Monthly Archives: January 2014

How is your New Year resolution(s) going?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

New Year resolution(s) has become part of the holidays festivities. It mark the end of the previous year and the willingness to have a better one. It certainly constitute an interesting opportunity to add or change something to your life. It could be anything: being better at writing scientific manuscripts down to losing weight 😉

In fact, most of the time what you are really doing by pursuing a new resolution is in fact modifying an old habit or adopting a new one. There are however some hurdles in successfully getting it done!

It reminds me of the new year special GYM program you have on TV, in the newspapers and so on. For as low as 30$/month (with a 12-month plans, less than 1$ per day!) you will loose weight and be in better shape guaranteed. Year after year the picture is the same (when I played volleyball on a regular basis, the gymnasium was right beside one of these training place), in January, the parking lot was completely full. By Valentine Day, you could see the difference and by Easter, you could tell that most simply stop going.


There is in fact good behavioral reasons why failures happen (apart from serious health, addiction or other major life events). If you Google terms like “time to change a habit” or “how log to habit”, you get a lot of hits saying 21 or 30 days. If you truly want to change or achieve a new habit, the Star Wars wisdom seems to apply very well: “be patient young padawan”. This means you’ll have to stick to it.

The figure below is from PSYBLOG and resumes the data presented by Lally et al in the European Journal of Social Psychology (a nice read by the way). You see that the time necessary to acquire or modify a new behavior is about 66 days, or two months, on average. However, the spread is important.


A rule of thumb I use in talking to students, colleagues or friends is that if this is important to you, stick to it for 4 months, even if it make no sense at first and seems more work than your old habit. After 4 months, you are allowed to revert back if it does not work for you. Most of the time, you will not go back, at least entirely, to your old habit.

Of course by “sticking to it”, I really mean 100%. For example, I was helping a friend to the GTD method. The most difficult portion for that person was the weekly review. After two weeks, this person told me that it did not work and decided to stop. Of course it did not work, it was a major change to this person approach to task and time-management.

Another important advice, less is better. This means pick one thing at a time.

Apple – Thirty Years of Mac

Directly from Apple: Apple – Thirty Years of Mac.

Human-computer interaction took a dramatic turn 30 years ago

Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday.

– Steve Jobs

The release of the first Graphical User Interface or GUI for the masses happen on January 24th 1984 when Apple release the Macintosh. It deeply changes the face of the computer industry and how we interact with them.


In 1985, our school dumped its old language lab (with tape players) for a network of Macintosh. That same school year, we did a fully digital school year book of the 1985-1986 graduates. Photos were actually scanned using a manual B&W scanner . All texts and final page preparations were done on the Mac! It took years to replicate any of this on another platform, replicate what was done with such facility by a bunch of teenagers. A few years later at the University, one of the major student journals, using a “specialized” DOS program called Ventura Publishing, was still not able to do true WYSIWYG publications.

Of course the famous 1984 commercial, By Ridley Scott(!), also became one of the best commercial ever produced. You can also find the Steve Jobs’ Mac introduction to the world video.

At the time, I had gone through the very beginning of the general public personal computing first hand with the TRS-80, Apple IIe, Vic 20 and Commodore 64. But what we did with the school Macs was, for the time, really exceptional. It was obvious to me that this was the future of the PC. I went on to work on mainframes and UNIX-based workstations (SUNOS and Solaris, HP AUX, Linux, …) for most of my early researcher career. But OSX changed everything again, no more secondary Linux box necessary, I could have everything on a single platform: the best of both world. In that, Steve Jobs’ NEXT Computer was really the next step… The NEXT computer was to play a role in the development of the World Wide Web!

Smartphone camera can be used as a radiation monitor

Your smartphone is closer to a Star Trek tricorder than you may think!

Smartphones have really become portable, and wearable, computing devices. They can process loads of data, do real-time tracking (through GPS) and various motion tracking via integrated multi-axis sensors. Increasingly, auxiliary devices can also be attached and link to via Bluetooth 4.0. A group of researchers has recently demonstrated that the CMOS at the heart of the integrated camera of smartphones can be used as radiation detection monitors!


A recent paper by Joshua J. Cogliati, Kurt W. Derr, Jayson Wharton entitled “Using CMOS Sensors in a Cellphone for Gamma Detection and Classification”, and freely available on arXive, is demonstrating this of high energy gamma radiation and various Samsung. The idea is that when high energy photons (gamma radiations) hit the sensors, it generate high energy electrons that will leave fire the CMOS (or CCD) pixels that would otherwise have no signals. The produce “tracks” and the numbers of these tracks are representative of the amount of radiation measured by the device. This is shown on the figure above, Fig. 15 of that manuscript.

Beam me up Scotty!



The Ph.D.s Guide to a Nonfaculty Job Search

I have long heard and perpetuate to my students that if you are bright enough to successfully complete a PhD in the first place, finding a job which uses your hard learned skills is usually not a problem. In fact the unemployment rate for sciences and engineering PhD holders is usually quite low (low single digits in Canada).

Still, the Chronicle of Higher Education just published a piece entitled The Ph.D.s Guide to a Nonfaculty Job Search – Advice.

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