Archive for the 'Computer' category

 | January 20, 2012 4:30 pm

In the last article in this series, we looked at a few of the features that version control (specifically Subversion) offers to a writer, coder, or editor. These benefits include the ability to track all of the changes made to a file in a project, synchronize your work between different computers, and automatically ensure that everything is backed up. But though these are invaluable contributions to a writer’s workflow, they only scratch the surface of what Subversion is capable of doing.

In the next few posts, I would like to dive a bit deeper and take a look at a few of Subversion’s more advanced features, such as:

  • How to compare newer changes to older versions of a file
  • How to use Subversion’s collaboration features to work with others
  • How you can resolve errors that might arise from incompatible changes made to the same file

Though Subversion’s basic features are tremendously powerful, it’s the advanced options that make it indispensible. You know, the little things that live in the background most of the time, except when you really need them. This rest of this series is about how to leverage those. The first of those features we will look at is the revision history.

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 | December 28, 2011 1:49 am

Elegant-Book-page1One of the most difficult (and, subsequently, rewarding) publications to create is that of a photographic or fine arts book. Unlike a novel, or a book with a sane number of images, fine arts books have a lot of variables. These include a written narrative, photographs and the artwork, and the typography. Additional page decoration add to the complexity. Things can get really sticky because all of the different elements rebound against one another, but it’s essential that they all sing harmony to the melody.

The photography needs to match the timbre of the text, and the typography should cause the whole to resonate. When everything comes together well, a carefully crafted volume will draw readers like famished revelers to a feast. They’ll linger on the artwork, study the captions, dwell on the text, and ponder the message.

About a year ago, I played around with different layouts for such a publication. Initially, I wanted to experiment with a style known as “formalism”, which combines some of the best aspects of Swiss/Modern school with a slightly more relaxed attitude toward using decoration and embellishment. I had planned on developing a template for a side project.

An Elegant Book - Page Spread 1

Unfortunately, I never got much further than the layouts that you see here. Life and circumstances prevented me from completing the side project, and the typography didn’t have the right tone for other things I was working on. So, the template I was going to create languished.

Until last week, that is.

An Elegant Book - Page Spread 2

A little under six months ago, I got married. As part of the celebrations (which are still ongoing), I created a wedding album for my wife. Instead of working from scratch on the album, I chose to use the “Elegant Book” template. This means, that I’ve finally cleaned it up enough that I feel comfortable releasing it into the wild. I hope that someone is able to enjoy and make use of it! (Merry Christmas, belatedly.)


An Elegant Book. This archive includes all of the files and fonts needed to install the template. A PDF example can be found here.


To install, download the .zip archive. Then, extract it and open up the main document file, which ends in the .sla extension. Once the file finishes loading, select the “Save as Template” option from the “File” menu. Be sure to place a checkmark in the “Include Font” and “Include Color Profile” boxes. Select the directory where you would like to save the template (you will probably want to make a new one). Finally, click on the “Save” button.

When you save a template into the Scribus Templates folder, it will copy the template file, photos, and fonts to the directory you specify. It will also add the template to the template gallery.

Template Use

Once you have downloaded and installed the template, you can create a new document by clicking on the “New From Template” link in the “File” menu. When the template file first loads, it will provide you with several example pages that can be used in your layout. Simply delete the sample text/images and replace them with your own.

To adjust the appearance of a particular block of text, you can apply character and paragraph styles from the “Text” section of the “Properties” dialog. To modify the appearance of a whole page, you can make use of the “Apply Master Page” option under the “Page” menu.


Below, you can find a few of the page layouts I used in the wedding album. The template contains additional examples.

Book Cover

Book Title Page




Bridal Veils


Memories of Weddings Past

 | November 29, 2011 8:34 pm

Sometimes it’s important to be extremely fussy about otherwise inconsequential things. There’s a reason why people fight over the proper pronunciation of már ‘habitation in Quenya (the m takes on an mb sound), pirates versus ninjas, and the proper placement of footnotes. It’s not that any of these particularly matter, but when pronounced, understood, or typeset correctly, such miscellanea greatly enrich the world.

For months, I’ve been distressed about how LaTeX handles footnotes. (Which, to be clear, is much better than how Word handles them.) Notes are used for subordinate details, which provide additional information, insight, and wit. In that role, they provide an important supplement to the main text.

Depending on which type of note you choose to use – foot, end, or side – there are certain rules which govern how they should be typeset. Robert Bringhurst, author of “The Elements of Typographic Style” and the authority on book typography lays it out pretty well:

Footnotes are the very emblem of fussiness, but they have their uses. If they are short and infrequent, they can be made economical of space, easy to find when wanted, and, when not wanted, easy to ignore …

In the main text, superscript numbers are used to indicate notes because superscript numbers minimize interruption. They are typographic asides: small because that is an expression of relative importance, and raised for two reasons: to keep them out of the flow of the main text, and to make them easier to find. In the note itself, the number is not an aside, but a target. Therefore, the number in the note should be full size.1


Unfortunately, this isn’t how LaTeX does it. Instead of having a superscript in the text and a full sized numeral in the notes, it uses superscript for both.2 Not only is it wrong (as far as anything can be wrong in a war of opinions), but it’s really hard to change. Most of the document classes only give you one or two options for the footnotes, and they’re not generally any better than the default. Nor does the heavy of all footnote packages, footmisc, provide a fix. Which means, if you want to adjust the way that the number appears, you have to hack the class at a lower level. (Sigh.)

Unless, you’re using memoir, that is.

It turns out that memoir provides hooks to customize everything about the footnotes. This includes the style, the size of the font, and … the numerical label. (If you’d like, you can even use symbols.) The code below will give you properly formatted references:

  • superscript in the text
  • full sized numeral in the note
  • numeral out-dented into the margin by 1 em
  • note text typeset left flush


The \footmarkstyle macro is used to remove the superscript, \footmarkwidth is the size of the box containing the note label, \footmarksep is how much to offset the numeral from the text.


  1. The footnote is flagged by a superscript in the text, but the note itself is introduced by an outdented figure of the same size for the text of the note. (Taken from “The Elements of Style,” page 69.)

2 Which is, frankly, unsightly and distracting.

 | November 25, 2011 7:47 pm

KDE just published their newsletter for Quarter 3 2011. It covered the Desktop Summit, held in Berlin during the summer. Working on this edition was quite a bit of fun due to the joint nature of the summit and the location. Berlin has a wonderful history in design, from the Bauhaus school to the grunge design of the 1990s. It was fun to pay homage to the German School. You can download a PDF copy of the report here.

 | November 18, 2011 8:05 pm

Note: The entries in this series are adapted from a lectures I’ve been giving to my Apps101 course. It will also form the basis for a presentation that I plan to give at a conference next month. If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear them.

Every Sunday, my wife and I read stories to small children. It started as one of those strange opportunities that life sometimes presents and has grown to become one of the highlights of my week. There is something wonderful about kids. I’m not sure if it’s the innocence, the wide-eyed wonder, or the capacity for faith; but when a child looks at you, it’s possible to believe that a better world might just be possible.

Not to whitewash the whole thing, though. For all of their wonderful qualities, small children can also be difficult. Those wide-eyed moments of innocence are easily shattered. Small children scream, they cry, they tantrum; they hit, bite, claw, push, and shove.  They’re very good at taunting, alienating, and belittling others.

Which is to say, small children are much like adults, except … smaller. They have many of the same capacities for good and evil, creativity and destruction, kindness and cruelty. The seeds of the men and women they will become are all present, and you can see interests and passions already at work.

Small children are also notoriously distractible. They’ll move between games, toys, playmates [1], and activities. They’ll build, break, and bless. You’ll see moments of heartbreaking tenderness, comic relief, and dangerous volatility. A single play session can hold all of the drama and frivolity of a Shakespearean play.

There is one thing, however, which never fails to hold the children’s attention: story time. When the book is opened and the story announced, the effect is magical. The fussing screams quiet, the rowdy sit still, and the distractible engage. An entire room of two and three year olds will sit in a circle, and raptly listen while read to.

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 | October 31, 2011 9:51 pm

FTP is one of the oldest network protocols still in use. In its first iteration, it was created in 1971 as a way to quickly move files between computers and has been in continuous use ever since. It’s particularly common on the web, where it is responsible for moving files and data.

Unfortunately, while common, it is also insecure. FTP transmits user credentials, file contents, and other data in the clear. For that reason, anyone with a packet sniffer and a bit of patience is free to take a look at it. This video looks at the security of FTP traffic and why it is problematic. It covers:

  • How to set up an FTP server on Windows Server 2008 and configure a simple site
  • The use of a packet sniffer (Wireshark) on Ubuntu to monitor network traffic

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 | October 28, 2011 6:05 pm

Server Security, Part 2 Title SlideGood network security begins with good server security. Unfortunately, though, server security is a multifaceted problem.

There are the straightforward issues, such as how to make sure that the physical machine is safe. But there are also the software challenges, and that is where things can become complicated, difficult, and ugly.

The plan for securing two different servers might vary widely, depending on what the servers will be used for and how they will be accessed. This can make planning the security a nightmare. Luckily, Windows Server offers one very powerful feature that can make planning and configuring the security options a little bit easier: Security Templates.

This video will introduce security templates on Windows Server 2008. It will show how to create them, how they can be used to audit the security settings for a server, and how to change settings that might not be in compliance.

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 | October 26, 2011 10:27 pm

As difficult as it can be to secure individual computers, making sure that a network is secure is even more challenging. This is because, instead of working with a single machine, you have an entire network of devices to worry about. It’s a classic case of, “if the security of one is threatened, we’re all threatened.”

Luckily, there are several tools that can be used to “harden” individual computers, thereby making the network as a whole more secure. This series of videos will explore a few of those, including the Windows Server Security Configuration Wizard, the Role of Security Templates, and some of the Linux/Unix Security best practices.

This first video kicks things off by looking at the Windows Server 2008 Security Configuration Wizard and shows how to configure a simple firewall setting.

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 | 5:24 am

Windows Server Core is a relatively new version of Windows Server. Like it’s slightly more mature sibling, the “full” version, it is tremendously powerful. Server Core allows you to set up Active Directory domains, DNS/DHCP, and web servers. It can help secure your infrastructure, and probably floss your teeth.

But that isn’t what makes it interesting. Server Core is interesting for what it doesn’t have: the Windows Server GUI. Like in the case of Linux servers, nearly all of the action happens in the command line. This makes Server Core light weight and an excellent candidate for network virtualization, as it can run all of the core networking services need to administer a domain.

In this video, we take a look at how a Server Core installation can be configured to run as a DHCP server. It will walk you through the process of installing the DHCP server role from the command line, registering the DHCP service with Active Directory, and configuring the first zone. When combined with the earlier Active Directory tutorial, this video describes a way to run the three core networking services needed for domain administration – DNS,  DHCP, and Active Directory – on a single server.

This lays the groundwork for later networking and security tutorials by allowing us use the less resource intensive Server Core for simulation and exploration rather than the full Windows Server virtual machine.

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 | October 23, 2011 4:38 pm

Microsoft’s Active Directory is an excellent program used for administration of networks and domains of PCs. However, it is often thought of as a Windows-only technology. Fortunately, this isn’t exactly true.

In the first part of this tutorial, we looked at how you can add Linux clients to an Active Directory domain using Likewise Open, an Active Directory program for Unix. Likewise Open can also be used to add Linux servers to a Windows domain, providing them with many of the same benefits available to clients – Active Directory authentication, identity management, single sign-on, password policy, etc.

In this video, we’ll look at how you can add servers to an active directory domain using the command line version of Likewise-open.  It covers:

  • How to download the software using apt-get
  • How you can set a static IP address for the server and modify the DNS/DHCP settings so that it is able to resolve the domain
  • How to join the domain from the command line
  • Basic troubleshooting

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