Gtypist menu options

Improving typing accuracy with gtypist

Gtypist menu options
GNOME Terminal showing gtypist menu

Looking for a free software program to help me learn to touch-type, and shortly after my search started I found GNU Typist.  And GNU Typist (gtypist) is a gem.

The instructions are simple and the purpose of the program is equally simple: to “condition” the user into adopting and maintaining good typing habits.  After starting the basic lessons (“Quick QWERTY course”), it soon became clear that my touch-typing capability was far poorer than I had hoped and my typing speed these days is generally just luck-driven.

Thankfully, a considerate fellow called Simon Baldwin decided to write gtypist, and here we are.  The online documentation is equally useful; not only do you get help regarding how to acquire, install and invoke gtypist on your machine, but also a list of alternative free software typing programs which are a good fit in various situations (general, education, games-playing, etc).  Like most GNU software, a man page is also provided.

It is so easy to take this effort for granted, and yet how useful is this resource! Such is the way with free software: quite often, somebody already had that itch and had to scratch it.

Brasilian – a Saturday favourite

20150808_093127
Brasilia style – a good option for any Saturday morning

I’m consciously reworking my way through Taylors’ range of filter coffee.  Many times before we’ve had the Italian style medium roast and, in addition, we’ve also gone for the number 6 strength “Hot Lava Java”.  But sometimes you need a milder option, to more gently ease you into into a state of caffienated bliss.

Score out of 5 … 3. It’s a mellow cup, but perhaps missing some depth to the flavour. Not disagreeable at all though.  Would still recommend.

 

#coffeeftw #saturday

 

 

 

Greenwich Time

View from the Admiralty Buildings, Grenwich
View from the Admiralty Buildings, Greenwich (22 Mar 2015)

Despite it’s controversial history and, some might argue, “dodgy” financial underpinning, I can’t help but admire Greenwich.  It’s a part of London relatively untouched by the progress of time; where the city-at-large surrounding it has left it be, as a kind of comforting “nod” back to its imperial glory.

These days, of course, it’s not the done thing to refer to the British Empire as glorious.  Oh no, that’s far, far too politically incorrect.  Instead, we must loosely use in reference words such as “enslaving”, “pillaging”, “disempowering”  and, simply, “colonising”.

Such are the mists of time, allowing us  now to moralise on a spirit of adventure and exploration, taking for granted that the world is now known, the risk of travel is small and our collective enlightenment a “given”.

Yet I pause for thought when considering the next leap into the unknown – space, and what harvests me may assume ours to take and do with as we please.

If ever there was a time to unify people towards common goals, for the betterment of us all, now is it.

Time for Trance

I’ve decided I need to dance more in my life.  Being a techy-programmer-web_developing-CEO-type, there is so little time anyway.  With the remainder, I usually indulge in sci-fi, walking the dog, eating… and occasionally sleeping too.  Yet, being almost an artificial intelligence by any reckoning, I can tell you that Androids are too busy to dream.

Well, this has to stop!  No more sleeping!  Only raving.  It’s essential.

A trip to Miami is essential too.  After all, you can’t be #superhuman all the time!

#trancenation

CITIZENFOUR and the great unwashed

#CITIZENFOUR

For those who value freedom.

I was lucky to have spotted a recent social media post, alerting me to showings of CITIZENFOUR in London over the past weekend. CITIZENFOUR, in case you are not aware, is a film made by celebrated filmmaker Laura Poitras (Praxis Films), who accompanied journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill to Hong Kong to interview Edward Snowden in the summer of 2013.

My partner and I took a train to Wimbledon. It was an uncharacteristically warm day, summer-like in all regards except the browning of the leaves. The trees looked tired as we marched along to the station; we weren’t missing this film for anything.

In contrast to the anticipation building up inside of me, waiting to see this film, Wimbledon itself was very ordinary. People going about their normal lives. Appetizing whiffs of just-cooked food were wafting over from the market stalls. Traffic was permanently in a hurry with barely any regard for pedestrians’ safety. And the shoppers held an equally high regard for the traffic too, voluntarily stepping out in front of anything coming.

And the shoppers …
voluntarily stepping out in front of anything coming.

The matinée showing at the bijou HMV Curzon cinema was starting just after lunch. I wanted to get there early so that, in anticipation of the queues, we would be assured of a good seat. When picking up our tickets, we spoke to a member of staff behind the bar/counter about the expected numbers.

Staggeringly, four seats had been booked. Including ours. Citizens: four.

To my slight relief, more than four people eventually turned up and attended the showing. Twenty, maybe. Perhaps thirty, tops. In a 110-seat room. And they were comfortable seats too. The best you’d find in any cinema, with lots of leg room and deep, comfortable cushions.

A Tale of Two Cities

After reading Lawrence Lessig’s blog post of his recent cinema outing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with 500 movie-goers attending their picture house, I wondered how there could be such disparity across the pond. For us, there was no line to stand in before entering, and perhaps adding insult to injury, our tickets were not even checked by a member of staff when we walked in to pick our (unallocated) seats.

Perhaps it was the over-air-conditioned screen that turned people away. Considering that outside it was the very end of the British summer and we saw temperatures of 20 deg C, inside was another story altogether. We were lucky if it was more than 14. But I don’t think this was the reason for the poor turn-out; any evidence of forward-thinking would surely have improved the attendance?

What does this say about continued British apathy towards such fundamental issues?

A somewhat senior lady who attended the film, mentioned to me on her way out, “I don’t think I meant to come and see that. I thought it was something else.Citizen Kane, perhaps? I hope she wasn’t one of the original four who bought in advance…

Perhaps people felt it was a story already told. In some ways it was – but arguably, in many ways the whole story had not been told until now. A couple of reveals towards the end of the film were new information to me. Stuff I wasn’t aware of, from reading the Snowden book.

The Wombles

I am glad that a healthy number of people in the US are curious about this subject and decided to explore it further. You might expect this from the residents of Cambridge (Mass.), with its connection to Free Software and socio-political activism, and well done to them.

So, a quick glance at the population numbers of both areas provides some fairly meaningless stats on which to close.

Cambridge’s popn = 107,000 or so. Wimbledon’s: around 60,000.  Roughly speaking, for every 214 residents in Cambridge, one person attended Saturday’s matinée there. Only one person of every 3,040 in Wimbledon managed the same feat.  What does this say about continued British apathy towards such fundamental issues?

I am left feeling that provided Centre Court and strawberries are always available, Wimbledon won’t care much.  Unless, of course, someone personally has an infraction with the law, as a result authoritarian paranoia.  Then, perhaps, it might fill a column in page 7 of the local rag.  Residents might even chat about this at a local pub, in-between opinions on the state of the brew.

But to complain against wrongdoings is normal.  It’s human nature to focus on the oppressors rather than the oppressed.   Luckily, for us, in respectable communities there still burns a glimmer of hope that sense may prevail.

How wolves change rivers.

This is a remarkable story of how restoring some balance in nature can have hugely positive ecological effects.

From: http://themetapicture.com/when-they-brought-these-wolves/

“In 1995, wolves were re-introduced into the Yellowstone National Park, after being wolf-free for 70 years. What naturalists and biologist never imagined, was that the most remarkable thing would take place.”

It is remarkable indeed, and so elegant in demonstrating how nature should be respected if the world as we know it is to survive.

Emacs & org-mode: a selection to suit anyone’s palate

If it hasn’t been said enough times already, let it be said once more: Emacs and org-mode are quite probably the best way ever to organise your personal life.

Emacs, for starters

Emacs as a text editor is rock solid. If you have a computer where you type in text and which:

  • is web based (e.g. a chromebook)
  • has any kind of touch interface (a tablet, phone)
  • is running a heavy GUI (graphical user interface)

.. then you are certain to observe a certain lag on input. It might be very slight, but it will likely be there. I know this to be the case for many devices out there, even those which purport to be “high-end”.

With Emacs, there seems to be a much more direct connection to the keyboard: you type, text appears. You type faster, text appears faster. In fact, text is capable of appearing much more quickly than you can possibly type. This makes blogging quick and painless.

org-mode, for main course

Life in Emacs simply came to be, through org-mode. Emacs itself is amazing; org-mode made organising data even better. A quick refresher:

  • org-mode creates everything in plain text, for maximum portability between systems
  • it is known as an “outline mode” enhancement for Emacs, meaning it helps to display semi-structured text effectively
  • it allows for the creation of lists – of projects, tasks, notes, links … you name it, anything that can be represented in text
  • it is portable, allowing for synchronisation with mobile devices
  • using Emacs, it is powerful – allowing org-mode notes to interact with other aspects of Emacs
image of org-mode
org-mode in action: showing a list of links

Org-mode also supports all sorts of fancy formatting and customisation, meaning text can look good and be easy to follow.

org2blog, for desert

What would all this power be for, unless blogging! :)

Actually, blogging is just one activity which benefits greatly from the power of org-mode, as org’s powerful and easy formatting options are seamlessly translated into HTML and published to a blog.

In my case, I’m using a WordPress site. I create a new post using the commands

M-x org2blog/wp-login
M-x org2blog/wp-new-entry

I then type in my post and save it to a local file, using

C-x C-s

and then post it to WordPress for subsequent tweaking, with

M-x org2blog/wp-post-buffer

I can then add some final polish and check the format in WordPress before final publishing.

As a demo and an indication of speed, this blog post took only 5 minutes to write, post, edit and publish.