# baty.net(…of which more later…)

## Digital Ocean

Sunday, 2 June 2013

There have been so many positive comments about DigitalOcean that I couldn't resist having a go, so you're soaking in it right now.

Baty.net is a static site so moving it to a DigitalOcean "Droplet" was easy. Droplets are KVM-based Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and start at $5/month for an instance with 512MB RAM and 20GB of storage. The kicker is that the storage is all on SSD drives. If you decide to try it, use the link below and I get a small commission. ## Google Glass Thursday, 2 May 2013 I'm sure I don't have anything special to add to the debate about the future of Google Glass. I just want to go on record with my vote: Fail. There is nothing about Glass that interests me enough to make me wear something that douchey. And I'm going to be one of those folks who refuses to remain in the company of those who do. ## Kids these days Sunday, 17 March 2013 I don't know what it's like having grown up with the Internet. In "We, the Web Kids" Piotr Czerski writes from the perspective of someone who does: We grew up with the Internet and on the Internet. This is what makes us different; this is what makes the crucial, although surprising from your point of view, difference: we do not ‘surf’ and the internet to us is not a ‘place’ or ‘virtual space’. Does growing up with the Internet make Web Kids significantly different than us "Old Folks?" I don't think so. Old Folks like me had to learn to get along with the newfangled thing we called the "Information Superhighway," and we did. After all, we invented it, and it quickly became as much a part of our lives as Czerski describes it being part of his. Nearly everything he portrays as unique to his "generation" is now also completely normal to mine. The differences between generations are fascinating and I enjoyed reading Czerski's perspective, but as one of the Old Folks I don't feel accurately portrayed in portions of his piece. For example, when describing interactions with "institutions of democracy," he writes: There is not a trace in us of that humble acceptance displayed by our parents, who were convinced that administrative issues were of utmost importance and who considered interaction with the state as something to be celebrated. Not a single person I know of any age feels that way, and I would rather not be thought of as someone who does. The Web Kids have been quick to find ways of using the Internet as an agent of change, and that's fantastic, but the ability to recognize the need for change and the desire to make those changes are not solely the province of the young. Experience will teach them that. The idea that having less experience is somehow an advantage is common to those without enough experience to have learned otherwise. Here is how Czerski's describes the way Web Kids process information: We select, we filter, we remember, and we are ready to swap the learned information for a new, better one, when it comes along. I'd say that accurately describes all of us. The Web came along and it was new and better and the Old Folks figured it out. We learned. It became "an invisible yet constantly present layer intertwined with the physical environment" for us, too. We're all Web Kids these days. ## The Commonplace Book Sunday, 3 March 2013 Here's what Wikipedia says about the Commonplace book. Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. They became significant in Early Modern Europe. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator's particular interests. I kept such a commonplace book in high school. Written in it were mostly song lyrics I found meaningful and quotes from whatever book I was reading. It's such fun to go back and look through those things now. It's like reading a journal of my interests, written down by me but authored by other people. I've decided to start keeping one again, mostly for the same reasons, but also because I find that the physical act of writing provides a better context for things and helps me to remember them. Plus, it gives me an excuse to buy fancy pens and notebooks. Mine looks like this so far: A side effect of keeping this book is that I now tend to read sitting at my desk, which makes writing easier. I find that this also makes reading somehow more deliberate and also helps me retain more than just those things I decide to record. Of course I could read books on my Kindle, which would make highlighting and saving passages much faster and easier. I do that, too, but that only helps with finding things later, which is only part of the intent. As the saying goes, "I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it now." Besides, the resulting artifact is beautiful and meaningful to me and therefore worth the small amount of additional effort. Paging through a book like this periodically is all sorts of better than using Spotlight to search a folder full of identical-looking text files. Not faster or easier, but still better. ## Rowland S. Howard Saturday, 2 March 2013 As Nick Cave's co-conspirator with The Birthday Party, Rowland S. Howard should not have remained unknown to me for so long. Today I discovered his first solo record, "Teenage Snuff Film." I love hearing wonderful things for the first time. Howard's guitar work is terrific and the songs are dark and moody and depressing and awesome. I've lost the power I had to distinguish Between what to ignite and what to extinguish. ## Too Simple Sunday, 24 February 2013 I'm in favor of simple, but I think that an app needs to do something in order to be useful. For example, a weather app should tell me more than what I could gather by just looking out the window. Maybe it's time for the complexity pendulum to start swinging the other way. ## Using Tinderbox to publish LaTeX documents Saturday, 23 February 2013 Every now and then I find myself fascinated with LaTeX even though I have no real need for it. I don't write academic papers. I don't need to represent complex mathematical equations. I don't write long documents requiring references, figures, or any of the other things LaTeX is so good at. What I like most about LaTeX is the way it formats text. I also like the idea of leaving layout or design out of the document and focusing on content. No need to waste time "finger painting" my documents, and yet the output is beautiful. The down side of LaTeX is complexity. Getting the broad strokes to work is easy, but when it comes time to make detailed changes things I quickly become lost. So I cheat by using Markdown in BBEdit, then converting the document to PDF using Pandoc. This works a treat if I'm always creating the same type of document, but I have a number of variations that I like to use, and what I ended up with is a mess of shell scripts and BBEdit macros all over the place. While it got me through, I thought I'd try some thing else. My recent return to Blogging with Tinderbox had me digging into Tinderbox's export templates more deeply than I've done before. It occurred to me that Tinderbox might also be suitable for creating LaTeX documents. What I've done so far is create several Notes in Tinderbox to use as Templates while exporting content. These are comprised of LaTeX markup interspersed with content from the current Tinderbox Note. At its most basic, one of my templates looks like this: \documentclass{article} \setlength{\parindent}{0pt} \setlength{\parskip}{2ex} \usepackage[top=2in, bottom=1.5in, left=1in, right=1in]{geometry} \usepackage{graphicx} ^if($Draft)^
\usepackage{draftwatermark}
\SetWatermarkText{DRAFT}
\SetWatermarkScale{2}
\SetWatermarkColor[gray]{.9}
^endif^
\title{^title^}
\author{^value($Author)^} \begin{document} \maketitle ^text^ \end{document}  Setting the above as the export Template for a Tinderbox Note will generate a complete LaTeX document by replacing the output markers (e.g. ^title^) with content from my current note. I can then typeset the output using whatever LaTeX tool is handy. That in itself may not be enough to justify the effort, but when I add other attributes to a Note I can get fancy by using the export tools in Tinderbox to tweak things without having to have the LaTeX manual open all the time. For example, you see that "^if($Draft)^" section? I use that so I don't accidentally send a document I haven't finished. "Draft" is a boolean attribute I added to Tinderbox. If Draft is checked (true) then the document is rendered with a "DRAFT" watermark over it, like so.

I've added other default attributes such as "Author" and "To" and "PublishDate" so that I can easily set them as part of a Tinderbox Note and have them included where appropriate in the LaTeX file and thus the final document.

I have templates for Letter, Article, Memo, and Estimate so far. To determine which is used for a particular Note, I set the Export Template while exporting from Tinderbox.

I'm already thinking of other document types and attributes that could be useful. Using Tinderbox as a publishing tool has provided an easy way to generate nicely-typeset versions of my most frequently used document types by simply writing as I normally would.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

I have no doubt that one day it will be possible for someone like me to do all of my work on an iPad, without compromise. I say "someone like me" because I'll probably have died of old age by then.

There are 2 primary camps on this issue. The first group are the True Believers and they say, "Why, I can do everything on my iPad right now. It's a content-creation miracle!" The other group, The Curmudgeons, say things like, "The iPad is good for games and movies, but no way can anyone get real work done with one."

I fall somewhere in the middle, with a slight curmudgeonly nudge. While many things I need to do are possible on the iPad, I find few of them to be easier. Even the True Believers tend to hedge their claims with words like "almost" and "good enough" and "I survived." But if you enjoy it that way, good on ya. For me, no number of apps will help me to enjoy typing on glass. And if I need to bring a keyboard, I might just as well take my 11" MacBook Air and be done with it.

We're in a period of fascinating transition but right now I feel the Curmudgeons' assessment is more realistic than that of the True Believers. That may change, and perhaps sooner than I think.

Federico Viticci said today, on Twitter...

Like I said, people who get *so mad* when they hear “I get work done on iOS” do that because they have a direct interest in OS X

I don't understand getting angry at someone over any of this. While I'll be sticking with my laptop for most things, I won't get angry at you for claiming you can do things better on your iPad. I may not believe you, but we can still be friends.

## Digital Recordkeeping

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Keeping track of All the Things(™) isn't that difficult. Or at least it shouldn't be, but I find it nearly impossible.

The problem for me isn't a lack of software, it's the abundance of great software. Here is a list of software I've used to keep track of all the digital detritus in my life:

• Circus Ponies Notebook
• DEVONthink
• Tinderbox
• Yojimbo
• Curio
• Finder
• Evernote
• Notational Velocity
• Notes
• TiddlyWiki

...and so on. It's not that these all aren't great, it's that they all are great. I never want to give up any of them, so I try dividing things up so that I can use everything. That is a terrible idea.

While I love them all, I've whittled it down to 3 apps: Tinderbox, Evernote, and DEVONthink.

Tinderbox is my notebook. Evernote is my junk drawer. DEVONthink is my filing cabinet.

If I write something down, it goes into Tinderbox. Tinderbox is where things go that are, or may become, important. If I write it, it starts as a note in Tinderbox. My Daybook, reading notes, to-do list, everything; created using Tinderbox.

Evernote is for snipped images, web pages I want to revisit, inspirational quotes, and other things that need to be captured quickly. The "maybe" stuff goes there. Evernote is my junk drawer. I don't organize, tag or otherwise mess with stuff in Evernote. I dump it in and forget about it.

DEVONthink is where I file things for long-term storage and retrieval. PDF manuals, scanned documents, archived notes, etc. DEVONthink has always handled everything I've thrown at it, and getting things in and out intact is easy. Its knack for finding connection between documents makes DEVONthink a great research tool.

I plan to stick with this setup for as long as I can. The one area I waffle is with Evernote. I hate that it is so difficult to get things out of Evernote in the same format as I put them in. If there's ever a significant update to Yojimbo that includes reliable Mac-to-Mac sync I'm jumping on it.

## Book List

Saturday, 9 February 2013

I've added a list of books I've recently read. The idea is to always write a sentence or two about each new book. It helps me remember.