Thursday, August 31, 2006

Writely just a few rocks short of a full load

Yeah, I get that Writely can do basic HTML, like bold, italic and such, and there's even provision to bring in photos.

But to make this useful for writers who are submitting material for publication, it's vital that Writerly kick out both text files and Word-formatted documents with "smart quotes." So far, the quotes don't look all that smart.

And I can't seem to get an indented first line on a paragraph. That's HTML-y but not very writerly -- sorry Writely.

I appreciate such HTML hacks as writing in different colors. But what about turning all this mush into a traditional Mac or PC file that can be e-mailed to an editor?


Click on the File menu and you can Save As a Word, RTF, Open Office (yeah!), or PDF (double fuckin' yeah!) document. Do it, and a dialog box pops up with a file name ready to be saved on your own PC. Yeah! Now we're talking.

All they've got to do is keep building this thing, and when the Internet flows like air and water, we'll never "buy" applications again. While Writely, Blogger, Gmail and the like are free at present, I'm not opposed to paying if they help me get stuff done.

At present, as an aid to writing on Blogger, Writely is pretty much a toy -- it uploads instantly, but the title of my Writely document doesn't make the leap -- I'm left with title-less blog posts, for which I have to insert said title via the Blogger Dashboard.

And you can only configure Writely to post to a single blog. That wouldn't work for me, since I've got four Blogger blogs. And while the HTML formatting is great, why wouldn't I just work in Blogger's Dashboard in the first place? Well, one reason is that Blogger chokes on browsers that aren't IE 6 and above or Firefox. Writely, like Blogger, doesn't work on Safari, but if Writely functions as promised -- and continues to do so -- on such oldies as IE 5 and Netscape 4, it'll be a boon to my Powerbook 1400 and the whole world of This Old Mac.

If for some reason I didn't have instant Web access (and this happens a lot more than you'd think), Blogger already allows posts to be e-mailed in. I can blog offline with a mail program on This Old Mac, for instance. That means Netscape 4.7. Writing blog posts, if you don't factor in HTML links and photos, is pretty simple and well-suited to e-mail composition.

So is Writely more than a toy at this point? Well, it's better than Pote, which I actually have used to compose documents. But any competing text-editing product, in my view, must confront the basic formatting of Microsoft Word, and by that I mean indents, smart quotes and adjustable column widths.

Give me that, and I'll be pig-in-shit happy. That's what makes Open Office such a marvel of free-software success. You can play in the Microsoft Office world without paying $300 plus whatever it takes to upgrade periodically for the privilege. Even the Daily News is on board with this one -- we all have Open Office, not Microsoft Office.

For now, just give me my Writely paragraph indent. And soon.

What the hell is Writely anyway?

Want to try Google's latest assault on the desktop before it even becomes Google-ized?

Well, I'm doing it right now -- Writely, the technology that Google recently bought, brings Microsoft Word-like text editing to the browser, with a toolbar surprisingly like Word's, document length of up to 500k, and the ability to take what you write here and open it to collaboration with others. No extra software required. And you can create and modify documents from anywhere with Web access and with a ton of browsers, old and new. It even supports Netscape 4 and IE 5, both of which I use on This Old Mac .

Did I mention that it's wicked fast? Hell, give me a ton of disk space on some Google server somewhere, and I'd pay real money for such a service, as will, I suspect, businesses large and small. Imagine never having to update or maintain an application, nor a server. That's where Google is headed -- and the world wil march with it, I expect.

There's even a Print button, which I assume takes your document and prints it out on your local printer. Have to try that one.

You can also bring in documents from various formats (I'm a bit shaky on which ones besides Word and regular text at this point) and take your Writerly documents and directly publish them to your blog. I'm not quite sure why you'd want to do the latter, but it can be done, and if there's a compelling reason to do it, I'll sure tell you.

Until now, I've used the little-heard-of to write text files online -- and Writely sure looks better, as it has actual formatting, like bold, italic, underline and even did the links you see above.

I tried to start a Writely account a month or so ago, in the wake of the Google announcement, but they were closed to new users. No longer.

Update: It took a couple of tries but I did manage to publish this entry to 2,000 Days in the Valley from here. It was pretty easy to set up (about 80 percent intuitive) and of course works on Blogger because both Writely and Blogger are owned by Google. All went well except that the entry had no title -- I thought it would pick up the document title from Writely, but it didn't, and I finally entered it manually through Blogger Dashboard.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Valley restaurants get robbed, New York Times notices

We can debate from today to tomorrow, or from today to an hour from now, why it's a big deal when the New York Times covers L.A. or the San Fernando Valley, and I really don't keep an eye on what the NYT is doing.

Luckily Kevin Roderick does it for me, so I have him to thank for pointing me to this New York Times story on the takeover robberies plaguing Valley restaurants, including the new Barone's location in Valley Glen and the Valley Inn (in Sherman Oaks??).

The biggest thing I got out of the story is that the Ski Mask Bandits, as they're being called, just might have a law-enforcement or military background:

“I heard the rumors like everyone else that it is ex-cops,” said Sophia Brodetsky, who owns the Valley Inn, a restaurant in the Sherman Oaks section where robbers struck this month. “They used very short sentences, were very on top of what they were doing and had this whole intimidation routine.”

Police officials say those theories are pure conjecture, but they concede they are baffled.

“Anything’s possible,” Sergeant Sands said. “We don’t know who these people are. Sometimes people who are organized may have had some prior training, but there are police magazines that show the movements, too.”

Wearing ski masks and sometimes two sets of clothes, the robbers enter restaurants at closing time and order everyone to the floor. One robber presses his gun against the cheek of the bartender, while the other brandishes a rifle for the cashier.

Within three minutes, it is all over; the till is cleaned, and the safe, too. Sometimes, they take the money and watches of any customers unfortunate enough to have lingered until closing time.

“They had their finger on the safety of the gun,” said Mr. Monteleone, a co-owner of Barone’s in the Valley Glen section. “They were very, very calm. There was no shaking, no range even, in their voices.”

Alas, they're not all THAT bright when it comes to the risk/reward equation:

Because most restaurants make most of their money in credit card purchases, the take for the robbers is usually under $1,000, the police said.

“Who would do an armed robbery for a few hundred dollars?” said Rodolfo Costella, the owner of Ca’ Del Sole, a restaurant popular with Universal Studio executives, and the latest one hit by the robbers. “If you think about the time they spend planning this, if they really worked, they would make more money.”

So it's true -- crime doesn't pay. And one of these Ski Mask Bandits could end up a very unhappy, seriously wounded camper, like one of the guys who tried to knock over the Maxon's Pharmacy in Sherman Oaks on Aug. 18.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

It's the end of the world as we know it

I followed a few links from the Blogger site, and it lead me to the Blogger Help Group, where people have been plagued by this problem SINCE JULY.

The upshot: Blogger ain't gonna do nothing. But you can get your photo capability back by DUMPING INTERNET EXPLORER AND SWITCHING TO FIREFOX. I've been avoiding Firefox because I like Safari on the Mac and use IE at the office, but I finally bit the bullet and downloaded Firefox, and as you can see, I can get photos on the entries with no problem.

How could Microsoft let this happen? They've already lost the entire Mac market for browsers, now the same thing has happened for PCs? Guess they're too busy with Windows Vista to notice.

Another day and Blogger is still screwing me

I STILL can't succesfully upload a photo. What gives? Megan uploaded a photo. What makes her so special and me a pile of shit? I've got photos I want to upload, dammit.

And now I learn that Blogger, already owned by Google, is being assimilated into the whole Google Accounts nexus of services. Voluntary at this point, eventually the Blogger-only accounts will be eliminated and you'll have to convert your blogs over to the new Google Accounts system in order to keep them. I hesitated, because they say you "can't go back," but I'll do whatever it takes to get the godforsaken photo uploading to work again.

I looked over the new "features" of what they're calling Blogger Beta, and nothing there excited me too much. They say it will be easier to do new posts in the Dashboard, and there will be no waiting for a blog to be republished when an entry is added. Instead, the blog will build itself "on the fly," whenever it's accessed by a reader. Can't say that I care about that, but if it works better, I'm all for it.

And there's a whole thing about creating "private" blogs that can only be accessed by those whose e-mail address are approved in the system. It's supposed to be for "family" type blogs, or perhaps business-related ones. I guess it's just another way to communicate between individuals or groups. My whole idea of blogging is that it's supposed to be there for all to see (or ignore, as it were), but I can see the value in using blogging technology for other, less-public forms of communication.

I remember when I first heard the word "blog." I had no clue. In the past, I had published my own Web pages through Yahoo, but I didn't understand what a blog was all about. Well, the whole thing blew up pretty fast, and the Web became, for a short while, all about blogs. Now that blogging has jumped the shark (was it the Huffington Post that signaled the "jump the shark" moment?), it can be seen as what it is: a software mechanism and organizational method for presenting content on the Web. How's that for heavy theory? More simply put -- blogging helps people manage the information they want to publish on the Web. It arranges it by chronology and topic, and it streamlines the presentation and programming required. That wasn't any simpler. Damn.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why can't I post a photo?

Why, Blogger, oh why, can't I upload a photo?

Monday, August 14, 2006

The end is nigh

Don't let our daughter get wind of this.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Six Thousand

The counter just hit 6,000 visitors (there are 7,475 total page views), so I'd like to thank all of you who have clicked over this way in the past year since I started counting. Between my other Blogger sites and the new Daily News blogs, I haven't been posting here quite so much, but 2,000 Days in the Valley will continue.

I know blogging has jumped the shark, but I can't say exactly when it happened, or what specifically caused the shark-jumping, but it's probably all for the good. It has gotten me writing (albeit not for money, but that's another story for another day), and there's something very attractive about instant, middle-man-free publication.

And now that I've used Movable Type over at the Daily News, I have to say that Blogger is pretty darn good as far as blogging software goes (although, as I've said before, I am waiting for Safari support, you Blogger people, you).

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pin the tail on the blogger

Since I'm posting to, at last count, seven separate blogs, it's time to sum up:

At the Daily News' Hollywood Babble On, I go on about CBS' summer reality staple in He Ain't Heavy, He's My Big Brother.

Over at Table Talk, there's Bubba Gump's Shrimp Vegan Co., on the city-mandated vegan menu at the Santa Monica location.

At Come on Feel the Nuys, I whine about what it takes to keep a blog atop the home page in The Daily News Is a Harsh Mistress, and I bemoan our rising electric bills -- and the plasma TVs that use as much electricity as a refrigerator -- in Our Friends Electric.

I take my musical temperature at Jazz Guitar Journey (it's tepid at best) in I Have a Confession to Make.

At This Old Mac, I examine the recent Internet-borne love for a 10-year-old Macintosh laptop in Powerbook 1400 love.