Software Development as mathematician in academia – everyone bites the dust

Software Development as mathematician in academia – everyone bites the dust

Is it possible to do software development, mathematical or not, as mathematician in academics? This is a question I was asking myself recently a lot, seeing my own development from logician at a state university getting rid of foreigners to software developer. And then, a friend pointed me to this very depressing document: The origins of SageMath by William Stein, the main developer of SageMath. And I realized that it seems to be a global phenomenon that mathematicians who are interested in software development have to leave academics. What a sad affair.

SageMath has a clear mission:

Creating a viable free open source alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab.

All the “Ma”-software packages are commercial, and expensive. On the other hand they often have very good algorithms implemented. The Sage developers invested lots of time, energy, and brain power to develop excellent algorithm in an open source project for the mathematical researcher, but this investment wasn’t honored in academic life. To quote from the presentation:

Issues with software dev in academia

  • Hard money for software development is virtually nonexistent: I can’t think of anyone I know who got tenured based on his or her software.
  • Researchers on soft money are systematically discriminated against in favor of tenure-track and tenured faculty.
  • Researchers are increasingly evaluated solely on bibliometric counts rather than an informed assessment of their overall portfolio of papers, code, software, industry engagement, or student supervision.

The origins of SageMath, p.31

I can fully agree to this. Both from my own experience as well as from those around me. The presentation slides are full of other examples, from the developers of NumPy, Jupyter, as well as statements by Stephen Wolfram from Mathematica about this issue. A textbook how to not setup academia.

My assumption was that this hits only on non-tenured staff, the academic precariat. It is shocking to see that even William Stein with a tenure position is leaving academics. It seems the times are not ready 🙁

Every great open source math library is built on the ashes of someone’s academic career.
The origins of SageMath, p.32

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Debian/TeX Live 2017.20170724-1

Yesterday I uploaded the first update of the TeX Live packages in Debian after TeX Live 2017 has entered Debian/unstable. The packages should by now have reached most mirrors. Nothing spectacular here besides a lot of updates and new packages.

If I have to pick one update it would be the one of algorithm2e, a package that has seen lots of use and some bugs due to two years of inactivity. Good to see a new release.

Enjoy.

New packages

algolrevived, invoice2, jfmutil, maker, marginfit, pst-geometrictools, pst-rputover, pxufont, shobhika, tikzcodeblocks, zebra-goodies.

Updated packages

acmart, adobemapping, algorithm2e, arabluatex, archaeologie, babel, babel-french, bangorexam, beamer, beebe, biblatex-gb7714-2015, bibleref, br-lex, bxjscls, combofont, computational-complexity, dozenal, draftfigure, elzcards, embrac, esami, factura, fancyhdr, fei, fithesis, fmtcount, fontspec, fonttable, forest, fvextra, genealogytree, gotoh, GS1, l3build, l3experimental, l3kernel, l3packages, latexindent, limap, luapackageloader, lwarp, mcf2graph, microtype, minted, mptopdf, pdfpages, polynom, powerdot, probsoln, pxbase, pxchfon, pythontex, reledmac, siunitx, struktex, tcolorbox, tetex, texdirflatten, uowthesistitlepage, uptex-fonts, xcharter.

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Garmin fenix 5x – broken by design

Garmin fenix 5x – broken by design

Some month ago I upgrade my (European) fenix3 to a (Japanese) fenix 5x, looking forward to the built-in maps as well as support for Japanese. I was about to write a great review, how content I have been with the fenix 3 and how much better the 5x is. Well, until I realized that Garmin’s engineers seem to be brain-damaged and shipping broken by design devices: Just one word: Set an alarm on the watch, and wonder …

.. because you will never wake up the next day, since the alarm was deleted due to an unattended (so-called) sync operation. Happened to me, several times, worst was when I was with clients working as guide. Continue reading

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Gaming: Refunct

Gaming: Refunct

A lovely little game, Refunct, just crossed my Steam installation. A simple platformer developed with much love. The game play consists of reviving a lost area by stepping on towers, finding buttons, and making more towers appear through this.

The simple game play idea is enriched with wonderful lightening due to the movement of the sun. I really enjoyed the changing of environment and mood that was created by this effect.

Although not terrible useful by now, one can also swim and dive and enjoy the world from below, which is just an added nice bonus.

The game is currently (till Monday night as far as I see) on sale on Steam for 149 Yen, i.e., slightly above a Euro/Dollar. Well worth the investment for about 1h of game play.

Addition: The fastest run at the moment is at 2:46.57, that is under 3min! I managed barely under 25min. Incredible.

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Making fun of Trump – thanks France

I mean, it is easy to make fun of Trump, he is just too stupid and incapable and uneducated. But what the French president Emmanuel Macron did on Bastille Day, in presence of the usual Trumpies, was just above the usual level of making fun of Trump. The French made Trump watch a French band playing a medley of Daft Punk. And as we know – Trump seemed to be very unimpressed, most probably because he doesn’t have a clue.

I mean, normally you play these pathetic rubbish, look at the average US (or Chinese or North Korean) parades, and here we have the celebration of an event much older then anything the US can put on the table, and they are playing Daft Punk!

France, thanks. You made my day – actually not only one!

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The poison of academia.edu

The poison of academia.edu

All those working in academics or research have surely heard about academia.edu. It started out as a service for academics, in their own words:

Academia.edu is a platform for academics to share research papers. The company’s mission is to accelerate the world’s research.

But as with most of these platforms, they need to get money, and since some months now academia.edu is pressing users to pay into a premium account at the incredible rate of 8.25USD per month.

This is about he same you pay for Netflix, or some other streaming service. If you remain on the free side, what remains for you to do is SNS-like stuff, and uploading your papers so that academia.edu can make money from it.

What I am really surprised that they can pull this of at a .edu domain. The registry requirements state

For Institutions Within the United States. To obtain an Internet name in the .edu domain, your institution must be a postsecondary institution that is institutionally accredited by an agency on the U.S. Department of Education’s list of Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies (see recognized accrediting bodies).
Educause web site

Seeing what they are doing I think it is high time to request removal of the domain name.

So let us see what they are offering for their paid service:

  • Reader “The Readers feature tells you who is reading, downloading, and bookmarking your papers.”
  • Mentions “Get notified when you’re cited or mentioned, including in papers, books, drafts, theses, and syllabuses that Google Scholar can’t find.”
  • Advanced Search “Search the full text and citations of over 18 million papers”
  • Analytics “Learn more about who visits your profile”
  • Homepage – automatically generated home page from the data you enter into the system

On the other hand, the free service is consisting of SNS elements where you can follow other researchers, see when they upload/input an event, and that is it more or less. They have lured a considerable amount of academics into this service, gathered lots of papers, and now they are showing their real face – money.

In contrast to LinkedIn, which also offers paid tier, but keeps the free tier reasonably usable, academia.edu has broken its promise to “accelerate the world’s research” and even worse, it is NOT a “platform for academics to share research papers”. They are collecting papers and sell access to them, like the publisher paywalls.

I consider this kind of service highly poisonous for the academic environment and researchers.

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Calibre and rar support

Thanks to the cooperation with upstream authors and the maintainer Martin Pitt, the Calibre package in Debian is now up-to-date at version 3.4.0, and has adopted a more standard packaging following upstream. In particular, all the desktop files and man pages have been replaced by what is shipped by Calibre. What remains to be done is work on RAR support.

Rar support is necessary in the case that the eBook uses rar as compression, which happens quite often in comic books (cbr extension). Calibre 3 has split out rar support into a dynamically loaded module, so what needs to be done is packaging it. I have prepared a package for the Python library unrardll which allows Calibre to read rar-compressed ebooks, but it depends on the unrar shared library, which unfortunately is not built in Debian. I have sent a patch to fix this to the maintainer, see bug 720051, but without reaction from the maintainer.

Thus, I am publishing updated packages for unrar shipping also libunrar5, and unrardll Python package in my calibre repository. After installing python-unrardll Calibre will happily import meta-data from rar-compressed eBooks, as well as display them.

deb http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main
deb-src http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main

The releases are signed with my Debian key 0x6CACA448860CDC13

Enjoy

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TeX Live contrib repository (re)new(ed)

TeX Live contrib repository (re)new(ed)

It is my pleasure to announce the renewal/rework/restart of the TeX Live contrib repository service. The repository is collecting packages that cannot enter TeX Live directly (mostly due to license reasons), but are free to distribute. The basic idea is to provide a repository mimicking Debian’s nonfree branch.

The packages on this site are not distributed inside TeX Live proper for one or another of the following reasons:

  • because it is not free software according to the FSF guidelines;
  • because it is an executable update;
  • because it is not available on CTAN;
  • because it is an intermediate release for testing.

In short, anything related to TeX that can not be on TeX Live but can still legally be distributed over the Internet can hav e a placeon TLContrib. Continue reading

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Calibre 3 for Debian

I have updated my Calibre Debian repository to include packages of the current Calibre 3.1.1. As with the previous packages, I kept RAR support in to allow me to read comic books. I also have forwarded my changes to the maintainer of Calibre in Debian so maybe we will have soon official packages, too.

The repository location hasn’t changed, see below.

deb http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main
deb-src http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main

The releases are signed with my Debian key 0x6CACA448860CDC13

Enjoy

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Signal handling in R

Signal handling in R

Recently I have been programming quite a lot in R, and today stumbled over the problem to implement a kind of monitoring loop in R. Typically that would be a infinite loop with sleep calls, but I wanted to allow for waking up from the sleep via sending UNIX style signals, in particular SIGINT. After some searching I found Beyond Exception Handling: Conditions and Restarts from the Advanced R book. But it didn’t really help me a lot to program an interrupt handler.

My requirements were:

  • an interruption of the work-part should be immediately restarted
  • an interruption of the sleep-part should go immediately into the work-part

Unfortunately it seems not to be possible to ignore interrupts at all from with the R code. The best one can do is install interrupt handlers and try to repeat the code which was executed while the interrupt happened. Continue reading

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