Musings by @rg

A place to jot down ideas, notes, pointers.


Start Me Up!

It's January 2020, and in a few days Microsoft will end support for Windows 7 users. No more security fixes, no more bug fixes.

While this might be causing some anxiety to anyone still running a Windows 7 computer, here is a Good News item for you.

Microsoft is still allowing Windows 7 and 8.x users to upgrade their systems (which must be activated) for FREE to a Windows 10 of the same family or variant.

Someone running Windows 7 Home, Home Premium or Ultimate can go thru the process (it's simple and worked well in my personal experience), and have a legal and Activated Windows 10 Home digital license at the end.

If you start with a Windows 7 or 8.x Professional, you will end up with Windows 10 Professional, again fully licensed and activated. No gimmicks!

I was really surprised when RYen, a friend at Hackers.Town mentioned this when he saw my earlier Blog post about how to get OEM Windows 10 Pro license keys cheaply. I followed a link he provided, and read the article.


Why is Microsoft still doing this ?

A good quote from the article clarifies:

The answer to that first question is easy. Remember, Microsoft's Windows business is predicated on its partnership with PC makers, who pay a license fee for every copy of Windows they install on a new PC. Those OEMs are none too happy about the idea of extending the life of an older PC; they would much rather have you buy a brand new PC instead.

So, to mollify its OEM partners, Microsoft put a time limit on the free upgrade offer, and they simply don't speak of it now. The Windows marketing team continues to promote new models of Windows PCs, and the enterprise sales staff continues to sell volume licenses of Windows 10 Enterprise and Microsoft 365 subscriptions. Nobody talks about upgrades.

Frankly, at this point the only people who are still interested in a free upgrade are enthusiasts, home users, and very small businesses running hardware that's at least four years old.

Makes complete sense, and thank you Ed Bott, from ZDNet!


What are the Requirements ?

Microsoft allowed this kind of free upgrade, officially, until July, 2016, and closed the door at that time. To qualify for this undisclosed offer (again, tested successfully with 2 systems, worked in both Win 7 and 8.1), to qualify you need to have a fully activated operating system installed.

  • It will be upgraded within the same family (Home versions, or Pro versions).
  • You need to use the same type of release; 32 bit installs only upgrade to 32 bit Windows 10 versions.
  • Memory requirements, a 2 GB system would work better with a 32 bit version install, imo, as the 64 bit ones require more RAM for the system itself.

Upgrade options ?

The upgrade installation is very easy for any average user – you just need to download a small program from Microsoft, which will check your system for compatibility. Download the install program from this page.

The page has some explanations and tips, you can read those — or simply get the install tool directly from Microsoft Servers.

  • The upgrade program will list any incompatible software found, and offer to uninstall it for you.
  • This again without any user intervention besides accepting the offer to remove the program.

Once those preliminary checks are made, he upgrade program will ask you how you want to handle existing files and applications :

  • Keep all user data only. No apps will be migrated to the new install.
  • Keep all user data and apps – the easiest to keep everything as is and accessible.

Create Install Media or Not ?

On the next stage, you have two options about how the installation will proceed.

  • download and install in this system only. No extra media is needed (USB stick, external drive, etc).
  • Download the operating system package, and save it or prepare installation media (USB stick, DVD R disc, etc).

If you only have one system in the house (or office) that needs the upgrade, the simple choice is to let the installer handle it, and simply install and clean up afterwards.

If you need to upgrade more than one system, accept the option and the installer will download and later help you prepare a bootable USB drive, which can be used multiple times. Or burn the same to a DVD R disc, you will need a blank 8 GB disc.


Running the install ?

Very simply, you started it with the upgrade tool from within your working Windows 7 (or 8.x) system; make the choices, as described above. And relax and do something else while it goes to work

The installer will request and download the correct version from the Microsoft servers; this will be a large download, about 5 GB. (have more systems to upgrade? Save this and prepare the Boot media as offered in the installer, and reuse this. Saves another large download).

Once the download is completed, the Setup will start, and proceed to install, migrating your apps if you chose so, saving your files intact.


What to expect ?

Although it can take some time, the process is painless and no user intervention is needed. So I would recommend this to anyone who still runs a Windows 7 or 8.x system, as long as you have at least the 2 GB minimum system RAM as required.

I have personally followed this procedure and done two complete upgrades – both without any difficulties.

  • A Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bits laptop, now running Windows 10 Home 64 bits.
  • A Windows 8.1 Pro 32 bits desktop, now upgraded to Windows 10 Pro, 32 bits.

Good luck and enjoy you freely upgraded and more modern O.S. Happy New Year!


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org


And today we start the day with a To Do clean-up; pending things that need action. Including a recent discovery I made, surprising to me, that my home and primary instance in the Mastodon network was not visible, searchable and in fact, fully Blocked at another place.

Being active and curious, I do have accounts in maybe 10 instances or so, used in varying degrees, some frequently visited, others less so.

Very recently I made a blog post with discussions on why choosing an instance is important, what factors to consider when doing so, and a partial list with descriptions and details of some of the ones I enjoy.

That post is located here.

After creating a new blog post, I prepare a release text for announcing it in the Fediverse. About 500 characters, it also includes a good image and is posted at Qoto.org, my primary account (and the one which signs off all posts here).

Once this is ready, the text and image are posted at Qoto, and I do visit some of my other accounts, search for that Status URL, and proceed to Boost it for reaching more people if possible.

While doing this, I visited one, Mastodon.Technology, where I could not find the status on that normal search. Odd. What is going on?

A search for my user profile at Qoto did not bring ANY results either. It dawned on me that something was amiss...


WTF ? Blocked possibly ?

Yes, that was the first thing that crossed my mind. M.T has some clear rules at their front door, the famous About-More pages. I looked there, and found a link to a Git instance, with a list.

And. We are on it. Last on the list, suggesting possibly a recent addition to his Disgraceful People List. (some are ghastly places, I would agree)


Why ?

Good question. I couldn't see why. Ash has provided some info :

Blocked Instances :

“Here are the instances that m.t has blocked. This list is not meant to be authoritative for other administrators. We reserve the right to silence or suspend any instance for any reason. If you are an administrator of an instance on this list, feel that you shouldn't be blocked, and have checked our Code of Conduct, you can contact Ash Furrow through email to discuss getting unblocked.”

Aha.

This happened a few days ago. What then?


How to Proceed :

Since it was now clear that an Instance Ban was in place, the next step was communicating with our Admin. We discussed it, and I offered to try and deal with Mr. Furrow and request a review of their decision. Dr. Freeman, our admin and domain owner, agreed, and I went about preparing a case.

  • First step, read his provided link to Code of Conduct (the About-More page).
  • Upon reading it, find what we could have done to be black listed.

And it seems it's the final paragraphs, shown in this snapshot.

So, Guilty by Association, I gather? Ah, yes, to protect the Free Speech of some users, I see.

Had this in my notes and on a admin Forum thread, and now took time and wrote a full, formal letter to Mr. Furrow.

Which, being a writer and a budding citizen journalist, I chose to publish here, in full as well. Text of letter follows, it is only being altered here for formatting enhancements that MarkDown and Write Freely provide.


Full Letter Text :

January 6, 2020.

To : Ash Furrow, administrator, Mastodon.Technology via email – ash@ashfurrow.com

From : RG, staff member, Moderator at Qoto.org domain

CC : @freemo@qoto.org, Admin, Qoto.org

Re : Blocked status of Qoto.org on your instance, Mastodon.technology.

Dear Mr. Furrow,

I am a member of Qoto.org, where I am part of the domain Staff, and moderator at both the Mastodon instance and our Discourse Forums. Being an active user and a curious human being, I do have accounts in various other instances, including yours, where my handle is @rgx.

Thank you for hosting that service, it seems a nice and active community, and themed on Technology which is one of my personal interests. Being so busy with my Qoto participation, user support, starting to write my own personal Blog, I haven't had the opportunity of participating as much at M.T.

Was however surprised to discover I could not find one of my own Blog announcement posts, from the search function at M.T, where I intended to Boost it for wider audience viewing possibilities.

The Search turned out Blank, no results. A search for my own account at Qoto, @design_RG@qoto.org, also turned out blank.

My hunch that this was possibly due to an Instance Block was confirmed by viewing your Blocked instances list .

Honestly, I was appalled. I feel that we are doing a good job and providing valuable services, an active community and an instance theme that is unique, as far as I know.

As mentioned in the page above :

“If you are an administrator of an instance on this list, feel that you shouldn't be blocked, and have checked our Code of Conduct, you can contact Ash Furrow through email to discuss getting unblocked.”

I did read the referenced page for CofC, and discussed my findings in our Admin forum at Qoto with Dr. Jeff Freeman, our domain owner and Admin. Mr. Freeman agreed to my proposal of contacting you via email to discuss this, and any remediation possibilities.

From reading your CofC, and considering that we are an instance and community in good standing, preeminently listed at the head of Suggested Instances at JoinMastodon.org , I am contacting you to request your consideration of a lift on this instance ban.

I imagine your reason for such is :

“To protect the free speech of users belonging to marginalized groups, mastodon.technology does not federate with overtly fascist instances. Additionally, we will refuse to federate with instances that themselves choose to federate with fascist instances.”

Is that correct? I can't think of any other possible reason.

I would like to add that I personally dislike some of the communities which are part of the Fediverse; and exercise my user rights on blocking Gab and their peripheral instances in my own personal account. I also intend on writing, shortly, a new blog post documenting all kinds of Filtering and Content blocking that users can utilize to their own satisfaction and better enjoyment of their Fedi accounts.

But as an active user and content provider at Qoto, which is also the channel for my personal blog writing announcements, I am dismayed by our instance being blocked by M.T., specially considering it's a large community and themed in Tech, one of my main personal interests.

On behalf of myself and many other Qoto users, who daily provide good content and valuable interactions with many other instances, I am hereby, with authorization from Dr. Freeman, requesting that you please consider lifting your instance blocking of Qoto.org.

I am also happy to discuss this matter and accept any comments and suggestions on this matter, on behalf of Qoto administration staff and our user community.

I can be reached via this email, which is my Fedi accounts mainline, or via DM to my @design_RG@qoto.org account. In your own instance, my account is @rgx@mastodon.technology .

Thank you for your time, attention and considering this request.

Sincerely,

RG, for the Qoto.org administration team.

cc: QOTO@syncleus.com


Final Thoughts :

I have sent this letter, the Image at the head of today's blog is a snapshot of my email client just after sending it. Will be waiting for a response, which I hope Mr. Furrow will provide to a courteous and carefully written inquiry.

Thank you, Mr Furrow. I will update this with any news as it develops.


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org

Casual Conversation, Interesting Tips.

Once again I had an enjoyable conversation, earlier today. From my laptop, logged into my Qoto acount via Web client, I also browsed Mastodon.social via Pinafore, and we started a chat.

Achso was there(@achso@mastodon.social), and we kind of continued a conversation from a day or two before. I enjoyed it, said a lot, and thought it would make for a nice blog post.

The full thread is online, and can be seen here. I was posting via Pinafore, and limited to 500 characters, unfortunately – which led to some choppy posts (instance there limited to 500 chars max).

We really should petition Eugen R. @gargron@mastodon.social and beg for a larger limit for the MaximumTootSize variable. Currently, it's 500 characters, larger in some instances that customized their own limits.


Conversation Follows.

( Achso's Toots are shown in quoted form, mine are in plain text form. )

@achso : Otherwise this will stay a niche thing. And it deserves better than that. I think it is sad that many of my old contacts from abroad – US and other places – refuse to leave their old biotope.


Some people will come and see what is going on here if it keeps growing and getting media reports.

I only joined here in November — close to 2 months now, but in that short time I went from total newbie to having 3,400 posts or so, Staff position at my main instance, and being part of maybe 10 instances of Mastodon alone.

Plus the wonderful integrated services – love Write.freely!

Insta, I stayed away, always. Dumb people, hashtag binging, bothers me, they are clueless.


Curiously — I found my curiosity and interest in this Fediverse due to a BBC News report about the Indian Diaspora, from TW to mastodon instances.

Saw it on my rarely visited TW timeline, read the article. Uhm, what is mastodon?

LOL, the rest is #history.... :-P

Having lots of fun, it's keeping me happy and busy thru Winter, depressive in general in our Northern latitudes.


This very article :

@achso : Twitter classified the famous Landmesser-photo as “hateful imagery”? Wow... I think there is no lack of antifascist people on Twitter now, but many of them act like – cough... – fascists. Intolerant, stubborn, uptight... Anyway, Mastodon is different, which is good. ;)

Yes, I like it here, it's very refreshing!

With politics and all, but like on Fidonet, we can make waves, run our own things, and have a voice.

On the algorithm driven major soc media sites, not a chance, they silence you simply by not showing your content.

Hey, if you even want to try a smaller instance, come and visit Qoto.org, it's a nice place, if I may say so.


But does Choosing an Instance Matter ?

@achso: Is it really important which instance some is on? Isn't it the core of the fediverse that it does not? Just asking...

I think that is an excellent question! And I am part of various ones, although lift the flag and sign my blog with my main one.

How does it differ, being in one or another?

  • a very small instance will likely have a very quiet local Feed. This is sad, as the Local feed is where I find most social interaction happens; camaraderie, we see each other, all posts. And sometimes we provide support just to encourage a friend to keep going.

  • at the opposite end, a very large instance will have an extremely busy Local feed; no lack of things to look at, but like Twitter, many will fly by without any reaction, as people don't have the time to relate, read, respond before another barrage of posts land.

I visit and post somethings here in ms.soc, it's the Flagship and sometimes good for exposure. But it wouldn't work for me as a home. I find the Local feed overwhelming indeed.


  • So size is important. Theme also – there are generalist instances, and posts from all kinds; might be good to discover new things, interesting. Less good for more focused posts or interests, which sometimes a more focused instance can better take care of.

  • Language, one's native one is ideal, even if we do fluent English, thankfully, bridging the divide; I still love to write and converse in other languages.

  • Culture : like travel, seeing the instances in other countries, is fun.


I love this discussion and will likely collate all of my posts above and build an article for a blog post on it. I have been enjoying doing that.

Wanted to ask you, remember our chat from yesterday, regarding Fidonet, Front Door? wanted to request if you allow me to quote you on a possible article for the blog?

If you prefer not to, I understand, but I am a learning journalist and respect my sources. Thank you for the nice conversations!

@achso: Sure, no problem.Nothing wrong with a little bit of sentimentality. :)

BTW: As a journalist (desk editor, reporter) for more than 30 years I have to help my young fellow colleagues, no? ;)


Thanks, Achso!

This was a fun conversation, and helped me organize thoughts on why visiting, getting to know different instances is fun and important.

I enjoy traveling and choosing small cafés or restaurants in the streets of towns and cities abroad. Our mastodon instances are very much like Cafés, and the quality varies, the customer base is a big part of how nice they are, how active specially. Management can also make or break a community.

I am grateful to the administrators and staff team of the various instances which I belong to; with all of them I have learned, observed and thought about different ways things can be done. Fun. Thank you, friends. ;–)

Below I will outline a little about these instances I frequent. No specific recommendations, just notes, maybe help you know what's available and how they can vary?


Some instances I frequent :

In no particular order, just writing from the top of my head in my text editor...

  • Qoto.org – listed in my blog signature, Qoto is my primary instance; one where I spend most of my time, have made many posts and enjoy socializing with local friends which follow my work closely. I have volunteered and been elected as a Moderator there recently.

Instance Theme : STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are the theme here. Not strictly enforced in everyday posting, which can be relaxed (I do contribute a lot of Cat pictures!).

Users number : just over 6,500 now with a recent influx of Spanish Twitter migration. Registrations : open.


  • Todon.nl – A Leftwing instance, Todon has some nice people I had met over the Feeds and enjoyed conversations with. I am also aligned with the local political lean, so it's one of my favourites. Well connected, posts distribute quickly.

Instance Theme : there's a number of activists, and users who enjoy the place, where they won't meet any vociferous politically opposing people.

Users number : just over 5,300. Registrations : are via an application, explain how your personal views align with Todon's. [temporarily Closed atm]


  • Hackers.town – a community of people interested in computing, network and systems administration, security, privacy, and related topics. An interesting place for people interested in learning about those topics, which is my case, because it has experienced users in these various fields.

Instance Theme ; Technology, Computing, Security, CyberPunk.

Users number : about 200, although their total post count is astronomical. Registrations : are controlled, as the front door says “Speak friend and enter.”


  • Toot.Cafe – This is an instance frequented by programmers, web designers, etc, and administered by Nolan, the author of the brilliant Pinafore mastodon client. For many knowledgeable users, Pinafore is tops, for it's speed, streamlining and support of multiple instances – and ease of switching between them. See more information at the project's home. Not a general instance, but I enjoy visiting and chatting with Nolan when I have a suggestion for Pinafore.

Instance Theme : Web design, Mastodon, programming, UI design, Clients for Mastodon network. Users number : 2,772 Registrations : Open, via Request an Invite link at front door.


“All friendly creatures are welcome. Be excellent to each other, live humanism, no nazis, no hate speech. Not only for nerds, but the domain is somewhat cool. ;) No bots in general! (only with prior permission)”.

E.U. based, so European Privacy and other laws apply – an advantage for me, in any network services choice if available.

Instance Theme : A General instance, based in Germany. Posts in English and German.

Users number : 365 Registrations : Open


  • Mastodon.social – The Mothership, this instance is home to Eugene R., who is the lead developer of the Mastodon project.

For many new users, it's the only instance they know of, so it has a large influx of new people and the largest number of users in Fediverse (not counting the Gab instance and peripheral systems, as they are not widely accepted by a lot of other fediverse instances).

A very, very busy local timeline, if you get bored of waiting for some new post at any smaller instances. A good place to see what a very large Mastodon instance would feel like (and to know what kids of hardware it takes for such high numbers of users). Also a good place to boost posts from, if you want some extra spreading for a new thread.

Instance Theme : a General instance, no specific theme.

Users number : 455,000 as I write. Registrations : open.


  • Mastodon.technology – A fairly large instance, with a Tech theme and actively moderated. The administrator has clearly stated rules and isolates his instance from many others.

Some of the excluded instances (as listed in his git page here) are black balled simply for federating with other instances that Ash Furrow, the local admin, does not want connections with. Sadly this blocks a lot of info from other, more open minded instances (and I mean the ones that are not fascist dominated, but get tarred here in his extensive blocked list).

Instance Theme : Tecnnology. But selectively disconnected, see note above.

Users number : 19,500 Registrations : Open, fill in form (“Why do you want to Join us?”) to request an invite.


Mastodon Instances in the World :

Bonus, if you read this far in the page, lol... A nice world Map showing the local concentration of Instances. Click on Image for Large Version. Map of Mastodon instances from Mastodon Network Monitoring Project, August 17, 2017.

From an interesting article At Medium.com.


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org

Received an interesting suggestion via Direct Message, it said :

What do you think about: Starting a hashtag like : “qotoarticle” and all qoto-users who publish journalism-like or good pieces from the internet shall use this # to make it possible to find an interesting collection of qoto-news, without all the fun-stuff burying it?

This is a nice idea — and I am opening a Discourse Forum thread to chat about it.

Why there, not in the normal Mastodon Local timeline? A few reasons:

  • we won't be posting all kinds of tag ideas with hashes that will go live, and maybe never used again.
  • it's open to anyone who wants to read it, as I will add thread URL here, and it's publicly readable to all.
  • it's open to replies, all you need is a quick registration, confirm the email, and presto, you are in.

So all good, isn't it?


Consider it done;

Done, my friend, and here are some of my hash suggestions.

  • They need to be easy, short if possible.
  • easy to spell so both posters and searchers can use the tag for their own means.
  • unique, so they will collect the intended posts and no strain content.

Which do I think could work? Uhmmm... Brainstorming, put ideas out and don't judge them. Add more ideas. Decide later, at evaluation time.

Maybe : qoto-news . qoto-journal . qoto-daily . qoto-top . qoto-stem . qoto-hq .

or : stem-news . stem-hq . stem-daily . stem-mvp .

Do they have to include the “qoto” word and brand ID? not necessarily, we are just considering ideas here.

  • If including, they might get people to pay attention to our instance in general.
  • It could be used by others, in fact any hash tag can be overwhelmed and spammed, unfortunately;
  • not much defense from that other than blocking the twits who did it.

There, the ball is at play, let's hear what you all think?

Thank you for considering and participating.

#STEM #science #math #Engineering #Math news are of interest to people all over the #Fediverse


Follow-Up :

All of my long posts are not written in the Toot Editor box — too small for serious writing. I use a simple Text Editor, EditPad Lite, free and powerful. Love to get into it and away from the zillion Tabs open in my browsers (2 to 3 sets, in separate windows. I know, busy guy here.)

  • So, I wrote all of the above in the text editor.
  • Then copied it to Clipboard, pasted into the Discourse Forum, new Thread.
  • Copied the URL (address) of that new thread, to use in Mastodon announcement.
  • Switched tab to Qoto Mastodon; pasted the Clipboard contents, first the full text, then the URL, also stored in it.
  • I had searched on Bing for a good image, sized it for my normal Blog post header at 640 pixels width.
  • Opened and added it to post via Toot Editor insert Image (paper clip icon).

Hit Enter and now that was complete! Ah, sent my friend a link to the Forum with the URL too.

Some replies followed, and considering their content (showing interest, support and some extra suggestions), I made one more longer post, next.


Additional Contents Requirements ?

I found it was a wonderful idea and suggestion — was glad to receive it, can see the use, for sure.

We need a good hash word, as outlined above, so it will get used.

I like the suggestions of *some content standards for people using the tag*. These not only liven each post, but can lead the way to everyone following the model and producing richer posts all the time.

Some of the possibilities for suggested requirements:

  • a relevant image in each post. Size should be manageable, too large a file uses disk space everywhere, we can including an image at about 700x700 pixels comfortably. And include a link in the post if you think a higher resolution version is important; then it's available if people want to see it.

  • A clear and relevant Title in the first line. Before starting the post, put a blank line after it. So the title will stand out on it's own in people's Feedlines. A better change to snag a reader is important!

  • Always provide any relevant links with the post. If something is a more extensive post, maybe it can benefit from a Blog placement; Like the posts I write and post at WriteFreely. Still, these longer articles can be Announced in Mastodon, with the same format as other, shorter ones; a Clear Title; some text Body; link to full article elsewhere; Always a Good Image! (we are fighting for people's attention, everyday)

  • You can post longer pieces in Mastodon as well; Qoto is very special in allowing a HUGE 65,000 characters max per Toot. But even elsewhere, it's feasible to make a Thread, successive posts in reply to the previous one; Best done as a Thread with the 2nd and later replies all set to Unlisted privacy setting (to avoid clogging Local timelines)

  • if doing multipart posts, you need to work careful and quickly — to try and avoid anyone jumping in with a comment or reply while you are still mid-stream in the posts. It's possible, but a bit tense (I did this before). Best done with a machine supporting an enhanced Clipboard, capable of storing multiple pieces of information.

  • I have and use this daily — Windows 10 now supports it, all you need is to press WinKey-V, and it will show all current clipboard contents, in time order; you can select any of them, text, URL, image, to insert at this point. So a multi-part post can ALL be copied to Clipboard, piece by piece, then inserted into Toot Editor in quick succession. Insert, Toot. Click Reply, insert next, Toot. and so on, until complete. You will overwhelm any humans looking at the post, less likely to have a stray response.

I made a nice and long thread with the story of a visit to a Museum, posted here. Later it became a Full Blog post, which took more work but all the story was written already. I used a plain text editor in my laptop, and tuned away all the distractions.

At the end of a post, it would be nice to find some References — links, see also, anything related to your article. This can be done in a simple way, as a list of words and links to further info, as seen in the very last Toot in my Museum thread.

Stopping at this point, as it's getting long, but I already see this thread as my topic of the day for a blog post. ;–)


Conclusion?

We now have the Forum thread, and it allows for easier reading to anyone using a laptop or Desktop computer. Posts there can also be edited, enhanced with in-line images, and use all of the formatting power and beauty of the MarkDown language. A lot of this was formatted there.

Later, I copied all of the text into Clipboard, and into my own WriteFreely instance — my editing platform for Blog work is running in my own laptop here, so I can use it even if Internet goes down, and the responses are lightning fast.

Once I am happy with the text and layout, imagery, I can copy and paste the full MarkDown source into my blog hosts.

Hopefully we get good response in the Forum thread, where everyone can respond fast and easily with their comments, ideas. Again, the Discourse Forum Thread is Here. Please visit there or respond to our Mastodon Thread about this idea here.


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org


New Year's day, and all is quiet in the land. :–)

Time to catch up, and I remembered an idea for a blog post a few days ago. We were having some discussions (which turned a bit heated), but later things calmed down.

Chatting in a Mastodon network thread, I mentioned the situation reminded me a lot of my days in the BBS world; where I started in computers, dial-up modems, and the network I was soon participating in – called FidoNet. The conversation went as follows:


Brings memories of sysops battling it out on our local FidoNet network!!

Time goes on, humanity continues.

Fediverse is indeed quite similar to the wonderful pioneer that Fidonet was. Way before internet was accessible to the masses.

@anarchiv : as a part of the unthinking masses, I don't know what that is.

Fidonet? it was a network formed by independant system operators (sysops for short) in the days of BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) being the only computers you could reach and connect to from home.

We only had dial up lines, but it was amazing to dial up and connect to a place with information, software for download, online games. All of this for free in most cases.

People operated those as a hobby, all of them loved computing. It attracted similar people, which is how I joined. 1992.


I will write a blog post or more about it soon, there's so many good stories and similarities to the Fediverse. It felt immediately similar when I joined here.

Even the brawling with other sysops, who sometimes we didn't like, we did that as well, lol.

Great fun to be had, lots of coffee was consumed, talks went late into the night.

The network was worldwide, and sent international mail via phone calls. Data lines? not available at the time.

Memories...

Another conversation mentioned Fidonet on our Local instance chats.


I have been seeing and feeling many similarities between the fediverse and my first experience with networking, way back in the early 90s.

Back then, all we had were BBSes, phone lines and 2400 bps modems, but there was an international network linking many of them already – FidoNet.

FidoNet had as one of its core principles something similar to your approach here:

  • Thou Shall not be Annoying. immediately followed by :
  • Thou Shall not be Easily Annoyed.
    Words of wisdom to live by!

@freemo : I started on the BBS dialup days as well. The connected network between them was just coming around at the time.

Did you play the Doors games like LOTRD?

Yes, I did play some of the games. Sometimes you had to be waiting to be able to connect, as in most cases there was only one phone line. People had fun running a BBS in a spare computer, and we could get software galore, when there was no Internet access to the public, which only came later (about 1995 or so here in Canada).

Watching the dialing, the link negotiation between the modems, seeing the ASCII art load, it was so much fun.

@freemo : The good ol' days :)


From those pioneer days, fast forward 25 years — And now we have online, free streaming video of the nice “BBS – The Documentary” series, by Jason Scott.

The full series is on Qoto Peertube; see a playlist with all 8 episodes here. If you want to see the FidoNet episode, part 4, it's here.

Synopsis from DVD version :

From the DocuWiki page for this series, we have the full synopsis :

Long before the Internet escaped from the lab, connected the planet and redefined what it meant to use a computer there was a brave and pioneering band of computer users who spent their time, money and sanity setting up their home computers and phone lines to welcome anyone who called. By using a modem, anyone else who knew the phone number of these computers could connect to them, leave messages, send and recieve files.... and millions did.

They called these places “Bulletin Board Systems”, or BBSes. And their collections of messages, rants, thoughts and dreams became the way that an entire generation learned about being online. When the Internet grew in popularity in the early 1990s, the world of the BBS faded, changed, and became a part of the present networked world.. but it wasn't the same.

Get your own copies :

Jason Scott has released the original DVDs to the Internet Archive, and anyone interested can watch online, download individual episodes — or the 3 DVD ISO images here.

Our PeerTube videos are better quality, a DVD rip by MVGroup.org and released in Bit Torrent and eMule networks (free user registration, login required).


References :

a. BBS systems :

A Bulletin Board System or BBS (once called Computer Bulletin Board Service, CBBS[1]) is a computer server running software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, the user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through public message boards and sometimes via direct chatting. In the early 1980s, message networks such as FidoNet sprung up to provide services such as NetMail, which is similar to email. Wikipedia page

b. FidoNet computer network :

FidoNet is a worldwide computer network that is used for communication between bulletin board systems (BBSes). It uses a store-and-forward system to exchange private (email) and public (forum) messages between the BBSes in the network, as well as other files and protocols in some cases. Wikipedia page

c. Dial-Up Networking :

Dial-up Internet access is a form of Internet access that uses the facilities of the public switched telephone network (PSTN) to establish a connection to an Internet service provider (ISP) by dialing a telephone number on a conventional telephone line. Dial-up connections use modems to decode audio signals into data to send to a router or computer, and to encode signals from the latter two devices to send to another modem. Wikipedia page Dial up modem sounds Dial up video (26 secs)

#modem #DialUp #networking #Retro #Computing


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org


A personal Reflection :

On the issue of rules regarding content warning and posting in timelines.

We had some disturbing photos posted recently at a Mastodon instance where I am part of the staff and a Moderator. I flagged some of the posts for moderation, and waited to see what the response from other mods and admin would be; it came and wasn't in line with my thinking, exactly.

I had joined a new instance very recently, and as requested by the administrator's welcome message sent to each new user, went to read their Rules page. Liked what I saw; it was well written, in clear terms and organized into different types of possible objectionable posts contents.

That instance is Masto.donte.com.br, Renato Londe's instance. You can see their “About, More” page in the original (Portuguese language), or for ease of understanding, a clean Bing Translation to English.

Just this morning, as I reflected and made notes for this post, I looked at them once again – and some of the objectionable content I flagged would be clearly within their definitions of not allowable content at their own instance.

Sanity prevails, even if sometimes rules have to be extensive and worded carefully to avoid misunderstandings.

About a week ago or so we had an incident which took me sometime and attention – I recall now it was on Christmas Eve, exactly, as I found that ironic considering the nature of the incident.


De-Federation Request :

Someone posted a thread with a screenshot and a request for De-federation (isolation, incommunicado) of an instance. Mine, as I discovered upon reading, just by sheer luck, one of the replies to her post as it flew by in the busy Home timeline.

Being an active user at my instance, I had made many posts and did my best to build community; that someone could make that harsh request was shocking to me, and I went into the fray soon after reading. First thing, I posted an exposé of what was going on in our own instance's Local timeline – to allow anyone interested to follow and intervene in the discussion if desired.

Then went on to replying in their own thread, much to the chagrin of the post's author, who did not expect a reaction. Oh, Really? lol...

This took energy and attention away from other tasks, but was important to me at that moment.

To be ostracized like this request indicated would be disgraceful to any Fediverse instance. Look at Gab and what people think, that's their current situation, isolated in their own corner.

The intent of today's blog is not to re-open the issues raised in this thread — But it might inform some of my thinking, which was further aided by private DM discussions once the fires where out, with a good friend from another instance. A cool one, which I joined simply by meeting some of their members and liking their ways.

So, back on topic – the main implication of the huge discussion here was the way a community can be perceived, by the looks of :

  • Their stated rules and modus operandi, what is allowed, what's not.
  • Posts and images made at that community, sometimes by simple users, with bad or objectionable content.
  • Posts and statements by their staff, admins and mods in any place.

Our own Instance Rules :

Below is a copy of the screenshot that DK posted, and was captured from this page – Qoto.org – About, More.

And upon later DM chat, I agree that we need to do some revisions. The pages are important, as they present publicly where the administration and staff of a community stand, their beliefs and how they plan to deal with infractions or problems.

Upon just going back now and re-reading, I recall a certain skepticism upon reading them when I first joined. Qoto was my entry point into the Fediverse, the first place I found, via the JoinMastodon.org and their Get Started (instance referral page).

Now I have been in the instance for almost two months, but these have been intensive, full days where I explore and discover not only local content but also other instances; other services like this very blog; read and learn, apply what I just learned. And have fun doing it!

The first impression was that the tone of the text and rules was a bit too Libertarian for my taste. But that soon melted with getting to know and enjoying interactions with the locals and people in other instances, who either replied and participated in our threads, or that I met at the Home feed, less busy and more manageable that the waterfall of content in the Federated timeline.

This might be a good way to start my reflections on what could we improve in the About page, and posting this could help clarify my thinking to others.


Moderation on the Day to Day :

I volunteered to help with the moderation in the instance, something I have done and enjoyed in the past.

For me the most important part of a site staff member is not the policing and containing of problems if they do pop up, but tho be an active member of their community and lead by example. I made an extensive post, first on the Discourse Forum, then later copied over to my blog here, describing my thoughts and philosophy.

It was quite a bit of work, but I enjoyed it, and thought it could help inspire other users into supporting and helping build a community — they are nothing if there's no user participation, or if it drops in reaction to some incident or another.

Then yesterday we had two new users, just joined post some images I felt were disturbing, for different reasons. Not a god way to start in a new community you join, and I was concerned by the perception of those in the Fediverse at large – when there's already animosity as detailed in the long discussions with DK and cohorts.


Report it, report it!

...Is what we tell everyone, and the best way to act promptly on any bad actors. We might not be online, or deep into participating in some thread, doing other work in the computer, etc. But a user Report will do a few things:

  • it will open a case, and show in the Mastodon Moderation panel.
  • it will send emails to all the Mods and Admin staff at the site.
  • it will start a process, which has records step by step ; every action we take is logged in the system.

These two images spooked me; upon thinking, I decided to report each post, but not act to let other staff people look at them and opine on course of action to follow.

Waited for some time, and now, the next day, went to see the status.

Reported posts or users are shown as Report #xxx, each with an assigned number, which is included in all emails, logs, etc. The two reports I made were still open (no final action had been taken, which would close them, logging who did what, and any comments they left.)

There were notes left, one in each case, suggesting contacting the users in question and asking them to change the images by adding a Content Warning, CW for short. Looking at the controls, I saw I had the option of adding the CW myself, and as a staff person concerned with instance's perceived nature, felt justified in doing so.

The snapshot above shows the logged actions as they appear on the case, now closed.

I edited each image, removing user names and any identifiable particulars, other than my own username, which is used here in the signature of every post, so no secret.


How bad were they ?

I felt they were bad, in different ways.

The first one was an illustration of a maniacal man, one that had a huge impact in the 20th century. Would annoy many with fixated eye contact it contains. A copy of it is stored here (external link) if you want to see it.

The second one shows a predatory attitude, a man armed and showing a dead animal he had just murdered. A copy of it is stored here (external link) if you want to see it.

Under Renato's Mastodon instance rules, these would not be acceptable, and removed immediately. Possibly consequences might come to the user, who is warned at the front door, even before joining, that the community is a moderated instance, and that the rules page listed here apply if they want to request membership.


Now what ?

Another two images followed, which I have qualms about, but both were posted by staff members and I declined to act or report on them for that reason.

Other than deciding this was the right time to create this post, which ties up different things and will propose we start a discussion and revision process on the currently displayed “About, More” rules page at Qoto.org.

Upon going out to gather links, images and references for this post, I noticed that DW's original Instance banning thread, now one week old, has 41 Boosts as of earlier this morning, Dec 31, 2019.

So there's a sentiment, there's hostility, and should we not worry and ignore it? That's not my nature, and I see some of the reasons for their concern, so as promised to my friend in our Direct Messages dialogue, I am starting this. Thank you, for helping me and inspiring continuing action, mon ami.

Happy New Year, Fediverse, communities who accepted me, friends I have met through them, thank you all for enjoyable times and the intense intellectual stimulation our interactions brought me.


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

RG. @design_RG@Qoto.org

Después de haber estado usando la maravillosa plataforma de blogs Write.freely durante un par de semanas ahora, finalmente me encontré con una bonita página de documentación (idioma francés). Desearía haberlo visto antes, ya que no encontré mucha información de la que aprender cuando empecé.

La Guía fué preparada por Ange, y tenía como objeto ayudar a las personas interesadas en utilizar la instancia write.freely en TeDomum.net — que ha sido el hogar de toda mi escritura en blogs hasta ahora.

Dado que no hay mucha documentación, me pareció útil y un proyecto interesante tomar Ange's Guide y preparar una traducción al inglés, publicarla en mi blog y difundir la palabra.

Ahora, de la traducción Inglesa, hizo esta version en Español.

  • Original publicado en la Wiki Documentación a TeDomum

  • El HTML crudo fué copiado de la fuente arriba; luego paginado pacientemente para el consumo humano y limpiado. La mayoría de las etiquetas html fueron eliminadas, reemplazadas por equivalentes MarkDown; mucho más agradable de usar!

  • Realmente hé disfrutado descubriendo la simplicidad y el poder de MarkDown – y aprendido mucho con el maravilloso, Guia Tutorial interactivo ahí.

  • Un proyecto interesante, sumergirse en esto y ver el código complejo generado por la Wiki para una página típica.


General :

Write Freely le permite crear blogs conectados al Fediverso. Su interfaz és bastante simple, pero permite utilizar HTML y Markdown para el diseño de página, formato, inserción de imágenes, etc.

Registrarse en el servicio:

El registro para el servicio se realiza de forma muy sencilla rellenando el formulario de suscripción en la página principal de la instancia de Writefreely.

Tenga en cuenta que no es necesário registrarse para ver y leer un blog.

Usando Write.freely :

En primer lugar, debe iniciar sesión a través de la página principal de la instancia write.freely.


Nota del editor: ¿Registrarse en otras instancias?

También puede registrarse en cualquiera de las instancias permitiendo nuevas cuentas! También hay listas en: The-Federation.info y Fediverse Network


Interfaz de usuario y controles :

Al pasar el cursor sobre la barra de menús superior, donde algunos botones ya están visibles, los botones de otras funciones se muestran. Es con esta barra de menús que usted será capaz de navegar entre las diferentes páginas :

  • El botón 1 le permite ir a la página que le permite ver o personalizar su blog.
  • El botón 2 es un menú desplegable:

Las dos primeras opciones le permiten elegir si desea Publicar su artículo (haciéndolo visible en todo el mundo) o si desea mantenerlo como un Draft (provisional, no visible, para su posterior edición, etc.).

Tenga en cuenta que si desea obtener una vista previa del artículo antes de publicarlo, la elección de draft es recommended.

El View Blogs (veer blogs) tiene la misma función que el botón 1 descrito anteriormente y la opción View Drafts (ver borradores) hace lo mismo que el botón 6.

Por último, la opción Log Out le permite cerrar sesión en su cuenta.

El botón 3 le permite elegir otra fuente.

El contador 4 le permite ver el número de palabras contenidas en el artículo que se está escribiendo.

El botón 5 le permite cambiar el editor a Dark Mode / Modo Oscuro :

(nota del editor: mi modo preferido, ya que es mucho más fácil para los ojos para largas sesiones de edición)

  • El botón 6 le permite ver los borradores que ha guardado anteriormente.

  • El botón 7 permite que el artículo sea publicado (que se está visificando y en vivo en la web).


Escribir un artículo :

Qué códigos de formato utilizar:

Es posible utilizar etiquetas de marcado HTML o las más simples y fáciles MarkDown; o hacer una mezcla de ambos tipos.

  • Una mezcla de etiquetas de marcado HTML y MarkDown en la ventana del editor:

  • Que se muestra así en un navegador :


Uso de un HashTag (ou Tag) :

Las etiquetas se pueden usar en Write.freely. Para ello, solo tienes que poner marcas hash en tu artículo, seguido de la palabra que quieras. Esto hará posible hacer una lista de todos los artículos con un tema común y hacer una mejor referencia a sus artículos, especialmente en Mastodon.

Ejemplo con la marca hash “#toutcasser” :

Que creará enlaces de nuevo en Mastodon, incluso si no es visible en el mensaje :


Personaliza la presentación de tu blog:

Es posible personalizar la presentación de tu blog (descripción, visualización de artículos, etc...)

Para ello, tienes que ir a tu blog y seleccionar la opción customize(personalizar):

En la parte inferior de la página, tendrás la opción de añadir tu propio CSS:

Tenga en cuenta que puede utilizar esta guía Reference guide to CSS (en Inglés) para escribirla.


Estadísticas de sus páginas de blog:

Para ver estadísticas actualizadas de todas tus páginas, ve a tu blog y selecciona la opción stats:

A continuación, verá una página como esta:


Notas del editor :

  • Un gran Gracias! para Ange por la preparación de su versión original francesa de la documentación en Wiki — hizo la creación de esta versión en Español *mucho más fácil que la creación de una guía totalmente nueva desde cero *.

  • He añadido palabras adicionales en algunos lugares, pensando que podría *facilitar la lectura para un nuevo usuario *; el público previsto para una guía introductoria como esta.

  • El texto original en francés se tradujo en bloques de párrafos a través de la maravillosa herramientaBing Translator. Esta versión en Español también se há producido con Bing Translate.

  • Cualquier error posiblemente introducido en el proceso de preparación de esta versión es mío.

  • Y acabo de encontrar un otro Guia en Inglés, Writer's Guide en Writefreely.org ¡Marcandole!


Gracias por leer esto, por favor no dude en comentar sobre este post, su opinión es importante. Esta página creada completamente en lenguaje MarkDown.

Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

RG. @design_RG@Qoto.org


A collection of useful Firefox extensions.

Modern browsers have a lot of power and display content pretty well. But even for the general user, they need some essential add-on Extensions to complement and make life in the Web saner and more comfortable.

Examples?

  • Ad removing.
  • Password tracking.
  • Tracking blockers, etc.

I have used some of these on the screenshot above for years, while others are newer, discovered recently, when needing some extra, some control or a streamlined experience.

For today's page, I will list and describe each of the Extensions currently in use here, at RG Central laptop and my other machines. The screenshot shows some of the currently active add-ons, in alphabetical order; but I think it makes sense to break them into some categories, from must have for all to more niche applications.

The idea for this post came for a discussion thread at our Qoto.org mastodon instance, and I thank Shibaprasad for inspiring it!


Which Browser :

My browser of choice is Firefox, I use a variant of it called Waterfox, developed and maintained by Alex Kontos. Since October, 2019, Waterfox has split into two streams, and you have a choice :

  • Waterfox Classic : is the same project that has been evolving over the years, and has enhancements over the standard Mozilla Firefox like removing telemetry (remote logging of usage, crashes, usage patterns), and allowing the installation and use of some older FF extensions no longer supported by main stream Firefox builds.

  • Waterfox Current : this is a new version as of October, and is built on top of very recent Firefox Quantum Beta builds. I loved this version as soon as I first tested – the speed and stability has been wonderful, and I use it exclusively nowadays. The latest versions will be available from the Waterfox project Download pages, and it should be updated once a month more or less.

All of the extensions listed here are currently available for Firefox browsers and variants. Many might be available for Chromium based browsers (a big group which includes Google Chrome, Vivaldi, Brave, Opera, and even the upcoming MS Edge Chromium-based version to be released in January, 2020).

If you do use one of those others, read on and if interested, search your own browser's extensions/add-on repositories.


Must Haves for all :

Ad Remover :

I can't use a computer sanely without controlling the assault of advertising that is present in many sites. There are various different ad-blocking add-ons, I have used different ones over the years but since finding uBlock Origin it has been the one for me.

Password manager :

Another essential tool, to keep the account information (username, password, any special notes for the site) stored and safe. They also allow you to get this information anytime, from any computer you are using – even if it's not your usual environment, you are away from home and office, just borrowing a desktop at a library, for example.

I had used Last Pass for some years, but due to some bugs that started creeping in, went looking for a better alternative. Found it in BitWarden, and have been happy with it. Use it on all my machines, so any account saved in one is synchronized to the BW vault and available on all the others when needed. Sync is great for anyone using more than one device.

Websites create little text files in our devices, cookies, to store and save settings; user data, session IDs, etc. Sometimes cookies can be beneficial (like keeping you logged in to a site), many other times they can be annoying or restrict your use of the site (a set maximum number of articles per month, on a news site for example).

Some of the annoyances can be bypassed by removing the cookies — but best not all of them, just for that particular site. Cookie Remover is a small and simple add-on, which sits in the browser waiting for a click on it's icon; which will remove all cookies for the website in the current browser tab.

Does the job with no fuss, and sometimes that's all you need for accessing more info from that place.


For Active Readers :

if you are into the video watching, YouTube bandwagon, I don't have many suggestions for you, as I prefer to read than watch a random video. Granted, sometimes a well made video can distill a complex theme into a fast introduction and hook a new interest, bringing a new reader to a site.

These are Add-ons I use and recommend for the active readers.

Page translator :

Some browsers, like Chrome, offer built in translation for websites in foreign languages. I don't use Chrome at all, and try t keep my use of Google services to the bare minimum if possible.

Recently I discovered the Page Translator Revised add-on, which has the nice option of using either Google or Bing Translators. Preferring to avoid Google's properties, I found this upon searching for “Bing Translator” specifically. There are many, many add-ons for Google translation alone, which I wasn't interested in.

Bypassing Paywalls :

Too common nowadays, and an annoyance for an active reader. I choose to support sites that I access daily, like the wonderful The Guardian newspaper, which requests a contribution but does NOT restrict content from users who either can't afford or prefer not to pay for their service.

The Guardian is an uncommon exception – many other places will allow only a minimal amount of reading (like 5 pages per month), before locking you out of some or all of their content.

There are tools to deal with that; in some cases, the Cookie Remover listed in the previous section will be all you need. Other times, that won't be enough.

I discovered the Bypass Paywalls extension from a mention in a website, where I was looking for a way to bypass a specific site's paywalls. This add-on is NOT hosted at the Mozilla add-on depository, as it would attract pressure from media publishers.

Get it from the author's Git page here, and once installed it will update itself automatically.

Saving Pages for Later :

I love the wide access to information we get in the web — and as a result follow many linked suggestions from pages I am currently reading. The number of tabs in use here is always more than an average user, but with a good machine and browser that seems manageable.

Having a tool to save some newly found page for later reading is useful – allowing me to keep a record to return to later, but being able to close this tab to reduce memory usage. In My Pocket is the extension I just discovered for that, and creating a Pocket accountwill allow you to quickly send any tab's URL to Pocket, in one click, and close the tab without remorse. Recommended for compulsive reference readers! :)

Backing up Sessions :

As I work and have so many tasks, websites, mastodon instances, references, etc all open at once, the chance of a crash is worrisome as much will be lost.

Found the simple and reliable My Sessions add-on to help, and it has been good. It can create a backup on demand (when you request it to), or just do it automatically in the background. In case of a crash, power outage or pressing the wrong key after a long day at work, recovering to the last saved session is a nice thing!


For the Fediverse Activist :

Finally, we come to some recent finds that I am enjoying to customize or extend my use of the Fediverse and other main stream social media sites.

Cross-posting from Mastodon :

I do enjoy to have the ability to create a post in Mastodon, and have the choice of having it on my much less used Twitter account.

For that, I use the BirdSite extension, which is quite simple. It runs in the background, adds a twitter button in the regular mastodon web client Toot editor panel. If that button is clicked, the current new post will be saved to the local instance, and also sent to birdsitevia BirdSite extension. It needs a Twitter account, and allowing the app access to it on the first time you try it, and from there it works well.

Keep in mind the very different Limit on Toot lengths versus Tweet maximum : a mere 240 characters. A pity, compared to 500 characters or more in all Mastodon instances. I like longer posts myself, to better explain and elaborate things. But if I want to cross-post, I will keep size limited to allow it to go thru undamaged.

The Toot editor box has a remaining characters counter, to allow you to keep track of current entered text size. (Images are not counted for that limit, and do go thru the bridge as well.)

Getting a better window into information :

Using a widescreen laptop or desktop, I quickly get annoyed with seeing the amount of space wasted in many programmes nowadays. Examples abound, many apps and sites are designed to allow content to be easily displayed on mobile devices (cell phones, tablets).

The central column with information, with varying amounts of wasted space on the left and right sides of the screen results.

Improving on that has been a goal, and I have made many tests, tried different things. I have used the Mastodon Advanced Web Interface (AWI for short), and recently discovered the Collapsed Mastodon add-on which makes that even better. Shibaprasad saw my screenshot of my full screen browsing session, and was curious as how Collapsed Mastodon worked.

I took and posted this snapshot to illustrate it: ( click on image for larger version )

In a nutshell, CM allows you to:

  • have a wide, large Toot reply box pop up right below any particular post you want to reply to; just click on the reply arrow, and it will open the box for typing. Hitting Toot will send it in, and close that box, back to reading mode.

  • clicking on the New Toot pencil icon will open a new Toot Editor box, much larger and nicer that the Mastodon web client default.

Those two alone are worth trying it out!


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

RG. @design_RG@Qoto.org


Letter to a Friend, describing how a project came to be :

Later in the day, I relaxed to some nice music, and wrote a reply letter to K., who is my penpal via the wonderful Slowly app. She is cool, a great writer and reader, interested and following my blogging closely.

Poor K. will be getting another LONG letter, but she will know the main reason for such length and detail is that I thought it would work equally well for a Blog post.

Describing the whole process I worked thru, from a raw webpage View Code, HTML source, through the various steps to turn it into an editable and nicely formatted Blog post.

In a different language but equally useful for new users (now, in English, potentially reaching a large audience).

So, here it is. Just sent the letter, and it will be in the Blog hours before she receives it. But fist a little background info.


Background Info – Write.freely new users guide post :

Finally came across a nice Write.freely new users guide (in French language). The Guide was prepared by Ange, and meant to help people using the write.freely instance at TeDomum.net, home for my blog.

Since there's not much documentation, I decided to take Ange's Guide and prepare an English translation, post it on my blog and spread the word.

The English version is now live here at TeDomum Write.Freely itself.


The Letter itself :

Hei K.!!

LOL, sorry for the inappropriate use of the garland, but that is not my tree, or my house either. It is a photo a friend in Romania sent me with a letter. Sent that photo to a few friends here in Slowly.

Had fun today, created a new blog page that I think might get some good stats for viewing.

I found a nice new user's Guide for the write.freely software I use, at the blog's home Wiki pages. Thing is, the system is in France, and all their documentation is in French, ma aussi.

Still – it looked like an interesting project; I did not have access to the plain text of the Wikipage, but grabbed the HTML source from viewing the page in the browser; and started trying to make sense of it. Owa! :)

It was quite gnarly, not made to be human readable, no spaces or line breaks in the big DIV branch that nested the whole page content. And even there, each line had a lot of references, time stamps, etc, from the wiki creation tool, I think.


Editing and cleaning the source :

But you know me, it was a neat challenge. So I copied that part right off the browser source code viewer, opened a new tab in my text editor, dumped it there. Then saved this, raw first data grab, and saved to a new name for editing – so I could go back to it if I messed something up.

First stage was breaking some paragraphs so I could read and understand the code (it makes sense, but not without any line breaks or even a single space between all the pieces that make up the page.)

Once I had the paragraphs broken up, I copied the text and pasted on a new Blog draft page – to see how things were progressing as I edited and changed it. At first no images at all were displayed (her source had 11 images, all in PNG format); the reason being this code was too complex for the write.slowly editor to present into a blog page.

No worries, it was just the first try; just a question of more cleaning up needed.


Replacing HTML with MarkDown tags :

I started from the top, and replaced the Heading codes from HTML (H1, H2, H3, etc) to the equivalent text sized Markdown ones (simply a hash mark at the beginning of a line; # gives same as H1, etc), which are super simple and unclutter things really well.

Love this new Markdown language, such a great idea – I just started learning it a couple of weeks ago, and have been making much progress and enjoying it.

Other HTML tags also replaced and cleaned up. The images had big blocks of html, with no referrer, etc inside it; once I changed them to the plain Markdown image tags, they displayed perfectly as expected.

An image is inserted like this example; not bad at all:

![this is optional text](https://fullhost-path-to-filename)

I just made some good black coffee (Dark Roast, freshly ground, yummy), had a nice Jazz radio stream in Spotify, and edited away, frequently saving, then sometimes copying over to the blog draft, saving to see how it looked. Progress was apparent. :)

If you wonder why I am going into so much detail, well, guess what? Think this is a nice next page to post at the Blog, as it describes this process of converting a live web HTML page to editable format again.

Will be posting it tomorrow, Friday.

Ange did a really nice job, illustrating her guide with Screenshots as she moved along the text, very nice and helpful for new users, the intended readers. I kept all the original French text until I had cleaned all extraneous html from the file, and it displayed perfectly.


Translating the text :

Only then I went to work on creating a translation, at this point much easier since all the text was readable. Saved as another name (I do have maybe 4 edits saved, at different stages), so I would not mess up and have to redo from much earlier stages.

With all headers and images insertions formatted in MarkDown, it was time for the text translation. I do understand French, much better than I cna speak it; it has been a long time since I had French classes. I copied a couple of paragraphs at a time, pasted then into my favourite Bing Translator tool, and copied back the English output.

The translated text was quite nice, needing little revisions for corrections or more usual style. Working this way, in stages, was easier than trying to handle a large part or the whole page.

And that went well. Once completed, I copied the whole into the Blog editor, and saved; it displayed properly, a few little glitches to be corrected (when you mistype a closing tag, mostly).

Almost done!


Processing the images :

Uhm... Except the images, the same ones Ange has, did not display as well in the blog. Why? The Wiki is formatted to use a normal desktop screen, and some of the images were quite wide, being crops from her own desktop screenshots.

The write.freely software shows a centered column of text in my desktop or laptops. That column is 640 pixels wide, and the reason for displaying it in that format is simply to make it work in both desktop and mobile browsers equally.

I was very pleased a couple of days ago, when I looked at the blog in my mobile phone. It displayed perfectly, sharp and with the same style it shows on my laptop. Really neat, and I can forgive the wasted columns spaces in the laptop, if it allows such a nice and easy compatibility with mobiles; so many people are all about these, can't ignore those users.

OK, so what to do? Image editing time!


Image Editing :

I downloaded all 11 images (noticing how neatly she simply named them 1.png, 2.png and so on). Once all where down on my work folder, I opened one at a time. Looked for any possible or needed cropping (to eliminate some white space if possible), and once cropped if needed, went on to re-saving them. And after a save — resize them for optimal blog display.

Since the blog defaults to 640 pixel wide columns, the ideal image size is also 640 pixels, so down scaling is not needed if the image is larger. Keeping that in mind for all my posts, so it display faster and nicer quality images.

My image editor of choice is freeware, simple and easy to learn one, which happens to be quite powerful too. Irfanview, and I have used it for years. Once you learn the basics, it just works like a nice hand tool, sharp and ready for use.

So I touched all the image files, resizing after any crops needed. Then uploaded them to my favourite image host (which took me a day of research to find, so many lesser featured ones).

Once each image was uploaded, one at a time, I would grab the new image URL, copy it and replace the old location in my draft text.

That part was fun too, all of this project was in fact. :)


Final Touches; then Promoting the new post :

And once this all was done, tested and in the blog host, I just needed a nice image for the page head, which I searched for and found with Bing Images. Crop, resize, upload, edit in the URL and presto, a new blog page complete.

Done, eh? Well, I was done for the web-mastering part; only remaining was announcing the post. I have a method for that already tuned as well.

I prepare yet another little text file, name it blog announce – title, date.txt and compose a little piece inside I can copy and paste into Twitter, Mastodon instances announcing new content (about 5 of them).

Today's announce was this text :

* Write.freely blog – a guide for new users *

Ange made a nice and illustrated guide for new users of Write.freely blogs, but it's all in French.

Goal is to help people interested in using the write.freely instance at TeDomum.net — which has been my blog's home. This morning I took some time and translated her guide to English.

Now the page is on my blog: https://write.tedomum.net/rgx/write-freely-wiki-documentation

In Twitter you can only use a short 240 characters, while in Mastodon instances it is minimum 500 chars, sometimes much more. So I might have a very short one like above, and maybe a longer one for Mastodon places, if it makes sense to have more text, longer quotes, or multiple links.

So now I have explained the whole process and hopefully not bored you to death, lol... :)

I am really thinking of the blog audience as I type here, the detailed description could help someone with the patience to read thru and understand it.

So, time to hit the send button, Kali. :)

Check out today's page in the blog, the link is in this paragraph above.

Have a good week and enjoy the Holidays; Happy New Year!

Till next time, sincerely yours,

rgx.


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

RG. @design_RG@Qoto.org

Having been using the wonderful Write.freely blogging platform for a couple of weeks now, I finally came across a nice documentation page (French language). Wish I had seen it earlier, as I did not find much information to learn from when I started.

The Guide was prepared by Ange, and meant to help people interested in using the write.freely instance at TeDomum.net — which has been home for all my writing in blogs so far.

Since there's not much documentation, I thought it useful and an interesting project to take Ange's Guide and prepare an English translation, post it on my blog and spread the word.

  • Original posted at TeDomum Wiki Documentation

  • Raw html was copied from source above; then patiently paginated for human consumption and cleaned up. Most html tags were removed, replaced with MarkDown equivalents; much nicer to use!

  • I have really enjoyed discovering the simplicity and power of MarkDown — learned a lot with the wonderful, interactive Tutorial Guide page.

  • An interesting project, diving into this and seeing the complex code generated by the Wiki for a typical page.


General :

Write Freely allows you to create blogs connected to the Fediverse. Its interface is quite simple but allows you to use HTML and Markdown for page layout, formatting, inserting images, etc.

Signing up for the service :

Registration for the service is done very simply by filling out the signup form at Writefreely instance homepage.

Note that there is no need to be registered to view and read a blog.

Using Write.freely :

First of all, you need to log in via the write.freely instance homepage.


Editor's Note : Signing up at other Instances ?

You can also sign up at any of the instances allowing new accounts! There are also lists on: The-Federation.info and Fediverse Network


User Interface and Controls :

By passing the cursor over the top menubar, where some buttons are already visible, other functions buttons will appear. It is with this menubar that you will be able to navigate between the different pages :

  • The 1 button allows you to go to the page allowing you to view or customize your blog.
  • The 2 button is a drop-down menu:

The first two options allow you to choose whether you want to Publish your article (making it worldwide visible) or if you want to keep it as a Draft (not visible, for further editing, etc).

Note that if you want to preview your article before publishing it, the choice of draft is recommended.

The View Blogs has the same function as the button 1 described above and the View Drafts option does the same as the 6 button.

Finally, the Log out option allows you to log out of your account.

The 3 button allows you to choose another font.

The WordCount 4 allows you to see the number of words contained in the article being written.

The 5 button allows you to switch the editor to Dark Mode :

(editor's note: my preferred mode, since it's so much easier on the eyes for long editing sessions)

  • The 6 button allows you to see the drafts you have saved previously.

  • The 7 button allows the article to be Published (going visible and live on the web).


Writing an article :

Which Formatting Codes to use :

It is possible to use HTML markup tags or the simpler and easier MarkDown ones; or make a mix of both types.

  • A mix of HTML markup tags and MarkDown ones in the Editor Window :

  • Which displays so on a browser :


Using a HashTag (ou Tag) :

Tags can be used on Write.freely. To do this, just put hashmarks in your article – followed by the word you want. This will make it possible to make a list of all articles with a common subject and better reference your articles, especially under Mastodon.

Example with the hashmark “#toutcasser” :

Who will go link back into Mastodon, even if not visible in the message :


Personalize your blog presentation :

It is possible to customize the presentation of your blog (description, display of articles etc...)

To do this, you have to go to your blog and select the option customize:

At the bottom of the page, you'll have the option to add your own CSS:

Please note that you can use this Reference guide to CSS to write it.


Statistics for your Blog pages :

To see uptodate statistics for all of your pages, go to your blog and select the option stats:

You will then see a page like this:


Editor's Notes :

  • A big Thank You to Ange for preparing her original French Wiki documentation version — it made creating this English version much easier that creating a totally new guide from scratch.

  • I have added extra wording in some places above, thinking it might make it easier reading for a new user; the intended audiece for an Introductory Guide like this.

  • The French original text was translated in paragraph blocks via the wonderful Bing Translator tool.

  • Any errors possibly introduced in the process of preparing this version are my own.

  • And just found a Writer's Guide at Writefreely.org itself. Bookmarking!


Thank you for reading this, please feel free to comment about this post, your input is important. This page created entirely in MarkDown language.

R.G. @design_RG@Qoto.org