athelind: (loop)
When Your Obedient Serpent says "hoopy", he's not making a Douglas Adams reference.

A hoopy task or process is one that requires jumping through hoops: before you can perform the task, you have to perform another task, which in turn requires another task, and another. It's a highly gradable adjective: a process can be "a little hoopy, but worth the trouble", or "too bleeping hoopy to mess with". It's also a relative value, based on the quality of the end results: something that delivers amazing end results can be worth a few hoops.

Corollaries:

  • A moderately hoopy task only requires you to jump through the hoops the first time you set it up; a really hoopy task requires a series of hoops every time you perform it (and probably demanded different hoops for set-up.
  • If you jump the same hoops frequently, or in a wide range of tasks, they stop being visible as hoops. They don't go away, you just don't notice them. Come on: you know there are, say, common Windows tasks that you have to burrow through nested menus to find when it should be available on a right-click or a handy button, but you do them so often you just shrug and move on.
  • Hoops that could be automated are frustrating, because they should be.


Examples:

  • Running IrfanView on a Linux system using WINE is Moderately Hoopy: while it is vastly superior to any of the graphics viewing and conversion tools available natively on Linux, it is generally less trouble to use those inferior tools than Jump Through The Hoops when I just want to crop or resize a file or view a graphics directory in chronological order instead of alphabetical.
  • Torrenting and watching TV on my computer is hoopy.
  • Character creation in GURPS is hoopy. Character creation in Champions is hoopier. Character creation in The Dresden Files is even hoopier, but the hoops are entirely different than GURPS or Champions.
  • Changing software is always hoopy. "Yeah, that software has a lot of amazing feeps, but I've got all my stuff set up on this one. Changing now would be really hoopy."
  • Equal time for Microsoft: Specifying Spreadsheet Cell Borders in OpenOffice Calc is significantly hoopier than it is in MS-Excel. The "Format Cells" dialogue box are almost identical, but Excel has a nice little button in the toolbar that lets you select commonly-used patterns (say, Thick Solid Border Around All Selected Cells) and apply them with a single click. The similar button in Calc just calls up the dialogue box, and makes you specify your border pattern every time. Hoop, hoop, hoop.
  • Makers and programmers are people who have jumped through hoops to learn how to cut through other hoops. Bless you all. Now get to work.




athelind: (grognard)
Gaming Geekery:

Years ago, on a whim, I picked up a big bag of plastic "gold pirate coins" from a Halloween store during their big November 1st sale. I've found they make terrific game counters; they're big and shiny and, compared to those defective marbles flat glass beads that most people use, much lighter to tote around and much harder to lose.

A year or two ago, I wandered through a party store around Mardi Gras time, and noted that they had even bigger bags of Mardi Gras coins, in gold, metallic green, and metallic purple.

So, after noting earlier in the week that Mardi Gras was in early March this year, I stopped by a local party store last week and got a bag.

I'm ab out to start a game of DC Adventures (a.k.a. Mutants & Masterminds Third Edition). DCA/M&M makes extensive use of "Hero Points", which allow PCs to do Cool Things Above and Beyond Their Character Sheet. They also have a "Luck Control" power which bestows Expendable Resources that aren't quite as flexible as a full Hero Point.

M&M originated the "Toughness Save" wound mechanic. Every time you fail a Toughness roll in DCA, you take a Wound, which gives you a -1 on further Toughness checks (and makes you more likely to take additional Conditions that lead up to Unconsciousness).

I've been using counters for Hero Points since M&M 1st Edition. M&M1 gave PCs a lot of Hero Points, and not only was it a lot easier to keep track of them when we used counters ... there was something viscerally satisfying about the sound they made when you dropped the glass-bead counter in the Big Jar. There's a psychological edge to using something tangible that you don't get just from marking a tally on a piece of paper.

While I was hypnotized by the shinies looking over three different colors of coins, I immediately designated Gold as Hero Points, and Green for Luck was a no-brainer. I wasn't quite sure what to do with the purple ones, at first, until I remembered that keeping track of Wounds was a bit of bookkeeping that would also benefit from counters. Just tossing a player a purple coin (or stacking one up on an NPC sheet) will make it a lot easier to track. "What's my penalty?" "How many coins do you have in your stack?"

And Purple is a vaguely bruise-like color, after all.



Computer Geekery:

After three-plus years of using Ubuntu Linux and Open Office on my home systems, I have just spent my first three weeks at a job where I am obligated to use industry-standard Microsoft products: Windows, Office, all the Usual Suspects.

I have to say ... I regret nothing! After running smoothly for more than two weeks, Office decided to be Inexplicably Glitchy this past week. Word just randomly slows to a stop periodically, interrupting my work flow to herald me with the icon that [livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty has so eloquently described as "a toilet-flushing circle".1 Excel, for its part, has decided that I don't really need cell heights to adjust automatically unless I close Excel entirely and re-open the worksheet in a fresh instance.

None of these quirks would be quite so irksome if the applications hadn't run just fine right up until Wednesday or Thursday.

I will say that there are a couple of Excel features that OpenOffice Calc doesn't implement quite as elegantly, most particularly in the little "cell border" button up in the toolbar. In Calc, that just calls up the "Format Border" dialogue. Excel lets you pick from an array of commonly-used border choices (such as "surround all these cells with a thick black line"), which makes it much simpler and faster to insure that your tables all have a uniform appearance. Still, Excel gives me just as many "why won't you do this simple obvious thing that Calc does?" moments as vice versa.

Oh, and Microsoft Visio is a gem of a layout/floorplan program that seems to have no direct Linux equivalent. In fact, it doesn't seem to have any significant Windows competitors. Nothing else seems to combine that "here's a bunch of commonly-used icons to drag and drop onto your layout" interface with the crisp, elegant lines that Viso produces.

Of course, the only credit Microsoft gets is for having the savvy to buy out the company and rebrand the software.


1 Obviously, the toilet is stopped up, since the circle doesn't change in size at all ...
athelind: (weird science)
Okay, computer folks out there in Friends List Land, I'm looking for suggestions

At this point, I'm leaning toward an Ubuntu release. From the reviews I've read and the feedback I've gotten, it sounds like it's the simplest to install and configure, and the most transparent to use.

Ubuntu has three main variations: Ubuntu, which uses the GNOME environment; Kubuntu, which uses KDE; and Xubuntu, which uses Xfce, and is intended for older systems or for people who want better performance and less system overhead. Feedback on these environments would be nice; I know a lot of the difference between GNOME and KDE boils down to Personal Preference, so discussions of functional differences will be more useful than "Ewww, GNOME sucks!!"

For those who've used Xfce, what "fat" does it leave out? Does it make a noticable impact on ease of use?

Nota Bene: My primary goal is not to become Super L33t *NIX Power User IT Guru Man. My computer is a tool that I use to do other things, and I want to spend my time and energy on doing those other things, rather than figuring out how to get my computer to let me do them.

So: Easy Use trumps Power Use. Spoon feed me!

My two biggest potential technical obstacles:

  1. I run a two-monitor setup, and I want to continue to do so. At the moment, I have an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5500 running dual 19" Trinitron CRTs at 1280x960. Eventually, I plan to upgrade those to LCDs, and upgrade the video card accordingly.

  2. I keep my Data and Documents on their own drive, separate from my Application Drive. The Data Drive is in FAT32 format; does Linux read that natively? I know there are some propriatary Windows formats that Linux can't read, but I don't know which ones are which.


Suggestions on good *NIX MUCK and IM clients would be helpful, too.
athelind: (Default)
Okay, computer folks out there in Friends List Land, I'm looking for suggestions

At this point, I'm leaning toward an Ubuntu release. From the reviews I've read and the feedback I've gotten, it sounds like it's the simplest to install and configure, and the most transparent to use.

Ubuntu has three main variations: Ubuntu, which uses the GNOME environment; Kubuntu, which uses KDE; and Xubuntu, which uses Xfce, and is intended for older systems or for people who want better performance and less system overhead. Feedback on these environments would be nice; I know a lot of the difference between GNOME and KDE boils down to Personal Preference, so discussions of functional differences will be more useful than "Ewww, GNOME sucks!!"

For those who've used Xfce, what "fat" does it leave out? Does it make a noticable impact on ease of use?

Nota Bene: My primary goal is not to become Super L33t *NIX Power User IT Guru Man. My computer is a tool that I use to do other things, and I want to spend my time and energy on doing those other things, rather than figuring out how to get my computer to let me do them.

So: Easy Use trumps Power Use. Spoon feed me!

My two biggest potential technical obstacles:

  1. I run a two-monitor setup, and I want to continue to do so. At the moment, I have an NVIDIA GeForce FX 5500 running dual 19" Trinitron CRTs at 1280x960. Eventually, I plan to upgrade those to LCDs, and upgrade the video card accordingly.

  2. I keep my Data and Documents on their own drive, separate from my Application Drive. The Data Drive is in FAT32 format; does Linux read that natively? I know there are some propriatary Windows formats that Linux can't read, but I don't know which ones are which.


Suggestions on good *NIX MUCK and IM clients would be helpful, too.
athelind: (weird science)
Through my college years, I ran Windows because all of the applications that I needed for school would run under it, and there were a few vitally important applications that would only run under it. I disliked the Microsoft monopoly, and I disliked the ever-more-intrusive "features" they were including with each subsequent "upgrade". I liked the open-source philosophy, but at the time, Linux, BSD, and other open-source OSs were difficult to install. Applications were few and far between, and their compatability with The Stuff I Had To Use was questionable at best.

After I graduated, my first couple of jobs involved extensions of my college capstone (that's basically a "Bachelor's Thesis", for those who weren't reading this journal back then). I needed MS Office to make sure that my Office-generated documents didn't lose any vital formatting, and I had a legacy copy of the Industry-Standard GIS Software that, again, was a strictly Windows application.

Over the years, OpenOffice became increasingly adept at opening MS Office documents, and more than one open-source GIS package has emerged. The one thing keeping me in Windows was that Industry-Standard GIS Software; map files created in it are notoriously twitchy about migrating even to other copies of the same software.

Well, as I mentioned before, that application has completely given up the ghost.

There is now nothing that I do with this system that I cannot do with Linux.

It's time to seriously look into migrating.
athelind: (Default)
Through my college years, I ran Windows because all of the applications that I needed for school would run under it, and there were a few vitally important applications that would only run under it. I disliked the Microsoft monopoly, and I disliked the ever-more-intrusive "features" they were including with each subsequent "upgrade". I liked the open-source philosophy, but at the time, Linux, BSD, and other open-source OSs were difficult to install. Applications were few and far between, and their compatability with The Stuff I Had To Use was questionable at best.

After I graduated, my first couple of jobs involved extensions of my college capstone (that's basically a "Bachelor's Thesis", for those who weren't reading this journal back then). I needed MS Office to make sure that my Office-generated documents didn't lose any vital formatting, and I had a legacy copy of the Industry-Standard GIS Software that, again, was a strictly Windows application.

Over the years, OpenOffice became increasingly adept at opening MS Office documents, and more than one open-source GIS package has emerged. The one thing keeping me in Windows was that Industry-Standard GIS Software; map files created in it are notoriously twitchy about migrating even to other copies of the same software.

Well, as I mentioned before, that application has completely given up the ghost.

There is now nothing that I do with this system that I cannot do with Linux.

It's time to seriously look into migrating.

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