Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

More user interface font scaling options in Adobe Lightroom Classic

25th November 2022

Earlier in the year, I upgraded my monitor to a 34-inch widescreen Iiyama XUB3493WQSU. At the time, I was in wonderment at what I was doing even if I have grown used to it now. For one thing, it made the onscreen text too small so I ended up having to scale things up in both Linux and Windows. The former proved to be more malleable than the latter and that impression also applies to the main subject of this piece.

What I also found is that I needed to scale the user interface font sizes within Adobe Lightroom Classic running within a Windows virtual machine on VirtualBox. That can be done by going to Edit > Preferences through the menus and then going to the Interface tab in the dialogue box that appears where you can change the Font Size setting using the dropdown menu and confirm changes using the OK button.

However, the range of options is limited. Medium appears to be the default setting while the others include Small, Large, Larger and Largest. Large scales by 150%, Larger by 200% and Largest by 250%. Of these, Large was the setting that I chose though it always felt too big to me.

Out of curiosity, I decided to probe further only to find extra possibilities that could be selected by direct editing of a configuration file. This file can be found in C:\Users\[user account]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Lightroom\Preferences and is called Lightroom Classic CC 7 Preferences.agprefs. In there, you need to find the line containing AgPanel_baseFontSize and change the value enclosed within quotes and save the file. Taking a backup beforehand is wise even if the modification is not a major one.

The available choices are scale125, scale140, scale150, scale175, scale180, scale200 and scale250. Some of these may be recognisable as those available through the Lightroom Classic user interface. In my case, I chose the first on the list so the line in the configuration file became:

AgPanel_baseFontSize="scale125"

There may be good reasons for the additional options not being available through the user interface but things are working out OK for me for now. It is another tweak that helps me to get used to the larger screen size and its higher resolution.

A look at the Julia programming language

19th November 2022

Several open-source computing languages get mentioned when talking about working with data. Among these are R and Python but there are others and Julia is another one of these. It took a while before I got to check out Julia because I felt the need to get acquainted with R and Python beforehand. There are others like Lua to investigate too but that can wait for now.

With the way that R is making an incursion into clinical data reporting analysis following the passage of decades when SAS was predominant, my explorations of Julia are inspired by a certain contrariness on my part. Alongside some small personal projects, there has been some reading in (digital) book form and online. Concerning the latter of these, there are useful tutorials like Introduction to Datascience: Learn Julia Programming, Math & Datascience from Scratch or Julia Programming: a Hands-on Tutorial. Like what happens with R, there are online versions of published books available free of charge and they include Julia Data Science and Interactive Visualization and Plotting with Julia. Video learning can help too and Jane Herriman has recorded and shared useful beginner’s guides on YouTube that start with the basics before heading onto more advanced subjects like multiple dispatch, broadcasting and metaprogramming.

This piece of learning has been made of simple self-inspired puzzles before moving on to anything more complex. That differs from my dalliance with R and Python where I ventured into complexity first, not least because of testing them out with public COVID data. Eventually, I got around to doing that with Julia too though my interest was beginning to wane by then, and Julia’s abilities for creating multi-page PDF files were such that PDF Toolkit was needed to help with this. Along the way, I have made use of such packages as DataFrames.jl, Plots, Gadfly.jl and JSON3.jl, among others. After that, there is PrettyTables.jl to try out and anyone can look at the Beautiful Makie website to see what Makie can do.

So far, my primary usage has been with personal financial data together with automated processing and backup of photo files. The photo file processing has taken advantage of the ability to compile Julia scripts for added speed because just-in-time compilation always means there is a lag before the real work begins.

VSCode is my chosen editor for working with Julia scripts since it has a plugin for the language. That adds the REPL, syntax highlighting, execution and data frame viewing capabilities that once were added to the now defunct Atom editor by its own plugin. While it would be nice to have a keyboard shortcut for script execution, the whole thing works well and is regularly updated.

Naturally, there have been a load of queries as I have gone along and the Julia Documentation has been consulted as well as Julia Discourse and Stack Overflow. The latter pair have become regular landing spots on many a Google search. One example followed a glitch that I encountered after a Julia upgrade when I asked a question about this and was directed to the XLSX.jl Migration Guides where I got the information that I needed to fix my code for it to run properly.

There is more learning to do as I continue to use Julia for various things. Once compiled, it does run fast like it has been promised. The syntax paradigm is akin to R and Python but there are Julia-specific features too. If you have used the others, the learning curve is lessened but not eliminated completely. This is not an object-oriented language as such but its functional nature makes it familiar enough for getting going with it. In short, the project has come a long way since it started more than ten years ago. There is much for the scientific programmer but only time will tell if it usurped its older competitors. For now, I will remain interested in it.

Redirecting a WordPress site to its home page when its loop finds no posts

5th November 2022

Since I created a bespoke theme for this site, I have been tweaking things as I go. The basis came from the WordPress Theme Developer Handbook, which gave me a simpler starting point shorn of all sorts of complexity that is encountered with other themes. Naturally, this means that there are little rough edges that need tidying over time.

One of these is dealing with errors on the site like when content is not found. This could be a wrong address or a search query that finds no matching posts. When that happens, there is a redirection to the home page using some simple JavaScript within the loop fallback code enclosed within script start and end tags (including the whole code triggers the action from this post so it cannot be shown here):

location.href="[blog home page ]";

The bloginfo function can be used with the url keyword to find the home page so this does not get hard coded. For now, this works so long as JavaScript is enabled but a more robust approach may come in time. It is not possible to do a PHP redirect because of the nature of HTTP: when headers have been sent, it is not possible to do server redirects. At this stage, things become client side so using JavaScript is one way to go instead.

Fixing an Ansible warning about boolean type conversion

27th October 2022

My primary use for Ansible is doing system updates using the inbuilt apt module. Recently, I updated my main system to Linux Mint 21 and a few things like Ansible stopped working. Removing instances that I had added with pip3 sorted the problem but I then ran playbooks manually only for various warning messages to appear that I had not noticed before. What follows below is one of these.

[WARNING]: The value True (type bool) in a string field was converted to u'True' (type string). If this does not look like what you expect, quote the entire value to ensure it does not change.

The message is not so clear in some ways, not least because it had me looking for a boolean value of True when it should have been yes. A search on the web revealed something about the apt module that surprised me.: the value of the upgrade parameter is a string when others like it take boolean values of yes or no. Thus, I had passed a bareword of yes when it should have been declared in quotes as “yes”. To my mind, this is an inconsistency but I have changed things anyway to get rid of the message.

Removing a Julia package

5th October 2022

While I have been programming with SAS for a few decades and it remains a lynchpin in the world of clinical development in the pharmaceutical industry, other technologies like R and Python are gaining a foothold. Two years ago, I started to look at those languages with personal projects being a great way of facilitating this. In addition, I got to hear of Julia and got to try that too. That journey continues since I have put it into use for importing and backing up photos, and there are other possible uses too.

Recently, I updated Julia to version 1.8.2 but ran into a problem with the DataArrays package that I had installed so I decided to remove it since it was added during experimentation. The Pkg package that is used for package management is documented but I had not gotten to that so some web searching ensued. It turns out that there are two ways of doing this. One uses the REPL: after pressing the ] key, the following command gets issued:

rm DataArrays

When all is done, pressing the delete or backspace keys returns things to normal. This also can be done in a script as well as the REPL and the following line works in both instances:

using Pkg; Pkg.rm("DataArrays")

The semicolon is used to separate two commands issued in the same line but they can be on different lines or issued separately just as well. Naturally, DataArrays is just an example here so you just replace that with the name of whatever other package you need to remove. Since we can get carried away when downloading packages, there are times when a clean-up is needed to remove redundant packages so knowing how to remove any clutter is invaluable.

Accessing Julia REPL command history

4th October 2022

In the BASH shell used on Linux and UNIX, the history command calls up a list of recent commands used and has many uses. There is a .bash_history file in the root of the user folder that logs and provides all this information so there are times when you need to exclude some commands from there but that is another story.

The Julia REPL environment works similarly to many operating system command line interfaces, so I wondered if there was a way to recall or refer to the history of commands issued. So far, I have not come across an equivalent to the BASH history command for the REPL itself but there the command history is retained in a file like .bash_history. The location varies on different operating systems though. On Linux, it is ~/.julia/logs/repl_history.jl while it is %USERPROFILE%\.julia\logs\repl_history.jl on Windows. While I tend to use scripts that I have written in VSCode rather than entering pieces of code in the REPL, the history retains its uses and I am sharing it here for others. In the past, the location changed but these are the ones with Julia 1.8.2, the version that I have at the time of writing.

Controlling display of users on the logon screen in Linux Mint 20.3

15th February 2022

Recently, I tried using Commento with a static website that I was developing and this needed PostgreSQL rather than MySQL or MariaDB, which many content management tools use. That meant a learning curve that made me buy a book as well as the creation of a system account for administering PostgreSQL. These are not the kind of things that you want to be too visible so I wanted to hide them.

Since Linux Mint uses AccountsService, you cannot use lightdm to do this (the comments in /etc/lightdm/users.conf suggest as much). Instead, you need to go to /var/lib/AccountsService/users and look for a file called after the user name. If one exists, all that is needed is for you to add the following line under the [User] section:

SystemAccount=true

If there is no file present for the user in question, then you need to create one with the following lines in there:

[User]
SystemAccount=true

Once the configuration files are set up as needed, AccountsService needs to be restarted and the following command does that deed:

sudo systemctl restart accounts-daemon.service

Logging out should reveal that the user in question is not listed on the logon screen as required.

Useful Python packages for working with data

14th October 2021

My response to changes in the technology stack used in clinical research is to develop some familiarity with programming and scripting platforms that complement and compete with SAS, a system with which I have been programming since 2000. One of these has been R but Python is another that has taken up my attention and I now also have Julia in my sights as well. There may be others to assess in the fullness of time.

While I first started to explore the Data Science world in the autumn of 2017, it was in the autumn of 2019 that I began to complete LinkedIn training courses on the subject. Good though they were, I find that I need to actually use a tool in order to better understand it. At that time, I did get to hear about Python packages like Pandas, NumPy, SciPy, Scikit-learn, Matplotlib, Seaborn and Beautiful Soup  though it took until of spring of this year for me to start gaining some hands-on experience with using any of these.

During the summer of 2020, I attended a BCS webinar on the CodeGrades initiative, a programming mentoring scheme inspired by the way classical musicianship is assessed. In fact, one of the main progenitors is a trained classical musician and teacher of classical music who turned to Python programming when starting a family so as to have a more stable income. The approach is that a student selects a project and works their way through it with mentoring and periodic assessments carried out in a gentle and discursive manner. Of course, the project has to be engaging for the learning experience to stay the course and that point came through in the webinar.

That is one lesson that resonates with me with subjects as diverse as web server performance and the ongoing pandemic pandemic supplying data and there are other sources of public data to examine as well before looking through my own personal archive gathered over the decades. Some subjects are uplifting while others are more foreboding but the key thing is that they sustain interest and offer opportunities for new learning. Without being able to dream up new things to try, my knowledge of R and Python would not be as extensive as it is and I hope that it will help with learning Julia too.

In the main, my own learning has been a solo effort with consultation of documentation along with web searches that have brought me to the likes of Real Python, Stack Abuse, Data Viz with Python and R and others for longer tutorials as well as threads on Stack Overflow. Usually, the web searching begins when I need a steer on a particular or a way to resolve a particular error or warning message but books always are worth reading even if that is the slower route. Those from the Dummies series or from O’Reilly have proved must useful so far but I do need to read them more completely than I already have; it is all too tempting to go with the try the “programming and search for solutions as you go” approach instead.

To get going, many choose the Anaconda distribution to get Jupyter notebook functionality but I prefer a more traditional editor so Spyder has been my tool of choice for Python programming and there are others like PyCharm as well. Spyder itself is written in Python so it can be installed using pip from PyPi like other Python packages. It has other dependencies like Pylint for code management activities but these get installed behind the scenes.

The packages that I first met in 2019 may be the mainstays for doing data science but I have discovered others since then. It also seems that there is porosity between the worlds of R an Python so you get some Python packages aping R packages and R has the Reticulate package for executing Python code. There are Python counterparts to such Tidyverse stables as dply and ggplot2 in the form of Siuba and Plotnine, respectively. The syntax of these packages are not direct copies of what is executed in R but they are close enough for there to be enough familiarity for added user friendliness compared to Pandas or Matplotlib. The interoperability does not stop there for there is SQLAlchemy for connecting to MySQL and other databases (PyMySQL is needed as well) and there also is SASPy for interacting with SAS Viya.

Pyhton may not have the speed of Julia but there are plenty of packages for working with larger workloads. Of these, Dask, Modin and RAPIDS all have there uses for dealing with data volumes that make Pandas code crawl. As if to prove that there are plenty of libraries for various forms of data analytics, data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, there also are the likes of Keras, TensorFlow and NetworkX. These are just a selection of what is available and there is no need not to check out more. It may be tempting to stick with the most popular packages all the time, especially when they do so much, but it never hurst to keep an open mind either.

Using multi-line commenting in Perl to inactivate blocks of code during testing

26th December 2019

Recently, I needed to inactivate blocks of code in a Perl script while doing some testing. This is something that I often do in other computing languages so I sought the same in Perl. To do that, I need to use the POD methodology. This meant enclosing the code as follows.

=start

<< Code to be inactivated by inclusion in a comment >>

=cut

The =start line could use any word after the equality sign but it seems that =cut is needed to close the multi-line comment. If this was actual programming documentation, then the comment block should include some meaningful text for use with perldoc but that was not a concern here since the commenting statements would be removed afterwards anyway and it is good practice not to leave commented code in a production script or program to avoid any later confusion.

In my case, this facility allowed me to isolate the code that I needed to alter and test before putting everything back as needed. It also saved time since I did not need to individually comment out every executable line because multiple lines could be inactivated at a time.

Getting Eclipse to start without incompatibility errors on Linux Mint 19.1

12th June 2019

Recent curiosity about Java programming and Groovy scripting got me trying to start up the Eclipse IDE that I had install on my main machine. What I got instead of a successful application startup was a message that included the following:

!MESSAGE Exception launching the Eclipse Platform:
!STACK
java.lang.ClassNotFoundException: org.eclipse.core.runtime.adaptor.EclipseStarter
at java.base/java.net.URLClassLoader.findClass(URLClassLoader.java:466)
at java.base/java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:566)
at java.base/java.lang.ClassLoader.loadClass(ClassLoader.java:499)
at org.eclipse.equinox.launcher.Main.invokeFramework(Main.java:626)
at org.eclipse.equinox.launcher.Main.basicRun(Main.java:584)
at org.eclipse.equinox.launcher.Main.run(Main.java:1438)
at org.eclipse.equinox.launcher.Main.main(Main.java:1414)

The cause was a mismatch between Eclipse and the installed version of Java that it needed in order to run. After all, the software itself is written in the Java language and the installed version from the usual software repositories was too old for Java 11. The solution turned out to be installing a newer version as a Snap (Ubuntu’s answer to Flatpak). The following command did the needful since Snapd already was running on my machine:

sudo snap install eclipse --classic

The only part of the command that warrants extra comment is the --classic switch since that is needed for a tool like Eclipse that needs to access a host file system. On executing, the software was downloaded from Snapcraft and then installed within its own bundle of dependencies. The latter adds a certain detachment from the underlying Linux installation and ensures that no messages appear because of incompatibilities like the one near the start of this post.

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