Monday, July 28, 2014

The solt desert

Thanks to

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Butterick’s Practical Typography

A couple years ago, I reviewed typographer-lawyer Matthew Butterick’s book, Typography for Lawyers. It “isn’t just for lawyers,” I said then, “it’s for anyone who cares about how text looks in print or on the Web.” Now Butterick has web-published a new book on typography for a general audience, Butterick’s Practical Typography. It covers the same subject, but without directives specific to the legal profession. This time it’s not a print book. It’s not an e-book, either. It was created and coded by Butterick himself specifically for the Web. You can read it through like a book, but it’s set up as an easy reference guide, with links to font basics, font recommendations, text formatting, sample documents, etc. For those in a hurry, there’s a “Typography in Ten Minutes” section. The book is freeware, but you can kick the author some compensation for his work through the website. I love type. I’ve read many bookis on the subject. Butterick’s are by far the clearest and most useful of them all. -- Russ Mitchell Butterick’s Practical Typography Free Sample Excerpts:
Criticizing Helvetica is one of the fa­vorite pas­times of ty­pog­ra­phers: It’s bland. It’s overused. It’s in­apt for most projects. All true statements. Yet they sort of miss the point. It’s like criticizing Star Wars be­cause the vi­su­al effects are un­re­al­is­tic. Or be­cause the di­a­logue is wood­en. Or be­cause the plot is pinched from The Hidden Fortress. All true state­ments. But so what? It’s still Star Wars. And like Star Wars, Helvetica will be with us for the fore­see­able future. Should you use Helvetica? Look, I like Helvetica. Though most­ly in the rear-view mir­ror. Today, we have bet­ter op­tions. For Helvetica diehards, there is neue haas grotesk, a love­ly re­vival of the orig­i­nal Helvetica de­sign. Others can try a font that’s neu­tral with­out be­ing dull, like my own concourse, or the ex­cel­lent new atlas. Even good old frutiger would be an improvement. And don’t wor­ry—no mat­ter which al­ter­na­tive you choose, Helvetica will still be with us.
The hyphen (-) is the small­est of these marks. It has three uses. 1. A hy­phen ap­pears at the end of a line when a word breaks onto the next line. These hy­phens are added and re­moved au­to­mat­i­cal­ly by the automatic hyphenation in your word proces­sor or web browser. 2. Some mul­ti­part words are spelled with a hyphen (top­sy-turvy, cost-effective, bric-a-brac). But a prefix is not typ­i­cal­ly fol­lowed with a hyphen (nonprofit, not non-profit). 3. A hy­phen is used in phrasal adjectives (view­er-sup­port­ed ra­dio, dog-and-pony show, high-school grades) to en­sure clar­i­ty. Nonprofessional writ­ers of­ten omit these hy­phens. As a pro­fes­sion­al writer, you should not. For in­stance, con­sid­er the un­hy­phen­at­ed phrase five dol­lar bills. Is five the quan­ti­ty of dol­lar bills, or are the bills each worth five dollars? As writ­ten, it sug­gests the for­mer. If you mean the lat­ter, then you’d write five-dol­lar bills.

Index Card Holder for Internet Passwords

When the Web was new (I climbed on board in 1995) like everyone else, I started accumulating passwords. Slowly at first, but with two websites to manage and a fondness for on-line shopping, by 1999, I was pinning scraps of paper to my bulletin board, jotting in notebooks, tucking them into my wallet, in various files in the filing cabinet, and, oh heck, just sticking Post-Its to my computer monitor. And more times than I’d like to admit, I forgot to write them down at all. I knew some people who kept their passwords straight by using the same one for everything, but that seemed to me an invitation to hackers. About ten years ago, I started noting each password on its own 4 x 6 inch index card, then filing it alphabetically by service (e.g., under “A”) in a little box that looks just like my grandmother’s cookie recipe box. Call it the Grandma’s Recipe Box Solution to Password Management. On each index card I note: Name of Service (e.g., My password My username My email address for this account Any other relevant information Now that I’m still on-line in 2014 and managing a plethora of websites, a batch of blogs, two YouTube channels, Vimeo, three Twitter accounts, and do my banking on-line, use PayPal, and have not set foot in a shopping mall in more time than I can remember, I have accumulated a prodigious stack of index cards. But my little plastic index card holder, with its alphabetical tabs, is still right here by my desk, doing the job. I have found that there are several advantages to this method: 1. I can keep all my passwords at my fingertips (so when it’s time to check my bank balance or tweet or shop on-line, if I cannot recall the one I need password, I just pluck it out); 2. Filing the cards alphabetically allows me to plunk one back in quickly (and find it again just as quickly); 3. I can use longer and more varied passwords without having to remember them nor go through the hoops of waiting for it to be resent to my email, and then having to click on some link to confirm; 4. If I need to change a password, I just pluck out the card, note the change, and put it back; 5. When I had to cancel one of my email accounts, I was able to whip through the stack of index cards to see which accounts needed updating; 6. It’s cheap and after 10 years the plastic index card holder still looks like new; 7. Its small enough to stash in a locked drawer; 8. Finally, should anything happen to me, my family knows where to retrieve all my passwords to put my affairs in order. That’s a gruesome thought, but a realistic one. Last I checked, no one gets off this planet alive (except astronauts, and only temporarily).

The Pirate Bay is building a platform to defeat Net censorship once and for all

The Pirate Bay has proven to be a resilient beast over the past several years, switching domains and seeking amnesty inside the halls of the Swedish Pirate Party’s offices. Now they’ve started work on a new peer-to-peer platform that will ensure that it lives on forever. Their plan: to turn torrent trackers themselves into torrent downloads that users then seed and share with the swarm. That will serve to make the trackers virtually impossible to shut down, since there won’t be a single, easily-identified host that can be blocked, confiscated, or DDoSed. That’s right. You’ll torrent a torrent site so that you can transfer torrents. And those pesky regional domain name seizures won’t be an issue, either. The Pirate Bay system will use its own pseudo-DNS that associates a short BitTorrent hyperlink like bt://geek.p2p to a site’s 32-byte Cuvre25519 public encryption key. How exactly will you access this new peer-to-peer platform? With a new app that’s being built atop Open Source software. This app will be quite a bit different than the PirateBrowser — which is similar to the Tor browser bundle. What TPB is creating is a browser-like app that utilizes the WebKit engine and Libtorrent. It will do more than just let you browse blocked sites. It will also enable fully-encrypted communication between your computer and trackers, as well as download and share torrent files (and tracker resources) with other users. They’re planning to make extensions available for both Firefox and Chrome as well. Don’t worry about not being able to install it should Google boot it out of the Chrome Web Store. Installing extensions locally via Chrome’s developer mode isn’t a difficult process anyway.

Use These Three Steps to Boost Your Learning Skills

If you're struggling a bit learning a new skill on your own, coder Cory House shares his three basic steps that help him retain information. House's steps should come as no surprise to anyone who has done a bunch of independent learning, but they're still good to keep in mind when you're trying to pick up a new skill: Watch someone Try it yourself and experiment Teach someone else Basically, the idea here is to watch a skilled person work through something, try it for yourself, and then share that knowledge with a friend, on a blog, or wherever else. It's a solid, classic formula, but it works well.

Noted Is a Colorful, Fast, and Clutter-Free Notes App

iPhone: You have a ton of options for notes apps on the iPhone, but if you're looking for something fast that's good for just jotting down a quick note, Noted is a free and simple solution. Noted is similar to an app like Clear, where it's all about gestures to navigate the app instead of buttons. You pull down to create a new note, swipe left and right to flip between notes, pinch to get back to the default card stack view, and use a two-finger swipe to delete a note. From there, Noted is basically a place to drop a note quickly. It loads fast and doesn't have a ton of options, so if you just need a place to quickly jot things down, Noted is a great app for doing it.

How I Cut $205 from My Monthly Food Bill

How much do you spend on food each month? Don't know? That's okay. For a long time I didn't have any idea how much I spent on food, until college graduation gave me a dose of reality. I just had to know—how much did I spend on takeout? How much at restaurants? What about when I decided to cook? I had this nagging sensation that I was being wasteful in terms of dollars, but in also in terms of food that I didn't end up eating. And what I learned startled me—I found out that the average amount of food waste, per person, is 40% of all the food that we buy. Armed with this troubling statistic, I began to track all of my food expenses and kept at it for 6 months. The results were surprising (and totally worth it). My Food Expenses Over Six Months
The blue line: Groceries ($300 beginning - $205 now) The yellow line: Restaurants ($170 beginning - $80 now) The red line: Takeout ($80 beginning - $60 now) At the beginning of this experiment I was averaging $540/month in food expenses (and this is when I was earning $1250 / month after taxes living alone in Vancouver!) Now my average food bill (still trending downwards) is $335/month. So, what changed? 1. Being aware of the problem got me started. Simply being aware of a problem can help to automatically solve the problem. In Tim Ferriss's The Four Hour Body, he recounts the story of Phil Libin, who, at 258 pounds, decided that he needed to lose weight. And lose weight he did—to the tune of 28 lbs over 6 months. So how did he do it? Did he subscribe to the hottest new diet, or click that ad that seems to be everywhere on the internet, "Lose stubborn belly fat with this one weird trick ..."? Nope and nope. All Phil did was track his weight in an Excel graph every day. He set his goal weight, drew in upper and lower daily targets to get to that goal, and then did...nothing. Simply being aware of the problem (or goal) caused him to lose 28 lbs in 6 months. In my case, being aware of how much my almost-daily $11 chicken schwarma plate was costing me every month automatically allowed me to lower it. The same went for restaurant expenses, which generally tended to be the most expensive and wasteful of the three. The result: awareness and analytics—even without conscious action—can solve the problem by itself. No awareness or tracking... good luck. In the words of Peter Drucker, "What gets measured gets managed." 2. The pareto principle gave me a big win. The pareto principle states that approximately 80% of the effects of an event come from 20% of the causes. What this meant for me was that making small changes to my most expensive habits (restaurants) could cause disproportionately large monthly savings. I saw that my most wasteful habit was the impromptu restaurant visits when I had no food in the house. I'd get home from work, being hungry and tired, notice that I had no food, and end up spending $30—$50 at a restaurant with a friend. Armed with the knowledge of what was causing my biggest expenses, I sought to replace the odd restaurant visit with an attempt to cook at home (which I identified as the most efficient thing I could do). I learned that even if I was fairly wasteful when cooking at home, it was still much more efficient (in dollars) than going out to a restaurant. So I changed my routine—instead of heading straight home after work, I'd stop by the grocery store and see if inspiration struck. When beginning this new habit I'd often end up buying groceries that went bad before I used them, or I'd attempt to cook and make something that tasted, well, interesting. But despite these necessary growing pains, I did begin to save money. And I found out that this new, less-wasteful habit I had created was beginning to become more enjoyable than going out to restaurants. Double win. The result: replacing a higher waste activity with a lower waste activity allowed me to save money without drastically changing my lifestyle. Big wins come first. 3. I optimized away the remaining waste. Now that my graph was trending downwards and I didn't feel like I was giving anything up, I decided it was time to optimize my grocery bill. Restaurant and takeout expenses were pretty well taken care of. But my grocery bill still seemed unnecessarily large for somebody cooking for one. I began to plan my meals manually and, later, developed a meal planning service for people like me to automatically solve this problem. I made it easy on myself by identifying meals that were simple to cook and high yield, and wrote down all the required ingredients. These would be my go-to meals that I could make in a pinch. Not only did these meals provide a high amount of low cost (and healthy) food, they also eliminated the need to get my favorite chicken schwarma dish for lunch at work because I brought the previous evening's dinner instead. I then progressed to planning my entire week of meals ahead of time. I would head to the grocery story on the weekend to grab groceries for the week ahead and set aside recipes to cook each day after work. The result: my grocery expenses continued to trend downwards. I've drastically cut my 40% food waste number, and my total monthly food expenses are down to $335 (from $540). Other Ways I've Optimized My Food Bill I've continued to refine my meal planning strategy and have managed to cut my expenses even further by having the right tools for brown bagging my lunch to work, and by getting co-workers on board for moral support. I have more expensive months like everybody else (holiday and birthday months tend to be the biggest) but because of the system I have in place, I can occasionally indulge without feeling guilty about it.