It's been a long time since I've had a post (I've been quite busy working on my PhD), but with the 25th Anniversary of the ThinkPad having recently passed, I want to pay homage to my ThinkPad T400....
Before starting graduate school in 2008, my sole requirements for a laptop were reliability and a great keyboard. My Lenovo T400 handled those tasks with aplomb, despite intensive use for at least sixty hours a week involving anything from statistical analysis, recording data in my electronic lab notebook, or typing a (rather long) thesis. What I was not expecting during this period was the emotional attachment I would form to this seven pound workhorse during that time: As my master’s drew to a close, my friend Marc was deployed to Afghanistan. Though he was unable to make phone calls abroad, he was able to receive Emails…and for the next nine months, as I promised, I wrote daily about my own occurrences, just to keep him anchored to life at home. Fortunately, Marc returned home safely; though I could have stopped cataloging my life at this point, I found that I developed an addiction. For the past six years, my ThinkPad has served as an electronic journal. It has captured memories of a fellow graduate student, Jonathan, and family members who are no longer alive. It has served as repository for the day I met what I would consider a first true love. It accompanied me to Alberta, Canada, where I presented research for the first time in my life (this also marked the first time, at 22-years-old, that I flew in my life); the research that I presented, where we described trout antibody being analogous to a Swiss Army knife, would later result in my first publication, which was also written on this machine. It came with me by train for training in Pennsylvania for my first job as an analytical scientist. It served as a portal for pen pals in South Africa, who I would later visit and with whom I would remain close friends. At times, it seems wherever I’ve been for the past decade, during great times and not-so-good times, my T400 has been by my side.
Sometimes it does feel silly developing an emotional attachment to an inanimate object, so much so that it has been listed under “Six things I could never do without” on dating websites. But this steadfast box has never failed me once in nine years (not a single component has been replaced, other than the keyboard…cat fur under the keys was driving me mad) and has seen me through my early 20s to my early 30s. I suppose when I consider the love some of us form for a leather journal, a family heirloom, or a trusty fountain pen, the sentiment that I’ve developed for this tough guy was inevitable. And though I’ve amassed a collection of both IBM and Lenovo ThinkPads, from the rare IBM TransNote to a 1994 ThinkPad 360C, this commonplace model, its rubberized surface scarred and worn from being repeatedly pulled in and out of my bag, reigns supreme in my collection. I'm optimistic, however, that my latest ThinkPad, the ThinkPad 25, my primary work machine for my PhD, will have similar sentiments attached to it as we grow together.
Take for instance how we track the rainbow trout in our studies. Ideally, I could recognize my fish by eye, but, alas, I’m horrible with faces. Instead, we insert a PIT tag into each fish, which, when scanned, provides a unique ID for the fish. Associated with each ID, in my lab notebook, are the treatments the fish has received, the white blood cell counts, the level of antibodies, and so forth. Keeping track of this data can be overwhelming, but detailed, clear notes simplify the process…
Okay, so how does this relate to my photography, you may be asking yourself. Well, like many people, for years, I took digital photographs, which were either left on an SD card, transferred to a CD-R or hard drive, or uploaded to social media. Unfortunately, with time, I have found some of the CD-R’s are no longer functional; more commonly, I simply have forgotten the significance of many of the photos. I recognize the people in the photos, but I ask myself, Where were these photos taken? What did we do that day? Who else came on the trip? Yes, physical media degrades or simply becomes obsolete (how many of us can extract photos from a ZIP disk?) Memories, like the media, fade into nothingness…and for this reason, I have come up with some simple ideas to preserve memories for generations. As you would guess, actually printing the photographs instead of keeping them on file is key to me (I assume my children will have a much easier time figuring out how to sift through images in a physical album than one on an old CD-R)
I guess before I begin with how I tackle my photographs, I’ll begin with a philosophical question. What is the purpose of your photos? Do you intend to pass the photos to relatives, or are they merely mementos to you? This will likely affect how much effort you put into managing your photographs. Think about that question as I go through my process of cataloging memories.
There you have it. I know much of the information is common sense, but maybe I have a few tips that you haven't considered. I am sure, like me, many of you have inherited photo albums from grandparents in which you cannot identify the majority of the people in the photographs, let alone the dates the photographs were taken or memories associated with these dates…let’s assist future generations in feeling tied with the past (After all, isn’t this yearning the reason we have such websites as Ancestry.com?)
One of the most frustrating parts of my undergraduate career was trying to find an internship to gain experience in my field when those internships required experience (and I had no experience). Getting one’s foot in the door is often the hardest part. Fortunately, since the summer of 2016, UMass has eliminated this barrier for applicants to their Marine Biology Internship Program. Instead of seeking students with a lengthy résumé , they are instead searching for motivated, diligent individuals who may have lacked the opportunities of their peers. First-generation college students, members of groups under-represented in science, and veterans are encouraged to apply.
Over ten weeks, students will work with professors in anything from studying the invasive Asian shore crab, the ecology of eels, and coastal ecosystem dynamics. The package gets even better. Students will receive a generous stipend, they will be provided with on-campus housing, and are invited to participate in fun activities with their fellow interns (after all, the school is nearby Providence and Boston). The deadline of February 15, 2017, is rapidly approaching, but I urge you to apply at umassd.edu/marineresearch. The internship is competitive: last year, students from the West Coast to the East Coast were accepted from community colleges and universities big and small. As a disclaimer, I should mention that I have no part in the selection of candidates.
Full details can be found in the image below:
It's hard to believe that two years have passed since I first wished Lenovo a Happy 30th Birthday! I want to take a few minutes out of my day to wish Lenovo for not only making a great product that I've depended on for eight years, but also providing me with great friends in the Lenovo Insiders. To many great years, and product, ahead!
Until today, the eeriest part of this Halloween season had been Trizol contamination in my samples and rampant RNA degradation…that was until I came across these photos from 1990 or 1991.
I'm not sure why, but costumes in the 1980s and 1990s were awful. I just don't understand why masks were supplied with plastic aprons advertising what you were supposed to be. Why?! And, yes, like you I'm cringing just slightly at my costume. Why I'm a dinosaur wearing pink, I'm not sure.
Yes, photographs can be a bit embarrassing, but I'm grateful that my dad took abundant photographs and video when I was a child. Get out there, have a great Halloween, and feel free to embarrass your children. And for those of you who will be staying indoors, aside from the usual tradition of watching Hocus Pocus, let me recommend starting a new tradition: Reading Bradbury's The Halloween Tree. You won't be disappointed.
Unfortunately, I have been so wrapped up in my PhD program that I have been remiss in updating my blog. It was a wonderful Email by Andrew Taranov, the R&D manager of the Academy of Geniuses in Russia, that motivated me to finally create another entry. In Andrew’s own words, here is some information on the academy he and Julia Taranova, the creator of the school, run:
The Academy of Geniuses is a company that is engaged in training children of all abilities information technology. Above all, the academy aims to instill important life qualities: analytical thinking, logic, and perseverance in achieving goals. Second, the academy teaches practical skills: a robotics courses helps the children understand the basics of mechanics, engineering, constructing robots, and controlling them using computer programs, whereas the programming club teaches students how to properly manage their computers and how to use the PC to solve professional problems. On the other hand, the system administration courses gives the students the opportunity to learn the skills required of servicing an entire network. Not surprisingly, with the proliferation of mobile devices, one of the most popular courses instructs students on developing mobile applications on Android phones and tablets. Though the students may be young, courses are designed with pragmatism in mind: all professional languages the academy uses are in demand in the labor market, be it Java or 1C programming language. Ultimately, the pupils are instilled with a belief that the positive changes they can bring about in the world outweigh the monetary rewards.
The program thus far has been a remarkable success. More than 750 children of the Kalinigrad region have attended the summer classes—naturally, robust equipment is needed to serve so many students (especially young students). For this reason, the Academy of Geniuses has opted to use more than 40 Lenovo computers.
For anyone who can speak Russian, I encourage you to learn more about the academy on their Facebook group or the PDF that I have enclosed. I would like to congratulate Andrew and Julia for their remarkable work. I and Lenovo wish them many more years of success!
Lenovo today announced that #LenovoTechWorld, the company’s strategic technology conference, comes to San Francisco on June 9, 2016. The second annual conference brings together some of the industry’s top leaders along with Lenovo chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing for the keynote address where they’ll probe the most promising and emerging topics in innovation, including virtual reality, smart connected devices/IoT and harnessing the power of the cloud to transform people’s lives. Lenovo will be joined by fans, media, influencers, press, analysts and other guests from around the world.
The official press release can be found here: http://news.lenovo.com/news-releases/lenovo-to-host-second-annual-tech-world-with-industry-tech-giants.htm
Lenovo will livestream the keynote at 10:00 a.m. PST on June 9, 2016 at: www.YouTube.com/lenovo
First, everything I liked about the Yoga 3 Pro a year ago has only been enhanced: The screen, a 13.3-inch, 3,200 x 1,800 touch display is gorgeous—it is a delight using the system to read journal articles in portrait mode and creating figures for my papers at hours at a time without suffering from eyestrain; regardless of the angle the screen is titled, color shift is not present. Quite frankly, it makes me realize how abysmal my T420s screen is.
With 16 GB of RAM, I have had no problem running MatLab with several YouTube videos open, PowerPoints, pdf’s, etc..the system crunches through the programs with aplomb—it does so with some fan noise, owing to the system’s thinness, but the noise is infrequent and not distracting (however, my T400 is SILENT, so this is a bit of an adjustment). I timed battery life on this system, and I easily exceeded 6 hours even after heavy use (thus, Lenovo’s claim of 7 hours isn’t so far-fetched). I was quite amazed by the sound quality of the system—it booms and is crystal clear; equally amazing, the direction of the sound changes depending on the mode of the system (e.g., Tent mode vs. laptop). This has proven to negate my need for external headphones—and considering that many of my professors have made many of their lectures as YouTube videos, this has proven to be much less cumbersome than being tethered to a system—I have never owned a ThinkPad with sound quality that could be described as anything above mediocre, so this is a surprise. Finally, as for durability, it approaches my ThinkPad. It is solid and the screen does not exhibit any wobble, owing to the gorgeous hinge.
Yes, I have exuded praise for the system. So why is it not my primary computer in academia? It boils down to the keyboard! The keyboard seems to be a second thought for such a beautiful system—the Shift key has been shrunken, the keys are crammed and the layout is confusing (check out the location of the Home button), the function keys have been combined with the volume keys, etc. Worse, the integrated mouse buttons just do not function well—I find myself accidentally right clicking when I mean to left click…and for me, a TrackPoint is a must. On a positive note, the tactile feedback is good, considering that key travel is less than that of my ThinkPad. For most users, I think a mediocre keyboard is expected and will suffice. We have entered an age where people rely more and more on touchscreens and less on a physical keyboard. But for me, when I switching between EndNote, Microsoft Word, a PDF, and a PowerPoint for creating a figure, I rely entirely on a keyboard. Dedicated buttons, a TrackPoint that allows me to keep my hands on the keyboard, and a logical layout mean my brain is entirely focused on the task on hand and not on correcting a mis-click. So, yes, my ThinkPad T420s, with its horrid screen, terrible sound, lackluster battery life, and aging performance remains my primary machine for typing papers simply because it has one of the best keyboards of any machine. For the average consumer who may be more focused on multimedia, gaming, and typing papers for class, this is a fine machine; for those of us, however, who grew up with a ThinkPad, the keyboard just falls far below the gold standard….For that reason, my Yoga 900 is my primary tool for reading PDFs, creating figures (the colors are accurate and the resolution is superb), and watching YouTube videos for class (the sound is clear and the battery goes on and on and on). But for everything else, nothing beats a ThinkPad.
A Little Help from the X230 to Study Habitat Use and Bioacoustics of Odontocete Species in Two National Marine Sanctuaries
Though I have known Tammy as a fellow graduate student for some time, I have only known her as a ThinkPad user for about a week. Following her research proposal (a wonderful one, I should add), I asked if I could share the abstract of her work and if she could briefly describe what she has been using her ThinkPad X230 for. Here we go!
Odontocetes (toothed whales) are abundant, globally distributed animals that play key trophic roles in ecosystems and may overlap with harmful human activities. Basic information on occurrence patterns, habitat use, bioacoustics and dive behavior are necessary for informing ecosystem-based management plans and for predicting and mitigating human impacts, yet we often lack such data. The Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (HIHWNMS) are areas of national importance that lack critical biological and ecological data on odontocetes within their management areas.
The goal of my dissertation is to improve our understanding of odontocete ecology by gathering baseline data on habitat use, bioacoustics and dive behavior for relatively abundant odontocetes in and around each Sanctuary. Work already completed in the HIHWNMS focused on developing methods to deploy acoustic recording tags on small odontocetes (pantropical spotted dolphins) and to subsequently quantify their acoustic and dive behavior. Proposed research in the SBNMS will focus on four species (Atlantic white-sided dolphins, common dolphins, pilot whales and harbor porpoise) and will utilize two established methods for studying animal distributions: passive acoustic monitoring and incorporation of visual sighting data into species distribution models. Ocean gliders equipped with acoustic recorders and environmental sensors (temperature, salinity, chlorophyll) will be deployed in SBNMS and surrounding waters from November-January to acoustically monitor for odontocete presence and sample the environment. These data will be used to examine relationships between odontocete acoustic detections and environmental variables that may influence odontocete distributions. In order to acoustically identify species recorded during glider deployments, vocalizations of the species of interest must be previously described. My thesis will characterize the vocal repertoire of Atlantic white-sided dolphins using existing recordings and initiate recording and characterization of vocalizations from additional local species. Opportunistic sighting data gathered from multiple platforms between 2004 and 2014 will be input into species distribution models (Maximum Entropy, point process models) to examine seasonal distributions of odontocetes and assess species differences in spatial and/or temporal distributions patterns. This work should increase our basic understanding of odontocete ecology and is a first step in assessing overlap with human activities.
My Lenovo ThinkPad X230
Assessing the vocal behavior of the animals, the bioacoustics, often requires unique software and fast processing for visualizing and analyzing the sound. I need additional processing power to run such programs as Raven Pro (Cornell University) and MATLAB. This is where my trustworthy Lenovo X230 comes into play—so far, it’s been great at meeting all my research needs
Though I'm not particularly fond of self-promotion, I will confess I'm rather proud to have been featured. Here's the conversation I had: http://www.thinkconversations.com/us/en/proredefined/profiles/its-the-science-talking/
Yes, I'm quite a dork, but not the biggest ThinkPad out there by far...that award goes to Atli, who proudly wears the ThinkPad logo as a badge of honor...I hope you enjoy some of the stories and will consider being part of the conversation!
About Gregory Costa
Gregory Costa is a decent biologist, mediocre writer, terrible formatter, but true Lenovo enthusiast, who admires the use of their products in both the academic and industrial setting...when he's not busy delighting himself in science, nature, or his OkCupid profile.