Posts by Harry Scriven

Married, with a beautiful 27 year old daughter. I'm for girls' rights, whisky drinking, maths, economics, IT (FOSS + encryption) and Spanish.

Changing the WordPress scenery

I thought that my WordPress blog was looking particularly plain so I have just been fiddling about with it using the WordPress customizer (sic).

It was a little frustrating as extra widgets kept appearing when previewing different themes. For some reason, I still had these extra widgets within the unused widget area. These showed up when previewing different themes. (I’m not even trying to figure that out).

Anyway, this may not be the most eye shattering blog that you will find on the web nowadays but it’s not so plain as before.

I needed to take my mind from the dramas that are happening today. Believe me, when you have an ill wife and a daughter in her twenties with emotional problems, it might be a good idea to spend a little time messing with the WordPress customizer (sic).

Text Editor Warzone

So, I was finding it all very frustrating. Windows is a well-funded operating system and yet it comes with the worst text editor imaginable.

Eventually, this week at work, I asked aloud, “Is Notepad the worst text editor of all.”

The reply I received suggested a different text editor, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Software is a strange thing, or, to be more precise, the reaction of a number of people to software is a strange thing.

The amount of arguments that I have witnessed over whether the PS3/4 or XBox is better; or whether Windows, Apple, Linux or BSD is better; or which is the best text editor. Actually, I haven’t witnessed many text editor arguments but search for text editor wars, or just editor war, and you will find that in the online world, this argument gets strangely heated. There are even mock religions for these editors (I know!).

The big fight seems to be between users of VIM and EMACS. NANO and ED are also drawn into the fight, sometimes. Well, all four of these command line editors are on my laptop and I can see the attraction with all of them. I am diving into VIM most of all, but I would love to have known of either VIM or EMACS in those days when I used to build some websites. VIM and/or EMACS would make website building more of a breeze than using an alternative GUI based text editor, such as Bluefish.

As you can tell, using Linux opens up a world of text editing possibilities. There are alternatives that you can use on Windows, but all of the editors that I am about to discuss ship with some or most Linux distros as standard.

So, what is the difference between all the editors?

There are some great GUI text editors. I’ve mentioned Bluefish, but better alternatives include gEdit, and its Mate desktop environment fork Pluma. They are both very capable and robust. The KDE Advanced Test Editor aka Kate adds more functionality to the mix, but has the downside that a number of dependencies are pulled onto your desktop environment if you are using anything other than KDE as your desktop environment.

I personally believe that even the deliberately lightweight Leafpad is more pleasant to use than Notepad, even if the functionality is not much different.

Okay, that’s my brief nod to the GUI editors that put Notepad to shame.

What are the attractions that the text based editors that I mention?

For ED, not much at all. This is a really old line based editor and is a forefather of the others, so to speak.

NANO is a simple editor which has so many more options than Notepad. The options can be gained mainly by pressing the CTRL key along with another key.

Editing my blog post draft in NANO
Editing my blog post draft in NANO

Both EMACS and VIM boast so much more. Syntax highlighting, comparing files for differences and copying different lines from one file to the other, split screens to work on multiple files simultaneously and shortcut instructions to jump around the file and manipulate text quickly and easily.

Editing my blog post using EMACS
Editing my blog post using EMACS

So, I am preferring VIM out of all the text editors at the moment. I’ve used EMACS a little bit, but I am preferring VIM. Both of these editors are fantastic.

Editing my blog post using VIM
Editing my blog post using VIM

Anyway, just a quick tip if you are using VIM. If you want to paste the contents of your copy buffer from outside of the VIM, there is an easy way to do it. Just type the following command
“+gP

That snippet of advice seems to be hard to come by.

Oh, yes, which was the editor that my work colleague suggested as worse than Notepad? WordPad! Man, that suggestion is so right.

I searched for any uses for WordPad and one posting suggested that it can save RTF files. Okay, it can save RTF files but any text editor can save RTF files, and why would you want to? They are massive in comparison to other formats.

Oh…I think that I am joining a different text editor war!

2018 Awards

With it being New Years’ Eve, I thought that I would announce my return to WordPress with a 2018 Awards post.

I thought that a post would be a better idea than organising a formal ceremony as I suspect few people would want to attend. Also, I am too tight to hire a venue and lay on catering.

Most disappointing social media presence award

Well, I need to present this award to myself.

At one time I was blog posting weekly and throwing in extra Tweets for good measure. This year has been quite pathetic.

I don’t intend to defend this award during 2019 so I will invite certain others to do their utmost to win this award next year. I give every encouragement to Donald Trump and Piers Morgan to lead the chase for this accolade in the New Year. (Please guys, please!)

Worst country to be a girl award

Unfortunately, many countries continue to clamour for this award.

There continues to be a depressingly high number of countries where the lot of being born a girl is a likely life of neglect and abuse unless you are born into a rich family or your parents believe in fighting for your rights. Sometimes, even this is not enough.

The unfortunate irony of war within countries such as Yemen is that the lot of boys is more equal to the lot of girls in that both have an equal chance of a short and suffering life.

This is all a little depressing, so let’s listen to some music…

Movie action hero award

Chloë Grace Moretz’s turn as Mindy MacReady aka Hit-Girl in the 2010 movie Kick-Ass is a great nomination for this award should it be awarded only once every decade.

However, there are plenty of deserving cases for 2018 that aren’t in the movies.

I am plumping for Trash Girl this year. That is, Trash Girl aka Nadia Sparkes.

The ‘how on Earth do I live in the same country as these people’ award

I realised a long time ago that there are a number of my fellow country people in Britain who are not quite the full packet in the common sense stakes, so to speak.

However, this year demonstrated how even I had underestimated how inept a number of my country folk are.

KFC decided to ditch Bidvest and use DHL to distribute their chicken to their outlets. They didn’t check how many depots DHL had and this led to most of their branches running out of chicken in February during the first week of DHL’s contract.

Well, that was funny until it was headline news how people seemed to be struggling with KFC not selling chicken. Going to another fast food outlet or even heating some chicken up at home seemed to be beyond some people.

Best glass of whisky of the year award

About a month ago, I really enjoyed an evening out with an old friend fuelled by some Jameson Irish Whiskey.

My Christmas Eve tradition of a shot of whisky whilst listening to Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto led to my first glass of Glen Keith Scotch. Interesting drop of stuff.

Both of these share the 2018 award.

Best cultural misappropriation award

Whenever I enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon I think of Catherine of Braganza who, as the wife of Charles II, brought the practice to England from Portugal.

In further irony, my wife’s parents hail from St Helena, an island originally discovered by Portugal and now a British dependency.

…and now for 2019

These awards hopefully get us all in the mood for 2019 and more noise from me.

Anyway, a great new year to you all.

Clearing up that clutter

I am going to be bold and suggest that everyone reading this post will be able to relate to what I am writing.

Have you ever opened a drawer in the kitchen or the lounge and been confronted with numerous receipts, letters and guarantees that you should have filed months ago but not find the instruction book that you are looking for?

This clutter is a symptom of not filing the documents in the appropriate place at the right time and is the default behaviour for most people, or so it seems to me.

Nowadays, it’s easy to replicate this problem on your computer or your smartphone.  With the amount of emails and applications that are made online, it’s possible that the clutter and junk awaiting sorting on your desktop and within your Documents and Downloads folders will quickly achieve a worse state than your kitchen or lounge drawer.

I kept telling myself that I have to tidy the files and folders on my now effectively deceased old budget laptop.  I had photographs and files that were sometimes even triplicated in various locations.  I also had problems locating the file that I had been searching for amongst the unsorted junk across my laptop.

negative-space-black-office-desk-vintage-kaboompics

Filing systems are useful for finding what you need (incidentally, I grabbed this image from Negative Space)

With being forced to buy a new laptop, I have taken the opportunity to sort the mess that was my chaotic filing system.  I restored my backup into a folder named ‘!to restore’ on my new laptop and have since been filing its the contents into appropriately named folders and sub-folders on my new Hard Disc Drive, as well as being able to rid myself of triplicated files within my backup.

There were also some files that I definitely no longer need so I have deleted them completely, such as purchases from several years ago for small ticket items that I no longer possess.

One thing that I had been doing properly was backing up my files and so I was able to restore everything from my external Hard Disc Drive before grabbing any updated files from my SpiderOak One cloud backup account.

Please don’t get caught out without implementing a 3-2-1 backup strategy or the death of your device could leave you without a vital file or set of photos.  Use the DuckDuckGo search engine and search for 3-2-1 backup.  (Feel free to use your preferred search engine. I plug DuckDuckGo as they don’t collect any of your browsing information, search data or track your internet journey for advertising or any other purposes).

The new laptop arrives

Okay, I am going to be very traditional man in this post and waffle on about my latest electrical gadget.  Please forgive me and be assured that I am still as modern a man as before, I still do the cooking in our house for a start.  I never fail to make the Yorkshire Puddings rise when I cook the roast, and my Sunday joint comes out of the oven juicy and tender…anyway, back to this post.

The new laptop arrived on Friday and I am already enjoying playing with it.  I would drive up to the Entroware office to thank all their staff personally but I hope that my payment to them tells them everything that I want to say.

For the first time in my life, my choice of new laptop has not been almost entirely dictated by price tag with whatever scant specification I can be lucky enough to get.  I enjoyed this position as I had been saving specifically for the event of having to replace my laptop especially as it was clearly reaching the end of its useful life.

My Entroware Aether laptop with my choice of Netbook desktop layout

Ubuntu-Mate lets you choose from several different desktop layouts – I opted for Netbook with a dock (plank) as an extra option

I was running a Linux OS (Operating System) on my old laptop and was finding that I had time between pressing the on switch and subsequently seeing the logon prompt to switch on a kettle and throw a teabag in a mug.  Oh, and start the washing machine!  Man, it was like I had been running Windows XP rather than Ubuntu.

A little research showed that I would be not be charged a premium for getting a laptop with Linux pre-installed, and so I decided early on that I would take this course.  I weighed up a few different providers and narrowed my search after eliminating  Elementary OS as my choice of Linux OS.  It seems a very solid OS but I find Elementary OS a bit boring, to be honest, but don’t let that scare you off if you like the look and feel of Elementary OS.  The reason for so many Linux distros is that a multitude of wants and needs are being provided for.

I settled on Entroware as they had two things that I particularly covet.  They seemed to offer quite a lot of specification in return for each pound spent as well as also enjoying favourable reviews online for after sales care.

I had to choose between Ubuntu and Ubuntu-Mate to be pre-installed and opted for the latter OS.  I prefer the Ubuntu-Mate desktop to Ubuntu and was finally persuaded on choosing Ubuntu-Mate on noting that Entroware is named on the Ubuntu-Mate website (ubuntu-mate.org) as one of the four main sponsors of the development of the OS.  Hmm, I thought, there’s a good chance that Entroware may have provided some machines for testing during development, so Ubuntu-Mate is likely to fit Entroware laptops like a glove (to use a cliché).

I decided on the Aether model and opted for the default size SSD (solid state drive) on which the Ubuntu-Mate OS is installed.  SSDs are lightning fast in comparison to HDDs (Hard Disc Drives) and opening LibreOffice has never been so quick for me.

As an upgrade on the default specification, I both upped the processor as well as opting for a second disc drive on which I am storing my files.  The second drive is a 1TB (terabyte) HDD and appears to be the only moving part that makes a noise in my new machine.  I realise that a SSD should last almost as long as a HDD under normal use and so this was not the reason I opted for an additional HDD rather than choose a larger SSD.  The reason that I opted for a HDD for my file storage is that I could get more space for my money.  HDDs are cheaper than SSDs and storing my files on a slower HDD will have a negligible effect on the laptop’s overall speed.

Everything is dramatically faster on the new laptop than my old machine and not just in the start up times.  Uploading files to my SpiderOak account is so much faster, for example.  I can upload in excess of 1GB (gigabyte) of data in the same time that my old laptop would take to upload five or six LibreOffice documents.  This is entirely down to the laptop’s performance as my internet connection is no different now than it was a month ago.

So, that’s the end of me reverting to type as a man and banging on about my new gadget.

I should now be able to get a lot more done in the same time which is the important thing.  I’m not a gamer but do most other things online, such as bill paying.  And yes, in case you are wondering, my VPN was one of the first things that I configured in Network Manager.