Wednesday, June 4, 2014

LaTex & Thesis: FOUR good reasons.

During my degree in 2002, most of my assignments and the final year project report is done in Microsoft Word 97, a WYSIWYG type word processor. For a person first time using a computer (for official reason, other than Daytona USA, minesweeper and the dial-up type internet surfing :)), this what-you-see-is-what-you-get word processor is actually impressive for me on the things it can do, BUT I notice something, some patterns,
  • chances of my computer getting crashed is directly proportional to the importance of the document, for example -  the chances of my computer getting crashed when I'm writing my report for the final year project is HIGHER compared to when I'm a writing a letter to ask permission for motorcycle sticker.
  • chances of my computer getting crashed is inversely proportional to the time left for my deadline, for example - the chances of my computer getting crashed when I'm writing my report for the final year project when the deadline is tomorrow is HIGHER than the deadline 1 week ago.
Well this theory is not proven, this is my 'syok sendiri teori'. I noticed one thing in common in the patterns above is the size of the documents. My computer actually crashed (this is in 2002, currently in 2014 - it does not crash but it will run in slow motion :)) because it cannot handle the size of my file getting into. A computer crash commonly occurs when a hardware exception occurs that cannot be handled.

This waste my effort and time.

FOUR good reason I found to start using LaTex for my thesis.

ONE. Scalability - As I mentioned earlier - the size of your document. Word (or even Open Office) can get slower when editing large documents with equations and figures. In LaTex, I break my thesis into smaller chunks (like one chapter per file) and then let LaTex combine them altogether. This also lead to more organizable and manageable documents.

An interesting graph from Marko Pinteric showing the relation between document size and effort / time required.

TWO. Support - Excellent support from the web community, one such example is the Malaysian LaTex User Group blog. I can 'google' any matter related to LaTex and come up with a solution.

Also local university thesis template is available in LaTex, thanks to good people that created and shared it for free. You can get it from here Malaysian University Thesis LaTex Template.

THREE. Interoperability - LaTex is OS independent. An actual LaTex file is merely a text file, which is just about the most portable format in computing. So I found no problem writing my Chapter 1 in a Fedora system and then shared it with my supervisor in a Windows system.

FOUR. Quality - This is my personal belief and maybe few others, I feel that documents produced using LaTex looks better and more professional compared to Word, especially if it involved mathematical equations and algorithms. I will let you to try and decide upon by yourself.

You should NOT use LaTex if,
  1. You don't have time to learn it. - You' re reaching a deadline, you better stick with what you know first.
  2. Your document is already written - You had written your thesis in Word and need to submit in two days. Well my friend, I found no good reason to convert to LaTex and submit it.
Excellent write-up from external links.
Just google 'advantage and disadvantage of LaTex', you can find so many sources available out there.
  • and many more ...
As a conclusion, there is no winner whether its LaTex or Word (or other type of WYSIWYG editor). 

If you need to write a short letter, you are best writing in Word. For simple documents, you can save time by writing in Word or Open Office.

If you are writing a long document like a Master or PhD thesis, I think it is better with LaTex. It will be slower at the beginning (the extra time required to learn LaTex), but at the end it will save a lot of your time and effort. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Blackboard, DarkConsole and Moreblue Beamer Themes

These Beamer themes have been around quite a while, but I've just discovered them from some Japanese github sites.

The Blackboard theme may be useful for short talks with a little bit of fun:


I’ve a feeling that this DarkConsole theme would be popular with some developers.


And the Moreblue theme has a nice, airy feel about it:


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ampang beamer theme mentioned in an article.

Turns out my hacked beamer theme was mentioned in an article here.
Since I do not understand Chinese language, I just understand what it said via Google translator.

Monday, March 31, 2014 has been a great gallery and resource of TikZ examples, curated by Stefan Kottwitz. Graph plots were included on, but as the pgfplots packages became more flexible and feature-rich, Stefan has decided to dedicate a separate gallery to it — and thus was born!

The graph plot examples are already looking delicious, so head on over and take a look. Do share your own examples as well!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Authoring Examination Papers using LaTeX (and a GUI front-end for non-coders)

Part of my current job involves preparing examination papers, which is supposed to follow certain formatting guidelines. During my first time doing it, I used the sample Word document file everyone else is using. Suffice to say that once was enough. ( ̄▽ ̄)

So I wrote my own LaTeX document class based on exam.cls for authoring our examination papers. I held a basic LaTeX workshop for my colleagues, and one of them was game enough to dive right into it and started using my document class for setting her exam papers too (and loved it).

Other colleagues enquired about the possibility of having a GUI front-end, so that they wouldn’t have to deal with the code at all. The idea was turned into an undergraduate final year project. My student built a examination paper preparation system which saves the questions as XML, transforms them using XSLT into a LaTeX file, an then generates PDF file by invoking pdflatex on it. You can read more about the project in this paper.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Light Colour Theme for Beamer Poster

(Yes it’s been a while. I’ve started working and adapting to the new pace!)

So quite a (long) while ago, I posted my sample beamer poster, while preparing for a conference poster. Now I’ve got another poster to present, and the previous colour schemes just did not go well with the logos. Hence I started tinkering around with the colours, and finally settled on this light, subtle palette:

Color by COLOURlovers.

The sample poster looks like these (shown together with the existing two other colour themes):

And here’s a thumbnail of the actual poster:

Source code of the sample files (including Beamer themes and colours) can be downloaded here.