Posts concerning software

The Stories We Carry

23:48 20 Jan 2011. Updated: 01:10 21 Jan 2011

I don’t mean our personal narratives, the “stories of our lives”, but rather the stories we know, whether our own or others’. We all know many—probably more than we can recall at any given moment.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , ]    

Online Convenience in an Ideal World

22:36 18 Jan 2011

I’ve recently been doing some online banking reorganization, and have realized just how inconvenient a lot of the services are. The main issue is that they’re all different services, where I want centralization.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , ]    

Clearly What Smartphones Are For

23:52 25 Nov 2010. Updated: 02:25 26 Nov 2010

SOWPODS lookups. I’ve been playing Bananagrams a lot again recently, and have found myself in need of an easy way to do those lookups. My physical copy of the combined word list is too unwieldy (and I tend to forget it), and oddly online lookups have proven very unreliable. But there’s an Android app for that, it turns out.

SOWPODS is the most inclusive word list, which is why I prefer it; otherwise it gets a little too arbitrary about what’s allowed (e.g. no “da” in OSPD, no “vid” in OSW).

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

Minor Achievements

20:36 18 Oct 2010

Sometimes it’s the little things that make life better, the small victories in ongoing daily battles.

I recently did an overhead squat at 185 pounds (or about 84 kilos, or 13 stone 3); I weigh a little under 180 (that day, 178 pounds) and so that was a bodyweight overhead squat. It actually represents two achievements, because in order to get the bar into the overhead position, I had to push jerk it from behind my neck to locked out above my head, which counts as my best push jerk ever, albeit an unorthodox one. From the overhead locked out position, it’s down into a deep squat and back up; the harder part for me was going down, as once I was at the bottom it wasn’t hard to keep my balance coming back up.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , , , , ]    

Some Tidbits from my .vimrc

21:44 07 Oct 2010. Updated: 03:54 30 Dec 2010

These aren’t anything particularly major, just some things I’ve found to improve my editing experience.

Permalink     2 Comments     [, , , , ]    

Adjusting Keyboard Shortcuts

23:17 27 Sep 2010

This post is about keyboard shortcuts, remappings, application switching, and a little bit of workflow, primarily in the context of OS X and Vim, so it might not be of interest to all readers.

Permalink     3 Comments     [, , , , ]    

MacVim 7.3

23:09 20 Sep 2010

I’ve been slow in upgrading to MacVim 7.3, which came out about a month ago. I’m happy with it, but there are only a couple of features that really matter to me so far:

  • colorcolumn
  • Python 2.6 support.

colorcolumn lets you specify columns that will have a different background color—this is primarily useful for source code where you want to stick to line length limits. This is one of the few features I was still missing from jEdit, although I think jEdit’s solution was nicer: in jEdit the visual line was thin and went between the columns, so between columns e.g. 79 and 80 you could have a line; in Vim 7.3 either column 79 or 80 would have a “line”, i.e. a different background color. Still better than the kludge I use now, though.

Python 2.6 support is nice due to the number of Python scripts I’ve written for Vim, which used to have to be compatible with Python 2.3. The main things I really like here are the ability to use .format on strings, conditional expressions, built-in set support, and generator expressions. That list is inspiring me to edit some of my old scripts right now.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    


17:10 08 Aug 2010

I like it when I think that an app should exist and then find that it does. That’s what happened when I realized that a) I couldn’t use my phone’s GPS capabilities with its native (Google Maps) map application without a data connection and b) that it should be possible to download maps that work with GPS but no data connection.

The answer: MapDroyd. It does precisely that, letting you download vector maps to your phone and see where you are on them. I’ve used it a little bit over the last three days, and it’s been pretty good. There have been a few odd bits on the maps—a major street in central Manchester appeared to be missing, for example—but overall it’s been great, and the utility of having maps of more or less everywhere that can point to where you are on them should not be underestimated.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

Some Futurist Speculation on Screen Interfaces

23:52 28 May 2010

The current interface upheaval is centered on touchscreens. I think this is an important step, and one which may allow for some significantly different interaction paradigms to emerge. I wonder how long touchscreens will remain dominant, however, even though the interfaces they help spawn may stick around for a long time.

Permalink     2 Comments     [, , , , , ]    


23:36 16 May 2010

After a highly enjoyable, productive, and extended period, it’s time for me to return to the world of paid work.

I’m quite happy with the things I’ve done during my time off. Many of them are important only to me, but then, it’s been my time off.

Permalink     3 Comments     [, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ]    

Improving a Python Word Counting Function

13:33 29 Apr 2010

This post could be summarized as “regular expressions are a lot faster than naive for loops”.

I’ve been working on improving the script I use for live wordcount in Vim, partly for performance and partly so that I can package it up as a plugin and share it with other people. Along the way I’ve improved the speed of the script rather significantly, and will go through the key part of that change here.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , ]    

Clearing Growl Notifications

14:43 02 Apr 2010

I use a notification system for OS X called Growl, which provides a single channel for various applications to use when they have something to tell me. I mainly use it for IM and email. I’m fairly happy with it, but one issue that irked me was dealing with clearing a bunch of the notifications off the screen.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

@: A Triumph of Design

20:50 22 Mar 2010

The New York Museum of Modern Art has added the @ symbol to its architecture and design collection. Originating perhaps as a Latin abbreviation for “toward”, it showed up on one of the early Underwood typewriters (possibly the Underwood 1; it was definitely on the Underwood No. 5) and was used for “at the rate of”, which usage still survives.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , ]    

Thunderbird, Muttator, and Filters

11:17 18 Mar 2010

Not content with merely using Vim to compose email messages, I’m trying out Muttator, a Thunderbird plugin that aims to add Vim-like keybindings.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , ]    

Using Vim with Thunderbird

12:24 12 Mar 2010. Updated: 19:06 14 Mar 2010

It’s possible to get Thunderbird to use Vim as an external editor for email, and while it’s a little clunky, it works.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

Trying d-cubed for Task Management

11:58 09 Mar 2010

I’ve been falling behind somewhat in keeping track of my tasks. That’s not to say I haven’t been productive, it’s just that most of my productivity has been focused in things I’ve been working on obsessively, like preparation for the roleplaying campaign I started running last week, Vim customization, and Python workflow coding.

It would be good to track other things better than how I’m doing it right now, but somehow returning to TiddlyWiki for my task management wasn’t appealing. I used it for quite a while, but a bare install of it doesn’t seem to quite work for task management, even though it’s still really good for keeping notes about things in general. I’m going to try d-cubed, a TiddlyWiki-based tool, instead.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , ]    


12:09 08 Mar 2010

I’ve been using the vector graphics editor Inkscape a fair bit over the last few days, and in the last few months have given it something of a workout. It’s been quite impressive. I was never a really heavy Illustrator user, but Inkscape seems to compare to it much more favorably than, say, GIMP compares to Photoshop. It’s a later-generation product, so perhaps that’s not being fair, but regardless it just feels a lot better to use. Maybe there are killer features that Illustrator has that Inkscape doesn’t, but since I don’t know what they are, I don’t miss them…

I’ve mainly been using it for map-making (related to this), and for that it’s been really good, and I’m rather glad it exists, because doing the same kind of work in a bitmap editor would probably be incredibly frustrating. I haven’t read through the documentation, but whenever I’ve needed to find out how to do something I’ve been able to without much trouble, so it seems that they’re doing a good job on that as well.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , ]    

The Future of Tabletop Games? D&D on the Microsoft Surface

18:15 26 Feb 2010

Microsoft Surface is an advanced touchscreen display built into a table, backed by a fairly advanced suite of software for gesture recognition. I hadn’t seen many compelling uses for this technology… until SurfaceScapes, a group at the Carnegie-Mellon Entertainment Technology Center, released demos of Surfaces customized to hangle playing miniature-based D&D on them.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , ]    

:imap jj <Esc> and :Bclose in Vim

13:24 22 Feb 2010. Updated: 03:56 30 Dec 2010

I remain rather happy with Vim, and it’s already been worth the effort of switching over to it. I’ve encountered some annoyances along the way; here are a couple of them and some solutions.

The first is that I quickly found myself wanting to exit Insert mode very frequently and not liking the stretch from my typical hand position to the Esc key. I know that some people insist that the only way to deal with this is to remap CapsLock to Esc, while others remap CapsLock to Ctrl and use Ctrl-C instead of Esc to get to Normal mode. Neither of these approaches appealed to me. Seth reminded me about another approach, one I thought would be too awkward: mapping jj to Esc within Vim.

Permalink     Comment     [, , ]    

Some Vim Script Implementation, Testing, and Hackery

23:50 16 Feb 2010. Updated: 00:57 17 Feb 2010

As a result of my porting over jEdit (Jython) macros to Vim, I now have a fair amount of (Python) Vim scripts, and have learned some things about how to set up those scripts. I’ll go through some of that below, and hopefully other people writing Python scripts for Vim will find it useful.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , ]    

First Post With Vim

20:05 14 Feb 2010

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been hacking away on scripts to customize Vim, replicating the scripts I made for jEdit. I’m more or less done, and this blog post is being written in MacVim. This hopefully means that when I’m done with it I’ll be able to publish it from within Vim, the same as with jEdit.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , , ]    

Better Word Count in Vim

23:40 17 Jan 2010

I’m currently trying out Vim (again), and have made more progress this time, mainly due to Seth’s help. The key things that have made it better:

  • :set hidden. Absolutely critical, this. Stops Vim from complaining when you try to switch buffers and your current buffer has unsaved changes.
  • bufexplorer. Makes switching buffers a lot easier.
  • A better Python syntax file. I didn’t like the defaults.
  • My own indentation and syntax files for reStructuredText.

Really, though, the key first one was :set hidden. Before that I felt that I had completely misunderstood Vim’s file management model.

Permalink     1 Comment     [, , , , , , , ]    

2009 Goals Review

17:43 29 Dec 2009

I had eight goals for 2009, and all of them that I’m going to get done I’ve already completed. Time to review.

Permalink     Comment     [, , , , , , , , ]