Thursday, 19 December 2013

Office 365 Wave15, Gmail and Evolution

During 2013 Microsoft upgraded Office365 to Wave 15. I’ve previously written about using both Gmail and Evolution with Office 365. The good news is that both still work.

However there is a major change. Wave 15 includes new standard host settings for POP and IMAP access. The online configuration guide I wrote last year has been updated to take account of the changes to the server settings

For POP access the new settings are:

Access type Host Port Encryption

If you are not sure if you are using the new settings, click on the settings (cogwheel) symbol and then click on

Options > Settings > Account > Settings for POP, IMAP and SMTP access

If you have previously configured your client with the pre-Wave 15 settings it will continue to work, but obviously Microsoft may withdraw this feature at a future date. If you have rolled this out in a production environment it might be worth thinking about an upgrade strategy.

If you wish to configure an IMAP client such as Alpine, the settings are almost the same:

Access type Host Port Encryption

The only difference being the access port used for IMAP access.

As always your mileage may vary.
Written with StackEdit.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Living with a Chromebook

Three or four months ago I bought myself a chromebook - really in frustration after my main laptop at home took 45 minutes to boot onetime after a series of Windows updates. At the same time I’d become frustrated with the slow start up time for my Windows netbook, so I thought a change of technology might be appropriate.

I could have bought myself an iPad with a keyboard, but a Chromebook seemed to fit the bill as
  • it was cheap
  • I use gmail as my primary mail provider
  • Ditto for Google Calendar
I find Google Docs good enough for most basic writing, and the Google spreadsheet application is similarly good enough for most basic operations.

At the same time I’m perfectly happy to use the web version of twitter, and I use the Innologic web application as my RSS feed reader. In short I can spend a whole afternoon quite productively inside of Chrome.

This was also intended as a second computer - the one that goes to meetings and goes travelling so being stateless and having everything synced to the web was a plus.

After a few months, I can say with some confidence that it’s a good choice. Evernote has been perfectly usable via the web. and I have never yet found myself in a situation where I wish I’d got something else.

In practice the chiclet style keyboard is no worse to type on than any other budget computer and the screen is reasonably bright and sharp.

I’ve also severely tested it’s offline capability. Mainly I’ve used it at home, which has been an interesting experience as it’s fair to say that our home ADSL link is groaning under the strain of supporting multiple chatty network connections, while competing for bandwidth with all of our neighbours increasingly busy connections.

Our landline connection goes via the neighbour’s apple tree to a junction box on an old phone pole, and then via the legacy overground copper network back to an exchange about 3km away. As a result we’ve always had dropouts and slowdowns. It is however getting steadily worse - as the ownership of computers and tablets rises, and as the network gets older and busier, the attenuation and loss of sync pulses has got markedly worse, meaning that using the network connection can be a fairly stochastic experience - especially in late afternoon.

I was worried about how this would affect the Chromebook. Obviously web browsing and email need a network connection to be present, but on the other hand the google docs app copes pretty well with the network going walkabout - I’m yet to lose anything significant. It’s here though that not having a local Evernote client does become a pain - basically I store all my notes and supporting documentation in Evernote, and having to rely on the web version means you need to be online to search it.

If we didn’t have these network problems I’d say that for most day to day work the Chromebook is perfectly adequate. I’d also say that the device copes well with flaky infrastructure

I have a 3G USB modem that I originally bought eighteen months ago for our trip to South Australia. That was fine as it worked well with my netbook at the time. Of course since then we have taken to using tablets more and the Chromebook of course does not support USB modems. I’ve just bought myself a noname 3G router that you plug the USB modem into and this allows you to create a wireless network. In theory this means that we will have a backup network when our main link is being stupid and yet allow us to take a network (and multiple computing devices - sad people that we are) with us.

The 3G router is buried in the Christmas post somewhere between Melbourne and Canberra, I’ll write how it turns out once I’ve had it in service for a month or so …
Written with StackEdit.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Postal services going the way of the bookstore

That great nineteenth century invention, the universal postal service, is slowly dying.

Canada Post is phasing out delivery to the home, the New Zealand postal service is reducing deliveries to three days a week in urban areas. In the UK, the newly privatised postal service is getting rid of posties bikes while AustraliaPost soldiers on with five day a week deliveries for the moment, albeit by charging an arm and a leg for a fairly basic service.

And of course, it’s all due to email. Not online shopping, email. In fact most postal services are keeping themselves alive by delivering packages for the various online shopping service. Everything from second hand books and laser toner to running shoes and business shirts.

It’s truly staggering the amount, and variety, of stuff we buy online, and it all needs to be delivered, and in the main it’s the postal service that does the delivering.

The fact that the UK is getting rid of the red post office bike is a symptom - fewer letters and more parcels and packets means that the bike is not as useful as a trolley,

Here in Canberra we still get a postie on a moped, but with Australia Post encouraging people to collect their own parcels from a mail centre one wonders for how much longer it will be economic to provide a mail delivery service.

Certainly the amount of standard mail we get has fallen off a cliff. All our bills come electronically, all our bank and credit card statements. No one much writes to us anymore, it’s all email. About the only mail we get, other than junk mail, is a postcard from our dentist reminding us about checkups, plus an annual letter from the vet about the cat’s vaccinations.

In fact, we don’t get our mail delivered, we have a private post office box and have our mail delivered there, simply because we get a lot of books and other small packets and it was simply easier to have it delivered somewhere we could collect it from easily, rather than have to trek to some post shop in some nameless suburb and line up to collect our mail.

At the same time we send very few letters. Christmas cards and the occasional official document and that’s it. Even though I write to my elderly father, who despite trying valiantly, has never come to grips with email, I use a service that takes my letter, prints it out, and posts it overseas, for a dollar less than it would cost me to do the same at home.

So, like bookstores, the postal service will gradually wither away. Delivery services in the cities and country towns will probably disappear, and the postal service will be part of history …

Written with StackEdit.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Using Word

I’ve just tweeted a link to an article by Charlie Stross on why we still use Word. And he’s dead right.
Over my thirty or so years I’ve had a lot to do with text processing - converting documents from one format to another, creating documents that could be used as structured input but still read well as print and the rest.
I still even have a blue and gold Word Perfect coffee mug ...

WordPerfect Mug

I’ve also seen a lot of horrorshows in the print and typesetting world, including a room of typsetters (people, not machines) marking up text in vi fullscreen on lovely shiny Macs, or the time a certain printer manufacturer explained how to override the defaults by creating this firmware macro (again in vi) and prepending it to the front of a file.

But, at the end of the day we come back to Word. Almost everything uses and understands the docx format, and Word of course does it better, quicker and more optimally than product with reverse engineered docx handling.

There is little or nothing in any of the document workflows out there that could not be done by something else, TeX perhaps - equally powerful, but unfortunately no one wrote a decent graphical front end for it in the eighties when Word first came on the scene.

Word came to dominate the market place. Other, equally good alternative products, eg WordPerfect fluffed the transition to windows environments, and some, such as AmiPro were just plain out competed. And so it came to pass that everyone who wanted your text documents expected a word document.

Which is why I have a copy of Word. Libre Office might be as powerful. Markdown might be faster, Google Docs good enough for meeting notes and brainstorming, but at the end of the day, if the text has to go through a workflow it means Word.
Written with StackEdit.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Mining the social web [book review]

The social web is a phenomenon of our times when the web started to reflect our interactions and communications.

Who speaks to whom, who says what about what, how many people talk about what. Information that marketers want, the information underlying the altmetrics movement in academia, and it would appear,  the various security agencies.

Mapping out interactions is not new, the Republic of Letters project did much the same by analysing the correspondence of eighteenth century savants, but it is both the scale of the social web and the complexities of the analyses made possible by cheap processing power.

This book covers the major social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+, with an emphasis on Twitter. The author also discusses mailbox corpus creation and analysis, and the analysis of semantic web data, and also interestingly, GitHub as a social platform.

This book is not a book for the dilettante. More than half the text consists of Python code and the reader really needs to work with the code examples to gain full value from the book. The book also provides a rapid introduction to OAuth, and ranges over topics as diverse as simple text analysis, cluster analysis, natural language processing,  and the use of applications such as MongoDB.

This is however a very good book for anyone seeking to work with the social web and would serve as a very useful primer or as a textbook for a module on data mining. The code examples are clear and nicely structured, making them easy to follow and work with.

Mining the Social Web: Data Mining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google , 
GitHub, and More 
O'Reilly Media (2013), Edition: Second Edition, Paperback, 448 pages 
- also available as an ebook in most common formats

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

2013 -what worked

Over the past few years I’ve been doing a ‘what worked’ every December, but this year I’ve also been doing quarterly updates on what I actually use. So this year’s post is also my quarterly update on the tools used

  • Dropbox – used mainly to sync files across computers irrespective of file format
  • Libre Office – platform agnostic document editor for off line writing. Often used in conjunction with Dropbox
  • Evernote – used as a notes and document management system (Nixnote is used on Linux to access my evernote files)
  • Wunderlist for ‘to do’ list management
  • Chrome – browser extraordinaire
  • Gmail – email solution
  • Postbox - lightweight email client for windows to cope with slow connections - used with great success in Sri Linka
  • Evolution - linux email client principly used in conjunction with Libre Office
  • Google docs – fast means to create quick and dirty documents irrespective of platform
  • Windows Live writer – offline blog post creation TextEdit – android text editor for note taking and integrates nicely with evernote and Gmail
  • Kate - my favourite editor
  • TextWrangler - my secondmost favourite editor
  • Stackedit - Google chrome markdown editor (and blog posting tool)
  • Pandoc - converts markdown to a range of other formats
  • Microsoft Skydrive – used for document backup
  • Amazon cloud drive - also used for documents
  • Excel Web App – for these occasions when Google Spreadsheets or Libre Office Calc will not do
  • GanntProject for gannt chart generation
  • InoReader for RSS feed tracking
  • Twitter for tracking interesting things – rarely for messaging
  • Hosted Wordpress and blogger for blogging, and wikidot for creating structured web pages
  • Hojoki for tracking documents and tasks (Gives unified visibility of GoogleDocs, Skydrive, GitHub, Dropbox and Evernote)

The real change has been to the hardware used. My trusty old Android tablet is still in use for checking email and reading news websites at breakfast time - as evidenced by some of the gluckier marks on the screen. The newer seven inch device is still in use as a note taker and I see no reason to change for the moment although I do admit being tempted by the new iPad mini - more because of the software base and the availability of decent keyboard solutions than anything else.

Textedit - the android text editor is now unsupported and while I’m continuing to use it successfully I fear that one day there will be an api change on google drive or evernote that will break things.

The real change has been the Chromebook. It allows me to check my email. create quick and dirty drafs using either Google Docs and StackEdit, as well as surf the web and research things. If anything has ever demonstrated how much of my day to day reading and specification checking has moved to the web the Chromebook certainly has.

It’s also fast, well fast enough, boots quickly and shuts down quickly. It’s not a full featured computer but it most definitely provided on the go functionality.

In fact it shows why my original Asus netwbook was such an effective tool and the windows netbook a bit of a clunker - basically load time. The platform is irrelevant, it’s access to a browser that counts.

However I still use my windows netbook - the Chromebook’s dependence on the internet makes it useless for off net travel, and my windows netbook does support my Virgin 3G dongle, though admittedly I seem to have been staying in places with poor Virgin coverage lately.

My Kindle has become my recreational reading devoce of choice although my vereable Cool-er has taken on a new life as a means of reading Gutenberg epub texts.

The Asus netbook has finally reached the end of it’s useful life but I’m tempted to try Crunchbang Linux on it as a basic writing/note machine, especially as it has a nicer keyboard than my seven inch Android tablet.

Despite several attempts to resurrect them I’m forced to admit that my pair of ppc imacs are too old and slow to be much use and are most probably headed for the great data centre in the sky …

Written with StackEdit.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Ed Summers - Experiments in access

NLA Innovative Ideas talk 02 Dc 2013

Ed Summers @edsu

This talk was held at the National Library of Australia. I went out of curiousity expecting a demo of cool things from the Library of Congress. Well there were certainly some cool things but given my current interest in the quantification of impact I came away with something else - a set of arguments and positions about access and impact and what exactly that means.

This post is basically my edited and cleaned up notes - any opinions or asides are my own and this is my interpretation of Ed’s talk. Comments and asides are marked up like this.


  • Ed Summers has worked on digitisation at Library of Congress
    • Linkypedia developer among other tools
    • Now a softwre dev at library of Congress


  • Library of Congress is de facto US National Library

    • includes repository devlopment centre - essentially a digital preservation group
    • but no final view on what is preservation or repository
    • could make the argument that a digital repository is just all the infrastructure for storage and access facilitation
    • use as justification to focus on doing useful things

    • could make similar argument for eresearch - rather than focus on grand initiatives focus on being useful

Doing useful things

  • role of access especially web based access and what access means in the context of digital preservation

    digital preservation is access in the future

  • preservation means access as a way of enabling preservation

  • access really is the same as web based access - no brainer
  • if people engage with your content it will be ustained

  • balanced value impact model - Simon Tanner

  • think about how preservation has impact
  • what is the benefit? eg cultural preservation and return of digital patrimony to the originating communities, such as Aboriginal groups - may not show formal cost/benefit result

  • idea of web as customer service medium - the great success of the web has around involvement and engagement on a mass scale eg social media

  • example nla newspaper ocr correction by crowd sourcing

  • success of wikipedia by author engagement

  • GLAM galleries archives libraries and museums

  • wikipedia glam effort to engage with GLAM community
  • use of GLAM content in wikipedia


  • American memory - 1990 effort to digitise Library of Congress data and distribute on laser disc to universities to provide access
    • innovative move to web 1993
  • very hierarchical content model oriented round collections - very taxonomic view
    • lots of clicks to get to an item
  • wondered on content use -moved to Flickr to make more searchable photo stream - no massive click frenzy to get to an item
    • simplify access -get 200% increase in access
    • flickr allowed people to tag and reuse content ie engage with content
  • click counting does not measure impact

  • linkypedia - shows how web content used on wikipedia - find how many articles on wikipedia use a a particular resource for citation

    • gives counts give number of secondary links - indicator of degree of value and reuse
  • usage can be monitord by rss
  • see reuse of data in sites such as pinterest

  • wikistream - harvest content from wikipedia via irc to harvest updates

  • wikipedia content very dynamic - lots of changes
  • easy to build an application by gluing tools- unix style building

  • wikipulse -shows edit activity as a spdometaphor

  • wikipedia community is active and engaged

  • Chroma - tool running on amazon to give impression of Wikipedia activity and site usage - question is what use people made of a resource

  • visual representations gives richer more impressistic use of sites


  • use of twitterbot to provide auto feed 100 yeasrs ago today to build engagement

  • mechanical curator - bl tumblr feed of image detail


It’s all about usefulness - if it is useful people will engage with content, cite it and make use of it, and much of the repository space should be around providing access to content - if it’s useful people will engage