Jan 022016
 

Over the Christmas break I made a couple of dips, one of which got better reviews than the others. This is not a recipe for purists, since a real tapenade should have anchovies in it, but I didn’t have any and my family doesn’t like them anyway.

None of the quantities are exact. The sun-dried tomatoes were loosely packed in the measuring cup and I didn’t measure the olives, just drained the can and tossed them in the food processor. I didn’t chop anything before putting it in the food processor.

  • Approx 2 cups black olives (contents of one can, 398ml size). I used Californian black olives since those were in the cupboard, next time I’ll probably use Kalamata olives.
  • Approx 3/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes; let most of the oil drip off but not all of it.
  • 5 cloves of garlic.
  • 2 tbsp capers

Process in a food processor until finely chopped. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of olive oil (or oil from the sun-dried tomatoes).

Nov 172014
 

WordPress was designed for public websites, not private ones, so password protection can be a little clunky. Fortunately there are plugins to help, but (as always) there are trade-offs to be made.

When all you want to do is add a password to stop search engines indexing and outsiders reading the content, but you also want make it as easy as possible for people to use, there’s the Password Protected plugin. As it says, it doesn’t protect the images or other uploaded content.

If you also want to protect the media, you will need to give people an account on the WordPress site (with username and password). Then you can use the htaccess edits detailed at http://www.idowebdesign.ca/wordpress/password-protect-wordpress-attachments/. This works, but in many cases you just don’t want to give lots of people accounts on the system, or make groups of people share an account. So it’s a trade-off – how important is password-protecting the images versus the administration overhead of user accounts with the associated username/password ease of use issues? If you do want to use usernames and passwords, perhaps giving a group of people a shared account, I’d recommend also using one of the plugins that helps with finer-grained access control, such as Members, to stop people being able to change things you don’t want them changing (such as passwords for the shared account).

Oct 302014
 

I’ve been trying out Google App Engine, for which I signed up with the Google account where I just enabled 2FA. Of course, that means changing the way I update the uploaded trial application; the standard Google password has to give way to either a specific application-based password, or OAuth 2. OAuth 2 is obviously (to me) the better way to go.

The documentation is reasonably straight-forward. It even works as documented, assuming you’re signed in with the right Google account on your default browser. My workflow is a little different – my main browser (Firefox) is signed into my main Google account, and I sign into my other Google account (which I’m using for this development project) on Chrome. Copying the URL from Firefox to Chrome to allow the appcfg application access to that Google account worked; it’s refreshing to see. I get tired of web applications that use some hidden JavaScript magic and give you nonsensical results if you copy a URL from one browser to another.

There’s something appealing about OAuth 2, even if it appears a little too magical at times (a bit like git; when it works it’s magical, when it doesn’t, good luck!)

Oct 272014
 

Two-factor authentication is generally seen as a good idea; there’s a certain amount of hand-wringing over the fact that more people don’t turn it on. The problem is, it’s one of those things where you sign up for disruption over the next few days, for uncertain reward. The reward is uncertain because you can never tell whether turning on two-factor authentication stopped someone hacking your account or not, just like you can’t tell whether having an alarm company sign outside your house dissuades someone from breaking into it. My main email account has been on 2FA for ages, but I decided to add it to one of my secondary accounts as well, given that lots of people seem to mistakenly use that email instead of their own.

Tim suggested I used the authenticator app for my Google account 2FA, instead of using the SMS system. Just a hint: set it up while you still have access to your text messages since SMS is used for the bootstrapping authentication. You need to sign up for Google 2FA in the first place ‘on a computer’ (not specified whether a tablet is sufficient? I used the desktop). You are sent an SMS to authenticate yourself, and then you get another one when you want to authenticate the Authenticator app. After that, you don’t need your SMS system, as long as you have the device with the Authenticator app on it.

But then there are the other apps, which now need application-specific generated passwords. Adium for Google Talk, for example, or email with Thunderbird. Setting each one up doesn’t take long, but I’m sure some time in the future I will have forgotten and be wondering why I can’t log in with a valid password.

And I understand what’s going on, more or less, and think the short-term hassles are worth it. There are lots of people who don’t have a mental model of passwords or authentication, who see only the pain and not the gain (since the gain is only in the absence of a potential future pain). Businesses are supposedly implementing 2FA fairly rapidly, but I’d be surprised if people in general were outfitting their personal accounts with 2FA at anything like the same rate. Mind you, I also suspect those surveys apply mostly to bigger companies in particular industries; anecdotal evidence I’ve heard points to a lower real adoption rate.

Sep 042014
 

August ended up busy, busier than I intended. Balisage was as usual full of interesting discussions although some of the people I’d hoped to see weren’t able to make it this year. I took part in a panel on MathML, figured out (finally) there is an overlap between the overlapping markup discussions and the DOM Level 2 Range specification, and generally enjoyed myself.

Not long after that I left Design Science; I was disappointed it didn’t work out the way I’d hoped, but I did learn a lot about MathML and typesetting mathematics that I didn’t know before.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks talking to people about different projects in healthcare and publishing, whether it’s something for me to work at or not. It’s good to be able to take time occasionally to see what’s out there, what people are working on. I’ve also been getting ready for the XML Summer School (there are still a couple of spots left in some of the courses if you’re interested in attending). And I’ve been working on learning plans for my children since their teachers are on strike. Khan Academy, Codecademy, and various workbooks to refresh last year’s skills to start with. I hope the strike is resolved before I have to do too much more planning.

At least we managed to spend a few weekends at the cabin for relaxation amongst all of that.

Jun 242014
 

I've been working at Design Science for a couple of months now, as Senior Product Manager concentrating on the MathFlow products. So I figured I should enable MathML support on my blog. It's not hard, but like everything in tech there are a few niggly details. Many of those issues are caused by WordPress's over-eager helpfulness, which has to be reined in on a regular basis if you're doing anything at all out of the ordinary. Like editing your posts directly in HTML rather than using some pseudo-WYSIWYG editor.

Theoretically, showing MathML in a browser is easy, at least for the sort of equations that most people put in blog posts, even though not all browsers support MathML directly. You just use the MathJax JavaScript library. On WordPress there is even a plugin that adds the right script element, the MathJax-Latex plugin. You can make every page load MathJax, or use the [mathjax] shortcode to tell it when to load.

The wrinkle comes with WordPress' tendency to "correct" the markup. When you add the MathML, WordPress sprinkles it with <br/> tags. MathJax chokes on those and shows nothing. Since the tags don't show up in the editor view, you need some way of stopping WordPress from adding them. The best way I've found is with the Raw HTML plugin.

But there's a wrinkle with that too. For some reason if you use the shortcode version of the begin and end markers ([raw]) the editor decides that the XML characters between those markers has to be turned into the character entities, so for example the < characters are turned into &lt;. To stop that, you need to a) check all the checkboxes in the Raw HTML settings on the post, and b) use the comment version (<-- raw --> and <-- /raw -->) to mark the beginning and end of the section instead of the shortcode version.

Once it's done it's easy to add equations to your pages, so it's worth the extra few minutes to set it all up.

A couple of examples taken from the MathJax samples page

Curl of a Vector Field
×F=(FzyFyz)i+(FxzFzx)j+(FyxFxy)k
Standard Deviation
σ=1Ni=1N(xiμ)2

and one from my thesis from way back when

fλ=n!i<k(li-lk)l1!l2!lr!