changes (ahead)

In view or recents events & comments, some changes have been made or will be made shortly :

categories : Sanitized the plethora of wordpress-categories to which posts belong. At the moment there are just 5 categories : ‘stories’ and ‘web’ (for all posts with low math-content) and three categories ‘level1’, ‘level2’ and ‘level3’, loosely indicating the math-difficulty of a post.

MathJax : After years of using LatexRender and WP-Latex, we’ll change to MathJax from now on. I’ll try to convert older posts as soon as possible. (Update : did a global search and replace. ‘Most’ LaTeX works, major exceptions being matrices and xymatrix commands. I’ll try to fix those later with LatexRender.)

theme : The next couple of days, the layout of this site may change randomly as I’ll be trying out things with the Swift wordpress theme. Hopefully, this will converge to a new design by next week.

name : Neverendingbooks will be renamed to something more math-related. Clearly, the new name will depend on the topics to be covered. On the main index page a pop-up poll will appear in the lower right-hand corner after 10 seconds. Please fill in the topics you’d like us to cover (no name or email required).

This poll will close on friday 21st at 12 CET and its outcome will influence name/direction of this blog. Use it also if you have a killer newname-suggestion. Among the responses so far, a funnier one : “An intro to, or motivation for non-commutative geometry, aimed at undergraduates. As a rule, I’d take what you think would be just right for undergrads, and then trim it down a little more.”

guest-posts : If you’d like to be a guest-blogger here at irregular times, please contact me. The first guest-post will be on noncommutative topology and the interpretation of quantum physics, and will appear soon. So, stay tuned…

Snow leopard + wordpress + latex problem

Ever since I’ve upgraded to Snow Leopard I’ve been having problems with the webserver.

At first there were the ‘obvious’ problems : mysql-connection lost and php-error message. These were swiftly dealt with using the excellent Snow Leopard, Apache, PHP, MySQL and WordPress! advice from ‘tady’.

Right now, access to this blog is extremely slow (and often impossible), certainly via the admin-page. The problem appears to be that most of my CPU is used by lots of pdfetex-processes owned by www. Hence the conjecture that it is a problem with either LaTeXRender or WP LaTeX.

Anyone experiencing a similar problem, or knowing a trick to resolve it? Takk.

math2.0-setup : final comments

Last time I promised to come back explaining how to set-up LaTeX-support, figuring I had to tell you about a few modifications I had to make in order to get Latexrender run on my mac…

A few google searches made it plain how out of touch I am on these matters (details below). But first, there was this comment to this series by Link Starbureiy :

“I took part in Gowers’ blog discussion. My input was to move things over to Google collaboration tools, like Google Knol, and perhaps Google Sites. However, those tools for large-scale collaboration may not be the best solution anymore. I like the NSN idea, but worry about it’s very long-term stability. Would you consider porting the project over to the Google App Engine so that it can be played with in the orkut sandbox (http://sandbox.orkut.com)?”

I thought I made it clear from the outset that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life web-mastering a site such as NSN. All I wanted to show is that the technology is there free for the taking, and show that you do not have to be a wizard to get it running even on a mac…

I would really love it when some groups, or universities, on institutes, would set up something resembling this dedicated to a single arXiv-topic. Given our history, Antwerp University might be convinced to do this for math.RA but (a) I’m not going to maintain this on my own and (b) there may very well be a bandwidth problem if such a thing would become successful… (although, from past experiences and attempts I’ve made over the years, this is extremely unlikely for this target-group).

So please, if your group has some energy to spare, set-up your own math2.0-network, port it to Google Apps, Knol, Orkut or whatever, and I’d love to join and contribute to it.

As to LaTeX-support : this is trivial these days. First you need a working LaTeX-system on your virgin macbook. The best way is to download The MacTeX-2008 Distribution at work (it is a huge 1.19Gb download…). Next, install the fauxml-wordpress plugin (that is, download it to YourHome/Downloads and then drag the file faux-ml.php to the Library/WebServer/Documents/wp-content/plugins/ directory. Next, install likewise the WP-LateX plugin following the instructions, go to the configuring page and set the directory for latex and dvipng (if you follow my instructions they should be located at /usr/texbin/latex and /usr/texbin/dvipng), fill in the text color and background color you desire and clip your default latex-documentstyle/includepackages/newcommands section from your latest paper into the LaTeX Preamble window and believe me, you’re done!!!



Writing & Blogging

Terry Tao is reworking some of his better blogposts into a book, to be published by the AMS (here’s a preliminary version of the book “What’s New?”)

After some thought, I decided not to transcribe all of my posts from last year (there are 93 of them!), but instead to restrict attention to those articles which (a) have significant mathematical content, (b) are not announcements of material that will be published elsewhere, and (c) are not primarily based on a talk given by someone else. As it turns out, this still leaves about 33 articles from 2007, leading to a decent-sized book of a couple hundred pages in length.

If you have a blog and want to turn it into a LaTeX-book, there’s no need to transcribe or copy every single post, thanks to the WPTeX tool. Note that this is NOT a WP-plugin, but a (simple at that) php-program which turns all posts into a bookcontent.tex file. This file can then be edited further into a proper book.

Unfortunately, the present version chokes on LaTeXrender-code (which is easy enough to solve doing a global ‘find-and-replace’ of the tex-tags by dollar-signs) but worse, on Markdown-code… But then, someone fluent in php-regex will have no problems extending the libs/functions.php file (I hope…).

At the moment I’m considering turning the Mathieu-games-posts into a booklet. A possible title might be Mathieumatical Games. Rereading them (and other posts) I regret to be such an impatient blogger. Often I’m interested in something and start writing posts about it without knowing where or when I’ll land. This makes my posts a lot harder to get through than they might have been, if I would blog only after having digested the material myself… Typical recent examples are the tori-crypto-posts and the Bost-Connes algebra posts.

So, I still have a lot to learn from other bloggers I admire, such as Jennifer Ouellette who maintains the Coctail Party Physics blog. At the moment, Jennifer is resident blogger-journalist at the Kavli Institute where she is running a “Journal Club” workshop giving ideas on how to write better about science.

But the KITP is also committed to fostering scientific communication. That’s where I come in. Each Friday through April 26th, I’ll be presiding over a “Journal Club” meeting focusing on some aspect of communicating science.

Her most recent talk was entitled To Blog or Not to Blog? That is the Question and you can find the slides as well as a QuickTime movie of her talk. They even plan to set up a blog for the participants of the workshop. I will surely follow the rest of her course with keen interest!

thanks for linking

I’ve re-installed the Google analytics plugin on december 22nd, so it is harvesting data for three weeks only. Still, it is an interesting tool to gain insight in the social networking aspect of math-blogging, something I’m still very bad at…

Below the list of all blogs referring at least 10 times over this last three weeks. In brackets are the number of referrals and included are the average time Avg. they spend on this site, as well as the bounce back rate BB. It gives me the opportunity to link back to some of their posts, as a small token of gratitude. I may repeat this in the future, so please keep on linking…

Not Even Wrong (69) : Avg (1.05 min) BB (52.94%)

The most recent post of Peter is an update on the plagiarism scandal on the arXiv.

The n-category cafe (63) : Avg (2.13 min) BB (50%)

The one series I followed at the cafe lately was the Geometric Representation Theory course run by John Baez and James Dolan. They provide downloadable movies as well as notes.

Richard Borcherd’s blog (47) : Avg (1.53 min) BB (53.19%)

It is great to see that Borcherds has taken up blogging again, with a post on the uselessness of set theory.

The Arcadian functor (32) : Avg (3.45 min) BB (34.38 %)

It is clear from the low bounce-back rate and the high average time spend on this site, that Kea’s readers and mine have common interests. Often I feel that Kea and I are talking about the same topics, but that our language is so different, that it is difficult for me to spot the precise connection. I definitely should start (for myself) a translation-project of her M-theory posts.

RupertGee’s iBlog (23) : Avg (6.48 min) BB (34.7 %)

Surprisingly, and contrasting to my previous rant iTouch-people (or at least those coming here from Rupert Gee’s blog) sure take time to read the posts and look for more.

Ars Mathematica (22) : Avg (0:01 min) BB (77,2 %)

Well, the average time and bounce back rate say it all : people coming here from Ars Mathematica are not interested in longer posts…

iTouch Fans Forum (14) : Avg (2:07 min) BB (42.86 %)

Again, better statistics than I would have expected.

Vivatsgasse 7 (13) : Avg (1:51 min) BB (38.46 %)

I hope these guys haven’t completely given up on blogging as it is one of my favourites.

Sixth form mathematics (12) : Avg (1:40 min) BB (25 %)

My few old posts on LaTeXrender still draw referrals…

Strategic Boards (12) : Avg (0:01 min) BB (91.67 %)

People in strategic board games are not really in my game-posts it seems…

The Everything Seminar (11) : Avg (2:04 min) BB (72.73 %)

Greg Muller has been posting a couple of nice posts on chord diagrams, starting here.

Noncommutative Geometry (11) : Avg (3:36 min) BB (27.27 %)

Well, we are interested in the same thing viewed from different angles, so good average times and a low bounce back rate. Maybe, I should make another attempt to have cross-interaction between the two blogs.

working archive plugin, please!

Over the last two weeks Ive ported all old neverendingbooks-post from the last 4 years to a nearly readable format. Some tiny problems remain : a few TeX-heavy old posts are still in $…$ format rather than LaTeXrender-compatible (but Ill fix this soon), a few links may turn out to be dead (still have to check out those), TheLibrary-project links do not exist at the moment (have to decide whether to revive the project or to start a similar idea afresh), some other techie-things such as FoaF-stuff will be updated/expanded soon, et. etc. (and still have to port some 20 odd posts).

Anyway, the good news being that we went from about 40 posts since last july to over 310 posts, all open to the internal Search engine. Having all this stuff online is only useful if one can browse through it easily, so I wanted to install a proper up-to-date archive-plugin…

The current theme Redoable has build-in support for the Extended Live Archives v0.10beta-r18 plugin which would be ideal if I could get it installed… Im not the total newbie in installing WordPress-plugins and Ive read all the documentation and the support-forum and chmodded whathever I felt like chmodding, but still no success… If you know how to kick it into caching the necessary files, please drop a comment!

The next alternative Ive tried was the AWSOM Archive Version 1.2.3 plugin which gave me a pull-down menu just under the title-bar but not much seems to happen when using bloody Safari (Flock was OK though). Maybe Ill give it another go…

UPDATE (jan. 9th) : The AWSOM Archive seems to be working fine with the Redoable theme when custom installed in the footer. So, there is now a pulldown-menu at the bottom of the page.

**UPDATE (jan. 12th) : Ive installed the new version 1.3 of AWSOM Archive and it works from the default position **

At a loss I opted in the end for the simplest (though not the most aesthetic) plugin : Justin Blanton’s Smart Archives. This provides a year-month scheme at the top followed by a reverse ordered list of all months and titles of posts and is available as the arXiv neverendingbooks link available also from the sidebar (up, second link). I hope it will help you not to get too lost on this site…

Suggestions for a working-from-the-box WordPress Archive plugin, anyone???