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Mozilla's Thunderbird email client is a great piece of software with a great community behind it. I recently switched back to Thunderbird after the developer community fixed a long-standing bug that made working with East Asian languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) pretty much impossible (see their papercuts project). Also, since Thunderbird now supports maildir by default, it has become a lot faster and feels much more lightweight than many of the alternatives. One of the things that did not work well for me out of the box, though, is the small default font size in Thunderbird. This was a minor annoyance on regular “low-res” displays, but now that we have high-res “Retina” displays, I needed to find a way to adjust the defaults permanently to be able to read emails.px.gif

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If you like to listen to music on YouTube, you may have found yourself in a situation where you want to listen to songs in a specific order. This can be done using playlists, which normally require that you have a YouTube account. But YouTube also offers a neat little shortcut that allows you to quickly put together playlists only from video URLs. Here is how.px.gif

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If you frequently work with text documents created on Windows, you will most likely have come across Calibri and Cambria, the “new” default fonts on Microsoft Office since version 2007. Both fonts are TrueType typefaces, so if you have access to the original .ttf/.ttc files (e.g. from an Office license), using them on a Linux distribution is fairly straightforward. One issue that pops up often when using the original fonts, though, is bad rendering. Certain characters might appear stronger than others, which can be quite distracting. The reason is that Microsoft apparently decided to embed surprisingly bad bitmaps in their fonts. Fortunately, you can tell your system not to use embedded bitmaps. Here is how.px.gif

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A common approach to comparing financial systems across countries is by looking at the role banks play in providing the real economy with credit. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) has great data sets on measures of credit across many economies in the world that make it very easy to do such a comparison. Plotting the share of bank credit relative to total credit across time reveals some interesting patterns.px.gif

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Bond market returns are typically analysed as time series data (where changes in yield are tracked over time) or across maturities (where interest rates on different contract lengths are chained together to produce the yield curve for any given date). For the US government bond market, the St. Louis Fed's FRED database provides data for a whole range of US Treasury Bonds and US Treasury Bills, allowing you to do either of these exercises. Sometimes, however, it can be useful to get a sense of how the shape of the yield curve evolves over time in a 3D graph. Here is how to create one using plotly in R.px.gif

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Every now and then, I need to get a quick overview of international government bond markets to assess changes over time or compare countries. Usually, places like the Financial Times provide the necessary information, but when you need to dig a little deeper, manual work is required. In the past, I would simply get the data from whatever database was available to me (like the IMF's database), but starting over every time becomes cumbersome, so I decided to automate a few things in R.px.gif

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The AsianBondsOnline portal of the ASEAN+3 Asian Bond Markets Initiative (ABMI) provides a wealth of information on Asian bond markets, including market size, currency of denomination, pricing information, and liquidity statistics, among others. I need to get a quick overview of the market every few months, so I put together a little R script to do the job for me. The script gets the latest data on local currency bonds and foreign currency bonds from AsianBondsOnline, aggregates the data for government bonds and corporate bonds and outputs the result as static and interactive graphs.px.gif

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It was time to update to the latest Ubuntu LTS (Long Term Support) release again recently, and it turned out that setting up Fcitx wasn’t quite as simple this time around. Here is what I had to do to get it to work.px.gif

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I 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 one, however, I decided to put the code into an R package and share it here for others to use.px.gif

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If you have recently updated your Android device to the latest Android version 5 “Lollipop”, you may have noticed that the “Gallery” app has been replaced by Google's brand-new “Photos” app which depends on Google Plus. If you don't like the idea of linking your photos to Google's social network, or if you have disabled/uninstalled the Google Plus app altogether, there is a way to get back the familiar Gallery app without compiling it yourself: by pulling it from a CyanogenMod rom image. Here is how.px.gif

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