Category Archives: Software

Written after clearing out iPhoto

This article was written for the ‘Without the Internet’ series. Simply put, I’ve been without the Internet at home for about four weeks and, as a result, I’ve been spending most of my free time pruning my Mac mini inside and out – coming across interesting snippets from the last few years.

I’ve had more than one iPhoto library on the go for a while now. I was (and still am) a keyword whore; and when the keyword database in one iPhoto library was getting close to ‘ridiculous’, I’d hop over and begin fresh with a new one. This meant that the old library is as fit-to-bursting as the day I, effectively, abandoned it – and it’s quite a time capsule, if not only to demonstrate how utterly clueless at photography I was back in the early Brown years.

2009. A year of picking up film from Jessops and mainstream fake lomography.

iPhoto enables its users to store a significant amount of personal metadata alongside each photograph or image – or at least did enable that; I don’t know about the latest and greatest features of the most up-to-date version as I’m still using a particularly buggy version of iPhoto ’09. But these user-input keywords and descriptions aren’t transferable between libraries since they’re stored deep within the library, rather than attached to the files themselves. One must use adroitness the clipboard, a directory to temporarily store the images, and a text file containing the descriptions and tags of each file. It’s quite tedious work to move these photographs but, because of that, I’m being much less lenient about keeping the most dreadful.

You’ll probably be horrified to know that over the next few weeks, I’ll be uploading a lot more to Flickr. Watch this space and feel free to offer any constructive criticism – I’ll write it all down and send it back to 16-year-old Kevin when I get ’round to founding my time-travel postal business in a few years.


I’m really quite busy with work at work; I haven’t had much free time these days. Here goes with a small rant about Google Chrome. This is a strings rant: it’s hardly worth mentioning it’s such an insignificance. I turned this Chrome feature off a while ago because I was at a stage where I felt I could read whatever the Internet threw at me, but I needed to turn it back on again today—automatic page translation. It’s not call ‘automatic page translation’ in the preferences; the description of the checkbox reads:

“offer to translate pages that aren’t in a language that I read”

The way this sentence is worded implies that I only speak English or, more generally, I only speak the primary language my system is set to.† I don’t; I speak English and Dutch—the former significantly more confidently than the latter, but I’m getting there … slowly. I’d suggest the line be changed to something like:

“offer to translate pages in languages other than English”

There; works perfectly well and it doesn’t hurt my gigantic ego. Small things like this get on my tits, but I don’t think they would if I didn’t think they mattered.

†: If my primary system language wasn’t English, I wouldn’t be reading a checkbox description in English, would I? Disregard the striked text.


Idea: clause depth changer

My style of writing uses clauses, as you’ve probably read before. Clauses are extremely useful for Erkläreideen und Erzählung—as well as just generally preventing the flow of a sentence from jarring to an abrupt halt. Since I’ve begun using the editor vim, the speed at which I write text (I hope) has improved and a few months on, I’m starting to get the hang of some of vim's—I guess you would call them—‘navigational’ shortcuts; these shortcuts are supposed to speed up your typing, though I still prefer using Ctrl + arrow keys over for word-by-word navigation—though not for changing or deleting text, which is where vim becomes very powerful indeed.

Clause depth for me is three-fold: in ascending order of ‘weight’, a comma affects a sentence the least, an mdash affects a sentence a little more and a semi-colon I use to combine related sentences or groups of related clauses; and, sometimes, I’m required to flip the weight of the semi-colon and mdash around—just so I don’t use one in close proximity to another.

Sometimes, it happens that I change my mind on how deep or with what glyph I want to clause (v.) a clause (n.); to go back and change, let’s say, a comma followed by a space to a mdash with spaces on either side would require, even using Ctrl + arrow keys, between seven and nine keystrokes. Couldn’t there be a simpler way to find the last comma-space and replace ‘, ’ to ‘ — ’ while retaining my cursor position in vim? I suppose it could be done with a macro—though I’m far from fluent in vim ‘beyond the basics’ .If you know of such a way, please: I’d be very grateful to know and the offer of a beer is… well, on offer for the most helpful response, though we may have to have a vote to eliminate (most) bias.


Graffiti 2 vs Dell

In this post, I’ll be wasting your time by pointlessly comparing the Palm technology Graffiti to other methods of text input.

Graffiti may be retro but it’s one of the slowest ‘innovations’ I’ve recently gone back to. Don’t believe me?; remember Graffiti as a quick method of Palm input?; remember Palms? I wrote the following passage first in gvim on my netbook, then using the software keyboard on my ancient PalmOne Zire 31—yes; they do have software keyboards—and finally on my Zire 31 using Graffiti 2 as the input.

This expanded edition of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism includes the text of his 1868 speech to the British House of Commons defending the use of capital punishment in cases of aggravated murder. The speech is significant both because its topic remains timely and because its arguments illustrate the applicability of the principle of utility to questions of large-scale social policy.

The above passage, taken from the blurb on the back of my copy of Utilitarianism, took ninety seconds to write in gvim and that writing-out is the quote above. I rewrote-out the passage, using the book’s back cover as the source each time and waiting five minutes between typing each version to reduce memory bias. Taking a stylus to the Palm’s software keyboard took four minutes and 35 seconds (275 seconds). To write the paragraph using Graffiti 2, it took seven minutes and thirteen seconds (433 seconds): 1.6ish times longer than the Zire’s software keyboard and almost five times longer than using gvim on my Dell Inspiron mini. I’m not sure what scientific relevance or use this information has but remember: you’ve read it; you can’t unread it.

Palm Zire 31 and its software keyboard—accessible by tapping ABC in the bottom-right of the main Graffiti area

Palm Zire 31 and its software keyboard—accessible by tapping ABC in the bottom-right of the main Graffiti area

I’ve also been meaning to compare typing on one’s netbook and typing on one’s HTC Desire and its software keyboard (termed ‘Touch Input’ by the Android OS). The same-as-before passage of text took 108 seconds to type on the Desire; this figure versus the ninety seconds it took in gvim on my netbook. Not a huge difference and a lot faster than I was predicting.

So, as predicted, my netbook is the fastest mobile/portable device I have when it comes to typing; possibly slightly slower than my MacBook Pro was (rest in peace) owing to its slightly-more-springy keyboard. My Mac mini uses a Apple wireless keyboard as its keyboard input and, while the keys are a little smaller than those on my netbook and the spring is a little subtler on my Mac’s keyboard, I think I prefer my netbook’s keyboard—though maybe that’s because I’ve been using my netbook as my sole computer for the last fortnight and over the last few months, I’ve seen my Mac mini use dramatically fall as I begin to get more and more comfortable with using my netbook at college and for ‘around the house’ typing and editing.

Just a little bene: Graffiti 2 tries to be more ‘logical’ in terms of imitating handwriting than Graffiti (or Graffiti 1 as I’ll call it here) was. Graffiti 2 introduced multiple strokes per character—for example, a lowercase ‘t’ character requires a stroke down (which types a lowercase ‘l’) and a stroke across from left to right (which changes the ‘l’ to a ‘t’; without the stroke down to begin with, a space would be typed)—and I’m not the only one who considers this change, from ‘one stroke, one character’, less easy-to-use and difficult to adapt to. The interesting thing is is that I never had any contact with Graffiti 1 until February 2011 (when I installed a Graffiti 1 input method on my HTC Desire; simply because of retro impulsion), and the only device I’ve owned to have any version of Graffiti on it—this dear-old Palm Zire—had always been Graffiti 2-based. What probably happened was that I’d forgotten most (if not all) of the gestures from Graffiti 2 and, in relearning Graffiti 1 in those crucial five minutes, it now means until I forget everything again, I’m stuck with feeling awkward and frustrated every time a ‘t’ won’t write the way I ‘expect’ it to. JSYK, a ‘t’ character is written/drawn in Graffiti 1 by stylus-ing a glyph that looks similar to mirrored capital gamma (Γ)—but right-and-down and not left-and-down; left-and-down would produce an ‘f’.

Stopwatch used was an iPod nano (3rd generation). Blurb used as passage-to-be-transcribed was back cover of Utilitarianism and the 1868 Speech on Capital Punishment (2nd edition; ed. George Sher) (ISBN 0-87220-605-X). Control variables: same subject (Kevin Steinhardt), same passage of text; variable variables: input devices and methods (Dell Inspiron mini 10 keyboard with Windows key, Palm Zire 31 using Graffiti 2 first then using software keyboard, HTC Desire using Android 2.2 default software keyboard).


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