Top three “non-fiction” books on Amazon.com right now:
- Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist: the non-executive chairman (oh, how careful he is to emphasize the adjective) of the Northern Rock bank in the years just prior to its collapse tells us that the world is in good shape. Climate change? Pfah. He doesn’t believe in it.
- David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of President Barack Obama. Apparently, Obama believes that, “…liberty is a threat to the government’s power and something to be squashed by any means possible.” If I’ve got my Limbaughs right, the author was (and is) a prominent supporter of the PATRIOT Act—the greatest rollback of constitutional liberties since the Second World War.
- Bill O’Reilly: Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama. His publicist describes his previous books as “megabestsellers” — is this Fox’s equivalent of the rule that there are no models, only supermodels?
- One of my students says good things about Spyder, a Python environment with MATLAB-like features. OK, I’d like to give it a try.
- On Mac OS X.
- Ah—it need PyQT.
- And SIP.
- And some optional modules, but I’ll ignore those for now.
- So the first step is to install Qt.
- But there aren’t binaries—I have to do that from source.
- So I have to get XCode onto this machine (fine, that works, it just takes 30 minutes to download).
- And hey, Qt builds—I’m on a roll.
- So, go into the PyQT directory, do “python configure.py” to, um, configure it, then run “make”.
- Good, good, good, then: kaboom. The error message is:
g++ -c -pipe -fPIC -O2 -Wall -W -DNDEBUG -DSIP_PROTECTED_IS_PUBLIC -Dprotected=public -DQT_NO_DEBUG -DQT_CORE_LIB -I. -I/Users/gregwilson/PyQt-mac-gpl-4.7.6/qpy/QtCore -I/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/include/python2.6 -I/mkspecs/macx-g++ -I/Library/Frameworks/QtCore.framework/Headers -I/usr/include -F/Users/gregwilson/PyQt-mac-gpl-4.7.6/qpy/QtCore -F/Library/Frameworks -o sipQtCorecmodule.o sipQtCorecmodule.cpp In file included from /Library/Frameworks/QtCore.framework/Headers/qmetatype.h:45, from /Library/Frameworks/QtCore.framework/Headers/QMetaType:1, from sipAPIQtCore.h:40, from sipQtCorecmodule.cpp:34: /Library/Frameworks/QtCore.framework/Headers/qglobal.h:288:2: error: #error "You are building a 64-bit application, but using a 32-bit version of Qt. Check your build configuration." make: *** [sipQtCorecmodule.o] Error 1 make: *** [all] Error 2
Er, what? Why does it think I’m trying to build a 64-bit application? Earlier compile lines say:
g++ -c -pipe -fno-strict-aliasing -O2 -arch i386 -fPIC -Wall -W -DQT_NO_DEBUG -DQT_GUI_LIB -DQT_CORE_LIB -DQT_SHARED -I/usr/local/Qt4.6/mkspecs/macx-g++ -I. -I/Library/Frameworks/QtCore.framework/Versions/4/Headers -I/usr/include/QtCore -I/Library/Frameworks/QtGui.framework/Versions/4/Headers -I/usr/include/QtGui -I/usr/include -I/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.6/include/python2.6 -I../../QtCore -I. -I. -F/Library/Frameworks -o moc_qpycore_pyqtproxy.o moc_qpycore_pyqtproxy.cpp
I’ve highlighted the “-arch i386″ line to show that yes, Qt knows I’m on a 32-bit processor—at least, when it’s compiling the files in libqpycore.a. Is it a bug in the SIP build and install? Is it—aw, do I really care? Spyder looks nice, but increasingly, my feeling is that if an application doesn’t “just install”, I’m not interested: I certainly can’t ask students doing Software Carpentry to wrestle with issues like this.
Later: this page helped, but not enough: I’ve got PyQT 4.7.6 installed (at least, “make / make install” in PyQt-mac-gpl-4.7.6 ran to completion), and “python setup.py install” in the spyder-1.1.5 directory worked, but when I try to run spyder from the command line (/usr/local/bin/spyder), it tells me that it can’t find PyQT version 4.4. Don’t think I’m going to be introducing my students to it any time soon…
Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
As illustration, here’s a list of ten things non-technical users probably don’t understand about the software they’re using—things they probably don’t even know are there to be understood. It’s kind of like me and the stock market, or a friend of mine and anything to do with medicine or nutrition…
If all goes well, I’ll post the first eight episodes of the Software Carpentry lecture on the Unix shell later today. That will make this the most productive week I’ve had in the four months I’ve been working on the project full-time. I’ve learned a lot, which I’ll distill into a post some time soon, but right now, I’d like to ask you all a favor.
Please stop pissing on PowerPoint.
Or rather, please stop saying that point-form text is an abomination and everyone should be using zizzy graphics instead. I like an image-laden presentation as much as the next person, and like you, I experience dread and loathing when I see tombstone blocks of text on the screen, but there’s more than a little willful blindness and hipster hypocrisy in saying that everything should be punchy informative pictures instead.
Going heavy on the clip art doesn’t magically make your thinking or your message any better: it’s just as easy to make a banal, uninspired presentation with pictures as with text.
In fact, I think you’re more likely to create a bad presentation if you emphasize visuals over text. You’re probably not a trained or talented graphic designer, and the richer the medium, the more potential there is for using it badly. As someone (John Ousterhout?) said about C++, it’s an amplifier: it allows the good to be better, but the bad to be worse, and most of us aren’t as good as we think we are.
So the next time someone tells you to ditch your bullet points because a few carefully-chosen images will convey your ideas more effectively, please say, “Yes, but carefully chosen words will be more effective still, and more accessible to the visually disabled, and there will be less fluff for me to hide behind if the ideas I’m trying to convey are shallow or contradictory.”
Now, back to recording…