Saturday, June 24, 2017

WordPerfect Compliment

If you saw my previous post about self-publishing my C# programming manual on Amazon.com's Kindle, then you would know it was a large project.


The book, now divided into 3 volumes, 28 chapters, has passed 1,800 pages.  The last time I counted, it had nearly 1,000 illustrations.

A serious document that no traditional publisher would touch.  Plus, it was a crowded market with lots of similar titles.  But I know my book is one of the better ones out there.... 

After all this work, I still want the programming manual out in the real world.  Because of this, I chose to publish each chapter as a separate Kindle title, charging $2 or $3 -- making for a low-cost of entry. 

Editing 28 individual documents would have been a chore -- I needed to work with them as one large, multi-chapter book because page-numbering, TOC's and Indexes needed to span chapters.

How did I manage?  WordPerfect!


WordPerfect?

Most of you just snorted. "Tim still uses WordPerfect?  Sheese!" 

Microsoft Word would die on a document like this -- and I would still be cursing squirrelly graphics and bullet-lists.  I stand by my guns here.  WP knows how to handle complicated documents.

Case-in-point, today I was editing Volume 1, an 800-page documents behemoth (a master, with subdocuments, all expanded and all visible). 

Scrolling is effortless, moving from top-to-bottom and anywhere in-between, without delays.All edits and graphic changes are perfectly tracked.  Font and margin changes are made in the master document - one change and all chapters change. 

A click of the mouse re-generates the Table-of-Contents and the index rebuilds with a concordance file; this takes about 5 seconds.  Let me remind you, this is on an 800+ page document, with hundreds of tables, margin changes, and the like -- and all the graphics are right where they are supposed to be, flowing with the text without a problem.

When I save, each chapter parks itself out to the disk as a separate file and I don't have to keep track of them.  If I want, I can edit the chapters individually -- but seldom do.

WP to PDF to Kindle - Easy Cheesy

From the master document, I printed each chapter using WordPerfect's PDF option, and fed the results into the Kindle Text Book Creator.  The result - a perfect document, exactly as formatted.  Uploaded to Amazon, clicked Publish, and was done.  Super easy and kind-of-fun.

Even if I were using Word, I would still print to PDF and then import into Kindle -- this saves the formatting and graphic positions.  (But if I were using Word, the documents would not be as well-behaved.  Yes, I am opinionated about this.)

What is my point?  Don't be a snob and say Microsoft Word is the only word processor for you.  WordPerfect Student/Home is $50 -- and it saves in DOCX format.  If you are frustrated with your current word processor, try someone else.


Related Keyliner Articles:
Publishing Text books and Comic books to Kindle

WordPerfect Reviews  X5 - X8
WordPerfect for School Papers
WordPerfect Protecting Text across page boundaries

Shameless Amazon link:  A Beginner's Guide to C-Sharp Programming
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2/134-2760193-8662735?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ABGC



Monday, June 19, 2017

Kindle Book Publishing

I just published my C-Sharp programming manual on Amazon's Kindle.  The process was easier than expected.

First, some history as I understand it:  On Kindle (or Nook), authors can upload MS Word documents and the software will convert it to the e-book reader's format.  Page numbering, chapters, etc., are all figured out during the upload.  The end result is a document that changes the number of pages, depending on the size of the device and on the magnification of the font.  Things like indenting, columns, and other such formatting are ignored.

I admit I have not actually done this because I knew my book -- a text book -- would die during the conversion.

Technical and illustrated books do not tolerate a simple text conversions.  Page-numbering, page-breaks, and especially illustrations come into play, and the e-book cannot re-format the document without causing harm to its structure and design. For the same reasons, children's book and comic books also require special care.

Enter Kindle's new (beta) software -- "Kindle Text Book Creator."

This tool takes your already-formatted, book-ready-PDF, and makes it an e-book.  Pagination and illustrations survive and the resulting e-book is exactly as the PDF.  Download and install to your workstation as a local application.  There is no cost.



Steps:

1.  Download and install the textbook creator program.
2.  Launch.  File-New, Open the PDF.  Then choose "Package."  The result is a "kpf"  (kindle package file).

3.  Login to Amazon.com's Kindle Direct Publishing Site: https://kdp.amazon.com

4.  Click "Create a new Title "+Kindle eBook" - not Paperback.

5.  Upload the kpf and follow other on-screen prompts.

Within 24hrs or so, the book is available in their catalog, ready to sell.



A Beginner's Guide to C-Sharp - A la'carte

My book was so obscenely big*, no traditional publisher accepted it.  Plus, the market is saturated with similar titles.  For these reasons, I thought I'd try Kindle and self-publish.

*how big, you ask?  3 volumes, 28-chapters, 1,800 pages, 1,000 illustrations.  Untold code-block examples.

As an experiment, I decided to be different.  Each chapter is published as a separate "book" and each chapter was priced at $2 or $3 dollars, depending.  This way, students could pick and choose which chapters to download and would not be forced to buy three volumes all at once.

This design is causing me troubles.  The books are hard to differentiate from each other when browsing them on a tablet.  The price is not displayed on tablets or smaller devices, obliviating the benefit of my chapter-by-chapter design. From the web, it flows a little better.

Success?

Success will be judged if anyone buys the book.  With Amazon taking a 70% cut, there is no real profit here.  An average chapter earns less than a dollar.  Having only done this work today, it is too early to tell.  I will come back to this article and update my status.

If you are curious, search on Amazon for "ABGC" (A Beginner's Guide to C-Sharp).  Ignore all those other similar publications -- mine is clearly better.


Lessons Learned:

I have since revisited the uploaded chapters and made three changes to them: 

First, each chapter got its own graphic.  Although all 28 chapters are from the same book, each chapter needed its own graphic.  On a phone or tablet, each chapter's title was truncated and since the graphics were all the same, it was hard to tell which chapter-was-which. (If I published the book as one giant document, this would not have been a problem).


Secondly, each chapter began with a Table of Contents for the entire volume - 8 pages.  When Kindle readers downloaded a sample, they would only get the cover page and the TOC -- and could not see the document.  I removed the TOC from all of the intermediate chapters, leaving it only on the first chapter of each Volume.  This was not a perfect solution, but not bad.

Finally, the low-cost per chapter is again hidden on the smaller devices and the low price is not discoverable until too late.  In the first page of each document, on the first paragraph, I mention the low-price per chapter.  Later, I will update the introductory text and make this more prominent.  Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to change the prices -- sales and price increases will now require multiple edits per document.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Greenshot Screen Capture - The best

Utility: Greenshot Screen Capture

When I need screenshot illustrations for this blog or for documentation at the office, I use a utility called Greenshot.

http://getgreenshot.org/downloads/

Greenshot is a free, no advertisement, no registration, no-strings-attached utility.  The authors ask for a donation; they do not nag.  I recommend this program


How it works:

After installing, note the "Greenshot" icon in the "G" system-tray, meaning the program is running and waiting.

At any time, press the keyboard's Print Screen key and draw a box around the part of the screen to capture.  (Other keystrokes will capture the entire screen, the same area as last time, etc., as well as other options to boring to list here.) 

For example, her is a screenshot of Windows Explorer.  Notice the size, in pixels.  The program can optionally capture the mouse pointer and it can show a pixel magnifier. 


Then it prompts for a location:


I typically choose "copy to clipboard" or "Open in Image Editor".

"Open in Image Editor" is my favorite destination -- This option is slightly misnamed.  By default, it opens in a small Greenshot editor -- not in your photo editor.  From here, you can manually copy to the the clipboard, where I then paste into my favorite graphic editor.


I like the "Open in Image Editor" because it opens a new window with each Print Screen, acting like multiple clipboards.  I might have a dozen of these open, then, as needed, I copy the image to the Windows clipboard and manually paste into my graphics editing programs.  This helps keep my work organized.

You can also write automatically to a numbered file-folder; a feature I have not used, but understand its usefulness.

The Image Editor even has click-to-place counters!  Oh, my heart, be still!  As well as line-drawing and shape tools....



Preferences:

Because of new security with Windows 8 and newer, you may find the PrintScreen key does not work on all screens you are trying to capture (pressing PrintScreen does not activate the highlight).  I made the following changes:

A.  From the System Tray, select the Greenshot icon, Preferences.  In the General tab, set the program to not [  ] Launch Greenshot on startup.

B.  Then, from the Start Menu, type the letters, "Greenshot".  When the program is found, other-mouse-click the icon and "Pin to Start"

C.  Launch the program manually by "other-mouse-clicking" the Greenshot desktop tile, choose "More" and then "Run as Administrator"

With this, you will have full control, on any screen.  Greenshot's FAQ explains the reasoning behind this.


I continued with these other preferences, set one-time: 

From the System Tray icon, set preferences. 

a.  I like to change the default Output Destinations to "Open in Image Editor":  This gives me multiple clipboard like functionality.


Cautions:

Download the utility from the Vendor's site (link at the top of this article); do not download from SourceForge or other sites because many have re-packaged the program around banner ads, browser changes and other nefarious stuff.  I learned this from personal experience.

Other comments:

The source code is available for the curious and there is a good FAQ section on the website, which will answer any other questions you might have.


Related Links:
http://getgreenshot.org/downloads/

My favorite graphics/photo editor:  Corel Paintshop Pro - used for all illustrations here.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Computer Household Cleaning

Computer Household Cleaning

Keyliner has written several articles on steps to cleanup viruses and other Windows infestations.  In particular, I use this this Keyliner article to recover other people's machines:  Virus Cleanup Steps.

But if your machine is running reasonably well, this series of articles, in particular, "Windows Repair and Maintenance" / "Cleaning and optimizing a Windows computer" was interesting.  I recommend reading the articles in this site: 

https://decentsecurity.com/

Use my article to recover a machine that is horribly infested, then follow-up with DescentSecurity's article. I don't agree with everything said, but most of the suggestions are good.  Here are some areas I found particularly interesting and I have been or am now doing:

1.  Run Windows 10.

Windows 7 is too old and Microsoft's resources are dedicated to Windows 10.  The newer OS is more secure and safer. 


2.  Set Windows UAC Nags to maximum.

By default, Windows sets this one notch lower and that is where I used to be set; I have now changed.  Since I am not installing a lot of new software, the change will not add to my burdens. 

To check the settings:
From the Start Menu, type "UAC"

Some people turn UAC off.  They are idiots.


3.  In Google Chrome and in Firefox, install "uBlock Origin" (Addon / Plugin)

uBlock instead of AdBlock plus (my long-time favorite plugin)
uBlock does more to stop drive-by virus installs
It has a larger library to search than Adblock
It is faster than all other adblocking software and does more stuff


4.  Uninstall Java. 

I have never considered this, but in retrospect, agree.  According to the author, "Java is not needed for any modern reason other than obscure software".  Note this is different than JavaScript (used by most websites).  Java can be uninstalled; it will not affect JavaScript.
 
See Programs and Features, un-install Sun Java.

Related: The article suggests upgrading Flash.  On my main Windows 10 machine, I have it disabled.  This has caused problems, but I remain in that state.  If curious, see this keyliner article: Time to Disable Flash.


5.  WinSxs Cleanup

I have long known the WinSXS directory is a pig sty of duplicate DLL's.  DescentSecurity recommends running this Microsoft command, from a DOS prompt, run as Administrator:

C:\WINDOWS\system32\dism.exe /online /cleanup-image /startcomponentcleanup /resetbase

An intriguing idea.  However, on my machine, it ran without errors, but had no affect on my disk.  The number of files and directories in WinSxS remained the same.  Your results may vary.


6.  Registry Cleaners and third-party Windows Optimizer programs are useless

These are snake oil and often dangerous.  I have long said this.  Yes, there are times to fiddle in the registry, but use care.  Registry Cleaners do not.


Microsoft Wish*

I wish Microsoft would allow us to customize the UAC nag screen.  Much like some banking sites, if the UAC showed a personal photograph or some other personalization, we would know we were on a non-spoofed screen.  Even better, imagine your virus scanner with such a personalization.



At the same time, the picture would be our family and employee's cue to never click "OK".  Tell them they have to call the IT Support Staff (you), before clicking OK.  This would help stop drive-by installs, like "You must install this driver to see this online video".

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Add Bit Rate to Windows Explorer View

How to add the Bit Rate column to Windows Explorer Detail View (for music files) and making it "stick".  This article was tested with Windows 7, 8, and Windows 10.

Issue: 
Opening an MP3 music folder with Windows Explorer shows the Name, Track, Title, Contributing Artist and Album name, but not the Bit Rate. Manually adding the bit rate for one folder may work for one folder but not for others.



Solution:

1. Launch Windows File Explorer.

2. Open your top-level music album folder (mp3 folder). 

In my case, C:\Data\Music
You may find yours in C:\Users\(your name)\Music

3. Windows 7 users: Expose the File Menu with these steps:

On the top menu bar, click "Organize," Layout, and check "Menu Bar". 
This exposes the File, Edit, View menus. 

4.  View the Details:

For Windows 7:  On the newly-exposed menu, choose "View, Details"

For Windows 10, click the View tab in the ribbon bar, choose "Details"

5.  In any Music/MP3 folder, locate the file/directory name's column-heading (the line with the Name, Date Modified, contributing artists, album, etc.).

Find a blank space on that column-heading section and "other-mouse-click" (right-mouse).
A list of fields will appear.  It may help to maximize the screen and look to the right.
Windows 10 users may have to click "More"

Check [x]  Bit Rate.

Note:  This only takes effect for the current folder.  Additional steps are needed for other folders....



6.  Make the change for all folders and sub-folders of (C:\Data\Music) with this one last step:

     With Windows Explorer, highlight the top-level music folder; in my case C:\Data\Music

     Windows 7 Users (illustrated below): 
     Return to Windows Explorer's top menu, choose Tools, "Folder Options."

     Windows 8 Users:  Click Top-menu, View, "Options"  (not illustrated, but similar steps)

     Windows 10 Users: 
            From the Ribbon, Choose "Options", then "Change Folder and Search Options"
            (not illustrated, but similar steps)



All versions of Windows, continue with these steps...
   (in Tools, "Folder Options" / Options)
   Click the View tab
   Click "Apply to Folders", then OK, closing the dialog.



Results:
The Bit-Rate should appear on all music folders and subfolders.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Western Digital WD Cloud Backup Drive - Revisited

WD Could Drive Backup - Revisited

Two years ago I purchased a 2 Terabyte Western Digital SAN drive for backups.  See Keyliner review here. The drive is connected to the network with a Cat-5 cable and it hides unobtrusively in a closet.   With included software, it backs up all of my data from several computers.  I never pay it any attention and after all this time, I am pleased to report it is doing swell.



Take a look at this:

One of the projects I am working on is a computer programming book on C#.  The software backs up any changed file in my data directory and it keeps 5 generational copies. With each generation, it renames the older version(s).  For example this shows Chapter 13:


Since I often save the documents while working on them, all of those transactions would overwrite the 5-generations within a single day.  I changed the software to backup changed files once per day, this way the generational backups go back several days.  From the illustration, there are five copies over five days with no effort or housekeeping on my part.


Not only does it backup, it also restores - said with some humor.  Earlier this week, I trashed a graphic image in that same chapter.  I seldom edit these graphics but was not worried.  The restore showed two versions, one when it was created and a second a few months later after an apparent edit.  Easily recovered.  Click, click, problem solved.

What a joy.

For two years this drive has been running non-stop.  It sits on a shelf, in the same closet as my router and hub.  All three devices are protected with a battery-backup UPS.  Oh my gosh, I get shivers thinking about how cool this is. 

Be sure to read my previous article for hints on how to best setup the backup.

Related Articles:
keyliner review: Western Digital Cloud Drive
keyliner article:  Best Virus Scanner
keyliner article:  Disk Imaging Cleanup Steps



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Review

Review: Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard L5V-00001

Some people love ergo keyboards while others loathe.  I am in the "willing to give them another try camp."  Microsoft's latest attempt is the "Sculpt" Ergonomic keyboard and mouse.  This is a great looking product with many thoughtful features and it is less bulky than others.  The keyboard is an artistic statement, worthy of being at your desk.  


The keyboard is sold with (or without) a mouse for around $100 ($85 mail order - mouse'd version).  Buy the mouse'd version for several reasons, described below. 

 
The Good:
  • Beautifully designed.  Good ergonomics.
  • Good key travel for the main keys
  • Keys are firm, not mushy. Keys have resistance. Better than all laptops.  Better than most desktop keyboards.  Keys use a scissor spring and a rubber pad.
  • Large backspace and shift keys
  • Palm-rest; nice texture; firm 
  • Keyboard is weighted and heavy (dense); will not slide on desk
  • Separate numeric keypad is a brilliant idea
  • Wireless traffic is encrypted and uniquely tied to the USB dongle
     
The Bad:
  • PFKey and ESC keys are "chicklets," with a distinctly different feel
  • No function Fn key (to switch between PFkey/Hardware controls, see text below), but you can choose how the keys behave.
  • The palm rest is not replaceable and easily soils
     
The Interesting:
  • The mouse is yuuge but surprisingly comfortable.  I have grown to like it.
  • The keyboard arch is subtle
  • Some keys are larger than others (T, G, 7, H, N, Del). This is a nice touch.
  • Home, End, and page keys follow new laptop standards (see text below)
  • No keyboard indicator for caps lock, num or scroll lock; but does display onscreen

Ergo Keyboards in General:

The keyboard should only be bought if you are a touch typist,
It will take several days of steady typing to learn the new layout. Nothing you won't be able to handle.

The right-hand "pinky" keys, such as the hyphen and backspace, seem to be in a different position from a standard keyboard.  Measuring will show they are exactly the same location and distance as always, but because of the arc of the keyboard it "feels different." This takes time to get used to.

Your fingers will miss landing on the home-row - your hands are spread more and will not arrive at the starting position without glancing at your fingers.  Practice solves this.

Two-month update:  Still struggling with the backspace key.  It is literally in the same position as any other keyboard, but the feel seems different.  Finding the home row J-key still feels weird and I miss it often.


Key Changes:

The Page-up, Home/End keys and arrow keys are in a different position when compared to a  101-keyboard or with many laptops.

For example, compare Microsoft's Home/End layout compared to an older laptop:

Click for larger view


All laptop vendors have played around with key positions for years, with no agreed-upon standard.

I have noticed new Lenovo and other brands are using this new design.  But there are notable exceptions: Both Apple desktops and laptops are either lacking these keys or they are in the older positions (Apple never understood the need for dedicated keys - those poor Apple users).  HP and Dell's newest top-line laptops are also missing these keys.  (Dell lost my long-time and recent laptop business because of this.  See Keyliner Yoga 900 Review.)

Microsoft is clearly tying to make a desktop and laptop experience more consistent.  Moving between the two machine's keyboards should be easier, provided both have the same pattern.  But years with the old design makes for hard-to-break habits.  Gritting my teeth, I have decided this is for the best.


PF Keys:

The main keys on the keyboard and number pad feel good.  Good travel, not mushy, with tactile feedback, and quiet.  The keycaps have a slight downward sculpt or cup, helping your fingers to find the center of the key, but the keys are still relatively flat.  Compare this with most laptop's flat keycap profile.

The PF keys are a different beast.  They are "chicklet" keys -- hard keys with a mechanical click (thunk) when pressed. They feel cheaply made.  If Microsoft did this to give differing feedback, they succeeded.

By default, the PF-keys act as hardware keys, adjusting desktop settings, speaker volume, contrast, etc.  On the far-right is a mechanical slide switch, which changes them to standard PF keys - which I recommend.  Because there is no laptop-style "Fn" key, you can't easily flip between the functions.  Practically speaking, you will set the slide-switch once and will never touch it again. 


Mouse:

I was reluctant to buy this keyboard because the mouse was so large and ungainly and it gets tepid reviews, even on Microsoft's site.  But one reviewer's comments were right on:


A picture about the mouse is worth a thousand words.  Once I learned this, I understood the mouse:




In the end, I was surprised; this mouse is noticeably more comfortable than any other mouse or trackpad I have used.

If you have an existing wireless mouse, abandon it and use the new mouse. Two reasons: 
  • The mouse is comfortable.  You will be surprised.  
  • The USB transmitter/dongle handles the keyboard, number pad and mouse. No sense taking up another USB port for a second transmitter for a different mouse.
 
The mouse is a basic two-button mouse with a four-directional scroll wheel (scrolling up and down -- and leaning left and right; a feature people seldom use). 



But there are two hidden buttons.  The blue windows logo is a "Start Menu" button, and hidden on the thumb-side, is a fourth button that defaults to a "browser back" key.  I didn't even know this fourth button existed until I downloaded the drivers and looked in the Mouse control panel.

Mercifully, the extra buttons are out of the way and won't be accidentally pressed.  For those who remember the "magnifier" bug with earlier 3 and 4 button mice, you won't have that problem here.


External Number Pad:

Having a separate number pad has been a revelation.  It can move to any comfortable location.  If you have a lot of numbers to type, move it closer to the keyboard; if not, move it out of the way, bringing the mouse closer.  This speeds up typing, with less hand movement.  All number pads should be like this.


The only thing wrong with the number pad is it is missing a tab-key.  Of course, no number pads have them -- but I can dream.


USB Dongle:

As of this writing, the USB transmitter (the "dongle") is larger than normal, making useful for desktops only - which is more-or-less assumed because the large mouse would never travel with a laptop (See this laptop mouse review:  Logitech Ultrathin).  Microsoft often changes the dongle's size in later models and this dongle is smaller than the first iteration.


The dongle, which can be stored in the mouse's battery compartment, is not replaceable.  If lost, the keyboard, mouse and number pad are worthless.  This is no different than any other USB wireless mouse.

The dongle is 128-bit encrypted; this means your keyboard traffic cannot be intercepted.  Each dongle is uniquely paired to its keyboard.  This is another reason Microsoft cannot, and will not, replace lost dongles.

My desktop is abnormal because it is about 5 feet away, hiding underneath another desk.  Because of this, the transmitter would occasionally hesitate or sputter.  I fixed this with a USB extension cable and the transmitter now rests behind the monitors.  I doubt you will have this problem, but I mention this idea in case it helps you.

Batteries:

With good reasons and different needs, the keyboard, external number pad, and mouse all use different batteries.

Keyboard uses 2 AAA
Mouse uses 2 AA  (a larger battery; larger power needs)
Numeric Pad uses a CR button battery

Of the three components, only the mouse has a on/off power switch and I never turn it off.  If my experience is similar to other Microsoft mice, this two-battery-mouse should last for six months to a year.  The keyboard and number pad draw no real power when idled and I expect longer life. 

I will return to this article and update the battery life observations.


Palm Rest:

The palm rest is comfortable and is made with a rubberized and slightly textured material.  After just a few day's use, it already shows wear.  Time will tell how durable this is.  Periodic cleaning is a must.  The pad is not removable nor is it replaceable.  I do not have high hopes for this.


Software Installation:

With Windows 10, insert the USB dongle, turn on the mouse's power switch and you are ready to go.  No software to install, nothing to setup.  Even the hardware PFKeys (speaker volume, etc.), all work as hoped.  This may be because I had previously used a wireless Microsoft mouse.

I recommend downloading the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center software (the driver), which changes how the mouse keyboard control panels behave.  I ran without these drivers for a week with no ill-effect before I realized a driver was available.

Driver Download:  https://www.microsoft.com/accessories/en-ca/d/sculpt-ergonomic-desktop


Design Wishes for Microsoft:

- I wish the keyboard held 4 AAA batteries - one less thing to worry about.
- Replaceable palm rest.  Would like to order a new one when too dirty to clean.
- A tab-key on the number pad! 
- Softer touch on the PF-Keys.  (Dear Microsoft, I use these keys every day)
- An all white keyboard would be awesome


I am not a fan of ergonomic keyboards, having tried and abandoned them in the past.  But I was in need of a new keyboard, and wanted to get rid of some wires.  Prior to this, I was entertaining a new mechanical keyboard, one with cherry-switches.  I still miss mechanical keyboards, but this keyboard has a reasonable feel - better than most, and it is attractive.   

I have been pleased with this new keyboard and would like a second one for the office. 

Related articles:
Logitech Ultra Thin Mouse
Keyliner Yoga 900 Review.

Related Links:
Unicomp Buckling Spring Keyboards - a favorite