In this post I answer the interview questions from The Setup.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a recent mathematics PhD graduate living in Tel Aviv. I’m learning Data Science by taking online courses, reading as many books and resources as I can, and devoting my time to my own projects. I’m particularly interested in elections and electoral systems and have been spending a lot of time lately developing a data-driven model for predicting and studying Australian parliamentary elections. I’m also a keen runner, amateur photographer, and I love to listen and make music, read and write, and travel the world. I’m also an Apple tragic.
What hardware do you use?
My computer at the moment is a 13” MacBook Pro with Retina Display. I have the model with the maxed out stats. In the past few years I’ve owned four different Mac laptops and this is the one I’ve settled on as the best. The only drawback is its battery life is not quite as good as the Air, and it tends to run a little hot. I also have an old Mac Mini that I use as a media server. I have an iPhone 6 which is far and away the best phone I’ve ever owned. My iPad Air gets less use now than it did since I spend most of my time on my laptop. I listen to music through a pair of Sennheiser HD449s, which aren’t the best headphones I’ve ever owned but they do the job. I treasure my two old 160GB iPod classics but don’t use them much anymore: at the moment they’re plugged into an old stereo at home which doesn’t get much airtime.
To record music, I use Shure SM58 and 57 microphones. I just moved overseas so had to sell my beautiful new Korg SP-170S so I’m in the market for a new one now. My trusty old PreSonus FirePod recording interface finally died just before I moved, so I’m currently using a small Behringer until I can afford a new one.
To take photos I use an Olympus E-PM1 with its kit lens; I had a wonderful Panasonic Lumix G power-zoom lens but it was irreperably damaged.
And what software?
For writing mathematics I use LaTeX (specifically TeXShop). I code in Sublime Text which also functions as a decent Python IDE: I have recently been using iPython notebooks (and iPython in general) a lot. All my other text these days is also written in Sublime Text, usually in Markdown. I spent a while trying to find a text editor that works for me and Sublime Text is the best one I could find: I particularly like how customisable it is.
For data analysis I use Python, usually the fantastic pandas and numpy packages, as well as scikit-learn. I also like R (RStudio is a great piece of software), particularly when I want to use out-of-the box machine learning algorithms. To get data from the web, I’ll scrape using BeautifulSoup, another Python package, or if I have to do it by hand, use Excel (which is actually one of the best pieces of software ever made).
I browse in Chrome, even though I dislike how much battery it chews through on my Mac. I keep trying to move to Safari once or twice a year but I keep coming back. I can’t live without the AdBlock plugin for Chrome; I also use Vimium for keyboard shortcuts in the browser, and a plugin that removes that annoying “Seen” notification when you’ve read someone’s messages on Facebook. My email lives in Gmail with a complicated system of labels to keep me sane. I read a lot of longform web articles: the Instapaper plugin is great but I often forget to use it.
My considerable music collection lives in iTunes but I also spend quite a bit of time in Spotify. I watch videos in VLC and “obtain” them using uTorrent. Since last month my photos live in the OS 10.3 Photos app, which finally killed the worst piece of Apple bloatware, iPhoto. I use OSX Calendar but I’m not married to it. Crashplan handles my backup (I hate the idea of backing up to hard drives, but I do use Time Machine and a physical hard drive when I remember). Dropbox backs up my particularly vital folders. iTerm 2 replaces the default terminal. Evernote holds all my to-do lists and random thoughts. I’m currently trying Todoist which I like a lot, but I’m struggling to find the balance between it, Evernote and my inbox.
I also use a bunch of utilities to keep my computer sane: f.lux so my eyes don’t get burnt out, Alfred to launch applications, Divvy to move windows around using keyboard commands, mclock to keep two time zones in my menu bar, and Bartender so my menu bar doesn’t get clogged up with all those ugly icons.
On my phone, my homescreen consists of Instagram (to share heavily filtered versions of my crappy iPhone photos), Todoist, Calendar, Instapaper (to read articles when I’m away from my computer), Nike Running (I’ve been tracking my runs with it for four years now so I can’t change), NextTrain (a basic app for the Israeli train network), Google Maps, Spotify, WhatsApp, Evernote, Safari (I hate the Chrome iPhone app), Mailbox (my favourite piece of iPhone software: this allows me to keep my inbox empty unless there’s something I need to deal with right now, by snoozing emails to reappear in the inbox when needed), Dropbox, ESPNCricinfo (to keep up to date with cricket scores in a country where no one has any idea what it is) and Facebook and Messenger.
What would be your dream setup?
An infinitely fast and thin laptop computer, with infinite battery, with the same keyboard as my MacBook Pro, running OSX Yosemite with the final bugs ironed out. Perfectly comfortable headphones I can wear all day, and a completely lossless music collection. Apart from that I’m pretty happy with how things are at the moment: slowly but surely getting better, just like me. I’d also like an Apple watch.