Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ubuntu At Work

As mentioned earlier, I’ve started using Ubuntu at work. And, for the most part, it’s working well; there are days when I don’t need to boot into Windows at all. Other days I spend most of the day on Ubuntu, and reboot into Windows once or twice, when I need some application I don’t have on Ubuntu.

I solved the problem I’d been having with Gaim; in retrospect, ironically enough, it was easier to get Gaim working at the office, with MSN Messenger, than it was to get the MSN client to work!

I am still having some issues, though:

  • I never got multiple monitors working. It might be a hardware problem—meaning hardware that’s incompatible with Linux, since it works fine in Windows.
  • Flash animations won’t play any sound. I found a fix for it, which did get the sound working, but then Firefox started crashing, so I had to undo it.
  • Although Gaim is mostly working, it does disconnect me once in a while. The MSN client does, too, when I’m in Windows, but not as nearly often as Gaim does.
But there is one major source of pain, when you’re trying to troubleshoot problems in Ubuntu: There are no good sources of information, to help you out. It seems that the Linux/Ubuntu nerds have tired of answering the same questions over and over again, so the more common the question is, the more likely that you’ll have to wade through a lot of forum posts before you find the answer. There will be a hundred posts of people asking the question, and getting no answer because the nerds are tired of answering it, before you get to a post from a couple of years ago, when someone did deem the question worthy of answering.

“I can’t get my mouse to work.”
“Well, I’m tired of helping people with their mouse problems. Search the forums.”
“Okay. But where should I search?”
“Figure it out yourself. Jerkass.”

To be fair, I haven’t actually seen the word “jerkass” anywhere in the forums. My point is, there’s no site that you can go to that will walk people through common problems, and give them common solutions. At least, none that I’ve seen. Yet.

HTML Editor

My other issue has nothing at all to do with Ubuntu, but is still annoying: I can’t find an HTML editor for Ubuntu which would be the equivalent of HTML-Kit. (I’m writing this logged into Windows, because it’s easier than trying to do it in Linux.)

I mean, there are a number of good HTML editors out there for Linux, but the biggest advantage of HTML-Kit is that I am able to write my own macros/plugins, for things that I do on a regular basis. HTML-Kit has its own plugin language, hkScript, or can use a variety of other programming languages, and has exposed a number of pieces of functionality that the plugin programmer can call.

For example, I have plugins for creating Messenger conversations; I can select some text and click a button to make it the style for my text, or the style for the other person’s text, or the style of the “screen name”. So with four clicks of the mouse, this:
Dude says:
Hey there!
sernaferna says:
Becomes this:
<span class="msnScreenName">Dude says:</span><br />
<span class="msnOtherPersonText">Hey there!</span><br />
<br />
<span class="msnScreenName">sernaferna says:</span><br />
<span class="msnMyText">Hi.</span><br />
<br />
Which looks like this:

Dude says:
Hey there!

sernaferna says:

Of course, I also have a macro with buttons for all of the commonly used emoticons I use, so when I use an emoticon in a conversation, I just click a button, which inserts an <img> tag, along with the proper styles and settings to make sure it doesn’t have borders, etc.

Similar to the MSN Conversation macros, I also have macros for creating “scripts”, such as I did here and here.

When I’m working on the serna Bible Blog, I have a couple of tools that I use regularly; one macro will insert the text L<span style="font-size:75%;">ORD</span>, which renders as LORD in a browser. And another is used to create a link to a Bible passage; if I select a piece of text, and click that macro, it will surround the text with the appropriate HTML to create a link to Bible Gateway—with most of the URL filled in, needing me to simply fill in the reference—and also includes an <img> tag with the little Bible icon I use for my scripture links. Not only that, but once the correct HTML has been inserted, the cursor is placed right in the spot where I need to type the Bible reference into the URL. So if I have the following text:
I was reading John 3:16 the other day.
All I have to do is select the text “John 3:16”, click the macro, which inserts a bunch of text and positions my cursor where I want it to be, and type john+3:16, and I get this:

I was reading <a href="" target="_blank">John 3:16<img src=" /blogger /1525 /939 /200 /crosslinkicon.jpg" border="0"/></a> the other day.

I’ve also got some other generic tools I wrote for myself, most of which are concerned with blogging. They’re only useful to me—maybe the quotation tools I mentioned in the HTML-Kit post might be useful to others—which is exactly why I like the fact that HTML-Kit is so easily expandable. If there’s some task I find myself performing on a regular basis, I can spend 5 minutes creating a macro, and then never have to do it again.

Now, a two second search on Google will turn up the fact that you can actually run HTML Kit on Linux, using Wine. Unfortunately, it doesn’t completely work; I am able to use all of the macros that I’ve written, which is a big plus, but some other aspects of the program don’t work, and it often throws up horrible-looking error messages. That same Google search also turned up something called “HTML-Kit Tools for Linux”, which is a version of HTML-Kit written especially for Linux, rather than using a Wine session, but unfortunately it’s not actively developed, and may get dropped altogether. (The author of the tool, Chami, says that most people don’t want a version of HTML-Kit for Linux—they prefer the Windows version, running under Wine.)