Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Madoko ...

Earlier today I tweeted a link to Madoko, a Microsoft project to provide an online markdown editor. I was sufficiently intrigued to try  it out:

Syntax is definitely more Markdown like than pure Markdown but you don't need to read the documentation to use it providing you know standard Markdown - something that's a bit of a contradiction in itself.

The program uses the split screen model adopted by StackEdit and where you type in one screen and you see your text appear in the other, rather than the ReText style approach where you flip between an edit mode and a preview mode.

As a microsoft product the menus and document structuring tools are word like in style.

Responsiveness is similar to that with Zoho, Google Docs or using Retext on I'd categorise is as reasonable, but not amazing.
Like Retext on, while a web application it can link to other cloud stores such as Dropbox and One Drive.

Unlike most other markdown editors it produces either PDF output or HTML to publish web pages rather than offering any of the more conventional wordprocessor format outputs. And being positioned as a scientific writing tool, it will import LaTeX documents, as well as doing formulae nicely. PDF export goes via TeX and you also get the output TeX document to modify as well.

Using Apache Tika to analyse the pdf output one gets

producer: xdvipdfmx (0.7.9)
resourceName: document.pdf
xmp:CreatorTool: LaTeX with hyperref package

which is fairly standard for the LaTeX world.

Would I use it?

Possibly, although I'm comfortable enough using either Kate or Gedit to create markdown directly. It's certainly an alternative to StackEdit if you're working on a Chromebook, or working in an environment without a decent text editor.

Monday, 21 September 2015

reading a paper book

Very strange.

For the last six months or so I've only read a book on a tablet or on a dedicated ereader. Didn't set out that way, it's just happenstance.

Recently, I had reason to read a thick legacy format paperback - ie one made of paper with pages that you turn.

And it's strangely odd to hold a book open, or even deal with the weight and bulk of the book ...

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Printing from the cloud with RollApp

RollApp - the service that lets you run applications from a web browser - has just announced a facility to allow you to print locally from your remote application.

Reading between the lines, it works a little like Office 365 or Google Apps printing by generating a pdf which is transferred to you local machine for printing.

But there's a couple of questions about this:

1) If you're using a chromebook or an android tablet with a keyboard as your desktop device you're going to have access to CloudPrint, so why the two step process - what would be cool would be able to queue the file directly

2) If you're working on the train, the bus, or in a coffee shop the chances are you don't have a local printer - again queueing it to one of your cloud devices, or using something like Epson or HP's print via email service to a remote printer is probably what you want to use

So, good idea and a good first step, but not the complete answer ... 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Online galleries and the democratization of content

I’ve had an idea knocking around the back of my head for a few months or so now, ever since I was in Budapest and discovered the Hungarian National Gallery have their collection online.

Now it’s not a stellar collection, but it’s definitely competent and well curated.

At the same time I’ve been playing both with Pinterest and Omeka - Pinterest as a sort of visual research diary to collect and hold images, and Omeka as tool for assembling collections of material and putting them into context to tell a story.

Of course some items have an intrinsic structure - a scanned diary has a beginning, a middle and an end, just as a set of tax records from the 1700’s have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Others are just a collection of items that be assembled in various different ways to tell different stories with the same content - it's what you do with them that’s important. One fun example is the University of Reading's Collections tumblr page - a happenstance athematic collection of oddities

And then there are sites like Artsy that try to build sites around particular artists for all sorts of reasons - for example their Egon Schiele page provides visitors with Schiele's bio, over 25 of his works, exclusive articles, as well as up-to-date Schiele exhibition listings, and as such provide a service to people interested in the work of an artist or group of artists.

And interestingly is that under all of this is what they call their art genome project trying to evolve a classification model for art.

However, for the purposes of this post, what’s interesting about Artsy is how they have taken and reused content to make a different resource.

For quite a few years now there’s been discussion about digital repatriation - basically gathering together digitised content and representing (or more accurately making them available for re-presentation) as a whole - manuscripts that have been split up can be re-united, cultural material looted during nineteenth century colonial wars can be made available again to the original owners and collections of an artist’s work can be drawn together to show how his or her work and style evolved.

And of course we’re talking about the reuse of digital content, and the need to understand that once something is made available for reuse it can be used in lots of ways, and that you’ve basically lost control of the content.

And of course there’s fear element - make a high resolution image available and there’s nothing to stop someone else copying it and using it make a fridge magnet, and if it’s a popular and attractive item, a bit of money.

Inevitably that will happen, just as easily as people will make things of intellectual value, it’s simply that when you democratize access to content things change ...