No, not this one:
Or at least, one 6×9 glossy book cover and one 6×9 matte book cover, neither with circles or arrows.
This weekend, I decided to spend a little time formatting one of my books (Dragon Stones, natch) for the Amazon Kindle. The Kindle, of course, is an e-book reader notable for its built-in “Whispernet” wireless client, which allows the user to shop and buy books and have them delivered directly to the device without ever having to connect it to a computer. I got a Kindle 2 for my birthday this year and it quickly became my preferred way to read books. But this isn’t a post about the Kindle, it’s a post about creating Kindle content.
So it’s been quite a while since I did a “free software” post, mainly because I had already blown through all the free software that I use that might be of general interest. (Unless someone wants to hear about the wonderful PekWM window manager for Linux. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) However, recently I’ve been spending time with Avidemux, a simple yet powerful application that allows you to do some basic video manipulation. You’re not going to be creating green-screen Stephen Colbert lightsaber duel videos with it, but you might find it useful for other things. Like what, you say? Let’s take a look:
Once I got beyond reading five or six blogs, it became more or less impossible to keep up with checking them online and seeing if there were new posts; so I started subscribing to their RSS feeds using the Thunderbird mail client. This worked fine and made it much easier to avoid missing posts. However, today I became aware that a couple of my subscriptions had stopped functioning (sorry, Finicky Penguin and Cinema Gypsy). The folders were still there, but they looked empty, so I thought, okay, I’ll just add the subscriptions back in. Wrong! Thunderbird wouldn’t let me add them because it said I was already subscribed. I went through every single feed folder looking for the phantom feeds, but they were nowhere to be found.
Hmm. What to do next? I decided to try exporting all my feeds and then importing them again. So I created the export file (under Subscribe –> Export), deleted all my feed folders, and then imported the feed file (under Subscribe –> Import). Everything came back, except for the two missing feeds. So I thought, okay, I deleted everything, so I should be able to add the missing feeds back in now. Wrong! Thunderbird still insisted I was subscribed to them, even though it hadn’t pulled in any messages from them in over two weeks and they were nowhere to be found in any of the other folders.
Mutter mutter mutter. Okay, now what? After briefly flirting with going back to Opera and its wonderful M2 mail & RSS client, I opened the feed export that I created earlier (it’s an OPML file, which can be edited with any text editor), deleted everything out of it except for two entries, and then proceeded to modify them to be for the two missing feeds. Then I imported the hacked OPML file. Eureka! There are my missing feeds! I dragged them back to the “Blogs” folder under RSS feeds, and here come all the posts that I missed from those two blogs.
Oh no! Information overload! I’ll pick up commenting on the new posts as they arrive …
For those who are interested, here’s the OPML file after I edited it:
<title>Thunderbird OPML Export</title>
<dateCreated>Sat, 28 Jun 2008 15:38:33 GMT</dateCreated>
<outline title=”The Show Must Go On” text=”The Show Must Go On” type=”rss” version=”RSS” xmlUrl=”http://cinemagypsy.wordpress.com/feed/” htmlUrl=”http://cinemagypsy.wordpress.com/”/>
<outline title=”Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Soda” text=”Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Soda” type=”rss” version=”RSS” xmlUrl=”http://finickypenguin.wordpress.com/feed/” htmlUrl=”http://finickypenguin.wordpress.com/feed/”/>
So I haven’t done a “free software for writers” post in a while because, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve kind of run out of software that I use that I can plausibly label as “for writers”. If I do think of another writing-related package I will certainly post it, but I didn’t want to stop writing about free software until then, so I’ve decided to branch out and just write about other programs that I’ve used or seen (other than well-known ones like Firefox or Thunderbird) that people might find interesting. Today’s software is Stellarium.
Seeing as how I like to bash Windows now and then, I thought it would only be fair for me to note a colossal security flaw in the Debian Linux distribution (which is the basis for, among other things, Ubuntu, which I use) affecting the OpenSSL encryption software program. This isn’t a bug in OpenSSL, but rather, it’s something that a Debian programmer did to it that amounts to, shall we say, an orchiectomy. Basically, in order to stop some code debugging/profiling tools from complaining, somebody commented out a line of code that was evidently responsible for creating entropy (pseudo-randomness) in order to generate an unguessable encryption key. Oopsie. As this is not a technology blog (and I am far from a cryptography expert), I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of what happened; for those who are interested and are of a technical bent, some good articles are here and here (and here, too).
You might’ve heard of SSL. It’s what’s used to, among other things, broker secure (“https”) connections to web sites. I’m not sure how bad I made this issue sound, but however bad you think it is, it’s actually worse. (On the other hand, being open source software, we at least actually know what happened to it.)
And I still don’t have a virus, Google.
A few days ago, Goodbear asked about free video editing software. This isn’t an area in which I have a lot of experience, as I don’t do much video editing (all my video is perfect as shot … :-P), so I did a little research. Linux users have a number of choices in this area, including Cinelerra and Kino; these are the only ones I have tried (although see Blender, below). OS X users, of course, have iMovie built in as part of the iLife suite (I’m not going to get into the whole iMovie ’08 vs. earlier versions of iMovie controversy). But what are Windows users to do?
It’s been a while since I did a “free software for writers” entry, mainly because I’m kind of running out of free software that I can label as specifically for writers; I may just switch over to doing “free software for anybody” posts. However, I do have at least one more program to write about, and that’s Audacity. Audacity is an audio recording, editing, and mixing program. I’ve mainly used it to fix glitches in audio files (such as MP3s with a skip in them) or to change sound levels; the local Arthur Murray uses it to change the tempo of songs without introducing distortion so that, for instance, a ridiculously fast samba like “Jazz Machine” can be slowed down so that mere mortals can dance to it. (My wife insists on the full-speed version.)
So now you’re probably thinking, “Well that’s just fascinating, Jim, but what makes Audacity free software for writers?” To which I reply with one word: Podcasting.
Writers occasionally need to make use of imaging software, as I mentioned in my earlier capsule writeup about Inkscape. That program is a drawing package; but sometimes you may need to edit or enhance a picture or digital photo, rather than drawing something from scratch. This is where The GIMP comes in. Intended as an alternative to Adobe Photoshop-style applications, GIMP stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” (again with the acronyms); it can be used for photo retouching, image composition, and image authoring. I’ve mostly used it for photo retouching, although I do occasionally use it to mush a couple of pictures together into something else. I used The GIMP to ever-so-slightly lighten the cover of my vampire book, Long Before Dawn. Those who are graphically inclined could create their own artwork from scratch using The GIMP’s bewildering array of tools, controls, and filters. It has so many advanced features that I don’t know what 80% of them do, but they would be manna to an artist.
GIMP is available for Linux, OS X, and Dominant Operating System(TM). If you are already familiar with Adobe Photoshop, you may want to look into GimpShop instead, which attempts to replicate the Adobe Photoshop UI experience. (I’m not, so I haven’t)