LaTeX issues and portability

My laptop needed repair lately so I sent it to SONY. Thus I will be without it for a couple of weeks. I had to back up everything before doing so, which was easy due to good file organization.

I used a flash drive to install portableapps.com to enhance the portable experience. However if you plan to work in solely one computer using the flash drive is of no use. It is really slow and has limited capabilities on the programs you can install and use. So I could not have LaTeX or Matlab. I know it is a long-shot to want to run these from a flash drive.

Fortunately I had a computer available, I created a new account, made anything else installed on that computer transparent to me and everything I installed transparent to everyone else. The only problem was when I was about to use LaTeX. Nothing worked and no packages were installed due to the transition from LaTeX 2e to LaTeX 3. I realized that I had to update MiKTeX as some packages, in particular expl3.sty, had become obsolete. So running the MiKTeX updater twice in admin mode is sufficient to solve the problem. you can find more detailed instructions on that in Greek though, here.
Afterwards I got another error while compiling the code:

'xdvipdfmx' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.

I read that when such an error occurs it has to do with the OS. In windows all you have to do is add the path containing the xdvipdfmx to your PATH environmental variable. However this requires restart to work and until I realized that I got a bit frustrated. But now everything is fine and I can still work without the laptop for some time. The only thing missing is a microphone for Skype usage and a more effective back up strategy. When you use your personal PC, backup can be easily automated. However when you use a temporary one, the back up is between mobile devices all the time and it becomes a tricky business. But more on file organization on another post.

From Opera mail to Thunderbird

It has been more almost a year that I have been using Opera mail for my email needs. I must say that it is one of the best desktop mail implementations that I have used. However I wanted to have calendar and to do lists as well and Opera is not providing that in a convenient way.

Thus I was thinking of using Thunderbird (which I used before). I was thinking about the migration for weeks. There were features in Opera that I did not like to sacrifice. One of them is Opera Contacts. The way Opera lets you organize your contacts and view your mails by contact is something that I found very useful from time to time. Also using these little faces for each contact allowed me to identify the significance and the origin of a mail in a glimpse and that is something that I am going to miss. Plus it made my mail way more pleasant.

Till now I used calendar and to do lists using Rainlendar. Rainlendar is a really subtle program that used to decorate my empty desktop but I must admit it is not a good one to keep track of a to do list and calendar inputs. I never felt I was in control with it although using it is really straight forward. Thus I migrated my calendar and to do lists to Thunderbird. There the calendar is a bliss. Maybe it is not as good as Microsoft’s Outlook solution which might be the best in the domain but still really good. A note should be done here, I don’t want to use Outlook, I don’t feel confortable with it.

My first obstacle during the tranfer were the contacts. The Opera exports the contacts in .adr format which is an Opera specific format. It cannot be imported to Thunderbird directly (which is a same) and I had to use a converter found on here. The converter gets .adr files and exports .tab or .cvs (tab separated or comma separated contacts). Although the converter seems to be old (it mentions Opera 7) it worked just fine with my Opera 11.50 contacts. The problem with that is that any data I had on the contacts were lost apart from the name and the address. As Thunderbird contacts have many more fields available it did not bother me much. After a couple of hours most of my contacts were in good shape.

In an attempt to get those small faces that Opera uses I installed the Display Contact Photo Thunderbird add-on. However this only got me to have some more images to use that will be displayed only when I was to write a new mail. Not as helpful as I wanted it to be but I kept it.

In a second attempt to get the contacts on the side and trying to get access to the mails of single contact easily I tried to install Contacts Sidebar Thunderbird add-on only to find out that it is not compatible with Thunderbird 6… To cheer me up a bit I got a wood looking theme for the Thunderbird which I really liked.

However, there are still a couple of issues that I am going to try to resolve. These are the text wrapping of my mails that will render them more readable. This is a features that I have seen in mails that I receive. I suspect that it has something to do with Microsoft’s Outlook but I believe that there should be something that can be done about it in Thunderbird.

That is the good part of using Thunderbird. There is almost an add-on for anything that you can think off. However this may lead to a really slow experience using the application. so one must be careful.

Finally, Opera seems a bit barren now that I removed the mail from it. However it still has the feeds that I get there. I really like this browser and I plan to continue using it as it completely serves my needs.