Archive for August, 2010

Beyond the Finder

| Gabriel |

In a recent post I mentioned that one of the (few) crappy things about OS X not related to network externalities is that there’s no dual-pane file manager. When I first got a Mac this really bothered me, but as I mentioned, I’ve mostly gotten used to just keeping tons of Finder windows open.

Anyway, while a dual-pane file manager doesn’t come standard, there are a few third-party options. Two options I think are especially worth checking out are the minimalist TotalFinder (free while in development, $15 when version 1.0 comes out). In contrast is the mega-featured PathFinder 5 ($40, on sale for $25 to educational users until September 7).

(Forklift is very similar to Pathfinder and also very good. The current version isn’t quite as well-featured as PathFinder, for instance there’s no command line or version control, but a) it has a slightly smaller memory footprint, b) at $30 it’s cheaper for a non-educational license, and c) the interface is less cluttered and looks more like the Finder).

PathFinder is a stand-alone program (as is Forklift) whereas TotalFinder is a mod of the standard Finder. This is something of a trade-off. On the one hand, PathFinder has a much bigger feature set, including such things as bookmarks, menu/submenu file navigation, command line, drop stack, etc. The only thing TotalFinder does is let you choose between a tabbed interface and a dual pane interface. Also because it mods the Finder, TotalFinder only works with Snow Leopard. On the plus side, being part of Finder means you don’t have both Finder and your OFM running, as is the case with PathFinder. This also implies that any services you’ve written for Finder will automatically work in TotalFinder whereas I found I had to recreate them in Automator for the benefit of PathFinder.

Parenthetically, a tip for using PathFinder is to add a link to the “Favorites” folder (~/Library/Favorites) to your “Places” in the Finder/PathFinder sidebar. The advantage of doing so is that this gives you access to the “favorites” from within open/save dialogs, which I find very convenient for navigating if I’m trying to reach something that I use a lot but nonetheless is not in “Recent Places.” Note that you can do so without any kind of special file manager software just by creating a “favorites” folder of your own and populating it with aliases.

Also of possible interest for orthodox file manager devotees is the cross-platform muCommander (free). Myself, I gave up on it for reasons that are common to cross-platform software: it’s written in an interpreted language so it launches slow and it doesn’t integrate with Spotlight, QuickLook, services, the Aqua toolkit, etc. I do appreciate it when the FOSS community compiles a Mac binary of cross-platform software and I use Lyx, NetLogo, and GIMP all the time, but a file manager is the kind of thing where I really prefer thick compatibility with the operating system.

August 31, 2010 at 4:48 am 1 comment


| Gabriel |

Traditional news organizations have a long-standing ethical code (but no legal restriction) against paying their sources. On the other hand, exclusives with sources can be valuable, especially when those sources can tell us about something cool like sex and/or murder involving celebrities (or at least attractive white girls aged 15-30) rather than some boring shit about Congress or whatshisface from that place where they don’t like us.

The Atlantic has a very interesting story about Larry Garrison, a freelance news producer whose job it is to square the circle between the value being offered and the refusal to pay. Mr. Garrison’s basic business model is to quickly identify people who have been thrust into the news, offer to (for lack of a better term) represent them, and then withhold their appearance from news outlets that refuse to take Garrison on as a segment producer. Mr. Garrison mostly gets paid for being a segment producer and his sources either get kickbacks for these producing fees or more often he gets them book deals and/or arranges for them to license various artifacts and footage to the news outlet (the rule against paying sources for testimony allows a loophole for buying photographs, etc, from them and in practice there’s a lot of implicit bundling).

This whole set of business arrangements is similar to payola in two respects, one of which is articulated in Coase and the other described in Dannen.

First, the Coase point is that while payola is often conceived of as a bribe to corrupt the broadcaster it can just as easily be conceived of as a payment for a valuable input and hence a payola prohibition is a monopsonistic cartel: the purchasers of an input conspire to fix a low price. Specifically, record labels refuse to pay anything for publicity and news organizations refuse to pay for sources. This cartel can be informal (as it is with news and as it was with music trade group agreements in 1917 and 1986) or formal (as with the payola law of 1960). Either way, it’s vulnerable to cheating.

Second, the point illustrated in Dannen is that when cheating occurs, the requirements of plausible deniability and/or etiquette will promote the emergence of brokers who can extract rents for their trouble. In the case of news that would be Mr. Garrison and in the case of pop music in the late 1970s and early 1980s that would be a cartel of sketchy radio consultants affiliated with the mafia.

August 27, 2010 at 11:56 am

Heads or Tails of your dta

| Gabriel |

A lot of languages (e.g., Bash and R) offer the commands/functions “head” and “tail.” These show you the first or last 5 or 10 things in a file or object. “Head” is similar to typing “list in 1/10” in Stata and you’d do so for similar reasons. Because I’m getting used to the Unix version, I wrote an ado file that lets “head” and “tail” work in Stata. Note that these Stata programs only work on the master dataset and can’t also be applied to using datasets or output like they can in Unix.

Update: see the comments for some suggestions on how to work in error messages and the like.

capture program drop head
program define head
	if [_N]<10 {
		local ten = [_N]
	else {
		local ten 10
	syntax [varlist(default=none)]
	list `varlist' in 1/`ten'

capture program drop tail
program define tail
	syntax [varlist(default=none)]
	local theend = [_N]
	local theend_min10 = [_N]-10
	if `theend_min10'<1 {
		local theend_min10 1
	list `varlist' in `theend_min10'/`theend'

*have a nice day

August 25, 2010 at 4:44 am 5 comments


| Gabriel |

The Daily Caller has a very interesting story on political blogs having suspicious relationships with political candidates and committees. For the most part these relationships involve buying ad space or hiring bloggers to do consulting. It’s entirely natural that candidates would buy ad space on these blogs but it gets suspicious when they are doing it at ten times the market rate cpm. Likewise, if you’re a campaign committee interested in doing blogger outreach, who better to hire to write the report than a blogger but this is the kind of thing the blogger really should disclose.

I found this interesting in part because I work on pop music payola and there are parallels, deeper even than the obvious. First, take this as evidence for Coase’s take on payola that when something is valuable a market for it will emerge. Second, in radio payola hits every fourteen years, like a cicada, but every time the details are different (this will be described at length in the payola chapter of my book, Climbing the Chart, look for it in fine bookstores everywhere sometime in 2013). The practice of overpaying for legitimate services is very similar to how payola was practiced in the 1950s, when it was common for record labels to hire disk jockeys to moonlight as consultants, party hosts, etc. or to buy services from companies owned by the disk jockeys.

Finally, if the Whitman campaign is reading this they should know that I’m a Princeton alum (*05) and a California opinion leader with literally dozens of readers. I don’t currently carry ads but I’d consider it for $500 per page view. I’m also a social scientist with invaluable expertise who could do some GSS cross-tabs for a mere $50,000. I’m just saying.

August 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm 3 comments

Zotero Hint: Empty the trash

| Gabriel |

I use Zotero to scrape/manage my citations and then I export them to Bibtex for use with Lyx/LaTex. I noticed some phantom citations in the Bibtex file (and by extension, in Lyx) that didn’t appear in Zotero. For instance, I had two versions of the Espeland and Sauder AJS 07 cite, one of which misspelled “Sauder” as “Saunder,” but only the correct spelling appeared in Zotero. After puzzling over this for a bit, I realized that Zotero has a “trash” folder within “My Library” and for some reason it was including the contents of the trash when I exported to Bibtex. Empty the trash and problem solved.

August 24, 2010 at 4:01 am

Life Without Walls

| Gabriel |

So Microsoft now has a page on why you should choose Windows over Mac. What’s interesting to me as an econ soc guy is that most of the things on the list, and certainly most of the things on the list that are actually compelling, rely in one way or another on network externalities, which implies that the advantages of Windows are mostly an issue of path dependence.

  • More familiar interface if you’re already used to Windows — network externality
  • Easier to share documents — network externality
  • Availability of games — mostly a network externality issue, partly that some developers prefer DirectX over OpenGL

Of course they don’t mention that the main disadvantage of Windows is also in large part a network externality issue.

Although the “PC vs Mac” page mostly just finds different ways to say “because they’re popular,” it also lists a few issues that might be interesting even to Robinson Crusoe. Some of these other issues are good points (e.g., Apple’s insistence on bizarre video ports that require you to use dongles and which aren’t even standard within Apples own product line) and others are just stupid or misleading (e.g., that Mac’s don’t have touch).

To avoid giving the impression that I’ve fallen into the reality distortion field, let me provide my own list of advantages of non-network-externality reasons that I see as advantages of PCs over Macs:

  • Price
  • Two button mice
  • A file manager that allows a traditional multi-pane interface
  • The availability of tray-loading optical drives that actually work reliably, rather than exclusive use of slot-loading optical drives that often refuse to accept discs, or having accepted them, require you to turn the machine on its side to get it to eject.

August 17, 2010 at 5:00 am 7 comments

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