuff that this blog is, I hope, known and appreciated for sharing.
Happy New Year everyone!

11/9/2010

OpenOffice Replacement

Filed under: Geek Work,GUI Center,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Speaking of free software…

Many of you know that I’ve long been a proponent of the spectacular free office suite, Open Office.  Well, there’ve been some shake-ups in the free software world and Oracle and the developers of Open Office have had a bit of a falling-out.  Nothing too serious, really, but enough of a difference of opinion about the future of Open Office that they forked the project.  Now, what that means to you and me is that they’ve taken the open source code to date and started their open development of it under a new name.  The new project is called “LibreOffice” and is being supported by the Document Foundation, who’s sole purpose seems to be continuing development of this fantastic office suite.
Follow that link and you can download the latest version to try for yourself.  I suggest you do because you may never buy another revision of Microsoft Office again.
Seriously.


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