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!

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.

Where the heck have I been?

That really is the question, isn’t it. Why have I been largely absent from WordPress, Google+ and Twitter for several months and, perhaps more importantly, what changes have I made to my life to prevent this from happening again in the future?

There are three reasons for my dismal level of social media interaction over recent months:

  • A lack of personal organisation

  • Suffering from ‘flu for the first few months of the year

  • The recent demise of my ageing budget laptop

All of us are given twenty four hours every day. Whilst some people use the time to create business empires or to be active within civil rights pressure groups, I was somehow struggling to even find time to vacuum the car on a regular basis. So, come October when I needed to find extra time for some studying on top of the tasks I was already failing to fulfil, I put myself under unnecessary pressure.

Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods - Casual Gods

Even Amazon struggled. They took six weeks to deliver my Jerry Harrison: Casual Gods CD

I needed to organise my time much better. After a lot of soul searching, I have (in theory) managed to find the necessary time to do everything. I listed everything that I need to achieve and now have time slots for all necessary tasks during the week. It means that WordPress and Google+ will get my attention on a Saturday, around the time that I back up my computer files to my external hard drive (I also sync to an online encrypted cloud account). I’ll delve into the Twitter account whenever I get a few moments during the working week.

Last year my health was great right up until November when I started to catch every cold or bug that was doing its rounds. Boxing Day was when I succumbed to one of the strains of ‘flu that ravished Britain last winter.

I had trouble to get the help that I needed from the NHS which I am certain lengthened the time that I suffered.

I was even sent back to work too early by one doctor and within two days was back off work worse than ever and needing another course of antibiotics to treat the return of the secondary bacterial infection that for weeks had taken my left lung hostage.

I never want to go through that again.

My fruit and vegetable intake has since vastly increased and I have promised myself a ‘flu jab every year. Paying about £20 a year is a small price to sacrifice if I can avoid a repeat. I know that it isn’t likely that I will catch ‘flu every year but avoiding one future battle with that virus is something I am desperate for.

I need to lose some weight again now. After the ‘flu went, I started eating more and exercising less; but I have started to turn this around.

And finally, my ageing budget laptop had become increasingly temperamental over recent months. (Can laptops catch ‘flu?) Eventually, a fortnight ago with two study assignments due within days, it stopped effective service. It logs in but stops working within about fifteen minutes. I could get it fixed no doubt but it looks to be a three figure sum repair bill, so a new machine became a reasonable option.

Anyway, I mentioned that I started studying and any delay would prevent submitting my final assignments whose deadlines were only days away.

I bought a cheap Windows laptop for immediate use and this will become my wife’s main laptop in the next few weeks. Gloria’s been after her own laptop for quite a while and so is looking forward to sole use of the PC. This will be her’s on receipt of the much beefier laptop I have treated myself to, which will come with Ubuntu-Mate installed as the operating system. Man, am I looking forward to that.

(Incidentally, I found that my old laptop running Ubuntu worked better at connecting to Adobe Connect rooms than some of my fellow students’ Windows machines when attending online study meetings. Linux is more software friendly than you may think.)

So, there were three reasons that affected my output to which I have sourced three solutions: planning how I will use my time better, an annual ‘flu jab and a new (as yet undelivered) Ubuntu-Mate laptop which should last me a decade or more with careful use.

I just hope no-one cursed me too much these last few months whilst I was mostly absent…or, maybe, these events were due to someone’s curse on me.

Innovation at work

Did I mention before that I work in IT, installing software for a Multi-National company? If I haven’t already mentioned it…well, I just have.

The office desk of the innovation director - complete with 1990s floppy discs

The office desk of the innovation director – complete with 1990s floppy discs

In the corner of our larger shared office is the Innovation Director’s office. It’s his job to develop the cutting edge ideas for the company to take forward into the future. So, it was with great amusement today that we looked through his door and found a stack of floppy discs on the side of his desk.

Close up of the floppy discs

Close up of the floppy discs

I still have a zip drive and zip discs under the bed or elsewhere in the house. Maybe I’ll take them into work tomorrow and convince him that they’re the next big thing which will kill off floppy discs. He might not have heard that prior to CDs, zip discs were doing just that! I wonder if he has any punch cards…

In all seriousness, I think he is doing a review of all of the old ideas within the company to see if anything from years before can be successfully re-visited now that the world has changed.

It is amazing how some things can be abandoned one year and then come back into fashion at a later date.

Staying in the field of IT, I enjoyed the return of old PC games on the Wayback Machine site. Those games coming back to be played sure made for a great revival.

Until then, the only great revival that I enjoyed was revisiting an aged bottle of single malt whisky!

Boy, me talking a lot of IT will reinforce the perception that some people have always had of me. Before I’d even seen an episode, people would compare me to Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd.

Harry...er, I mean Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd

Harry…er, I mean Maurice Moss from the IT Crowd

I think that there are worse people to be compared with than Richard Ayoade, so I was never offended.

Tomorrow – and for this I should thank the internet and the nature of my job – I will be connecting to my desk computer from home when I start work in the morning.  That will confuse everyone else in the office when they see me replying to internal emails but not answering my desk telephone.

Why am I starting work from home, you might ask?  Actually, you might not be too bothered why but I’m going to tell you anyway.  We have a workman coming to our house tomorrow morning and the only promise I could get was that he will be here by 12:30pm.

Maybe, I should cut a wedge into the side of my hair and say that my name is Maurice Moss.  Will he get the joke?