Archive for the 'personal' Category

Dangerous

Am I a danger to proper boys and girls? I can only hope so.

▪️Proper boys and girls have learned there are two boxes and we all must be shoved into one or the other.
▪️Proper boys and girls have learned that we have a fixed gender at birth, oh and it’s determined by our genitals.
▪️Proper boys and girls have learned what to wear, how to walk, how to talk, how to relate to others in accordance with their girl or boy box.
▪️Proper boys and girls have learned how to identify others, putting them into the correct girl or boy box.
▪️Proper boys and girls have learned to raise and educate children as proper boys and girls, no matter the cost.

Proper boys and girls are the prisoners, the prison bars, and the guards themselves of gender confinement. And I’m so done with that. Aren’t you?

⭐️Improper boys and girls know that there are a thousand genders (conservative estimate 😎)
⭐️Improper boys and girls know that genitals and gender have the first three letters in common and that’s all.
⭐️Improper boys and girls know that you can wear what you want, style your hair how you want, talk the way you want, without any of this hinting at your gender unless you want it to.
⭐️Improper boys and girls know that the way to find out someone else’s gender, if they agree to disclose it, is to ask them.
⭐️Improper boys and girls know that children, if not constrained and shackled, will grow into the many genders they are, will grow into freedom.

Am I a danger to proper boys and girls? I can only hope so.


P.S. This only looks at one facet of freedom. There are many interlocking systems of oppression to be torn down, implicating race, class, sex, gender, ethnicity and lots more, until we are all truly free.

One week with the reMarkable tablet

Spoiler: I like it a lot because it fits my workflow.

Why get an e-paper tablet?

I used to keep a small spiral notebook next to my laptop. In this I wrote notes on everything: todo lists for each day, notes from team meetings, notes while debugging some issue, notes from phone calls from friends or family with things to follow up; notes about travel or short story ideas or anything else. It all went into this notebook, in the order of arrival, with no indexing system other than “this probably was a couple weeks ago, let me search about 10 pages back”.

I have about 15 or 20 of these notebooks filled right now, with no dates and no way to retrieve the information once it’s been added and the notebook put away.

What finally pushed me over the edge was the pile of carefully cut pages I kept from the last notebook on unit testing, which I needed to refer to for current work. Inconvenient, if I dropped the pile they would be in random order (because of course not only do I not date the pages in these paper notebooks, I don’t number them either because that would be far too much work). And then I saw a reference to a tablet for writing things down, and reading ebooks. Only for that. Not that I cared
about reading ebooks, I have a laptop for that. But, hey, maybe that added feature would come in handy. And being able to scribble notes on some paper I was reading, that seemed useful, if not my primary use case.

Internet investigations, review scourings and repo perusals followed, and finally one day in a pique of fed-upness I placed the order.

First impressions

It ws quick to arrive, save for passing through customs in my country. I had expected a long delay after seeing a notice about a backlog on their web site. But here was the box, in my hands, several days early. Nice!

The packaging of some products annoys me; it comes off as ostentatious, or wasteful, or bulky for no good reason. The reMarkable’s packaging is low-key, with a tab and ribbon-style opener that reminds one of old hardbound books and slower more thoughtful times. I like it; I kept the box.

There was neither a CD nor a full-fledged user’s guide inside; it took a little time for me to find one online for the current version of the firmware (1.8.1.1). I decided to charge the tablet fully before playing, and set it aside. It felt light in the hand, the cable fit snugly, and the pen looked and felt like any stylus pen, a tool for the work and
nothing more. I did notice approvingly the hidden spare nib under the cap.

First use

Of course I didn’t really read the user’s guide right away, are you kidding? Instead I checked for the basics: how to create a folder, how to create a notebook, how to create a page. Then I created a few folders to organize my work; never again all my notes in order in one giant blob! and I started writing.

The writing experience really is superb, not at all the slick uncontrollable gliding all over the surface that so many tablets provide.

For whatever reason, I found that my grip on the stylus caused discomfort and hand cramping after a time. That’s no longer true after a week; my hand must have naturally adjusted to a proper position.

I found that the pencil without tilt and a medium tip, on the narrow-lined template, works very well for my style of note-taking. My style is basically “fit in as much as you can on one page, writing all the way up to the margins, and with bullets or indentation for lists, while keeping it legible.”

That last part about keeping it legible is a lie; often in my paper notebooks I would refer back to some scribbled note later only to discover that I had no idea what it said. I write just a bit slower on the tablet, whether due to the stylus-screen interaction or because I’m kinder to expensive electronic devices than paper. In either case,
my notes remain legible when I go back to review them, and I find I cheerfully erase if the letters turn into a blob from hurried scribbling.

I did not make a cloud account, since I don’t really want to be dependent on a third party cloud to store and retrieve my backups.

Discoveries

In page overview mode, the top part of the page is not visible, and my handwriting is much too small and uniform to be a guide to which content is where. I needed headers, a few inches down in the page. The brush, with a medium tip, was perfect for this.

I discovered the partial and full toolbar hide buttons. Now I almost exclusively work with all toolbar buttons hidden. I’d like the page overview and move buttons to be visible in the partial toolbar, but other than that I have no complaints.

I discovered that if you are at the last page of a notebook, pressing the right button on the bottom of the tablet to take you to the (non-existent) next page creates a new page for you, saving the trouble of unhiding the toolbar, pressing the new page button, and hiding it again.

I discovered that the last page you viewed is the page you see during light sleep mode. Most of the time I make sure that’s my todo list for the day.

Hardware functionality

The battery drains pretty quickly the way I use the tablet. I’ve turned off WiFi, since I don’t need it on for regular use, and that helps.

After a week, the stylus nib has “mushroomed“, i.e. the tip has squashed flat and the edges hang over the sides like a mushroom cap. It doesn’t (yet) seem to affect ease and feel of writing on the screen, so I’ll keep using the nib as is for now.

During the first several days I found I needed to press harder on the stylus than I would with pencil on paper. That too seems to have improved over time; whether wearing down the nib or unconscious adjustment of the hand position made the difference, writing now takes a relatively light touch, without the slipping and sliding on smooth glass so common on most tablets.

The previous and next buttons don’t always work; sometimes I have to press very firmly and deliberately in the center of the button after the first slapdash push fails to elicit a response. Dunno if that’s hardware or software but I can shrug it off for now.

Workflow

I have a todo list for each day; I have two notebooks per month of these, one for the first half and one for the second half. (The reason I don’t keep one per month is that I’ve read that at around 30 pages, page turning gets slow. This could be true only for pdfs; I haven’t tested it yet.)

If I need notes from some todo item that I know are temporary, I’ll create a page after the day’s todo list and work there. When I’m done with the work, I’ll either summarize it and put it in a separate file in the right folder, or more often, delete the scratch page(s).

For entertainment I follow political developments, and these notes go in pages with separate headings in the QuickSheets file. At the end of a day or a few days, when speculation about a pending event has resolved, I delete a bunch of stuff and write a summary of the event, deleting any now unneeded
pages.

Notes for work that I know I’ll need to reference again get put in a notebook in a subfolder somewhere under my work folder. We’ll see how effective this is after 6 months or a year; a week is not nearly enough time to see how the retrieval system will hold up.

My paper notebook is sitting on the shelf and I’ve not touched it at all save to copy over those unit testing notes into the tablet.

Customization

I used to run a bleeding edge kernel on my laptop, with a custom build. I used to maintain my own xterminal key mappings for my editor. I used to customize anything and everything. Years go by and one gets bored of constant tweaking, so I had planned not to mess with anything that couldn’t be done in the
tablet configuration settings via the UI.

Heh. The best-laid plans, etc.

I now have a custom full sleep screen, a custom power off screen, rsync on my tablet (built via the official toolchain from a clone of the rsync repo at samba), a script to rsync all of /home/root to the laptop, and I’m working on extending it to be able to upload pdfs to the tablet from my laptop.

Oh and of course I don’t use the annoying generated password to ssh into the tablet, I have a public key over there, which makes the rsync script nicer.

I have been looking at available templates shared by tablet users and thinking about what might be handy to have. No new templates uploaded yet, however.

I plan a script that will copy back in all custom files after any software update, runnable from the home directory. A one line command after each firmware update is pretty painless, and I’m happy to live with that for the huge gain in functionality with rsync on the device, and the smile that seeing one of my photos as the sleep image brings.

Proposed improvements

Copy-paste of a selected area from one page to another would be a huge win. I often want this when cleaning up temporary notes and distilling out of them the few pieces of information I want to save permanently.

Move and Page Overview icons on the partial menu view, so I don’t have to open the full menu to get to them.

A stylus with an eraser on the back end. I might get the MobiScribe stylus (I hear it takes the reMarkable nibs) just for this reason. I like to be able to stop and erase that e that I just wrote that looks like an ink blot, without having to open up the partial menu to get to the eraser.

Cheaper or longer-lasting nibs, without sacrificing one iota of the writing experience.

A much cheaper price for the tablet when it goes truly mass market. That would be a game-changer.

A public site to submit and follow bug reports, with user comments permitted. Right now there’s the reddit group where some issues are discussed (and sometimes solved!) but it would be nice to have an official site.

A published spec for the .rm files. Folks have reverse engineered them, but a published spec means a commitment to updating that spec when and if the format of these files changes. This would be encouraging to the third party app developer community, a group of people that not only add functionality to the device, but help to publicize it as well. That’s free marketing, always a good thing!

Warning

This tablet is like paper, in that if someone has access, they can read whatever you wrote. Oh sure, I put a pin code on there, but it feels like a very flimsy chain on one’s front door that someone really determined can just shoulder their way through.

So, no sensitive data on the tablet. No notes about vendor contracts, no notes about personal matters that I wouldn’t mind being leaked to the world, etc. This is fine; for those limited instances there’s always editing files on the laptop.

Final verdict

This tablet doesn’t play video and I don’t want it to. Ditto for web surfing, reading email, having a calculator app, and so on. All those things are activities for my laptop. The tablet is for taking and reading notes. It does that very well, so far. It is pricey as a device, but if your workflow is like mine, and you are not too tight on funds, it’s worth it.

Disclaimer

I don’t have any affiliation with any company that produces any tablets or phones or any of that. I’ve never gotten a review copy of any such thing. No one paid me, gave me chocolate or did anything else for me so that I would write a positive (or negative!) review.

If you get the device after reading this review, and it doesn’t meet your expectations, I’m sorry. BUT I am also not responsible in any way. Happy writing!

It’s May 2012 and hell must be freezing over

There’s no other logical explanation why I would try for the 5th or 6th time to start a regular blog.  Well, there is one:  I need a place to scribble down random musings about free software, open content, free access to information, and collaborative content creation and learning.  So far all my scribbling has been in IRC, which isn’t a very durable medium.  We’ll see how this pans out.  No promises though…