Alternatives to Microsoft

I’ve been a Mac user for 20 years. It was the first personal computer I bought, and I stuck with it, even when it looked like Apple wouldn’t be able to stick around itself.

I’ve also been a Microsoft user for that long. But that relationship hasn’t been as gratifying as the one with the Mac. It’s always seemed to me that Microsoft considered Apple a rival, and while it had to develop software for Macs, it did so only grudgingly.

Lately, I’ve been having trouble with my version of Microsoft Office. Specifically, with Word. Macro viruses contaminate every Word document I write, which is a real pain when I have to share them. I clean the docs with Virex, a good anti-virus software for Macs, but the problem shouldn’t exist in the first place.

The solution? Open source software. It’s free, it relies on public feedback for continued upgrades, and it’s usually better than the commercial software it replaces.

I’ve replaced Micrsoft Word with the open source word processor Abiwrite. It’s lean, not bloated. It’s fast. And it saves documents in Word format, should you need a Word document for work purposes, or sharing with others.

I prefer Abiwrite to another good open source program, NeoOffice. As its name implies, NeoOffice comprises a whole office suite, including a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation and drawing programs. But Abiwrite “feels” sleeker.  It’s become my word processor of choice.

I’ll write on other open source software from time to time, but meanwhile, you might find your own.  Open your favorite search engine, type in open source software and your OS, either Mac or PC, and see what comes up.  I’ll bet you’ll find one–or several–that do a great job for you, and at the right price.


Idiot freeway drivers

I drive on a busy Interstate freeway most days of the week, for a stretch of about 20 miles.  Traffic in my part of the country moves fast.  I  often set my cruise control at 80, and still have to make way for faster traffic passing on my left.  I figure that as long as everyone drives about the same speed, since we’re all traveling the same direction, even these high speeds can be relatively safe.

But there’s always someone to screw things up.  The other day during rush hour, I witnessed a near miss.  I was going my usual 80, and was being passed on my left by a car going about 85.  But no sooner did he pull ahead of me that he had to go for his brakes in a hurry.  The car he was creeping up on couldn’t have been traveling more than 70.

People, the right lane is for slower traffic.  The middle lane is for traffic traveling at the “average” speed (relative to traffic around them).  The left lane is for passing.  It’s the so-called “fast” lane.

If you’re in the fast lane, for goodness sakes, drive fast!

Please, no copycats

I was debating whether to write about the Virginia Tech massacre.  There’s really not much to say about it that hasn’t already been said, and said better, by others.  But there is one aspect to the shootings that does worry me–the possibility of copycat incidents.

What happened at Virginia Tech was so horrific, even potentially homicidal maniacs should be put off by it.  But my faith in humankind has been shattered in the past, on a number of occasions.  If someone else opened fire somewhere else, it wouldn’t surprise me.

I am personally concerned about the possibility of a copycat killer, because I am on the faculty at a university. We have our share of sociopathic loners, although they are so few that you really take notice of them when you do spot one.  I’ll have to check into the university police department’s contingency plans in the event of such an incident here.  In the meantime, I’ll be a little more alert as I walk through our building and across the campus.

Jogging layoff

I’m constantly fighting a battle with my midsection, and for almost 30 years I’ve jogged two or three times a week to try to slim down. My runs aren’t long, between two and three miles along streets in my suburban subdivision. They are long enough, however, for me to feel exhilarated when they’re over. I’ll run anywhere between 25-35 minutes, and that gets my heart pumping, my blood flowing, and my endorphins dancing.

But two weeks ago, I came home from a three-mile run with a pain in my right knee. Not a severe stabbing pain, but a dull soreness that was still there the next day. And the day after that, and after that again. I’m now in the middle of my longest jogging layoff of the last few years, and I’m not sure when–or if–I’ll be taking to the roads again.

Luckily, I have my wife for inspiration. She’s been training for a 50-mile charity bike ride, and has been doing weekend rides of 20, 25, and 28 miles. It’s done wonders for her. Her weight is down, she fits into those clothes that have been sitting in the closet for years, because “someday when I lose weight” she would need them, and her endurance is way up. Maybe it’s time for me to get back on my bike. Jogging has been the exercise that seems to work best for me, but if it’s going to wear out my joints, I’ll have to rethink how I stay fit.

Have you ever tried long distance biking for exercise?


Some time ago, I opened a Facebook account, altho I never actually made a Facebook site. So I was surprised today when an acquaintance I haven’t seen in two years invited me to be her Facebook friend.

This whole social networking thing baffles me. (I’ll spill the beans–I’m well into middle age. Perhaps even on the downside of it.) Walking along the street, I sometimes hear young people call out to each other, “I’ll Facebook you.” Already it’s become a verb.

Seems to me that too much of you is out there on Facebook. And I’m not just talking about pictures, although it seems most folks have gotten the idea that risque pix of themselves won’t do them much good in the future, like at job hunting time. But a lot of pages post telling information about the person. If you consider your life an open book, fine. I think some things should be private.

How did I respond to the invite to become a Facebook friend? I bit. And despite what I just said above, I built my own page. And after using it awhile, I might start using nouns as verbs in my conversations, too.

Hello world!

Friday the 13th.  An auspicious day to begin a blog.

I’ll be feeling my way for awhile.  I have some ideas of topics to write on, but no idea about which will trip my trigger enough to develop into a main theme for the blog.  With any luck, that will become apparent with time.