Tools for “working” with PDF files

I had an odd need, the journal Colloquium published an article of mine a few years back, which I had not uploaded to Academia.edu1 but the proof copy I have is a PDF with each page shown twice on a landscape page.2 So I needed to split the PDF in half lengthways. I came across A-PDF Page Cut a neat little tool that does just that.

They also have a number of other PDF utilities, so the site is worth bookmarking, for those you never know when you’ll need it, but you will one day, moments with PDF files.

  1. Tim Bulkeley, “Back to the Future: Virtual Theologising as Recapitulation”. Colloquium, 2005, 37,2, 115-130. []
  2. Instead of the codex format of one page on a portrait page. []

Fix for trackpad irritation

Photo from WikimediaI love using a laptop, on my lap. I prefer small notebooks as they are easier to carry and the screen is big enough when it is so close to me. BUT I hate the way in which at random my wrist or a trailing thumb will activate the touchpad while I am typing, and boing, I am now entering text in the wrong place. The cursor jumped :(

[Now I get annoyed with users who claim: “the machine/software just did” this thing I did not want done. I keep telling them that the error is theirs. So, I fully accept the cursor does not in fact jump around at random, it just seems that way. The effect is indeed caused by inadvertent brushes of my wrists or thumbs – but it is nevertheless annoying as all get out!]

There is a cure, a small utility from Google called Touchfreeze. It seems to work well, it turns off the touchpad while you are typing, but turns it on once you stop. I’ve been using it for a couple of days on both my netbook and my ultrabook and it just works. So far no worries where the trackpad is “off” when I want to move the cursor, and no more “jumping cursor” :)

It is just brilliant!

Google describe it like this:

Utility for Windows to disable touchpad automatically while you are typing text
Annoyed when you are typing a document and accidentally the palm of your hand brushes the touchpad, changing the position of the cursor in your document or accidentally clicking on an option. TouchFreeze is simple utility for Windows to solve this problem. It automatically disables touchpad while you are typing text.

Referencing (citing) for beginners

One of the biggest hurdles new students face is learning to reference their work “properly”. Schools seldom teach this skill but increasingly Universities and colleges are demanding it. Life is not made easier by the fact that, to all except for OCD suffers getting proper citations is no fun :(

That’s the bad news. However the good news is that “proper” citation has never been easier.

This is a short guide how to cite. It explains the principles of citing, and also points you to a free tool that makes the job easy!

Software that cites

You can use a program that keeps track of all your references and even formats them differently for different teachers at the click of a button. The two commonest ways to do this (at least in NZ) are:

  • EndNote: an expensive program for which many institutions have bought site licences. These allow students to install a copy. Its greatest advantage is that it may come with institutional support (e.g. free classes on how to use it). Its greatest disadvantage is that it is a big heavyweight that has a history of slowing your wordprocessor to a crawl and crashing machines. (I’m told it is better behaved now, but have no recent experience to confirm this.) It will do everything you need and 16,000 other things as well. You won’t be able to use it when you leave study without paying a whopping fee.
  • Zotero: a free program that works as a standalone or integrates with your browser.1 Zotero also integrates with both MS Word and the main free Wordprocessors. This free program does everything you need and a score or more of things you should use but probably won’t. It has been known to crash, but in my experience less than Endnote.

The choice is probably really simple :)

  1. If your institution offers Endnote and supports it, choose it.
  2. If not choose Zotero.
  3. Unless you like using free software and hate your computer running slowly in which case use Zotero anyway.
  4. Not using either is plain stupid, and if you were stupid you would not be looking at this ;)

Learn to use it. (If there is demand I might do updated Zotero tutorials but I think the ones on the site are good.)

Getting the data to cite

Unless you are a fossil from the dark ages, do not try to enter the data (author’s name, title, etc.) by hand. There are easier ways :)

For books and e-journals your institution’s system should integrate with your bibliography software, on the catalogue page just click the link to “add citation to Endnote” (or however it is phrased).

NB: this data is prepared by librarians so is usually good, but occasionally even librarians have brainstorms or bad hair days. If the author’s name appears in capitals, or the Title includes a description or something, then you may need to “clean up” the data. This is rare, and if you do it in the bibliography software itself you will only have to do it once for any item. One piece of “tidying” I often have to do is add the place of publication.

Citing right

Add your citations in your wordprocessor.

Make sure you have chosen the “correct” format. Hint: the “correct” format is the one your teacher told you to use, even if you think a different one is better :(

There are more possible formats than there are days in a leap year, but there are a few in common use:

MLA 7th Ed Bulkeley, Tim. Not Only a Father: Talk of God As Mother in the Bible & Christian Tradition. Auckland, N.Z: Archer Press, 2011. Print.
APA 6th Ed Bulkeley, T. (2011). Not only a father: Talk of God as mother in the Bible & Christian tradition. Auckland, N.Z: Archer Press.
Turabian Bulkeley, Tim. Not Only a Father: Talk of God As Mother in the Bible & Christian Tradition. Auckland, N.Z.: Archer Press, 2011.
Chicago Bulkeley, Tim. 2011. Not only a father: talk of God as mother in the Bible & Christian tradition. Auckland, N.Z.: Archer Press.

Learn what the ones used at your place look like, so you’ll notice if somehow your document is set to the “wrong” one ;)

What about citing interesting things like videos, blogs etc.?

Ths is the most frequently asked question. The first answer is this: “Don’t panic”2 The second answer is go to Son of Citation Machine, click the appropriate link, and enter the data (or at least those that you can easily discover, how much effort you make probably depends on how IT savvy your lecturer seems ;)  Though nowadays Zotero or Endnote are probably up to the job without Son of Citation Machine once you have done a few and got the feel of things :)

It should look something like this:

Bulkeley, Tim. Not Only a Father: Talk of God As Mother in the Bible & Christian Tradition. Archer Press, n.d. Web. 7 Apr 2013. <>.

  1. On PCs, Macs, iPhone/iPad, Chrome for Android, Android Browser, Firefox Mobile Browser or Opera Mobile/Mini []
  2.  Douglas Adams (1992). The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts. Pan, 537. []

Gmail annoyance

Miniature of men harvesting wheat with reaping-hooks, on a calendar page for August. Queen Mary's Psalter (Ms. Royal 2. B. VII), fol. 78v (from Wikimedia)

As part of my preparation for leaving Carey I’m moving to Gmail. On the whole I find the web interface nearly as good as (if quite different from) Thunderbird especially given the limitations imposed by the choice of living in the cloud. However, I am not yet a convinced cloud dweller,1 so I wanted the “offline” feature. That meant installing and using Chrome (I use Google for my diary too). That’s OK, Chrome is hardly bloatware :) BUT while in FF mailto links open Gmail in Chrome they persistently ask me why I have not installed and set up Outlook Express !?* :(

I’ve searched the rabbit warren of user comments that serve Google instead of an organised help feature, to no avail. Apart from a couple of third party2 plugins there seems to be no way to remove this weird “feature”.

I thought Chrome was supposed to be nearly as tweakable as FF or even (God forbid) IE3 but no, as a matter of simple basic functionality Chrome is a locked down Microserf shop. Weird!

PS Here’s a hack a friend just found (9th Feb 2012):

Open Gmail in Chrome. Press Ctrl-Shift J.

Paste this into the code window:


Chrome will ask if you want to use Gmail, say yes. Problem solved.

Now why could Google not tell me that?

  1. Being often out of Internet contact – I have a 3G phone but don’t use the data services because of cost, and because 90% of the time I am not within cell phone coverage. []
  2. And lacking any seeming “official” acceptance. []
  3. Which at least back in the Dark Ages when I last used it, let me set up other email clients. []

Logos 4: first impressions

I have had a long term on again off again relationship with Logos.

Back in the early 90s it was my first chance to access the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Bible texts with all the pointing accents etc. and, wonder of wonders, morphologically analysed (or at least Tense Voice Mood indicated). Before I’d been using Online Bible under DOS and Desqview.1 My only complaint about Logos was that it was slow (but everything was in the WIMP environment of Windows).

However, it could not last… Logos introduced a new version I think it was 2, and the acceptable slowness became the sort of foot-dragging that gives snails a bad name. I spent some money that might have bought one, or even a couple of, reference works on Logos2 and bought Bibleworks. Bibleworks just worked, it did everything i wanted faster and better than Logos.

However, one thing Logos has always been brilliant at is providing resources. I saved up an arm and a leg3 and bought the Anchor Bible Dictionary on Logos. I was preparing the Hypertext Bible Commentary: Amos and quick and easy access to the ABD was a real help.

However, Logos was so slow that most of my actual Bible work was done in Bibleworks, so  was using Logos as a sort of glorified e-book reader.

Then Logos, always brilliant at producing resources that I would dearly love to have, started producing syntactically analysed texts. I started to save arms and legs and began buying them.

However, before I could really start even installing them I was “upgraded” to a Windows Vista laptop. It was a nightmare. I installed Linux, and could not face trying to install logos under Wine4 so my Logos languished.

Then the laptop died and I was given a Windows 7 machine to replace it. The Logos videos looked great, and I really really wanted those syntactically analysed texts and all that biblical people stuff to explore… So5 I bought Logos 4.

So, after the longest intro ever, what are my first impressions?

Logos 4 looks nice, clean and sharp. It feels surprisingly responsive, after a wait while the program loads during which I can I think literally go and make a cup of coffee.6 It offers a bewildering array of tools and resources. Far too many. Most of them rubbish. Now, I admit some users rubbish is another users gold. But surely something called the Scholars’ Edition could hide 90% of the out of copyright devotional commentaries Matthew Henry’s great fans can always unhide him, ditto Charles Haddon Spurgeon and the rest…

And then there the windows, try as I might, and having just finished marking for the year I have managed to waste hours trying, I cannot seem to get the windows arranged in a way that suits me. There seems no way to put the menu box that chugs away trying to suggest which 13th century divine might have written something about Qoheleth 4:2 on the right and put the Bible text and translation left and or top. Since I’m of Western culture and I’m studying the Bible it seems to me reasonable to want the Bible at the top, and at the start. The help feature is not easy to point in the right direction… [Does anyone know how to move, and generate new windows?]

Overall first impression there is loads here to explore, it will be really useful, but since it insists (so far) on prioritising all the pretty stuff and dead white guys writing over the Bible text I suspect I’ll use Bibleworks most of the time and only go over to Logos when I want one of the many resources it has that BW doesn’t.

PS: The program has crashed twice today. Ths may be a problem with the blasted OS (this laptop runs the accursed Vista) but OTOH no other program has crashed even once…

PPS: With a bit of playing I’ve discovered how to manipulate windows :) it’s neat, just a bit frustrating that I had to discover by accident and could not easily look it up, OTOH the interface does become more “intuitive” wit use :) Second impressions could be more positive than first ones ;)

  1. A great combination that let me do everything Windows 3.1 did, but blindingly fast, except it did not run “new” programs like Logos. []
  2. This was the period when e-resources cost more than print. []
  3. This was by now the period when e-texts “merely” cost the same as print. []
  4. In any case Bibleworks, as always, just worked, more or less. []
  5. Another missing arm and leg. []
  6. Timed at approximately FOUR minutes! []

Podcasting lectures is really easy

My hi-tech expensive phone, I won't show the MP3 player as it is old battered and tacky, but also works ;)

Judging by a conversation with a colleague today, and by John’s comments on my previous post teachers often do not realise just how easy podcasting lectures is, or that they almost certainly already use all the equipment necessary. So here’s a recipe, with equipment list and step by step instructions:


  • Mobile phone or MP3 player which can record and connect to a PC. My two year old Nokia 3120 Classic – current price 100 Euros or about US$135 and my six year old cheapest available then MP3 player (some more modern even cheaper MP3 players lack tghe facility to record but the SanDisk Sansa Clip can, and Amazon sell them for <US$30)
  • Access to a computer with Internet – since you are reading this you already have that for sure.
  • The capacity to go to the Mobile Media Converter site and download and install the program. (If you think this is difficult ask your grandchildren!) You will also need Audacity if you want to be really clever and edit the podcast.(NB this is probably not necessary but will give you extra bragging rights in the staff room ;)
  • If your institution does not have a course system you will also need either iTunes or a blog – but I am assuming your institution already has Moodle, or something like that.

There, the equipment list was not too frightening, and the cost is less than $50 in the worst case. Now for the instructions.


  1. Practice finding the “record” feature on your phone or MP3 player (these can be fiddly so allow 30 mins). Check the battery well BEFORE the  class.
  2. Remember to take the phone (preferably in silent mode or with the SIM card removed, it is embarassing as well as spoiling the recording if the lecturer’s phone goes off ;)  or MP3 player with you.
  3. At the start of class (but ideally after the faffing around at the beginning) switch it to record. Place the phone or MP3 player on the lectern (for males in your shirt pocket may perhaps work better with some equipment or if you move around a lot).
  4. Switch the record function off at the end – you DO NOT want to record your harassed replies to the students who ask questions after the class has finished!
  5. Shift the new file to your computer.
  6. Open MMC, select output format (MP3 is good ;) and drag the audio to it. (With some MP3 players you miss out this stage.)
  7. Upload the new converted file it to the course site.
  8. Sit back and enjoy the student appreciation and be the envy of your luddite colleagues – you are now a Fully Fledged Digeratus (or Digerata).
  9. Get ambitious and remove the odd bits you don’t want to podcast and/or the first six “ums” and “errs” – this means using Audacity, but the editing task is easier than it sounds. Just find the wiggles that represent the bit to cut, highlight them (one by one) by dragging with your mouse, and press delete. Don’t worry about mistakes as Audacity has an undo feature. You are now an Advanced Digerata (or Digeratus).

Podcasting lectures

Photo by pmarkham

John Hobbins is a fine scholar, and a great teacher (at least judging by what I see on his blog, which is basically our point of contact), but I just could not understand a passing comment in his recent post: Teaching “The Bible and Current Events” Online for he wrote:

I am not actually teaching the course online (though once I figure out how to podcast the lectures, I may do that).

Kiwis are used to making do, the national mythology sees Kiwis making aircraft before the Wrights from no.8 fencing wire, so, to podcast a lecture I just use my cheap mobile phone to record, placing it on the podium in front of me. I then convert the AMR file to MP3 using the free Mobile Media Converter, just drag the file and drop it, the program outputs it after conversion with a new name, it is as easy as that. The program works across platforms (at least Win and Linux – but I think Mac also). I then upload it to the class site, done.

[Sometimes I get hi-tech and edit out the faffing around, I use Audacity also free and also cross-platform for that.]

Using my phone instead of a fancy gadget means I have no need to do complicated technical stuff like noise reduction. It is simple, quick, easy and just works.

Machine translation

Nearly six years ago I wrote a post in which I tried out a free machine translation service:

Then I commented: Of course, machine translation is still a developing technology, somewhere about the level of voice recognition 10 years ago is my estimate. And tested  the  service with a paragraph from my Amos commentary, the first from a page about city gates:

In the Ancient Near East city gates were neither merely entrances, nor only used for military protection. As a potentially weak point in the defenses, the gates of Israelite walled cities typically had three chambers giving four sets of “doors” and defended spaces between. The gates of Hazor (left – plan above) and Gezer from the time of Solomon show this triple construction.

Which gave the practically readable French:

Dans la ville antique du proche Orient les portes n’étaient ni simplement des entrées, ni seulement utilisé pour la protection militaire. Comme point potentiellement faible dans les défenses, les portes d’Israelite ont muré des villes ont typiquement eu trois chambres donner quatre ensembles d'”portes” et d’espaces défendus entre. Les portes de Hazor (laissé – projetez ci-dessus) et de Gezer dès l’exposition de Solomon cette construction triple.

The service now uses Google as its translation engine, so today I plugged the same English into Google:

Dans l’ancien Proche-Orient portes de la ville ne sont ni seulement les entrées, ni seulement utilisé pour la protection militaire. Comme un point de faiblesse potentielle dans les défenses, les portes des villes d’Israël parois étaient généralement trois chambres donnant quatre séries de “portes” et défendu les espaces entre les deux. Les portes de Hatsor (à gauche – plan ci-dessus) et Gezer du temps de Salomon voir cette construction triple.

Notice the huge improvement! In 2005 the French in turn gave as the German the somewhat less than pelucid:

In der für den Militärschutz antiken des Nahen Ostens die Türen waren weder einfach von den Eingängen noch nur benutzt Stadt. Als potentiell schwacher Punkt in den Verteidigungen haben die Türen von Israelite Städte eingemauert gehabt typisch drei Kammern, vier Gesamtheit von “Türen” und von Räumen zu geben, die verteidigt wurden, zwischen. Die Türen von Hazor (gelassen – oben planen Sie) und von Gezer von der Ausstellung von Solomon an diese dreifache Konstruktion.

Now from the 2011 French we get:

Im alten Orient Stadttore sind nicht nur Ein-oder nur für militärische Schutz. Als Ausgangspunkt mögliche Schwäche in der Verteidigung wurden die Türen ummauerten Städte Israels in der Regel drei Zimmer mit vier Sätze von “Türen” und verteidigte die Zwischenräume. Die Tore von Hazor (links – über Plan) und Gezer in der Zeit Salomos sehen diese Konstruktion dreifacher Ausfertigung.

Then the final back translation was totally incomprehensible:

In for the military protection antiken of the Near East the doors were neither simple from the entrances nor only use city. When potentially weak point in the defenses the doors have typically three chambers immured of Israelite of cities had to give four whole of “doors” and from areas to which were defended, between. The doors of Hazor (calmly – above you plan) and of Gezer of the exhibition of Solomon to this three-way construction.

However, 2011’s back translation is rather readable, not perfect, but for many purposes “good enough to be helpful.

In the ancient Orient gates are not only on or only for military protection. As a starting point of potential weakness in the defense of the doors were walled cities of Israel, usually three rooms with four sets of “doors”and defended the spaces. The gates of Hazor (left – above budget) and Gezer in the time of Solomon to see this design triplicate.

Back then I concluded I’m sure that with a bit of selection I could have achieved funnier results, but this is enough to show why I still have problems making any real life use of such services! Now in 2011 I am beginning to use Google to help me make sense of dense writing in languages I only know a little. So far I think the results though NOT “close enough for government work” are helpful.

What’s your experience? Do you really (not just for back translation fun) make use of machine translation, and if so how does it work for you?

Microsoft nightmares and Linux dreams

Ever since I got this laptop (a lovely light, if a bit too big, Acer 4810T) I have struggled with the operating system. Microsoft Vista is a nightmare made real. However, until last week my gripes and Vista’s delays were never quite enough to drive me to attempt to install a new OS with which I have no experience. (I have two decades of extensive Windows use behind me, and another few years of MS OSes before that.) Last week however, Windows Explorer threw a tantrum, if I tried to send a file to the recycle bin, or to change its name the dialog box would remain open until either I rebooted the system, or Windows Explorer crashed and was restarted by the system – which happened happily often.

For the last few days I have been doing half my work running UberStudent, a Linux (Debian, Ubuntu variant) OS designed for students. I have been suing it from a USB stick, to test, but it has been a dream. Out of the box it supports Firefox with Zotero, Open Office (or if I want to get really sensible in my writing – i.e. uses styles properly and write by function more than appearance – LyX which also integrates with Zotero) and loads of other nice programs and features. It took minutes to add my other Firefox add-ons, and not long to change the look, and put the bars on the sides of my widescreen (thus giving me effectively more vertical space – widescreens are a gift to laptop designers, but a pain for users).

Three things I need were missing:

  1. a good audio editor (I did not need to download drivers for my external soundcard/preamp like I had to in Windows, in Linux such extras seem to work straight out of the box :)
  2. a way to sync my phone diary with a calendar program on the laptop
  3. Dropbox which I can’t now live without, syncing my using files to the cloud is just SO handy and such an easy backup scheme (admission of interest: this Dropbox link will get both and installing the free program will get both of us a bonus of extra storage space)
  4. BibleWorks (yes, I must try one or more of the Linux free Bible programs, but I do appreciate having the Westminster Morph Hebrew text available)

It took a wee while to learn how to get new programs in Linux, but soon I had Audacity installed, and discovered that the OS came with a utility that is on the whole better than Nokia’s phone syncing program (though I still have to discover how to get the diary syncing with Thunderbird). Dropbox also installed easily, the only tricky bit is that the folder needs a different name in Linux and in MS Vista (but that will cease being a problem once I give Vista the heave ;)  That just leaves BibleWorks, and I’m told that’s a simple install under Wine (which again comes preloaded).

I expect that with a couple of hours more playing I’ll happily be dual booting, and probably only seldom returning to the sad difficult and frustrating world of Microsoft.

WordPress to codex :)

TaDa a codex! (Photo by Friar's Balsam)

The Center for History and New Media, George Mason University the people who brought us Zotero, the neat simple free “just does what it should” bibliography manager have held a One Week | One Tool project funded by the (US) National Endowment for the Humanities. The tool they produced (only 0.3 alpha as yet to be fair) they call Anthologize.

Anthologize is a free, open-source, plugin that transforms WordPress 3.0 into a platform for publishing electronic texts. Grab posts from your WordPress blog, import feeds from external sites, or create new content directly within Anthologize. Then outline, order, and edit your work, crafting it into a single volume for export in several formats, including—in this release—PDF, ePUB, TEI.

I wonder if we could use it with some other WordPress plugins to make making FOSOTT easier? And what about collaborating on and publishing the output of a colloquium? Like the Isaiah and Empire one?

The only trouble is, to get full brownie points in the academic system we may need to use a conventional respected print publisher, and I doubt any of them will be happy with opting into such a system :( How come systems (like the NZ “Performance Based Research Funding” exercise or US tenure committees) end up stifling innovative ways of undertaking basic scholarly tasks like publishing the results of research? Still FOSOTT wouldn’t count for such purposes anyway – it is merely teaching!

HT: Digital Campus