2011-06-24

Rampant abuse of word processors, especially Word

There is no doubt that word processors, especially Word, together with browsers, have contributed to the widespread use of personal computers also by people who might not have started using them otherwise. But the positive contribution of word processors ends here. Unfortunately, they have done more harm than good by encouraging their abuse by so many people.

I am always shocked to find that so many people, including friends, colleagues and students of mine, use a word processor, mostly Word, exclusively for any text-oriented task. There is nothing more lamentable and inefficient than this, especially when the physical layout of the text documents they are working on is irrelevant, and only the textual information is relevant. These text documents include (custom-made) corpora, lists of words or other things, etc. Using a word processor for such tasks is likened to the running of an obese person; both carry fat/"fat" that is not only redundant but even detrimental to what they are trying to perform. Seeing someone (ab)using a word processor arouses more pity on him or her.

The abuse of word processors is so rampant that few (ab)users of word processors are even aware of other, far more efficient and light-weight tools for their text-oriented tasks. One has to be in a right time in a right place, i.e., to be surrounded by friends who use these tools, which include text editors, CSV editors, grep tools, etc.

Word processors are also based on a paradigm called "WYSIWYG", which is stupid by design and illusionary. This paradigm makes many of their users forget that word processors deal with three kinds of information: 1) text itself, 2) its logical structure, and 3) its physical layout. Many (ab)users of word processors are so occupied with the third that they cannot concentrate on the first and totally neglect the second. Actually, the so-called "styles" allow users to mark every paragraph logically, and each of these "styles" is connected to customizable physical layout, but almost nobody I know uses them, nor do they seem to be even aware of them.

The widespread (or exclusive for some people) use of Word has led so many people to believe that everyone on this planet must also be using this bloatware with its problematic format(s). So they send Word documents as email attachments indiscriminately to everyone without asking in advance whether he or she also uses Word. I am so bothered by this "cyber-violence", especially when the content of a Word attachment can be written with no data loss in the body of an email message.

2011-06-17

A "unique" country with an institutionalized racist policy in its national security system

This is a story about a "unique" country in the world I happen to know. Its "uniqueness" lies, among others, in its institutionalized racist policy in its national security system. This racist policy is not written explicitly in any place the ordinary citizens have an access to, but it is clear to everyone who has experienced its variegated ways of humiliating people, including some of the citizens, solely on the basis of the way their faces look. Of course, I am talking neither about their facial expressions nor about the (subjective) beauty (or ugliness) of their faces but about the (objective) structure and color of their faces, which they cannot basically change.

The "guardians" of this racist policy are vigilant in many places in that "unique" country, but there would be no better place than the international airport of the country, where you will have the highest chance of being humiliated like never before in your entire life, if your face is not "kosher". Unless you are a diplomat, it makes no difference whether you are a university professor, a famous musician or a billionaire. On the other hand, if these "guardians" consider your face "kosher" enough, you are allowed in with no harassment and even with open arms. This is in spite of the fact that that "unique" country has no lack of citizens who have "kosher" faces but have committed crimes. But once at the airport everyone with a "kosher" face becomes a welcome guest instantly, and everyone else with no "kosher" face becomes a potential criminal even if he or she has no criminal record whatsoever but is a good law-abiding citizen. A very "unique" way of guaranteeing national security, isn't it? ;-)

The "uniqueness" of this racist security system lies in its very assumption that there must a high correlation between the face of a person and his or her chance of pausing a security threat to the country, and they have an unconditional trust in certain people because of their "kosher" looking faces. I think that every passenger should be checked equally!

I have been very careful of using the verb "hate" and have reserved its use to very extreme cases, but I have to say that I hate the international airport of that "unique" country more than any other place I have ever visited on this planet. I am afraid that this is even the first time that I have ever used this verb so explicitly in this blog. I am so sorry that I seem to be forced to visit that abominable place in the near future again. The very suspicion they direct to me makes me nurture very negative feelings toward that "unique" country they are trying to serve. I am also afraid that this institutionalized racist policy might even damage the very national security it is meant to guarantee.

2011-06-10

An ideal multilingual/multiscript text editor

Unfortunately, few average users of personal computers use a text editor these days. I am also astonished anew every time I encounter people who use a word processor, most notably bloatware called Microsoft Word, for those tasks that are handled much better with a text editor when only the textual information is relevant. But on the other hand, I agree that starting to use a text editor requires a fundamental change in the mindset of a computer user, and he or she will experience a steep learning curve, especially in the beginning. Few (or probably even none) of my colleagues and students in linguistics seem to use any text editor. I am really sorry for them, as I believe that linguists can benefit a lot from the use of a text editor. Instead, they are wasting a lot of time for those tasks that can be accomplished very easily and quickly if you know how to use a text editor, including the so-called regular expressions.

Life of someone who needs to handle any RTL script, including Hebrew script, is very difficult. There are few sophisticated text editors that also suppor the so-called Unicode bidirectional algorithm. I tried literally hundreds of text editors that claim to be Unicode-compliant. But every time I got disappointed with each new text editor I tried. Most of them turned out to fail to support bidirectional algorithm, and what few text editors that supported it were not sophisticated enough as text editors, including lack of support for regular expressions. I had been in constant search for such a text editor (for Windows) at least for ten years, until I received an announcement this week about the release of version 7 of EditPad Pro. This text editor is simply too good to be true. It has excellent multilingual/multiscript support, while making no compromise with its functionality as a text editor. I recommend this amazing text editor to everyone, not only to those who have to type in RTL script.

My search for an ideal multilingual/multiscript text editor (that also supports regular expressions) has finally come to an end. Now I spend more time with it than with any other software program when my computer is on. I am highly critical of everything, but this time I have nothing but words of praise for this text editor and its manufacturer, who has made my dream come true.