Show and Tell — 29 October, 2018

Web discoveries for researchers, students and writers

Research Tools

‎Case Medical Research | the App Store

I intend to do this justice by covering it in more detail. In the meantime, Case uses machine learning to track medical research. Technically it is aimed at research beyond my own wheelhouse, but I have personal reasons for keeping up with specialist medical research so I have had cause to play around with the app. It is still developing, but the underlying technology is interesting and the app is very promising. If you are doing research in this area, Case is a worthy addition to your workflow.

Turn the Web Into a Database | Mixnode

An interesting idea, and a potentially excellent research tool for analysing data from the web. You can get free credits to check it out, before you start blowing your funding.

Transcribe Interviews | oTranscribe

Here's something I had forgotten about. A self-contained, and feature rich web app for transcription. It works pretty well for transcription on the fly, but don’t get clearing your browser cache or your work is hosed.

Markdown Tools

Zettlr | Home

Yet another Markdown editor, this time with a specific focus on academic writing. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure if this is necessary given the excellent tools already out there.  For academic writing in markdown, I recommend the powerful MultiMarkdown Composer 1. Still, Zettlr might suit others who don’t mind Electron apps quite so much.

HackMD | Collaborative markdown notes

I wasn’t aware of this one until a fellow traveller brought it to my attention. It looks a little different to the now defunct Editorially, but one can only hope this will last longer than that platform did.  I am yet to properly put it through its paces,  but I'm looking forward to doing just that.

Draft | Write Better

While we are on the topic, Draft has been my preferred option for online Markdown collaboration. If you can actually convince another academic to collaborate in earnest using Markdown, Draft is free to use. Although, it is still very basic.  Penflip, is another option, or if you want something with client apps, Quip is probably the best option.

Create a Webpage With Just Markdown | Oscarmorrison/md-Page

If you want to create a simple online bio without coding or dealing with a database, this ought to work.

Web Tech

GitHub Actions | GitHub

Github is opening the beta for their new workflow automation platform. More evidence that Microsoft sees a move toward open collaborative systems as profitable.

Hello P5.js Web Editor! | Processing Foundation

This looks like a lot of fun. P5.js is an online editor for learning to code in a visual way. It helps students learn JavaScript, HTML, and CSS by creating graphics with code.

Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

  1. Also writing by an academic

Show and Tell — 8 October, 2018

Collected links for academics, students, and other nerds

Markdown Converter | OU Libraries Tools

I shared my Docverter Workflow recently. When I have the time, I will update it with a Stylesheet. In the meantime, here is a web service using Pandoc that has a few different styles for converting Markdown documents

Times Newer Roman Is a Sneaky Font Designed to Make Your Essays Look Longer | the Verge

File this under amusing. I’m not advocating you use it. In fact, it’s a shame to think of classes so boring the inspiration can’t be found to write the minimum. My problem was always the opposite, how to keep under the word limit.

Sans Forgetica | RMIT

Apparently it's fun with fonts week. I find this more interesting. It is designed to help you remember by making you work at reading your notes. Maybe an antidote to handwriting being the best cognitive medium for notes? Come to think of it, looking at my handwriting, illegibility may always have been the real advantage.

Firefox Monitor | Mozilla

 1Password  runs a service called  watchtower, which is built in to their apps. A basic version is available from their website, but the public version will only scan for affected sites, and not email address. This, from Mozilla, is more like a proactive version of Have I Been Pwnded. Mozilla's contribution to privacy and security has to be admired, the improvements to Firefox are making it more an more attractive give the developments with Chrome,  and Apple's decision to cash in on user security.

Why I'm Done With Chrome | a Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering

Speaking of Chrome,  here's Google again. It appears the time has come to delete Chrome. Sadly, like so many of these things that will be easier said than done

Bypass ‘Safari no Longer Supports Unsafe Extensions’ in Macos Mojave | George Garside

As for Safari, not that long ago I praised its new security features. Unfortunately, for all its convenience I'm now looking at the browser sideways. Say what you like about Apple's commitment to user security, but they are not without choices in how they enact it. If you have extensions you already trust but no longer work, workarounds are available. About that convenience….

Troy Hunt: Mmm… Pi-Hole…

If you want a more nuanced approach for controlling ads, and you enjoy tinkering with Raspberry Pi, this could be for you. Incidentally, there are ways to do something similar on some routers (such as the Synology), or a blunt force approach can be to edit your hosts file.

How to Build a Low Tech Website | Low Tech Mag

Another one for the tinkerers, I fancy this idea for a class project.

A Visualized History of Philosophy

More fun with web design and philosophy. This is an interactive, summarised and visualised history of philosophy. I will spare you the comments on auspicious absentees, or indeed on the philosophical decisions involved in drawing lines between names.  Although, for philosophy nerds that will be half the fun. Enjoy.


Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Show and Tell — 13 September, 2018

An almost regular collection of useful links for students, academics and other nerds.

Show And Tell Appademic Web Links


Markdown, Pandoc and Make

This is pretty neat. A navigable demonstration of nerdy research tools. It’s essential a fancy archive of bookmarks put together as a presentation.

Markdown Here

Some forgotten moment of madness led me back to Apple Mail, but as always happens, I’m starting to tire of it. This extension isn’t about to solve my troubles, but if you deal with your email from the browser, or with Thunderbird it might help yours.

Python Environment in Web Browser| PyPy.js

One of my aims for this year is to learn to code with Python. To be fair, I’ve barely even started yet. I can think of a few use cases for this. Sure on iOS you have Pythonista, but sometimes all you have is a web browser.

Think Julia | How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

Even if your aims are modest. Perhaps you want to do a little Workflow automation, or learn some scripting. The first challenge is always conceptual. This is the kind of resource that can help get you started.


This project hasn’t been updated in a very long time, so I’m surprised to say it still works as advertised. If you’re unsure about markdown and want to play around, this is ideal. I have forked the project to see if I can’t do something with it. No promises though, time is not exactly abundant.

ZoteroBib | Zotero

There are any number of ways to get formatted references quickly online, but as a service, Zotero stands out for me. It is a wonderfully open project that enables all kinds of tinkering. Zoterobib is not new, but there may be readers who will find it useful for creating a bibliography on the fly. Just don't go clearing your browser cache while you're building one.

Photo by Christophe Hautier on Unsplash

Show and Tell — 21 August, 2018

An almost regular collection of useful links for students, academics and other creative nerds.

Show And Tell Citations


This week: Easy referencing, mind mapping, and data sets


Citationsy was built when the author discovered Chegg had bought the app formerly known as RefME  and ruined it. Referencing software can be complicated to the point of stupidity sometimes. 1 Citationsy offers sharp relief for anyone wanting a cleaner, more simple tool for managing references and creating bibliographies. The backend is a web app with client apps for both iOS and macOS. Not only does it bring back the incredibly useful barcode scanner, it's also completely free to use.

Formatically — Format Your Entire Paper Online

Another online tool, but at the other end of the scale. Trust me when I say you don’t need the expensive options being advertised here. Then again, I know plenty of students who would like the idea of having their papers formatted for them for a whole year. It’s your money. Oh, and they have some free tools too.

Outline Insight by WriteMapper

Curated examples from WriteMapper of writers using outlining. WriteMapper was released last year, and is developing rapidly into something very promising. I have a more detailed review in the pipe, but briefly it works like a kind of hybrid mind map and outline editor. It has a slick interface that combines visual mapping with focused text editing. With an obvious point of difference, Writemapper is shaping as a serious alternative to more established mind mapping tools

Academic Torrents

Don’t be fooled by the technology. It really is interesting to see P2P tech anywhere in the academic world. The mere mention of torrents makes big academic publishers have conniptions. It's no joke, there have been severe cases of this. And yet, it makes complete sense to share large data sets this way. Browsing the available data is interesting in itself, last time I looked the Pwned Passwords was the most popular data set.


An online forum for discussing academic papers. These things are always dominated by scientific articles. It's new, so get in before the trolls discover it.

Something Completely Different

Itty Bitty Site

This has been doing the rounds lately, but maybe you missed it. I’m still getting my head around it to be honest. It’s a clever bit of code that compresses an entire single page site into a serverless URL. Got that? This is how it works, pretty cool huh.

  1. Endnote


Photo by mauRÍCIO santos on Unsplash

Details on a New PGP Vulnerability | Schneier on Security

You might have seem some of the hullabaloo around the web about the discovery of a security flaw in PGP or S/MIME. From Bruce Schneier, the vulnerability is not in the encryption itself, rather the exploit is carried out in transit.

The vulnerability isn't with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs. You can see this in the two suggested short-term mitigations: “No decryption in the e-mail client,” and “disable HTML rendering.”

The suggested workaround is solid advice. Email has never been a sensible means for secure communication.

Why is anyone using encrypted e-mail anymore, anyway? Reliably and easily encrypting e-mail is an insurmountably hard problem for reasons having nothing to do with today's announcement. If you need to communicate securely, use Signal. If having Signal on your phone will arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.

Thank you for making 10 years of GitHub possible | Github

Github has put together a nice timeline of achievements to celebrate their first decade in existence.

For 10 years, you’ve shared, tinkered, and built on GitHub from all around the world. Before we head into the next decade, we’ve collected some of our favorite moments and milestones—just a few of the ways you’ve pushed software forward.

I have written about the usefulness of GitHub for academic users in the past. The platform’s commitment to education is not only admirable, but I suspect a part of their success in general. If you’re a student, and you’re looking for a way to get into coding in any capacity — even if it is only a passing interest — the Github student package is more than worth claiming.

Making Slides |

This is timely from Kieran Healy . I’m just now working on a review of the wonderful Markdown slide deck app Deckset.  This is as good a primer on presentation technique as I have come across.

It doesn’t cover the tools. That makes sense, the tools shouldn’t matter — if they can get out of your way that is. I would argue, to put this advice into practice means allocating your focus away from the kerning of application settings and onto ideas. The right tool can give you the means to do that. It is worth thinking about, if you're going to head advice such as this;

The actual slides are the most immediately visible but also the least substantively important part of your material. While I’m going to highlight a few rules and techniques about making decent slides, do not lose sight of the fact that if your paper is bad, your talk is going to be bad too.

The paper is not the talk. The paper is what the talk is about. In some fields, the talk can be very closely related to the paper, and there are still people trained to “read the paper” in the old-fashioned sense. But this is increasingly rare. In most fields, especially when presenting the results of a data analysis, the presenter must condense, summarize, and highlight the important parts of their own work. The paper is the most important thing; the talk is about the paper; and you use your slides to help you give a better talk.

The Case Against Retweets | The Atlantic

The Atlantic For all those people abandoning Twitter, I am preparing to share some thoughts on In the meantime, here is a modest proposal for those of you holding on to the bow.

Somewhere along the line, the whole system started to go haywire. Twitter began to feel frenetic, unhinged, and—all too often—angry. Some people quit. Others, like Schulz, cut way back. I felt the same urge, but I wanted to do something less extreme, something that would allow me to keep the baby, even as I drained the bathwater. So I began to take note each time I experienced a little hit of outrage or condescension or envy during a Twitter session. What I found was that nearly every time I felt one of these negative emotions, it was triggered by a retweet.


The Laptop Locator You Probably Didn’t Know About Could Save You | Backblaze

The Laptop Locator You Probably Didn't Know About Could Save You – Something I haven’t spent enough time on here is the other kind of security, backups. If you’ve never needed anything from a backup you might not fully grok their value, let alone the peace of mind. It only takes one failure. Given the realtime backup capabilities of Backblaze, anything else is a bonus. But as far as bonus features go, you would be hard pressed to find a better one than the Backblaze Locate my Computer feature. This post from their blog highlights a few of the success stories. Where Find my Mac failed, Backblaze was still able to help. 1

While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.

Backblaze offers a 15-day free trial, then unlimited backup storage for US$5 per month.

  1. The location map is also encrypted with your private key, so there are no privacy issues either.

Show and Tell – Tuesday, 06 Mar 2018

Luke Chesser 50 Unsplash.jpg

At some point I’ll make up a regular schedule for theses links, drop the Monty Python titles, and make something of this. We’re not there yet. Enjoy.

The Odd Job

The LinkedIn Garbage Fire That Funded Podcasting | Macdrifter  I might have momentarily flirted with linked in, if I did I was most likely high at the time. This link, however, is more for the sentiment about podcasting ad reads. Again, I’m on the same page

Ad-Blockers: The Good, the Bad, the Ethics | the Mac Security Blog  By now, it should be clear where I stand on this. I’m also I scratching around trying to work out how to make this site work, so I have more insight into how tricky this is than I ever did before. And yet, I still think most advertising companies are run by assholes who have no qualms using malware to get their jobs done.

It's a tough call; you want your favorite websites to survive, yet they hit you with an advertising sledgehammer. As someone who earns a living from writing content for publications, it hurts me to use an ad blocker, but it's necessary. What really irks me is that websites I subscribe to — newspapers and magazines — often still show me ads. When websites decide to tone down the ads, I'll whitelist them; but, they should be rewarding me for paying for their content.

Jack and the Mean Talk | Pixel Envy Pixel envy is one of the more thoughtful patches of the tech world. This is some commentary on a Twitter Thread, the

point of which is distilled in the premise that banning Nazis from Twitter shouldn’t be difficult,

I think that a better start would be to ban Nazis. I mean that literally. Flag any account where its name, handle, location, bio, or recent tweets contain allusions to Hitler normally used by white supremacist groups: “1488”, “HH”, “14 words”, and other hate symbols in context. That gives human operators the ability to sift through heaps of these accounts and ban the ones that are clearly and obviously Nazis, of which there are frighteningly many. This isn’t a perfect solution; it’s barely scratching the surface. But it would be a material change in how Twitter operates and a clear line as to what they do not tolerate. “No Nazis” should not be a controversial point of view.

What Else Float’s on Water?

The Feds Can Now (Probably) Unlock Every iPhone Model in Existence | Pixel Envy You can be certain there isn’t a fix for this exploit yet, Apple tends to broadcast the good stuff.

WatchKit Is a Sweet Solution That Will Only Ever Give Us Baby Apps  Marco Arment on why Watch apps suck.

Apple confirms it now uses Google Cloud for iCloud services | The Verge I have pointed out the folly of buying whole heartedly into Apples largely marketing based emphasis on privacy, but I was still surprised by this. If you are concerned about data security in the cloud, you have other options.

If It's Broke, Don't Fix It | Welcome to Macintosh – This was a wonderfully refreshing listen. So many of the ‘tech’ podcasts I have tried listening to are borderline infomercials for Apple. Or if not, their idea of being critical has nothing to do with the world at large, and everything to do with superficial details. The blind defence of Apple from some quarters can be mind blowing. Apple Fans in general could learn a lot from this, being able to confess your concerns about profound global issues, while confessing an uncritical history of fandom is exactly the kind of wake up that is needed for users to demand more of this mega-giant. Image is everything to them, so let them know you can see through it.

Three Apple Workers Hurt Walking Into Glass Walls in First Month at $5bn HQ | Technology | the Guardian Who could see this coming?

Anonymous Bitcoin Donor Rains $56 Million on Stunned Nonprofits – the Chronicle of Philanthropy In the last Show and Tell, I linked to some of the more unpleasant aspects of the crypto currency boom. Here’s something to restore your faith in others.

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash