A Personal Wiki

posted in: The Tools | 3

Like Wikipedia, but on the micro scale.

It may surprise some readers here that I’m a geek in my professional life.  (Okay, so it may not have surprised many readers, but, still…)  And, as such, I tend to use computers in a lot of my daily life, including my creative life.  One tool that I’ve been experimenting with a bit is tiny, low-overhead wikis, sort of like a tiny, personal Wikipedia, only it’s on my desktop and not publicly available via the internet.

I looked at a lot of tiny, simple wikis, but I eventually went with TiddlyWiki.
There are a couple reasons why, but, mostly because it’s contained in a single, simple file.  Also, in spite of its incredible simplicity, TiddlyWiki has an amazing amount of flexibility and expandability.  For example, there are JavaScript-based plugins that you can add to do all sorts of things, including, but not limited to creating beautiful timelines, calendars, tables of contents, and tag clouds.  Really the possibilities seem almost endless!  (Most of the best add-on tools are collected at TiddlyTools, a TiddlyWiki-based website.)
There’s also the ability to add a theme to your TiddlyWiki, which can change the look and feel of the entire wiki in a few short steps.  You can browse some examples of TiddlyWiki themes at the cleverly named TiddlyThemes site.
(Update: The TiddlyThemes site seems to be temporarily down, but you can see some themes and related information at FreeStyle.)

One of the bigger reasons I like TiddlyWiki, though, is the documentation and guides.  The main site, TiddlyWiki, has great information to get you started and links to a lot of other great resources.  Most of what you need to know to really get started is right there, but if you find yourself getting into more advanced stuff, I recommend getting over to tiddlywiki – a TiddlySpace, where they have even more user-created documentation.  Between these two sites, I think pretty much all the questions I could come up with were answered.  And, I have to mention, for a pretty geeky, little tool, TiddlyWiki has a surprisingly large community around it.  That makes it cool, too, because you know that other people are out there doing stuff that you can learn from or looking to do the things you’re doing so you can share with them.  Either way, knowing that there are growing resources for help, I think, helps make TiddlyWiki a great choice for personal projects.

So, now the question is, what to use it for?
No, seriously, people use this for all kinds of things.  Are you a fan of David Allen‘s [amazon_link id=”0142000280″ target=”_blank” ]Getting Things Done[/amazon_link]?  Well, people have used TiddlyWiki for that, and even written an article about it on Lifehacker.  And, it makes a great way to have a small, simple set of documentation for a small group or organization, like a small computer services department.
Theoretically, you can use it as a website, but I’m not comfortable with that functionality.  I’m a little funny about putting work out there in such a way that strangers might too easily deface it.  It’s just my old-fashioned way of thinking.
Personally, I started getting interested in personal wikis when I was exploring an idea for a series of interconnected stories set in an alternate future.  I had in mind to maintain a private wiki that was configured rather like Wikipedia, but specifically for my crazy future.  In fact, I went so far as to integrate the somewhat difficult timeline feature that someone created, but has apparently since abandoned, into a kind of default template that I started using.  (Well, okay, “messing around with” is probably more accurate, since I never did follow through on that alternate future.)  In fact, if you’d like, you can download that template I created, which includes the timeline functions and some theme stuff, you can download it here:EmptyTiddlyWiki  You won’t really need the subdirectory of images or the example.xml file, which is just for the timeline examples, but I included them anyway.

So, now you have an easy to use tool for making hyper-linked documentation for yourself or a small group.  How will you use it?  How can you leverage this creatively to make producing work easier?

Update: Just an FYI.  I added a couple of nodes to that default wiki template I uploaded before, to help the person who’s new to wikis with formatting.  It seemed useful, so I updated the archive attached to this post.  If you downloaded it before, you may want to grab it again.
Also, I’ve mentioned it in the included EmptyTiddlyWikiREADME.txt which is included in that archive, but I recommend copying that template to a new file name for each project for which you want to have a wiki.  No need to put them in separate subdirectories or anything, but separate file names make keeping the information straight a bit easier.
Update 02-06-2013:  Just another small update to this template file to include a little documentation on the Table of Contents plugin to make it easier to actually use.
Update 05-01-2013:  Yet another small update to the template, adding in a “Home” menu item that closes all open tiddlers and only opens the default, launch tiddlers.
Update 07-14-2013:  This may be my most updated post ever!  This time the update is to the base code of the TiddlyWiki, updating it to the latest version, which is 2.8 (up from 2.6.5)
Update 08-06-2013:  Yet more improvements!  Just added some information about formatting tiddlers with headings and cleaned up the fliters on the Alpha Listing.  So, just some housekeeping.
Update 10-07-2013: Added Wikipedia-like info boxes as well as special info boxes like those found on Wookieepedia, both via plugins, which make a personal wiki feel more professional and slick.
Update 12-31-2013: Added a time and date stamp for last update/save information to Main Menu to keep track of data “freshness”.  Last improvement for the year!
Update 01-31-2014: Just a minor update to reflect some of the changes I made to the various infoboxes that were added in the October 2013 update.
Update 02-06-2014: Another bug-fix update.  Apparently the timeline macro made a call to a website that is now off-line as a “kludge” that never got updated to make the graphics appear correctly.  I fixed that and now I’ve uploaded it.
Update 01-28-2016: Another minor update that adds the Copyright entry to the top menu and automagically updates that with the most current user editing.  Of course this can be modified to suit by editing the Copyright tiddler.
Update 04-06-2016: Edited the ReadMe file to include information about an issue saving in some browsers.  Basically, you need to save from Firefox and you need to have the TiddlyFox plugin installed for it all to work.


Secret Dining

No, this isn’t a post about eating disorders!

Rather, it’s a post about secret places to eat in New York City!
I have to admit, I’ve always been fascinated by people lining up to get into places so secret that they have no name or no sign over the door.   Maybe it’s having grown up in Chicago with a grandmother who was actually around when speakeasies were up and running that’s made this so interesting to me.  Maybe it was just being…
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I got my new Canon 5D Mark II the Friday before Halloween.

And, it looks like I got it just in time.
A couple things made it a good time for me to buy.  For one, there’s a $100 rebate from Canon right now.  For another, Adorama has a special package running that included the body, an extra battery, a 16g 600x CF card and a bag, all for the price of the body alone!  But, there’s another reason I went ahead and bought now; flooding in Thailand.  No, seriously.
According to Canon Rumors, we can expect shortages on both the 5D Mark II and the 60D as a result of the horrible flooding in Thailand, which has shut down a lot of factories.  Nikon is also effected, and in fact that news came out some time ago.  I suspected that Canon would be too because, well, it just makes sense.  And, this is why I do pay some small attention to the news, especially to the tech news.  I first heard about this issue in relation to hard drives, then came the Nikon news, all of which led me to go for it now, rather than later.

So, if you’re in the market for a new high-end camera, now would be a good time to get that, before the shortages start hitting the current inventory!

Halloween LEGO Creations

Well, Halloween is just around the corner, if you aren’t celebrating already.

I could go on at length about the historical and cultural phenomena that is Halloween, but, really, if you cared about that, you’d just go to Wikipedia.
So, no, instead, I’ll just share a quick fun link to some Halloween LEGO creations over at Blastr.com If you remember playing with LEGOs as a kid, you need to go check that link out, because I can pretty much promise you that…
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Light Field Camera

posted in: The Tools | 2

Well, this is interesting…

Some time ago, I read about a revolutionary new idea in cameras; focusing after taking the photograph.
Having had autofocus occasionally grab the wrong thing in a photo, this idea intrigued me.  The idea that a camera could simply capture all the available light, store it in a photographic format, and let you choose later where you wanted to focus seemed, frankly, like an impossibility.  It seemed like science-fiction.  Well, apparently, the future is now, because this camera actually exists.  The inventor of the camera has started a company called Lytro and is selling a light field camera by the same name.  Or, rather, they’re taking orders for delivery in the Spring.  There are two different cameras, with the only differences being color and the size of the internal storage provided.  The 8 gigabyte versions will run $399 and the 16 gigabyte version will be $499, according to their website, which would hold 350 and 750 photos respectively.  The camera will have software needed to manipulate the raw photos built into it and usable or installable via USB.  So far, though, according to Wired, there’s only a Mac version, though a Windows version is planned.
The camera itself looks like a giant lipstick, to me, and is about the size of a decent flashlight.  Gizmodo has the best photos of it, with some decent size references.  There are only two buttons; a power button and a shutter button.  Remember, there’s no need to focus while taking the photo.  Also, the LCD screen on the back apparently allows for whatever minor controls they allow you, or feel you need.  The company claims that the Lytro camera is optimized to work in many low-light situations.  Or, as they put it, “No auto-focus, no shutter lag, no unnecessary modes, dials, or settings. And no flash, because Lytro can handle many low light settings. So, no obstacles to the perfect shot.”

I’ll be honest, I like the idea.
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think that this camera will replace most DSLRs, but I do think it will replace a lot of the lower end of consumer digital cameras.  Eventually.  As one commenter on the Wired article wrote, this almost seems like a prototype or a proof-of-concept device.  For one thing, I don’t like the form factor on it.  I’d like something to sight through, as opposed to pointing it like a flashlight and relying on the LCD for framing and focusing.  Yes, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but, well, I like what I like.  And, I don’t think I’m alone in that.  Also, more and more digital cameras are adding the ability to shoot video to their feature set.  Something that the Lytro doesn’t seem capable of or designed to do.  Of course, this is their first model, so perhaps there will be future models that can do that.  I doubt it though, based on my understanding of the technology.  I don’t think the software would be able to handle capturing video and being able to retain enough information to dynamically adjust focus later.  Of course, data storage technology is changing and improving all the time, so that all may change.
I’m also not entirely sure I buy the lack of a need for a flash or a tripod mount, either.  Sure, photography is about capturing light and, supposedly, the Lytro captures all available light, but when it is too dark, how do you add light without a flash?  Do you just shine a flashlight into whatever you’re shooting?  Again, with the shape, size and design of the camera, I’m having a hard time picturing how you’d manage that.  Same thing for a tripod mount.  Do they really have a camera that shoots so well we don’t ever have to worry about camera shake again?  Even in low-light conditions?  I’m not quite convinced.

But, again, don’t get me wrong, I do like this camera.
I like the idea of it and the ideas behind it.  While I’m not a big fan of how it looks so far, I do appreciate the ability to easily carry it with you everywhere you go.  After all, the best camera is the one you have with you, right?  And, that’s the thing, I think this camera is meant for the fairly well off consumer who wants to take, basically, advanced snapshots.  It’s not meant for high-end photography enthusiasts, but tourists and the casual photographer who really only wants to capture the moment.  That may change, but, right now, that’s how I see it.

It will be interesting to see how the market receives this camera, especially after the novelty has worn off a bit.
What do you all think?

Next Sci-Fi Series to Watch

Right, so last week, we had a sci-fi book-picker.

This week, it’s a flowchart over at SFSignal designed to help you pick the next science-fiction television series to rent from Netflix.  (Or, wherever, if you dropped Netflix due to all their foolish marketing stuff.)  And, I have to admit, there are several on the flow chart that I haven’t seen yet.  Though, again, if you haven’t seen Firefly or the newest Battlestar Galactica, I’m always in favor of those.

So, go ahead…
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A Word On Writing Well

Okay, a bit more than a word…

“Content is king”, they used to say. The idea was if you wrote enough compelling material for your blog or website, then the readers, and search engines, couldn’t help but find you and rank you well. Sounds like a great idea, right? Then why do so many people write such bad content?

I don’t know either.
What I do know is that everyone and their brother have an idea about how to write good, compelling content…
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Canon’s New Camera

posted in: The Tools | 0

I want it.

But, of course, it’s way, way more camera that I’d probably ever use.
Honestly, when I read the updates at Canon Rumors about the new Canon EOS-1D X, I was a bit relieved.  You see, I plan to buy a new camera shortly, and I was a little worried that there would be some new thing that I’d want to wait for or that would be just a little more expensive than I was willing to buy.  Thankfully, the new camera is definitely a professional level camera and well outside my price range at $6,800.  I was afraid they’d do an update to the EOS-5D mkII, which is was I plan on getting.

Though, I have to admit, the specs on this new camera they announced today are pretty impressive.
I mean, a 61-point auto-focus system?  Incredible!  And, dual CF slots?  Genius!  Not to mention ISO settings that go as low as 50, for studio and landscape work, and as high as 102,400 and 204,800, which they’re touting is prefect for law enforcement and other investigative work.  Also, they’ve got internal, on-camera lens corrections.
Frankly, the technology is way beyond my meager photographic skills, but I’d imagine the pros are pretty excited about this camera.  It’s too bad it won’t actually ship until the Spring sometime.

You can read more about the specs and get opinions of people far more well versed in both the tech involved and photography than I am at the Planet5d Blog and at Photofocus, Scott Bourne’s blog, as well as at Syl Arena’s blog, Speedliting.  All in all, it’s a pretty amazing camera with features that, honestly, will probably go unused by a lot of photographers.  For the professional photogs, though, especially the ones on the cutting edge, I’m sure this will be a real “game changer”.
Also, there’s still that November 3rd announcement coming, but, according to all the rumor sites, there is no EOS 5D mkIII coming this year.  We’ll see, I guess.

Canon Quick Guides

posted in: The Tools | 0

Since I started shooting digital, I have always shot Canon, in spite of what some of my shooting buddies may have thought.

And, naturally, as a faithful Canon shooter, I’m anxiously awaiting the announcement from Canon HQ tomorrow, whatever it may bring.  As I’m in the market to upgrade, I have mixed feelings about any new camera announcements.  From what I’ve read, it probably won’t actually effect my decision on what to buy, but, still, it may.
In any case, Canon has been on my mind.  So, to distract myself, and provide decent content for this site, I present you with Canon Quick Guides.
These are guides right from the Canon mothership on how to use their gear, the right way. They are, per the website, “a free downloadable resource for EOS cameras and accessories. These PDF cheat sheets are helpful tools to carry around in your camera bag for quick reference, or to read from your computer for step-by-step guidance on specific product features and techniques.” And, they are pretty damn cool.

Incidentally, they were first pointed out to me by Syl Arena of Speedliting.com and [amazon_link id=”032171105X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Speedliter’s Handbook[/amazon_link] fame. Trust me on this, he knows Canon!

So, yeah, here’s hoping Canon announces something cool tomorrow.
(And, that it drives prices down before I buy!)

SciFi Book Picker

It’s not secret I love books.

Frankly, it’s no secret that I love science-fiction books, either.  But, generally, my “To Be Read” pile is so huge I sometimes have a hard time picking which book to read next.  I’ve featured other book pickers in my Friday Fun posts before, but those were all generic.  So, here’s a new one specifically for Sci-Fi books; BestSFBooks
Now, I’ll be honest, it’s not strictly a book picker, per se, but it lists the “Top Ten…
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