Archive for category: Computing tips

10 tips to harness the hidden potential of Wolfram Alpha

July 7th, 2009 by dario

Wolfram Alpha, the brainchild of Stephen Wolfram (who allegedly put its company to work on this project for several years before its official launch in May this year), has been out for a while now and is probably no more making the headlines. The long list of examples on the frontpage, organised visually or by topic, proudly shows off what Alpha is capable of. wolframalpha The natural language interface may still be a bit sloppy and some data may be flagrantly missing (how about a dump of the world’s scientific literature, Stephen?), but all in all it manages to live up to the promise of a universal tool to compute an impressive amount of factual knowledge. Alpha allows you, among other things, to:

Depending on your field of expertise, Alpha is likely to provide a powerful combination of computational tools and relevant data sources to calculate virtually anything you might want to know about the universe.

Apart from technical use, though, I am curious to understand whether and how people will start using Alpha as a productivity tool and integrate it in their daily workflow.

Optimize the tones of your screen according to the time of day

May 25th, 2009 by jose

This is a killer app: Flux calculates what time of day it is and adjust your monitor accordingly. Wonderful if you stare at pdfs (lots of white!) on the screen at night. I  wonder how I lived without Flux :) . It also seems to help regulating sleep patterns. Recommended.

Naked links

April 17th, 2009 by james

We usually try to provide at least some commentary on this site instead of just posting naked links to new and exciting things. But it’s Friday afternoon and rules are meant to have exceptions.

Some recent finds:

  1. Helvetireader is a customization of Google Reader that tidies up the typography and graphic design. Perhaps a small thing but it makes reading RSS feeds much easier.
  2. Readability. This rocks. Tired of trying to find the content of your favourite online newspaper amongst all the surrounding ads and other crap? Add this bookmarklet to your toolbar, browse to your favourite paper, click the button and ta da – everything disappears but the content, formatted in a nice neat column. It’s like an overzealous version of AdBlock.

Any other suggestions?

How to run an invisible wiki

February 19th, 2009 by dario

Being pathologically nitpicky about details, I tend to refactor my personal homepage very often. To do this, in the past I used to go through tedious FTP sessions or to hack my changes through the shell.

invisiblewikiSince I started to work with wikis I realised how effective a wiki engine can be to invisibly power a website. In this post I’d like to share some tips on how I do this.

As I contribute to the development of the open source wiki engine I refer to in the following examples, this is obviously my software of choice (hint). There is however a range of excellent free software you can use to this aim (provided they have good ACL support and allow you to easily modify the look and feel of the output via CSS, as I’ll show later).

Stop powerpointing and start outlining

February 4th, 2009 by shane

Powerpoint is ubiquitous in academic presentations, yet it is often roundly criticised. One of the major problems with powerpoint is that it focuses on form over content. Powerpoint is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get editor. This makes it easy to spend more time on the form than content, as if you start writing a presentation in powerpoint from scratch, the bells and whistles can easily be distracting, and rather than writing your presentation you can end up spending hours tweaking fonts. (more…)