PDF please

I receive a lot of e-mails from students, and even though I always tell them to send me PDF files, they almost always send me the source files for their documents instead (.doc, .docx, .odt, .pages, …). This semester we have started with electronic submission of term papers at our department, and even though it said everywhere that PDF was the file format to submit, of course all sorts of other formats turned up.

Besides the fact that I personally find it much easier and faster to handle PDF files, there are many reasons why it is not a good idea to send off the originals:

  • Compatibility: I am running three OSes (OSX, XP, Ubuntu) and have access to most word processors, so it is very seldom that I can’t open a file. But as the number of widespread text file formats have started to increase recently (with the addition of .docx, .odt, .pages to the old-timers .rtf and .doc), I notice that the issue of file format compatibility is starting to become an issue again for many people.
  • Accessibility: there is no point in passing away the source material unless you want people to edit it.
  • Layout: opening a .docx file in OpenOffice usually always results in a document that looks differently than it was intended in MS Word
  • Pictures: I often see that there are problems with embedded pictures, either they may not be there or formatting and image adjustments may be different than what was intended
  • Changes: if the “track changes” function was turned on while writing, all changes will be accessible to the reader. This may not always be a big problem, but there are several examples of where this has been a crucial issue.
  • Legal: the state regulations in Norway tell that all public documents should be saved as open formats, either .odt or .pdf. This is a fairly new regulation (1 January 2009), so it has not had a full impact yet, but hopefully it will one day.

Take-away message: never pass around your source material unless you specifically want people to change it (which is not the case with a university term paper, nor an official letter on your institution’s letter head…). Use PDF, please.

Prevent .ds_store file creation on network volumes

I have been annoyed by the fact that OSX leaves .ds_store files in folders that you open. This is ok on the mac, but not so on the countless network volumes I open every day. Google helped me find a quick solution to get rid of the problem, by typing the following in terminal:

<code>defaults write com.apple.desktopservices DSDontWriteNetworkStores true</code>

Linux mint and HP LaserJet P1005

Linux Mint has become my favourite Linux distribution as of lately. It is built on Ubuntu but with the added benefit of native installation of lots of extra drivers, audio/video codecs, and small programs that make life a lot easier. This is particularly important as Linux is not my main platform, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort to make everything work when I install a new system.

I just installed Linux Mint on what I thought to be a super-slow windows box, only to notice that it runs super-fast and smooth with Linux. Particularly impressive was that it managed to find all the drivers for sound/video cards, webcam, etc. The entire install of a clean system with everything took less than 30 minutes. I don’t even want to think of how that compares to installing either OSX or Windows and adding everything else (FireFox, OpenOffice, +++). It also nicely installed drivers for my HP LaserJet P1005 printer. However, the problem was that the printer didn’t print. No error messages, the printer showed up, the OS thought it printed, but nothing came out. After a bit fiddling back and forth I found that this is due to some problem with the built-in drivers.

So as a reference to myself, and for everyone else there with the same issue, here is what I did to solve the problem:

  • Deleted the old printer in the printer setup window
  • Installed the foo2xqx driver using the terminal
$ wget -O foo2zjs.tar.gz http://foo2zjs.rkkda.com/foo2zjs.tar.gz
$ tar zxf foo2zjs.tar.gz
$ cd foo2zjs
$ make
$ ./getweb P1005     # Get HP LaserJet P1005 firmware file
$ sudo make install
$ sudo make install-hotplug
$ sudo make cups
  • Installed the printer using the normal printer setup utility. This time it asked whether I wanted to install with the hotplug option. This seems to be important!
  • The printer still didn’t work, but I found a discussion where it was suggested to do the following:
$ sudo rm /etc/cups/ssl/server.*<br />$ sudo /etc/init.d/cups start<br />
  • Finally, the printer prints!

Updated software

I have been teaching at the International Summer School in Systematic, Comparative and Cognitive Musicology 2009 in Jyväskylä, Finland the last week. For that reason I found the need to update some of my software, and have new builds for both Mac and Windows for AudioAnalysis, AudioVideoAnalysis and VideoAnalysis. I have also made a simple recorder called AudioVideoRecorder, to help people without QuickTime Pro to quickly create a video recording on their computer.

During my workshop at the summer school, around 30 students tested the programs on their own laptops. This gave me a chance to see how the software behaves on a multitude of different hardware and OS (at least three different versions of OSX, and four versions of Windows). Things worked surprisingly well, but there were some problems in between that I will try to solve in the coming weeks.

All the applications are available from the FourMs software page.