Hello and welcome back. Good to see you again.
So Nigel, you’re going to explain how to write device drivers for SCSI disks today, yeah?
Not by a long way.
For two reasons.
1) Why would I want to? Ok, ok, I’m a geek. Why would I need to?
2) This is a blog for geeks who like to write fiction, not non-fiction (that would be nonfictionwritinggeeks.com, or similar).
But, you said Writing on Linux, surely you mean … oh, I get it. You mean Writing on Linux. Gotcha.
Phew. Thank goodness for that. You worry me sometimes.
Now, let’s say you’re a starving artist.
Let’s say you have a burning passion to write a book.
Let’s say you want to type said book, not write it with a pencil, on paper.
I do, I do.
Good, we’re on the same wavelength.
We are, we are. While we’re imagining things, can I live in a loft?
Ok. A loft.
Ok. Paris it is.
Near the Seine?
You’re a starving artist, typing you book in a loft in Paris. Be happy with what you’ve got. You don’t get a view.
Ok. A view would have been nice, but I’m cool. I’m in Paris … Wow!
Hey, my room mate wants to know if they can visit?
YOU ARE A STARVING ARTIST, TYPING YOU BOOK IN A LOFT IN PARIS. YOU DON’T GET A VIEW. YOU DON’T GET VISITORS. YOU STARVE AND TYPE. NOTHING MORE.
Oh, touchy, touchy. All right, I get it. I’ll be quiet.
Good. Now you’re going to type your epic, so you need some software. Mac and PC users have a wide variety of writing programs to choose from, but you’re starving, so you you have to use Linux. The list of writing software for Linux users isn’t so big, but it still has some good options.
And why would anyone want to use Linux?
I’m glad you asked. Linux is a UNIX clone.
Oh, that helps.
Will you let me finish?
Linux is not UNIX. It has been written independently, using UNIX as a guide. As ever, there’s a more detailed explanation on Wikipedia. There are a whole bunch of variants of Linux, but I’m going to focus on Ubuntu.
Apart from a spiffy naming convention for each new release (don’t Maverick Meerkat and Natty Narwhal sound so much more interesting than 10.04 and 11.0?), Ubuntu has been designed to help bring Linux to the masses. It has a simple install process, simple upgrade process and even has an Ubuntu equivalent of the App Store (I’ll leave the lawyers to sort out who got there first and all that).
But why would anyone want to use Linux?
You’re a starving artist. You’re starving, but want to type that book, remember?
Er (puts snack down), what if I wasn’t, say, actually starving?
Well. Lets just say that you bought a Windows netbook, because you wanted something small and cheap that would be easy to carry around.
Yeah, that’d be good in my loft,
But after 13 months the hard disk died, which trashed the re-install image that was held in a hidden partition, and the netbook didn’t come with a Windows install disk (and I’m hypothesizing here, you know, making this scenario up, because you’d never believe that would happen to me, right? Right? Good.)
Now, you’ve got a dead netbook. It’s small and light, but dead. So, what are you going to do?
Er… … … call the netbook manufacturer?
I’ll give you a clue, it begins with “L.”
The netbook manufacturer begins with “L”?
Give me strength. LINUX. You’re a geek. You install Linux! Linux. It’s the excuse you’ve been waiting for. It’s in the title of this article. Linux. Linux. Linux.
Right, right. I was going to get to that.
Installing the Ubuntu version of Linux is easy. Not as easy as falling off a log, but that’s an unfair test, why anyone would want to do that is beyond me. You download an image onto a USB memory stick and reboot your PC. After you’ve tried it you can choose to install it on the disk and a few short questions later you’ve got a Linux box.
Wow, great, That easy, huh? Think of it. Me? A Linux box. And all in a loft in Paris. Ahhhhh.
Ok, don’t get too carried away. There are people who’ve got Linux running on old style iPods. Now they are geeks.
Killjoy. So, what do I get with Ubuntu?
All the usual stuff. Wifi, Media Players, Firefox, Tweetdeck, other web browsers, mail clients and all that other stuff.
But what about my writing?
Oh, great. You’re still doing that, are you? Good, good.
40k words and counting (puffs chest with pride).
40k. Great. So, you’ve had your inciting incident and you’re well into Act 2?
My what incident? I haven’t had any incidents so far, it’s all been plain sailing. Or should I say cruising, they’re on a spaceship, see.
Yeah, I see all right. I see someone who needs to read up on the three-act structure, the hero’s journey and the bluffers guide to not boring the pants off people. In fact, scratch the bluffers bit.
What’s up? Don’t like Sci Fi?
No, I like Sci fi … I … er …. Let’s get back on topic, shall we?
You’re the proud owner of a Linux box. But now you need some software to help you write.
Nah, I need antivirus software first.
No, you don’t. You’ve got Linux. Now I’m not going to say there are no viruses for Linux, but they are extremely rare.
That’s ’cause nobody uses Linux.
It’s no-one, the word is no-one, not nobody. And yes, lots of people use Linux. Over half the web servers out there use Linux. According to good old Wiki-P the 10 fastest supercomputers in the world use it! Which is one of the reasons viruses are rare. The people who run these web servers, which normally pass around the viruses for Windows, work hard to make sure their computers don’t get infected. And since Linux is open source, all those changes, bug fixes and so on, get fed back into your installation. Ta-da! Keeps the virus population down to a minimum (but no lower).
If you’re a author using a Mac you’ve got lots of good choices for software to help with your writing. Scrivener, WriteRoom, Pages,
And Word, right?
And Word, Word, there’s Word too.
Yeah, and there’s Word.
My favorite, and this will be a shock I know, is Scrivener. If it really was a shock, go back and read a few of my previous posts.
If you work on a PC then you’ve also got lots of choices. And don’t bring up Word, or I’ll thump you.
There’s Scrivener (in beta at the moment, but available soon they say), PageFour, RoughDraft, Liquid Story Binder , Writemonkey, and a long list of others.
All in all, Mac and PC users have quite a list of choices.
And some of them are free, right? ’cause I’m starving here is Paris.
Yes, some of them are free.
On Linux you’ve got less choices, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
The de facto standard office application on Linux has been OpenOffice but that’s changing to LibreOffice (based on the same code but more independent).
But then there’s Storybook, yWriter, PyRoom (great distraction free writing tool) and more.
But my favorite if Kabikaboo. Yes, it makes me dislexic when I look at the name too, but its a good application.
Because it simple.
You like simple, don’t you.
Yes, and wipe that grin off your face. Simple is good.
Kaboo is a simple but rare application. You get a tree view of subdocuments on the left and a writing area on the right. You can nest documents. If you click on a parent document it will allow you to edit the subdocuments in one go. Finally you can output any part of the tree as text, html etc.
Sounds a lot like Scrivener.
It is. It’s very basic, but it has the core idea that Scrivener uses, being able to structure your document, not ponce around with bolding this and underlining that. Here’s and example
Looks good. Well, apart from those word echos.
It’s a first draft, if not earlier.
R-i-g-h-t. Is there anything I don’t get?
It doesn’t make coffee and it can’t sing.
Heard that one before. Anything a little more … writing oriented?
Yeah. It doesn’t have a “find” function.
Find?! It doesn’t have find? You mean you expect me to write 100, 000 words in this thing and it doesn’t even have a search function!
I did. I wrote my first draft in it.
Ah! The one that got banned under the Geneva Convention?
No, not that one. That was the previous one (previous four – ed) and I can’t answer that question fully, they made me sign a document to say I wasn’t allowed to disclose the whereabout of its burial (their burial – ed).
So, you wrote a 100k without being able to search for anything? How did you manage?
I used the Mk 1 eyeball. In fact, if you saw the thickness to the beer bottles I use for lenses you might even say I use the early prototype for the Mk 1 eyeball. You’d be surprised how much you don’t need with a first draft.
Well, I need something.
Yeah, you’re right, you do. A good log line, a plot (inciting incident, turning points, darkest moment), descriptions of your antagonist and protagonist (normal world and their arc), a knowledge of the locations and setting.
And all of it written down. “It’s in my head” doesn’t count.
Really? I need all that? I mean, it is all in my head. They’re in this spaceship, see.
You said. 40k words and no inciting incident.
It’s a really cool spaceship.
I can tell you all about it if you like.
That would be – Wow! would you look at that, we’re out of time.
Really? Already? I was just about to tell you about-
Sorry, we’re at our upper internet limit already. We’ll have to keep that for another time. Sorry.
Can I at least keep the loft, in Paris?
Hum. What do you think? Should he get to keep the loft? Would a little loft time help him figure out the error of his ways (or at least his plot)? Or would he just aimlessly wander the banks of his epic, er, I mean, the Seine?
Please cast your vote quick, have you seen the cost of a one-bedroom loft these days?
I’m a uge fan of yWriter. I have installed on my Windows comp right now. Oh, and if OpenOffice rendered MS Word comments properly, I would totally be using Ubuntu…but I didn’t want to dual boot or install WINE just for Word…
I used Ubuntu/OpenOffice to add comments to Word docs for quite a while without a problem, but that was with simple text documents. I agree with you on installing WINE. I tried it for the Scrivener Windows beta and it was diff to install and slow as can be. Mind you that might be because of the fact I was trying to run beta code that’s probably stuffed with debug IO.
yWriter’s good. I tried it on Linux. I just went with the simpler option (believe it or not I like simple).
Thanks for the comment.
I wrote the first 150,000 words of my draft in Open Office. You can add comments. You can also highlight, bookmark, track changes (though I’m honestly not sure how to track changes) and there’s version control. I haven’t found an advantage to using Word, though I did have some formatting bugs. One time my novel did this weird thing where for no reason random portions of it were written in tiny caps. So I’d say Office is capable, but buggy. However, it is possible I would get these same bugs with Word at this point, as I’ve never attempted to edit a document of that size in Word.
I’ve just switched to Scrivener for Linux and though I miss the bookmarking options of Open Office, they aren’t as necessary now that everything is divided up into scenes with a binder view. I’ve found that enormously helpful in assessing where I need to dig in.
Hi, and thanks for the comment.
I’m glad to hear that you find the organizer side of Scrivener is a help, it’s the thing I find most useful. I used Open Office on Ubuntu for a while and found it good. In fact I’ve installed it on a Windows PC and really have to wonder why people want to buy the whole MS Office suite. Having said that, MS (being the 800lb gorilla) did establish a level of standards that allowed people to share documents more easily.
I tried an early version of Scrivener on Linux and found it looked a bit of a mess, has it improved?
In my opinion no ‘professional’ writer uses Windows.
Before people start throwing stones, let me explain. I know a lot of writers. Not surprising, since I am one. If we are self employed (and most of us are) we need solid, reliable equipment to work at our trade.
Windows, the only operating system which is prone to infection by Viruses, and attack by Trojans, isn’t suitable for use by writers. It’s just not safe to use.
I know several writers who lost time last year (2010) due to a Windows Operating System failure. In once case the computer was unusable for close to two weeks! Just think. Two weeks during which the writer was literally on an enforced vacation…
That sort of thing doesn’t happen to computers which run Linux or OS X. By cutting Windows out of the loop, you cut your system problems down drastically. You can still have hardware issues (ask me about the time I poured chicken soup onto the keyboard of my laptop), but a good backup regime (you are backing up your data aren’t you) will act as a safety.
But get rid of Windows. While there is a bit of a learning curve you’ll save yourself a huge amount of time in the long run.
I’m going to have to disagree with you there, sir. As a person who has run all three operating systems at one point or another, they have all failed at some point or another due to various reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I love Linux, but I love Windows even more, especially Windows 7. And Windows is not the only OS prone to viruses. Both Linux and MacOSX are built on Unix and there is a reason that BOTH operating systems have anti-virus programs. Yes, WIndows does seem to be the most attacked, no one could disagree with you there, but as Nigel pointed out above, Linux is not immune.
I have run a Windows box since Windows 3.1 and I can count on no more than TWO HANDS (and if you remember 3.1 came out in ’94) the amount of times I’ve been affected by viruses or anything of that nature and most of those times, it was on purpose because either I knew the site I was going to was going to do that or I needed to do it for testing purposes. No offense Wayne, but it infuriates me to no end when people start “Windows bashing”. I’m not saying this is you, but most of the time in my experience, the people who get infected all the time are people who don’t know jack about surfing on the web or about how to download from safe places.
But were you to apply those statements to Windows ME or Windows Vista, I could not complain…lol
Hi Peter – welcome back 🙂
I have to confess that I’m behind the times on win 7. I’ve used it a couple of times but don’t own a copy.
I really didn’t want to start a windows vs mac debate, we all have our own experiences. I just wanted to highlight kabikaboo as a great and simple program for writing on Linux. Sadly, the perfect, virus immune, everlasting writing tool has yet to be invented. There again, paper and pencil is safe against most things!
I wasn’t trying to be a jerk and I’m sorry if I came off as such. I was simply engaged in friendly debate (I hope), so no hard feelings…
Hey, no problem. I’m just glad to see people have opinions!
Thanks for stopping by.
I didn’t mean to stir up the whole mac vs PC thing. I’m a mac, but I use windows almost exclusively at work (no choice).
From my experience OS X is more reliable (viz crashes, virus infections and installations) than windows, but any hardware or software can fail. Even the stuff that keeps airplanes in the air can fail. Backups are the main way we can protect ourselves against failures. With a suitable backup and the original install disks you can get most machines back working in a day or so. That’s why I started blogging with a thrilling post on using dropbox to back up your work. I think it (or something similar) should be in place before you commit a fair portion of your life to bashing on a keyboard.
Lots of people use Windows. It used to be awful. Crashes. Devices drivers that hated each other. DLL hell. USB ports weren’t even implemented for long after they were mainstream on Macs (and I think Linux). But Windows did a lot to bring computing out of the dark ages. Like it or not, it did establish common formats for exchanging files. The doc format being a prime example. (The funny thing is that Word was first released for the Mac!). Being the 800lb gorilla meant business could start to use them to exchange data and that fueled tremendous growth and drove down prices.
The sad thing with windows is that it still thinks of its users as computer users rather than people who want to get things done (why else would there be half a dozen versions of win 7?)
Sorry I’m going to have to throw some more love Microsft’s way, but their new SkyDrive gives you 25GB of online storage for free…and while they don’t offer a very good way to sync (LiveMesh), I’ve found that connecting with an app called Gladinet and then manually dragging over everything periodically works out just great. Also, while your files are on SkyDrive, the can be viewed and edited in the free Office Online.
25G? Wow. I had heard of skydrive but didn’t realize they gave out 25G. Dropbox (which is well integrated see my old backup post) only give 2G. But if you use it to back up your wip 2G is an awful lot of typing (esp as my speed). I’ll look into this and put it in a windows post I’m writing for next week. Brace yourself for tomorrows post though!! 🙂