Programming break – vidlist for Palm

January 19, 2012

So, I’ve made some headway on my programming to-do list,¬†and thought I’d share some more details about it – I’ll try not to get too deeply into the techy stuff, since this isn’t a programming blog, and describe a bit of what it’s like to write a program for an old-school Palm handheld.

So, at my windows computer, I start the NS Basic for Palm¬†developer program. I’ve found this to be a great line of products, giving me a lot of freedom to make programs that do what I want them to, for many kinds of machines, without having to get deeper than I like into the guts of what’s going on inside the machine. Though the programming languages for the different NS Basic products are different, they’re all pretty close to the Visual Basic and VBscript that I use in my day job.

Inside NS Basic, the first job is using the graphical form designer to figure out the interface layout – where the entry fields, labels, buttons, list boxes, popup list triggers, and other things go on the palmpilot screen. With vidlist, I was originally thinking of having a really tall listbox on the left that only went a little over halfway across the screen, but quickly figured out that with the kinds of things I was going to need to store in it, it would be better to have the list wider than it is tall. (You can page through palm lists using the little arrow icons, but can’t page or scroll them side to side.)

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My Fold-out PDA keyboard

July 3, 2011

I don’t actually remember where I got this Targus keyboard, if I ordered it online or found it in a shop like Futureshop. It’s a bit of an ungainly thing when it’s all set up, though it looks compact and elegant while folded away – the keyboard itself is in two segments, and then there’s a third piece that’s used to prop up a palm-pilot or pocketPC, with a wireless arm that you put over the IR transceiver for the PDA. This arm works well for my Palm tungstens, but keeps me from even trying the keyboard with the hp iPaq pda, because its IR transceiver spot is in the bottom, which is great if you’ve got a keyboard that’s built that way, but anyway.

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More Ad Astra notes from Friday night:

May 28, 2011

(Taken from my palm tungstens)

Beta Readers
Terminology – editors versus test readers versus critiquers versus critters or beta readers.
The Bunch of Seven, at Ryerson: “Does anybody want to read this manuscript?”
The worst critiquer – your mother? Anybody who will grimace and say “it’s great”!
Deal to meet every two weeks for coffee to talk, and you had to demonstrate process or owe the other person a coffee.
Pride on the line, didn’t want to have to owe the other person anything.
My sister, the professor beta reader – loving yet stern.
Critiquing the work in progress is an art – getitng from the little cleanup stuff, to the bigger stuff, ‘where you lost me, what were you trying to do I didn’t get it.’
Is it important to all be around the same level of skill?
Useful specialty fields, like renaissaince history, fantasy fan
Someone who will give you the bad stuff, won’t take your bullshit or excuses.
Shorthand vocabulary between long time beta readers, familiarity with longer works.
30% more or less of a particular factor (30% less words?)
Posting something up for the fans realtime, but it’s malleable, make changes based on the fan feedback. intensely collaborative experience.
Different specialties and different perspectives, like cultural – british or german?
Busy schedules – distributing manuscripts before the meetings.
Everybody has to make a commitment to the group.
Internet writing friends – commiting to writing.
Limits on the group policies, reciprocity.
Where to find readers? making friends with other readers.
Writers as beta readers? giving the readers/audience perspective.
At what stage do you let the beta readers see it? in progress/first draft/second draft/later?
Clarity for helping you see where you need to get over the hump you’re facing.
‘Too many characters?’ When you list them off, if you say ‘he’s the other guy’ then get rid of him.
The reader is doing a good job when you say ‘I hate you / shut up.’
Ongoing relationship – it builds over time.
Might overlap with professional editing.
‘A marvelous precis of a story, with good cursing.’
Something positive, and something to improve on.
Getting the most beautiful rejection letter, it’s nice that they took the time to write it.
When do you take a comment to heart?
The stages – first to encourage, then your needs change as you get more confident and better.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes to heart, just thank them and compliment them.
Have the courtesy to say thank you.
Don’t tell them that you’re not taking their notes, or defend your work. (as in getting defensive,)
‘That’s a starter book’, ‘that’s a green belt book instead of a black belt book.’
Writer’s group, you feel under the gun with serious criticism. (defensiveness again.)
Don’t repeat the same constructive criticism that other people in the circle did.
Plug for ‘day jobs for creative professionals.’
Times when it’s very hard to write. you may need to make a change in your life.
Mystery story without any mystery in it.
‘Rewrite in regular english instead of fake olde english.’
‘Very pretty, very terrible story, with a remembered plot.’
Cutting 20000 words from the middle of the story.
‘Well i like you as a person.’
Confessionals didn’t come in for another 300 years.
Writing a rosary within 10 years of the introduction of rosaries.
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Lost notes from long-ago conventions.

May 26, 2011

Well, I went through the memo pad files on my Palm tungsten handhelds this evening, looking for more material on Ad Astra, but when I realized that I had some notes from even longer ago, I thought that I had to share them first. I’ll try to edit for a bit of clarity when I can, but these will generally be very rough, just what I managed to type down at the time. Please reply with questions in the comments about anything that intrigues you, and I’ll answer in more detail if I can, or speculate otherwise.

This first memo I don’t honestly know where it’s from, but it could be from Polaris 2010:

How to write
worldbuilding – know how things work and where things are
map of dystopian ontario – civilization around hydro plants, cancer pollution zones
writing a story in 24 hours – with prompts from strangers and libraries
outlining a story before starting the first sentence
have to be willing to kill characters off, even if you like them and they don’t want to die
two characters running around a building in opposite directions but not meeting
to master the art of outlining… Or not?
character driven writing – know their skilllsets, and then make them go beyond
appendectomy with a spoon and first aid training
wars and the aging of characters – retconning your history
computer tools – custom dictionary spell check, massive internet research, excel file for character bible, search and replace, macros for italicizing ship names
chinese font issues – pdf submissions
preparation details that don’t get into the book – lots of them
helps you live in that world
the grist mill – after being in one when it was working, the feel was wrong, needed to rewrite
tinker’s plague, triangular trade deficits, drove some of the plot
writing programs – ms word with all auto functions turned off, simple good manuscript format
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