Frank's Blog

Amsterdam 

I'd like to tell you from my third visit to Amsterdam. I was a speaker at a workshop on Dynamic Web Processes at the 3rd International Conference on Service Oriented Computing evangelizing people to Pi-Calculus. Actually I talked about some vision named: Toward a Formal for Agile Service Discovery and Integration. Yes I have to confess: The slides contained formulas.

The city itself was a bit disappointing. Amsterdam in winter is way beyond what I remembered like it was in summer. Nevertheless, there was anything you would expect from this city ;-) We were even invited to the city hall, where someone very smart told us about how much Amsterdam has been waiting for a conference on service oriented computing.

The conference itself was quite disappointing. Paying 500 euros just to sit at uncomfortable chairs in a hotel conference room with only coffee delivered - I don't know why they didn't chosed one of the universities having real auditoriums. The conference itself is best described by: Italy and IBM. You either have to have an italien family name or work for IBM, best of all from India. Because I'm not related to any of that, I always felt a bit outside. Nevertheless, six guys from the HPI visiting this conference made it something like a school trip.
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Mini survived Surgery 

Today I finally updated my Mac mini to 1gig of RAM. Having initially denied to order 1gig as Apple was likely to take around 400 bucks, and unwilling to crack the housing open when the mini was brand-new, now the time has come:



The most scaring part was of course the removal of the housing - the plastic nipples make a strange cracking noise when pushing the putty knife inside!
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Bugs killed 

The bugs I described last time under "Unevitable Bugs" have been closed with the newest update of Tiger to 10.4.3. The PDF renders now without a memory leak forcing the system to die slowly. However, I have seen my first kernel panic on a Mac ever (beside the known K750 bug, which has also been fixed in 10.4.3). Next time I'm going to make a photo - hopefully this will never happen again. But I still have some doubts as my collegues PowerBook paniced the moment he was giving a tool demonstration - running MacOS 10.4.3...
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Unevitable Bugs 

Now that I'm using my Mac for writing anything regarding to my thesis (my personal "notebook"), I also have a more demanding use for Keynote. Before I only used it for short presentations, say 15 slides, like the one I gave at the BPM2005 in Nancy, France. The last couple of weeks, however, I'm busily preparing some 90 minute lectures about my current research. Together they contain around 150 slides split into three Keynote files. Each Keynote file includes around 100 formulas dropped as PDFs from Equation Editor. And now there is this bug after working for some time with such (big) presentations: Used from Microsoft Powerpoint under Windows where the slide previews turned very coarse just before the software gave up, Keynote presented me the spinning beach ball each time I wanted to change the slide. Even worser, the text inside my PDFs suddenly turned crazy looking! Finally, the only things I saw in Keynote was that beach ball!

However, what I wanted to say is that either 1) Keynote and Powerpoint share virtually the same code or 2) writing a working presentation program is indeed an NP-complete problem. Have I talked about OpenOffice Impress 1.x yet? No? This software even has unsolvable problems with time and switching to the next slide while actually giving the presentation! Maybe it all gets better with the 2.0 release coming next week.
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Scientific Writing & Mac 

This time I came across some nice links regarding scientific writing with the Mac. Typically, scientific people use LaTeX for typesetting their notes, papers, articles, thesis, etc. However, sometimes you just might want a simple page, maybe a letter or slide, with a nice formula within. Then you can use software like Equation Editor. This little piece of software accepts a LaTeX math formula and creates a nice looking PDF containing the rendered formula. This formula can then be drag-and-dropped to its target location - Pages, Keynote, OmniGraffle, whatever program supports PDF (Microsoft Word works very ugly, it converts the vector graphics to a low resolution bitmap). Another nice solution is Equation Service that works the same way like Equation Editor but adds an entry to your Macs service menu. If you use an application that is integrated with this Mac-special-feature you can simply type your LaTeX equation and convert it with some keystrokes to an embedded PDF. You just need to fire up you text editor, e.g. Pages, type in your LaTeX formula, e.g. \Sum_{i=1}^x di press Alt+Shift+Left (to select the formula), and then press Option+\ to invoke the service. More useful hints about scientific writing at the Mac can be found here.
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