Category Archives: Technology

Skyrim 10th Anniversary Edition

Yes, that’s correct. Bethesda and their masters at Microsoft are putting out yet another version of Skyrim. Just in time for the game’s 10th Anniversary, it will be released next month. Probably on the 11th, just like the original was.

Why It’s NOT A Good Thing:

The new edition will include improvements that will allow the game to take advantage of higher settings and performance available to newer machines. THAT part is good.

However, PCGamer.com is also reporting that the upgraded code will break all existing mods for the game, and that the plan is to make the basic version of ‘Anniversary Edition’ a forced upgrade of ‘Special Edition’. Ergo, players won’t have any say in the matter for keeping their previous version and the literal TONS of free content for the game produced by other players.

The ‘upgrade’ from MS Visual Studio 2015 to the 2019 version will change the ‘under the hood’ code that free content producers use as “hooks” to connect their content to the actual game. There are roughly 40,500 free mods to plug into the game at Skyrim SE Nexus alone. None of which will work moving forward.

The ability to easily “mod” their games has been a trademark and selling point for Bethesda games for almost 2 decades. They publish a free editor to allow players to create content. For the last few years however, they’ve gotten greedy and were no longer content to make money off of their own work. Now they want to make money off of others’ work as well.

The “Creation Club”:

The Creation Club is Bethesda and Microsoft’s attempt to monetize the work of others AND to increasingly move towards monopolizing distribution of all player created content.

It allows those folks the ability to charge for their work, BUT with Bethesda taking a sizable chunk of any money earned under the guise of quality assurance and providing a virtual store front for the mods. In the mean time, Bethesda releases new updates to their games that break mods which don’t come from their hosting site. That was almost weekly when I last played Skyrim SE (almost a year ago). That in turn left the mod developers scrambling to make patches.

It’s quite the extortion racket that Bethesda has going there. Maybe they were a good acquisition for Micro$oft after all.

Speaking of extortion and bad business… The “full” edition of Anniversary Edition (beyond the forced game engine upgrades) will cost $40 and consist almost entirely of paid mods from their “Creation Club”

TES VI… Some Year, MAYBE…

Let’s not also forget this is yet another stalling tactic for Bethesda to avoid doing any development of Elder Scrolls 6, despite years of fan outcry for the project. That should came as little surprise though when Bethesda’s president went on record as saying they’re “not a two button vending machine and will make what we want”.

And people call Trump a narcissist. How a company stays in business when they’re so deliberately blind to their market is completely beyond me…

Is My 35mm Nikon Now Obsolete?

Cellphone camera technology has officially hit the point of wowing me. I remember the EARLY days of phone cameras when the picture quality was on par with a floppy disk video game’s VGA graphics, lol

Enter the Samsung S21 Ultra:

Image via Samsung.com

One spec sneaked into that pic already; the FRONT camera is 40 Megapixels. By comparison my Nikon D3400 is a 24 Megapixel camera:

Image via Walmart.com

That’s nearly identical to the kit I got at a big box membership store before our honeymoon in Hawai’i. The camera let me take some pretty spectacular shots. Most of the ones I posted here from that trip were actually taken with my iPhone 10 simply because the file sizes were too big with the Nikon:

Suffice it to say the Nikon turned out images that were twice as good and enlarged better. We have five of them on our dining room wall. Apple is still plodding along at 12 megapixels for it’s newest camera phones. The lens quality is better with each new version, BUT the iPhone 13 is still 1/2 the base level image quality of the Nikon.

Let’s get back to the Samsung though:

Image via Samsung.com

Yes, you read that correctly… The primary ‘wide angle’ lens is 108 megapixels!

An actual pic from the camera, via Samsung,com

Samsung is also claiming a 100x “Space Zoom” on it. The folks at the local phone store said one recent customer zoomed in on a water tank on a hill in the distance (eyeballing it, it looked like about 2 miles away), and they were all able to read the print on the water tank.

What is “Space Zoom”?

I had to look this one up myself. It’s a combination of optical and digital zoom. Any true camera nut will tell you that there’s no substitute for true optical zoom. It’s real picture quality vs artificial enhancement. HOWEVER… all you have to do is look at the picture above this one to see that the camera phone definitely seems to have good lens quality also.

Test Drive Pending:

Will it replace a true 35mm DSLR camera? We shall soon find out. My spouse and I got fed up with our insanely high bill from AT&T, and switched carriers. We’re going to save over 30% monthly on our bill and get two new S21 Ultras. We’re just waiting for the phones to be delivered. After some test driving, I’ll report back on the camera quality. Maybe I’ll even do a full review.

Our Nikon D3400 is considered an “entry level” 35mm camera. There are ones out there with higher resolution capability. Most of them come with extremely high price tags also. I’m skeptical that the Samsung’s phone can compete with a professional level DSLR with a good lens kit. Lens size, and even file format makes a difference. RAW files save an incredible amount of detail that even a JPEG loses.

An Expert Explanation (AKA Don’t Believe the Hype)

In fact, I found somebody who did a quickie comparison on YouTube already:

If you don’t want to watch the 5 minute comparison… The image quality was extremely close in most cases, however, when he got back to file format / size and the ability to edit pics at a professional level, here’s what he had in the notes of the video:

“Why did I lightly edit the Canon 1DX Mark II pictures instead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra pictures? Because the highly compressed .jpg images coming out of the Galaxy S21 Ultra would probably have fallen apart if I tried to push the color as much as I did with the Canon 1DX Mark II.”

He goes on to explain that camera image sensor and lens size make a huge difference in how much light can be captured, and thus how much fine detail can be captured. A dedicated DSLR camera has 12x the lens and camera sensor size.

The fact that the newest camera phone can turn out 99% equal quality base images is due to the phone essentially photoshopping the image immediately after taking it. Settings like portrait mode use a combination of minor lens manipulation and built in filters to enhance the the clarity and color of picture.

Conclusion:

A camera phone isn’t likely to replace a true professional’s camera kit for years to come. For the rest of us who simply want our vacation photos to look as good as possible, the need for a dedicated camera may very well be drawing to an end.

Despite the above video being very credible, I will be doing my own testing and posting the results here. We’ll see for ourselves if a camera phone has finally reached the point of replacing a 35mm DSLR for the typical home photographer.

FINALLY!!! Scrivener 3 for Windows!

As I’m starting to gear up for more writing, I decided to check yet again to see if the oft promised and never released Scrivener 3 was released for Windows.

IT’S HERE!!!

Not only that, they even kept their word and gave me my upgrade from 1.x for free!

I have to be honest, at this point I’ve just downloaded it and am beginning to work through the tutorial. The only thing new that I’ve seen thus far is the ability to easily insert pictures and videos into your project. I’m not even sure if the videos have to be linked via YouTube or something similar.

Some stuff, as noted in the description I… borrowed from the Scrivener home page has been moved around and “cleaned up”. I’ll see if this ends up to be better organized or not. At this VERY early hour, the two things that I can report are:

  1. That gawdawful, clunky Windows 95 era interface is FINALLY gone
  2. The new version is 64 bit, so it’s a good deal more responsive.

I suspect my previous review will hold true that you can do anything with Office that Scrivener can do. It’s just a question of IF Scrivener has finally made it easier and cleaner to do it with them; one tool instead of 3 or 4.

If you own a copy of 1.x you’re eligible for either a free upgrade or half off depending upon when you bought it, so check it out:

Scrivener for Windows home page at Literature and Latte

Beyond that, I’ll report back in a day or two how things have been going for me.

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

Roomba for BBQ Grills!?! O_o

Yes, I kid you not. I was looking up some grilling info on YouTube earlier and I got THIS as a commercial before the video started:

On the surface, it’s a cool idea. But, really… how freaking lazy do you have to be that you can’t scrub off the grill racks? Even if you don’t full wash them, it only takes 30 seconds or so to scrub them with a wire brush.

THIS level of laziness is why Western society is in freefall.

On top of that, the thing just runs around on the surface of the grill, bouncing off the walls. Ergo those exposed bristles are going to end up damaging the interior paint. High heat powder coat paint is NOT cheap either.

If you had a bare stainless steel interior like some newer grills, I suppose you’d be OK there. Otherwise, I’ll pass.

Oh and did I mention it has lithium ion batteries BUT is safe up to 250 degrees per the commercial? Yeah. Lithium ion batteries LOVE heat, LOL.

Well, this reviewer liked it anyway:

Watching a few reviews, I don’t believe this thing cleans any better than I could do in a minute or two with a good wire grill cleaning brush though.

Legitimate Free, Quality Alternatives to Adobe Products

Yes, Lightroom CAN be that bad…

I was reading a blog earlier today with yet another story of inexcusably horrific customer service from Adobe. Since Photoshop and their other products have a huge market share, Adobe tends to treat it’s customers with utter contempt. The post inspired me to go through multiple articles and links, and post the best alternatives to Adobe, their bad service and even worse prices. I worked on this post eight hours and found FREE alternatives to almost everything Adobe makes.

Almost everything I’m posting here is legitimately free, often open source coding based, and frequently just as good if not close to Adobe products in quality. Many of them are available in Linux, and Windows versions, sometimes Mac as well. I’ll note accordingly where I can. Many of them also have at least a few tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere also.

This will be a LONG post since Adobe has several products. Worth the read though if you’re paying $50 a month plus for access to the full Creative Cloud. Let’s get started.

PHOTOSHOP REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

GIMP: Probably the most well known alternative to Photoshop. Early versions were pretty crude with clumsy interfaces / controls. Newer versions are very close to Photoshop in every regard. Very much worth a look, and it has several tutorial videos and sites out there, even at it’s home site. Just search GIMP Tutorials. GIMP also comes in versions for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Unix-like machines.

GIMP Home Page and Download Page Links

Photopea: Is a cloud based photo editor. While not as nice as GIMP, it does do a fair amount, and is good for people using less powerful PCs. It’s good for people using the ChromeOS (ChromeBooks, etc...)

Photopea Home Page Link

LIGHTROOM REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Lightroom is a simplified photo editing program that allows applying filters and other effects quickly with professional results. There are alternatives however.

Darktable: Consistently named the best free alternative to Lightroom. It does everything, or nearly everything, that Lightroom does. The only drawback is a slightly less polished interface. Available for Windows, Mac, and multiple versions of Linux have custom versions. A fair number of tutorials available as well.

Darktable Home Page and Download Page Links

RawTherapee: Another Lightroom replacement with very similar features to Darktable. There are also a decent amount of tutorials out for this program, so for Mac and Windows users, it’s largely a matter of style / interface appearance. Linux users can download an Applmage version.

RawTherapee Home Page and Download Page Links

ILLUSTRATOR REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics program typically used for creating logos and other digital artwork.

Inkscape: Is a full featured vector graphics program with an impressive set of drawing tools and effects. It can do anything Illustrator can do. Some lists claim Inkscape’s interface is fairly dated, but it was recently overhauled a few months ago. Decide for yourselves. There are several tutorials out there but I’m not sure how well they carry over to the new release. Inkscape has Windows, Mac and Linux versions available.

Inkscape Home Page and Download Page Links

Vectr: A web based vector graphics “program” (site). It’s been described as sleek and responsive, with the ability to collaborate online on a project.

Vectr Home Page Link

Gravit Designer: A second impressive web based alternative to Illustrator and Inkscape. Said to be great for UI design.

Gravit Designer Home Page Link

PREMIERE PRO REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Premiere is their video editing software, used by everyone from movie professionals to YouTubers and vloggers.

DaVinci Resolve 16: Full featured video editor that’s capable of even editing 8K definition videos. Professional quality and more than enough for the average YouTuber or video blogger. There is a paid version if you really want to go Hollywood level. Numerous tutorials available, which attests to it’s popularity as a substitute for Premiere. Mac, Windows and Linux versions available for download.

DaVinci Resolve 16 Home Page Link. Button in middle of home page will open a download window.

OpenShot: A little more basic than DaVinci, but still with a wide array of features that include adding as many layers as you need for watermarks, background videos, audio tracks, and so on. Features like video effects, slow motion and time effects are available on this tool. The program has a simple, clean interface, and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Plenty of tutorials available also

OpenShot Home Page and Download Page Links

HitFilm Express: Another full service video editor that promises to combine the best of Premiere and After Effects into one package. Some features are only available as paid add-ons though. Available for Windows and Mac, but not Linux. A goodly number of tutorials available for it as well

HitFilm Express Home Page (download link there) and Add-On Store Page Link (so you can see what’s a paid extra)

AFTER EFFECTS REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

After Effects is for adding visual effects and motion graphics editing. Probably more advanced than most readers will deal with. None the less, there are options out there. Perhaps it’s best to say ONE option that’s free and isn’t tied to a specific video editor.

Natron: Most sites I searched listed this as “having the same basic features as After Effects”, for what that’s worth. SO, it might not be ideal for somebody producing the next Star Wars movie, but I imagine it will be fine for most other folks. It’s site has several community created plug-ins available also. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. As usual, plenty of tutorials are available via YouTube and elsewhere.

Natron Home Page Link (download available from home page)

AUDITION REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Audition is Adobe’s sound editing program. I found three potential replacements here of varying complexity & features

Ardour: The closest thing to a match in terms of features, and capable of supporting almost any audio editing need. As with almost every program I’ve listed today, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Only a modest amount of tutorials, so it’s probably not suited for a rank novice, but if you’re familiar with sound editing already, the controls are very standard.

Ardour Home Page and Download Page Links

Audacity: Has been around 20 years with it’s latest version released last month. It at least comes close to Ardour in features level. With more tutorials available on YouTube and elsewhere, it may be better suited for somebody with less experience recording and editing audio. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and other platforms.

Audacity Home Page and Download Page Links

Sodaphonic: A more basic audio editor that’s web based, again making it ideal for people with older PCs or using Chromebooks. Availability of tutorials seems limited however. It should be capable of handling basic audio editing needs.

Sodaphonic Web Page

ANIMATE REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Animate, AKA Flash rebranded, is Adobe’s 2D animation software. Once again, I have options for you.

Synfig Studios: described by multiple sites as a great all around animator with powerful tools. It even allows some vector art editing as well. Synfig has it’s own wiki and several tutorials. That makes it an ideal option for beginners or experts. You’ll be asked for a VOLUNTARY donation at the download screen but it’s not required. Available for Windows and Linux, and I believe Mac also, but I was having trouble verifying that.

Synfig Studios Home Page and Download Page Links

Pencil2D: A more simple 2D animation tool with an an interface similar to Animate’s (or so I read). Described as fairly basic but easy to work with. A good option for complete beginners and users who just want to play around with 2D animation occasionally. There are a fair number of tutorials available also despite the program’s simplicity. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux

Pencil2D Home Page and Download Page Links

OpenToonz: A truly professional quality animation tool with numerous features, some provided via free plug-ins. Numerous tutorials available also. It looks like it would have a little bit steeper learning curve than the other two, but give you powerful creative options in the end. While it is supposed to be Windows and Mac compatible, one of it’s plug-ins is available for Windows only. No Linux version.

OpenToonz Home Page Link (downloads available from home page)

INDESIGN REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Indesign is the company’s desktop publishing app; similar to MS Publisher. It’s used primarily for creating posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, books etc… I have two options here, depending upon intended use. One is my only paid recommend of this post, but it’s fairly inexpensive.

Scribus: If you’re doing any sort of simple desktop publishing for emails, flyers, magazines, etc… this looks like an absolutely amazing program with a ton of features, and it is free. It makes my copy of Microsoft Publisher look pretty pale by comparison. It’s Scrivener for desktop publishing. Tutorials abound, and it’s available for Windows, Mac, several flavors of Linux and a few other OS as well.

Scribus Home Page and Download Page Links

Scrivener: If you’re writing a book, even a short one, this is THE way to go. You’d need Microsoft Office’s most expensive edition to do everything that Scrivener does. You can even organize notes on characters, locations, etc… right in the program, all the way up to detailed storyboarding. The price has currently been bumped up to $50. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still worth the investment, and still less than half the price of MS Office Home and Student Edition. Available for Mac, Windows and iOS. Tutorials abound also.

Scrivener Home Page and Download Page Links

ACROBAT REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Here is the one program where replacement options are fairly limited. PDF readers are a dime a dozen, and even most browsers can open PDF files. If you’re trying to create a PDF file, Microsoft Word and similar programs will allow you to save your work in PDF format.

Actually EDITING a PDF file like the full version of Acrobat will do… that’s more limited.

There are a few free options though:

First, the previously mentioned Inkscape can be used to do a moderate degree of editing of PDFs.

Microsoft Word (2013 or newer) will also let you edit a PDF, *if* you convert it to a DocX format first. Convert, edit and save back as a PDF. To be honest, I’ve had mixed results with the program’s ability to do this properly.

LibreOffice’s “Draw” program will let you do some PDF editing as well.

Sedja Online PDF Editor: This is a mostly full service PDF editor that’s web based. There are a handful of limitations to keep your PDF work free however. PDFs have to be smaller than 200 pages, less than 50 megs in size, and you can only work on three PDFs per hour. Beyond that, it seems to be able to do most everything Acrobat can do. Uploading PDFs from other websites is not an issue either.

Sedja PDF Editor Website Link

PDFelement: I could describe this as the least bad option as opposed to a good option. PDFelement does everything Acrobat will, BUT unless you’re paying the annual subscription fee, the program watermarks every page of your document. Annoying, but that’s the trade off for the free version of the program that truly will keep up with Acrobat.

PDFelement Home Page (download links on home page)

How to Build a Working Lightsaber… Sort Of…

I find all kinds of weird stuff on the internet and YouTube. Its part of why I hate the direction YouTube is going. No politics for this post though…

One of the craziest YouTube channels I’ve seen is called HackSmith. It’s a handful of science geeks with a love of sci-fi who devote their channel to figuring out how to build real world versions of things like Iron Man’s armor and a lightsaber.

Obviously, they’re not going to get things just like the movies, but it really is amazing what they can come up with.

Take a look at their construction of a 3000 degree Kylo Ren proto-saber.

So does that look like a hot time or what? LOL