Coder · Writer · Tinker(er)?
1297 words

Pen & Paper: Black Forest

Digital notes are great, but there is still something to be said for good old pen and paper --- and writing notes with a nice fountain pen on good paper with a well behaved ink can be a pleasure. To that end, I'll highlight a pen, paper, notebook, or ink that I enjoy writing with on occasion for those who might be interested.

Back in my university days I had a black Rotring 600 series fountain pen and it was my favorite writing device for a few years for pretty much everything (research notes, editing, sketching, and even field notes in dusty museum basements and in the Egyptian desert). Alas, someone stole it. I was pretty bummed. These days the same pens can be had for several hundred dollars on ebay ... often listed as vintage (well, that doesn't make me feel old at all). I never did replace it, but ever since I've had penchant for simple black metal pens.

A while back I picked up a rather inexpensive pen, inline with that penchant, that feels and performs far better than its under-30 dollar (CAD) price would suggest. The Hongdian matte black Forest series fountain pen:

(click for larger image)

You can find these on ebay or amazon. It is a metal pen with a nice matte black finish, knurling on the barrel, and weights in at 31.7 grams capped (about 3/4 inked), and roughly 10g less capless. I got the extra fine nib and it writes very smoothly with just a touch of feedback. The pen comes with a converter (Hongdian also sells cartridges for it if you prefer) that works smoothly, and the pen provides a very consistent ink flow. It might be on the slender side (11mm diameter on the barrel) for some people, but I like the feel, balance, writeability, and simple aesthetics of this pen. Since this one has proven itself as a nice everyday/everywhere writer for a while now, I have ordered a very similar Hongdian 6013 to see how it measures up.


New Pi 4

I finally got around to getting a Raspberry Pi 4 --- I figured upgrading my NAS/Plex server from a Pi 3 was a valid reason. I grabbed the 4GB version, along with a green, aluminum heat-sink case from pimoroni:

green case

Setting it up as a drop in replacement went smoothly enough. I wrote a new micro-SD card with the latest Raspbian, booted, logged in with ssh, configured and updated Raspbian and then installed:

  • OMV - configured with the same NFS shares as before on the existing 5TB USB-3 drive.
  • Plex media server - pointing to the existing media libraries.
  • rclone - manage your cloud(s) storage
  • darcs - well, somebody has to use it ... and I like it.
  • and some additional scripts from the Pi 3

A bit of housecleaning and key management around the network and everything is as it was ... and some things are faster.

Now, what to do with the old Pi 3?


SN Nimble Editor

Because a person can only binge-watch The Expanse, all the Stargate shows, DS9, and the BSG remake so many times during any given pandemic, I've also been doing some minor tweaks on a fork of Maxime Lapointe's Indent Editor for Standard Notes.
The tweaks thus far:

  1. Markdown (atx-style) headings get a bit of color utilizing the --sn-stylekit-info-color of the current theme (I've only tested this with the Slate Theme and the Gruvbox Dark Theme).
  2. Blank lines adjusted up from the 0.4em of the Indent Editor to 0.6em.
  3. Code blocks in Indent Editor don't allow for a language name following the opening three backticks, which is inconvenient if you are writing/storing snippets of code intended for markdown processing later ... this version allows for a language name (or any non-space sequence actually) to immediately follow the opening backticks.
  4. Enumerated list entry: when entering an enum list (with integers only), hitting enter begins the next item with indentation preserved and an auto-incremented integer. Note that any subsequent moving, deleting, mid-list additions, etc will not result in any re-numbering of the list.

Should anyone be interested in yet another plain text editor for Standard Notes, this is running on netlify and the install link for SN is:, and for extra fun, the source is available as a darcs repository (I know, right?) at sn-nimble-editor. Enjoy.


SN Indent Editor

A Useable SN Plain Text Editor

The Indent Editor is a relatively recent (initial commit Jan 2020) and easily installed editor for Standard Notes. Think of it as another plain text editor upgraded with sensible indentation and prefix behaviour:

  • continuation of indentation level when wrapping text.
  • preservation of current indentation and prefix characters (- * > +) when hitting enter.
  • increase indent of current line (or selected lines) by two spaces by hitting tab.
  • decrease indent of current line (or selected lines) by two spaces by hitting shift-tab.
  • move current line (or selected lines) up or down by hitting ctrl-shift-up or ctrl-shift-down respectively.
  • duplicate current line (or selected lines) with ctrl-d.

Just a few functional features, but they make creating / editing notes with nested lists much more convenient, and well worth investigating. But wait ... that's not all ... while the Indent Editor is by no means a markdown editor, it does offer a few stylistic niceties up its sleeve:

  • headings: three levels of headings for lines beginning with 1 - 3 # characters are styled with larger bold text (in actuality, the headings can also be preceded by indentation/prefix characters in the editor and still be styled as such, but that won't transfer if you send your text through a markdown processor).
  • links: anything that looks like a web address will be highlighted/underlined and the link can be opened in a browser tab with a ctrl-click.
  • code: backticks can be used inline to denote code/commands/etc. Triple backticks can be used for "code fenced" blocks with some caveats:
    • the initiating backticks must be the last thing on the line (you can't add a language name, which limits the useability for actual code blocks intended for markdown processing, but one can always use tilde-delimited code blocks and just have no styling in the Indent Editor).
    • there is no syntax highlighting or anything in such a code block, all text is styled just like within single backticks.
  • blank lines have a reduced line height, and lines that wrap have slightly reduced inter-line spacing providing a more compact but visually organized appearance.

I do most of my writing utilizing markdown markup, and have actually tried out most of the markdown editors available for Standard Notes. In the end, I uninstalled all of them in preference for the Indent Editor (actually, a version I tweaked slightly for heading colors). When I want to write longer form, or edit my SN notes with a markdown editor, I use the standardnotes-fs tool to have my SN notes repository mounted on my drive and just open that directory with Typora (edits are synced back to the server). But for a fast, useable, note editor, the Indent-Editor gets my vote ... and here is my tweaked version editing this note:

SN with Indent Editor
(SN Web platform with Slate theme and Indent Editor)

Not Yet


And so it begins ... At this point I can't predict the frequency or content of the writings/musings that might appear here. Perhaps mini-reviews of a few of the free tools/themes/extensions I've come across for StandardNotes. Perhaps a philosophical rambling or two. A spot of code here and there.

At any rate, something may prove useful or interesting or amusing to someone ... we shall see.

puts "Hello Listed"