Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, March 27, 2020

Four Things

Exploring past and present frontiers of pen and paper and electrons...

Image by André Noboa, via Unsplash, license.
1. Cal Newport reports with annoyance that Moleskine has a social network:
I was prompted to write this post after someone pointed me toward the distressing fact that Moleskine started a social network called myMoleskine. It allows people to publicly share their notes and follow other Moleskine users. A development for which I have only one official reaction: Sigh. [link and italics in original]
My initial response was, Who doesn't?

And a cursory look around quickly showed me that it can at least be a good way for talented artists to exhibit their work, be it as a way to possibly being discovered or simply to share their own delight with others who may enjoy their work.

I agree that spending too much time on social media is wasteful, but thoughtful, disciplined use can be valuable.

2. "Leaping laggard" tech consumer that I am, I have kept an antenna raised on the subject of tablets that emulate (paper) notebooks, such as the reMarkable. I have held out on purchasing one so far, but that time may end soon, in part because the latest release sounds so good:
But overall you're looking at a much cheaper package. The reMarkable, for all its merits, was not cheap at $700. The reMarkable 2 will sell for $399 if you pre-order, and comes with a Marker and a nice folio case. For anyone who was on the fence about the first one, the sequel may prove irresistible.
The cheaper price comes with several notable improvements, including: (1) less latency between touching the screen with the stylus and marking, (2) the option of having an "eraser" end on the stylus, and (3) improved power management allowing for two weeks of use or three months on standby.

3. With so many people working from home due to the ongoing pandemic, many companies have seen the chance to win new customers and offered their remote collaboration software for free, as in beer.

That's great, if you use Windows.

But what if you use Linux and open-source software, as I do? At least one Linux distributor has put out a list of FOSS options for remote work:
Purism has been working remote since we started in 2014. Here's our list of essential free software for remote work, all can be self hosted or used via various hosted options.
I appreciate the list, but this company's About page reminds me that I ought to write something about "conscious" "capitalism" some time: The whole idea that profit necessarily conflicts with a refusal to compromise on purpose and quality is, frankly, ridiculous.

4. And speaking of Linux, the plethora of "surprising programs" under the hood has been a large part of what has made it so valuable to me. These are the subject of a thread at Hacker News, kicked off by an old-timer's post on surprising programs in Unix, the ancestor of Linux.

Here is what Doug McIlroy says about typo in the parent post:
Typo ordered the words of a text by their similarity to the rest of the text. Typographic errors like "hte" tended to the front (dissimilar) end of the list. Bob Morris proudly said it would work as well on Urdu as it did on English. Although typo didn't help with phonetic misspellings, it was a godsend for amateur typists, and got plenty of use until the advent of a much less interesting, but more precise, dictionary-based spelling checker.

Typo was as surprising inside as it was outside. Its similarity measure was based on trigram frequencies, which it counted in a 26x26x26 array. The small memory, which had barely room enough for 1-byte counters, spurred a scheme for squeezing large numbers into small counters. To avoid overflow, counters were updated probabilistically to maintain an estimate of the logarithm of the count.
The thread ranges from the useful -- like paste, which I have found helpful -- to the historical or esoteric.

To be clear, not all of the programs exist in typical Linux distributions.

-- CAV


Today: Added "(paper)" to my outdated description of those things people used to write on. 

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