Thursday, 30 April 2009

FlashWRITER Update


I decided to get started on the help files. After a bit of research it emerged that there are no less than 3 different ways to display help. I settled on the most used version (HTML Help) and downloaded the free help compiler from Microsoft. Then all I needed was an editor which can handle HTML files. In a moment of recursive brilliance I decided to use FlashWRITER, only to find out that I was not handling HTML tags properly.

I'm now off on a short detour to build an RTF to HTML converter. There doesn't appear to be any freeware components that I can lift, so build it I shall. I will keep this converter fairly simple as I don't imagine that anyone will be building their website by hand using FlashWRITER, I will only include the tags I need to do the Help files. I think I can do this in a few days so I'm not anticipating any delays to the Beta release at this stage.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Coming Soon... FlashWRITER!!!


FlashWRITER is almost ready for beta release and I'm looking for volunteers to test it.

FlashWRITER is a word processor purpose built for writing. 

The current feature list is as follows:
  • All the usual WP functions;
  • Spell Checking;
  • Real time word counts and tracking vs your target word count;
  • Cumulative time spent writing and cumulative word count;
  • Elapsed time and progress against your target writing time;
  • A robust autosave feature which you can customise;
  • Custom Templates for each market which remembers that publishers submission guidelines (eg min/max word counts, file formats, preferred font, line spacing, etc.). You will be able to generate your own templates and share them if you are feeling generous.
  • An email facility so that you can submit your story (as an attachment or in the body). I've tried to capture the entire story writing work flow in one program.
Happy to consider any other feature requests that people might have.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Free Hex Dump Program ...

I have been writing, but nothing fictional. In fact I have been distracted by learning a new language, C#.

Many years ago I was quite the adept programmer and was even being paid for my efforts. The language I was using was Fortran 77 which no doubt dates me.

These days it is all about Object Oriented Programming which is very different to the languages I learnt on (C, Pascal, Cobol and even 6800 assembler). So it was a bit of a learning curve getting familiarised with C#.

My first bit of freeware is a Hex File Dumper because I needed one to help me write another program. A hex dump is a hexadecimal view of the contents of a file. They are handy for reverse engineering how certain programs save files, recovering data, or just having a look at what gets inserted in data files without your knowledge. Most operating systems come with a hex dump utility but I use Windows (which doesn't).

This is a simple programming problem and it took me a couple of days over Easter to whip up.  Click on this link to download it. All the usual caveats apply, this is very much beta software so don't use it on important data and feedback is welcome. Also don't use it to analyse large files (> 250 kB), even loading a 42kB file took 30 seconds on my machine. I'm using a string data type to store the dump file so theoretically you should be able to open up a file with 2^29 characters (i.e. 512 MB) but practically you will be limited by the amount of contiguous memory on your PC and how long you are willing to wait as the file loads. 

It is straightforward to use. File-Open will open up the file to be analysed. You can then save or print the dump file. I have also included an ASCII table in the Help menu to assist in interpreting  the hex representation of the characters. You can edit the contents of the dump file but this won't change the original file.

The Characters Read field will tell you the total number of characters (or bytes) in the file opened and the KiloBytes field is this number divided by 1024.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

First Taste!

We finally got to try our wine yesterday (4th April). It has been a long trip, we bought the land back in 2000. Nine years and many dollars later we took the first sip with some trepidation. We were very worried that it would have all the qualities of aged battery acid. The wine maker (Matt from Wandin Valley Estate - had descriped our wine as approachable. This has a fairly wide range of meaning and could have described a weedy, thin and insipid individual or a happy, fun to be around, party animal.

I would call it damn drinkable - which is a huge relief. It is a fairly light style made totaly from Shiraz. The style is due to all the rain just prior to harvest and will probably be representative of most 2009 Hunter reds. The colour is great, a deep purple, almost majestic to my mind. Extraction was good and we filled all six of our oak barriques. Following primary fermentation (where the sugar gets converted to alchohol) in open fermenters, the resulting must was pressed and pumped off into the barriques where they underwent malolactic fermentation (MLF). Unlike the primary ferment which is performed by yeast, MLF is due to lactic acid bacteria, which eat malic acid for energy, and convert it to lactic acid. This should produce a fuller more rounded mouth feel.

The barrels will now be racked and topped up every few months. We will have a taste just prior to every topping up. You need to top up due to evaporation of water from the wine. This helps concentrate the flavour and hopefully we will get some oak flavours extracted from the barrels as the wine matures. This will add complexity to the final wine. Towards the end of barrel maturation we may add some South Australian Shiraz (up to 5%) to also add complexity. This is said to help fill out the middle palate.

BTW - My latest story "Blood" is up at AntiSF (