That was the year that was ... 2010.

2010 is definitely behind us, and so here is the customary retrospective post where I reflect on my year. I enjoyed my 2010. It’s largely been a busy, keep-your-head-down kind of year, but that’s okay. It means I have plenty to reflect on.

So, the majority of my reflection focusses on work. I’ve done a lot of work this year, including authoring four papers (primary on two, secondary on two). One of those papers was published at IMC 2010. One was rejected, despite decent reviews, but I did submit it to a highly competitive venue. Two are awaiting a decision some time soon. I find writing fun, in the sense that it features the important process of discovering the things you don’t understand in quite enough detail. This process forces any author to do more work, to clarify their argument. The outcome, I think, is good. And, in my case, the outcome is also two dissertation chapters.

My workflow, I am realising, seems to be heavily centralised, but centralised in various places. By that, I mean, I’m increasingly reliant on parts of “the cloud”. Although my office machine is the focal point for my work, Google has seen some more of my data this year, too. But I’ve expanded into all sorts of other services.

Although I have parts of my electronic life backed up using various mechanisms where appropriate (svn, rsync, etc), these are all a bit disparate. To add to the ragbag, I started using Dropbox as a convenient way of syncing my library of PDF copies of papers between my machines. (I did toy with using lsync to achieve the same, but ultimately left this for another day: I’d like  my own dedicated host sitting in my flat to coordinate this sort of data, but I don’t have one I’m happy with right now.) Regarding other services, I started using Delicious again until all the ambiguity surrounding its future, after which I promptly jumped to, which I like a lot. Another service I’m now happily using regularly is Instapaper, useful for punting links to for reading later, rather than holding far too many browser tabs open. I’ve also been using Todoist for some longer-term todo-list management. All these services feel lightweight, and offer plugins for Chrome, meaning I don’t need to go out of my way to use them. Joy.

In a non-cloud progression, I started learning little bits of R this year. R is a statistics package which makes my life simpler by implementing all sorts of statistical tests that I no longer need to craft by hand: think percentiles and standard deviations, and other calculations of that ilk, and how tedious many of them are to craft in AWK. I let R handle all that now, and my work is probably less error-prone because of it.

Regarding non-work cloudification, Spotify now looms large on my listening habits. I think I started using the service more than a year ago, but I have one machine dedicated to Spotify that is happily hooked up to my sound system and streams much music when I please. Is this good? Well, it is until you decide to do research on Spotify peering traffic using your own account, and you have days where you can’t interrupt experiments. This did make me realise just how much I use Spotify: When I didn’t have access to the service, there were many things I did not own that I could no longer listen to. Equally, there are many CDs I own that I had not heard in many months: physical media still seems more interesting to browse. Will I stop buying CDs? Unlikely, especially given the frequency at which Spotify’s contracts with the record labels seem to expire: It’s not uncommon to find tracks missing from carefully crafted playlists when the track is no longer available through Spotify. A shame, but otherwise I’m pretty happy welcoming Spotify into my home. The other web service I’ve come to use frequently is Dailymile, which I use every single time I go running. It’s fun to see just how my running varies over the year…

In terms of gadgets: I acquired my N900, and my Kindle. These sit very nicely within my ecosystem. In particular, the N900 is basically a Debian-based Linux box. Since I’ve been using Debian systems for many, many years, I’m entirely used to how the N900 works and, as a Linux box, it does a lot of things transparently in my environment. Likewise, it’ll do a lot of things not so transparently, but it pretty much works how I’d like it to. And my Kindle, I’ve only just acquired, but Amazon seem to have been pretty smart in how they manage syncing, and how they manage profile management.

Regarding travel, I haven’t done so much this year. I went to Australia again, with the tiniest of stops in London. I visited Cambridge a few times (arguably too many, given the size of the city). Abingdon, once again, for the annual Cosener’s pilgrimage. And apparently a tour of Scottish cities: Inverness, Aberdeen, Stirling, Edinburgh.

I did also take something of a break at the end of summer to walk the West Highland Way, a 96 mile (154km) walk from Milngavie to Fort William, though I did do this in two stages with a couple of days break in between (the first 48 miles to Crianlarich achieved in two days, then a two day break for aching feet, then I completed the route myself over another three days).

And that other hobby, photography, which I played around with whenever I had time. My favourite shots of this year:

And so, that’s that. Goodbye 2010; hello 2011.


Posted by Stephen Strowes on Wednesday, January 5th, 2011. You can follow me on twitter.

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