22 July, 2015

On Vivaldi

Outside of the built-in web browsers, the one that I use most is Mozilla's Firefox. When I first found myself in cyberspace, I had to stick it out with Internet Explorer as it was the default for both the family and school computers. With my first laptop back in '08, I didn't mind it much with the Internet security software I installed...

...until the crashing happened. So I switched because I remember someone saying that Firefox was faster. This was also when Chrome jumped into the scene. Months later, I had an idea for an article I wanted to do for my high school's newspaper where I just tested all the major ones. This, during a time when I was unfamiliar with web standards aside from speed and design, never panned out. Although that's when I defaulted over to Opera.

The speed was personally on par with Firefox, if not more, but it was the design that did it for me. The rectangular tabs were smooth around the edges and I fell in love with the speed dial and multi-purpose sidebar. There was also a BitTorrent client built into the browser--this is Opera 9--that I used to download the Summoning of the Spirits album.

I surfed through Opera for around two years, then switched back. I forgot why, but I remember it being a rendering issue. Not that I minded much.

Fast-forward to Vivaldi, from Opera's founding creators, and I find myself using it more and more. Clive Thompson's Boing Boing post led me to it--I related to the tab issue--but it was the bookmarks manager that did me in then. Later it was the tab stacking and tiling that convinced me. While I'm still waiting for the build with either private browsing or UI extensions before making it my default, here's why I want to do so...

Vivaldi promotes both productivity and the user. With the former, there's no need to have a home page. During my undergrad, my home page was always the university's hub page, or the one that lead to the e-mail and online coursework. Now, I set three folders as my speed dials and use them as a substitute for a homepage. With this, I find myself less distracted by the usual homepage clutter and skip straight to the personal to-do list most of the time.

The latter refers to the slogan, labeling Vivaldi as, "A Browser for our Friends." Friends in this case being the community who once made Opera what it was and other power users. Even if it is closed-sourced and based off the Chromium engine, the face that Vivaldi gives the user control over how they browse, from layout to shortcuts through keyboard and mouse, convinced me to give it a thought.

The tab stack tiling also proved to me that Vivaldi would be my go-to for social media management. Cross-posting to the other networks would be a breeze, meaning that I don't need to use any automation recipes making everything seem emotionless and spam-like. Stacking alone would make reading through articles, or commenting on multiple threads on Boing Boing's BBS much more manageable, meaning that I won't find myself distracted elsewhere on the web.

It's still in alpha, but I have high hopes for Vivaldi, a browser that does what it says on the tin and then some.

17 July, 2015

Maximum Security Showcase, or Last Year's NaNoWriMo Thought Out in Full

Note: First posted here.

It’s hard to explain what this long-term project is about. I started writing it last year as merely a short story for a creative writing class. The premise itself was simple enough: Man dreads visit from old co-workers and finds out why when his girlfriend leaves for dance practice who does not know that co-worker one is ruthless in getting to the top at their old job, and co-worker two used the protagonist to start dating him. The end result being that the main character realizes that he’s now free from them, or rather “been free” as his girlfriend tells him.

Problem was that, thinking about it, I wanted it to do so much more. After I graduated last year, I started writing bits and chunks trying to figure out where I wanted it to go. The plot from the short story wasn’t enough. Come NaNoWriMo, I found myself at a roadblock. I salvaged some of the material, unused in the short story to fit in a new character along with developing co-worker two, but everything else fell flat.

My major problem: the main character.

Even if it was he who drove the story forward, his nervousness about the whole situation and afterward drove it to a standstill. Why does he stay that way?

Then some inspiration happened on a bus ride home, which allowed me to develop the main character more, along with adding in co-worker one's point of view. Later on I started reading Richard Littler’s Discovering Scarfolk. I first discovered the time-locked dystopia while I was at university on accident through their Soundcloud, more intrigued by the constant loop in the 1970s than by the strange oddities contained within.

It was when I started following the Scarfolk blog, before reading the book, that I began finding where my story would go. One of the things that made the town so interesting was the hauntology angle, which I further learned about in Andrew Gallix’s Guardian article:

As a reflection of the zeitgeist, hauntology is, above all, the product of a time which is seriously "out of joint" (Hamlet is one of Derrida's crucial points of reference in Spectres of Marx). There is a prevailing sense among hauntologists that culture has lost its momentum and that we are all stuck at the "end of history". Meanwhile, new technologies are dislocating more traditional notions of time and place. Smartphones, for instance, encourage us never to fully commit to the here and now, fostering a ghostly presence-absence. Internet time (which is increasingly replacing clock time) results in a kind of "non-time" that goes hand in hand with Marc Augé's non-places. Perhaps even more crucially, the web has brought about a "crisis of overavailability" that, in effect, signifies the "loss of loss itself": nothing dies any more, everything "comes back on YouTube or as a box set retrospective" like the looping, repetitive time of trauma (Fisher).

So where does hauntology fit into the mix?

In the short story, the main character’s past “haunts” him through a visit from his co-workers. In the long-term project, it torments him beyond those two.

It is now a story in which a recent past colonizes the area where he lives. A time where he and his friend broke their chains from the heresy tumbling between servers which marked them. Now they click back to life to wrap around him for a Maximum Security Showcase*.

(More on it as I go along, plus research. I referenced Scarfolk in previous posts on Ello--one with a track and another with a review of Discovering Scarfolk.)

*Working Title

15 July, 2015

Where I've Been, Where this is Going, etc.

This post is a few things, with the major one being that it's geared towards Google+ users, mostly because I don't take advantage of the cross-posting feature. If you follow me on Ello, skim through my page there, or via RSS, there's not much new here. If you came here through Twitter, skip down to the "July and August Itinerary" for what I'll be up to. 

So far, I wrote two new flash fiction pieces this year--one with a follow-up Wattpad story, and the other as part of the "Mechanic's Garage" series of flash fiction.

There's also a review of Thomas Piketty's Capital that I got myself into courtesy of a couple Ello shelfies and a post detailing my information diet in brief.

After that, I started focusing more on my long-term project. Three months later and now I have a better idea of where I want to take it. I charted my progress over on Ello, where I'll continue to do so.

I meandered from the schedule I set myself for June with the work-in-progress being only one of those reasons. The other being that I switched computers, going from an 11" to a 15" screen. I'm still in the process of reorganizing my digital spaces, both online and off, but I feel both more confident and productive using a bigger screen when writing from home.

July and August Itinerary (Note: First posted here.)

July: I'll write a long-form post each about the topics that I meant to cover along with any book reviews that I missed along the way. Topics and reviews include my new-found love of the Vivaldi web browser, reviewing British comedian David Mitchell's Thinking About It Always Makes It Worse and Jan Wong's Red China Blues, about my current long-term work, etc.

August: Instead of just one Wattpad short story, I plan on doing two. One to make up for the lack of a June story and the other to round up my initial goal for this year. I plan on cross-posting all three of them on Ello instead of just leaving them there.