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Conference posters using LaTeX

October 1st, 2007

I produce my conference posters using LaTeX. Here are a few notes on how to do it.

This is in the preamble of my document (let’s say poster.tex), for a landscape formatted poster on A0 paper:


% \usepackage{amsmath}
% \usepackage{amssymb}

I don’t remember what the commented-out packages would do. In the directory that contains my poster.tex, I have the corresponding files sciposter.cls and sfmath.sty. I’m sure you could also put them in your regular texmf-tree (more info on texmf tree). In the same directory (as poster.tex) I also have a0size.sty.

If you have no figures in your poster, just do:

pdflatex poster.tex

I usually have figures, and I like them to be eps format, since that means they scale nicely. In that case, you need to run latex first, since pdflatex can’t handle eps files. However, you then need to pass some options to dvips. For a poster in landscape format, run:

latex poster.tex
dvips -t a0 -t landscape poster.dvi 

For portrait formatted posters, just omit -t landscape.

To spare yourself lots of typing, you could make a very small shell script called “poster” containing:


latex $1.tex
dvips -t a0 -t landscape $1.dvi 
ps2pdf $

Put it in your ~/bin and chmod 700 ~/bin/poster

Then, to process file poster.tex, just say:

poster poster

Of course, R outputs nice .eps figures, and for diagrams under Linux, I use dia, which lets you export to many formats, including eps (maybe read this post about dia fonts in eps files.

R: Delicious statistical-computing recipes at

September 28th, 2007

Just on the R mailing list, more good news for users and wannabe-users of R: is a new community site that offers handy R recipes. Once you register, you can post your own recipes and create a collection of your personal favorites. Looks like someone put Drupal to good use. My only quip so far is that I think they should lose the comma between “delicious” and “statistical-computing”.

R screencast tutorial

September 28th, 2007

Dan Goldstein has a nice R video (screencast) tutorial on Decision Science News. The topics covered in this first tutorial are the very basics. I think it’s a great idea, and I think it’s very nicely done to start explicitly step-by-step with how to download and install it in Windows, how to run it, and how to execute commands that you have collected in a “script” file (command file). Doing a screencast is a good choice, too, because it makes all the steps clearly visible, especially the GUI interaction, where details important to the newbie user often get left out when an expert user types up what he or she is doing. (For example, users might not be familiar with choosing a mirror, or might not know that “r-base” is what they want to download).

GnuClient: faster access to XEmacs

September 7th, 2007

XEmacs is a great text editor, but it takes some time to start up. I use GnuClient to get around this problem. GnuClient opens a window that looks like a new XEmacs window, but is in fact part of a running XEmacs process. It ships with XEmacs, but you need to tell XEmacs via the init.el file that it should start with a gnuserv process:
(load "gnuserv")

Then, to start it, just type:


I’ve added some more stuff in my ~/.xemacs/init.el to configure the behavior of GnuClient:

; gnuclient lets you open files in a running xemacs process, but only
; if the existing process is associated with a gnuserv server. So
; start it:
(load "gnuserv")

; set some gnuserv options
; gnuserv-frame nil means open a new frame for every gnuclient
; gnuserv-frame t means open gnuclient in exisiting frame
(setq gnuserv-frame nil)
; don't ask for confirm when killing gnuclient buffers:
(setq gnuserv-kill-quietly t)

;;; Instead of closing XEmacs, just close a frame.  Or if the frame
;;; was opened by gnuserv, use gnuserv to close it.
(defun exit-from-screen-or-xemacs ()
  "Close the screen and if we're on the last screen, close XEmacs"
  (cond ((and (featurep 'gnuserv) (gnuserv-buffer-p (current-buffer)))
        ((= (length (frame-list)) 1)

; then, we bind it to C-x C-c: 
(global-set-key "\C-x\C-c" 'exit-from-screen-or-xemacs)

Another alternative for quick file editing if you’re used to XEmacs key bindings is JED.

Installing and updating R with aptitude

September 4th, 2007

If you like, choose your favourite R mirror from the CRAN mirror list and substitute it for the below. The following is for Ubuntu Dapper. If you are using a different distro, replace “dapper” with the correct codename for that distro before you add it to sources.list.

sudo -s 
echo "deb  dapper/" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
gpg --keyserver --recv-key E2A11821
gpg -a --export E2A11821 | sudo apt-key add -
sudo aptitude update

Then, if you don’t have R yet:

sudo aptitude install r-base

If you have it, you may be able to get the latest update with

sudo aptitude upgrade

or, r-base may show up along with other R stuff under “The following packages have been kept back”. In that case:

sudo aptitude dist-upgrade

Read up on the difference between upgrade and dist-upgrade