File Format Hell

I’ve had a long journey with text file formats.

First there was… uh… whatever MS works saves files as. That was back in the Windows 3.1 era. That sucked. Then we went to Word… MS Word, and MS Word would not open MS Works files. Go figure. So there was the lovely time of opening files, ripping text from 50 pages of bad binary translation and putting them in Word.

Ok, so after Word I found Wordperfect. No, not that crappy blue screen one either, I found the joy, the wonder, the amazement of Wordperfect 8. To this day, it brings a tear to my eyes. Wordperfect opens Word, great! Absolutely nothing opens Wordperfect except, Wordperfect. Not so great.

Then later I got a copy of Lotus Smart Suite. LWP files baby. Used that for a while, mainly because of Approach. Office 2000 came out, tried that (yet again MS changes Word file formats. Meanwhile WPD files can be opened by any version of Wordperfect after 6…)

Then on to WordPerfect 9. oh, how I miss thee.

There was even some StarOffice in there, and OO.o version, uh… something. (did they do an 0.9 release? Maybe it was just 1.0.. )

Ok, then I go to a Mac.

So after much crying and pouting and general sleepless nights I get MS Office. Thank the Gods that MS Office for the Mac opens MS Office for Windows files. (Yes I was worried, don’t you remember Word 6 -> Word 95 issues? But they are the same… NO THEY ARE NOT!)


Yup, what the hell do I do with SWF, LWP, WPD, WKS (i think) various Quattro Pro and 1-2-3 files (we don’t even think about databases, we learned that lesson from Access 2000)??

Well, again, there was crying and screaming.

Out comes NeoOffice ( for the Mac). With it comes along ODT. Sounds great, sounds wonderful, sounds like another file format… And I realized that for 99% of my stuff i don’t need all that crap. (it is really just crap) What I need has been in front of me the whole time.


So that is my new fixation, moving everything to RTF.

Now now, you wait, Mr ODT, I ain’t saying nothing bad about you. In a way you are the next hope, possibly the next RTF. As an open standard there is hope that ODT will find itself on any platform out there. That would rock. Then you could get all the crap in there too. (and spreadsheets would be nice, I like spreadsheets.)

But for now, RTF (and even maybe TXT as back-ups) will do just fine. The goal is the future. A future where I don’t have to find a PC to install Lotus on to get a file that I swore I had backed up somewhere else in WPD format which Neo opens now, but I didn’t so NOW I gotta find a find one.

And do you know how hard it is to find a PC in a Mac house? Sheesh.

Life After the Word Proccessor?

I’ve been using NeoOffice for the Mac since its 0.0.1 stage. My wordproccessor needs were pretty simple: Wordperfect. Since that wasn’t possible being a Mac and all, I went for a different approach: Free.

NeoOffice, which is a verison of with a whole bunch of Mac-awesome packed in it, has come a long long way since those first experimental patches that allowed it to do things like print. And in that time when I wanted to write anything, stories, newsletters, posts, notes and ideas, I would fire up Neo, write it down and save it.

So what happened? I have all of these files on my computer. A single book idea can take folders within folders, files upon files. Character sketches, outlines, scene ideas, background stories, and of course the work itself.

I started looking into other things other ways of storing information. For my first try I had some basic criteria: portable, cross platform, easy to use. First thought was a Wiki. I set up MediaWiki on one of my sites. This, however, created the need for the internet. So I threw in another requirement: offline.

I found a wiki-on-a-stick called TiddlyWiki. A single HTML file you store on your thumb drive, your dropbox, anywhere you want basically, it lets you do Wiki-ness and Journal-ness. I used this for ideas, characters, research (i think half is just wikipedia links) and ocasional scene writing. This was my scrap paper, my non-linear notebook. One day I’ll show it off.

Later I participated in some Mac software bundle. I believe it was Mac Heist 2, but i could be wrong. I came with a program called Mac Journal, which I have blogged about here as my new ‘toy’. It hooked up to this blog, downloading my content, and letting me upload from it.

I started using it for a notebook, weaning off of the TiddlyWiki slowly. It was Mac only, so I still had that portable itch, but it was good for notes and research for sure. Without the Wiki-ness it didn’t have the internal links (like linking a charater’s name from an idea to the page of his sketch), but allowed for more robust entries. TiddlyWiki was a text file only. Mac Journal allowed for images and video as well. Along with some Mac-awesome.

Months later I am only kinda sold. It is a great too to store information. I use it for school, recipes, and general scrap paper. But for writing? When I open that TiddlyWiki to look something up, it still FEELS more useful.

One thing I am trying to avoid is having TOO many note taking programs. I did try Evernote, which helped with the portable problem, but its client doesn’t hook up to WordPress. There was a few others, but in the end I ditched them all, not because they were bad, but because I was spreading myself too thin. Why have files in Google Docs, TiddlyWiki, MediaWiki, Dropbox, harddrives, thumbdrives, saved on my iPod, on my phone… see where this is going? Soon you can’t find anything which is way worse than the inconviences of 50 files per story.

As it stands now, I still use NeoOffice to write my stories. (Next post is about that) but for notes, outlining, etc, I currently have Mac Journal, which is a fantastic program btw, and TiddlyWiki. I think as long as I have the XO, the tiddlywiki will stick around.In the end, quick and cross platform is just too good to give up.

Protecting Your Computer

THIS IS AN OLD POST, this was written in 2008. there is better information out there. Still, back up your shit. Seriously. No one, not Dell, not Apple or Microsoft, not Google not Best Buy, no one NO ONE but you are responsible for your digital belongings. Your pictures, your music, your documents and emails, all of these things are yours, and you need to be proactive in keeping them safe.


If you use a Windows computer you need to protect it from the internet. The following is by no means intended to be an end-all be all list. Nor is it one that will last forever. See the date of this post? If it has been longer than a year, I’d do some research to make sure these are still good solutions. Computer technologies don’t stop.

Firefox: ( Web Browser. The best thing you can do for your computer is not use Internet Explorer. Most viruses/ad/spyware comes in to your machine using exploits through IE. This is _not_ to say that Firefox is immune to this, or that this is the only way to be infected. This is a simple first step at protecting your machine.

AVG ( Anti-virus. High quality, it will scan your system, scan incomming email and help clean and quarrentine infected files.

Adaware ( Free. This removes ad/spyware from your computer. You know that random pop-up window that appears when you aren’t even in Internet Explorer? this will help with that.

Spybot Seek and Destroy ( Search and Destroy () Free, use with adaware. Where Adaware shines with adware, spybot shines with spyware. Spyware is used to collect information from your computer and send it to another computer. This is usually bad.

Backup, backup, for the love of all that is holy, backup!

caveat emptor! Becareful of what you download! Where did you find it? Is the site reliable? Has the software been reviewed on other sites? Check these things out. A bad software download can cripple your machine.

Seriously. Back up. Get an external hard drive. Get a thumb drive. Burn CD’s or DVD’s. Print them out! Imagine this, if i came in and took a hammer to your hard drive, what would you lose? what would you need? Now take those things and back them up.

I am a Mac user. The luxury of that at this time is I don’t need any of these things. Linux too provides more security than a Windows machine. The trade-off? You would need to learn a new operating system. Not all your software can be found (and most would need to be repurchased).