Wednesday, August 15, 2012


В недрах тундры выдры в гетрах тырят в вёдрах ядра кедров. Выдрав с выдры в тундре гетры, вытру выдрой ядра кедров, вытру гетрой выдре морду, ядра в вёдра, выдру в тундру.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wish I had read this 10 years ago

Highly recommended: You And Your Research

On a related note: I wanted to order one of Hamming's books, so I went to Amazon. Look here. Apparently, it's out of print, with two used copies offered for outrageous $1150, and surprisingly enough, they offer a Kindle edition for $17.
Where do I start on this? They really dare to fight Google books, claiming that Google wants to monopolize libraries? How hypocritical can one be?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Google Docs - like in the good old days

I warmly remember writing articles in LaTeX. It was the ideal separation of presentation from context. I would edit the text first, then play around with figure placement, then wiggle the words around a little to make them fit nicely into paragraphs.

Best of all, when time came to submit an article to conference proceedings, the process consisted of taking a style file, including it into the document, and playing around with presentation again to make it really nice (ok, ok, to cut it by additional 4 pages... but the result usually was indeed much nicer).

This capability is not something you can do with WYSIWIG word processors. There is no simple place to access all the style configuration that can be attached onto a document. It is possible, however, with Google Documents, as I have just discovered. Google Docs contains a template gallery, where you are very likely to find a document style to your liking.

But it's more powerful than that. You don't have to choose the style when you start a document and stick with it. Just write the content, ignoring the styling altogether except for marking the titles with Header 1, Header 2, Header 3, bullets etc. appropriately. When you're done, you can apply a style you like in the following way:
  1. Go to the template gallery, find a template you like, and press "Use this template" button. A new document will be created with that template.
  2. Select Edit|Edit CSS in the new document. In the window that opens, select all the text and copy it.
  3. Select Edit|Edit CSS in your document. Paste the contents you just copied. Voila!
  4. You can tweak the CSS to your heart's content. It's really flexible and powerful. You can also copy it to all the new documents you create.
So, how long until conferences send their style templates in CSS?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Is Google Sites WalMartising website hosting?

I'm now reading David Bosshart's Cheap, an ominous book about our culture's drive to get the prices ever lower, at whatever cost. One of the major powers behind this trend is the huge WalMart, which is founded on the idea of continuously squeezing the costs.

Incidentally, I have just switched my homepage from a classic hosting provider to Google Sites (using Apps for Domains), and the irony struck. For my needs, Google Sites is more than sufficient. Configuration is easy, it's reliable, secure, allows add-on applications, and it's the cheapest of all: free!

I don't have the statistics to back it up, but I think that as more people realise this, and as Sites's capabilities grow, more people will realise the benefits of using it, likely driving some hosting companies out of business.

Does this make Google the WalMart kind of evil? Not in my opinion, and here's what makes it different:
  1. WalMart drives prices in part by down by using extremely cheap labor, and nobody suspects Google of that. If low-budget hosting is the next buggy whip industry, too bad.
  2. The cost of hosting has got down significantly due to Moore's law. The hosting providers has tried to adapt by offering beefier packages for the same price, but I honestly don't need that for my homepage. So, yes, the cost per small website is probably somewhere indistinguishable from free.
  3. All the providers rely on severe overprovisioning to get the price of a package to be so much lower than that of the actual hardware. Google should be doing it too, but at its scale overprovisioning should work so much better.
  4. Google really wins on quality here. Yes, there are limitations, and of course I cannot match the capabilities of a fully manually configured website, but I value other things now, like not having to patch to new versions because of newly discovered security holes, integration with Google Analytics and so on. And if I really need custom apps, there's AppEngine.
Maybe Google is actually doing a good things, delivering some of the providers from slowly agonizing over slowly eroding prices and margins. Hey guys, there's still lots of money to be made on the Internet!