Geek stuff

Three cheers for TeXShop

As I write this, I’m printing out a hard copy of the Gödel book — hopefully the version to be taken along to CUP along with the PDF file when they re-open next week.

I’ve been tinkering with this second edition, on and off, since I got the contract back in July 2011 (and no doubt bored everyone who visits here by talking about it so much). It’s a long-ish book: 403 pages in all, with lots of symbols, lots of cross-references to resolve, not to mention auto generated bibliography and index. I’ve been using TeXShop + LaTeX (plus BibDesk) on a Mac. How many times did this document processing system crash, foul-up, or produce unintended gremlins over the eighteen months?

Zero. Yep, zero.

I’d say I was really impressed if it weren’t what I’ve come to take for granted. But it is pretty amazing now I stop to think about it. So it surely should occasionally still be said: Three cheers for LaTeX, for BibDesk, and not least to Richard Koch for TeXShop, my constant companion!

LaTeX for Logicians spring cleaned

The LaTeX for Logicians pages have been a bit unloved over the last year or more. But recently, a lot of links got broken when I eventually wound up what was left of my old university web pages. And that has at last prompted the much-needed spring clean.

So over the last couple of days, I have checked and repaired (I hope!) all the external and internal links, removed a few defunct links, and added a number of new ones. I have added a new page of links to other relevant LaTeX sites. The LaTeX for Logicians Guide to Sam Buss’s bussproofs.sty has also been updated.  And there have been some aesthetic improvements.

Now it’s over to you. Let me know (by posting comments) about any links which are still broken and do please suggest new ones. Please also spread the word, especially among your graduate students. And if you have a webpage which links to the LaTeX pages make sure your link still works. Note, by the way, the pages have their own permanent URL:

Under reconstruction

(Friday) I’m planning, over the next day or three, to experiment with updating Logic Matters with a classier new WordPress theme. I’m so far favouring the “Tarski” theme, not just because the name seems peculiarly appropriate for a logic blog, but because it is really clean and suitable for a text-heavy site.

(Saturday) For a while, I’m afraid some navigation may not be quite optimal. But you should now mostly be able again to find what you are looking for.

(Saturday later) Huh. Have for the moment gravitated back to the new WordPress default “Twenty Ten” theme …

(Saturday evening) Beginning to aesthetically tweak the Twenty Ten theme. Most navigation restored. Wot fun!

(After midnight) This style-tweaking malarky is mildly addictive and probably already past the point of worthwhile returns. To bed …

(Sunday morning) I’ve a stable “child” of the Twenty Ten theme working which I quite like. But I’m going to be experimenting with an alternative for an hour or so (Weaver, also based on Twenty Ten).   Things could look horrible for a bit, since Weaver’s defaults are crap. But it offers ease of customization without so much digging into css files. So here goes …

Huh. Why, Mr Weaver, write a front end for customizing all kinds of things — but not the most important? Text size, line spacing, and para spacing? Back to my hand-kludged “child” theme. Now I need to get a header sorted.

(Sunday evening) Well, I still need to design a header, but I think I’ve done enough intermittent tinkering for a while. Basically the layout is a just slightly tweaked version of the new default WordPress theme; it seems to work well enough in Safari and Firefox on Macs. So if it doesn’t play nicely with your browser, then I guess you should blame WordPress or the browser. (Reads nicely on an iPad, though I say so myself!)

(Monday) Well, maybe Bauhaus austerity, no fancy header graphic, is the way to go. Right: for the moment, redesign job largely done. And marking M. Phil. essays is over too. So it’s back to thinking about ordinals … and also, at long last, back to reading Alan Weir’s book. I’ll be taking up blogging about that again next week. Watch this space!

TTP, CUP, and a shiny new MBA

I suppose it was mildly daft to plunge into blogging about Alan Weir’s  TTP just as the beginning of term looms. There’s now a flurry of other things which I really need to be thinking about, just as I’m getting into the book, and puzzling through the next chapter.  There’s admin as Chair of Examiners for Tripos to be done, plus putting  together some handouts for my last lectures on Gödel’s Theorems (the last for this academic year, at any rate), thinking about the response I’m down to give to one of the papers at the Phil. Logic & Maths conference here (about Brandom of all people), and that’s not to mention sorting out the techie logic seminar and preparing an initial talk to that. So the discussion of Alan’s book will stutter a bit for the next couple of weeks. Sorry about that.

For light relief, it is time for trips to the CUP Bookshop sale again. This is a great annual institution which I’ve mentioned before. The Press damage some books by stamping “damaged” across the title page, and then flog them (this year) at £3 for any paperback and £7 for any hardback. And during the week or ten days of the sale they keep putting out new stock in a random way, so you have to keep slipping back, just in case … It is amazing what turns up.

However, having badly run out of book shelving space, and then some, I really really do have to restrain myself. But I couldn’t resist the ‘Cambridge Companions’ to Haydn and Schubert, and David Crystal’s fun-if-you-like-that-kind-of-thing book on Shakespeare’s language.

And, erm, another category theory tome. Despite all the empirical evidence, I think I must subconsciously believe in a magical theory of learning-by-osmosis. Put the book on your shelves and the knowledge slowly seeps in … doesn’t it?

As for the MBA, that is, of course, a MacBook Air to you. Let me just say that the new version is awesome. I had an original version MBA, which was lovely but s-l-o-w and had a pretty poor battery life. But I’ve been given one of the new models, and the difference is impressive (it is the machine the original one almost promised to be, but fell quite a bit short of). Subjectively very fast, wonderful screen, and ludicrously long-lasting battery for academic writing/reading/surfing/mailing use. (For fellow Appleheads: I have the 13″, as I find the visual proportions of the 11.6″ unhappy — I can’t shake the sense of peering through a letter box — and I want big-enough side-by-side LaTeX windows. The base configuration with 2gb memory is more than just fine if you are not doing anything very fancy with it. If you have been wavering, treat yourself.)

One logician’s iPad

There’s a new page on this site, linked on the right, for anyone interested. And for the rest of you, I’ll try henceforth to keep the blog an iPad-free zone.

Mind you, I’m only saying try

[Added] Well, since that page was accessed over 1400 times in the first two days, maybe there is rather more interest than I thought!

Reading the iPad

Just a few thoughts, after five or six weeks of happy togetherness with my new iPad …

It is no wonder that we love our books: in reading them, we cradle them close to our heart.1

Yes. And we similarly cradle an iPad. Even the Apple cover, with which we lovingly protect it, is designed to make the iPad’s hard shell seem softer and warmer in the hand — more like a book in fact. And the experience of reading on the iPad is as good as the tactile feel. Even those PDFs of articles you’ve downloaded from JSTOR, or scanned older books acquired one way or another, are at least as readable as your crumpled print-outs; and proper ebooks or modern PDFs of academic books are a delight. It was no surprise to me, then, that a recent study suggests that people find the experience of reading on an iPad (or indeed a Kindle) comparable with reading a printed book, and both much to be preferred to reading on a computer screen.

And that’s not to mention the ease of reading e.g. Anna Karenina in bed, rather than that handsome but massive hardback of the wonderful newish Pevear and Volokhonsky translation (about which more another time).

So — as someone who spends a lot of the day reading on screen — I haven’t had a moment’s regret about getting an iPad. On the contrary, I get more pleased as the days go by. Of course, it isn’t a laptop substitute for when e.g. you want to do extended writing in LaTeX (though I can imagine that soon enough we’ll even be able to do at least modest amounts even of that, adding a paragraph or two to a paper-in-progress: imagine the next version of DropBox has a built-in text editor, you can send source files to be compiled to some server which sends the result back to DropBox, and you can flip between source and PDF …). But for reading papers in the almost-awesome Papers2, or reading books in PDF form, for internet trawling, keeping tabs on your emails, jotting down a few notes in Evernote (automatically synced to your computer), updating appointments and other low-key writing tasks — and even maintaining a blog! — the iPad is fantastic. I find myself taking the it around more and more instead of a laptop.

Of course, those of you who prefer hair shirts to cashmere can buy a cheap-as-cheaps netbook, become Linux geeks, and feel superior: but I’d rather have the aesthetics and delights of the iPad, thank you very much.

1. I steal this thought from

2. Why oh why is the long promised Papers v.2 so alarmingly delayed? We just want (a) Papers to be aware of PDF books as well as articles, and perhaps (b) to allow a bit of highlighting/annotating of PDFs. Is that too much to ask?

PhilTeX group blog

One to watch if you are a philosophical LaTeX geek? —  PhilTeX, a fairly new group blog on possibly relevant LaTeX matters. I’ve added links on the blogroll here and on the LaTeX for Logicians pages.

Apologia pro iPad sua

(“Are you sure that ‘iPad’ is feminine?” Err …. Now you mention it, no. But let’s not fuss about that, eh?)

Ok, I really didn’t intend to buy an iPad. Let alone buy one on the first day of availability in the UK. Honest. But there they were in the Apple store as I was passing, the early queues had subsided, and I got a chance to play with one undisturbed for three quarters of an hour … So I fell, and here I am.

A wild extravagance? Well, not that wild. I’m always a bit surprised, in fact, by the rather stingy attitude towards techie expenditure of some academic colleagues. We often spend five, six, seven hours a day on a computer; why settle for anything but the best available for what we need to do? After all, these things have, relatively speaking, become amazingly cheap. Discount a new bit of kit over three years, and then work out the number of decent coffees a week the same expenditure will buy … even your fanciest laptop comes out as one espresso (not even a doppio) a day. Surely worth splashing out if it makes a coffee’s worth of difference!

And the iPad does make a difference, for less then three coffees a week. Take all the on-the-sofa uses you make of a laptop (idle and not so idle surfing, reading the news, catching up on BBC iPlayer, answering emails, etc. etc.): the iPad is just much nicer to use for all those, and it works as an iPod at the same time. But I don’t need to tell you that, as you’ve seen the reviews.

But here’s a big additional selling point for academics that’s worth highlighting here; it simply transforms the business of reading papers and books (whether PDFs or proper e-publications), much more than I was expecting.

Like a lot of readers here, no doubt, I’ve a heap of downloaded philosophy and logic papers (organized on a Mac using the terrific Papers), and I’ve quite a few books in PDF form too. But even with a beautiful Mac screen, the experience of reading on a laptop somehow isn’t that engaging, as you gaze over the keyboard across the desk (or indeed, across your lap): I still prefer to read the physical paper copies, given the chance. But it is all a lot more upclose and personal with the iPad, as you sit back in your favourite chair and hold the iPad propped on a knee or in the crook of your arm just as you would a hardback. The screen is just fantastic; you can orientate it as you want; the navigation by touching the screen is as natural as turning the pages of a physical book. It beats reading on a laptop or a fixed screen hands down. Oh, and you can sync your Mac with Papers on the iPad.

But this doesn’t really begin to convey the quality of the difference. Lots of early reviewers said, roughly, you just have to experience the iPad to “get it”, and I was very ready to scoff. However, they are right about that; though — I’d claim — the point applies particularly to the iPad as a device for reading papers and books. For in that role it is amazing, and I’m just delighted with it. Try it.

Shiny new L4L

Ok, that took less time than I thought it would. So there’s now an exciting new improved LaTeX for Logicians to gladden geeky hearts. There are some rough edges which will get smoothed, but it is functional. Now tell me what I’ve left out, and how to improve the pages!

Blowing the dust off LaTeX for Logicians

The LaTeX for Logicians pages have been woefully ignored of late. But at last — as a bit occupational therapy while my brain is still in a jet-lagged mush — I’ve started moving the pages to this site, updating content a little as I go. Using WordPress as a content management system should make it quite a bit easier to maintain the pages in the future.

The relevant pages now also have their very own — hopefully memorable — web-address, This address ought to remain stable even if someone else eventually inherits LaTeX for Logicians; so use it in any external links in future.

Oh wot geeky fun, playing with WordPress!

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