Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Riding the wily werewolf

Having upgraded my Mac to El Capitan, a few days ago I upgraded my Linux laptop to Ubuntu 15.10, aka Wily Werwolf.

I'd been running the 14.04 LTS (long term support) version very successfully - it was stable, booted considerably faster than my Mac, and apart from very occasionally getting in a stupid state where it didn't come out of hibernation properly, problem free.

But, some of the applications packaged with it were beginning to be out of step with some of the newer versions available on some of my other machines running Debian and the like so I decided to upgrade.

Upgrading involved going via 15.04 - I actually thought about stopping at 15.04 and not upgrading to 15.10 as it was so new the paint wasn't fully dry, but 15.04 felt unstable on my laptop.

Nothing I could put my finger on, it just didn't feel as rock solid as 14.04.

Going from 15.04 to 15.10 gave me a few more patches, the new versions of the applications I wanted, and more, it felt more stable, and it's proved to be fairly solid in use.

The upgrade process was fairly mechanical, just a case of following the prompts, and while it wasn't quite as slick as a Mac or a Windows upgrade, it was all there and it all made sense - strangely this is the first Ubuntu upgrade I've done in a long time - mostly I just rebuild the machine from scratch - but this machine had a slew of files and extra applications that would be a pain to reinstall, so an upgrade it was. And everything still worked afterwards.

What it showed is that Ubuntu is mainstream quality, does what you want, and works well. No complaints so far ...

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Google calendar url's and orage synchronisation

On a hot sticky afternoon in 2007 I wrote a little script to import a google calendar file into orage.

For some reason it became quite popular, mostly due to the lack of a suitable alternative import mechanism.

Google have recently announced that the URL used by Google Calendar will change.

If you've been using my script with an old style URL, this will of course break but the fix is relatively straight forward - simply update the calendar url used by the wget command ...

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

El Capitan ...

While I was having my twitter discussion on 'What is a repository?' I wasn't idle.

I upgraded my five year old MacBook to the latest version of OS X, El Capitan. I'd previously upgraded it to Yosemite, and while it was fine in use, it did tend to slow down over the working week and was at times tediously slow to boot after a shutdown.

It's a little too early to tell how good it'll be after a period of sustained use but I think the upgraded system is a little faster.

The upgrade process was fairly slick, as you'd expect with Apple. I did have a moment of panic half way through when the system rebooted, and instead of simply flashing the power light on and off, made it flicker along with a horrid buzzing noise that reminded me of a system with corrupt firmware, but that was just me being paranoid.

Initial login and configuration seemed to take forever, giving me plenty of time to appreciate the aesthetics of the redesigned spinning beach ball of death but we got there in the end.

As usual with a Mac, everything just seems to work and there's no playing with settings (well apart from reconnecting to iCloud).

We'll see how thing are in a week or so ...

Monday, 19 October 2015

No one wants an ereader

A few days ago I blogged about peak ereader and how one big English bookshop chain had stopped stocking Kindles.

So, Is it really the end for the ereader?

I think so. A search on ebay reveals a lot of second hand Kobos, Sonys and Kindles but no new devices or third party cheap asian devices.

The cheapest I could find was a refurbished Kobo for fifty bucks - as a comparison on the same day I could get a new end of range 7" android tablet for an extra ten bucks -from Telstra of all people.

The market has voted - no one wants them ...

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

ipython notebooks and text cleaning

Twice in the last few days I've had an interactive text cleaning session - once with Ernesta's diary and once with a 125 page listing of journal editor strings that lacked some quality control - leading spaces, double spaces between some entries and so on.

All easy enough to fix with sed to get a file where the names were nicely comma separated and hence easy to split into the individual names.

None of this is rocket science mostly it's just

s/ and /,/
s/ & /,/
s/ ,/,/

and of course each time you do it the steps you follow are slightly different.

Most times I don't use sed, mostly I use gedit which includes the functionality. It could also be done interactively from the command line using perl or python as I did cleaning up Ernesta when I felt lazy and raided stack overflow rather than doing it myself.

The crucial thing is of course that I don't actually have a record of what I did. I have notes of what I think I did, but this is reconstructed from a screenscrape of a terminal session and emails to colleagues. Crucially if you use a tool like gedit, you don't get a record of what you've done.

The same goes for work done in R such as my experiments to make a middle Scots stopword list - while I'm sure I've archived my script somewhere, I don't have a record of what I did.

While it might be overkill, the answer is to use something like ipython notebooks as an interactive work environment - and of course they're not just for python anymore - they're increasingly language agnostic.

So my little self improvement project is to get to grips with ipython notebooks, which if nothing else should improve my python skills ...

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Peak e-reader ?

Waterstone's, the big UK bookshop chain has stopped reselling the Kindle. At the same time, their competitor, who resells the Nook, reports that sales are flat, with few people buying an e-reader for the first time, and those sales that they have are people replacing failed devices.

This shouldn't surprise us. E-readers are conceptually simple devices that do one or two things very well. There's no pressure to upgrade or replace unless the device breaks or is left out in a summer storm.

For example, while I use a Kindle for recreational reading, I still use my 2009 vintage Cool-er for reading public domain epubs and cleaned up texts such as Ernesta Drinker's diary. Despite being totally unsupported my Cool-er still works fine - the only problem being that the paint has scuffed off some of the arrow keys.

So that's one problem. The devices are reliable. The other problem is the multiple device problem. A lot of reading takes place on public transport, and if you've already got a tablet with you why carry a second device when you can just as easily read your book on your tablet?

So it's probably legitimate to say that the e-reader device is saturated, at least in the developed, English speaking world. Due to the cheapness of tablets these days less developed countries may never do the e-reader thing, especially as the tablet is considerably more flexible as a resource - after all if you'd a choice between a $100 tablet and a $100 ereader, which would you choose?

None of this says anything about e-book adoption rates.

E-books remain a versatile distribution medium. There will always be people that prefer paper books and those books  that simply aren't available in an electronic format. And there's definitely a role for them as reference material.

But e-books are here to stay.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Ernesta Drinker and surfaces, macbooks and the rest

Yesterday I posted about my quick and dirty clean up of Ernesta Drinker's journal.

A few hours later, on the other side of the planet, Microsoft announced a slew devices, including the Surface Book, which is being touted by some journalists as a MacBook Pro killer.

Well I have a MacBook Pro (well, work bought it for me, and it's actually 5 years old and overdue for replacement), but all my work fiddling with Ernesta Drinkwater's book was carried out on an even more elderly Dell Latitude running Linux.

It's Linux that made it possible, because of it's rich toolset, though I could have done it on my MacBook via a terminal window because of OS X's BSD heritage.

Windows? - well given I used perl for a lot of it I could have done it by running the scripts from the command line but it would have been a bit of a hassle.

And that's something that tends to be forgotten. There are those of us who use machines for work, and quite often what we have on our desks is driven by our software requirements for work, and how effective that makes us.

If I was cynical, the only reason I have Microsoft Office is because I once had to write a set of grant proposals using a template that didn't work in Libre Office.

Necessity is the mother of software choice, not how fast or sexy your hardware its ...