Weeknote, Sunday 19 February 2023

It’s been a week of what I would call “faffing”: poking around at the decaying corpses of ideas and projects and deciding whether they are, in fact, dead and it’s time to move on or they might — just might — have a chance of resurrection. Spoilers: most of them were, in fact, deceased.

I did a bit of technology faffing too. I wanted to update my guide to getting Scrivener up and running on Linux to include Fedora, which didn’t work the last time I tried it. I had some ideas on how to get it running but didn’t have anything with Fedora on it. So I backed up my ThinkPad, wiped everything and did a Fedora install. Yes, I could have used a virtual machine. No, I didn’t want to do that because I love tinkering.

After a few days of fighting with Wine, I gave up. I got a lot closer to making it work — this time around I could get Scrivener installed and running, but couldn’t register it. I know what the problem is, and it’s a weird one which can be fixed by installing the Microsoft Speech API, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t get that to work. Precisely the same process and packages work fine on Ubuntu-based systems, so it’s something odd and unique about Fedora. Eventually, I gave up.

So as well as a trip to Whitstable for a ridiculous sandwich at Grain and Hearth, yesterday involved rebuilding the ThinkPad using Pop!OS, and restoring from backup. I pondered going to Ubuntu 22.10 instead but decided I would miss the tiled windowing system of Pop. It’s a little overdue an update, as System76 are rewriting the entire user interface in Rust, but it still feels a lot more friendly than Ubuntu. Opinionated, but in a good way.

When exactly did I become a Linux user? Although I’m tempted to blame Cory for this, the serious answer is “since Microsoft started turning Windows into the kind of system which reports back far too much user data and effectively spies on you.” I don’t mind optional telemetry going back to developers to improve software, and when it’s opt-in I generally do exactly that. But Windows seems to be heading on a track to being a giant data capture system to power Microsoft’s advertising growth, which makes me really uncomfortable. I should probably write something longer about this at some point.

Of course I’m still knee-deep in Macs and other Apple devices. But I really enjoy using the ThinkPad with PopOS. It takes more time to set up and tune to precisely what your needs are, but once you’ve done that it’s simple, reliable and doesn’t tell a vast company exactly what you’re doing all the time.

What I’ve been writing

Having invested that time in failing to make Scrivener work on Fedora I have completely rewritten my blog post, and it’s almost ready to be published. It’s been a sluggish week on the fiction side though. I revisited an idea I had a while ago for a series of interconnected stories about a girl in a post-apocalyptic world who makes friends with Death (they bond over a scrawny chicken). It’s fun just writing a set of little stories in the same world without having an overarching structured narrative. While the story takes them about four billion years into the future, everything is just character development. And it has a nice ending, deep at the end of time.

What I’ve been reading and watching

Having finished John Sculley’s Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple, I’ve picked up Gareth Powell’s About writing again. It’s an interesting book, but it is a bit like a compilation of blog posts. Nothing wrong with that, but it means it’s not really all that structured. If you want a book about the work of writing, Antony Johnston’s The Organised Writer is better, and if you want a book about the craft of writing, there are a lot of other options. It’s not bad, but if you know much about writing, I think you will breeze through it.

This week we watched — finally — the first episode of Happy Valley, and that was enough for me. I didn’t like it at all. Too graphic in a way which felt like it was going to appeal to voyeuristic sadists who enjoy making women suffer.

Meanwhile, there was the first episode of series three of Picard, which picked up where the last series left off by being nowhere near as good as the first one. And has everyone forgotten that Picard is an android now? That feels like it might be important to how other people treat him, but it’s ignored.


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