31 May 2012

Graph it all!

Prior to the buckle down for my thesis, I was making a nice graph of the number of pages I read a day. Part of this is because of my compulsive desire to track things, part of it is because I find creating visual representations of data a very appealing past time.

Log scale (on y-axis) of pages read

Google docs 'trends' plot of pages read

I experimented with a number of different types of graphs while I was doing this, trying to find what's most appealing to me. I think the log plot is my favorite. It's easiest to see when I burned out on my "professional" reading at work and tried to smoke through a novel in one night (see early March). The trends plot reveals other things, in particular weekend trips or visits from company where I did essentially no reading and have drastic dips.

I'm undecided as to what I should make my next graph project, aside from the nifty research ones that aren't ready to be unveiled.

20 May 2012

Visible light spectrum to RGB

Some of my recent work has required me to become better versed in color spectrum properties and some of the multitudes of ways we've created to try and classify it. Dr. Dan Bruton has a really excellent and understandable page at http://www.midnightkite.com/color.html, including some FORTRAN code to convert wavelength values to RGB.

It's been very handy for plotting some of the data I've been collecting lately, especially with scatter3, when I still have wavelength as a variable to account for in the output.

I tweaked the code for MATLAB and am posting this version here with his permission. Hope it's useful for someone...

%%Wavelength to RBG code was modified from Dan Bruton's FORTRAN code at
%%Only RGB was kept, Gamma and intensity SSS were for unavailable data
%%Further details and explanation at:

%set wavelength to the name of your vector of values to convert
RGB = zeros(length(wavelength), 3); 
for i = 1:length(wavelength)
    %set wavelength to the name of your vector of values to convert
    w = wavelength(i);
    if w >= 380 && w < 440
        RGB(i,:) = [(w-440)/(440-380) 0.0 1.0];
    elseif w >= 440 && w < 490
        RGB(i,:) = [0.0 (w-440)/(490-440) 1.0];
    elseif w >= 490 && w < 510
        RGB(i,:) = [0.0 1.0 -(w-510)/(510-490)];
    elseif w >= 510 && w < 580
        RGB(i,:) = [(w-510)/(580-510) 1.0 0.0];
    elseif w >= 580 && w < 645
        RGB(i,:) = [1.0 -(w-645)/(645-580) 0.0];
    elseif w >= 645 && w <= 780
        RGB(i,:) = [1.0 0.0 0.0];
        RGB(i,:) = [0 0 0];

18 May 2012

It works with my laptop...

I sit nearest the printer in my office. As with all community resources, some members of the group are far more diligent in upkeep than others. Some members just keep sending copies to the printer when it's out of ink or paper, as if the new electrons will carry a desperate plea and the printer will have mercy on them. More often, someone else will just replace whatever is missing, and the behavior is unintentionally reinforced.

This morning however, my adviser needed to print something and a "fatal error" which I'd never had to fix before was displayed. After the standard fiddles, he went for the failsafe - turn it off and back on. Apparently, it didn't turn all the way off - the job he sent was still saved and began to print shortly thereafter. As he walked out with his pages, he said, "I am an electrical engineering genius."

17 May 2012

The $100 Startup Review

Chris Guillebeau's book The $100 Startup has been out for just over a week. I finally finished it a few days ago and got my post up on Amazon, but I was really excited to read it and highly recommend it.

"In the interests of full disclosure, I received a copy of the $100 Startup in advance, but was so slow reading it because of all the notes I was taking that I’m just now getting to writing my review.

I found this to be a very understandable and approachable guide to starting a microbusiness. There’s no background knowledge assumed or exclusive demographics. The whole book builds on your intentions to provide something worthwhile and your desire to accomplish something independently.

There is very actionable guidance for all stages of starting your own business, from generating your ideas and setting up, to relationship building and marketing up to scaling (or not!) your business operations. I particularly liked the case studies across a variety of industries. There are also worksheets (and additional resources provided online) to work through questions, business plans, product launches and on and on...

Regardless of the stage of your small business, this book has insights waiting to be yours."

12 May 2012

Wearing pajama bottoms to a thesis defense

The last part of March and all of April was dedicated to a high intensity freakout over finishing my MS thesis and giving my defense. Graphene-silicon interfaces, hybrid devices...totally fascinating and life consuming stuff. Interestingly, this was all done remotely. Research and measurements were finished before I moved halfway across the country to my new university, but my masters adviser and I spent some significant time since then determining what all those measurements meant.

Regular phone calls were critical to keep everyone on track. Once a week, all the questions and concerns, updated graphs and edits were given a thorough run down. Logistics were sorted out - who would be on the committee? Do I need to schedule a room? Can everyone work with soft copies of the thesis or should I mail drafts back east? I think this was a key piece to keeping on schedule and still defending by the semester deadline.

Thesis drafts and edits were kept in Dropbox. My adviser pointed out that it provided a nice, passive-aggressive way of reminding him to check my updates since a little notification would show whenever I saved my edits or a new version.

The thesis itself was conducted via Skype. There were minor hitches (video freeze, anyone?) but the call clarity was solid and there was a live presentation of the slides at both ends. Some practice runs of the presentation involved as much debate of technical issues as they did the material of my presentation. I'm not sure if this took away from anything, but it made me very aware of the experience for all parties.

Most importantly, I passed. With all the typing and talking behind me, I think this might make a smashing article for one of the IEEE journals. Especially since all this free time has just opened up in my schedule.