August 2009
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The Subversion/LyX project: something I hadn’t realised about Subversion

A few days ago, I mentioned that I was starting a project to manage my thesis using the Subversion (SVN) version control system. This was motivated by a) getting confused as to which version of a document I was working on at a given time, b) faffing about with USB disks or emailing myself copies of files to work on using a different computer, and c) having used a version controlling content management system for a publishing project at a previous job.

What I didn’t realise about SVN was the way it was set up to work by default. I’d thought it was one way; the way it is set up, however, is a bajillion times better.

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“Goal-line technology” – sounds like a nice little moneyspinner for TV companies, and bad news for financially troubled football clubs

I was particularly disappointed with the presentation of the brand new Football League Show on BBC One. It is super-cheesy. The fake red-brick and garish clashing blueish purple glass set, the smarmy presenters in smart casual, the segment where the camera fast-pans to a pretty girl sitting in some kind of faux futuristic control room to read out some fan emails and texts… all the fun of the fair. The icing on the cake was when Manish Bhasin got up awkwardly from his trendy bar stool, sauntered uneasily towards the camera and woodenly presented the league tables as though they were some kind of weather forecast.

What I was also particularly disappointed with on the show was the biased presentation of referees, and the ongoingly mind-numbing campaign in favour of the introduction of “goal-line technology” as though it were the only way of solving a particular problem. It is not.

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Writing a thesis on open-source software, across several platforms. An experiment.

Writing a thesis is a particularly difficult job. Writing a PhD thesis in Microsoft Word, particularly, is a difficult job. Writing a thesis in Microsoft Word, across several computers, running forms of Windows, Mac OS and Linux is an excruciatingly difficult job.

For one thing, standards vary across all platforms. Linux, for example, doesn’t have a native version of Microsoft Word – ok, so it is possible to get it to run, but it’s a) so bonkily unstable and b) if you’ve made the plunge and chosen to use Linux, you’ve probably done so with a long-term view to completely freeing yourself of Microsoft software so trying to run it defeats the object of installing Linux in the first place. Different platforms also have different fonts – how many presentations have you seen where some poor sod has prepared their Powerpoint presentation using the gorgeous looking Helveticus Roman Sans Grotesque font, only to discover that the font doesn’t exist on the projector computer, and the replacement font is some awful blocky thing resembling Ceefax that’s far larger than the original, pushing all the text either off the edge of the screen or over the top of a painstakingly created graph? Thought that might ring some bells.

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