Hardware, Software and Brainware

I was browsing the statistics for this site.  It’s amazing what information you can find, though I’m not sure how relevant some of it is.  For example, between the creation of Imagineer-ing, in March 2012, and the end of December, this site had a total of 651 hits.  So far, in January 2013, we’ve had a phenomenal 444 to 29th January!  This is further analysed to give an average of 2 visits per day in 2012 – but that doesn’t mean much as there’s a definite rise towards the end of the year.  Even the January 2013 average of 15 visits per day is deceptive, as the number of visits continues to rise.

The question of what software is of any real use to authors is raised by such online analytical data.  Personally, as an ex-statistician, I confess that I find some of it fascinating.  It doesn’t, however, contribute anything to writing, other than blogging.  Of more interest, perhaps, is the facilities available to authors.

Hardware

I use a desktop PC more than anything else.  I can, though, also use a netbook that is synchronised to the desktop.  The first uses Windows XP and the second uses a cut down Linux.  Apart from these, I could use my iPhone or iPod, though I find those less user friendly.  You could also use a notebook, a tablet or a laptop, if they are available to you.  Outside the realm of computers, there’s also the option of using a typewriter or even handwriting.  Your preference is exactly that – yours!  What should be noted, however, is that your manuscript (MS) must, at some time, be processed for publication.  A handwritten MS will be costly to have worked up into a typed/printed form, unless you’re willing to do it yourself.  Then, there’s the question of formatting.  From what I’ve seen, this varies surprisingly widely.  The one thing that is certain is that you will need your MS to be formatted to suit a publisher’s requirements – even if you self-publish.  You can, of course, write your MS in a word processing package on computer already formatted in the most common way.  That would certainly save some effort.  The matter of formatting is something where software can help.

Software

First and foremost, you’ll need some kind of word processing package.  Of course, many computers come with things like MS Word already installed.  If you don’t have that, then there are some excellent options that are free to download and use.  Probably the biggest, and most reliable, is OpenOffice.  A version of this is called Libre Office, but I confess I’ve found no differences between them.  Other options exist, such as AbiWord, and there are some packages specifically designed for authors, though the latter are not free software.  I, personally, would not recommend using software that produces Adobe PDF files.  I’ve experienced some annoying errors in ebooks that have been converted from PDF.

I use OpenOffice, coupled with the pay-for ebook creation package, Jutoh.  This allows me maximum freedom.  I can write on any device, with the files being shared between all devices, and then Jutoh will help me produce ebooks in a variety of common formats.  That saves me some huge headaches!  Personally, I think Jutoh is worth every penny.  These, together with various desktop eReader programs, mean that I can write, create an ebook in different formats, and check how they will look on eReaders like the Kindle, the Nook and the kobo.

Finally, I use Calibre to organise my collection of ebooks, including updating their metadata  and converting between formats where desired.

Brainware

Sound silly?  Well, perhaps it is, in a way.  What I mean, here, is the core of all writing activity.  It’s a plain fact that none of the above have any relevance if your Brainware isn’t what it needs to be.  It’s the home of creative thought, creating structures, and just plain dreaming.  If you mistreat it, you can be sure that your writing will reflect that.  I don’t say that it has to be perfect!  Some of the great writers were somewhat disturbed, mentally.  They are the “flawed geniuses” who create works of immense power and significance.  As for the majority of us, we need to place ourselves in a situation in which our Brainware can function comfortably, usually where distractions are minimised and you’re physically comfortable.  Whether you need a neat, tidy workspace or chaos, all that matters is that your Brainware will function for you.

~ Steve

Reading on a netbook….

I finally found an eBook reader that does everything I want it to on my netbook! FBReader is a completely free eBook reader that will handle all the formats that I need it to.  It runs very nicely under the cut-down version of Linux that’s installed on my netbook.  It allows the “paper” to be changed to any colour that suits you (I like sepia!) and even permits screen rotation.  The control keys are fully configurable, so that you can, for example, set up keys to move through the book in pages or scroll a line at a time.  The only problem I have is passing a “command line argument” from Jutoh, so I can’t (yet) launch the current book automatically.

The FBReader web site includes a very useful list of eBook sources, if you want to increase the size of your library!

FBReader is available for Android devices, Windows, Linux and a host of other systems, though some are older versions of the software.

A big step forward

I mentioned my netbook in my last post.  Well, today I resolved a big headache, namely not knowing the root password, which meant that I couldn’t update existing software or install many new packages.  Thanks to the “How to” section on www.laptopmag.com.  I’m now bringing it up to date as much as possible, though it’s a slow process.  Not only will I have the ability to write on the netbook, as already reported, I’ll be able to install packages that will make the netbook more useful generally!

The amusing thing is that I had searched high and low for some way to reset the password, and nothing workable presented itself.  I gave up after visiting more than 50 sites, many of which simply suggested the same things, or stated that it was impossible!  Then, searching for an ebook reader for the netbook, I followed a link and ended up at laptopmag.com!  Crazy!

Arriving Via Unexpected Means

Some months back, I was kindly given an old Acer Aspire One netbook, running Linpus Linux.  It was my intention to use it for writing when away from my desktop PC.  OK, so it had OpenOffice Write on it, but it was an old version and caused a few problems.  No problem, just update it?  You’d think so, but the previous owner had done as Acer instructed and protected it with a system wide admin password, and had forgotten what the password was!  Every attempt to install new or updated software just met with that password and failed.

Yesterday, I was reading the Jutoh book on my iPhone.  It referred to installing Jutoh on Linux.  When I got home, I investigated further and discovered in Jutoh’s FAQ that a whole section was devoted to installing on this very netbook and OS!  Still with very limited hope, I followed the instructions and, with just a few modifications for differences in folder names, Jutoh actually installed!

A bit more investigating, and I also learnt how to install fonts that weren’t available on the netbook, and I now have a fully functional mobile solution for writing.  I cannot thank Julian Smart of Anthemion Software Ltd (creator of Jutoh) enough!  Not only has his advice on this been immensely useful, he has been enormously patient with my many questions about using Jutoh, most of which have been a consequence of not reading the book/FAQ before asking!

I can now master my writing in Jutoh and know that there won’t be any problems with porting files over from machine to machine.  It’s a fantastic advance!

Oh, by the way, I should point out that I use Dropbox to move files between machines/devices.  It’s a superb method to share files with my PC, netbook, iPhone and iPod Touch, and also with other people!