Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Distractions

In this article, Paul Ford expounds on his new-found techniques for avoiding the innumerable distractions that crowd in to our modern lives; I hadn't seen the AlphaSmart Neo (and Dana) before his mention, and was amazed at how closely the concept, as executed by AlphaSmart, matched the requirements my brother and I had set out in a discussion a few nights ago. We recognized the need for a rugged (bordering bomb-proof), reliable, simple device with great text-entry usability for warlespondence, adventure travel, and similarly rugged duties. We further noted the utility of such a device for those interested in distilling their daily exposure to technology and media down to a more manageale, less distracting level, focused on the creative process. We spec'd out the basic requirements for a great keyboard, reasonable display of text (but much less than the usual laptop screen), network connectivity including modem, loooong battery life, and removable flash memory... imagine my surprise to find *almost exactly that device* already being made by AlphaSmart.

But Ford's broader premise rings true for me, also -- I increasingly find myself using retro-tech software to accomplish the tasks I value most. A case in point: writing technical papers. I've pretty much given up on MS Word (although I still hold out hope for the complete redesign of the UI promised by the next release of Office; call me a sucker.) Every time I try to take advantage of the supposedly time- and effort-saving features in Word, I get burned. So, after years of threatening to do so, I finally bit the bullet and switched (back) to LaTeX. The learning curve's a bit steep in some areas, but I think I'll only have to deal with it once, and I'm finding (as I hoped) that I end up with a much (MUCH) more reliable process to get a print-ready document than with Word, and that translates directly into time savings, less stress, and an increased focus on document content rather than appearance.

I'm happy to have a modern machine on which to work, and the nuances a modern text editor brings to the party, but it's also satisfying to know that the basic ASCII text documents I'm writing could be used on any of a huge variety of hardware and software to re-create the finished product, and I can always go back to writing/editing using good 'ol vi.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Old Portable Typewriters

Inspired by a posting on my brother's blog, I finally found some information about the old, manual, portable typewriter I inherited from my Grandfather... this site lists a plethora of information about the old Remingtons, from which I learned that I have a model 5 (boxy), made ca. Oct. 1932- Aug. 1939.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Matplotlib / pylab - matlab-style python plotting

For web application developers who need to generate high-quality data plots, this library could be just the ticket.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby

Define brilliance. Well, I gave up, settling on the tried-and-true "I'll know it when I see it." Only thing is, the line between brilliance and too-bright-to-stare-at is a fine one... I don't yet know which side this online book on Ruby falls on, but I'm willing to risk burned retinas to find out. The burned-in patterns on the back of my eyeballs will look like cartoon foxes...