Posts Tagged ‘wyrd’

when versus remind

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Right off the bat I want to say that both when and remind are excellent pieces of software.

Common to both are that they are CLI applications, light on resources, and store data in plaintext formats.

They differ in syntax and through that they differ somewhat in complexity, and, although unconfirmed, this may also affect their individual capabilities (i.e. the more complex the syntax, the more time to learn it, but the more powerful the expressions).

Of the two I found out about when first, but I can’t for the life of me recall when or where I first read about it. It may very well have been through StumbleUpon.

remind, on the other hand, was recommended to me some time ago by my very good friend bumby.

Comparing their different syntaxes might be the best way of showing off their differences:

We’ll start with something simple, like a notice to remember the fifth of
November:

when syntax:

* 11 5. Remember, remember, the fifth of November

remind syntax:

REM Nov 5 MSG Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Or, let’s say you want to be reminded to celebrate the birth of the Epoch, and know how “old” the Epoch is now.

In when syntax, that would be expressed as:

1970* 1 1, The Epoch is now \a years old

the same expression would, in remind be:

REM Jan 1 MSG The Epoch is now [year(trigdate())-1970] years old

Now, truth be told, I have created an expression in when which I am not sure I could (or as I probably can, how I would do it) in remind:

y=2010 & m>=4 & ((m=11 & d<6) | (m<11)) & (d=1 | d=11 | d=21), #FSCONS2010, #fscons@freenode, 14:00

During the planning of FSCONS 2010, we had meetings at 14:00 hours the 1st, 11th and 21st of every month between April and November. This expression kept me on track.

I guess I can rest assured that bumby will spend all night coming up with the equivalent expression for remind ;)

Since I while back I decided that remind was the right choice for me. What was the killer feature which had me leave when for remind? Well, truth be told, the feature isn’t in remind at all.

The one thing I lacked in when was some sort of graphical “calendaric” view. Sure, in a pinch cal will do the job, but I wanted something more flexible, something more interactive, something more like… calcurse.

The only problem? calcurse stores appointments in a file of its own, in a different format, and even if I had acted on my initial urge to write a converter between the two formats, I would still have been in violation of the DRY-principle.

This problem doesn’t exist with remind, as there exist a software almost identical to calcurse named wyrd, with the one crucial difference: where calcurse store appointments in a format of its own, wyrd operates solely on the files used by remind.

So was it worth it? Switching from a syntax I fully comprehend, to a more complex one which will take me a while to learn? A switch which also meant having to rewrite the Important Dates Notifier-script? In the long term? Yes, it will be worth it. In the long term, complexity will turn into power, as I begin to better understand the syntax, and become able to fully utilize it.

But for anyone with a brain wired like mine (thinking the FSCONS-meeting example above made perfect sense), who can live without any additional power/complexity, I still warmly recommend when. And if you need that power, have a look at remind. It might be just what you need.

:wq

My software stack revisited – Organizing

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Back in the original post, I don’t think I actually had this category at all. In fact, I do believe all the applications I am about to list in this post are additions to my stack.

Knowledge management

Knowledge is power. But only if you have that knowledge accessible and stored in a fashion which makes the retrieval of the relevant parts of it both simple and timely.

This is more true the more knowledge you accumulate.

For storing growing amounts of knowledge, I have come to find a wiki the best alternative. It does require some initial thinking, about how to structure the information being saved within it, but in my experience the benefits outweigh the work. Simply think of it as an investment.

Some of the knowledge I collect is pure information which no one but me should have access to, so I didn’t especially like the idea of putting the stuff into a web-based wiki. And that’s where desktop wikis comes into relevancy.

I tried out Zim, a GUI-centric desktop wiki. It works great, and I do recommend it. And it is as lightweight as they come. But… that was before I realized there is a Vim plugin: VimWiki.

Outlining

For some reason I find it much easier to break down problems into smaller pieces if I use software (or hardware, pen and paper FTW), than if I do it in my head.

Whatever the reason for this is, I have found a friend in another Vim plugin: VimOutliner. One of the tasks that VimOutliner helped me split into smaller pieces, and organize? This series of posts.

Calendar

Like with the knowledge management (and Zim), I have already managed to iterate through a solution, which consisted of the CLI-based cal, which just prints out a simple three month view (previous, current, next) and should be included by default in most if not all GNU/Linux distributions, when which is a script that parse a file filled with rule-based constraints, all detailing dates, or ranges of dates, when things happen.

when is an excellent piece of software, and if you can take the syntax (me, being a programmer, found it quite straightforward) but I began feeling a lack of putting it all in context easily when adding new dates (specifically if I already had appointments on a specific date, and what dates would possibly be better).

Which made me try out calcurse. Not to replace when, but to complement it. Sadly neither when, nor calcurse, saves date/appointment data in a format which the other recognize. In fact, both save in a format only they themselves understand. This made synchronizing between the two inefficient.

I said that when is excellent. I also said that I’d iterated through a solution, which means I am no longer using when. And I wouldn’t replace an excellent piece of software with a mediocre one, so whatever I replaced when with, would need to be at least as good as when, but without the drawbacks.

Enter bumby who came along and urged me to try remind which does the exact same thing as when, but with a different syntax. But remind has one big advantage. There is another program, wyrd, which is to remind what calcurse was to when, with one difference: wyrd doesn’t save appointments in a format of its own. It is just a wrapper around reminds appointment files.

All these files, whether from when, calcurse or remind, are of course all plaintext.

Contacts

Finally, comes an address book, simply named abook. It is an ncurses-based lightweight little application for storing and viewing contact information about people.

Thunderbird provides the same thing, so some duplication of effort / breaking of DRY is occurring here, but I feel it justified as I could fetch relevant information from abook, and be on my way contacting the person, before Thunderbird has loaded and come into a usable state.

The next post will be focusing on the largest single change to have been implemented since the original post: the addition of a server.

:wq