Screenshot from 2018-05-05 06-33-04
Learning a new piece of software

It has been awhile since I blog posted…I’ve mostly doing real life stuff without a lot of “new bloggy” stuff to blabber about. Tarantulas and fish are doing their thing, and I’ve been concentrating on the writing and driving games…but…a near cataclysmic disaster at Casa du Casey’s House of Writerly Luv a few days ago got the juices flowing to post up.
I have been using Scrivener (writing software) to work on my novels for quite awhile now. The company used to have a solid (fairly bug-free) beta level linux version of the software in development that worked as advertised, even though they abandoned the project awhile back. (Small company making decisions on what to focus on. No issue with me, I get it.)

Screenshot from 2018-05-06 21-56-17

About two weeks ago the Linux font management libraries required by the software were updated and broke the old beta. I understand how new technology can obsolete the old, so I fired up the windows emulator (called Wine) I use from time to time and loaded their native windows version, and it worked just fine.
This software (Scrivener) is being updated to a new version, and has been in “beta” for months on end now. They released the production version for the Mac at the end of last year, but again…small company doing all the work…I get the delays for different platforms. (Former IT guy of 20+ years gives me a more sympathetic understanding of the processes involved.)
So after checking my version “2” software’s backups and forum surfing for potential “gotchas”, I installed the latest windows beta and opened the project. (I was more interested in how the newer interface would stack up against the old one, and what changes I would have to make from a “workflow” perspective than to actually “beta test”.) The application converted the document and put a backup copy of the old version in the same directory. Very smoothly done.
Everything looked good until I started to drill down into the chapter and outline folders in the new version.
Stuff was missing.

Vast swaths of stuff were missing.

Whole chapters…thousands of words…outline folders…same thing. All of the headers were there, just NOTHING in them.
No freak out yet…”BETA” right? I re-open the old version and open my project from the saved “old files”.
This is where the yelling and cursing started. The “backup’ created wasn’t an actual backup…it was a FREAKING copy of the new version, right down to the missing stuff. (I estimated that out of 90,000 words, 50,000 of em’ went to the bit-bucket in the sky.)
I calmed down and thought…the application backs up regularly to a save folder…go check. And yep…corrupted backup saves from within the application…FOR MONTHS.
[aside:] This bit I shall mea culpa. I hadn’t checked on the actual saved backup folder for quite awhile, as it was something that “just worked”. An example of “assuming will get ya’ killed”. -lesigh. [aside]
More cursing and yelling as well as a threat of an oncoming brain embolism thinking about how to re-create 50K missing words worth of novel… BUT…
Yes, rather than panic, as I was sorely tempted to do and drive to a certain company HQ with “postal intent”, I thought things through some more.
MY OWN WEEKLY BACKUPS for the drive! So I went in, restored from a week before this fiasco started, and viola’! presto! I have my novel back, minus a few pages of work. (beats 50k worth any day o’ the week.)
After double checking things with the old version of the software, I made some decisions that are “out of the ol’ comfort zone”, but consistent with how I prefer to run my life. Take a chance, make a change, throw the hat over the fence and just go for it.
I’d finally had enough. (This near-disastrous fubar with a massive document pretty much tripped my “had-enough-of-this-bullshit” meter into coronary territory.)
So I’m taking some time away from pure “creativity” to learn a new application (new to me, but an old process that is used in the publishing field). “Pure creativity” is actually a relative term as frustrations with formatting, font fiddling, and other funtime bugs and related nonsense as well as non-stop distractions from “oooh-cool-feature!(TM!) shit tend to irritate the crap out of me.  (Mostly after realizing that you’ve been noodling around for a couple hours instead of getting things in gear.)
I’m going to use a set of tools (still testing and looking at various apps) to organize my notes and other assorted things that a large project requires, but I’m GOING to learn LyX inside and out (a LaTeX front end) for my writing.

LyX The Document Processor

A HUGE reason for me is that open file formats as well as open source software are NOT DEPENDENT on the goodwill of a small “proprietary” company. If that company goes *poof*, generally speaking, so does your work when other updates cause breakage.
Open source on the other hand, means that ANYONE can contribute, bux fix or even “fork” (a term for making something new with the old code), and thus if something sees more than moderately widespread usage, the chances of it going “buh-bye” are slim to none.
I’ve been tempted to do this for several years, but always pushed it off as it is a big paradigm shift from word processors and such, as a document processor works differently in a LOT of ways from a typical word processor such as Libreoffice Write or Microsoft Word.
So other than driving folks around, this is going to eat my time for the next few days as I put the “larnin'” hat back on.


Screenshot from 2018-05-06 21-07-59
Let the migration begin!

I’d written the stuff above a few days back, but didn’t post it, so consider this a “twofer” blog post! heh heh.
The migration away from the proprietary stuff to open source software is well underway.
The decision to switch over to Lyx (document processing software) was more than worth the couple days study to get up to speed. Not that I’m a LaTeX expert by any stretch at this point, but having software using an actual professional typesetting language as the backend and a straightforward means to write (close to distraction free as well!) is actually quite refreshing.
I also discovered, after a bit of research, an application called “CherryTree” that is making it a breeze to pull out my notes, character/places sheets and main outline from the Scrivener application that can save the information in several different ways, my choices being SQLite or XML.

Screenshot from 2018-05-06 22-36-56
Cherrytree Oulining/notetaking software

Another nice thing is I can group the Lyx and Cherrytree applications side by side on my desktop and have a very similar look/n/feel to the Scrivener window panes, something I’ve appreciated and have grown accustomed to over the last couple years.
Don’t get this blog post wrong though. There is nothing at all wrong with Scrivener in the main. It certainly is an “all-in-one” solution for writers, but over the years I’ve discovered (too much wailing and gnashing o’ teeth to recount) that proprietary software can seriously bite one in the butt. Nothing is perfect, but I’d rather have open file formats (sqlite/xml/tex/pdf,etc.,) over something that is limited to one company that might (DID!!) just change things up to cause a flood. heh.
Their production version (ready sometime…no clue when, but sometime in 2018) will probably be just fine, but this mess finally got me off my mental butt to do some things I’d been putting off out of shear laziness.
While Scrivener is a HUGE toolbox for writing, a novelist generally only needs to be able to outline, do character information and most importantly…WRITE. After going through the processes I use via Scrivener, I was pleasantly surprised that my replacement choices will COMPLETELY take care of what I was using that application for.
This post is NOT a rant against Scrivener per se, as it is an outstanding tool for those who make use of it. Personally I’m not interested in “proprietary” for all of the above reasons.
Freedom means choosing what you will. I choose OpenSource.

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