roadrunnertwice: Weedmaster P: "SON OF A DICK. BALL COCKS. NO. FUCKING." (Overcompensating.WeedmasterP - Shitbox)
So I use an RSS reader to keep up with comics, blogs, essays, music, and a certain amount of srs bsns. At some point over the last five years, all RSS readers got eaten by Google Reader, and those that remained all used Google Reader to sync across devices. Then Google killed off Reader at the start of this month and everything was thrown into disarray and all my shit (NetNewsWire across a couple computers and an iPad) stopped working. Booooo.

Now I get to play with a bunch of not-totally-satisfactory newcomers to try and find something I don't mind. Supposedly my formerly beloved NetNewsWire is going to have SOME unspecified syncing solution and new mobile apps at SOME unspecified time, but Black Pixel missed the July 1 bricking deadline. Which kind of blew the goodwill I was holding out for them, and as far as I'm concerned they're starting from square zero with me, since a bunch of other folk have things that actually work today. They could well win anyway, but NNW can't be my path of least resistance anymore.

Anyway, first up is Digg Reader, just because what? Digg? That's a thing again? And because it was free. I've used it for three days or so by now.

I really like the per-article experience in their iPad app; it's enjoyable to read with, and it's easy to move back and forth between the naked feed version and the full website version of a post. And at first, when everything was unread because my shit had been broken for days, the experience of moving between articles was pretty nice too, with that scroll-to-the-bottom-and-keep-scrolling control.

Alas, less so when you have a mix of read and unread stuff. There's no "next unread" control, so you have to go back to the list and search through the haystack when you start hitting repeats. The read and unread articles only differ by font weight in the list view, so there isn't a blue dot or anything I can scan for, and I can't distinguish font weights when scrolling at speed. The unread counts in the source list are kind of wonky and unreliable. And the keep-scrolling-to-next control, which I like when I'm reading a whole list, is kind of crap if you decide to move on without finishing the current article; too much scrolling for what should be one button-press.

The web interface is just like Google Reader, but again, it doesn't let you filter down to just unread articles, so you have to manually search for 'em if there's a mix.

All that's awkward enough that I don't think I'll stick with it. What should I try next?
roadrunnertwice: Joe and bike, at top speed. (YehudaMoon.Joe - Liftoff)
I bought a new iPad! It finally finished syncing! I am totally amped about this. (I went for the regular size with schmancy display and cell phone radio. The mini is cute, but believe it or not, I actually type on these things, and mini seemed too mini for that. Also, apropos of nothing, I’m gonna cough up a lung on the next person who uses the word “consumption” to describe electronics. Stop doing that.)

Listen though, I kind of love the iPad. Contains too many words about gadgets. )
roadrunnertwice: A mermaid singing an unenchanting song. (Beaton - Doop doop)

So I grabbed a new iPad text editor to play with! It’s called iaWriter, and you might have heard of it, since apparently it’s the one Stephen Fry uses or something. I like it a lot. It can’t replace PlainText, because its syncing and organizing are kind of barely sufficient (verging on crappy); it’s completely unusable for making frequent updates to a blizzard of smallish documents, and appears to be meant for working diligently on four or five large files, which will occasionally be switched out. It’s a text drafter, I think, not a text editor. Anyway, the upshot is that I seem to be able to write fiction with it at speed, which is one hell of a feature and which I always found too frustrating to keep trying for on Simplenote and PlainText.

The two real standout touches are that it uses a big ugly font that’s very readable no matter how I’m holding the device, and it extends the iPad keyboard with a row of extra keys – things like always-on apostrophe and quote keys, and cursor keys that can navigate by letter or word. It sounds trivial, but it ends up making a pretty huge difference, and I’m inclined to attribute its surprising usefulness to the amount of friction that takes away. I realize most iPad apps can’t do that with the keyboard, because it makes it take up like 3/5 of the whole screen, but it’s damn nice if you need to type for an hour.

It also has two standout annoyances: there’s a big old scrolling dead zone on either edge of the page, and it doesn’t switch the keys back after you type an apostrophe with the normal punctuation keyboard. Yes, you have a built-in key for that, but that’s no reason to punish me for picking up a little muscle memory elsewhere, geez.

I think I paid like a buck for it? It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you already have a main text editor.

(Oh, and apropos of nothing, apparently it saves newly created files as Little-Endian UTF-16. Who in the world uses that for ANYTHING? Weird!)

roadrunnertwice: Dialogue: "Craigslist is killing mothra." (CatAndGirl.Cat - Web 2.0)

It has officially been months since I've wasted everyone's time talking about computer bullshit up in here, so let's geek out for a second.

  • Git is the shit and I'm basically in love with it. That's pretty much all there is to say about that.
  • I'm out of love with Simplenote, alas. It was the first iPad writing app that made sense to me, but it started corrupting my text (while I was watching, even!), which is pretty much the one thing I just can't forgive in an app. After I lost a sentence in one of my Turkey diaries and couldn't remember what it'd been, I ditched Simplenote for good, got a Dropbox account, and started using PlainText instead. It's better in some ways (it plays very well with Garbage Book and FMP, for instance) and worse in a few (no search), but since it hasn't thrown away part of my brain as of yet, it currently wins by default.
    • By the way, Dropbox is the shit and I'm basically in love with it. Yes, I am late to the fucking party; what of it.
  • The developer of PlainText also has a to-do list app called TaskPaper, and after extensive consideration I have decided that—evidence of an unfortunate addiction to InterCaps aside—it rocks. The deal is that I've tried working with task managing apps before, and I apparently can't handle any of their interfaces; if it's more complicated than a piece of paper or a text editor buffer, it gets in my way and I eventually just stop using it. (Bonus Kill It W/ Fire points for any app that has a concept of calendar-tied due dates.) Which, fine: I've always just fallen back to using paper or a text editor buffer, and they're perfectly respectable tools.

    As far as I'm concerned, the following are the only problems with using paper and text for to-do lists:

    • They're hard to maintain. Eventually, a to-do list is going to get clogged up with finished tasks, and the only cure is to spend way too long on either re-writing it or deleting the dross.
    • They're not very introspectable. You can do a single-aspect hierarchy pretty easily, but it's a lot more annoying to, say, make an ad-hoc sub-view of tasks you've picked to do today or which have to happen when you're at home.
    • Also, and this is basically less important than anything but it gets on my nerves anyway? "Crossing out" an item in plaintext is kind of fiddly and abstract. Like, how do you even do that? Put an "x" in front of the line? Turn the - bullet into a +? Guh.

    TaskPaper solves all of those without actually making the interface any more complicated than paper or a text buffer, so it wins. I used up its 30-day trial and thought it wasn't really all that special, and then I proceded to get incredibly annoyed at its absence on an almost daily basis, so I ponied up. If you like to-do lists, you should give it a try too.

  • I think my favorite thing about that rubberized iPad folio Apple makes is how schmutzy and gross it gets. No, seriously, I mean it. It signals that its contents are for use and/or abuse, and for someone with a mild fear of Owning Nice Things, that's more useful than it sounds. Also, the unique patterns of filth make it easier to tell otherwise-identical iPads apart.
  • So in Vim, the D key generally indicates destruction, right? dd = delete the current line; D = delete to end of line? Except that ctrl-d means scroll down half a page. This is my Vim face: -_-
roadrunnertwice: Dialogue: "Craigslist is killing mothra." (CatAndGirl.Cat - Web 2.0)
This is the dorkiest thing in the world to be excited about, but okay, whatever. So yesterday, I was on the train and wanted to get some cash en route to the farmers' market, and since it was wicked hot I didn't want to detour at all if I could avoid it. And then I remembered that my new credit union has an unexpectedly humongous ATM multi-network, so I whipped out the iPad, checked out their ATM locator, and found one that was, like, literally 50 ft. out of my way. Win! Except that the interface on said ATM locator was pretty clumsy, especially given that I had a freaking GPS radio with me and it couldn't talk to it. So I just went poking around in the app store tonight, and bam, there's the goods: network one and network two. Hurray!

Well, I warned you it was some weaksauce squee, dude. Geez. Anyway, in conclusion, fuck you Dracula ATM fees!
roadrunnertwice: Dee perpetrates some Mess. (LittleDee.Dee - Hail Eris!)

I've been dicking around with all kinds of computer shit lately! It is way exciting, you don't even know. Well, you're about to know, I mean. You know.

Item one! I'm learning Perl! High time, I know, especially considering my living situation. Basically, I have a hard time learning a large system without a project, so my tactic was to let an (if we're being honest here) totally trivial and absurd potential project take up enough of my mental space that I would basically be forced to learn it. I am getting very close to wanting to share the result, because it basically works now, but it's got a silly dependency chain, it's hella slow, and there are one or two known bugs. I'm pretty sure I can fix all of these! So you'll see it eventually, and it'll make your life better, because it's the shit. Even if it is trivial and absurd.

Item two! If you have an iPad, stop what you're doing and immediately download Simplenote. After it's all set up and you've made an account, download Notational Velocity (assuming you use a Mac), set it up to sync with Simplenote, and change the storage schema to plain text files. The effect is AMAZING; basically, it's a single pile of notes that's always effortlessly in sync on all relevant devices.

It's basically obvious what to do from there, but I did have one trick I wanted to share, which is that if you want a shortcut to open a note in a different text editor from its representation in NV, you can highlight the note title with cmd-L, grab the text with a OS X Service, and use Applescript to turn that into a real file path and open it. Like this, more or less:

on process(inputText)
    set notefilename to ((path to application support folder from user domain) ¬
as string) & "Notational Data:" & inputText & ".txt"
    tell application "BBEdit"
        open notefilename
        activate
    end tell
end process

To be used with ThisService, natch. I think there'll be a more elegant way to do this in the next version of NV, but this works.

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