Minimal set up for blogging

This post has nothing to do with physics, so if you are only into physicsy stuff, skip this. The primary goal of this post is to list what I need to blog. The secondary goal is to rant about my laptop.

I destroyed my laptop (well, not really, but kind of). Basically, I had a tooth pulled on Tuesday. It wasn't bad, really it wasn't. The doctor said I should be ok to teach lab after the pull, so I did. NOTE: DON'T EVER DO THAT. Teaching lab after getting a tooth pulled = bad idea. Really bad. Nothing like not being able to talk while drooling blood. I think I scared my students.

After lab, I was working in my office and I drooled some more blood on a brand new shirt that one of my daughters picked out for me. I was afraid. I decided if I hurried home, I could get the blood stain out quickly. In my numb-faced stupor of packing my stuff, I dropped my laptop. I can't believe I have not dropped a laptop before. I have been primarily using a laptop since like 1999. The laptop (a macbook pro) looked fine except for a dent on the lid.

At home, I used the laptop a little and it seemed fine. After a couple of hours, it crashed. I am not an expert, but from what I gather it was a disk error that could be fixed (though not easily). After many hours of trying stupid stuff, I finally gave in and took it to the university IT people. A friend of mine is an IT guy at a company and he could have fixed it easily. Why didn't I bring it to him? ARGH.

I guess I should get back to the point. Point is, I don't have my laptop. I like my laptop. We are friends. Fortunately, I had been using apple's time machine and I had an older ibook from a lab. So that is what I am using now. I am surprised how well restoring from time machine works. It even remembered the window sizes of the programs I was last using (which are too big since I was using a 15" screen and now I am on this 12" screen).

Now that the ranting is done, I can talk about blogging. The great thing about using something like WordPress is that all you really need is the internet. Got that. But that is not the way I usually work (although I am doing it that way to both prove that I can and because I am still downloading some stuff). So, here is what I use:

  • First, I use Mac OS X on a macbook pro. That means that some of this software will only work if you also use OS X. You could probably find equivalent (or identical) stuff for linux or windows.
  • TextMate: This is great text editor. I like that TextMate has a blogging bundle. I can write stuff offline and upload it. If I have an image, I can just drag it into the document and TextMate will upload it for me.
  • Apple's Keynote: Yes, this is really meant as presentation software. But I really like the drawing tools in there. They are not the best, but they sure make pretty stuff. I was using an older version of keynote, but you can use the demo version for free. After 30 days, you can't save or print, but I just draw stuff and then capture it.
  • This leads me to - Skitch: This is a screen capture tool. I was using something else before skitch, but skitch is pretty awesome. I use this to capture drawings from keynote and also LaTeX equations. Skitch also lets you upload images to their site for quick sharing with others.
  • LaTeXit: This is a great little program for making LaTeX equations. I used to use Microsoft equation editor, and I realized early how much it sucks. In LaTeX, I can type the equations. My students say that the open office equation editor is pretty good, but I am sticking with LaTeX. You can even write an equation and then drag it into Keynote as a vector image. I know that wordpress has a LaTeX plugin, but then you have to have LaTeX installed on your server.

I think this is my close to minimal setup. I am starting to feel better, but I still miss my laptop. I will probably get it back in a couple of weeks with a note from IT - "unfixable".


If you are an IT guy from my university, I am totally joking. In fact, I made all this up just to appease my blog readers. Please fix my computer. You guys are AWESOME. Keep up the good tech support. I can't wait for IT appreciation day, I have some good gift ideas in mind.

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I am a physics teacher and technology coordinator at a school with one to one laptops. I have two comments about the programs you use.
1. I am absolutely shocked at how compelling a program Apple's Keynote is. Students use it all the time for literally dozens of applications that it was never intended for. Many of them take all their notes in it. They organize research in it by putting information on slides and sorting the slides. They draw in it like you do. Many also prefer to make movies in it by recording annotations over slides and then including video on some of the pages. To me this is an invaluable program.
2. Skitch was not included on all the laptops, but I installed it on my physics student's laptops early in the year and spent about 5 minutes showing them how to use it. My goal was to have them turn in lab progress reports that were annotated Skitch screen shots of Logger Pro. They use it all the time for uncountable purposes. So much so that other teachers have come to me asking about because the students are producing such nice work quickly.
Both excellent recommendations.