Saturday, 9 November 2013

What I have in my backpack: my academic toolbox

+Rodolphe D'Inca has started a series of posts on G+ looking at his 'toolbox' as a scientist:
  1. Reading Science
  2. Building a bibliography
In this post I thought I'd join in and briefly share the kit I carry around in my backpack and the stuff I use on a day to day basis software wise.


Here is a picture of the usual contents of my backpack:

In there you see:

- My tablet (a nexus 7). I use this mainly to read papers and books but also for some teaching stuff where I use it to tick student progress on +Google Drive.
- My smartphone (a nexus 4). I'm kind of addicted to my phone. I use it for email, +Google+, Google Keep, and to remember where I have to be and when (if it's not in my calendar I won't be there: the reverse not necessarily being guaranteed either...).
- My 11" macbook air. This I probably care about more than my wife. I'll talk about software below but it's really from a hardware point of view that I love this machine. So portable and just the right size. I've been really tempted by the +Dell XPS 13 Developer edition laptop but the screen size (13") puts me off a bit. I love my big monitors for my desktop but for a laptop I think 11" is perfect (the fact that +Linus Torvalds uses it is also kind of cool).
- The dongle to let me connect my macbook to a projector (kind of annoying that you need this but oh well...).
- An actual paper on paper (every now and then I have a paper in my bag as opposed to reading on my tablet: I happened to have one in there today). I've just done a screencast about the particular paper I'm looking at.
- A 250GB hard drive for backups (I'm pretty paranoid about backups).
- My +Moleskine notebook. For the past 3 or 4 years I've only been using this notebooks and make sure I date them so that I've got a tidy record of all my scribblings on my bookshelf in the office. I got this one autographed by Jorge Cham of +PHD Comics:

- My 4 color Bic pen. I used these throughout highschool but 'lost my way' during University. Just started using them again and remember how awesome they are: always work, nice to have the colours and perfect balance for finger spinning (it might be because I spent most of highschool learning how to finger spin with them).
- A usb stick but I very rarely use it (it was in my backpack when I wrote this).

EDIT: After +Rodolfo Carvajal asked on G+ here's a photo of the backpack itself:

I've had it for about 4 years now and it's an Eastpack (I pretty much try to refuse to use anything else as I learnt to love how durable they were during highschool). It's got a nice padded section for my laptop and straps that I can hook my water bottle too but also that I can use to compress the bag when it's empty (the stuff I carry in it does not take much space). It will be a very sad day when (if?) this bag dies as it's by far my favourite backpack ever (pretty much just being compared against other Eastpacks). There are various other tiny bits of kit that I'm missing here (laser pointer, portable battery) but that's because I've left them somewhere and weren't in the backpack when I got the stuff out to take the photo...

2nd EDIT: They still make the backpack! :)


I've posted about software and my preferences of *nix environments before but in general I use the following software:

- Vim for editing pretty much everything (LaTeX, +Python+Sage Mathematical Software System, md);
+Sage Mathematical Software System for math calculations;
+Python for more general programming;
- Git for version control;
- Rstudio for R code editing;
- Zotero for reference management (I blogged about using Zotero with +Dropbox here)
+Dropbox (big fan)

Anyone got anything I should know of and use?