Running Fidus Writer on a Raspberry Pi

Juan Carlos has installed Fidus Writer on a Raspberry Pi for his personal use. Read all about it in this interview!

Juan Carlos (PhD fellow Austrian Institute of technology) has installed Fidus Writer on a Raspberry Pi

Juan Carlos contacted us for the first time in July 2017 asking some specific questions about relatively new and advanced Fidus Writer features. After a few messages back and forth, we learned that Juan had managed to install Fidus Writer on a Raspberry Pi. I agreed to helping him get it up and running in exchange for some feedback on how well Fidus Writer actually would work on a Raspberry Pi. Juan was kind enough to let me conduct this interview with him. 

Who are you – where do you live and what do you do there?

Currently I live live in Vienna and I’m a PhD fellow at the Austrian Institute of Technology. My thesis focuses on “New methods of citizen participation based on digital technologies”. At the moment I’m collecting the data for my research project and I’m also writing constantly papers, research notes, etc. For my thesis I also have to work a lot with web-technologies.

You have experimented with Fidus Writer and the Raspberry pi. What was that about? Why did you decide to want to run your own instance of Fidus Writer?

I actually started to experiment with different open source web-based applications and the Raspi. I think the key concept is data ownership. I noticed, like probably many others, that the cloud services are comfortable to use, yet they can be disappear, change their terms, etc. Based on my previous experience with other web-applications, like WordPress, I decided to experiment with my own server at home. Basically I built up a raspi-based server and deployed a couple of applications. Fidus Writer was one of them. I experimented with other similar software, like the now defunct share-latex, but at the end Fidus Writer was the one that could fit into the memory of the raspi and also deliver different formats, including LaTeX. I know also about overleaf, but again, I would not own my data, so I prefer to run my own server.

Do you think that running Fidus Writer on a Raspberry Pi would be practical? Are there things that are too slow?

Yes, it actually runs very smoothly and it has a small memory footprint, which makes it specially attractive for a system like the raspi, which has limited memory resources. I recall reading somewhere that many functionalities of Fidus Writer work on the browser and not on the server, so I think this makes Fidus Writer very light weight on the server side. While the set-up of a server with a raspi can be very difficult I still can recommend to run Fidus Writer on such a system.
I have not noticed anything that runs particularly slow. I mostly assume that it would have to do with the internet provider.

How about the alternatives? From your early feedback I gathered you were largely a LaTeX person. There are some open source LaTeX editors out there. Would that not have been an option for you?

Yes, I actually also use a combination of TexStudio with owncloud. It offers a similar functionality to the one that I get with Fidus Writer. However Fidus Writer has some functions that are really attractive, like delivering the files in multiple formats, like docx, odt, hmtl, and also latex. I think that I face the same problem of many academics that need to produce texts with widely different requirements, depending on the particular conference, journal, etc. With Fidus Writer I can “just write” and take care of the technicalities later. This helps me to focus on the ideas, rather that on technical incompatibilities, etc.

Recently you have started working with our ODT / DOCX template system — and you found some bugs and inconsistencies. What are you using these templates for and why did you choose to use word processor formats rather than LaTeX?

Yes, I think this feature is really powerful. For example I can submit the template of a conference and use to publish my own text. Since I need to convert texts among different formats (because some conferences or institutions require different formats) it is quite useful to have a solution that is flexible enough to meet different demands. I think the power of Fidus Writer is that it abstracts text and formatting, so that it can be transformed into many different formats.

You have been asking for template support for LaTeX-output. Such templating would be more difficult because LaTeX does not divide content and formatting the same way other formats do. What would you use such templates for and do you have some thoughts on how to get around issues with LaTex packages that are mutually incompatible?

Latex is a very powerful language for publishing. This power comes with some complexity tough. I still prefer it over other options because the the results are much better. Typesetting is simply crispy and no other editor achieves such smooth text blocks. Now, for Fidus Writer I don’t expect it to become a full fledged latex editor, I understand that this is a difficult task. But my idea is to use Fidus Writer just to type the “body” of the document, while managing the headers locally. So for example I can export a document and just copy the body of a document (with sections, subsections, etc) into my local template.

Maybe it would be possible to define a Fidus Writer standard latex packages (color, bibliography, etc) and then make everyone stick to those. People that need something else may need to resort to other solutions. This would also allow to define custom templates. Many latex documents are divided into different files, one containing the headers and packages, while other just contains the “body” of the text. The body is much simpler to manage and is in many cases very standard (sections, subsections, etc.)

That is an interesting thought. Lets investigate a bit more if that could work.

Much of the publishing industry is using XML formats like JATS or TEI-XML. Individual users seem to be more interesting in LaTeX, DOCX and ODT. Why do you think there is such a difference? Don’t they all eventually need to produce the same final output formats? Would an XML-format be a usable alternative for your usecase?

It is the first time that I hear about JATS or TEI-XML. I think people just don’t know about such formats and they use what they have at hand. Actually a large majority sticks to the usual text-editors. I understand this because I have also have sometimes troubles using other solutions like LaTeX. Since no publisher have demanded from me such an XML-format I have not needed to use it.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. Your work on getting Fidus Writer to run on the Raspberry Pi really has opened out eyes to a use case we had not thought of before. Really great to hear about this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.