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Tag: thoughts

Grad school update

This semester I only have class two days per week. I knew going into this semester that I would be busy every day and not just the days I have class (this isn't my first time in grad school after all).

But wow — I've really stretched myself thin this semester. I just tried to list it all... and it didn't seem like much, but underestimating some of the time commitments is what is getting me.

A lot of the smaller projects I've wanted to work one have gotten pushed back, and keeping up with this blog has been harder than I anticipated. I don't quite have time for the Monday/Wednesday/Friday update schedule that I had planned, so I'll be switching to Monday/Thursday to see if I can stick to it.

Also, I took a trip to San Antonio in conjunction with LOCUS. That was fun and served to confirm that I'm on the right career path.

And now, a few quotable things I've heard this semester:

  • "We have the curse of multidimensionality... that'd be a good idea for a Halloween costume." -- Dr. Leite
  • "Better out than perfect." (on manuscripts and journal submissions) Said by Dr. Bondy, but not sure the original source. (Maybe a Dr. Johnson?)
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Quite a few minor issues today

I've been doing a lot of writing in Microsoft Word lately (there are others working on the same document and LibreOffice Writer can't seem to get it right), so I've been living in Windows-world. Yesterday I needed to access an R package that is UNIX-only apparently (heR.Misc - really? No Windows binaries?) and was greeted by Scientific Linux with some updates to take care of. Most of the updates installed fine, but five did not. The five that did not were all related to Qpid (packages like qpid-cpp-client). These could not be installed because yum could not resolve some dependency issues. Apparently the issue was that these updates were related in some way to the matahari package, which was deprecated by Red Hat (according to this forum post at least). A quick sudo yum remove matahari in the terminal and the updates installed correctly.

I figured while I was updating software that I would try to get an Aero Snap-like feature working in Linux.  As much as I like the stability of Linux, I dislike the lack of some should-be-standard features in GNOME. In Windows 7, there are some great features like Aero Snap (automatically half-maximize windows) and windows grouped on the taskbar. CompizFusion can... somewhat perform these features, but not with the polish and consistency that I've come to expect.

I just care about my computer supporting my productivity, and I am therefore not attached to any particular window environment. KDE 4 seems to have implemented some of these features without the use of add-ons, so I figured that I would give it a try. However, installing KDE using YUM wasn't immediately obvious. Searching for "kde" resulted in tons of packages, but none seemed to be a wrapper for the entire environment. Eventually I went to the command line and executed (as root):

yum groupinstall "KDE desktop"

However, I should have realized that Scientific Linux doesn't have the latest, greatest packages. The KDE that was installed was version 4.3 and... didn't do what I wanted it to. I promptly switched back to GNOME and started playing around with CompizFusion.

Long story short, I got frustrated and gave up for the time being. I am determined to get this to work, but I don't have the time to devote to it right this second. I think this is where things went wrong: I wanted to uninstall KDE and did

yum groupremove "KDE desktop"

which uninstalled all KDE-related packages and not just the ones that had been installed above (I had previously installed some packages like kdegraphics which contains Okular (a great PDF reader)). While I would like to figure out how to remove an entire group  except for certain packages, that's something to solve later. No big deal, I didn't use them much and could always add them back later. I rebooted my computer to complete some updates and...

No internet when it came back. The GNOME panel icon was just... gone. Now, my first instinct was to search the internet for related issues. I was able to get online by plugging in an ethernet cable and running, as root,

ifconfig eth0 up
dhclient eth0

This gave me wired internet, though Yum Extender didn't want to believe it had internet. I ended up having to run from the terminal

yumex --root

to be able to install packages.

Most of the resources I found related to Ubuntu which can be rather different from Scientific Linux/CentOS/RHEL. I tried to see if the network manager was still installed by running

[Doug@FLASHMAN-SL ~]$ service network-manager status
network-manager: unrecognized service

Seems like a problem... except the network manager is not called network-manager in Scientific Linux. It is actually called NetworkManager.

[Doug@FLASHMAN-SL ~]$ service NetworkManager status
NetworkManager (pid  2077) is running...

I spent way too long reinstalling NetworkManager when that was never my issue. What it turned out to be was the program nm-applet was missing (uninstalled at some point), and I just needed to (re)install the package NetworkManager-gnome.

That was a headache that was mostly my fault, but the lack of solid documentation (and vague search terms like "gnome internet icon missing") made this difficult to figure out. Maybe putting all of these search terms in one place will help other people.

As an aside, my school (UF) now offers Red Hat Enterprise Linux to students... and I am toying with the idea of switching from Scientific Linux to RHEL. However, UF is running RHEL 6.1 and I'm running SL 6.2, and I would prefer to not do a clean install. Unsurprisingly, Red Hat does not support cross-grading (I asked), and I don't want to fiddle with a simultaneous cross/downgrade. Though I must say, the support would be nice for situations like this...

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A gripe with the default SAS GUI

SAS is a great piece of software. Really, it is. As far as getting statistics done (and done well) it is in a league of its own. However, the user interface leaves a lot to be desired.

The little icon above the green arrow? Run all code (or run selected code).
The little icon above the red arrow? Delete all code and close the active file without saving with no confirmation.

Two small, black, similarly-shaped icons. One I use dozens of times in each session. One which I cannot think of a use for. And they put them right. Next. To. Each. Other.

Admittedly, this UI is not the latest and greatest out of North Carolina. SAS products ship with "Enterprise Guide" - a modern, workflow-oriented IDE for SAS. Enterprise Guide has incredible features and is thoroughly modern... but it is (in my experience) slow and overkill for many things. I just want to write some SAS code, see syntax highlighting, and run my code without worrying that I'll accidentally delete what I've been working on. I learned to use SAS through batch jobs on a UNIX system, so any UI is more friendly than the command line... but there has to be a middle ground somewhere.

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Microsoft Word trick

It amazes me how many people are amazed when I show them this little trick. Holding the "Alt" key while clicking and dragging allows one to select a rectangular region in word. When using a monospace font (fixed-width fonts like Consolas or Courier New), this can be used to quickly delete columns of text. Best results are achieved using monospace fonts, but this tool has helped me many times in other situations. An example of a rectangular region selected with this technique is below.

Sometimes I will launch Word just to use this tool and go back to editing files in another program. I learned this back in high school in what I thought would be a gimmicky course on Microsoft Office. In that course I learned some pretty useful skills that, while not making me an expert, have served me well. It amazes me how many people have taken courses centered around Microsoft Office and still seem perplexed by it.

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On moving to a college of education

Today has been characterized by readings for a (required) doctoral colloquium (at which Dr. Terzian spoke) and talking to senior graduate students, in a general way, about their experiences here. A few broad thoughts informed by the happenings of today are below.

Qualifying Exams

  • The stats. department's qualifying exam is a four hour math test consisting of eight problems (two each from four classes). The usual passing grade is a six out of eight, and that is no small feat. I've heard nothing but nightmares about this.
  • The School of Teaching and Learning uses the qualifying exam as a constructive process where the end result forms the basis for one's dissertation later. It lasts about a month and requires writing answers (long, long answers) in response to questions. Some students say it isn't the worst thing ever (knock on wood).
  • The committee is apparently not trying to destroy you.

On Research

  • Tenure is a long way off, but the goal in the first five years of an academic position is writing journal articles that show a deliberate research trajectory that will carry one's career for the time being. The goal is showing the tenure committee a single body of work.
  • When writing, the re-writes are where improvement comes from. Rinse and repeat.
  • Dissertations are first and foremost written to answer a question.


  • Education gets little respect in the academy. There are several hypotheses for this, including that it is a gendered field (because it has many aspects associated with femininity).
  • Do what you like. (Polonius's "To thine own self be true.")
  • At research institutions research is respected. (That's about all that is respected.)

Overall, I'm still apprehensive about starting this program... it is sufficiently removed from my last program that I am in the process of finding my footing. Taking REM classes is helping ease my transition, but there is only so long that I can take those classes for.

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