Animation using Tumult Hype

With Flash falling out of favour, web designers have been searching for new ways of creating animation using what is loosely called HTML5 but which is just a mixture of html, Javascript and CSS3. It has some way to go before it can provide all the features which Flash offers but Hype from Tumult is an easy-to-use program which seems well on the way to being a Flash replacement. The above animation is a simple example of what can be achieved with it in a few minutes.

Other examples can be seen on my website.

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Funding Political Parties

Every time there is any suggestion of scandal relating to fundraising by political parties, commentators suggest that the answer is for the parties to be funded by the taxpayer. There are at least four good arguments against this:
  1. Politicians are a bunch of well-paid, self-serving egomaniacs. If they think their party is short of money they should stump up the cash themselves.
  2. Spending large sums of money on election campaigns does nothing to inform the public better. It is simply a form of advertising. The party with the best advertising campaign wins and the quality of the advertising campaign has little to do with how expensive it was or how good the party’s policies are.
  3. Where do you draw the line? The British National Party has, probably, the fifth largest share of the vote but it would surely be extremely obnoxious for the taxpayer to be obliged to fund its extremist campaigns.
  4. There is always a glimmer of hope that someone will create a new, more intelligent and more honest party. If this party, with no previous share of the vote, did not receive state funding, it would be at even more of a disadvantage than a new party would have been in the past.

Incidentally, another daft idea favoured by some is compelling people to vote. In some countries (including, I believe, Australia), any eligible voter who fails to vote is fined. If someone chooses not to vote it is because (i) they are unable to (through ill health, pressure of business or what-have-you), (ii) they don’t care, or (iii) they think there is nothing to choose between the candidates. Fining people for their inability to vote is clearly wrong. If voters don’t care or cannot choose between the candidates, forcing them to vote will force them to vote for someone they don’t want to vote for. It is entirely possible that they will choose someone because, say, he or she is the first name on the list. Such a vote will distort the electoral process and is therefore anti-democratic. The only reason for such legislation is to save politicians the embarrassment of a low turn-out.
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More on the BBC

After posting my previous comments on the BBC, I thought I should actually complain to the BBC. I’m sure I shan’t receive a satisfactory reply.

My complaint followed the lines of my blog post but I made the following additional point. Article 3.2 of the BBC’s charter specifies that its main object is the promotion of its Public Purposes laid out in article 4. These are:

sustaining citizenship and civil society;
promoting education and learning;
stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;
representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities;
bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK;
in promoting its other purposes, helping to deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications technologies and services and, in addition, taking a leading role in the switchover to digital television.

I suggested that, since their programming entirely failed to promote these purposes, taking the licence fee under such circumstances was akin to embezzlement.
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RIP The British Broadcasting Corporation

The Sports Broadcasting Corporation, otherwise known as the Salford Broadcasting Corporation and sometimes referred to erroneously as the British Broadcasting Corporation, is continuing to plumb the depths and try the patience of TV licence payers who are obliged to fund the bloated corporation even if they never view a BBC program. Here is BBC1’s schedule for Saturday 24 March 2012:
  • 6.00 Breakfast (News program mostly sport these days)
  • 10.00 Saturday Kitchen (Cooking for imbeciles who find even following the instructions of celebrity chefs too difficult)
  • 11.30 Little Paris Kitchen (Repeat. In Rachel Khoo, the BBC have found a cooking presenter to rival even Sophie Dahl for ineptitude)
  • 12.00 News (Mostly sport)
  • 12.15 Football Focus
  • 13.00 Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix Qualifying Highlights
  • 14.15 John Bishop’s Sport Relief Hell (They got that right. It’s hell for viewers.)
  • 15.15 Sport Relief Highlights
  • 16.30 Final Score
  • 17.10 News (mainly sport)
  • 17.30 A Question of Sport: Extra Time
  • 18.00 Winter Wipeout Celebrity Special (‘Celebrity’ has become code for ‘people you’ve never heard of’ and it’s certainly a wipe-out)
  • 19.00 The Voice (Yet another third-rate ‘talent’ show, the ‘lack of’ in the description being understood)
  • 20.20 The National Lottery (Who thinks it’s entertaining to watch other people win money for 50 minutes? Hosted by a ghastly man who oozes insincerity)
  • 21.10 Casualty (Hospital drama which has been running for 20 years too long)
  • 22.00 News (Mostly sport)
  • 22.20 Match of the Day
  • 23.45 The Football League Show

Never mind, if you hung around until 2.05 you could have watched some news (mostly sport). In case you think you can watch news at other times on the BBC’s News Channel, let me disabuse you: it is mostly sport. Imagine, if you will, what it would have been like on 3 September 1939 if the the BBC had then been as sport-obsessed as it is now. There weren’t many televisions around then so you’d tune into the Home Service at 11.15 in time to hear Neville Chamberlain say, ‘… I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is…’ and then the announcer would say, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt, but we’re now going over to Salford where a well-known footballer is reported to have stubbed his toe.’

On BBC2 there was assorted drivel most of the day, although there were a couple of films late in the evening which I believe are supposed to be good. There was also How God Made the English. This is quite a good series, but do we really need to be told yet again what a wicked bunch of people we are?

BBC2 used to be the more intellectual channel but any pretence of that has long since been dropped. BBC4 was supposed to take up the mantle but it is almost completely devoted to repeats. The only thing worth watching on Saturday was Inspector Montalbano, an Italian detective series – well, the SBC can’t afford to produce dramas any longer. All the money has gone on sport. The less said about BBC3 the better.
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Nisus Writer Pro, the Professional Word Processor for Macs


As a writer and publisher, I take word processing software very seriously. You can, at a pinch, use a word processor for the whole publishing process. I know people who have done that, but it is not something that I would want to do. Word processing should be a process unencumbered by the niceties of presentation and, with the exception of Apple’s Pages, word processing programs rightly put more emphasis on presenting the author with his material in a form which is easy for him to manage, not in a form suitable for other readers. Pages, as I have said, is the exception and, in my opinion, is the worse for it.

There are word processors which go to the other extreme from Pages, emphasising content over form. Of these, I like Scrivener and Ulysses, particularly the latter with its ‘semantic text editing’. However, for continuous hard slog and the organisation (and re-organisation) of complex information, there is only one program. Microsoft Word? Pah – too gimmicky, too slow and too bossy (it always thinks it knows better than I do)! No, the answer is Nisus Writer Pro. It’s not the prettiest program I’ve ever seen (not that it’s ugly), but it’s very fast and it has all the really useful features for a serious writer.

Above is a screen shot from the draft manuscript of Beware of the Feast: The History of Robt. Jowitt & Sons, a 352-page book which I published last year. On the left is the table of contents which allows one to navigate easily between chapters and sections. And look at the text itself; I’ve highlighted an endnote marker and you’ll see that it shows me the text of that note. If I right-click on the marker, it will give me the option of going to the note (it will also let me do other things, such as convert it to a footnote). When I go to the note, I can right-click on the number to take me back to the relevant piece of text. With a thousand notes, this save a lot of time.

I’m now writing a crime novel called Isleworth Madonna in Nisus Writer Pro. It’s a pleasure to use, even in a crowded Starbucks with wonky tables which spill my triple-shot Americano worryingly close to my MacBook Air. I’ve spent years writing this novel but I notice it’s going much quicker since I changed to Nisus Writer Pro!
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Bring Back Britannia (2)

I have previously commented on the absurdity of banning Britannia. Well, there is good news! The Liberal Democrat MP, John Hemming, is campaigning to bring back Britannia and has started a petition at – hoorah!
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Why I Hate Supermarkets

(This ranting may be habit-forming!) When I briefly joined the noble fraternity of greengrocers many years ago, it was customary, especially on the trays of peaches, to display signs saying, ‘Do not squeeze me until I’m yours,’ a stern admonishment leavened with a modicum of humour which seemed to have the desired effect.

The modern supermarket is an entirely different matter. I cannot go into my local Waitrose without seeing women (I can assure you that it is always women) with fists the size of ham hocks and, judging from the results, biceps like Popeye’s after he’s been at the spinach, sticking their fat and stubby thumbs into the necks of avocados with the relish of a psychopath throttling a victim. Anyone who has a clue about such matters knows that only the gentlest touch is necessary to test the ripeness of the flesh but these oafish haridans wreak such havoc upon the innocent fruit that it is almost impossible to buy one which is not black and blue from their depredations. Part of the blame for this lies with Waitrose and other supermarkets for labelling as ‘perfectly ripe’ various fruit which are often hard enough to prise open packing cases or hammer nails into brick walls.

The flimsy plastic bags supplied by supermarkets to contain loose items are another cause for concern. I don’t use them myself because I am worried about the environmental impact, but they are extremely difficult to open and I have seen people licking their fingers to help open them and then put their saliva-drenched hands into the loose tomatoes. I have also seen staff in another supermarket lick their fingers before opening plastic bags. These practices are extremely unhygienic. Perhaps we should all just swap blood and get it over with.

Another frustrating aspect of supermarket shopping is their insistence in pandering to the lowest possible taste. A sad example of this is the treatment of purple spouting broccoli, one of the finest vegetables ever to adorn the dinner table. Both the flowering heads and the leaves are flavoursome and nutritious but Waitrose and other supermarkets insist on providing only ‘spears’, which is to say flower heads at the end of half a foot of woody stalk carefully denuded of most of its foliage. Not only is 90% of what you have bought inedible but you are denied the pleasure of eating the delicious leaves. I hate to think what happens to them. They’re probably fed to pigs (lucky pigs!) or composted.
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Alegreya – the New Kid on the Block


It is not often that a new, well-designed font family appears and it’s even rarer when that font is free! Alegreya is a new font by Juan Pablo del Peral and it’s really rather good.It is available from Font Squirrel.
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Why I Hate Adobe InDesign

There is a lot to like about InDesign. In my opinion it is the best DTP program on the market, but that isn’t saying much when the only real competition is Quark XPress. The trouble with both these programs is that, despite many changes of version numbers, they have evolved very, very slowly.

What few improvements have been made are mostly aimed at the more gimmicky end of multimedia and epublishing. Not that I don’t want to generate ebooks, but I want to produce them properly and InDesign makes that very hard to do. One of my long-standing complaints about InDesign is that it doesn’t support endnotes – there is a ludicrous work-around using hyperlinks which I won’t bother to discuss. As a result, one has to use InFnote, a third-party plug-in from Virginia Systems. If one exports to PDF or ePub, the links to endnotes don’t function. At least the Index links work, but index links aren’t particularly important in fully-searchable ebooks. Compare this with LaTeX (which is free) which supports footnotes, endnotes and wingnotes (and, as you reflow the text, the wingnotes will move with it). Using the Hyperref package for LaTeX, endnote hyperlinks can be generated automatically in PDFs. Even better, the links are bidirectional: click on a link in the text and it will take you to the note; click on the note number and it will take you back to the relevant piece of text. Similar functionality can be created in ePub files.

TeX and LaTeX are very old programs. When they were created, PostScript had not been invented. Over the years, various packages have been added to LaTeX to allow it to cope with the modern world – creating PDFs, using OpenType fonts, etc. It is crazy that after all these years LaTeX is still superior to InDesign and Quark in so many ways. Admittedly, it is rather harder to use, but the pay-off is that it does things the right way. In LaTeX, text is tagged according to function rather than form, as it is in XML and XHTML. This makes it incredibly flexible. Imagine a 400-page book with wingnotes (OK, perhaps you don’t like them but I do and, in any case, the same would apply for illustrations) and you’ve laid it out laboriously in InDesign for a royal 8vo page. That was for the hardback. Then you decide to produce a B format paperback. The margins need altering, the text area needs altering and, worst of all, every wingnote and illustrations needs repositioning. How long do you think it would take you to rework the book? It could take weeks and you’d have to check it all very carefully when you’d finished. In LaTeX it might take five minutes.
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