A new personal best?

I think I have surpassed my previous drawing. This one is done in white paper with a base of very diluted chinese ink.

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Typing Esperanto in MacOSX

In one way or another you can type Esperanto in any operating system without using the x-system (which I really dislike). Of all the operating systems and UIs I used (many!), the one that makes typing Esperanto the best is MacOSX, but you have to configure your keyboard properly first (this is for English based Qwerty keyboards, not sure how it would work with others). You want U.S. Extended:

To type the pointy hats, you press ⌥+6 (that is, alt or option plus the letter 6) which gives you:

and then the following letter, g, c, S, G, whatever: Ĝ

For ŭ is the same, but you have to press ⌥+b to get the other kind of hat:

and that’s all there’s to it.

The importance of context

Since I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time when I was 15 years old, I’ve been wanting to watch it on the big screen. Last Sunday I realized that dream.

A little story about why that movie was so important to me. There’s a before and an after 2001 in my life. I think it was the first movie that really challenged my brain. The first movie that when the credits rolled up I asked myself “What the fuck just happened?”.

It was recommended to me by a teacher, so I went and asked him… without the “fuck” I suppose. He told me that if I wanted to understand it, I’d have to read the book. I read the book and I understood more, but I had even more questions. So I read the next book, and the next, and the next. And by the time I had finished I was hooked into reading science fiction for the rest of my life.

Back to the topic, context. It’s not an entertaining movie. It’s slow, it’s abstract, it’s art. But hey, even if you watch Alien it doesn’t look like entertainment, it’s slow and looks artistic. Honestly, go and watch it, you’ll see. 2001 was released before Armstrong put a foot on the moon, in 1968.

Let me put that in context for you. Star Wars wouldn’t come out for another 9 years. Star Trek was on it’s second season and not many people were paying attention, yet. I bet for most people, 2001 was the first time in their lives when they saw outer space in the big screen.

But 2001 isn’t just another silly space opera (of which the space age was probably full of). In 2001, space is silent, like it really is. How important is that? I watched Firefly just because space was silent. That important.

2001 doesn’t have some magic solution for artificial gravity, like almost all other movies and TV shows. We have huge revolving space stations as well as spaceships with revolving sections. We see amazing shots of people walking on this curved floors. Or using sticky shoes. We not only see space… we see ourselves, for real, in space. I don’t think I’d seen anything that treated outer space as realistically as 2001, ever. And it happened in 1968.

Put that movie in context, ignore the long psychedelic scenes (hey! it was the 60s!), and it’ll blow your mind. Context is important.

I also recently read Snow Crash. When the book started describing a kind of physical virtual reality, with people walking on virtual streets, companies putting buildings on those streets, etc. I was honestly disgusted. I couldn’t stop feeling that the author somehow missed the last 10 years of history when we realised that VRML (remember VRML? Virtual Reality Markup Language) was not the way to go. And then I saw the book was released on 1992 and all made sense to me. Reading it in context was awesome and I enjoyed it a lot.

Thanks to Daniel Magliola and Romina Roca for reading drafts of this.

Making your app work with no data

Most applications, web, desktop or mobile, handle some kind of data. When we are developing them we generally generate some sample data to play with and we forget to ever run the application without it. The problem is that the first impression people will get of our app is without data. And first impressions are important.

In the application I’m building, Watu, we are resorting to just create some sample data for customers to play with. Making the application beautiful and meaningful without data is just too hard. It seems the guys at JetBrains spent some time thinking of this because RubyMine 4.0 shows this when there are no open files:

I think that simple change it’s a good step towards making the application nicer in the no-data scenario, making people happier, as well as making people more productive in it, making the application more useful.

I do wonder why they didn’t include the most useful of the shortcuts: ⌘⇧N. I think I press that more than any other. It pops up this little dialog:

in which you can type and it’ll search among all your files (and files inside the gems, that is, libraries, of your project if it doesn’t match anything in your project or if you enable by ticking the include non-project files):

What I really like, compared to other implementations of this feature, is that you can add more parts of the path, for example:

Without that feature, my productivity would drop a 10%. I’m not exaggerating, that’s my estimation, as I recently have to code using TextMate instead of RubyMine.

Before you send me the hate-mail, I know TextMate has a similar feature although I think not as advanced (not without plugins at least) but since the key shortcut was different, it was almost like it didn’t exist for me, so I experienced coding without that feature at all.

Another potentially useful way to find code is to use ⌘N which allows you to search for a class:

But since in a Rails projects most classes are in a file with the same name (but underscore instead of camel case) and the file dialog allows me to find views, wich the class dialog doesn’t, I never use the class dialog.

No… I’m not affiliated with JetBrains, makers of RubyMine in any way. I just love the tool and I wish more Ruby programmers would give it a try because I think they’ll also find it useful and the more people that are using it, the more resources JetBrains is likely to put into its development which ultimately benefits me. And they are cool guys, a pleasure to deal with every time I report a bug or ask for a feature.

ASCII Table of Correlatives

Recently I needed the table of correlatives in pure ASCII form and I couldn’t find it online, so I built it (it took more time that I’m willing to admit):

┌───────────────┬──────────┬────────────┬────────────┬───────────┬──────────┐
│               │ Question │ Indication │ Indefinite │ Universal │ Negative │
│               │ ki–      │ ti–        │ i–         │ ĉi–       │ neni–    │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Thing -o      │ kio      │ tio        │ io         │ ĉio       │ nenio    │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Individual -u │ kiu      │ tiu        │ iu         │ ĉiu       │ neniu    │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Reason –al    │ kial     │ tial       │ ial        │ ĉial      │ nenial   │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Time -am      │ kiam     │ tiam       │ iam        │ ĉiam      │ neniam   │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Place -e      │ kie      │ tie        │ ie         │ ĉie       │ nenie    │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Manner -el    │ kiel     │ tiel       │ iel        │ ĉiel      │ neniel   │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Quality –a    │ kia      │ tia        │ ia         │ ĉia       │ nenia    │
├───────────────┼──────────┼────────────┼────────────┼───────────┼──────────┤
│ Amount -om    │ kom      │ tiom       │ iom        │ ĉiom      │ neniom   │
└───────────────┴──────────┴────────────┴────────────┴───────────┴──────────┘

I used the DOS box drawing characters and only single lines. Double lines in some common fonts were broken. And the beautiful Unicode box drawing characters were broken in several fonts.

If you admire the table of correlatives as much as I do, maybe you want to buy some schwag with it: http://www.cafepress.com/correlatives (disclaimer, I’m selling that stuff).

Isn’t this a great notebook to take to your Esperanto lessons:

Not allowed during exams