Commit 3bbf657c authored by ScottWNesbitt's avatar ScottWNesbitt

Added recently-published posts

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title: Don't Blame Your Tools
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}/img/toolbox-1582313_640.jpg" alt="A toolbox full of tools" /></p>
Maybe you just can't finish all those tasks. Maybe you can't stay on track. Maybe you can't get or stay organized.
Over the years, I've talked and worked with a number of people who were in those situations. And most them felt let down by their tools. They believed that the web of software and apps and services were the cause of their productivity dropping off.
They were wrong.
If you're in any of those situations, or situations like them, don't blame your tools. Your tools aren't the weak link in your chain of productivity.
**You're that weak link**.
Look inside of youself and ask what's really going on. The answers might surprise you.
You might have too much to do. You might be procrastinating too much. You might not be focusing. You might be focusing on the **right** things. You might not be mindful of what you need to do, and everything hits you at once. Or you might have just stopped caring.
Changing your tools won't solve any of those problems. Doing that could just make matters worse.
Why? No matter how good or how hyped your tools are, they don't do the work for you. You're the one doing the work. Unless you're focused, unless you're mindful you're going to struggle and become frustrated.
Instead of focusing on the tools, focus on the cause of your problems. Try to find a way of fixing those problems. How? Here are some suggestions:
* Do you have too much to do? Then look at either weeding out tasks that aren't important or sharing your workload with someone else.
* Are you procrastinating? Ask yourself why and try to find a way to bring more focus to your work.
* Are you losing track of what you need to do, when you need to do it? Make sure the work you need to do and when it's due is noted down in calendar or text file. And check that calendar or text file _every day_.
No, getting back on track isn't simple. It takes work. It requires your attention. It's not up to your, which are rarely the solution in cases like this.
It all comes down to **you**.
By regaining your focus, by being mindful, you'll be able to work *with* your tools. You'll be able to do what you need to do efficiently and effectively. You'll be able to reach done.
...@@ -54,7 +54,7 @@ Add the following information to the top of the file: ...@@ -54,7 +54,7 @@ Add the following information to the top of the file:
#+Author: Your Name #+Author: Your Name
#+Email: Your Email Address or Twitter Handle #+Email: Your Email Address or Twitter Handle
That block is like metadata for your slide deck. Let's look at the first three itmes in that block: That block is like metadata for your slide deck. Let's look at the first three items in that block:
* _num:nil_ and _toc:nil_ suppress the numbering of headings and the creation of a table of contents when you generate your slides * _num:nil_ and _toc:nil_ suppress the numbering of headings and the creation of a table of contents when you generate your slides
* \#REVEAL_TRANS controls the [transition effect]( when you move between slides. I usually go with _None_, but feel free to experiment * \#REVEAL_TRANS controls the [transition effect]( when you move between slides. I usually go with _None_, but feel free to experiment
title: Penguinizing a Chromebook with GalliumOS
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}img/nature-laptop-notebook-grass.jpg" alt="A Chromebook sitting in the grass" /></p>
(**Note:** This post was originally published, in a slightly different form, at []( It appears here via a [CC-BY-SA 4.0 license](
As a long-time user of Chromebooks, I know how useful and convenient they can be. They're light, the hardware is solid, and Chromebooks are excellent devices to carry while travelling or working on the go.
The main drawback of Chromebooks, though, is how tightly they're tied to Google's services. Over the last little while, I've been steadily de-Googlizing my life. One of the last big obstacles to doing that has been my Chromebook.
You can see my problem. On one hand, I had a device that I didn't want to part with. On the other hand, I wanted to decouple myself from the corporate behemoth behind that device. So what was a poor Chromebook user to do? Install Linux, of course!
After doing quite a bit of research and quizzing a few people whose opinion on these matters I respect, I turned to [GalliumOS]( Here's a look at how to use GalliumOS to penguinize a Chromebook.
## Preparing to install
You can't just jump in and install GalliumOS on a Chromebook. You need to prepare your Chromebook. Below is an overview of the steps you need to follow. I've linked to the detailed instructions on the GalliumOS website.
First, [download the GalliumOS installation image]( There are different images for [different models of Chromebook](, so you'll need to choose the right one for your device.
Once you have the installation image, create a bootable USB drive with the image. You can find instructions for [creating a bootable USB drive]( on the GalliumOS website.
Next, create a [recovery image]( for your Chromebook. The recovery image is a backup of ChromeOS (the Chromebook's operating system). You'll need the recovery image if something goes wrong or if you decide that you want to go back to using ChromeOS.
If you have any files on your Chromebook, move them elsewhere. The next pre-installation step resets Chromebook to its factory defaults and you'll lose everything. Back up those files now before it's too late!
After that, [boot your Chromebook into developer mode]( Booting into developer mode both enables you to install another operating system on the device. It takes several minutes to boot into developer mode, so be patient.
Once you're in developer mode, you'll need to enable what's called Legacy Boot Mode. That lets you install GalliumOS. To do that, crack open a terminal window by pressing CTRL+ALT+T. In the terminal, type *shell* and then type *sudo crossystem dev_boot_legacy=1*.
## Installing GalliumOS
Now you're ready to install GalliumOS. So, what do you do? Shut down your Chromebook, plug in the USB drive containing the bootable installation image, and restart.
Once it starts up, GalliumOS looks and acts like any other Linux distribution. You can test drive it using the USB drive to make sure everything works properly. When you're ready to install, double click the __Install GalliumOS__ icon on the desktop.
Like most Linux distributions, GalliumOS uses a graphical installer that walks you through the process. It's simple and painless, and requires very little interaction from you.
Installing GalliumOS on my Acer C720 Chromebook took about 10 minutes. It could take less or more time depending on which model of Chromebook you own.
## Using GalliumOS
GalliumOS is based on [Xubuntu](, which uses a lightweight desktop environment called [Xfce]( I've used Xubuntu extensively over the years, so Xfce is nothing new to me. If you've never used Xfce, don't worry. It looks very familiar.
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}img/gallium-desktop.png" alt="The GalliumOS desktop" /></p>
Out of the box, GalliumOS comes with a very basic set of software. That includes a simple text editor, an image viewer, the Chromium web browser, and the DeaDBeeF music player. Obviously, that's (and the other stock software) isn't enough to do much serious work.
If you need more software (and you probably will), you can install it using Synaptic Package Manager. Or you can download and install [Debian packages]( or [AppImage]( apps.
And, yes, I'm aware that Chromebooks have a smaller amount of storage than the average laptop &mdash; mine, for instance, has a 32 GB SSD of which around 25 GB is still free. So you need to be *very* selective about the software you install. Think carefully about what you want to do with your Chromebook and the software that you need to carry out those tasks.
If you're wondering what software installed on my Chromebook to do my work, here are the major bits:
- [Geany](, along with a few plugins (for heavy-duty text editing)
- [Pandoc]( (for converting between markup languages)
- [PyRoom]( (for times when I need to write without distractions)
- [TiddlyWiki]( and [TiddlyDesktop]( (for organizing information)
- [Nextcloud]( desktop client (for syncing files with my other laptop)
- A bunch of command line utilities for performing various tasks
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}img/gallium-apps.png" alt="Some of the apps I use with GalliumOS" /></p>
Using GalliumOS on a Chromebook reminds me of working with the netbooks I used from 2007 to 2010. The operating system light and focused, so it's quite fast. On top of that, I'm getting between five and a half to six hours of battery life.
As of publishing this post, it's been four-and-a-half months since I installed GalliumOS on my Chromebook. It hasn't let me down. While I doubt I could use it for processor-intensive tasks like editing video, my Chromebook mated with GalliumOS does a great job of letting me get on with the bulk of my work.
title: This is the end
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}img/the-end-1544913_640.jpg" alt="The words 'The End' written in the sand on a beach" /></p>
This is the last blog post I'll be publishing in this space. Probably ever.
There are a number of reasons for that, but mainly I'm, in the words of Derek Sivers, [giving up something I love]( And that something is blogging.
Believe it or not, I love blogging. I've been blogging the early 2000s and have enjoyed it immensely. However, it's starting to become more of a chore than it should be. Also, blogging hasn't been working out for me for a while now. I'm finding that the benefits and the rewards of blogging are no longer commensurate with the effort involved.
So, it's time to turn the page on the blogging chapter of my life. Will I blog again? My crystal ball is cloudy, but I won't say *never again*. But for now, blogging and I are parting ways.
You'll be able to find this blog in this spot until January 25, 2018. That's when the domain expires; I won't be renewing it. However, all of my blog posts will be available (as Markdown files) on [GitLab]( or [GitHub](, depending on which service you prefer.
The posts that make up this blog are licensed under a [Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license](, and will remain that way.
In case you're wondering, I won't be giving up writing entirely. For the foreseeable future, much of my written work (specifically about open source) will be over at []( My writing may also pop up elsewhere on the web from time to time. And I have a couple or three books left in me, which I hope to publish by early 2018.
Well, that's that. Thank you for reading this blog, and its predecessor, over the years. I hope that you found what I wrote to be useful, interesting, and enjoyable.
title: A few links for the end of the week
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}/img/links-320.jpg" alt="Typing in a browser's address bar" /></p>
* [7 tips]( that can help you start blogging
* How to give [better writing briefs](
* [6 tips]( from John Steinbeck that can help you finish your book
* Enter blogger's paradise by [creating a blog plan](
* Lost all of your freelance writing clients? [Do this ...](
title: How to use loglines to focus your writing
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}/img/ChildWritesInSchool.jpg" alt="A child writing in school" /></p>
No matter how experienced a writer you are, sometimes your writing takes too much of a life of its own. Your writing rambles, it lacks focus, it doesn't lead the reader anywhere.
It's frustrating when that happens, especially when the idea underlying that writing is sound. But how can you focus that piece of writing?
There are a number of techniques you can try to get around that problem. But one that I've been experimenting with lately shows a lot of promise. That technique involves writing *loglines*.
Curious? Then read on.
## Loglines?
Loglines are tool that screenwriters use to briefly describe they story they're trying to tell in a screenplay. Loglines are designed to give a sense of who the story revolves around, what that person is trying to achieve, and the obstacles in that person's way. And it all has to be done in a sentence or two.
A logline isn't a [tagline]( (which acts as a teaser). A logline is more like a compact [elevator pitch](
By writing one, you zoom in on the core of your story, why it's important, and what to expect from what you're writing.
The key is to use strong verbs and descriptive language. For example, you wouldn't describe someone as just *a man ...*. Instead, you'd write *A man haunted by a past he's desperately trying to escape ...*. You want to convey a sense of drama, of tension, of anticipation.
You can read some example loglines [here]( and [here](
## Not just for screenplays and fiction
It's obvious how you can use loglines when writing a screenplay, a short story, or a novel. With a little imagination, you can tweak the format and use loglines to help focus non fiction writing, too. Here's an example:
A few years ago, I wrote an article for about a web application called [wallabag]( My idea, and my outline, had a couple of interesting threads that I tried to follow. The problem was that the article was ballooning beyond the maximum word count.
Because of that, I started stressing a bit. Those worries about the length and direction of the article were making me second guess my approach. So, I stepped back and fired up a text editor. Then, I started writing loglines.
I locked onto the **who**, **what**, and **why** of the story. It took three or four tries but I managed to come up with this:
>Disappointed by the death of a favourite web application, a determined French developer embarked on a project that enables anyone to install and control their own read-it-later software.
That logline won't be winning any awards. It did the job for me, though. The logline helped me zoom in on what I wanted to cover and helped me prune my outline. I got rid of information around installing and configuring wallabag, and instead concentrated on its origins, purpose, and how to use it.
So what happened to the material that I cut? I used it to write a blog post that complemented the article.
## For more information
Here are some useful articles and blog posts about writing loglines:
* [Writing Effective Loglines](
* [Writing Better Loglines](
* [The Logline: What It Is, Why You Need It, How To Write It](
* [Writing good loglines](
* [10 tips for writing loglines](
* [Writing a logline for a novel](
## Final thoughts
Loglines can be a great way to focus your writing. And don't forget their original purpose: to help you pitch an idea to someone who can publish your writing. They're definitely not for everything you write, but loglines definitely are a tool that will come in handy when you need them.
title: 'Editing: the secret to good writing'
layout: post
published: true
<p align="center"><img src="{{ site.baseurl }}/img/editing-1756958_640.jpg" alt="Editing on paper" /></p>
If writers were like magicians, I'd probably be [blackballed]( from whatever organization I'd belonged to for what I'm about to write.
After speaking at a conference a few years ago, I was talking to one of the people who attended my session about creating minimalist documentation. Although he wasn't a writer, he had to create documentation. During our chat, he mentioned that writing was difficult and that he always had a hard time getting what he wanted to say, in the way he wanted to say it, on paper.
I told him that writing is hard, even for people who do it professionally. But the secret of good writing isn't simply being good with stringing words together. The secret is editing.
## The need for editing
With very few exceptions, I don't think I've every written anything that I haven't edited. The posts in this space included. Sometimes the edits have been minor tweaks &mdash; tightening up a sentence, cutting a word or sentence here or there, or rewriting/moving a paragraph around. Sometimes, the edits have been pretty major &mdash; trimming an article or essay in half or rewriting huge chunks of a piece. Once in a while, it's been a combination of the two.
In some ways, editing your own work can be tougher than writing it. Sometimes, that difficulty is a matter of ego &mdash; you wrote it and can't bear to part with some or any of it. Yes, professional writers can succumb to that. At other times, it can be difficult to know what or how much to cut.
## The scalpel, not the chainsaw
Unless you turned your brain off while writing, you generally don't need to hack large chunks out of what you've written. Instead, focus on fine tuning your work. Tighten up and merge sentences, rework paragraphs, deal with those turns of phrase that seem awkward.
Again, it's not easy. It can take time. Good editing involves analyzing what you've written and *thinking* about how to make it better. In many cases, a good alternative will come to you immediately. At other points, you'll wrack your brain trying to find the best alternative.
Sometimes, though, you'll need to grab the chainsaw. Maybe you wrote in haste and what came out wasn't even a good first draft. Or maybe you're trying to target a longer piece of work for a market that prefers shorter pieces. The latter happened to me with an essay that appeared in a travel anthology. The original was around 2,600 words. The editors wanted it cut down to 1,000. That's a pretty large chunk to cut out. It was tough going. In the end, I had to cut out some of my favourite parts of the essay while still trying to maintain the feel, tone, and flow of the piece. It worked, though I have to admit that I still prefer the original ...
## Final thoughts
Editing is just as difficult as writing. Probably even more difficult. Editing is a balancing act &mdash; cleaning up a piece of writing while keeping the package true to its intentions.
That said, proper editing can definitely improve your writing. You just need to take the time to do the job properly.
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