The Future Belongs to the Creators ™

FocusWriter == Focused Writer

I’ve been writing a lot lately. I started out writing in vim since that is my tool for everything. That lack of good spell checking eventually sent me to LibreOffice. That seemed like over kill considering that I was writing plain text files (ok they are actually structured text files with markdown - but that is pretty plain text in my book).

The thing that was really pushing me over the edge is that LibreOffice on Quantal does not remember where you opened the last file. Since I was editing a lot of files in the same directory, I ended up having to constantly navigate back to where the files live. It is a small but seriously annoying thing. After fighting it and a couple of other issues for a few days, I decided to go looking for alternatives.

A quick search for word processors for Linux largely pointed me at LibreOffice and GoogleDocs. I had already thrown out LibreOffice. GoogleDocs wasn’t going to work because of the work flow I would need to use on the files once they are done. The next thing on the list of AbiWord. I haven’t loaded it up in a long long time. It was Gnome’s answer to Word. So far it seems like it has been left behind as the focus has shifted to the previous two choices. It was as fast and lite as I remember it. Unfortunately, it suffered from the same file opening issue that got me to look for a new choice.

I was about to throw in the towel when I got directed towards FocusWriter . Here is an app that is focused on writing. It runs on all the platforms. It handles multiple open files with tiny tabs at the bottome of the page. And as a bonus it provides typewriter noises. I never knew I needed typewriter noises, but I can tell you that I feel like a much better writer now that I have them.

If you want to see a review of a slightly older version checkout this one from Omg!Ubuntu.

There are two other bonuses. It is now in the universal repository for Ubuntu so you can easily install it with an sudo apt-get install focuswriter. It does not suffer from the forgetful file select!

The only problem left was that it looked like a grey blob when I started it up. No worries it has themes! So with some quick changes I can get plain black on white with Inconsolata (My favorite programming font of all time). The best news is you can now install it from apt (ttf-inconsolata or fonts-inconsolata depending on your version of Ubuntu).

In the event, that you would like to take it for a spin - here is my theme: XT-Black_White-Inconsolata

It is amazing what the right tool can do.


Plunk It!

I’m working on a project (which I will hopefully get to announce shortly) that involves a lot of JavaScript. In the process of doing research, I discovered Plunker. It is similar to JSFiddle. The main differences are - it handles multiple files (which is awesome). It is also completely open source (which is even more awesome!).

Even spending just a little time with it made me realize what a great tool it was for working with code. The only problem I had was that I needed to be able to work on code locally, but I wanted to be able to share that code on Plunker. It was especially important to me that I be able to make local changes and have the sync up. Since if you’ve ever written code you know that it will keep changing on you. So the last thing I wanted to have to do was some kind of a manual process to repost the content.

I spent some time over the weekend trying to figure out how to make it do what I wanted. I tried to run it locally, but I hit a problem that I still haven’t sorted out. I ended up learning that there is enough of an API built into Plunker that I could build my own script to do the posting.

The first hurtle I hit was oAuth. Plunker doesn’t do it’s own authentication. It outsources it to GitHub. You log in to your GitHub account and grant access to Plunker. That means that Plunker isn’t responsible for managing your account. The downside is that it makes it a lot more complicated to authenticate in to Plunker.

I spent a lot of time trying to build my own path in to the oAuth. I did a lot reading and made zero progress. Then I noticed something. Using the Chrome JavaScript console, I was able to see what GitHub was posting to Plunker to tell it that I was authenticated. I copied down the hash that was provided. Currently, GitHub doesn’t time out these authentication tokens so my cache just works.

Now that I could authenticate as me, I could get back to working out the details. Long story short, I ended up building a ruby gem that handles all the details. It is called Plunk It. I’ve released it as a gem, and open sourced it. It doesn’t just handle getting your initial files up to Plunker. It can detect changes in your code and push them up as well.

Now I was able to build up a Rakefile in my project that handles all the details of pushing up the code and keeping it in sync.

So if you want to share JavaScript - this is a really slick way to do it.


Loving Startups

I was interviewed about Startups and Rackspace. I even got to talk about my latest project - TruckingOffice.

If you could launch a startup right now, what would it be and why? Actually, I did launch one. It is called TruckingOffice. I love technology, but I am happiest when I can help the little guy. The freight industry is dominated by large players, but it is filled with tons of small businesses that do not have the tools they need to compete effectively. TruckingOffice helps the millions of small fleets (even fleets as small as one truck) do just that. I think this is a perfect example of what makes the cloud so powerful. The scale and cost of the cloud allows them to serve a large number of customers at a very low price, which allows them to deliver technology to businesses that need it.


Read the full article

Geekdom Expansion

Dirk Elmendorf, a co-founder of Rackspace who also serves as an education ambassador for Geekdom, says the program has grown more quickly than anyone imagined. “When we started, we were not sure how much interest there would be,” he says. “But I’ve been very pleased with the response. I think San Antonio has a very energetic tech community and just needed someone to step up and take the initiative with a project like this.

From: Geekdom’s growth is prompting hunt for more office space in San Antonio