Monthly Archives: January 2013

Are your Cloud data really safe from prying?

This article from Cult of the Mac report on the legality of the US Government to access data from non-us citizen on any US based Cloud-type storage services (not just iCloud as mentioned in the title) without a warrant. This does means DropBox, Google Drive, iCloud and so on.

Read the original post here: U.S. Authorities Can Access Non-Citizen iCloud Data Without A Warrant [Updated] | Cult of Mac.

Authorship of Scientific Articles | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY

This topic probably happen between you (the thesis advisor) and the first author (your grad student) for almost every paper: what is the author list and order?

Daniel Wessel at Organizing Creativity has a short and very interesting post on this subject: Authorship of Scientific Articles | ORGANIZING CREATIVITY.

A worthy read and numerous useful links.

It is not ok to forget basic math…

Is it ok to forget basic math simply because we are reporting to readers some information on the web? I am asking because today Apple was announcing its quarterly numbers and the first reports from specialists were not even able to get the math right. This is rather discouraging considering that this is their full time work for most.

In nutshell:

  • 4.2 billion$/week in revenue vs 3.3 billion $/week in revenue for same quarter a year ago
  • 13.08 billion in total profit over 13 weeks versus 13.06 billion $ for the 14 week quarter a year ago.

This is where the problem start, reading the so-called “serious” news outlet. In term of revenue, the YOY increase is about 27% which is rather impressive for a mammoth-like corporation in this economic context. However how many of these analysts, those providing readers with advices with regards to what to do with their money, have written in the minutes after Apple’s announcement that the profits were flat (or even declining), thus …

I am not an economist but I would grade that statement with a failing mark would it be a math exam. I would certainly expect a high school student to get this right.

13.08 billion over 13 weeks is 1.006 billion $ / week while 13.1 billion over 14 week is 0.933 billion $ / week. This actually translates to an increase in profit of about 7.8% YOY. This is not a flat nor decreasing scenario anymore.

We can of course argue about the significance of this increase (and this is not the place to do so!) but at least we are comparing and reporting the right information. Everything else has nothing to do with hard numbers 😉

LaCie Rugged 1 Tb USB3 / Thunderbolt External Drive: the Good and the Ugly

Whatever your have gone 100% digital or for occasional use, it is good practice to keep a copy of your important files “off site” from your main backup infrastructure. Mine is a 5-drive Drobo system used by time machine at work (set with 2-drive failure protection mode). So for portable backup, I bought a few years ago a 320Gb rugged LaCie triple interface (USB2/FW400/FW800) drive. Worked very nicely but got a little small. I also knew that I would change by MacBook Pro in 2012, with the expectation that USB3 / Thunderbolt would become the norm. My 15″ MacBook Pro Retina display fits the bill.

So I recently acquire the LaCie Rugged  1 Tb USB3 / Thunderbolt drive.

I decided to submit this drive to real-world read/write tests. By real-world, it means in my case backing-up and reading back files/folders.

The tests

  • I used three folders: one 9Gb composed mainly of mp3 and mp4 files, a 17Gb folder containing 12 MPixel photographs and finally a 109.8Gb folder composed mainly of standard and high-definition movies.
  • I used the terminal cp and time commands for these tests, namely: time cp -r <source> <destination>
  • Write tests = getting files from my Retina notebook and write them to the LaCie drive
  • Read tests = reading the files from the LaCie drive and to my MacBook Pro
  • Each test has been performed three times for each folder for a given interface (USB2, FW800, …)
  • I calculated the average values from the 9 individual values in the read tests for each interface. I proceeded similarly for the write tests.

For those who wonder, the Retina is using the latest generation SSD drive, so it is not a bottleneck in these tests!

The results (the good)

The figure below gives the write / read performance in Mb/s for my old 320 Gb triple interfaces LaCie starting at around 35 Mb/s using the USB2 interface and about 60 Mb/s with FW800. In comparison using the same terminal command as above to copy the same folders to another place on my internal SSD drive i.e. read from the SSD drive and write a new version of these folders also to the SSD drive gives over 266 Mb/s!


First impression of the LaCie 1 Tb drive: it is much faster than the previous one thanks to the modern USB3 and Thunderbolt interfaces. The gain factor over the previous incarnation is between 1.7 to 3 times faster in these tests.

The surprise (the ugly)

The main surprise is the Thunderbolt interface is providing very little gain over USB3 in my real-world tests. In fact considering that the standard deviations are between 5 to 10% of the reported values shown in the figure, one can safely assumed that this drive basically offer the same level of performance for both interfaces.

In turns out that LaCie decided to use a 5400RPM drive for this model. I therefore must conclude that the hard drive rotational speed is limiting the Thunderbolt interface (maybe it even limits the USB3 interface). While marketing this drive as a Thunderbolt enable drive is a great publicity pull, the decision of using a sub-standard hard drive (in term of speed) is a very stupid one from LaCie in my opinion and deceiving for the buyer expecting to obtain significant advantage from the Thunderbolt port.


The new LaCie Rugged 1 Tb USB3/Thunderbolt external hard drive is a very capable, robust drive for anyone needing a drive that can travel and sustain some level of bumping. It is much faster than the previous triple interface LaCie rugged version. However even for its 220-230$ price point, do not expect the enhanced Thunderbolt speed. You will have to settle for USB3 speed.

Looking forward…and backward

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.  – Pablo Picasso

Now that 2013 is underway, did you took some time to look at your achievements in 2012? Your most important realization? Your biggest miss (objective / goal / opportunity)? What fraction of things you wanted to put in motion for 2012 did you get to start or complete? For those who did not took off, what was the main reason and should you keep this on your plate for 2013?

Setting specific, well-define goals or objectives, defining the road to get there and be able to look back and question yourself (as above) once in a while is, in my opinion, a critical habit to be developed as early as possible in your research career. This is not to be confused with the general practice of new year resolutions, which tends to be vaporous, unquantifiable or unrealistic wishes. However, the start of the new year might very well be the best time to do this kind of exercise after a few days of slowing down or even plain vacation 😉

Getting a summer job in a research group?

For an undergrad student, applying and getting a summer job in a research group can be a life changing experience. This is when you will get a taste of what doing scientific research, along side graduate students, feels like. For many, this is all the necessary push needed to apply to graduate studies.

Read the rest of this entry

A resolution for 2013

According to wikipedia, a motto is:

“a phrase meant to formally summarize the general motivation or intention of a social group or organization. A motto may be in any language, but Latin is the most used in the Western world. The local language is usual in the mottoes of governments. In informal ways, it can be a rule or slogan someone follows, or lives their life by”.

When I was a grad student, I came by a quote (don’t remember from whom), which I adopted as my personnel motto: Think big, work hard, smile always and good things will happen.

Good times and (especially) during the bad times – like getting a paper or grant proposal rejected –  it is there as a reminder of what must be done.

What is yours?

If you have none, why not adopting one this year?

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