Things I use

Inspired by usethis.



This is my work computer, short for "hand-me-down #34." Lab culture is a lot like post-apocalyptic culture, and the summer before I started, my future coworkers sacked another lab.


My trusty thinkpad laptop.

In high school, I built a home network out of things I found in the garbage. For some reason, I thought it would be cool to name all my computers after underwater things: coralreef, seaturtle, cucumber, warturtle, trout, and kingler.

I ran out of fish names, so I found "warmouth" on wikipedia.


While trying to find a non-craigslist typewriter for my author friend, I discovered that China sells all sorts of wonderful things. In addition to a high-end guitar, I got this tiny chinese computer.

It's nice to have a file server that draws less power than a lightbulb.


This is one of the university's standard-issue Big Computers.

BIG16:swirepe > cat /proc/cpuinfo
This computer is better than yours.


It took me almost a full year to find a source of unruled notebooks. I finally lucked out on eBay, and bought a closet full of them. I go through about 2 per class and 1 per research topic, so I should have just enough of them for a PhD.

I also treated myself to a Pentel P207 mechanical pencil from an art store. It's not the fanciest one but, on most days, it costs more than the shirt I'm wearing. Such is grad school.

One afternoon, my little sister and I made whiteboards out of Home Depot shower supplies. It ended up costing about $25 for $300 worth of whiteboards. Go down to the hardware store and look for "tile board" that dry-erase marker comes off of easily. Bring a cleaner with you, so you aren't a vandal.



I keep my notes and code in at 10gb Dropbox account. Dropbox is great because you can run it in the background on the big university machine, and pleasant little notifications show up whenever your experiments dump a file to disk.

For papers, I have a separate SpiderOak account. You get 5gb for free, and it's nice to be able to have 5gb of papers without taking away 5gb of space for code. I have Mendeley and Zotero - two research organizers - both pointed at that synchronized SpiderOak folder.

For note snippets, I use TiddlyWiki. It's basically a quick reference manual for me now. When I want to remember the formula for something or the name of a particular tool, I use this. I've tried using Evernote to fill this role, but I just end up using it as a bookmark system that I never go back through.

I discovered halfway through my first year that TiddlyWiki isn't so good for taking notes on whole papers. For those, I take notes by hand, and then copy the important parts down using a plaintext file and markdown. If there was a Frescobaldi equivalent for LaTeX, I would use that instead. Markdown works well enough for me now, so I'm sticking with that.

For everything else, I use Google docs.

Data Mining & Machine Learning

I do a lot of my model prototyping in Python with Numpy and IPython. If I need a speedup, I'll generally move to Java with Eclipse. I know how to use Weka, but I'm finding that as my research becomes more specific, I have less use for it. There was one project I needed C's speed for, but it wasn't comfortable.

Before I had a Matlab license, I used a lot of R with the incredible IDE RStudio. I prefer Bayesian networks for their interpretability and causal implications, so I spend a lot of time with bnlearn and the Bayes Net Toolbox.

I never found the time to get fluent in vim or emacs, so I use jedit, sublime text 2, and eclipse.

Never underestimate Excel.


I keep a Tor relay node running all the time and keep the password off my wireless router. I am some kind of philanthropist.

I use autohotkey for custom keyboard shortcuts and bugn as a tiling window manager. There are also a bunch of small utilities that make Windows life easier: most notably mingw, process.exe, and watch.

My linux setup is a lot like my windows one, except instead of a bunch of batch files I use Gnome-Do. This is my Conky theme, and I cycle through my backgrounds with Wallch.

F.lux keeps my eyes inside my head.