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A visit to Decode

We stopped by the V & A museum today, homing in on the Decode: Digital Design Sensations exhibition.

Being a data visualisation aficionado (enthusiastic with some degree of knowledge, but not a practiced implementer), I was hoping for a more data interpolation/exploration heavy exhibition. Admittedly, the balance of data visualisation and interactive/manipulation displays was better at holding an audience instead of data rich displays.

Highlights

  • TI by Casey Reas - beautiful work, but the display could have been better in the exhibition
  • Swarm Draw by Joshua Davis - truly mesmerising

Handy TextMate from-the-terminal Tip

From a Mac OS X terminal window, you can use:

mate myfile.rb

to open a given file in TextMate.

You can also ask TextMate to open all the files and folders in the current directory as a project, so all files are accessible from the project drawer:

mate *

Useful functionality from MacroMates (developer of TextMate); one of those small features that makes you go "ahhh...that's nice".

Generating a Tag Cloud in Jekyll

The term category and tag are used interchangeably throughout this posting; they are assumed to be the same thing.

Having recently adopted Jekyll to power this website, I have been doing a bit of hacking/extending to get some added features in. A few days ago it was integrating Twitter with Jekyll, and now it's generating a tag cloud.

Back in July, Alex Young blogged about his Jekyll migration, and thoughtfully included a link to some code he wrote to list all posts broken out by category/tag.

I wanted to take this a bit further, and generate a per-category page which listed all the postings for that category, but also to generate a tag cloud.

Integrating Twitter with Jekyll

Having migrated Justkez.com to be based on Jekyll, I was pondering how I might include my recent twitterings on the front page of the site. In the Wordpress world, this would have been done via a plugin which may or may not have hung the loading of the page, might have employed caching, but would certainly have had some overheads.

Not in Jekyll.

Integrating Jekyll and Twitter

It is rather simple to create a Ruby script to pull down your most recent Twitter updates and dump them into a file.

It is also simple to wrap each update in some rudimentary HTML.

We then use the Liquid include tag to insert the updates where desired.

The Ruby script

I have the following sat in my ~/bin/ directory, which can be executed by a cron job at whatever interval you see fit:

Great coffee comes to Richmond

Several months ago, Rosie and Java opened in Richmond. This tea and coffee merchant filled a surprisingly absent hole in Richmond's shops; there was no dedicated tea/coffee supplier before.

Having purchased a few ground beans for a cafetiere, the one thing I felt missing from the shop was the opportunity to offer an espresso take away service.

Loh and behold, they now offer an espresso take away service. All for 90p (or £1.60 per double).

Finally, somewhere is bringing the Italian approach to coffee to south west London. The espresso market in Italy is such that no cafe charging more than €1 for a shot of the good stuff could survive; it's about time this was introduced in the UK.

Rosie and Java is just off Richmond green, along the shopping alley behind House of Fraser.

Interesting links of the day 4

Getting to grips with Jekyll

Having recently heard about Jekyll from a Hacker News posting, I felt the urge of website change stir within me.

Justkez.com has been run through Wordpress for many years now (since 2006), but it has got to a point where I just wasn't comfortable with it - felt too clunky.

Why Jekyll?

Jekyll is a static site generator written in Ruby, with support for Markdown documents for blog posts. I have been writing postings in Markdown for the last year, so it seemed a logical move. With the working world taking over a lot of my time, I become less bothered about the latest plugins, or publishing widgets.

As such, a few of the old posts didn't make the cut, and some of the more popular ones have been polished up a bit; there shouldn't be too many lost links.

Interesting links of the day 3

I'd love to do one of these every day...

  • An interesting coming-together of computing science and popular internet culture. The New York Times has a piece on Dr. Jim Gray, who saw an inevitable shift in the practice of science because of data innundation. In the mean time, Merlin Mann contributed "Enough" - a piece highlighting excessive consumption of digital media for Seth Godin's free ebook, What Matters Now.

Migrating Justkez to Linode

There has been some intermittent down time of the site over the last couple of weeks; apologies.

The first bout was moving from Slicehost over to Linode - something I toyed with some months ago, but was finally swayed by Eivind Uggedal's excellent comparison of VPS performance. Whilst I'm sure there are other performance metrics that would put Slicehost in the lead, there was more bang for less buck at Linode.

The second bout was migrating the baby-fresh Linode image to the recently announced London server, reducing average ping latency from 86ms to 4ms - nearly 12x faster.

Projecting geographic coordinates in Processing

Processing is a an open source programming environment for, among other things, data visualisation.

I have a personal penchance for GIS visualisation (mapping, geographic projection, making something meaningful from seemingly random data), and there seems to be a shortage of information around working with Processing and the GIS space.

Processing's map() and coordinate systems?

Ben Fry - the author of "Visualizing Data" and co-conspirator for Processing has a chapter in his book about the map() method, which re-maps a number into a specified range. In his example he plots ZIP centroids in a Processing sketch.