Do Developers (and Data Analysts) Need a Second Monitor?

On Datamation yesterday, Eric Spiegel asked, “Do Developers Really Need A Second Monitor?” The discussion rages on at Slashdot.

There is no such thing as too much desktop, as far as I’m concerned. In my experience, all software developers can increase their productivity with a second (and even a third) monitor. Data analysts and scientists can also increase their productivity with a second monitor.

At work, I leave my 1920 x 1200 laptop screen open to serve as a second monitor, and for work at home I bought a second 1680 x 1050 monitor a few years ago. What windows do I place on my main monitor? My IDE’s window and the web page I’m currently working on. What windows do I place on my secondary monitor? My email program, my journal document where I track what I’m working on, and my primary Cygwin console window from which I launch additional mintty windows. I often also need to make space for a spreadsheet window and a bioinformatics tool window. If I had a third monitor, I know where those extra windows would end up!


Posted in Computing, Working | Comments Off on Do Developers (and Data Analysts) Need a Second Monitor?

Comment Spam (Part 3)

I have posted twice already (here and here) about my experiences with comment spam. As I have related, management of comment spam was spinning out of control until I activated the Akismet plugin for WordPress.

On my second post, I speculated that the volume of comment spam was beginning to decrease. So far, that is true. In March, Akismet filtered 700 spam comments; in April, 2045; but so far in May, only 325 (which rate, when extrapolated, predicts 671 by the end of the month). Lately most of my comment spam is arriving from Polish sites (.pl top level domain), and no one is saving much time anymore.

I hope this means that the spammers are growing discouraged and will leave my blog unmolested in the future.


Posted in WordPress | Comments Off on Comment Spam (Part 3)

How “Organic” Is Organic Food From China?

Last night Johanna Bäker made a wonderful salad, for which one of the ingredients was Cascadian Farm frozen organic edamame shelled soybeans. The package had these labels:

  • Cascadian Farm Organic
  • Photo of the Cascade Mountains
  • Founded in Skagit Valley, WA
  • USDA Organic
  • Distributed by Small Planet Foods, Inc., Sedro-Woolly, WA 98284 USA

and this text on the back:

When we founded Cascadian Farm in 1972, we knew that good food started with caring for our land. Today, you can still be sure our delicious organic foods are good for you, your family, and the world we share. Stop by and visit the home farm in Rockport, Washington!

But there’s one more label: Product of China.

I find the packaging misleading. These soybeans weren’t grown on “our land” in Skagit Valley, Washington. They were shipped from China, halfway around the world. The Cascadian Farm website extolls us to live greener, “helping to protect the planet for many generations to come.” Shipping food from China is not green.

It is doubtful how organic any food can be that comes from China, a country where adulteration of food seems to be the norm. For example, cheap pine nuts exported from China have been reported to leave a bitter, metallic aftertaste that lasts for up to two weeks. In 2007, pets in the United States died or became seriously ill after being fed pet food from China that had been adulterated with melamine or cyanuric acid by Chinese food manufacturers. In 2008, six babies died and hundreds of thousands of children in China were sickened by melamine-tainted milk.  The adulteration of milk with melamine continues to this day, leading to additional arrests in China last year and early this year.

Our ability to conduct meaningful inspections of “organic” food from China is doubtful. Less than a year ago, as reported by the New York Times and elsewhere, the USDA stopped using a private inspector of food from China because of a conflict of interest. In February of this year, the USDA announced “the circulation of a fraudulent National Organic Program (NOP) organic certificate produced by an uncertified operation” from China.

The lesson for me is to read food packages more carefully. In general, I simply do not buy food produced in China.


Posted in Food | 1 Comment

Perl 5.14 Released

Perl 5.14 was released on May 11. chromatic is celebrating with a “free ebook giveaway” of his book Modern Perl. (OK, that’s a joke because the book is already free.)

More seriously, however, chromatic in an earlier post rages against Linux vendors who are still including Perl 5.8.8 as the system Perl installation. This holds back the development of CPAN modules, which must maintain backwards compatibility with Perl 5.8.8 and thus cannot take advantage of new functionality that has appeared in Perl 5.10, 5.12, and now 5.14.

Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) is almost as bad; it comes with Perl 5.10.0, which was released in December, 2007. That means OS X is delivered with a Perl version that is now more than three years old.

[Updated 15-May-2011]

The release prompted a discussion on Slashdot, which, as always, brought out the trolls who claim that no one uses Perl anymore.


Posted in Computing, Perl | 1 Comment

StackExchange: English Language & Usage

For word mavens, StackExchange has added, “English Language & Usage, a collaboratively edited question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.”

This new site has already attracted many interesting questions and answers. The best question so far is: What follows in the sequence unary, binary, ternary?


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Advice for Job Hunters

wickline, who is leaving her or his current job, provides good advice today at about how to organize a job search.

I have one piece of advice (based on a recent experience while reading résumés) for Perl developers who are looking for a new job: Ask someone to read your résumé to make sure you have spelled Pearl Perl correctly. (Damn you, autocorrect!)

Posted in Computing, Perl, Working | Comments Off on Advice for Job Hunters

Data Science

David Smith writes today on the Revolutions blog about the new terms data science and data scientist. Smith provides good background on the recent appearance of these terms and admits that he finds these terms useful.

One link Smith provides is to a post from last fall by Drew Conway, who created a Data Science Venn Diagram that defines, for Conway, where data science falls in the intersection of “hackers, statisticians, [and] subject matter experts.”

When I grow up, I want to be a data scientist.


Posted in Science, Statistics | Comments Off on Data Science