Posts concerning software


17:39 27 Oct 2013

I’ve been blogging regularly since 01 August 2006: every day for that first year, five times per week for four years after that, and at least once per week since 01 August 2011. Now it’s time for a break.

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What I want from Blogging Software

23:03 06 Oct 2013

I’ve grown increasingly unhappy with WordPress, despite the fact that it’s served me fairly faithfully for over seven years. The main reason is performance—this blog is now just too slow to load. There are definitely things I could do to tackle that, but having to do so is a sign that it’s not the right platform. The other reason is philosophical—I no longer think that a web application backed by a database is the best approach for a blog.

I’ve been thinking about writing my own—of course[1]. So first I should establish the requirements.

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Guide to How the Web Works II: For Website Owners

21:14 18 Aug 2013

Second in a planned series of five posts about the technical side of the web. The first post covered what every web user should know, and this one is intended for people who own websites—who also need to know what was in the first post.

This is a work in progress, and I welcome feedback.

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More Slate Tweaking

23:38 11 Aug 2013

Following last week’s post, this is about my progress using the OS X window manager Slate. My primary objective is to be able to define a set of window layouts for specific tasks—such as writing a blog post—and then easily invoke them. This is more difficult than it sounds, but I’ve more or less made it work.

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Yak-Shaving with Slate

22:36 04 Aug 2013

Slate is a window management tool for OS X that I’ve been playing with recently. It’s open source, it has JavaScript bindings, and it’s extremely useful if, like me, you’re particular about setting up your digital workspace.

However, in part due to restrictions in OS X, it’s not as useful as it could be. I had intended to write a post about how I’d made it do a variety of nice things, but that will have to wait until next week.

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Guide to How the Web Works I: For Web Users

22:47 28 Jul 2013. Updated: 13:47 01 Apr 2015

What I think every web user should know about the technical side of the web. This is intended to be the first in a series of guides aimed at increasingly advanced levels of use[1].

This post covers the basics; enough so that after reading it you won’t mistake a blog post for the new Facebook redesign.

This is a work in progress. Please let me know if you see errors, or if you don’t understand something here—that’s valuable feedback!

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21:32 26 May 2013

LESS is the name of a stylesheet language that “compiles” to CSS. It’s been around for a while, as have similar projects such as Sass. I finally decided to start using it today, prompted by fairly common issues with CSS repetition. Even though the project I used LESS for is quite small—a little under 1,000 lines of CSS—it made an immediate difference.

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First Experience with the Oculus Rift

18:37 05 May 2013

The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset, with one screen per eye and covering that blocks other vision.

It’s not available yet, but a co-worker has one of the development kits and brought that into the office this week for us to play with.

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What I Want From “Bookmarks”

23:50 09 Dec 2012

I mentioned last week that I wanted to work on “better bookmarking” as my next coding project, basing my approach off of my own thoughts and recent Mozilla research. Now I want to examine what that project might be like.

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23:42 02 Dec 2012. Updated: 21:04 03 Dec 2012

I wrote a JavaScript utility that lets you create a rectangle on a web page by dragging your mouse cursor, and then toggles the state of all checkboxes under the cursor. If you’ve ever had to deal with forms that have lots and lots of checkboxes, you’ll know why I decided such a thing was necessary.

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Tools for Writing reStructuredText in Vim

22:43 07 Oct 2012. Updated: 21:55 25 Oct 2012

I switched to writing in reStructuredText in mid-2009, and to writing in Vim in early 2010. Since then I’ve made a lot of tweaks to improve editing efficiency, and eventually collected these in a Vim plugin (and a Python script). The following discussion of that plugin might be of interest to anyone concerned with writing efficiency and/or editor customization.

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Text Advocacy

14:11 09 Sep 2012

I use plain text formats for all of my writing, and you should at least consider doing the same.

By “plain text” I mean not only a text (as opposed to binary) file format, but also something that is plainly readable when simply listing the contents of the file—that is, a format you don’t necessarily need a specific tool to read. Such formats are more flexible, more robust, more malleable, and more future-proof than more complicated alternatives.

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Vim and tmux in OS X

12:30 26 Aug 2012

I’ve been experimenting with using terminal Vim[1] in a tmux environment recently. I like it as a programming setup, primarily because of the ease with which I can set up new workspaces[2] and switch between them—without, of course, having to move my hands off the keyboard. I did encounter some annoyances along the way, and my solutions for them are included below.

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New Laptop Setup Steps

23:54 12 Aug 2012

I haven’t written about how I configure a new machine since mid-2007, so this will be both about the new setup and about how it compares to that one.

The new machine is a Mac laptop running Mountain Lion, as opposed to the Windows desktop I set up five years ago[1].

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Blog Features I Want

22:44 11 Mar 2012

A discussion of common and custom blog features, and candidate applications that might provide them.

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Will AI “Selves” Work One Day?

22:55 30 Jun 2011

This afternoon, a conversation at work centered on the fact that it’s possible to “teach” text analysis software with a corpus of a user’s instant messages such that when presented with a new message, the software can identify which of the user’s contacts sent that message—without any other data, just the body of the message. Which is interesting, but I was more interested in whether or not the software could learn what the user’s responses to the individual contacts were like, and from that point learn to effectively feign being the user. Essentially, whether one could successfully train a bot to conduct IM conversations in your stead.

So I was quite intrigued to see this post from JWZ tonight discussion more or less that same idea, although apparently without some of the learning aspects. Apparently the implementation isn’t too good, but it’s definitely an interesting concept, and I wonder if we’ll eventually get to the point where bots (or “smart agents”) handle this kind of thing for some significant number of people.

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Google Tries Again: Google+

23:36 28 Jun 2011

Before, there were Orkut, Wave, and Buzz; now, there’s Google+, Google’s latest foray into social networking. I don’t have an account (if any of my Googly friends want to help me out there, I’d be happy to try it out), and most of my info comes from the intro, the announcement, and Stephen Levy’s piece.

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A New Kind of Personality Test

22:17 07 Apr 2011

I haven’t seen this before; you should try it out: The Pierley/Redford Dissociative Affect Diagnostic (via waxy.org). (Unfortunately, it’s in Flash.)

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23:42 24 Mar 2011. Updated: 01:43 25 Mar 2011

Pentadactyl is an add-on for Firefox that allows for keyboard-focused interaction with the browser by providing Vim-like keybindings. If you’re at all interested in browsing with the keyboard instead of the mouse, you should try it out.

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A Historical Comparison of IE Versions

23:35 17 Mar 2011. Updated: 00:36 18 Mar 2011

I’ve been struggling all week with a JavaScript issue that’s either caused or uncovered by Internet Explorer 9, and while this video has nothing to say on that front, it’s still fascinating to me:

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Quick & Dirty Book Info Lookup

21:57 06 Mar 2011

I’m still trying to cut down on the number of books I have in my apartment. That still feels wrong, but the shift to ebooks is making it a little easier. Now I’m getting rid of books that aren’t big favorites of mine, weren’t given to me as gifts, and aren’t in the poorly-defined category of “classics I want to keep”.

Because I’m a pack rat and a data geek, I have a hard time getting rid of books if I haven’t recorded the metadata about them I want to record. Unfortunately, I’m not always diligent about noting that info as I read the books, so the majority of the books I wanted to give away or sell were books where I hadn’t done so—and I really didn’t want to go through them one by one.

Modern technology to the rescue…

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Astronomical Events Calendar

20:17 07 Feb 2011

Pretty cool: generate your own calendar covering a range of data from daylight and solar noon to the separation of Jovian moons.

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Fun with pandoc, Vim, and email

23:52 21 Jan 2011. Updated: 01:35 22 Jan 2011

I’ve mentioned pandoc once before, and it’s again proved rather useful. I’ve been looking for more ways to use it, as I love its core principle (although I naturally wish that it focused on reStructuredText rather than Markdown) of being a comprehensive text format converter. It might at one point be the answer for getting from reST to PDF—something that the current reST tools don’t help me with because I insist on using Unicode, and XeTeX isn’t yet supported. But today pandoc helped with a different task: going from reST to plain text.

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