14 January 2007

The new face of RAOS

All joking aside—to change, improve, or control anything, one must first be able to measure it. The original point of this weblog was to broaden my reading (and understanding) of scientific articles by recording what I read. I also planned to make Random Acts of Science a public document of my dedication, and I hoped that my need to show off would keep me reading and updating. The original impulse obviously failed, but that is okay. I have not met my barely ambitious goal of reading and recording one scientific article per day, either. Still, my failure is not as naked as my updates here suggest. The trick is this: I have found a better way to document and organize my reading. For Windows, Mac, Slackware Linux: JabRef For Gentoo, OpenSuSE 10.1-10.2, Ubuntu/Debian: Pybliographer Pybliographer is my favorite tool for managing bibliographies, and it requires fewer system resources than JabRef to run. It is graphical, and greatly resembles Endnote (for PCs) or Tellico (for KDE-based GNU/Linux). I keep several separate bibliographies in BibTeX format: one for work, one for general interest, and one for financial matters. Since the BibTeX bibliographies are text files, it is easy to edit, manipulate, or combine them at will. For TeX cognoscenti, it is trivial to cite elements of these bibliographies in Emacs or some other text editor; for my purposes, it suffices to have a searchable record of citations. JabRef requires Java, but it does not require any compiling—I was never able to get Pybliographer to compile on Slackware 11, and so I turned to the readily downloadable JabRef. JabRef is not as minimal as Pybliographer, but it can also save bibliographies in BibTeX format, and JabRef integrates readily with OpenOffice (export the bibliography to an OpenOffice Calc file, then use that file as the bibliography database Tools:Bibliography Database:Choose Data Source). You can even use a strictly web-browser based version of JabRef. While there are other tools for similar purposes, I find that Pybliographer and JabRef meet all of my record-keeping needs. Eventually, I hope to learn enough Python to tweak Pybliographer into a tool for keeping a laboratory notebook in TeX format, complete with inserted figures and other supplementary files . . . but not right now.


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