Gnome 3 has regained its place as my favorite window manager

I know, it’s shocking, I nearly abandoned Gnome for Cinnamon, MATE, or even Fluxbox because of the changes from Gnome 2 to Gnome 3.  But, since I’m not a fan of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, I thought I’d give it another try as I set up my desktop machines at work.

What changed?  Gnome Extensions that allow customization of the top panel.  The two that have completely changed my mind are:

  1. Axe Menu: Finally, the nice, beautiful, organized menu is back in gnome desktop.  It finds a midpoint between KDE’s menu and Unity’s Dash.
  2. Maximus: Maximized windows drop their decoration so they take up most of the screen.

Check out the rest at https://extensions.gnome.org/.  I’m a big fan of Weather, Project Hamster, and Places Status Indicator.

Questions

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)

We have some amazing youth at First Baptist Richmond, I must say.  Bart asked a few questions this evening as our time was ending.  The first I had planned for, since we had spoken about it a few minutes before.  Initially, he asked me “if you could ask God for anything, and knew He would give it to you, what would you ask for?”  That question was easy, or so I thought.  I know some would have jumped at the chance to ask for something or someone in this life, or perhaps tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers in jest, but I knew I would want to ask neither of those.  I’d ask for the plans: those things that would both bring me the greatest joy and give God the greatest glory.  A life in which I’m not constantly discerning God’s will for my life, but knowing 1) that I know what I’m supposed to do and 2) that I’d be already there.

After everyone arrived and settled, Bart dropped one word that completely changed the intent and depth of the question:

If you could directly ask God anything, and you knew He would answer you, what would you ask?

So, what would you ask?  What would I ask?  Remember back to Genesis, where God is walking in the garden with Adam and Eve; face-to-face discussions with God.  One student asked the question that just amazed me.  She said that she’d ask how God began, if He could explain it in terms we could understand.  We’ve been taught that God always existed and will exist, and that He is outside our time, but what’s His story?  Can you imagine that kind of chat, sitting in rocking chairs on the back porch of God’s house, staring into the sunset, learning about Him?

The second, however, took me by surprise, and it immediately brought a lot to mind even though it seemed nearly impossible to answer.

If God were to directly ask you one question right now, what would He ask of you?

My first thought was, what have you been doing with the time I gave you? Or, why don’t you trust Me? Or… The list goes on.  Now, looking back at the first question and answer, I’m starting to think I may already know what that plan is; or at least the direction.  Jesus’ call in Matthew 28 is a homing beacon to both questions.  Over the next few months, I need to refocus on Jesus’ call to us as Christians, knowing that I want to find the place that best serves Him and gives joy.  It isn’t easy, and hasn’t been over the past few years, but I know there’s a place that my abilities and talents will directly serve to bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

Maps Issues… aka “Hey Apple, welcome to the club…”

So, there’s been a lot of discussion on the problems with Apple’s new mapping system.  They did a lot of good work getting the app up and working, and it is a promising app for the future, but it wasn’t quite ready for prime-time in any but the most populous cities.  So, what’s the problem and what are the alternatives? I think the Apple Maps app was built to facilitate those who want both directions and turn-by-turn directions (aka a “how to get there” approach) while neglecting those who used maps to find a building or certain place (a “where is this place” approach).

Well, consider the image below:

The first pane is Apple’s mapping system.  Looking for the University of Virginia’s library (Alderman) gives no results (poor students relying on their iPhone).  But wait, there’s more! The second pane is the MapQuest app.  It provides about as much data on the map-level as Apple and has been on the app store for years, but it still doesn’t find Alderman.  It does correctly identify the public library.  So, fire up Safari and head to Google Maps (last pane), and you correctly get Alderman.  Now, there are also Bing maps, but we’ll get to that later….

Now, suppose you’re just visiting UVA and want directions here.  You fire up Apple maps and search for uva:

Hmm, good luck getting there by car if you’re in the US.

Now, let’s look back at my alma mater, William and Mary.  A few years ago the school bought the old Williamsburg hospital location, tore down the building and built a brand-new School of Education in the space. But, for some reason, they must have re-torn down the ed school and rebuilt the hospital?

Okay, I’ll assume they didn’t re-re-locate the hospital and that the map is at least 5 years old.  Apple’s map data really needs to be updated. And SOON.

Now, I have to say that Apple did a really good job with the mapping solution and that it provides great promise, even if it’s not quite there yet.  Why do I say this?  Well, the map interaction is much smoother than the previous implementation of Google maps.  Also, the street names are much more readable than previously.  Most of all, it’s clear that they spent more time fixing up more populated areas, but neglected most of the country before the release.  For example, VCU is one of the largest public universities in the state of VA and in downtown Richmond.  Want to see buildings? No problem! However, move over to the second-oldest school in the nation (W&M) and you can’t even seem to tell it’s there:

William and Mary (left) vs VCU (right)

Also, the level of detail is pretty awesome in the biggest market, such as NYC:

So, I think Apple maps will be an amazing system once it matures, but this release does seem to be a bit premature in all but the most populous cities.  With all the publicity that has been generated around the release, hopefully we’ll see a much more rapid development of the mapping system than any other app available on the iPhone.  Especially with such a large user base that is being forced to make the switch when upgrading to the latest version of iOS.

This whole situation shows the power and reach of Google and its data.  Google maps is unmatched by any other system that I’ve seen yet.  Remember I said I’d return to Bing?  Well, I wanted to check it as well, so I fired up Safari and moseyed over to maps.bing.com to give it a shot.  Well, I couldn’t seem to get out of Seattle!  Every time I searched for Alderman Library, it would reset to a map image of Seattle, WA, with no search results.  An iPad saved me, and I was able to search for the library:

So, bing saved the day.  However, if you’re a student at UVA, you’ll know that the library is really at the red x below:

You can say all you want about how bad Apple Maps are, but remember, everyone seems to be on a catch-up path with Google Maps.  I don’t know what pace that will take now that more and more mobile devices are not using Google Maps anymore.  Thoughts to ponder…

For directions, I’ll make quick use of Apple Maps.  To actually find a place, I’ll likely switch over to Safari and Google Maps. At least for now…

Math Typesetting in HTML

This is completely a geeky post for those who post math-type to blogs, wikis, or any other general HTML page.  I have been looking for a decent way to format math equations in both my wiki (theory.robbiehott.com) and on my websites where I post research information.  This week, I found the answer: MathJax.

So, what is MathJax? It is a javascript script that will replace any LaTeX or MML markup in a webpage with the equivalent equation or table, correctly formatted!  For any math junkie, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Butterfly Visitor

  by deternitydx
, a photo by deternitydx on Flickr.

This weekend, we had a yard sale in the front yard. Over the past year, occaisonally there has been a butterfly that flits around my car and is quite friendly. Saturday, however, we had another visit. He was so friendly that he let the neighbor pet him, I had the chance to take some extreme closeups with my phone, and even had a chance to hold him for a while.