Weekly Head Voices #101: Welcome to the centre of the universe!

[][1]The entire observable universe as visualized by Pablo Carlos Budassi. Click on the image to go to the sciencealert article, including a link to a high-resolution version of this beautiful image. In the week of Monday January 4 to Sunday January 10, at least the following things happened: I wrote four blog posts on this blog: Z Launcher: A breath of fresh air in the world of Android. Note-taking strategy early 2016.

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Closure expressions in Swift

Swift is a new high-performance compiled language designed by Apple. I’ve had some experience using it for an IOS development project, but the language is open source and is already available for Linux. Some of you are probably able to appreciate the irony of me writing a blog post about Apple’s new programming language Swift, but here we are. :) I am, grudgingly, really impressed by Apple’s good work. In this post I’m going to chat about closure expression syntax, in the process showing you IBM’s Swift Sandbox, an online tool for experimenting with Swift.

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User interface boo-boo #1: Disabled controls without explanations!

Today as I was configuring some build settings in Qt Creator, an otherwise really great product, I was faced with this extremely frustrating situation: I absolutely, definitely needed to configure the debugger. However, the controls required to do so were disabled, as can be seen by their greyed out visual state. Although it was easy to find the controls for configuring the debugger (good discoverability), it was impossible to find out exactly why the software would not allow me to do so.

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Note-taking strategy early 2016

I’m probably what one might call an obsessive note-taker. I’ve talked in the past about the importance of keeping a lab journal. Initially I produced a stack of books filled with hand-scribbled notes. Although this is my favourite authoring modality, the fact that such notes can’t be easily indexed and queried (maybe one day?!) soon leads one to try electronic solutions. Over the years I’ve experimented with a number of different tools (see under “Nerd News”) to do this.

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Z Launcher: A breath of fresh air in the world of Android.

Most Android launchers are small variations on the same concept: One or more screens of widgets and icons (sometimes grouped) which can be used to start various different apps. It’s usually up to the user to place these icons on the screen, much like we’ve been doing for ages on our computer desktops. If you too are in the mood for a more innovative take on the launcher, you could do much worse than installing Nokia’s (yes, they live!

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Weekly Head Voices #100: Happy 2016!

Cape Town photographed from the top of Table Mountain. Click for high-res. I wish you a truly happy 2016, filled with learning and helping other people! Neil deGrasse Tyson, exemplary human, said it best: For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And along the way, lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

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When we can, let’s use Signal instead of WhatsApp.

(Post updated on August 25, 2016. See section at the end.)Signal, the open source messaging and voice calling app that does end-to-end encryption. The whole world is using WhatsApp to message each other. I often do too, because I want to inter-operate with the rest of the world. However, WhatsApp belongs to Facebook. Although Facebook has promised otherwise, the temptation to link all of your WhatsApp messages with Facebook logins (a straight-forward process, as they have the mobile phone numbers of a great number of their users) must be quite tempting to the people at Facebook.

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Weekly Head Voices #99: No-lands.

This is without a doubt my favourite animated GIF of all time (go ahead, click on the play button!): I am eternally grateful to Twitter user @ftrain for granting us this gift. In the process, I also learnt that: Twitter automatically transcodes animated GIFs to MP4s to save bandwidth, and for other reasons. I’m in two minds about this, because these are good reasons, but GIFs are really handy to be able to paste into HipChat and Slack and everywhere else.

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Weekly Head Voices #98: Lemons.

This, the ninety eighth edition of the WHV, looks back at the week of Monday August 10 to Sunday August 16, 2015. Today we took a brief walk up into the mountain, as one does around these parts. This is what False Bay looks like from the Helderberg Nature Reserve: When life hands you lemons, build a battery Genetic Offspring Unit (GOU) #1 had to do a show and tell at school, so I helped her to construct a battery from 4 lemons.

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Weekly Head Voices #97: Beerbow.

This, the ninety seventh edition of the WHV, looks back at the week of Monday August 3 to Sunday August 9, 2015. John Scalzi (famous and successful SciFi author) describes how he works in this post on lifehacker. What I found really interesting was that when he’s working on a book or other project, he switches off the internet between 8 and noon. I just discovered that Four Tet’s mom is South African-born.

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