Get your own LaTeX-enabled wiki in the cloud with Instiki on Heroku

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 | Author:

I guess you all know what a WikiWikiWeb (short: wiki) is, it's a website where you can easily add new pages and modify existing ones. MathOverflow is some kind of hybrid between Q&A and a wiki, since users with enough reputation can edit other people's questions and answers. MathOverflow made the Markdown syntax very popular, and people got used to using LaTeX online. Some of my readers surely know the nLab, a collaborative wiki on n-categorical math(ematical physics) and stuff. The nLab runs on a software called Instiki, which is a wiki written in Ruby (an intepreted language similar to Python, and somewhat similar to Lisp, Perl and JavaScript; which is often used for web applications like wikis). The good thing about Instiki is that it supports editing pages in Markdown syntax with embedded LaTeX, so it is able to support your personal knowledge management needs. In addition, Instiki is small (thus not many bugs are to be expected), fast and the code is quite readable; something I wouldn't say about MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia.

In this post, I will tell you how to run your own wiki like the nLab. [UPDATED 2013-01-07; easier fix]

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Category: English, Mathematics, Not Mathematics | 2 Comments

Export purchased books list from Amazon

Sunday, September 18th, 2011 | Author:

If you happened to buy books from (or, in my case, and maybe used the recommendation engine and the wishlist (and and and ...) then there will be lots of data about your books on the Amazon website. Have you ever thought about organizing your library with a different tool? May it be Google Books or LibraryThing or Shelfari, you will have to export this precious big amount of data from Amazon to the other service. Luckily, some intelligent people invented ISBN, so you basically need to extract a list of ISBNs to identify the books (neglecting your reviews and tags for now). Not that luckily, Amazon doesn't offer such export functionality to the layman. Searching the internet yields a Greasemonkey script that enables you to export wishlist content - but no ISBNs, so import into other services is not so easy.

The solution is to save each website of "your purchases" (or other such lists of books) as HTML file and let a smart script do the extraction work. This way, you're not violating Amazon's terms of service (which most likely don't allow any robots scraping the website) and on the positive side, it works.

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Category: English | 4 Comments

Managing news

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 | Author:

Today in the series "How to do XYZ with software?":

How to manage news?

It is vital to get at least some news. You need to know about political developments, to be informed when it's time to cast your vote (or, if you're not living in a democracy, when it's time to protest). You need to know about developments in your work, so you can adapt and don't risk losing your job because you're too old-fashioned. You need to know about economy if you're investing money. You need to stay informed about every project you want to participate in. Maybe you even need to know what pop-stars do, because if not, you have nothing to talk about with your friends.
How to cope with this information overload?
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Managing the paper's metadata

Monday, January 25th, 2010 | Author:

Today in the series "How to do XYZ with software?":

Annotations and other metadata issues

(You might not want to read this if you're not using Linux or if you're not a developer)
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Category: English | 6 Comments

Managing papers

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 | Author:

Today in the series "How to do XYZ with software?":

How to manage papers?

I have lots of PDFs on my hard-disk, and most of them is half-read or unread. Since I'm studying mathematics, these PDFs are lecture notes, research papers, my own notes and several more-or-less relevant books. How do I organise them? It's a problem.

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Managing contacts

Thursday, January 21st, 2010 | Author:

Today in the series "How to do XYZ with software?":

How to manage contacts?

Managing contacts has never been easy - there are various kinds of data floating around (phone numbers, email addresses, private addresses, work addresses, birthdays ...) and the data is always changing ("Hey I got a new phone number ... "). It's better to keep all contacts in one place and to take back-ups of your precious data.

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Category: English, Not Mathematics | One Comment