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Cool Stuff

Keyboard Special Character Shortcuts

January 30, 2014

A while back we talked about some ASCII charcters. I thought some of you might find these shortcuts useful. I always find myself looking up how to do copyright and trademark symbols with the keyboard. I knew there had to be someway to type some of these in. I am defiantly going to have to print this off and keep somewhere handy. Here are the Keyboard Special Character Shortcuts:


Cool Stuff, Infographics

The Digital Public Library of America Launches

July 22, 2013

Spring marked the opening of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), a collection of over 2.4 million (and growing) works of art and history, the largest in the world. We can read Mozart’s letters or take a gander at a rare Edgar Degas sketch in the DPLA's digital halls. The DPLA is emerging as an invaluable resource for those interested in accessing and preserving our history, culture and humanity.

An Infinite Global Reference Source

The DLPA is the brainchild of Robert Darnton, a librarian at Harvard University who dreamed of combining the holdings of America’s great libraries, museums, historical societies and archives. Two years later, with the cooperation of the Smithsonian institution, New York Public Library, University of Illinois, Digital Commonwealth in Massachusetts, Minnesota Digital Library and many others, the DLPA is off the ground and ready to be explored. The DPLA’s original aim was to be a “living heritage” to educate, inform and empower both current and future generations, yet it has already begun to evolve into much more. The DPLA offers an open framework where knowledge, art and culture can be parlayed into power and positive change.

Link to the Unknown: Art and Authors in a New Light

The DPLA will help rare, meaningful media surface, like this rare 1919 home movie of an African-American baseball game in a backyard, points out DPLA executive director Dan Cohen. Photos, paintings, archives and slide-scanning bring the world's highlights onto our screens. Imagine if Picasso had access to millions of paintings that came before him, or if Shakespeare could have browsed the entire works of Virgil or Homer from his desk. How could that have affected the history of art and storytelling?

The Virtual Future: An Alexandrian Rival?

As the most comprehensive house of scholarly material and art, the DPLA is sort of like a modern Library of Alexandria, except more difficult to burn down. The digital structure serves a two-fold purpose: It is both a destination and source as well as an aggregator. The DPLA is a library and a hub that helps build exposure for other hubs, like ARTsor, an image contributor for many well-known museums. This structure also allows the DPLA to avoid copyright issues, as each content provider must provide the rights field in the metadata.

Anyone can access the DPLA through a laptop, tablet or cell phone—users simply need an Internet connection. The DPLA’s vision for the future is to contain the full breadth of human expression without commercial interests, which sets it apart from almost all other major media endeavors. The pursuit of knowledge makes growth possible, and when ulterior motives are stripped away, we all reap the benefits. Aspiring artists, digital virtuosos and academicians can find their Shangri-la in the DPLA.


Syntax Highlighting in the Mac OS X Terminal

January 2, 2013

In your programming career, sooner or later you will come across the command line text editor. In the beginning it will look and feel wired, but with time you will get used to it. After a while you will get used to not having the IDE and fancy auto complete. You will even get used to the fact that the syntax is not highlighted, but you do not have to. As it turns out, you can 'activate' your terminals syntax highlighting features. This will help you a lot down the road and can be applied for Mac (yes, even servers, no I do not know about Windows.

So I created a simple program in python to see what my terminal will display now if I were to open the file via vi. Here is the file content:

import time

def main():
	print 'hello'
	x = 42


If I were to run the following command (assuming the file is named


The output:

syntax highlight off

We can do better than that. First of all navigate to your home folder. We are going to add some color highlighting to the ls function. This will make it easy to recognize file types in the command line. That is the folder that opens up when you open up the terminal. Now run the following command to create (or modify if exsiting) your .profile file.

vi .profile

If you have File Vault turned on, you might have to add sudo at the beginning of the command and type your password at the prompt. Once the file is open type 'i' to switch to vi insert mode. Then type the following into the file:

alias ls='ls -G'

After you are done typing hit the 'esc' key followed by 'wq' and enter. This will switch you out of insert mode, save (write) & quit. See An Extremely Quick and Simple Introduction to the Vi Text Editor for more information about vi. This command will add some syntax highlighting to your terminal ls function. So now your directory list will be colorful. To add the syntax highlight to vi we will need to do a little more work.

First, change the directory like so:

cd /usr/share/vim

Then open a file called vimrc using sudo. Like this:

sudo vi vimrc

This will take you back into the vi enviorment. Now you are going to go into insert mode again by pressing 'i' key. Add the following code after the line:

backspace = 2

The code to add:

set ai                  " auto indenting
set history=100         " keep 100 lines of history
set ruler               " show the cursor position
syntax on               " syntax highlighting
set hlsearch            " highlight the last searched term
filetype plugin on      " use the file type plugins

" When editing a file, always jump to the last cursor position
autocmd BufReadPost *
\ if ! exists("g:leave_my_cursor_position_alone") |
\ if line("'\"") > 0 && line ("'\"") <= line("$") |
\ exe "normal g'\"" |
\ endif |
\ endif

Save and exit again, by pressing 'esc' and 'wq'. Restart your terminal session and everything should be all colorful. If you were to go back to view your vimrc file you should see something similar to this:

vim color configure

And out python file from before should look like this when you open it:

vim python color highlight

Much better.

Note that at any point you can disable this feature by removing the added line of code. You can also disable terminal syntax highlighting by typing in the following command from within vi:

 :syntax off