Monthly Archives: March 2014

Office for iPad: too little, too late!

Microsoft announced today that they are releasing office for iPad. If all you want to do is see your files or display you PPT, the apps are free. If you want to be productive i.e. create or edit…you will have to shell-out the Office365 subscription cost. Really! And that is for a product that is stuck with OneDrive and SharePoint.

If you buy a new iOS device or a new OSX device, you are already better served with the free iWorks suite. For most users, this is also more than enough. Frankly, Keynote is so much better than PowerPoint (which on my Mac regularly crashes or corrupt its own files). WORD is OK for simple document, here simple meaning not too large or complex. Otherwise, again on OSX be ready for regular crashes on large and complex WORD documents (lots of sections with tables, figures and so on). Writing a PhD thesis on WORD is simply pure torture. Students should be advised to learn LaTeX right off the bat.

If you are truly working cross platforms and are interested in true real-time shared editing, free Google Drive is actually quite impressive (never thought I would say that of the (evil) Google!) and light years ahead of clunky SharePoint for collaborative work. Tested in a room with peoples on Windows, OSX and iPad all accessing the same “WORD” document for editing. Works like a charm! Did I say it is FREE?

Finally, OpenOffice is an acceptable, free replacement. The issue is for it to be efficient, everyone in your work entourage needs to adopt it. Otherwise, also works nicely.

In other words, unless forced by a stone age IT department to have Office for iPad on your device, you probably do not need it.

Warning, may contain a PhD

Recently saw a comment by a student about not being advised before hand that doing a PhD had many difficulties and challenges. However, my first reaction reading that text was to start laughing. Of course, all that was said was true. But the first thing that came to my mind was the famous warning when you ask for a sundae with nuts at a McDonald : you received (at least in North America) the nuts in a small, sealed separate bag (think allergies); this bag has a warning that reads (seriously): may contain nuts!


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Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation telescope in Antarctica found first direct evidence of cosmic inflation

In case you have missed it, an official announcement of the experimental detection of gravitational waves were experimentally was made yesterday by the BICEP2 collaboration. Press release by the Havard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics can be found here and further coverage here.

BICEP2 sunset

A very interesting video explaining the phenomena can be found here on the Space Travel Foundation Blog.

One of the great thing about a scientific theories and models is that not only should it be able to explain one or more known phenomena but it should be able to have some predictive components (which allows to prove or disprove the model/theory!). The detected waves are part of the predictions made by the inflationary model. While the absence of the waves would mean that the theory is wrong (in part or completely), the experimental observation (if confirmed) is a vindication of the model.

To be followed but extremely exciting.

The World Wide Web is turning 25 this week

Wired magazine is running a piece on Tim Berners-Lee and his view 25 years later. You will further find his thought on decentralization, openness, privacy and so on. As a bonus a series of 10 comments by experts. Nice read!


3D printing, the ultimate gadget for grown-up kids

“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot” — Picard in ST:TNG


…Oops in the title, I meant serious scientists, of course 😉 The first time I saw a 3D printer under 10000$ in action, I told myself they were right again, “they” meaning Star Trek.

Almost a year ago, we bought a MakerBot Replicator 2 for our research group. Our interest was to be able to do fast prototyping, quickly create small pieces, adaptors and so on. It certainly change the way approach our laboratory experiments, more importantly we do not have to go to machine shop until we have a much better idea of what work and what doesn’t. We were even able to start exploring way 3D printing could change one our field of applications (brachytherapy, if you need to know!). We also found out that printing with PLA resulted in much more sturdy and better print quality than ABS plastic.


3D printing is a game changer not only in scientific research and engineering but also in medicine, where application in dentistry and organ printing, liver was even predicted in 2014! Of course you can find this great talk about 3D printing and airplane or 3D printing in space.

However, 3D printing will become mainstream technology very quickly. Already, cheap 3D printers can be bought in Staples. The biggest news, to me, is that public libraries are about to make3D printing accessible to… the public. The Toronto public library has made such announcement recently: 5 cents a minute, maximum of 2 hours of printing time. Of course, this bring a fairly good number of questions regarding intellectual properties. For instance, you could print your own Lego-like blocks at home; the raw material costs about 40$ per Kg. If you type in Google “3D printer and IP”, you will get thousands of hits.

If you need a good primer on 3D printing technology, Wikipedia has a very nice one.

TED: The Dark Side of Data

Concerns over collection of your data by third parties, their use, you anonymity online? TED has put an excellent collection of 11 presentations between 10 and 19 minutes each: The dark side of data.

PhD thesis examination: you are the expert, behave like one!

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.

– Niels Bohr

Quite interestingly graduate studies usually take about 5 years total in order to obtain a PhD. It can sometimes be one year less or one or a few years over (too long is usually not seen as a good sign however). Assuming that this is basically your full time occupation, have you notice that at the end of this time frame, you will have reached about 10000 hours of dedicate training in your field.

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