more ramblings of a retired teacher
commenting (maybe ranting) on education - even my own

September 2014
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Free vs. Freedom - An “Announcement”
Filed under: General
Posted by: Algot @ 2:12 pm

Another episode in the “Free vs. Freedom” series.

I just got an email from the educational website Edutopia describing a Microsoft program designed to entrench itself further in the school systems and the homes of students.

  • A complimentary and complete version of the of the latest Office program, ready to install

  • The ability to download Office on up to five compatible devices at no additional cost
  • An easy way to use Office on Android and Apple products
It makes me cringe when I read this kind of glowing announcement. Here is yet another lock-in opportunity instead of another opportunity to embrace freedom.

Schools seem to be urged by people from all around them to pay money for a product which does not give them choice, giving them, instead a sort of leash to wear, getting staff and students used to a proprietary office suite for which they will pay financially in the future. Their work will be easier to read in the then-current version of MS Office. They will be able to exchange their work with peers who have also paid for the tools which use a “popular” un-public, not-open format. And they will be restricted to operating systems which will run MS Office.

Should we blame the editors of Edutopia? They are simply “reporting” the information.

Well, Edutopia did not mention in the same announcement that schools, principals, teachers, school board members, town officials AND students can install the programs like Open Office or Libre Office, giving them far wider access to the same set of “office” tools along with freedom. I do not recall getting a similar email announcement about open source tools.

The open format files can be exchanged across ALL computers running any popular operating system because the file format is NOT proprietary. All the users can even choose their preferred office suite. All the open source office apps (not just Open Office and Libre Office) try very hard to accurately save files in the broadly usable Open Document Format (ODF) instead of the fancy, sometimes undocumented, binary formats employed by Microsoft.

The “announcement” seemed to me to be more of an endorsement.

I am disappointed.

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Pandoc to HTML
Filed under: General
Posted by: Algot @ 12:50 pm

For a while, I’ve been puzzled by the failure of pandoc to produce accented characters correctly in HTML output.

More research may have found the answer to bad html conversion of accented characters:

By adding the –ascii option to my pandoc command, the html contains the correct accents.

(Sorry that the display of coding is ugly on this blog…no control over the layout to cure the problem.)

pandoc --ascii -t html5 -o 00test.html
From the pandoc README file:
    Use only ascii characters in output. Currently supported only for HTML output
 (which uses numerical entities  instead of UTF-8 when this option is selected)
 That means the html conversion uses littérateur
to show the é as it should

Kubuntu Compose Key

Of course, we need an easy way to type the accents in the first place. The “compose” key is it. Compose+accent then the letter to accent

By default, the compose key isn’t set. Of course, knowing the
difference between the meta key and the compose key definitions comes
first. The meta key is the left window key by default.

Internet search to the rescue:…

The compose key is not set at the keyboard shortcuts. Instead, it is in the keyboard layout section of system settings. System Settings > Keyboard settings > Advanced Configure > keyboard options > Position of compose key > Left Win
(my choice, so it is like Windows and, therefore, easier to remember). I
think I must have set this before on earlier computers.

Hoo Boy! Two solutions in one day. The “learn something new” has been good to me today.

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The UNIX Way
Filed under: F/LOSS
Posted by: Algot @ 1:59 pm

GNU/Linux really benefits from the UNIX style of storing configuration information in simple text file format instead of binary blobs.

I maintain my own website and a couple others using the FTP program gftp and have bookmarks set up for the couple of sites to which I routinely connect. I think it is a bother to use the mouse to click the menu choice for the site. I would rather use keyboard taps. I think it is faster. The two sites I access most added themselves to the bottom of the list of sites below the default choices which I never use.

Today, I stumbled on the hidden .gftp folder in my home folder while looking for some other stuff. A quick peek inside revealed a text file called “bookmarks”. I quickly opened it, found the data for the bookmarks I use most and cut and pasted them above the rest of the bookmarks. The next time I started the program, it read the bookmarks in their new order and, now I’m very happy. Just a couple of keytaps will take me to my most-visited sites.

An added benefit is that I should be able to more easily tweak the settings of a bookmark than by using the program GUI access to the information.

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