Thursday 27 August 2009

Why I Write My CV in LaTeX

For many people, even technical people, LaTeX is a relic. I recently had a chat with some colleagues who were looking to write documentation in a format that could be easily converted into other formats (PDF, HTML, etc.), which could maintain its own indexing and cross-referencing easily, and which would, of course, look good. I mentioned LaTeX and got some amused eye-rolling and comments about how no-one uses that anymore.

Even if that were true, I maintain my CV in LaTeX. Why? Simple:

  • It enables absolute control over what gets rendered, and where, on the page.

  • There's MiKTeX for Windows, TeXShop for Mac and TeX Live for Linux. In other words, it's available for your favourite platform.

  • The source files are plain text. This makes for easy versioning using your favourite version control system, and thereafter, comparing the differences between any two versions.

  • Producing good looking PDFs is simple with pdflatex.

Sure, it takes more time than knocking something together in Microsoft Word or OpenOffice Writer, but there's a distinct satisfaction to be enjoyed from tweaking and crafting something until it's exactly how you want it to be.

Definitely not for everyone, but if you've gone to all the trouble to develop a skill-set that you're proud of, you may as well take the effort to show it off in the best way possible!

Monday 10 August 2009

ScotRail is Stuck in the 80's

My wife and I went on a shopping trip to Edinburgh yesterday, involving a train journey to Glasgow Central station, a short walk to Queen Street station, and another train ride to Edinburgh.

Now, for some truly bizarre reason, it's cheaper to get a return ticket to Central, and then a separate return ticket for the Glasgow–Edinburgh link, than it is to get a return from East Kilbride to Edinburgh. Go figure. But we skip over that little bit of insanity, and ask for one return ticket from East Kilbride to Glasgow Central, and two returns from Glasgow to Edinburgh. See, I work in Glasgow, so already have a season ticket. With a queue building up, we pay, bundle our tickets together and get on the train.

As it starts to pull away, we look through the tickets to see that the ticket office in East Kilbride has issued us with two return tickets for the East Kilbride to Glasgow link. Mildly irritating, but no big issue: we can just get a refund on the tickets that we're not going to use. We ask the conductor on the train, and get the response that he can't issue a refund, because he'd be out of pocket. We'd need to get the station at East Kilbride to do that, or possibly get it done at the ticket office at Central. He's a ScotRail ticket conductor, and these are ScotRail tickets, and he can't... Something in my head implodes from the stupidity. I thank him for his 'help' and he goes away.

Once in Central Station, we're told that we can't get the refund there: we'd have to get it from East Kilbride. The reasoning is that they didn't issue the physical tickets, so the ticket number wouldn't be on their system, only in the East Kilbride one. The most he can do is give us a form to fill out.

Now, this is our outbound journey. It's 13:00, and our home station closes at 17:00. Chances of making it back from Edinburgh in time? Approximately zero.

Both stations at East Kilbride and Glasgow Central are run by ScotRail. The conductor on the train is a ScotRail employee. It's a mere ten miles between the town and the city, and this is 2009. And ScotRail still don't have the facilities to provide refunds, except at the issuing station?