Tom Insam


This is very important to coordinate systems used to map the height of the ground, because the idea of quantified ‘height’ implies that there is a level surface somewhere below us which has zero height. Even statements about relative height imply extended level surfaces. When we casually say ‘Point A is higher than point B’, what we really mean is ‘The level surface passing through point A, if extended, would pass above point B’ So to accurately quantify the height difference between A and B, we would need to know the shape of the level surface passing through point A. In fact we choose a general ‘reference level surface’ of zero height covering the whole country to which we can refer all our measured heights. This reference level surface is not flat!

A guide to coordinate systems in Great Britain

I used to think that geo was Hard. But it turns out to be even worse than that.

[W]hat is especially curious about Mr Romney’s constant telling of this tale is that it is totally irrelevant. He was not asked about his personal hiring practices, he was asked about his policies. A president could have a good record of hiring or promoting women, or minorities, while being terrible at protecting them from discrimination by private employers, or state or local governments. In Mr Romney’s case, it is not clear how he would rectify the inequalities alluded to in Ms Fenton’s question. He has not expressed an opinion on the Lily Ledbetter Act, other than to say he would not repeal it, and he has stayed mum on the Paycheck Fairness Act, two relevant pieces of legislation. Given that every Republican in the Senate voted to filibuster the latter bill, it is probably safe to assume that it would not get far in a Romney administration.

If I want to share an URL to Instapaper on Android, and it’s implemented the nice generic “share” button, I can do so, even if the author of the sending app has never heard of Instapaper, or I have no internet access to make the required “add” API call. If I want to do the same thing from an iOS app, I have to hope the sending app has built-in Instapaper support. I have to log into Instapaper (using a password, how quaint) in the app concerned. With a few exceptions, I have to have internet access when I want to do the share.

This gives Instapaper huge early-mover advantage on iOS. If I want to compete, it’s not enough to write an app and web service. I have to persuade every app maker that can share urls to include my app, making their app more complicated, adding options to their app, confusing their users.

Last week, Google Plus for iOS added a feature - if you have Chrome for iOS installed, Google Plus will open links in Chrome rather than using the iOS browser. Apparently other apps may be doing this as well soon. The thought of having to choose my preferred web browser in every single app installed on my phone (except for those apps that don’t support it and therefore will be wrong) fills me with the fear. Will I have to do the same thing to let me use some hypothetical Google Maps application later? How about email clients?

Do we need some 3rd-party library that will know about all possible web browsers and maps clients and email clients and read-later clients, and twitter clients, etc, etc, etc, and standardises this “open in” behaviour? I can’t see that such a thing would violate any particular Apple rules. I t would just be a huge pain in the neck and horrible to use.

Mac-like text editors

From a hacker news discussion:

As to the “not Mac-like enough” complaint, you can install the Soda theme ( to make it more so, and it’s configurable out the wazoo, so if there’s something you don’t like, you can probably fix it (and someone probably already has with a plugin). Just the existence of the package manager makes Sublime a better experience than most other text editors, because it’s insanely easy to add additional functionality as desired.

Perhaps the concept of “mac-like” isn’t a very clear one. But to me, it would entail (amongst other things) “not being configurable out the wazoo”. Mac software is just good, you don’t have to configure it to be good.

Of course, I use Sublime 2 myself. Easily the best text editor out there. The multi-cursor support alone would be enough to sell me on it.


I had been wondering if/when this might happen. Maybe it’s a glitch with iOS 6 beta 4, but I doubt it.

People still use the YouTube app? I turned it off (Parental Settings, if anyone cares) because then the phone falls back to using Safari to open YouTube urls, which has been a better experience for years.

YouTube App Gone in iOS 6 beta 4

An old, old article, this. In theory it’s about Microsoft. I’m going to pretend it’s about Apple.

Cypher wants to forget the reality Morpheus dragged him out of. He wants his life back, wants to get reinserted into the Matrix without any memory of what it’s like outside. He’s sick of playing deadly games of hide n’ seek in the scorched Earth’s tunnels, wants to feel rare steak against his tongue.

The Microsoft Matrix

I’m trying to like Android. I do like android. The restrictions of iOS annoy me a lot - obvious stuff like not being able to change the default web browser or camera application. Smaller stuff like not having apps check for new content in the background, so I have to open them one at a time and let them sync every time I leave the house. Tiny stuff like the cloud photo sync that works so well.

But I miss the polish of iOS. I miss having Instapaper and Google Reader clients that don’t make me angry just using them.

The biggest benefit of Android to me lies in being able to build my own ecosystem that isn’t entirely in the control of one company. I use Dropbox to auto-upload camera photos rather than Photo Stream. I can use my own browser and email clients. I can use software from any source, and write my own software without paying a gatekeeper.

The lure of iOS is that, is you submerge yourself in the ecosystem, everything is so nice. Just don’t leave.

There’s nothing wrong with Android that can’t be fixed by the developers of the software I use. The only things wrong with iOS can only be fixed by Apple. If I wait long enough, I’ll stop caring.


The Microsoft/Apple Matrix

I have a lot of different python projects in a lot of different directories, and like them all to have their own virtualenv. Because I can’t even be bothered to type a single line of code to activate them, I’ve ended up with this (slightly insane) setup:

Every project folder has a ./venv/ which is where I keep the virtualenv. Then, in my .bash_profile, I have the following snippet:

__activate_venv() {
  if [ -f ./venv/bin/activate ]
    . ./venv/bin/activate
    hash -r
    if (type deactivate >/dev/null 2>&1)
      hash -r
export PROMPT_COMMAND="__activate_venv"

In short - if the current directory has a venv/bin/activate script, then run it. Otherwise, if there’s something called deactivate that I can call, then do so.

So whenever I cd into a folder that has a ./venv/, it activates, and whenever I leave, it deactivates. This is probably insane.