Archive for the ‘Productivity’ category

It’s nice to settle for Safari

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I’m looking at a draft post that I never did finish. It’s about how I was getting frustrated with switching to a certain browser for specific tasks. Call me old-fashioned, but I want it my way and that way (in my perfect world) is that one browser should be able to do all of my basic InterNetTubes things I do: 

  1. Quick browsing
  2. Really good display of pages
  3. Ability to enter text into a html text field (or something like it).

Specifically, WordPress and Moodle text fields.And up to this point, Safari always met the first two requirements but always failed on the third one.Bummer.And so, here’s what I was typing 4 months back as I was working through my browser-angst:

I’m writing this entry in Safari to see if I can do the “Code” work around to get the post to look how it ought to.See, for any of my usual browsing, feed-reading, emailing, Safari is great. I have an older machine with limited resources available, and I would rather use the Cocoa app that is known as Safari.But, for the times when I want to do any text-editing windows, Safari simply will not render the correct editing toolbar. Thus, I have to switch over to Camino (which is also lightweight and snappy) to do editing on two of my major sites: vergil66.com (a Moodle-based site) and vergilscoffee.com (a WordPress.com site).Here’s what I mean:Moodle-editing (vergil66.com)This is my main classroom site throughout the school year and I am constantly updating information, communicating with students and posting assignments. The typical set-up in creating an assignment or any text-based item has a html-edit area as follows:(Dang, I just saved my WordPress post for this piece and now all the formating is gone:          

BTW, that’s exactly how the editing came out: one big long text block. But not anymore with the recent update to Safari. In their blog post, the developer folk over at WebKit mention the improvements and my particular priority (#3) was addressed as their #1.

1. Enhanced Rich Text Editing As you browse the web with a WebKit 3 based browser, you will get a complete and functional rich text editing experience on the new read-write web. Here’s a sweet demo of our improved editing support, just click the text and editing controls appear.Specifically, we have worked together with developers of RTE libraries and applications to improve compatibility. WebKit 3 fixes many bugs, and supports additional text editing features like links and lists. We now have support from web applications like WordPressGoogle DocsGMailBlogger, and many more. We’ve also improved editing to support libraries like TinyMCE and FCKeditor. We expect even more web apps and toolkits to add support over time.       

My Moodle editing issue hasn’t changed, but that doesn’t affect me as much anymore: most of my editing for that site is done from another computer.Thanks WebKit bugwatching-developer folk; thanks for listening and improving a really good browser.  

Update: my post, as you can see, was a bit premature: WordPress editing looks good when you’re editing, but gets lumped together (esp. paragraphing). I don’t know, when I use Camino and other browsers, if I hit Return in the editing field and it will show up as a new paragraph…not so with Safari (BTW, I’m using the most recent build of WebKit). So, I suppose I will continue to switch back and forth between Safari for #1 and #2, Camino for #3.  (and the only way to get this last paragraph to paragraph was to enter in the <p> tags manually) <sigh>.

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Necessary cleaning

Saturday, 18 August 2007

I’m used to the idea that not having a place for more stuff means more stuff needs to go in the trash or to Goodwill. I am comfortable with knowing that even though I’m not always looking forward to going through each room once or twice a year to declutter, the process has becoming increasingly easier.

So, when the hard drive of my eMac is reaching that less than 5 GB, I refrain from getting more places to put the “stuff” and try and trash lots or give it away.

The process is getting harder because the stuff on the hard drive is actually good stuff. So, I pulled out JDiskReport to help me pinpoint who is the space hog and where I can get back above the 5 GB threshold.

Here’s the overall:

Disk Report And I don’t find it unusual that most of the 40 GB HD is taken up with Users stuff (as I have been fairly careful about how many versions of office suites or browsers or photo editing apps I really need–though I still can’t decide between Safari and Camino…but that’s another post).

I’m not messing with the sw directory because most of that is Unix stuff that I still mess with…I did notice that there is 1.2 GB of Documentation for the Developer directory (and all of that is available on the web).

I’m up to 3.3 GB now.

I’ve used the Monolingual app that removes the language files that you won’t use…that got me almost a Gig of space when I ran it. Also, I have already cleaned out the browser cache. It’s now onto what is in that Users directory.

iTunes eater And there’s not a lot to trash here as this is paid for content (on the music side) that I’d rather not hunt down the original CD for (wherever it is in the basement). We’re podcast people, so that directory gets a cleaning often, but I think Kristen Tippet (“Speaking of Faith“) must have big files, so I’ll delete the older ones there. I guess I am also guilty of owning most of Bruce Hornsby’s stuff. I’m good with that as the Compilations category hides my bent toward all things Soundtrack and Musical.

The TV Shows category got really big for awhile, but recently we’ve been able to find most things via NetFlix (that, and anything I’ve bought via iTunes, I’ve archived on storage media==>more stuff <g>).

I didn’t put the graph up on this–because, well, pie charts can only be so pleasing to look at– but I found in my Pictures directory (12% overall) that iPod Photo Cache takes up 2.3 GB of HD space. Humm, should I delete it? Not sure, but I’ll read up on that one before I do it.

As I clean out my hard drive again, I realize that it is difficult using a 5-year-old machine with a limited amount of space anyway (40 GB). We do more digital stuff and that really cool digital stuff eats a lot of available space. I’m okay with that and I have found myself doing less graphic-heavy projects and more “plain text” items. I am reminded of the “cycle” statement some one told me over 12 years ago: Instead of the hardware driving software development, it seems that software pushes hardware requirements. Translation: “System Requirements” on that program or game that you want to install on your 2-year-old CPU.

Perhaps, then, this opens up more opportunity for the Web 2.0 culture. Perhaps, lower resource-intense OSs (*nix) and Open Source programs will allow us to use machines to do stuff that needs to be done as opposed to merely being the newest new.

Now, time to reclaim some hard drive space and think of a plan to get a new computer.

Update: I regained 3.7 GB of hard drive space by tossing the iPod Photo Cache and ADC Ref Lib (~67k files total). I am now at a comfortable 5.8 GB. I’ll be doing this again in a month.

Pragmatic Banking (checkbook and/or Quickenish and/or online)

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

I’ve grappled with this one since our bank in Bloomington offered “phone banking” (“using the keypad, enter the amount…”): what is the most effective (and/or efficient) way to do your personal banking?

First off, I don’t subscribe to the “wait-until-the-statement-comes-out” way of banking. You know: look at the statement and HOPE that you have some extra to cover all of your expenses. I don’t want to wonder; I’d like to know–fairly accurately–how much I have in my bank account at any given time…fairly accurately. So, here’s the options I’ve run through since I’ve been married (before I was married, well–that’s another story: gently smile everyone at the subtext at this point).

  • Checkbook (reconciling each month when statement arrives)
  • Checkbook + Phone Banking + Monthly Statement
  • Checkbook + Personal accounting program
  • Checkbook + Online Banking + Monthly Statement
  • Checkbook + Online Banking

You’ll notice that there’s a pattern here: I keep trying to convince my wife that all we need to use is the online banking (well, at first it was the phone banking, then the computer app, now it’s the online banking) and yet she insists on having something tangible. She wins each time, btw, because I’m realizing that she’s right.

The way our parents taught us to do banking (or we learned from a course in high school) is the Old School method of an end-of-the-month accountant way of recording all debits and credits in a check book register and then comparing all of those debits and credits with the bank statement. On the back of the statement are instructions to reconcile (literally: “to cause to be friendly again” and “to bring back to harmony”). You do have a relationship with your bank, whether you like it not, and each month you would restore to harmony how much–truthfully and honestly– money you have with the bank. To aid in the process, you would take into account all of the stuff that isn’t on the statement. In the end, you could figure out, to the penny, how much your relationship with your bank was worth. But there are some drawbacks: too much honesty; takes “time” to do and sometimes many people shy away from that monthly “meeting” and thus, cause for putting off reconciling and then the relationship is in a downward spin because months of statements of truth are piling up in some drawer.

I’m not going to mention much about the phone banking because its no longer an available option. I see that phone banking, along with online banking (with bill payment) as a convenience of saving big money on stamps and it is nice to merely enter in the current amount and date you want to pay out and click submit (less time than it takes to write the check).

The computer app with its “fun-ness” factor of attempting to do on computer what you didn’t want to do on paper. I started with versions of Quicken, then in the past 2 years in an air of propriety software liberty, have used GnuCash and Grisbi. The later two were fun because I got to do the whole Unix exploration through Fink and the command line (in OSX) and I view those times with great fondness. I learned a lot about the community of people that put out GNUish software and some of the overtones of the OpenSource ideas. But all of these programs left me with the same relationship script:

USER sets up app with great enthusiasm, enters in all transactions for 2 weeks, gets through, maybe, one reconciliation, and then other things captures his attention and now its 3 months later and the harmony with the BANK is strained (and HOPE enters the scene as a proxy for USER).

And it’s here’s my assessment with computer apps: It couldn’t replace the checkbook. In fact, if you have any semblance of a GTD mindset, you are frustrated because you are doing double the work (enter into checkbook and a program) for what end? Because you are supposed to manage your life with the computer? That in case your checkbook burns up (ours hasn’t yet) then you have a backup (ahh, that’s the justification for many a purchase, isn’t it?)? So, I don’t use a computer app anymore because it doesn’t work for me; it actually created more pressure on the relationship with my bank and thus I got fooled by the notion that by trashing I was being productive.

Online banking is nice and I think the bill payment function of our local bank is helpful…truly. Yes, we can get connected and check our relationship with our bank at any time. I still save receipts and enter in stuff by the end of the day and then every two or three days, check my accounting of the relationship with the bank’s accounting. These frequent encounters make for a more relaxed meeting and the little surprises of a $98 trip to Target isn’t compounded by time–for you know how things like that add up and explode months down the line, eh?

I like the idea of computers and online-ness; and for me, to strip away the flashiness of a Quicken or Web 2.0 relationship works in harmony with pen and paper.

Twittering for two after a tempo run

Thursday, 28 June 2007

This morning’s tempo run (7:40 pace) of 5-miles was nice (+66f; 92% humidity; listened to Bruce Hornsby, the “Everybody Dance” track from Paul M. and Train).

As I look back on the last 3 months of blogging (or at least on this site) I can see a mish-mash of stuff and things that I find amusing for that day. Sometimes the thought of hashing out a cohesive 3 or so paragraphs slips my mind and I find that my tumblr account has been much more active than this WordPress account. (I’m not going into all of the psychology of that right now, as many other folk have put a lot of type into the internet tubes on writing blogs vs. mini-blogging and the like). What I’m wondering from people is how do they manage two Twittering people on one computer.

We have an ol’ eMac 700 that’s not going to be replaced just yet (because it still does the stuff I need it to do) and because both Lois and I Twitter (and have different “friends,”) I went with two Twitter clients so that both of us can view our social life at any time (the computer is in a central place). Because I follow more people, I have the Twitteriffic program which is slick and so usable; for Lois, I set up tweetr (an AIR app that is maturing well and I just like the idea of using AIR as it seems to be on the edge of some really cool content).

I realize that we could sign out and sign in on Twitterrific, but that just takes too much time and frankly would be a little annoying. (Plus, both apps have their distinct sounds when a new tweet is received: And like Pavlov’s dog we run to the computer <g>).

This way seems workable for us, and though a bit resource heavy on the little ol’ eMac 700, we can continue our social lives in 140 characters or less.

Enjoying the “Gettysburg Address”

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Inspired by the PowerPoint wizard’s treatment of “The Gettysburg Address,” I decided to play with a pair of Unix analysis programs– style and diction— and see what would happen to Lincoln’s famous speech.

Here’s the original speech:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And now the analysis (style first, then diction):

readability grades:
Kincaid: 10.2
ARI: 12.1
Coleman-Liau: 9.1
Flesch Index: 70.4
Fog Index: 13.4
Lix: 40.8 = school year 6
SMOG-Grading: 10.1
sentence info:
1149 characters
272 words, average length 4.22 characters = 1.29 syllables
10 sentences, average length 27.2 words
50% (5) short sentences (at most 22 words)
10% (1) long sentences (at least 37 words)
3 paragraphs, average length 3.3 sentences
0% (0) questions
60% (6) passive sentences
longest sent 82 wds at sent 10; shortest sent 11 wds at sent 3
word usage:
verb types:
to be (8) auxiliary (11)
types as % of total:
conjunctions 5(13) pronouns 16(44) prepositions 9(24)
nominalizations 2(5)
sentence beginnings:
pronoun (5) interrogative pronoun (0) article (2)
subordinating conjunction (0) conjunction (1) preposition (0)

Diction

gettysburg.txt:3: Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing [whether -> (avoid using “or not” after “whether,” unless you mean “regardless of whether”)] that nation, or any nation [so -> (do not use as intensifier)] conceived and [so -> (do not use as intensifier)] dedicated, [can -> (do not confuse with “may”)] long endure.

gettysburg.txt:3: We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that [that -> Double word.] nation [might -> (do not confuse with “may”)] live.

gettysburg.txt:5: But, in a larger sense, we [can not -> (use “cannot” unless you want to put special emphasis on the word “not”)] dedicate — we [can not -> (use “cannot” unless you want to put special emphasis on the word “not”)] consecrate — we [can not -> (use “cannot” unless you want to put special emphasis on the word “not”)] hallow — this ground.

gettysburg.txt:5: The world [will -> (shall is sometimes used with first person pronouns and the future tense. It expresses something you believe will happen, not something that you are determined to do. A drowning man shouts: “I shall drown, no one will save me!”)] little note, [nor -> Restrict to following “neither”, but do not use instead of “or” in negative expressions.] long remember what we say here, but it [can -> (do not confuse with “may”)] never forget what [they -> (do not use as substitute for “each, each one, everybody, every one, anybody, any one, somebody, some one”)] did here.

gettysburg.txt:5: It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work [which -> (use “that” if clause is restrictive)] [they -> (do not use as substitute for “each, each one, everybody, every one, anybody, any one, somebody, some one”)] who fought here have thus far [so -> (do not use as intensifier)] nobly advanced.

gettysburg.txt:5: It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for [which -> (use “that” if clause is restrictive)] [they -> (do not use as substitute for “each, each one, everybody, every one, anybody, any one, somebody, some one”)] gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead [shall -> (shall is sometimes used with first person pronouns and the future tense. It expresses something you believe will happen, not something that you are determined to do. A drowning man shouts: “I shall drown, no one will save me!”)] not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, [shall -> (shall is sometimes used with first person pronouns and the future tense. It expresses something you believe will happen, not something that you are determined to do. A drowning man shouts: “I shall drown, no one will save me!”)] have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the [people -> Do not use with numbers or as substitute for “public”.], by the [people -> Do not use with numbers or as substitute for “public”.], for the [people -> Do not use with numbers or as substitute for “public”.], [shall -> (shall is sometimes used with first person pronouns and the future tense. It expresses something you believe will happen, not something that you are determined to do. A drowning man shouts: “I shall drown, no one will save me!”)] not perish from the earth.

23 phrases in 10 sentences found.

Spring Break Questions

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Someone asked me to come up with some questions to engage a sibling in amusing conversation (yes, that is quite cryptic). Since the list took some creative energy (dated 30 Mar), I’ve copied it here for your viewing pleasure. Feel welcome in adding your own or giving your take on the questions.

*The State of Indiana (along with a few other states) are offering an “In God We Trust” license plate to its drivers with no additional fee. Drivers can choose between the regular state plate or this red, white, and blue version that has the proclamation on it. Question: Does this violate the separation of church and state idea?

*Recently a female blogger was at the end of a vicious verbal attack by other bloggers. The attacks came in the form of threats of violent behavior and eventually Kathy Sierra couldn’t take it anymore when she received the last threat. She writes in her blog:
“…, somebody crossed a line. They posted a photo of a noose next to my head, and one of their members (posting as “Joey”) commented “the only thing Kathy has to offer me is that noose in her neck size.” Here’s the link: http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/as_i_type_this_.html
Is the internet protected by the same free speech (first amendment) ideas and mainstream media? Even though these types of “threats” happen a lot, is this case different because the person who is on the receiving end happens to be a woman?

* Ginger or Maryann?

* Wilma or Betty?

* Attorney A. Gonzalez or Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown?

* Rumsfeld or Ashcroft?

* Obama or Clinton?

* Al Gore or John Kerry?

* Iraq like Vietnam or Iraq like Korea?

* “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” or Anna Nicole Smith?

*If Starbucks advertises that they do purchase fair trade coffee and I drink Starbucks coffee, does that indicate my political party of choice?

*Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or Barack Obama in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”?

* John McCain (2004) or John McCain (2008)?

* Zune or iPod?

* San Francisco or New York City?

* Barry Bonds or Mark McGuire?

* “24” or “Lost”?

* Chiquita Banana or Kathy Lee Gifford?

* Former CIA officer Valerie Plame or Oliver North?

* Head butting in a World Cup Final or Fan interference in a playoff game?

* “The Muppet Movie” or “Labyrinth”?

* “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” or “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith”?

* Spock or Yoda?

* Dr. Cox (“Scrubs”) or House (“House”)?

* Tiananmen Square (1989) or Berlin Wall (1989)?

Lastly:

* Heads or Tails?

Bleak House

Wednesday, 28 February 2007


Ulysses Screen

Originally uploaded by vergil66.
Well, not really, but I was ill and out of school yesterday and Colin has the flu today–two days of school be not fun (especially because the papers that are waiting for me and haven’t been touched since yesterday).

I’m finishing up on a writing gig thing for a friend (I’ll talk about it in more detail later) and I’m realizing once again my writing habits. I tend to do the “write everything in one sitting” thing even though I don’t mind the stress so much. Another thing I’m seeing is that there are a lot of creative folks out there who are doing some creative things and having fun (most of them I read about on the Twitter public timeline). Lastly (only because it’s the transition that marks the end of this thought) I’ve rediscovered Ulysses–a writing management program (or at least that’s the best way to describe it). I bought it roughly two years ago on a whim and tinkered here and there with it, and then for this current project, decided to allow the thing to manage the little writing project-thing (10,000 words). Very cool and it didn’t get in the way but allowed me to do focus on the writing and also manage all the parts.

Another thing that has helped with productivity during this project is window management. For the longest time I’ve just minimized my window (yellow light) into the Dock. But because I was dealing with a wide range of programs that I needed open (web brower, Ulysses, Text Edit, Terminal, and of course, twitterpost) to minimize was just too much. Enter: Exposé of OS X fame and for some reason didn’t think to tinker with the F9 key or F10 or F11… the more the hands can stay on the keyboard (my fellow Vimmers may say), the more the hands keep working.