Simple R package for UN Comtrade API

uncomtrade-logo.pngI have recently been doing a lot of work in R, a statistical programming language, and have started accumulating a small collection of functions that I regularly use. One of the tools I have particularly come to rely on is this function to obtain data from the United Nation’s Comtrade database, a great source for country-to-country trade statistics. Since there seemed to be no R package that provides access to their new API (which is still in beta), I simply wrote a function for myself based on the sample code on their homepage and kept it with my personal files. Motivated by posts like this, however, I decided to put the code into an R package and share it here for others to use. [...]

Finding local extrema in Matlab and Octave via fminbnd()

octave_logo-small.pngI recently had to work on a Matlab assignment that required the use of fminbnd() to find local extrema. As I typically work on Octave rather than Matlab I ran into some problems getting my code to work within both programmes. As it turned out, Matlab and Octave handle the function slightly differently, so I thought I’d share my findings to save others some headache. First of all, some background information: fminbnd() is a Matlab/Octave function to find a local minimum of a continuous function within a specified interval … [...]

Open XMPP Alternatives to Google Talk

xmpp.pngAfter Google’s much-publicised decision to replace Google Talk with Hangouts and drop XMPP support in the process, many people have been looking for alternative XMPP servers that allow connecting through standards-based clients and support federation with other servers. I figured this would be a good time to list a few servers I have used and recommend. Naturally, this is only a small subset of all publicly available XMPP servers. Which is best for you pretty much depends on what you want and what you need … [...]

How to make Pidgin Unicode compatible

pidgin.gifAbout a year ago I was looking for an alternative to the original QQ software, the biggest chat network in China. One programme I stumbled upon was LumaQQ. Recently, however, when Gaim was renamed to Pidgin, its developers re-introduced a working QQ plugin to their free and popular multi-protocol instant messenger. Pidgin is not the most friendly programme in terms of usability, though, and frequently causes problems for users who need to exchange messages in languages that don’t use Latin characters. I therefore decided to give a few hints on how to make Pidgin more equipped for this type of task.

Pidgin has been around at least as long as Trillian, another popular multi-protocol instant messenger. Trillian has not seen a new release since 2004, however, is becoming increasingly bloated and monetized. From the first “Pro” version onwards, the free version of Trillian retained only a few basic features and its users were excluded from the ability to extend their application by plugins. Both versions kept becoming more resource demanding, although the core functionality remained more or less unchanged. The reason many people use it anyhow is because the original ICQ, MSN and AOL clients are no better. ICQ is bloated, MSN suffers from limited configurability and most importantly: each programme’s interface is cluttered with advertising and other nonsense. Pidgin closes this gap by providing a simple, modular cross-platform chat application. In terms of usability it still needs to catch up, however. We will tackle the most common problems here… [...]