Friday, March 25, 2011

Control the look and feel of Gmail with Minimalist

Yesterday I found a great Chrome extension for Gmail called Minimalist. It allows you to change almost anything in the Gmail interface. To give you a quick idea of the difference it can make, here are some images from their page in the Chrome web store:

~ in Matlab: not just for NOT

When reading Steve's article on the irregular behavior of Matlab's size() function, I was reminded of a neat trick.

Frequently I call a function and only use one or two of its output arguments. In many cases I use the first couple of output arguments, but occasionally I want to use, say, only the second output argument. If I assign the first output to some variable, I now have a meaningless variable floating around, taking up space, and potentially causing problems. A much more elegant solution is to call the function like this:
[~, output] = myFunction(input);
In this way, the first output argument disappears while the second is saved to the variable output.

If you'd like, you can read articles on the same topic by Matlab geniuses Loren and Steve.

Matlab subplot

I often use Matlab's subplot function to plot multiple things in one figure, like this:

However, I recently discovered that you can have them span multiple rows or columns:

Note: all figures shamelessly stolen from, Matlab's subplot documentation.


I've been using LaTeX for years and although I got used to doing my own formatting, it was clunky. I'd only use it if I was writing a final draft for homework or a paper, never for just jotting down notes. However, a friend of mine introduced me to LyX a few months ago and now I'm hooked.

LyX is a WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you get") editor: it auto-compiles most things for you so you don't have to wonder how it will look when you're done. This includes
  • text formatting (size, weight, font, etc.)
  • figures (auto-preview)
  • equations (auto-render/preview)
  • tables (auto-preview)
Now I don't have to compile my document to make sure that I typed everything in correctly and that it looks right. Instead of going through the usual messy process of nesting my lists, I simply tell LyX to start a list and tab as necessary.

Using LyX is so quick, easy, and painless that now I use it to write notes to myself and document my projects. LyX combines the simplicity of a regular text editor with the beauty of LaTeX.

Here's a screenshot I stole from Wikipedia:

In the interest of honesty, I have found a few limitations which I consider noteworthy:
  • Every now and then, somethings happens in my document and I'm unable to use certain functions. For example, one document all of a sudden stopped letting me use \int in the LyX auto-render math mode but would let me use it in the LyX "LaTeX code" mode. I'm still not sure what's going on here or how to fix it... (update: if you're having trouble with using \int and it says that \iint is being redefined, check out this thread).
  • Although you can add to the source code using the "LaTeX code" mode (ctrl+L), I haven't yet found a way to edit the automatically generated code. Of course you can view the code, copy it into your second-favorite LaTeX editor, and proceed but that's quite clunky.