08 July 2008

Progress: my rant about technology

At the moment, I'm wrestling with my printer, trying to convince it to print out my novel. It's old. A laser printer -- 300 dpi, and it cost me $1100, an awful lot of money at the time, which tells something about how old it is. I'm guessing about 15 years, and it's served me well. Very well. I've never done any maintenance to it, never had any problems -- up till now. (Can't say the same about our inkjet we bought six months ago -- same brand, which is clogged and not working at all.) Now, the paper feeder on the old laser is worn, and every few pages the paper misfeeds, and I have to unjam the printer, ending up with two mangled pages, half a page of wasted toner, and then more and more and more misfeeds. It's enough to make a writer tear her hair out.

My solution would seem easy -- buy a new laser printer, except that I'm using my old computer and Windows 98. This computer's no longer on the internet, and I'm sure it won't have drivers for any new printer that I get, and they won't have drivers compatible with such an old dinosaur.

My problems don't end there. Most of the novel was written using WordPerfect. Can I tell you how much I love this program? Let me say two words: "reveal codes" -- the one thing that gives me so much more control than I seem to be able to get in Word. I love the way WordPerfect looks, I love the little arrows on the toolbar that let me zip backwards and forwards to find the same word, so I can quickly check that I haven't used it too often in too short a space. I love that there's a little window there all the time that acts as a thesaurus, and that I get about four times as many choices as Word's thesaurus ever gives me. And "reveal codes" -- have I mentioned that? Oh, yeah, I did, but it's worth mentioning again. When I'm laying out Poetrix, I can adjust letter space and word space if I need to, I can rotate text ninety degrees to get a shape poem on the page. Trying to do such things in Word would give my brain a meltdown. There would be much yelling in the house. And some swearing.

But, alas, WordPerfect is also starting to meltdown. Now, when I do a table and print it, it comes out in a lovely checkerboard pattern. Nice if that was what I wanted, but it inevitably is not. A waste of ink. And hard to read. Then WP took a disliking to my novel. Whenever it got to a certain page it crashed. In the end, I did what I had to and saved it as a Word file and began working on it in Word, which led to other sorts of problems. I'm using underlining for italics, as all good editors and most good writers do, and, as I've chosen to show my telepathic conversations with itals, I sometimes had successive paras beginning and ending with itals. And what did Word do? Very helpfully underlined all the indents. They were not underlined before. Grrrr. Don't get me started on Word...

Really, it's a sad day for all of us that WordPerfect is not a viable option anymore. I'm using Version 8 -- a beautiful program -- but XP on my laptop doesn't like it at all and now refuses to open it. And you can't get it for Macs at all anymore. If you subscribe to conspiracy theories, there's the suggestion that Bill Gates paid Corel a lot of money not to make a Mac-compatible version anymore. I hope that's false. Lack of competition is not good for anyone, least of all us monkeys at the bottom of the equation. In the past, Word and WordPerfect fed improvements to each other. Competition's good, right?

One of the other great things about WordPerfect (that Word could've learnt about) was compatibility. Ever since one of the really early versions, all the new and old versions have been able tol talk to each other. How neat is that? Just ask my version of Word what it thinks about the new docx format. That could be another rant altogether...

4 comments:

ellen said...

Now that you've explained the printer problem in full, I'm reminded that I had exactly the same problem with my old laser printer. I confess I bought a new one.

Tracey said...

Yes, no doubt what I'll have to do, but I think it will mean replacing the whole computer as well. :-(

Tracey said...

Oops, now my mouth isn't on the same line as my eyes and nose! That's bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Word also melts down at around 150,000 words. What good is Word if you can't shove a big novel into it? Surely there are tech docs bigger than that.

My laser printer did the same as yours, I picked up a second-hand super dooper... in it's time, ex-office laser printer off ebay for $90. Works fine.

Bren