Managing all those backup files

Today was a day where some old file sorting happened. On a regular basis the number of files I’m using is fairly limited. My backup has built up way more files over the years that I seriously wonder about sometimes. This massive collection of files stored to the cloud just hangs out and does nothing really. I’m not entirely sure why I still keep it all and back it up with such care. One of the strategies that I have been considering is just setting up a new folder and putting on the files that really matter to me in that one and then at some point allowing the rest to vanish from existence. To be fair about the whole thing I’m guessing that some of those files are not necessary and probably should not have been saved in the first place. The degree to which my digital pack-rat-ness was effective is somewhat astonishing at this point.

Sadly, I’m not the only one with massive collections of archived documents in a variety of clouds. Something is going to happen to all these clouds as people end up abandoning their files over time. I have a plan for my main cloud account where without any action on my part for 90 days the files are shared out. I’m not sure exactly what the people who are slated to get access to these files will end up doing with them and it might just be an overwhelming pile of digital artifacts. Within the grand aggregate of cloud files I’m really wondering about how many of them are needed or if we have just created a reality where data center after data center is busy keeping records of nothing really. That is a thought related to both data permanence and necessity. While I cannot bring myself to just hit delete on all the files and move along I’m sure that is the inevitable outcome unless we learn how to store files on crystals. At that point, it won’t matter how much data people want to store forever it will be possible. The bigger question will be if anybody ever does anything with all those stored files on what I’m sure will be a mountain like pile of data storage crystals.

One of the things I have started doing within my more academic side writing pursuits is finding ways to publish and store my work in places outside of my weblog or my cloud storage. That public type of sharing is in an effort to help the writing stand the test of time in a better way. It is an attempt to achieve some type of data permanence based on making the content accessible. My weblog is scraped by the way back machine which does mean that my writings here are generally backed up beyond the ways that I back them up. You can if you wanted to scroll across the years and see the various weblog styles and other elements that go back a long time within that archive. That is one of the ways that the internet itself is backup up and accessible to people interested in that type of archive. I’m always curious about the freshness of a weblog and nostalgic browsing of things from 20 years ago does not really appeal to me at the moment.

A slow start to the week

Today it took about an hour to settle into a headspace where writing was going to happen. I’m not sure why it took so long to begin to accept the blank page. Sometimes that happens. My thoughts were all over the place and getting to a point where focusing was possible actually took that hour of wondering around the internet. Now I’m wondering a bit more about what things should be set as a priority this week. It feels like it might be a week where a lot of things can get done. That is probably good. Some time ago I set a 5 year writing plan for creating content and working down some different academic trajectories. That effort is still underway and my writing streak for publishing The Lindahl Letter part of that remains unbroken. As of right now that effort will span at least 87 weeks based on the content in queue for distribution. One more post is written but has not been recorded. Unfortunately, for the last 7 days my voice has been wrecked from some kind of cold or allergies.

It has been a long time since something stopped me from being able to talk. On the brighter side of things it did open the door to more listening. Talking a ton was not really going to happen. I was able to keep moving along without any real disruption. During that time I even did some game planning and put together some changes in the overall plan from week 87 to 104. Sometimes it is really helpful to sit down and consider where things are going. Knowing your writing trajectory and the associated research trajectory are important parts of planning. You cannot work on everything at one time and figuring out where you want to put your attention is an important part of the equation. When you are going to plan out a few years of effort at a time then you want to make sure to get it right and cover the right content in the right order. My interests at the start focused in on learning about machine learning and conducting weekly research into topics to diver deeper. That has been ongoing for 87 weeks. I’m in a position now where based on that depth and breadth of knowledge I’m able to really start producing various types of research within those subjects.

I have learned how to do typesetting in Overleaf with LaTeX which at first was very frustrating, but after several hours of learning is now possible. Maybe working toward the production of a bunch of different journal type articles or research notes is the right way to go and we will see if that is what happens when my research pivots from machine learning to generally a study of artificial intelligence.

A few research trajectory notes

Today I finished working on the main content for week 88 of The Lindahl Letter. That one is a bridge piece between two sets of more academic side efforts. I went from working on introductory syllabus to starting to prepare a bit for the more advanced set of content. Initially, I had considered making the advanced versions a collection of research notes that were built around very specific and focused topics. That is entirely a path that might be taken after the 104th week. The packaging on the content instead will be put into another companion syllabus to allow an introductory look and a more advanced topic follow up for people looking for a bit more machine learning content. Functionally those two documents put together will be the summation of 104 weeks of my efforts in the machine learning space. It is the book end to my journey into really diving deep into machine learning and studying it every weekend and a lot of weekdays.

After two years of digging into the machine learning space I’m going to pivot over and focus on writing and studying artificial intelligence in general for year 3 of The Lindahl Letter. It should be a fun departure and hopefully it will mix things up a little bit with a broader collection of literature. A lot of people talk about deploying AI in the business world and almost all of that conjecture is entirely based on deploying a machine learning model into a production environment. When those same people deploy an actual AI product they will hopefully see the difference.

A few updates on word processing

I thought it would be fun to get some logos made for The Lindahl Letter. After updating the banner logo on Substack I realized that it broke the link for all previous banner logo posts. Fixing that mistake required updating about 40 posts to include the new banner logo one at a time. I’m guessing that the way the Substack database stores the background banner needs some time of update to prevent this type of previous image link breakdown. It should probably contain a warning at the very least that says if you update this image you are going to break all the older posts that reference the previous image. On the brighter side of that problem nobody really seemed to notice the broken links. I’m probably the one that immediately goes and checks the Substack site after things are published to make sure nothing went wrong.

It took a couple weeks of working on making the switch from Google Docs over to Microsoft Word. Currently, in that journey I’m now doing ok working out of the desktop application for Microsoft Word. I have a document setup for writing daily content and one for Substack posts. Both of those documents can be accessed from the Office 365 interface as well if necessary. I just have had a really hard time adjusting to the online version of Microsoft Word. It’s just not as usable as Google Docs. All those recent articles about Google mining my writing were enough to get me to make the switch. We will see how long this technology shift lasts and I’ll provide some updates along the way. It’s entirely possible at some point I’ll just write academic articles in Overleaf and not use either of the word processing systems. I’m wondering how many academic writers just work out of the LaTeX editor. For that syllabus PDF creation effort, I created the content outside of Overleaf and just used it for typesetting of the content.

Most of the time my writing efforts are about creating something in one application and then moving it somewhere else for distribution. That in and of itself is an interesting and probably unnecessary process. I’m not sure exactly why I have not just moved to creating the content in the place where it will get published.

Considering a bit of considering

Right now, at this very moment, I’m working on Substack post 88 of 104 and starting to consider moving that effort out of Google Docs and over to Microsoft Word as well. At the moment, that move has not happened just yet as I’m still writing some of that content on my Chromebook and I’m not a big fan of the Office 365 online version of Microsoft Word. I really got used to using Google Docs and the experience it provides. Now I’m writing out of the desktop application while sitting at my main computer running Windows. That means that for the most part my writing has become something that happens at my desk in my office and not on the go or anywhere outside of my desk. Given that most of the writing I end up doing happens in the morning and is during my scheduled blocks of time that works out well enough. Right now, I’m pretty far ahead of the Friday publishing schedule again. Week 82 just went live and the next 5 are ready to go already. That means that the entire introduction to machine learning syllabus is now draft complete. I do plan on going back and reading it again from start to finish and doing any final edits.

Probably the principal thing that is keeping me from moving completely out of Google Docs and over to Microsoft Word is that the final version of The Lindahl Letter that gets published does not contain the Tweets of the week or the links to things that are included in the Substack newsletter. When I go back to format the content for final publication, I have been removing those two sections. That is certainly something that could be augmented moving forward where any links or content being shared is put into the main body of the post to avoid having to use those two links only sections or I could just include them in the final product as well. Based on the statistics I have available to me it does not appear like that content is really consumed very much by people. People tend to read the prose at the top of the post and are not opening the email to see what Tweets I have enjoyed the most that week. Maybe the reason those got included was purely indulgent on my part which is interesting as an aside to consider.

After finishing up that syllabus I’m interested in working on some more research note type efforts where I’m really digging into the relevant scholarly articles as well as covering topics within the machine learning space. That is the goal of my Substack efforts moving forward. Of course, I broke that trajectory with my first set of writing efforts from the week 88 content. I’m probably going to need to reconsider the topics listed from 88 to 104 to make sure that they are ones that could support solid research notes. I’m not sure if they will end up getting converted over to Overleaf and eventually published that way, but that would be the general idea of what needs to happen moving forward.

Application notifications abound

My ecosystem of applications where I’m a daily active user is and has been dropping. I’m generally exhausted by and tired of the endless string of notifications that don’t really notify me about anything substantial. I still remember a time before the advent of smartphones. For the most part, I remember having a flip phone that did not do very much beyond being able to make calls and receive text messages. Nobody really sent pictures with those phones. The resolution of the cameras was terrible. At that time, the phone companies still charged you by the text message or limited people to a small monthly allotment. Things were very different from today.

I’m really considering returning to just not carrying a smartphone around. Much like sending an email and getting an asynchronous response I could just let me smartphone always go to voicemail for the most part. Most phone calls are not really all that urgent anyway. These are the thoughts on my mind at the moment. I’ll probably be nostalgic for the grand experience of going to the mall at some point today. That is how things are shaping up. Right now, I have some music streaming on Pandora and I’m writing in the Microsoft Word desktop application. I did end up spending a few minutes fixing some of the navigation formatting at the start of that adventure, but now things are pretty much setup to be able to write on a daily basis out of this document. Working out of Microsoft Word has not been a smooth transition it is nowhere near as good or useful as Google Docs. The design aesthetic and the usability are very different. It is very much like Microsoft Word is exactly the way I left it year ago and it has not improved very much over the years.

Right now, I should be deeply focused on bringing the most important concepts to the forefront of my thoughts as I begin the day. Instead of working toward some type of meaningful writing I’m stuck on the medium where the writing is going to occur. Most of my writing is still occurring at my main computer in my office. I’m using this Corsair K65 RGB mini wired keyboard. It’s 60% the size of a normal keyboard and does not have the number pad or arrows. Strangely enough I have been really happy with it after getting a Kensington wrist rest to support a slightly more comfortable typing experience. The mechanical keyboard works really well for typing at speed in my office while concentrating on the process of starting the day. To that end, the keyboard has been wonderful and while I have used a natural ergonomic split keyboard for years this one has worked out well enough.

Switching back to Microsoft Word

Given that Google is apparently data mining my efforts writing in a Google Doc every day I should probably shift over and work out of Microsoft Office 365. This word processing document that I’m working out of right now is actually a .DOCX file that just happens to be opened out of Google Docs. It would not take very much effort to move the files over to the Microsoft side of things.  

Hold on just a second here while I make the switch.  

I went out to Google Drive and download the entire novels directory as a zip file. After extracting all those files into the downloads directory, I went ahead and loaded them into the Microsoft OneDrive backup folder for this computer. That took just a couple of minutes to accomplish and now for the first time in a long time. I think it was last year when I was typesetting the “The Lindahl Letter: On Machine Learning” manuscript. I used to work out of Microsoft Word as my primary word processing system for years. Gradually I made the switch to Google Docs and was pretty happy with it until the recent reports of the strangeness related to tracking people. I don’t know if Microsoft is even remotely interested in the things that happen in Microsoft Word. At some point here in a few minutes I’m going to open this document up using the online interface for Office 365 to see how that goes. 

Writing in a standalone application and not just a tab within Chrome is a stranger feeling than I expected this morning. Now that I have the Office 365 web interface pulled up, I now remember why I abandoned this worked processing interface and went over to work out of Google Docs full time. This interface is just visually clunky and unrefined by comparison. The design aesthetic is just so much better out of the Google Doc. I am going to give working out of this interface a try for a few days to see if my feelings about it change over time. Maybe I will get used to the experience and be able to handle working out of the Office 365 ecosystem for work processing.

Working from daft form to a final manuscript

I have been really focused on writing an introduction to machine learning syllabus to share with everybody over on my Substack newsletter. Most of my time and energy has gone into that effort. Right now I’m at the point where a draft exists and has been shared out. That is generally a great point in the process. For me it means that I need to let it breathe for a bit and then go back and rework and reread it a few days later. Picking it up with fresh eyes let me catch the little things that otherwise seemed ok in the initial draft. During the course of that process I have learned how to make figures, tables, and generally use the LaTeX syntax. That was indeed a battle and I shared the files for others to be able to take a look at them if they wanted to see how I used the syntax. I ended up having to learn the whole thing from a bunch of tutorials on YouTube along the way each time I wanted to do something new along the way. It was not until the last section in material that I had to learn how to make tables in LaTeX which was shockingly complex compared to what I expected. You have to understand a bit about how the structure works to see how to modify it in practice. 

Part of learning the LaTeX syntax during my journey was learning to appreciate the Overleaf website and how it manages that type of content. At first, I was wondering why this was any different than using the Google Doc or Microsoft Word processing environments. It really is a bit different and it worked out well enough. It is worth the small cost to be able to use it and I can see where having collaborators and sharing a document is something that the platform helps facilitate in a deeply powerful way. Now that the basic draft process on that syllabus is complete it is time to really focus deeply on the “what’s next?” question. Within my research trajectory notes and upcoming research pages on the Weblog I have a few ideas of what I’m working toward creating. At the moment, I’m thinking that my work with machine learning literature reviews is not complete. I may work out a few more deeper looks at some of the topics contained within the syllabus. I am able to format my research notes and literature reviews into LaTeX syntax PDF documents now. 

I read an article over at The Verge that Google is tracking what I’m doing in my Google Doc and that is not entirely surprising. I will say that during the course of writing in my Substack file which is now drafted to week 87 of 104 planned writing sessions the algorithm has gotten better at providing suggestions while I write on edits and matches my phrasing better. That document about machine learning is really close to 100,000 words right now it is at a word count of 96,925. I’m guessing that in terms of purely original technical learning prose creation I’m on the deeper end of the documents they are analyzing. Somebody I’m sure has written something that is longer. They probably have a different writing schedule than I do and the overall feel and style is probably different.

I’m still learning how to get LaTeX to work on Overleaf

My energy and efforts have been focused on producing high quality academic content since July 21. Instead of blogging away I focused on that introduction to machine learning syllabus I have been preparing. I’m even doing the typesetting in LaTeX using the Overleaf website in preparation to be a better academic. It seemed like a good idea to learn how to publish academic papers using LaTeX. Generally, I have been able to get away with using Microsoft Word to prepare things or sometimes Google Docs. It seems the world has changed and the serious people writing serious papers are all using LaTeX these days. It took me about an hour, maybe two hours to start getting the hang of it and I don’t really like it at all. It’s a clumsy method for typesetting and while I get that the focus is on the end product and how it looks as a PDF the actual process of typesetting is tedious. My basis of comparison is that I can very easily write in APA formatting in Microsoft Word and work from start to finish on a document. It’s fine really as a platform for documenting words and processing them. I get that the idea of LaTeX and the storage of documents in PDF format is to ensure that the documents are portable and readable for as long as possible. Anyway, I’m still learning how to get LaTeX to work on Overleaf. I have the first 3 parts of that syllabus loaded up and I’ll get adding part by part until all 8 are loaded. I’ll give it a really good proofreading and then try to submit it for preprint. That is the plan anyway.