Revision Control Systems

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Published on: August 28, 2009

Be it a source code of some software development project or various writings for some publication in journal or conference proceedings, we inevitably create different versions of the documents or the source code. Instead of simply naming them as v1, v2.. or some scheme similar to it, there are many tools available which help us maintain different versions in a more efficient manner. Some of them mentioned here:

Both GIT & Mercurial is based on distributed peer-to-peer model, while SVN & CVS are based on centralized client-server model. A review of these revision control systems is presented in an article in Communications of the ACM Magazine, Sept 2009 issue. The main conclusions of this survey is reproduced here:
“Choosing a revision-control system is a question with a surprisingly small number of absolute answers. The fundamental issues to consider are what kind of data your team works with, and how you want your team members to interact. If you have masses of frequently edited binary data, a distributed revision- control system may simply not suit your needs. If agility, innovation, and remote work are important to you, the distributed systems are far more likely to suit your needs; a centralized system may slow your team down in comparison.

There are also many second-order considerations. For example, firewall management may be an issue: Mercurial and Subversion work well over HTTP and with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), but Git is unusably slow over HTTP. For security, Subversion offers access controls down to the level of individual files, but Mercurial and Git do not. For ease of learning and use, Mercurial and Subversion have simple command sets that resemble each other (easing the transition from one to the other), whereas Git exposes a potentially overwhelming amount of complexity. When it comes to integration with build tools, bug databases, and the like, all three are easily scriptable. Many software development tools already support or have plug-ins for one or more of these tools.

Given the demands of portability, simplicity, and performance, I usually choose Mercurial for new projects, but a developer or team with different needs or preferences could legitimately choose any of them and be happy in the long term. We are fortunate that it is easy to interoperate among these three systems, so experimentation with the unknown is simple and risk-free.”

More of this from the article here: Making Sense of Revision Control Systems, by Brayn O’Sullivan

Managing bibliographies

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Published on: August 28, 2009

Having reference lists is one of the most indispensable tools a researcher must posses. Whether is a journal or article from conference proceedings, to books to web-clippings. etc. Many tools are available for a researcher to manage their reference lists. Here are a few

  • Bibtex formatted text files: very useful when writing articles using Latex. Can also use various bibtex tools for searching, converting to other formats. Bibtex Tools
  • Mendeley: An integrated tool where you can view pdfs, add metadata, extract references from various publication databases based on doi, pubmed, arxiv, ..etc. Also has web interface (linked to a web account) through which you can view and share publications.
  • Zetero: Similar to Mendeley and offers pretty much the same features, but this one is offered as a firefox web browser extension, while Mendeley is a standalone program. Not sure which one is better. Both have active development (frequent updates with new features). The verdict is still out there. Decide for yourself which one suits you better.
  • Besides the above there are few commercial software to manage bibliographies. A comparison of a many bibliography management software is mentioned here.

Tyranny for the Commons Man

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Published on: August 24, 2009

In a recent article (aug 2009) Barry Schwartz talks about the Tyranny of the Commons Man. The problem is posed very elegantly. “How does one escape a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting in their own rational self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared limited resource—even when it is clear this serves no one in the long run?” Building upon recent works like Non-zero, Evolution of Cooperation and others, he puts forward few ways to overcome some of the dilemmas. One approach is to appeal to the moral side of the people and the states. Another approach is to appeal to the self-interest side, offering incentives for the good behavior and punishments for the bad. An interesting and relevant issue is also discussed, which is a slippery slope in cooperation issues – the issue of naive realism…
..”As states enter these negotiating processes, leaders must also beware of “naive realism” and “reactive devaluation.” Parties to a conflict tend to think that while they see the issue “objectively,” the other side is biased. Stanford psychology professor Lee Ross dubs this psychological characteristic naive realism, and it’s not hard to see how it can lead to a negotiating impasse (“We’re being so reasonable; why are they so intransigent?”). It is hard to get into a virtuous cycle of cooperation if the parties cannot see the negotiations from the other side’s perspective. Because not only do states suffer from naive realism but they tend also to devalue what the other party offers. Suppose, for example, limits on fishing rights in international waters and standards for smokestack emissions are on the table. “We’ll pollute less if we can fish more,” you offer. “No deal,” says your negotiating partner, “you’re getting more than you’re giving.” “OK, then,” you say, “we’ll fish less if we can pollute more.” “No deal,” says your negotiating partner, “you’re getting more than you’re giving.” And you, of course, would say the same thing if your partner made either of those offers. We seem to assume that if someone is willing to give something up, it must be worth less than we think it is.”..

In the end, he puts out a thought which indicates simply how difficult this problem is and the solution could start with just one small action taken by one person in the right direction.

I know, I know. America really is exceptional. We are entitled to drive Hummers. We need those tanks because the safety of our kids is more important than the safety of anyone else’s. This feels right and true, so I understand how it might govern the attitudes and behaviors of most people (in America). But then I remind myself of the phenomenon of naive realism. Everybody, everywhere, has exactly the same feelings as we do. Like us, they can’t understand how people in other places don’t see things the way they do—don’t see things as they “really are.” This reminder of the above-average effect, sometimes called the “Lake Wobegon effect,” is enough to get me into the market for a Prius.

More of this here: [The Link]

What you don’t know about your friends

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Published on: August 11, 2009

Here is an interesting article from about relationships.
…”A growing body of experimental evidence suggests that, on the whole, we know significantly less about our friends, colleagues, and even spouses than we think we do. This lack of knowledge extends far beyond embarrassing game-show fodder – we’re often completely wrong about their likes and dislikes, their political beliefs, their tastes, their cherished values. We lowball the ethics of our co-workers; we overestimate how happy our husbands or wives are.”

…”Although such blind spots might at first seem like a comment on the atomization of modern life, the shallowness of human connection in the age of bowling alone, psychologists say that these gaps might simply be an unavoidable product of the way human beings forge personal bonds. Even in close relationships, there are holes in what we know about each other, and we fill them with our own assumptions.”

…”But perhaps most surprisingly, these blind spots might not be a bad thing, and may even strengthen relationships. Many of the benefits that friendship provides don’t necessarily depend on perfect familiarity; they stem instead from something closer to reliability. And it may be that a certain ignorance of our friends’ weaknesses, or of the realms where we disagree, may even help sustain the deep sense of support that friends are there to provide.”

More about this here: [The Link]

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