All posts by Philip Regan

I’ll know it when I see it, and this isn’t it.

SILE versus Word

When most people produce printed documents using a computer, they usually use software such as Word (part of Microsoft Office) or Writer (part of Open/LibreOffice) or similar–word processing software. SILE is not a word processor; it is a typesetting system.

SILE versus TeX

SILE is basically a modern rewrite of TeX.

SILE versus InDesign

InDesign is a complex, expensive, commercial publishing tool. It’s highly graphical–you click and drag to move areas of text and images around the screen. SILE is a free, open source typesetting tool which is entirely text-based; you enter commands in a separate editing tool, save those commands into a file, and hand it to SILE for typesetting. And yet the two systems do have a number of common features.

So, essentially, this is a rewrite for TeX. But the reality is that creating complex layouts really, truly requires GUI layout tools. No matter how good the output is for this application, it’s entering into an firmly-established market with a few, large, expensive players, and not a lot of action. Publishing automation tools are nothing new, but one has to give up a certain amount (usually a lot) of control to create a document on the cheap. Even for those workflows that are intensely reliant on templates, designers are still working in InDesign for the initial design, which is then handed off to a person, or more frequently a system, to translate into something to be automated.

TeX has already been done, and automated layouts have already been done. I’m a long-time user of TeX, and I love it, but I don’t feel this has a long road in front of it.

Be careful what you ask for because you are going to get it.

This video has been making the rounds, so I thought I would take a shot at it…

I’m not really sure where to begin with this, so here’s everything that immediately came to mind upon watching this. All of this would apply to any smartphone, not just Apple’s. Choose what you like…

  1. I find your use of the phrase “for Science” offensive.
  2. Learn to take care of your shit. None of what you have done, or are ostensibly simulating, is a good idea. I don’t believe for even one second that placing the phone in your front pocket would require it experiencing this amount of pressure. Put it in your back pocket where it could experience this amount of pressure, however, and…well…you get everything you deserve by doing so. So, learn to take care of your shit.
  3. In other news, twentysomethings learn that shit is expensive when you have to pay for it yourself. Film at 11.
  4. Can we go back to complaining about battery life and antenna performance? Because this video is a waste of everyone’s time.
  5. Be careful what you ask for because you are going to get it.

I finished my homework

Instead of having hobbies, making side projects, watching TV or movies, playing video games, or reading for pleasure, I did my homework.

eXperimental Knotty Credential Developer

An easy-to-use password generator based on randomly selected words from the English language.

Passwords need to be created such that they are difficult to crack by hackers yet still easy to remember, which is a surprisingly hard thing to do. Randall Munroe of XKCD postulated (but did not endorse; a subtle but important distinction) an idea to create passwords that balance memorability and complexity by using words from the dictionary by virtue of their length.
eXperimental Knotty Credential Developer

There is a lot more I could do with this, but I moved past the spec as encouraged and I have a lot of political philosophy to read before Monday.

Go Crimson

The economics of a web-based book: year one

Let’s face it, un­less you’re re­ally slow on the up­take, you’ve out­fit­ted your web browser with an ad blocker. Ha ha, you win! But wait—that means most web ads are only reach­ing those who are re­ally slow on the up­take. So their dol­lars are dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­por­tant in sup­port­ing the con­tent you’re get­ting ad-free. “Not my prob­lem,” you say. Oh re­ally? Since those peo­ple are the only ones fi­nan­cially sup­port­ing the con­tent, pub­lish­ers in­creas­ingly are shap­ing their sto­ries to ap­peal to them. Even­tu­ally, the con­tent you liked—well, didn’t like it enough to pay for it—will be gone.

Why? Be­cause you starved it to death. The im­mutable law re­mains: you can’t get some­thing for noth­ing. The web has been able to de­fer the con­se­quences of this prin­ci­ple by shift­ing the costs of con­tent off read­ers and onto ad­ver­tis­ers. But if read­ers per­ma­nently with­draw as eco­nomic par­tic­i­pants in the writ­ing in­dus­try—i.e., refuse to vote with their wal­lets—then they’ll have no rea­son to protest as the uni­verse of good writ­ing shrinks. (And make no mis­take—it’s al­ready happening.)
The economics of a web-based book: year one

Either I’m slow on the uptake or I’m just really good at ignoring advertising, because I don’t have an ad blocker in my browser. I have long since disabled Flash, however, but that was more because it was a needless drain on my processor and battery than anything. But, this is an interesting way of thinking about the issue of blocking the ads of ad-supported endeavors. Be careful what you ask for (block ads supporting the content you find useful) because you are going to get it (crappy content because people who can value their time monetarily aren’t going to write content that won’t pay).

A Dream Come True

The JavaScript OSA component implements JavaScript for Automation. The component can be used from Script Editor, the global Script Menu, in the Run JavaScript Automator Action, applets/droplets, the osascript command-line tool, the NSUserScriptTask API, and everywhere else other OSA components, such as AppleScript, can be used. This includes Mail Rules, Folder Actions, Address Book Plugins, Calendar Alarms, and Message Triggers.
Apple: Javascript for Automation Release Notes

This is a dream come true for me; really heady stuff. Applescript has been foundational to my career, but I never once—not once—liked the syntax nor the environment. Giving Javascript a first-class implementation could be very beneficial, I think, as there are a hell of a lot more Javascript developers than there are Applescript developers. The problem still exists with wonky scripting support in applications (I’m looking at you, Adobe with your fancy-pants JSX). Perhaps by removing the Applescript barrier to automation will bring some new talent into this niche area that has been too specialized for its own good. Up until now, the Yosemite update was pretty “meh,” but now I’m excited.

What do you care, Excel?

While doing some automation work, I unintentionally tried to open two files with the same name but from different directories in Excel. Then, this happened:

excel_two_files

I don’t think this is something I’ve ever done in the past, but I also don’t understand why this would be a problem. If the complete paths were the same, I would understand because Mac OS treats all network volumes as /Volumes/path/to/file.ext. Statistically, small but not to the point of being pragmatically impossible, two files on two external volumes could have the same path. But going by just the name seems…short-sighted…or something. Weird.

Watching Television Is Still Not Easy

I took another stab at watching MasterChef last night despite my final smug “259 day” comment from yesterday, and I actually got to see at least the first half (I fell asleep before the second half began, but that’s another story). This time, it was Verizon getting in my way rather then Fox.

For those unfamiliar, Verizon’s OnDemand organizes television shows in a myriad different ways—by network, show title, HD vs. standard definition—and there are sometimes multiple ways to get to the same episode. It also appears as though that making mistakes is easy for whomever’s job it is to upload new content to OnDemand.

To get to Masterchef, the path I typically go is Free & Premium > TV > By Network > Fox HD > Masterchef. But, the latest HD versions of the show are no longer listed here; there is now that n-day delay that Fox so explains on their own website. Things went wonky this season because there are two listings for MasterChef: “Masterchef” and “Master Chef”. There is little difference between the two except that one has the pre-season extras and the other does not. Neither of them contain the episode that just aired.

Last night, I took another stab at watching the show, but this time instead of going the Fox HD path, I went the plain Fox path. Again, there are two listings for MasterChef as in the HD menu. One has the standard definition shows, which I never watch because I paid good money for my HD TV and I’ll be damned if I am going to waste both my time and money watching anything standard definition, and the other contains the HD shows including the latest one. Bingo, but what a slog to get there. The cherry on top of this sundae is that in trying to figure which episode to watch, I started watching the second half of the episode that spoiled the ending of the first half.

Watching TV now appears to have at least two extreme paths. First is the one that has always existed where one sits down for the original broadcast at a specific day, time, and network, which is undeniably easy. The other is the path that exists for those that cannot, or will not, make that kind of commitment in their schedule for a TV show, a path that is fraught with seemingly pointless barriers to viewing.

I don’t understand this delay they have in place. No matter where I watch the show, I’m still seeing advertising before and during my viewing, which I am totally fine with. But the advertising obfuscates the purpose that delay serves. As such, I have a hard time listening to the entertainment industry complain about poor revenue and rampant piracy when they themselves establish all these seemingly arbitrary barriers to viewing. Clearly, what they are doing isn’t working and despite being in media and publishing myself I have little sympathy for them on this.

Remember when watching TV was easy?

I don’t watch a lot of television or movies. Between my nightly efforts towards a bachelor’s degree, my full-time day job, and two kids, I simply don’t have the time to watch a lot of television. The only time I have for TV and movies is during the summer, and even then the habit has been mostly broken. Still, when it’s late in the evening after the kids have gone to bed, I don’t mind an hour or two on the weekends.

One show I watch during the summer is MasterChef. I know, right? But by the time I get to a point where I have an hour to just sit, I’m not terribly keen on engaging deeply with anything. That’s about all the justification I have and all that’s really needed. I don’t waste my time much anywhere else (except maybe here), so I don’t feel I’m committing any great sins watching people cook, eat, and critique food.

Now that the semester has started again, I can’t watch the show at the time of broadcast because I have class on Monday nights. Also, I can’t watch the show on OnDemand like I used to because Fox made a change in policy recently as to when the latest show is released to OnDemand and Hulu by delaying the latest episode’s release by a day. Last night (a Tuesday) happened to be a good time to catch up on Monday’s show—I had a small window in between assignments—so I went to Fox’s website to catch up. I was confronted with this:

140910_01_fox

The text reads:

Why wait another day to watch the latest hit shows on FOX?

To watch your favorite FOX shows the next day after they air, just pop in your TV Provider’s Username and Password. It’s quick and easy with no delays. Don’t wait 8 days to keep up with the latest shows you love. Instead watch them in 24 hours – while they’re still the latest.
Next day access, sign in now.

Followed by a button, then this:

259 day delay, well, patience is a virtue.

I’ll leave the editorializing for later, for now here’s what happened: I clicked the button to enter my credentials, which then provided this listing of a slew of TV providers:

140910_02_cables

My “TV provider” is Verizon FiOS. I clicked their button and was presented with a link to either enter credentials at Verizon or “Get Temporary Access.”

140910_03_workaround

Given the opportunity to avoid entering credentials, I dove straight for the temporary access. I got into the show. I am presented with an ad, and then an episode that was 48 minutes long. But the preview for Monday’s show was a two-hour special, so something wasn’t right. I just happened to have two hours last night so I backed out of the show to go enter my credentials speculating, likely erroneously on my part, that entering my credentials would give me the whole show. Not sure why I thought that, it was late, but watching TV is so wonky these days for me these I don’t know what to expect.

My problem at that point is that I rarely ever go to Verizon’s website for anything—since I renewed my subscription things have been pretty much on cruise control—and I have long since misplaced my credentials. I think they’re on the file folder where I stash my paperwork in the cabinet upstairs, but I don’t remember and, in all honesty, I didn’t feel like getting up to go on the hunt. I took a couple stabs at the password, but after two (2!) attempts, I was locked out of my account. I was presented with the opportunity to reset my password. Resetting the password entails getting a text message with a temporary PIN. So, I pressed the requisite buttons.

Fifteen minutes of waiting and the temporary PIN still hadn’t come. By that time, any momentum I had for pursuing this is now gone. It was 21:30 and I have an 04:00 start the next day as I do every day. Clearly, I will have to properly manage my Verizon credentials situation this weekend when I have a bit more time, and I will have to work to carve out time this week or next to catch up on the latest, if I can.

Now I have some questions:

  • Why the “259 day delay?” What is that? Is that a scare tactic to get people to enter credentials? Do you want people to watch your TV and associated advertising or not, Fox?
  • Why does my “TV provider” have to enter into this exchange outside of providing pipes to a website?
  • Why is that if the credentials are technically required for easy access that temporary access is even offered? Requesting credentials at that point appears superfluous at best, and a waste of everyone’s time—Fox’s, the TV provider’s, the customer’s—at worst to get it all set up.

All I wanted to do was watch a particular TV show, that is what I had to go through, and I still wasn’t successful. This temporary PIN from Verizon never came as I write this the next morning. Perhaps all this makes me lazy or maybe I’m getting better at picking my battles. Either way, I’m glad to have been reminded that I’m not missing much, but I’ll try to check in again in roughly 259 days to see if anything has changed.