Contact me

These days, I'm the director of the American Library Association' s Office for Intellectual Freedom. I'm also executive director and secretary of the Freedom to Read Foundation. See "About Me" for contact information.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

tkoutline, JOE, and Notecase Pro

tkoutline "is a single pane, cross-platform outline editor written in Tcl/Tk." This free program was written by Brian Theado.

I used to use it a lot. It was very close to what I wanted - but lacked movement by word, and word count. Finally, I emailed Theado, and he promptly sent me back a few lines to add to the preferences and startup files. I could now move the cursor by word and get a word count.

I eventually drifted away from it, mainly because the combination of the tclkit and the program file I was using gave me a dotty-font look, sort of like Windows. It was ugly, and the rest of my Linux desktop was so pretty. Call it an aesthetic issue.

Well, it turns out that I should have broken down and asked Theado how to fix that, too. I did, today, and it's not hard.

For Linux machines, follow these instructions to get a surprisingly handy, quick, stable (and now good looking!) program that works for a lot of things.

1. Grab these files:

* wget http://tkoutline.sf.net/tkoutline-devel.kit

* http://sourceforge.net/projects/kbskit/files/kbs/0.4/Linux_kbsvq8.5-gui/download

(Note, that second file works better on Ubuntu than the download link on the tkoutline wiki.)

2. Then make both of them executable:

chmod +x filename


3. Then put them both in a directory together, for example, tkoutline. (Just use your file manager to drag them over.)

4. Create a text file called tko, with the following content, for instance:

cd /home/yourname/tkoutline
./Linux_kbsvq8.5-gui tkoutline-devel.kit


5. Make IT executable

chmod +x tko

6. Copy it to /usr/bin like so (or with your file manager again, but you do need root privileges):

sudo cp /home/yourname/tkoutline/tko /usr/bin/

7. Add it to one of your panels or desktop so that clicking on it launches the command tko (instructions vary with your preference).

That really makes it the ideal writing tool when I have something short that still has structure. It's easy, then, to copy the text and dump it into an email or word processor for sharing or further polishing.

The two other outliners I mention in my title deserve a little mention too:

One of them is the Java Outline Editor. It's a single pane outliner, too, and even has spell check (which tkoutline does not). I was kind of starting to like it, too, but then discovered that it corrupted some key files - not worth it! It also did some weird display things from time to time. Finally, it also couldn't move by word, which is just annoying. I've purged it from my computers.

Finally, I use Notecase Pro. It's a two pane outliner, and absolutely topnotch. It does it all - except let you easily use it as a one pane outliner.

So for thinking, I now have the pair of Notecase Pro for long documents, tkoutline for shorter ones, and xmind or Freemind for mindmapping.

And my last thought on this long, nerdy post: many thanks to Brian Theado, whose work continues to delight, and whose astonishingly quick helpfulness exemplifies everything that's good about the open source programming world. Thanks!

P.S. I always forget, when I install this on a 64 bit system, that I also have to install 32 bit libraries to get tkoutline to work. The command for that on a Debian/Ubuntu-based system is sudo apt-get install ia32-libs

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Uncle Bobby's Wedding story for the Gay and Lesbian fund

Click here to get to a page from the latest Gay and Lesbian fund annual report. Then click on the embedded video there. The Gay and Lesbian Fund Fund has underwritten many library programs over the years, and recently interviewed both me and one of our most prominent local library philanthropists about the principles of free speech, using our response to a challenge to "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" as a case in point.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cell phones

Recently, my library's IT staff tried to link my cell phone, the Palm Centro smartphone, running the now abandoned Palm OS, to our Exchange Server. It was an experiment fraught with danger.

One problem: my current data plan (paid by me, not the library) really doesn't cover that. (I didn't find that out till later.)

Another problem: The wireless sync program represented a different kind of work flow.

Another problem: my own incompetence. I didn't read the instructions for synching very carefully. When it did sync, it wiped out my entire calendar, then wouldn't sync the old way with my Palm. At this point, I'm not sure if I ever tried to sync wirelessly again to restore the settings from the Exchange Server, or if it would have worked.

Instead, I went through a round of reformatting, restoring key files, hopping across a Windows NT machine, my home PC running Ubuntu, and my netbook. Then, trying to figure out how to restore the simple email to my own domain. In the process, I discovered that I'd gummed up my Palm with all kinds of files and utilities I didn't need, and probably conflicted with each other.

And in these couple of days, I was unhappy. I have been using a Palm for over a decade, and it has worked its way into my life. Having it compromised -- not being able to transfer text files and calendar items among my various devices, in particular -- made me exceedingly cranky.

But it also got me thinking about what I actually need. Mainly, I use the basic Palm apps (Datebook, To Do, Memo, Addresses). They are fine, and the outliner Brainforest is a particularly good tool for thinking, storing big blocks of text (mostly columns, journals, and poetry), and tracking a host of work projects. The phone is quite good, I use texting, and mostly, I just monitor email rather than try to actively manage it, which is far more easily done on a PC. Web browsing on the old Palm is lousy. I take a picture every now and then. I do a couple of Sudoku every day. Although I play a lot of music myself in a week (piano, guitar, banjo, ukulele), I don't use my phone or my PC to run playlists.

When it comes right down to it, having been able to use a single platform (the Palm) more or less continuously over just three devices (the original Palm Pilot, an upgrade PDA, and a smartphone) is probably the exception rather the rule.

At any rate, I got things set back in order, understand Palm utilities and Linux transfer tools better than I used to, and got the idea that it won't be long before I'll have to adopt a different approach. Meanwhile, I'm more like my 16 year old son, looking at reports on cell phones. Android? iPhone? Will HP do anything with their WebOS purchase?

Change, change, change.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rethinking Ubuntu One and the cloud

In the rain of Sunday and Monday, I fiddled with various Ubuntu downloads, and am now downloading the latest Ubuntu Netbook Edition (UNE). I've also been playing with Dropbox at work (on Windows XP) and on my home PC (using Ubuntu 10.04). To complicate things, I've also been trying out some things on my Aspire Aspire One netbook (Linpus Lite, a sort of tweaked Fedora 8).

After poking into Ubuntu, I suddenly "got" something that has no doubt been obvious to many others for some time: with Ubuntu One, and its integration both into the OS and the Rhythmbox music player's access to the Ubuntu One music store, Ubuntu is now not just a Linux distribution, it's an ecosystem.

There are some files I work on - mostly newspaper columns and project notes - that do spread across all three computers (home, work, and netbook). And sure enough, putting them on Dropbox suddenly made it easier to keep the same file accessible everywhere.

I don't listen to a lot of music on my PC, but I can get why synching those files across multiple computers would be handy, too.

Maybe I'm just getting paranoid about some of my files (I also downloaded "Back in Time" for Ubuntu, a very handy backup tool to dump to a USB hard drive). But I also, on occasion, get paranoid about handing over all my files to the "cloud" when who knows who might also have access to them.

Nonetheless, it does feel as though the Internet is linking together remote storage, and making the local device just the processing point - a return, really, to the mainframe days of old. And like those days, there's a meter running for the use.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Crabapple blossoms

Taken with my Centro cellphone a couple weeks ago, outside the Nordstrom's at Park Meadows Mall.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Don't sit under the apple tree

Here are the delightful Vernon sisters. Something about these family groups - the Andrew sisters, the Mills Brothers, the Vernon sisters - is particularly engaging. Their voices, their movements, are uncannily close and synched.

I'm watching this because I'm working on ukulele versions of both this and "Buttons and Bows," for reasons that just might bring the Tuna Boys the fame we so richly deserve. Or not.

The Yike Bike

Click here to see a wonderful video about a device that is just wonderfully designed and elegant: a fold up electric bike.