Chrome as default browser in KDE Plasma: Getting it to stick

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Go ahead and chose “chromium” as the default browser in the “settings” application, and hit apply. That setting will likely stick, but Chrome will not be the default browser anyway. A bug in KDE Plasma prevents this, but you can drill down deeper into the configuration information and make it work: Continue reading Chrome as default browser in KDE Plasma: Getting it to stick


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A Guide To Using Command Line Tools

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There are a lot of books out there to help you learn command line tools, and of course, they mostly cover the same things because there is a fixed number of things you need to learn to get started down this interesting and powerful path.

Small, Sharp, Software Tools: Harness the Combinatoric Power of Command-Line Tools and Utilities by Brian P. Hogan is the latest iteration (not quite in press yet but any second now) of one such book.

I really like Hogan’s book. Here’s what you need to know about it.

First, and this will only matter to some but is important, the book does cover using CLI tools across platforms (Linux, Mac, Windows) in the sense that it helps get you set up to use the bash command line system on all three.

Second, this book is does a much better than average job as a tutorial, rather than just as a reference manual, than most other books I’ve seen. You can work from start to finish, with zero knowledge at the start, follow the examples (using the provided files that you are guided to download using command line tools!) and become proficient very comfortably and reasonably quickly. The topic are organized in such a way that you can probably skip chapters that interest you less (but don’t skip the first few).

Third, the book does give interesting esoteric details here and there, but the author seems not compelled to obsessively fill your brain with entirely useless knowledge such as how many arguments the POSIX standard hypothetically allows on a command line (is it 512 or 640? No one seems to remember) as some other books do.

I found Small, Sharp, Software Tools a very comfortable, straight forward, well organized, accurate read from Pragmatic.


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Writing Secure Shell Scripts

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If you write shell scrips, you should check out Dave Taylor’s latest article in Linux Journal.

He gives key examples of what can go wrong if you don’t pay attention to certain things.

For example, if you have a dot in (especially at the start of) your PATH variable, you risk running a Trojan horse that snuck sneakily into your /tmp directory. If you want the dot, put it last.

Anyway, a simple straight forward article with a few pieces of good advice: Writing Secure Shell Scripts


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Math Adventures with Python

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Complex numbers, working with oscillations (trigonometry), using Turtles to draw, some basic algebra, my favorite, Cellular Automata, and more, are covered in Math Adventures with Python: An Illustrated Guide to Exploring Math with Code by Peter Farrell. Farrell is a math and computer science teacher who is interested in math education and using technology in learning. Continue reading Math Adventures with Python


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A Smarter Open Recent Files Function in Office

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I’m talking about LibreOffice or OpenOffice, but the concept applies to any office suite. Specifically, we are talking here about the behvioar of the “Open Recent Documents” function under the “File” menu on the typical Office style application. This menu item shows you the most recent several documents you’ve had open, so you can re-open one right away. Continue reading A Smarter Open Recent Files Function in Office


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Serious Python Programming

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Julien Danjou’s Serious Python: Black-Belt Advice on Deployment, Scalability, Testing, and More is serious.

This book takes Python programming well beyond casual programming, and beyond the use of Python as a glorified scripting language to access statistical or graphics tools, etc. This is level one or even level two material. If you are writing software to distribute to others, handling time zones, want to optimize code, or experiment with different programming paradigms (i.e. functional programming, generating code, etc.) then you will find Serious Python informative and interesting. Multi-threading, optimization, scaling, methods and decorators, and integration with relational databases are also covered. (A decorator is a function that “decorates,” or changes or expands, a function without motifying i.) The material is carefully and richly explored, and the writing is clear and concise. Continue reading Serious Python Programming


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Minecraft Blockopedia

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Minecraft is probably the most creative video game out there, not in the sense that its creators are creative, but rather, that it is all about creating things, and this is done by constructing novelty out of a relatively simple set of primitives. But to do so, the player needs to know about the building blocks of Minedraft, such as Lava, Fencing, Redstone, Levers, various chest and chest related things, and so on.

The Blockopedia in use.
Yes, you (or your child) can learn as you go playing the game, watch a few YouTube videos, etc. But if we want to fully enjoy and integrate the Minecraft experience, and help that child (or you?) get in some more reading time, there must be books. For example, the Minecraft: Blockopedia by Alex Wiltshire. Continue reading Minecraft Blockopedia


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Time itself as a resource that drives evolution

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Many of the key revolutions, or at least, overhauls, in biological thinking have come as a result of the broad realization that a thentofore identified variable is not simply background, but central and causative.

I’m sure everyone always thought, since first recognized, that if genes are important than good genes would be good. Great, even. But it took a while for Amotz Zahavi and some others to insert good genes into Darwin’s sexual selection as the cause of sometimes wild elaboration of traits, not a female aesthetic or mere runaway selection. Continue reading Time itself as a resource that drives evolution


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Many Old UVA Yearbooks Are On Line

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… going back to the 19th century. Here. Enjoy.

Why is the yearbook called “Corks and Curls?”

Also, found this, from the Faulkner Library:

Page from the “Features” section of Corks & Curls, the UVA yearbook. The left page features highlights from this year’s Beaux Arts ball. The theme for this year – “Back to the Jungle” – allowed at least several of the students to wear blackface. On the right, other scenes from student life throughout the year (1958 edition, vol. 70).

And, here’s another doctor in blackface from the same school.

And the UVA “Glee Club”


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Why is knowledge power?

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And freedom? And why is education power and freedom?

The whole point of the enlightenment is that knowledge sets us free. “Wherever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.” That we are less free than we can, and should, be is the point of Shawn Otto’s book The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It. If you’ve not read it, please do so.

It is also the point of, let’s see … the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Under Trump, these freedoms are threatened daily. We are at a tipping point. A Trump is possible when the politicians and elected officials of this country have taken enough power from the voters that they can make voting itself a non-democratic act. A Trump is possible when ignorance becomes the willed objective of a large portion of the thought leaders of our society. Once a certain point of institutionalized repression of democracy, and a certain point of culturally determined ignorance, are reached, someone like Trump can become president and then, imperialized by whichever powers control him, push us the rest of the way.

That is the point of the best of this year’s Super Bowl commercials. The only one worth watching. In fact, better than the game turned out to be. This is it, from the Washington Post:


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Taking a walk through Uncanny Valley

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This is a reposting of an item I originally published in Seed Magazine. The online version of that was lost when Seed went belly-up. I post it here because I occasionally try to refer to it but can never find it. But now, I can!

Original Title: Perfect Strangers

The Eerie Emotional Response Brought On By Near-Duplicates Of Ourselves Raises Interesting Questions About Perception And Expectations Continue reading Taking a walk through Uncanny Valley


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