NASA Software

NASA recently reminded the public that it has a rather extensive library of software that is free to download and use:

NASA has released its 2017-2018 software catalog, which offers an extensive portfolio of software products for a wide variety of technical applications, all free of charge to the public, without any royalty or copyright fees.

Available in both hard copy and online, this third edition of the publication has contributions from all the agency’s centers on data processing/storage, business systems, operations, propulsion and aeronautics. It includes many of the tools NASA uses to explore space and broaden our understanding of the universe. A number of software packages are being presented for release for the first time. Each catalog entry is accompanied with a plain language description of what it does.

Adobe CS 5.5

Occasionally I need to re-download one piece of the larger Adobe Creative Suite, for which I have a license, but I don’t feel like either digging up my huge bundle or re-downloading that bundle. Thank you, Adobe, for having [a page that makes that possible](

gobe Productive

Going through some old file folders in my campus office, as I prepare sadly to return, I came across my *Gobe Family License* for [gobeProductive][]. How I loved that software, and my copy of ClarisWorks that preceded it. For those not familiar with either: they imagined a document-centric approach to document creation where you could deploy frames, or modules, of either word-processing, drawing, or spreadsheets. It was the reverse of how we do things and always seemed to fit the way I thought and worked better than the conventional office suite model.

*Alas, twas not to be.*


[Glassboard 2.0 is out.][ie] I didn’t know about Glassboard before this announcement. I have been using, and liking, [Minigroup][mg], quite a bit. On the surface, Glassboard feels more graphic-friendly than Minigroup, but I won’t say anything more until I have test driven it for a while.

[Glassboard][gb] is produced by Sepia Labs, a collaborative, or cooperative, between Brett Terpsta and a number of other folks. Terpstra was the original developer for [MarsEdit][me], an application on which I rely — I am writing this post in ME, for example. ME is now developed by Daniel Jalkut over at [Red Sweater Software][rs]. I have to say I like them both — Daniel, along with Dan Schrimpf the developer of [MacJournal][mj], has the most amazing knack for patience and generosity with his users, and that’s one (very good) reason why I buy every upgrade they produce — and I will look seriously at every new application they develop. I want to put money in their pockets and keep them around.

My advice to friends, family, and students is to do the same. I don’t know why so many people want so much for free. I certainly can’t offer my own services for free — for the record, the bank isn’t interested in giving us our home for free, and so far both grocery stores and gas stations have not offered us their goods for free — and so I don’t see why I would expect others who are offering me real goods and services of real value to me to offer them to me for free. Far from it.

By the way, as long as I am mentioning products I use, as I work on my revision of an essay for the _Journal of Folklore Research_ and continue work on my book, I live inside [Scrivener][sc]. It’s *the* application for writers.


Check out this year’s Humble Bundle. (For those not in the know, the Humble Bundle is a collection of great games that are cross-platform and DRM free. Every year there’s at least one game in the bundle that makes it worthwhile, especially when the developers split the proceeds with charities.) Even if you don’t want to buy it, click the link and enjoy the promotional video. Terrible voice impressions done right.

Farming versus Mining

Wil Shipley of Delicious Monster, maker of Library, has a nice post up that compares two ways of approaching the software business: farming versus mining. Essentially, farming is the old-fashioned way of building a business to last, building with the long game in mind. Mining is the new way to do business: build a business with the current hot model in order to sell it. Investors, at least the generation of investors who came of age in the last two decades, prefer the latter model: they make money as a business rises, usually with unmaintainable growth, and a number of investors make money as the business crashes and burns. The founders, as well as the investors who find them, of such companies are the new rock stars, but they are even better than rock stars, like other media stars, might begin to lose his or her shine after one flop too many. These new business stars don’t seem to have to worry about that. As long as the flop occurs after everyone has made their money, no worries.

To be fair, the software industry is only one of many industries to be troubled by this dynamic, which dates back to the shift in investing for dividends and slow, but long, stable growth to investing for growth in stock price. Shipley’s analysis is especially interesting because he goes on to make an argument about how easy mining is: ideas are easy. Implementation is hard. Certainly the farmers I know would agree that their work is hard, without guarantee of success, and likely to yield only small successes over a series of years.

Pixelmator Tutorials

I have switched recently to a MacBook Air. (I had offered to buy a new computer for my wife, but she doesn’t like new computers and preferred to take my MacBook Pro instead — I did, at least, outfit it with a new 128GB solid state drive before handing it over to her.) We have also purchased a Mac Mini to be the household computer, and it will also be where I do my downloading and cataloging of photographs from my fieldwork. The Mac Min will become, in essence, a production machine for me in addition to being a homework machine for our daughter — and perhaps, one day, a production machine for her.

I decided that I would not load up the MBA with all the software I had on the MBP. Photoshop and Illustrator, for example, just don’t work very well on a small machine I find. Luckily, for me, I have purchased both Acorn and Pixelmator in some of the bundles that various Mac software developers offer now and then. Even better, Pixelmator has a really nice collection of tutorials.

Microsoft Mathematics

> Microsoft Mathematics provides a graphing calculator that plots in 2D and 3D, step-by-step equation solving, and useful tools to help students with math and science studies.

And it’s free. Link (in the heading) is to the download.

DevonThink Academy

I have recently started using DevonThink again for keeping track of diverse research notes and documents. The good folks at Devon Technologies have a great collection of on-line tutorials — simple, small amounts of prose with an illustration, affairs — that are perfectly parsed for learning a little bit here and there to improve your understanding of the application and how you might use it. Great support like this only makes me like — in an emotional sense of the word — the product more, which makes me want to use it more.

Lightroom and JPEGs

All users of Adobe’s Lightroom software need to read Jeff Friedl’s post about JPEG settings in the application. In a nutshell, his own experiments with the quality “slider” reveal that its 0-100 range really amounts to 13 actual outputs, which may or may not match Photoshop’s same number of outputs when saving for the web. More importantly, he noticed that if you save a file as compressed, you do not really gain anything in terms of visual quality if you save above “75” on the slider. Files get bigger, but images do not get (noticeably) better. Great results from a great guy.

(For the record, I use, and paid for, his Flickr plug-in which allows me to upload directly to my Flickr Pro account from Lightroom. As I consider using Zenfolio, I will also likely use his Zenfolio plug-in.)

Software Is Hard

A great post from 2007 by Kyle Wilson explains [why “software is hard”]( Wilson was part of the team that tried to extend the Myst franchise into Myst Online and he is familiar with the folks who worked on the Chandler project. While he seems to believe that software is necessarily, and uniquely, complex, I would argue that many of his observations are applicable to all large projects, especially when they involve collaboration. (And peer-based collaboration seems to fall into some of these problems more than ones organized by hierarchy — shades of the cathedral and the bazaar, I know.)

File Names as Buckets of Metadata

Until someone comes up with a digital asset management application for audio that works like Lightroom, I may be stuck with doing things the old-fashioned way. Dustin Cow over at offered up the [following](

> Filenames will be in this format.
> Game-S[season number]E[episode number]-[Game name]-[Type of footage]-[Shot Number]-[description]
> Filenames should always use leading zeros. eg (EP01 NOT EP1)
> For example:
> Game-S02E04-Rock Band-Gameplay-05-Drum Tutorial (Say it ain’t so)
> Game-S02E09-MGS4-Interview-08-Matt Jones talks about engine
> Game-S02E14-Halo4-B roll-13-Master Chief mascot at E3
> Essentially the types of footage depend on the nature of the segment.
> For Reviews the types of footage are
> 1. Gameplay
> 2. Music
> 3. SFX
> 4. Commentary (only for sports games)
> 5. VO
> For Interviews, they are
> 1. B roll
> 2. Interview
> 3. VO
> The numbers before the description eg(05-Drum Tutorial in the above example) are not as important for interviews captured from tape as I can refer to timecode on the tape to see the sequence of events.
> The reason I need it for gameplay or any footage we capture wild without timecode/device control is so I know the sequence of gameplay rather than trying to guess if COD5-snow stage is before or after COD5-Helicopter stage.
> If the files are
> Game-S02E15-COD5-06-Snow Stage
> Game-S02E15-COD5-12-Helicopter Stage
> I don’t need to guess.
> If we are doing multiple segments on the same game over an episode,
> we will give the individual segments names and label it into the Game name.
> Game-S02E21-Halo4 History-Gameplay-04-Halo3 FMV
> Game-S02E21-Halo4 Technology-Interview-Jonty Barnes on new co-op features

Two Great Lists of Mac Software

MacWorld has two different lists recommending software for the Mac OS. Strange that there are two lists, but that’s modern editorial control for you. One list is the [2009 Editors’ Choice Awards]( and the other is Dan Frakes’ [“Gems of the Year (2009”](