In Praise of Fountain

I’m getting back to screenwriting.

It’s mostly short film or small fun sketches I’ve been meaning to do more of, but I’m no longer writing screenplays in any of the traditional applications.

When one considers the places you would usually see the screenwriter work in, one would probably name Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter or Celtx. For me, it’s a rather new (comparatively) writing language named Fountain.

I started looking into alternatives other than my previous writing app, Celtx. I realized that if Celtx were to stop development, I’d have no way to really take the screenplays out to another app. None of the other apps out there really have very good exporting tools, outside of taking them to PDFs. I was quite interested, however, when hearing about the Fountain writing language as an almost perfect solution to the problem.

So a screenplay that would look like this on my iPhone:

Fountain Before

Would turn out looking something like this:

Fountain After

Once I got the hang of writing with it, I was estatic. I took some time and even converted all my Celtx based projects (mostly old projects, but I still wanted to have them in the new format) over to Fountain using an application named Trelby (Windows/Linux only). There’s even an app that can help me convert it to Final Draft, if need be- Highland (Mac only). Hell, even the phenomenal Scrivener has support for Fountain.

So for now, I will say that I am very, very happy in the new workflow- it’s making writing so much easier. The Fountain files are just plain text files, so any program that can handle text files automatically becomes a screenwriting program for me.

And as a nerdy, nerdy screenwriter- I love it.

CMS Hunting

Oh how I love CMS (or for the layman- Content Management Systems) hunting.

Back in the day- you only had a few CMS systems to choose from. Early attempts at making a site a few years ago had me going absolutely crazy for the Mambo CMS engine. Soon after, Joomla was my pick for a few sites I designed for others, for not only being based on the Mambo framework, but it’s flexibility.

At one point, back in the days I used to help with the Cornstalker Webcomics Collective, an entire site based in Joomla was being designed for the group. I had to ditch the website, along with its commerce systems, because some of the artists did not want to learn another login for it.

Augh. Bad memories, whatever. It was a great learning experience doing that group.

Anyways, today, there is a lot more to choose from. And the dynamic nature of some of them has me really tempted to toy around with them for my upcoming site.

Webhook has been the one CMS project that I’ve been wanting to really play around with- especially considering its design to keep data as crazy as I want it to be. I’ll be holding off on it, however, until it’s reached some maturity in it

Now, the main choice nowadays for websites is, of course, WordPress.

It’s one of the most (and prevalent) CMS systems out there. It’s what this blog is on, and what my future project is going to use. Why?

  • Support for it is unparalleled- even if you’re running it on your own server.
  • Themes are easy to come by- I’m actually really impressed by how good some of the pro themes look like. I’m considering buying one and remixing it to my uses rather than spending extra time getting the site to look similar to what I want.
  • Plugins are plentiful, and can add an extra level of functionality you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

The time I would spend researching and trying to develop with the new CMS would take forever for me nowadays. Now, I need something that will work and will work well.

WordPress it is.

New Website Launch: Primo Catalano Photography

I’ve been out of designing and coding sites for some time now, but I just recently got back into it, thanks to my friend Primo. He needed a site to show off his work, so I made him one. It’s all mostly done in JavaScript, using the wonderful gallery system from One Mighty Roar named Supersized. I had to make a few changes, and well, more is to come. I have a laundry list of things I want to accomplish with this site, mostly seeing if i can get the hang of combining jquery elements without fucking up the downloads. Also, I want to have the images hosting on a separate site- perhaps some sort of CDN (content delivery network). I want the site to be at least up and running now, just so that local clients (who don’t have to wait long anyways, because the server is in Los Angeles) can take a look at his work. After that is done, I should have more regular pushes to the site done. It feels great to code for the first time in a long time, even though I’ve become utterly terrible at it. Drove me up the wall, but I might dedicate some time to hopefully learning more javascript.

The Delicious Library Experience

I know I’ve waxed poetics time and time again over the Mac OS X and the software it has delivered over the years. There’s a unique style design that comes with so much of the software that it has become almost a standard to the platform- giving way to unique, beautiful pieces of software that can be productive and inspired in design. One in particular, has become a bit of an organizing obsession for myself, called Delicious Library. Delicious Library is a virtual bookshelf of sorts, allowing you to organize quite literally anything you own into it. You can add all sorts of things to this digital bookshelf- Books, movies, video games, etc- things that can be added using Amazon’s own giant database of goods to identify objects by name, or even by its IBSN number. The software can use the webcam on your computer as a bar code reader, complete with the little boop sound barcode scanners make when you scan things at the grocery store coming out of your computer speakers. it’s little touches like that that give Delicious Library that little extra touch that wasn’t there before. As soon as I started playing around with a trial version of the software, i bought it and proceeded to add every last item i could to this virtual bookshelf from my actual bookcase. I would sit there in glee as it would try to read aloud the titles of the books using the mac’s own Speak Aloud software to deliver monotone renditions of titles, speaking out “Fifty cent-blood on the sand” (it sounds so much funnier when you hear it read in a monotone, robotic voice that Macs give you, trust me.). Everything I own in terms of books, movies, and videogames are now all stored within the digital recesses of my Delicious Library. I keep track of who has borrowed things from my “library” and keep all their names stored (thanks to the cross integration with the Address book in OS X, i’m able to even import their basic information to the program as well), making sure I don’t forget who had my copy of Valkyria Chronicles. You can keep track of who you allow to borrow your DVDs, and how long they’ve had them out for. Even with my room a complete and utter mess, I was at a happy standstill, thinking to myself- it’s allright Daniel- everything is organized in Delicious Library anyways. No need to worry about it. It can work for both the owners of large collections of books or dvds or just the casual collector, as I am right now. I back up the whole collection regularly as a way to keep a good list of my possessions. It feeds some sort of odd obsession i didn’t even knew I had in the first place, to get a new game and almost automatically, boot up Delicious Library to scan it in to the virtual collection. The price of the software is a bit pricey (well, not overly pricey, as you would see in photoshop or other pieces of software along those lines), but at $40 (honestly, any higher and adults my age would balk at it), it was one of those investments that I really do cherish and enjoy. Delicious Library is available in demo form, for anyone to try. When Delicious Library 3 comes (and I do hope it does) I’ll probably come running, frothing at the mouth. ps, i do plan to post news soon in the future. i just had to finish this piece. more next week

The two phones

Every day when I leave the house, I walk out with two gadgets- an original model iPhone and a Blackberry curve. I use two phones on a daily basis, and while it can be quite cumbersome, it’s a system I’m quite happy with. the two phonesThe iPhone is a hand me down- much of the gadgets or phones I’ve used for most of my life have been hand me downs from either my mother or my aunt. Both loooove gadgets, but most of the time, they have no clue how to use them half of the time, or what to do when things go wrong (and that’s when they call me). I used a Handspring Platinum back in high school- that, combined with a fold out keyboard, gave me the ability to write my webcomic reviews (or ongoing serial stories) all the easier. I’d pop out the keyboard, plug in the pda, and write in Word to Go. (it was just showing how nerdy I really was to my classmates- pulling out a PDA with a foldout keyboard does automatically label you as a nerd, especially in high school) In college, I’d toy around with an SNES emulator I found for a Palm Zire 72 Special edition, playing Yoshi’s Island in the back of geography class. Both of these PDAs were hand me downs- from my mother and my aunt respectively. When my aunt switched to an iPhone 3GS, she gave me her first generation iPhone. After a complicated jailbreaking (i say complicated because i was cursing most of the time). I turned the contract required iPhone into an iPod touch with a camera built in. Almost anywhere I go often has a wifi point, so keeping the phone on airplane mode (to remove the power to the now useless phone) and turn on the wifi whenever possible to use the internet hotspots. The phone has been the best little present I’ve been given in years. With every paycheck, I allocate ten bucks or so for the apps on the phone (I have never been tempted to “pirate” applications on the iPhone. Paying for them is still completely worth it, and knowing that I can support part of the mac community with my purchase is worth it). And I love it. I’ll bust out the iPhone most of the time, to answer emails, check twitter, or write down a idea I had. It’s a sweet little thing, and I love it dearly. The integration with my mac helps a bit as well. Certain little applications have made it all the better- Hipstamatic, Evernote, and Gas Cubby have made it useful on the go (I can list quite a number of apps i use on a regular basis, perhaps I’ll have to make a top ten list post sometime). The blackberry, on the other hand, is a different story. I came to using the blackberry a year ago, and I really did love it. It was the first phone that I actually bought for myself, and with it, gave me some great appreciation of the phone. I quickly loved all of the features- Powerful email, nice keyboard and a great contextual menu (click the blackberry button and send your image to a certain program! click the blackberry button over a phone number and send a text to that number. All sorts of things can be done with that menu that you don’t see on the iPhone.). The honeymoon period though, lasted only so long. The amount of decent applications for the blackberry is minimal at best. An app store was created for the blackberry system, but the sluggish nature (and annoying paypal tied paying system) keeps me away from the more premium apps. Most of the apps are either really incredibly slow or don’t really work on my Blackberry- a curve 8330. The phone itself is incredibly slow- running even one application in the background forces me to stare into the blackberry’s version of the Beachball of Doom- a simplified hourglass that taunts me with every passing minute. So much of the operating system on the blackberry feels like a relic from the time it still competed with the original Palm OS. Nothing on that phone feels fresh anymore- yeah, if i had more friends using blackberries, things like Blackberry Messenger would actually make sense- but i don’t. Everyone just uses iPhones these days. Now, the blackberry is just a glorified phone- I’ll check it from time to time whenever I don’t have wifi available for the iPhone. I’ll send text messages from both gadgets (the beauty of having a jailbroken iPhone- Google Voice running on both!). My real wish is to one day seeing the iPhone on my network of choice- Verizon. While that may be a far-flung hope (and ridicule from one friend- I’m looking at you, Ross), I still have some ill conceived hope on the subject. To have the iPhone as my only gadget would be a godsend. I don’t mind the virtual keyboard so many seem to loathe- the auto-correct feature (something phones with physical keyboards should have) usually saves my hide from my terrible spelling track record. For now, I’ll be walking around with an iPhone and a Blackberry in my pockets, confusing people who see me with my two phones.

Thoughts on Google Chrome OS

This is a post that’s been waiting in my drafts folder for quite some time now, and I figure this is a good time as any to get it out. I’ve been thinking about Google Chrome and what it exactly means, at least to my observations. I was one of many dorks who watched the livestream of the conference, who watched with a slightly underwhelming view of the announcements. No installed applications! It’s all in the cloud, baby! It was all so very new and such a weird take that I had to wait to think and process the information that flowed forth about the OS and what my take on it would be. But in all honesty, I agree with so many critics- it’s a small step. It’s a small step between a full fledged OS and something you’d find on a cell phone (a smartphone, that is). And for the applications that can run on it so far, that would be just fine for certain uses. I could probably see myself running the Google Chrome OS on a netbook someday- something that can boot quickly, to check the plethora of GMail accounts I have running (last time i counted, it’s about five so far, but that may grow with passing time), Twitter, Facebook, etc. The Google Suite has been a major part of my workflow the last six months, so the use of Chrome OS would be a welcome addition to my workflow. The ease of which I could check emails, type out some writing I had in mind into Google Documents, so on and so forth, would be a snap on the Chrome OS. Hell, I’ve used GDocs to bounce out scripts to later convert and move over to Celtx for formatting. To have the Google OS as a stopgap to between my random ideas and rough drafts to the finalized versions on my computer would be a tremendous help. Hell, this was written in Google Documents before I moved the document over to MarsEdit for editing and posting. I could have foreseeably used the OS in the process of writing this. As John Gruber stated, “The idea of a computer that does a lot less — leaving out even things you consider essential, because you can still do those things on your other, primary computer — is liberating.” To have a small netbook running chrome with my usual menagerie of permanent tabs (gmail and twitter, mostly) off on another computer while I save the system resources for Final Cut Pro or some other resource hogging application. It’s just a small resource that would complement the entire computer experience. It is my belief that the strength of the whole project can be seen in the fact that the OS itself is open source. Everything I’ve seen so far with the OS has been offshoots people have cooked up for the public to play with, and in time, I can see major companies doing the same. Imagine, what if Asus built a motherboard that had a small flash drive onboard just for chrome OS? Sure, you can take your time and boot into Windows, but you can just hold down a key when booting up and Chrome OS kicks in from that onboard flash drive and lets you check email or show that funny cat video you wanted to show to your significant other before you leave for work. A fully customizable instant on OS. Imagine the offshoots some valiant coder (or company!) could pull off with the operating system. With the code being open sourced, there could be a plethora of flavors of the Chrome OS that could come out for different uses. Perhaps one version could be created to be run on MacBooks and Macbook Pros, for quick bootups. Another version to be run on tablet PCs. What could be seen as a slow tablet could run quite briskly with its own flavor of the Chrome OS. Hell, aging computers could be given a quick update with a 10 dollar ethernet card and given a new lifecycle with this OS- something simple to allow a family member to check their email or annoy the entire household with a terrible youtube clip (if you don’t, more power to you). One offshoot could benefit my current place of work- the library. Imagine a flavor of the Chrome OS that would be designed for library use. Patrons to the library could keep their bookmarks, their settings, hell, even their own background as they come in to use the computers, as they move from terminal to terminal. The OS could be limited to have parental controls and time limits for children and for adults alike. Instead of suffering from the constant upkeep regular windows computers have to face, a simple Chrome OS system that’s self updating, and much more secure would lower the frustration and the costs of said upkeep with public use computers, such as the ones at the library. A similar system could be put into place at a cyber cafe, with little to no overhead compared to its windows counterparts. Of course, like with the actual OS, such an idea would come in the pipeline- nothing that Google makes right away is all that good to begin with. Anyone care to recall how… simplistic Gmail was back in the day? Or how much the Google documents system (remember when it was still Writely?) couldn’t do basic exportability to word documents? Everything is a work in progress at google, and I would expect Chrome to be no different. What we see now would probably be remarkably different even months down the line, even six months after the fact. It will grow, it will evolve, and in what ways, it may turn to be interesting. For what it stands now, a small step, it’s quite small. But the magic lies in the potential to where it may grow and flourish. The initial steps may be underwhelming, but where it can go is promising.

The BlackBerry switch.

The Razr I’ve had for about five years now finally gave out. The thing couldn’t send out text messages properly, and placing a call would just force the phone to reboot itself time and time again. I got pretty pissed off at the thing, and so I finally decided to give it up. I wanted a smartphone of any kid, so long as it wasn’t a PalmOS based handheld or something in windows mobile (hee, windows mobile. the thought of its memory manager still gives me the shivers. Who the fuck thought that was a good idea, anyways?). So my options were… quite limited. If there was an Android based handheld on Verizon Wireless’ plan, I would be getting that phone in a second. All the crazy cool things Android has begun to do really interests me (The newer incarnation of the Android OS is fascinating me), but it’s Verizon, after all- the choices are either smartphones or Verizon OS based phones with small keyboards. So I went with the next best thing. I gotz me a blackberry! Blackberry Home ScreenThe Blackberry Curve, to be exact. I had heard too many horror stories with the Storm to even have me consider it- a neighbor had switched to it and had more than one problem with it, goiing through two or three Storms before he gave it up for something else. So I just went for the next best thing on the Verizon service plan it doesn’t cost too much more than I was paying for already, and thanks to a sale, i only paid about $120 bucks for it. (Deus ex machina says I’ll be finding the phone dropping in price after i type this, but I don’t mind at this point, I have it, why regret the purchase?)

The sister and I went together to get the same phone (she later decided to get a pink one, to separate the two. At one point, the service rep almost activated the pink phone on my account) One of the sales reps at the Verizon store tried to get me to move up to the Storm, but i wouldn’t budge, sharing a look of “ooooh heelllll noooo” between myself and my sibling. He later gave me a dirty look when I snorted when he asked me about singing up for the Verizon Hub thing. Who needs it, really? So yeah, I’m about two/three weeks into using this phone, and I’m fucking loving it. I switched the domain name for teammayhem.net over to be used to Gmail, so I’m able to use a lot of the gmail apps on the phone. IMAP support is incredible on the application, and I’m really liking the OS overall. The syncing program for the Blackberry to sync with my mac is a crashy bitch, so I decided to sync everything to my google account. My address book is on google, and both my mac and my blackberry sync to it, so all is well. Next step is to fix up the calendar to sync properly, but that’s going to be a bitch and a half to try and figure out. Maybe for when I have more time, or a lead I could follow. The apps I use on a regular basis are:

AIM- I talk to a bunch of my friends on AIM still, and having it on the go is great. It’s fun to be talking to a friend and having them slowly realize 20 minutes into the conversation that I’m actually at the supermarket shopping for beer (Hi Katja!).
MSN Messanger- Again, it’s for conversation, but Levi just spams me with it and sends insults. Lovely times.
TwitterBerry- I love me my Twitter, and this just an extension of that addiction. Works well, have yet to try the TwitPic support.
Opera- The standard browser on the Blackberry is great (and I still use it from time to time) but to view full pages, I switch over to the Opera browser. It’s a full fleged browser on the blackberry, rendering pages at a decent clip to make certain sites easy to read.
Pandora- Pandora on this phone is terrific, just plug it in to my stereo and pick a random band to listen to as i drive. SO good. The only big gripes I’ve had are the lack of apps on the device. I’ve got my standard set of apps I use all the time, but naturally, there isn’t that variety, that pizazz of titles that can be found on the iPhone, hell, even on the Android system. With the creation of the “Blackberry App World” earlier this month, it’s a start for some great opportunities on the handset, but the pickin’s are slim so far. I’ll probably talk about this thing more once i have more time to send it through stress tests, but it’s a step up from the Rzr.

Artist’s Block

Writer’s block is common for many artists- i know of plenty of webcomic artists that struggled to get work done only to feel that their art or their current output is less than satisfactory. To simply call it writer’s block is rather unfair- I rather like to refer to it as artist’s block. Any artist can get it, whenether it may be something so simple as not being able to draw a simple sketch or a musician unable to get the concepts in their head played back upon their musical instrument of choice. As of late, I find that my artist block affects me in cycles. I basically dabble in multiple fields, including writing, filmmaking, minor photography, and website design. When one of the fields feels stifling to me, the other flourishes. As of late, I can’t seem to get any work in my website design field done AT All, but I feel much more inspired in the case of writing- I’m getting scripts done with much more fluidity than before. I’ve gone back and looked at older scripts that I had done on old Word macro templates and pulling out the funny parts that I had written back in middle school/beginning of high school and seeing what I can do with all of it. There’s some small funny bits i found, but most of it was simply sophomoric humor that would barely fit in say, the Disaster or Date Movies. (I wonder if I could ever combine them all and sell it as a bad parody movie. Somehow, those always make money.) I had been using the popular Final Draft program for my mac for quite a while, and I had found it to be rather buggy and well… antiqudated. C’mon, a decent program on the mac has to at least use the mac’s own native spellcheck program, right? Nope! Final Draft uses it’s own spellcheck program, and that has proved to be inadiquate for my needs (the program doesn’t even bring up its own spellcheck, persistently frustrating me), . I made the recent move to Celtx, an open source pre-production suite, and that has made the difference between night and day. While it doesn’t have the technical complexicty that Final Draft holds, the program does do a good job of tying in the script to other parts of the pre-production process. It’s rather simple to tie a character sheet together with whatever props I may need to use, what parts of the script is being shot on a certain day, and other aspects of the post production. Best thing, it’s fucking free (fucking just adds the fact that a program of this level should have some sort of price attatched to it, and being free just sweetens the deal for me). I can’t complain with that now, can i? There is a download serivce available to make the program availalbe to multiple people, but if it had some sort of syncing system in place (with wikipedia-esque editing service) i would be golden. But anyways, back to the original topic. I feel that some of the parts of my artistic enviroment feels restrained at times, while in other times, other parts of my artsy fartsy brain seems to flourish with great gusto. My techy part and my writer parts seems to have been much more proactive, while trying to do any sort of graphic design work or anything along those lines (website design) seems to have gone dead. I’ve tried FORCING myself to get work in those fields done, but they end up looking subpar and crappy. Thankfully, I need more scripts done, so i’m not feeling that far behind, I’m just afraid i’m going to have to play catchup to hit my own personal deadlines. Well, back to work. Maybe.

skitch (yet another mac app)

Oh yeah, I’m talking about yet another mac app. I don’t know what it is, but i think the OS X system as a whole has generated so many small, yet great applications for people to use. I’m having fun just trying to figure out how to utilize all the small cool apps that are out there, but there is one in particular I must recommend to those using OS X 10.4- Skitch, especially those artistically inclined folks . Skitch is a simple sketching program. It doesn’t have all of the crazy details a full featured drawing programs has, but what it does makes it one of my must have mac apps. It’s quick to open, can capture images from your webcam or something on your desktop. then write, draw, type to your heart’s content. Best off, its free. Works rather well with Evernote, which i mentioned briefly before (handwriting recognition in Evernote is getting better and better now.) Here’s a good tutorial that explains a bit more of the site. I’m easily found at the Skitch.com site, and a couple of pictures of examples I’m working on, including my eyeOS install i have going (I’m probably going to blab about that later, but i won’t bore you with the details. Here’s a picture of the install:

webOSexample Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch! (Thanks to M. Derenge of “Pointless” for the kickass wallpaper. I got it a while back from him, and at one point, it was my PS3 wallpaper in order to scare my family.) Guess this is another program that’ll be added to my ever so growing list of recommended apps.