Meeting BFF alumni for this years Biodiversity Challenge!

It’s encouraging to get support from alumni for the Biodiversity Challenge 2020 – we will roll this out in February.

Updates will be posted to the BFF webpage at https://biodiversityfriendsforum.wordpress.com

PDFs generated by Keynote unreadable by Adobe Acrobat (macOS Catalina, 10.15) – use a browser!

I dived into macOS Catalina since I had few 32-bit applications. Also I was feeling reckless and did not wait for the end of semester like I typically would. Thankfully, most of my apps were updated to 64-bit and I could afford to abandon the few legacy apps.

There was just a problem with PDFs. I print my Keynote lecture slide deck to PDF for distribution to students. NXPowerLite Desktop 8 reduces the file size by 90% for a manageable download of 10-20 MB. 

But after macOS Catalina installation, my student Ivy Yeo, who uses Adobe Acrobat on a PC, alerted me that she could not open my PDF. I duplicated the problem on macOS Adobe Acrobat which also returned a blank page and the error message, “There was a problem reading this document (14).”

WhatsApp Image 2019 10 15 at 10 15 09 PM
Uh-oh! Unreadable lecture notes!

A few minutes later, though, she suggested using browser to open the PDF – she used Camino and I used Safari. The printed PDF could now be read by Adobe Acrobat. 

WhatsApp Image 2019 10 15 at 10 42 56 PM
Phew! Ivy’s solution – use a browser to read and print the PDF

After consulting forums and webpages, I suspect that Keynote on macOS Catalina is now adding metadata which Acrobat is choking on. The simple pdf readers inbuilt in browsers dump that additional data and could read the stripped file. 

The workaround is excellent, but adds a couple of steps each time. So I hope one of the macOS Catalina updates fixes this soon!

90% reduction of PDF file size with good image quality at the free wecompress site

Back in April, after my jcolas filters failed in macOS Mojave, I was unable to compress PDFs and retain image quality. I tried tweaking the ColorSync Utility to do this, but despite my efforts, no joy this time. Then I brushed away the nonsense written about Preview’s PDF reduction capabilities, and finally found the free http://wecompress.com site.

wecompress

A quick drag and drop and I was presented with a 90% reduction of my 121MB PDF. And just as importantly, the compressed document retained good image quality. Just what I needed as I had to send the file to a bunch of people.

NXPowerLite-file-reduction

I did explore a couple of other apps, and Lightweight PDF, which is free, was note bad, achieving nearly 50% reduction of the same file.

Since I regularly compress and distribute PDFs of image-intense presentations to a hundred or so students (and usually in the middle of the night), I forked out the $45 fee for NXPowerLite Desktop 8 – that’s per user, not computer. And I’ve been happy ever since – drag and drop, and click “Optimise” – and a lot of pain to receiving students is prevented.  

 

NXPowerLite-app

NXPowerLite app works on both macOS or Windows. 

Remembering Dr Ong Bee Lian with the “Dr Ong Bee Lian – Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) Bursary Award” (raising funds by 15th Mar 2019)

Very happy they have initiated this bursary in memory of a very caring educator.

The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS

OBL memorial photoWhen we shared the passing of Dr Ong Bee Lian, former students from over three decades at NUS shared their memories of her inspiring figure, her days in lectures and practicals, and strikingly, her nurturing mentorship and kindness in her various roles as lecturer, administrator, mentor and friend [link].

Now, I am happy to share that Friends of Dr Ong Bee Lian at the Department of Biological Sciences (DBS) & Food Science and Technology Programme (FST), NUS have announced the initiation of a bursary in her name, and invite contributions very fittingly to help needy students in DBS & FST.

Their deadline is 15 Mar 2019.

“The Department of Biological Sciences together with Food Science and Technology Programme are initiating a bursary award for the late Dr Ong Bee Lian. Dr Ong was an exemplary and dedicated educator who was passionate about teaching. She was well liked by…

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A multiple clipboard app like Flycut is an indispensable tool for keyboard warriors

A multiple-clipboard app records text you copy or cut, and recalls this text when needed with a keystroke or from your menubar. It is indispensable when recruiting scattered text into a single page. Or when assembling several disjointed bits of text into a single sentence, typically with citations, such as this list of media articles featuring ICCS.

Flycut 1.8.2

Right now I use Flycut ver 1.8.2 (DRM-free) which you can download here on Github (21 Dec 2016). There is a version on Apple Store, but it is older (1.5). I love the simple, clean interface. When I install it, I turn n a few options in preferences – start at login, no sticky bezels (on my laptop), ignore passwords, change the hotkey and increase saved clips to 50.

Copy Paste X

A multiple clipboard is critical. In the 90’s, I eventually settled on Script Software’s CopyPaste (OS8 to OSX) and switched to the free Jumpcut by 2006. When macOS Mojave complained about JumpCut, I discovered an update had existed for awhile, as Flycut.

Several options are available on AppStore which I have not tried. And other power apps such as Keyboard Maestro and the Alfred Powerpack include the capability for multiple clipboards.

What do friends on Windows or Unix use? 

Franz – one app to view them all: What’s App, Telegram, Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, GCal etc

Update – energy demands on Franz are much, much higher than individual apps. So now I fire up Franz only during active project management, when I use several messaging tools simultaneously. 

Screenshot 1453
I started using an application called Franz recently to help me view an unwieldy load of messages on several platforms for multiple projects. I had used Adium before but it died in 2017 with macOS High Sierra, I think.

Note that this is a desktop application only. 

I love that Franz includes GCal, because scheduling meetings are critical with working groups, volunteers, committees, and recently, reunions. Technology and a soft, persuasive touch help get busy people together, and switching to a person’s favoured platform helps. After all its to help protect the environment and promote harmony!

Switching between services is a keystroke away – I’ve arranged it as Cmd-1 (What’s App), Cmd-2 (Telegram), Cmd-3 (Facebook Messenger), Cmd-4 (Twitter) etc.  Franz can handle emails too but those are much more scary so I restrict those to mail programs. 

Franz is available on multiple platforms at meetfranz.com. 

Franz is multi-platform

Turning off Office Intelligent Services to prevent data access (macOS)

Microsoft Office 365 introduced Office Intelligent Services at least as far back as 2016, These are cloud-enhanced features on the Office applications Word, Outlook, Excel and PowerPoint meant to aid the user. I only noticed this last month, i.e. September 2018, when Office 365 updates on my Macintosh each flashed a window about turning on “Intelligent Services”. I dismissed those but went on to check.

With the Office Intelligent Services option turned on, it appears that document content would be accessed by Microsoft. Even if it is Microsoft policy to not use this data for other purposes, this poses a problem for confidential data. I have kept that data off any cloud service, including the ones provided by NUS. This option, however, circumvents that control of privacy with any Office document.

Happily, Office Intelligent Services can be turned off within the preferences settings of each of the Office applications. Just go to Preferences > Privacy (in earlier versions this is “Security & Privacy”) > unselect Enable services, like so:

Word preferences

Office Intelligent Services

I process student data intermittently, so I keep this option turned off. After checking in on colleagues, a couple of Mac users had this option turned on, without them being aware of having opted in or of its significance. This is a problem, so I’ve suggested to NUS IT that they explain this to users.

It was suggested that I might be prompted every now and then by Office 365 to turn Office Intelligent Services back on. That would be terrible, but it’s been two months since, and not word from the suite!