Drag and Drop Into an Org Buffer

John Kitchin has a very nice post in which he presents at bit of Elisp that enables us to drag and drop images into an Org buffer. The code is short and easy to understand. I just cut it out of his post, pasted it into my init.el, and evaluated it. After that I could drag and drop just as in his video demonstration. The only problem I had was with the 【Ctrl】 drag and drop. When dragging from the Finder, 【Ctrl】 clicking on an item brings up a menu. What you have to do is drag it over to the Org buffer and then press control before you release the mouse button.

Kitchin's code was developed on a Mac and according to the comments has some problems with Linux machines. If you experience any trouble, you might want to try abo-abo's drag and drop solution. If you're interested, check out his demonstration video.

I really liked that when he first demonstrated it but, as I recall, there was some indication that it wouldn't work on a Mac so I never tried it. After reading Kitchin's post, I downloaded and tried abo-abo's org-download to see how it compared to Kitchin's solution.

I had a couple of glitches but to be fair I didn't do more than a cursory trial. I could have probably resolved my problems with a bit of code reading. On the other hand, abo-abo's solution allows you to grab images from Web pages while Kitchin's code works only with images in the file system. Between the two solutions, you should find one that works for you and meets your needs.

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Will We Never Learn?

It's 2015 and this is still happening:

Matt BLaze suggests the reason for the above:

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Embedding Youtube Videos in Org Files

Artur Malabarba has a nice post on embedding Youtube videos in Org files. I do that occasionally for blog posts by using the HTML embedding code that Youtube supplies with each video. It turns out, though, that you can do it directly from Emacs by defining a new Org link type.

This has the advantage that you can follow the link directly from the Org file or even export it to, say, PDF via LaTeX. It's really easy to set up and once you do it would be easy to completely automate the link insertion the way I do for normal Web pages.

Malabarba has a separate post on how to add Org links that you might also find useful. If you frequently embed Youtube links in your blog posts and you blog from Emacs with Org mode, you should definitely take a look at Malabarba's posts. They're sure to pay dividends.

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New Hydra Feature

Abo-abo's hydra keeps getting better and better.

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Backdoors and Magic

Over at TechCrunch, Jon Evans has a brilliant article entitled Technology Is Magic, Just Ask The Washington Post. In it, he lays waste to the Washington Post's call for Apple, Google, and others to implement back doors that only law enforcement can access. It doesn't matter, it appears, how often experts that actually, you know, understand the technology and issues involved tell them this isn't possible. The experts' opinions are dismissed as, “The tech sector does not seem so inclined.” As Evans points out, these people are technologically illiterate and their opinions on technical matters have no weight. Indeed, he says they shouldn't be expressed at all.

Other than the sheer enjoyment of watching Evans eviscerate the uninformed rantings of pompous fools who have no idea what they're talking about, the average Irreal reader won't find anything new in the article but Evans makes a point that we don't hear often enough: the ship has already sailed on encryption. Even if we give law enforcement the back doors they're asking for, bad guys will continue to use strong encryption without back doors. The software is out there as open source, it's easy to get, compile (if that's even necessary), and use. While the rest of us are getting our bank accounts hacked, any random crook or terrorist will be able to happily send encrypted messages that law enforcement still can't read.

This is an obvious fact and the FBI—which does, after all, employ intelligent people—surely knows it. One wonders, then, what the point is. If you have the nasty, suspicious mindset favored by the Irreal Cabal, you might conclude that the point is to be able to sift through the data of wholly innocent people looking for evidence of wrong doing. Enervated as it is, we still have the Fourth Amendment and I say, “No thanks” to the FBI.

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Project Planning with Org Mode

Charles Cave has a useful tutorial on how he uses Org mode to implement David Allen's Natural Planning Model. Org mode is a natural way of performing the model's five steps and Cave walks us through how that can be done.

You don't have to be a Getting Things Done believer to make use of Cave's ideas. Mostly it's about using Org templates and tags to capture the information about a project and then track it's progress. If you like Org mode and are interested into integrating it further into your workflow, be sure to give Cave's tutorial a look. There are a lot of good ideas in it.

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Inputting TeX Characters

Ben Maughan has an excellent tip on entering non-standard characters in an Emacs buffer. Mickey had the same tip but it was hidden in a longer article.

The idea is that you switch into TeX input mode and then use the TeX code for the character. For example, if I want a lower case zeta, I merely switch into TeX input mode, type \zeta and I get ζ. If you use TeX or LaTeX a lot and are used to its diacritical support, this is a really useful way of entering characters such as Å. It's much easier than typing 【Ctrl+x 8 Return】 and then remembering the name of the character.

The meat of the tip is that you can toggle the TeX input mode simply by typing【Ctrl+\】. You don't have to toggle it for each special character because it looks for the \ to trigger the translation.

The mechanism is more general than just entering TeX. There are several input modes and you can specify the one you want to use by adding a prefix. Since the only input method that makes sense for me is the TeX method, I set it as the default method with

(setq default-input-method 'TeX)

Someone who uses an alternate character set (one of the Chinese sets, say) may want to make that the default method and explicitly specify the TeX input method when they need it.

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Org Mode: The Gateway Drug

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Secure Chatting

Over at The Intercept, Micah Lee has an outstanding article on secure chatting. If you need to set up secure chatting with someone or if you simply want all your chats to be free from snooping by the usual Nosy Parkers, this article will tell you how to do it.

You'll need to install Tor, a secure chat application (which one varies with your OS), and then do a bit of set up. After that, you just select someone to chat with and your conversation and the associated metadata are secure. Lee uses the metaphor of Romeo and Juliet wanting to chat so that their families can't listen in and, perhaps more important, don't know the chats are taking place.

There are step-by-step instructions for setting up a secure chat solution for Windows, Linux, and OS X. It also explains how to use the Android SecureChat application to set it up on an Android phone. The article says that SecureChat can not yet do Tor securely on iOS but from what I can tell from their site, that inadequacy has been remedied so that secure chat on mobile is also a possibility1.

Everyone with the slightest bit of paranoia should read this article. It's got a lot of good advice and even if you don't need or want it today, you may need it tomorrow. Read it and bookmark it for the time you do need it.



There's no indication in the article that a Windows Phone solution is available and, of course, I have no direct experience so Windows Phone users may (or may not) be out of luck. If you're still on BlackBerry, you have bigger problems than using Tor on your phone.

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The History of Crypto Backdoors

Matthew Green has a nice post recounting the history of government mandated backdoors. If you're too young to remember the first round of the Crypto Wars from the 1990s, you'll find Green's history fascinating. Back then it was about the NSA designed Clipper chip that would allow secure communications while at the same time ensuring government access to those communications when needed.

As Green points out, the system was extremely fragile and Matt Blaze wrote a famous paper showing how the system could be defeated. For that and various other reasons the Clipper chip was abandoned and the government gave up on mandating backdoors.

More recently, we've had the FREAK and LogJam exploits both of which were enabled by the government's now abandoned crypto export regulations. The point of these episodes is that trying to insert backdoors into crypto systems always has unintended consequences and introduces weaknesses.

Nonetheless, the government is back for another round and insisting loudly that the fate of the nation depends on their being able to read all our communications. The best way to read Green's history is as a cautionary tale of what's apt to happen if they succeed. If you have any interest in this area, be sure to read the post.

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