Monday, June 29, 2015


Icons matter.

Images... A picture is worth a thousand words.

Here is mine:

We all need to pay attention.

Functional Decomposition

Mind mapping and functional decomposition:

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) for folks with a short attention span:

ITOT Freemind comes with a host of conversion routines:

          mm2xxx.xsl where xxx is your favorite form

In particular,


does exactly what we want done: a tab delineated .xls file with all the tiers at their proper indentation.

Why should you care?
     Because this is a tool that can help you sort out all the noises in your mind that cause your eyes to open suddenly at 02:00 in the middle of the night.

     If you can get it out of your mind and onto paper (virtual or real) then you can sleep more soundly and comfortably.

Everybody wins.


Functional Decomposition is the process of taking a complex process and breaking it down into its smaller, simpler parts.

It's a bit more complicated than that of course:

But the basic idea is to take a certain number of key elements (referred to as Tier 0) and successively examine them to find their subordinate constituent parts going down layer-by-layer (or tier-by-tier, as is used in the lexicon).

This takes some head work, as you must ensure that the sub elements you identify are indeed orthogonal, that is, unique and separate from the other elements at each tier. In statistics we refer to such a quality as IID - Independent and identically distributed random variables.

But basically, they are their own thing at any particular tier level.

After doing this analysis at a particular tier, you then decompose that tier into its constituent parts.

And so on and so forth.

The good news is that this gives you a comprehensive view of all the elements of a problem at all of their respective tiers.

The bad news is that it is extremely tedious in coming up with the appropriate indices and even more so renumbering them all if your orthogonality analysis indicates that an element must be moved or removed, or another inserted.

I created a series of Microsoft Excel VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) macros in the late 1980s to create an automatically indexed functional decomposition based on the number of columns a particular value was indented:

That served me well for a decade or so of prioritizing and organizing concepts.

But then I moved to Linux in 2002.

Initially there were no such applications, and then in OpenOffice, and subsequently LibreOffice, they manifested themselves in an extremely arcane object model without any of the tools that VBA has to examine properties, methods, and the rest. And the documentation was hideous or non-existent.

So I just left it alone, using my Windows version in a VirtualBox VM (Virtual Machine) when I really needed it.

But the worm turned, things got better, and I got to a point where it was worth the effort to track this down under Linux.

So I did, and I have.

What really broke the ice was finding

which offers a comprehensive (functional decomposition) of all the uno (Universal Network Object) properties, which drive the macros.

The sheet above is now rendered with the click of a button to this:

that you can expand to higher tiers by clicking either the numbers in the upper left hand corner or the + boxes in the left panel.

Clicking 2 gives this Tier 1 expansion:

Clicking 3 gives this Tier 2 expansion:


Now, along comes FreeMind:

that lets you build mind maps:
It has an export facility that gives a number of options.

The most obvious is a HTML rendition:
But this is rife with a host of nested Unordered List HTML tags (ul, li, etc). that are ignored on import to a text editor or a spreadsheet.

'Way too hard.

OTOH. There are other options under FreeMind:

Save as XHTML does indeed give you a clickable functional decomposition, without the index numbers.

Save as XHTML Java version also gives you a clickable functional decomposition, without the index numbers.

But now, working harder, and finding even better:

ITOT Freemind comes with a host of conversion routines:

         where xxx is your favorite form (xls, html, text, whatever)

In particular,


does exactly what we want done: a tab delineated .xls file with all the tiers at their proper indentation.

Microsoft Excel
To export to Microsoft Excel:
1. Use the menu item File > Export > Using XSLT...
2. Open the XSL file "mm2xls_utf8.xsl" (in /FreeMind/accessories)
3. Name the export file something.xls
4. Open the generated file by double-clicking it

Life is good.

But it takes paying attention and doing your homework. Nothing in life is free and you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The worm has turned

I have some awesome BASH (but you can do the same with AutoKey) macros that load my machine on reboot in the morning:
They start a bunch of apps and fill Linux Chromium with a zillion tabs while I brush my teeth and set up the coffee: London Times, BBC, Google News, NOAA Weather, The Weather Channel, UK weather, Newport Patch, NewportThisWeek, The Met Office, The Shipping Forecast, Schneier Online, an a host of others.
The only thing I pay for (besides the Internet bandwidth and my time) is the London Times at about a dollar a day, depending on the exchange rate.
The Newport Daily News costs the same. Which would you prefer?
As for City-centric, Patch gives the Police report, NTW gives substance, including current and relevant editorials, events, and announcements. What more do we need?
Yes, we all need to earn a living. But the new cogniscenti have figured it out: Take a look at SEO rating scales: What matters is Substance. Certainly accompanied by advertising, but not the other way around, which is Madison Avenue shoving eye candy and advertising down your throat accompanied by pablum.
Who needs MSM with their kitty litter container content???
We don't need the MSM to tell us how to think. They need us to listen to whatever substantive content they can come up with and give US a voice.
Or we'll go a zillion other places, including setting up our own fora, such as and
The worm has turned. Thanks be to God. And to the First Amendment to the Constitution, and to the Internet.
So write a script to load each of these and others in separate tabs, start it, go make coffee, prep breakfast, and take your pills, and when you're done with that you have all the world news at your fingertips, without commercials.
And the workspace is ready to go. No clickety clickety of starting stuff manually.
And with the likes of WordPress, set up your own soapbox at Hyde's Corner.
And tell the MSM to pound sand.

What's not to like?

Monday, June 8, 2015

How to import quizzes into's Canvas

Importing a quiz into Canvas is easy when you know how.

Quizzes come from many sources. Today we shall address those derived from Elsevier's Evolve ExamView Test Generator ( — ETG for short.

You must have a subscription, username, and password.

With these in hand:


• Open ETG

What do you want to do? → Create a new test from scratch.

• Click Select while viewing from the toolbar. A dialog appears listing all the chapters.

• Click Select All and all the chapters move to the lower window. Click Next and a page appears with all the questions.

• Work through the pages, clicking only the box to the left of the question you want. If you click higer echelons you'll load ALL the questions. When done, click Finish. You will see pages with only the questions you have selected.


File → Export This will show a host of choices. It turns out that the Blackboard 7+ version is best for at least one institution's version of Canvas. YMMV. Make your choice (BB7 recommended), select the target directory, name the file, accept the defaults and give answers to the questions (e.g., "Directory name: Sample" and click OK to export it.


• Go to the course and open it.

• Settings → Import Content into this Course You may have to scroll right to see the latter as it is in a right sidebar. Click it.

• Import Content → Content Type → Select One Now you see this array of choices. If you have taken my advice above and exported as Blackboard 7+ then select Blackboard 6/7/8/9. Otherwise, knock yourself out experimenting.

• Choose the file to upload.

• Choose among all the other choices. YMMV. Click Import.

• Go to Quizzes in the Navigation panel. You will see the quiz there. Edit as required.

For example:

To change the points:

Quizzes → Sample → Edit → Questions → Question → Edit → pts

(Phew... :-(

But easy if you know how.