Friday, December 31, 2010

Asus Eee PC 1015. Notepad++, Dropbox, and iDrive.

My laptop is still in Eastern Congo. I left it in Bukavu with my counterpart. Thus a new one was bought when I arrived in the Netherlands (I can't do a day without), and I installed all the necessary documents and programs yesterday. The laptop is an Asus Eee PC 1015, which I upgraded to 2gb working memory. I had the same one in Eastern Congo over the last seven months and was very happy with it:
  • It survived. In very hard conditions. Jumping up and down in 4x4s. Dust; so much dust! And I used it very intensively: over the last seven months I maybe turned it off ten times maximum.
  • It is powerful. Without problems it ran all my computer programs and simulations.
  • It's cheap. I just bought this new one for less than 300 euro (the 2gb RAM is an extra 50).
  • Its battery. One battery last for around ten hours. I also have a second battery. So longer periods without electricity are no problem.
  • It's small and light. 10 inch and around 1kg. Great for when one travels a lot. And belief me, you get used to the small keyboard.

My new friend for upcoming months.

Yesterday, after receiving the laptop, I spent most of my day installing programs and downloading my documents unto the laptop and emails into Outlook. I am using the following programs:
  • Stata SE: An expensive, but an easy to use and powerful computer program for statistical analysis. Very necessary to analyse data, but also to build, clean and edit databases. Luckily I can get it via Columbia for free.
  • MS Office: A necessary evil. Luckily, again for free via Columbia.
  • Skype: I have to stay in contact with mom and dad, friends, and very important for work.
  • R and packages: A completely free program that can do almost anything you want it to do: statistical analysis, building maps, solving equations, etc. All done in the R language - a language that I am still not very comfortable with after using the program for a year. However, a crucial, fantastic, and very powerful program. Download the program and packages here.
  • ArcGIS: Way too expensive program for making maps. But used by everybody in the GIS world. Luckily, again for free via Columbia.
  • TeXnicCenter, MikTex and packages: This is my default program for word processing. It's fantastic. You have to learn the language LaTeX but it's not difficult, and the software is for free, it is much faster than Word if many equations are used, the output documents look so much better, and you can do much more with this program than, for example, with MS Word. See here for a video on how to install.
  • Pendragon: A computer program we use to create surveys so that they can be put on PDAs and used in the field.
  • CutePDF: A free PDF converter. See here.
TeXnicCenter. Great free software.

Three computer programs I want to discuss in particular:
  • Notepad++: For Stata and R I often write so-called do-files. These are documents with code that tell the program exactly what to do. I use Notepad++ to write these do-files. It's great. First, others have written free so-called 'language-packs' (here) so that different commands get different coloring. Secondly, from within the program it is possible to immediately run script (how to get this working look here). Also, this program is completely free and since yesterday I know they have an awesome shop.
  • Dropbox: This is likely the most amazing program ever. If you don't have it get it (here)! In brief, Dropbox is a folder on your laptop and on the internet. It is great for two reasons. First, if you work together with others it is possible to share (part) of your Dropbox-folder. For example, in my Dropbox-folder I have a folder called "Congo" that I share with Macartan and Raul. If I change something in this folder it is automatically changed in the same folder on Macartan and Raul's computer. Fantastic! Secondly, Dropbox is great when you use different laptops or when you often have a new laptop. All my documents are in Dropbox (around 40gb). Just before leaving the Congo and giving my counterpart my old laptop I "unlinked" the Dropbox-folder and I deleted it. Yesterday I installed Dropbox on my new laptop and I linked it to my Dropbox-folder. It immediately started downloading my 40gb+ of files. It's great! You get 2gb for free and for a 100$ per year you get 50gb.
  • iDrive: My program that back-ups files. Every 3am - automatically - iDrive makes a complete scan of my computer and back-ups all the documents that changed during the day before and saves this new version online. Thus, if I have a document X that I worked on for over 10 days I thus have 10 different versions of that document online. "I should never have deleted that chapter. Where is it?" will thus never happen. See here to download it (5gb for free and 100gb [500gb] for 5$ [15$] per month.)
Notepad++. Again, completely free.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in the Netherlands.

After a busride from the border of Eastern Congo to Kigali (Rwanda) to Kampala (Uganda) to Nairobi (Kenya), and a flight from Nairobi to Istanbul to Amsterdam, I am back in the Netherlands.

Mom, dad and both brothers picking me up at Schiphol. Mom...

and dad.

First impressions back in the Netherlands:
  • It is not necessary to copy&paste an email before sending it (being afraid that the internet breaks down while sending). Fantastic!
  • While on the road: "Where are all the 4x4s?" , "There are no holes in the road?", "Where is the CODAN?", and "What!? People stay on their side of the road?".
  • KLM does not mean "Kilo, Lima, Mike" and stop thinking like that.
  • A working shower! Even better: with warm water! And I can keep my mouth open. Ha!
  • When leaving the house I feel empty without a backup phone, GPS device, satellite phone, pocket knife, etc.
  • Here when things are written on walls it is graffiti, not information about vaccinations that took place.
  • More serious. There is so much abundance. I know that it is now the year's worst moment (Christmas and New Year), but still. Breakfast, then coffee with a slice of apple pie, then it's time for lunch, after that it tea with chocolate, etc.
  • So many serious things are going on in the world. What are the Dutch people busy with? The yearly top-2000 best songs, what to wear during New Year, etc. The scariest thing, though, is that in a matter of days I'll be used to all of the above again.

Back home. My town (Oudewater) covered in snow. Gorgeous!

Upcoming months

January 24th: flight back to New York. Then about two months after that I hope to be back in Africa.
So now until the 24th it is holiday?
Not really. The evaluation continues. Raul and me have daily contact with the teams in the field,
Raul (in Spain), Macartan (in Ireland) and me
did two all-nighters in row; so the work continues.
I do hope to finally get some time for my dissertation. Scary! The second semester of my fourth year is about to start. Maybe I should start writing something.