Thesis in LaTex

I'm sure that I'm breaking some sort of pre-dissertation hazing that I should be going through right now, but I was wondering if any former grads who wrote their thesis in LaTEX (which should be everyone methinks) would be willing to share their style files and cover page with me? I've only submitted journal articles up to this point, using the journal style files, so things like a cover page, a table of contents and such are all very foreign. Surprisingly, I could not find any .tex copies of Dartmouth theses online.


Car Accidents and the Zodiac

Allstate apparently released a humorous memo claiming that auto insurance rates depended on your sign. They even went so far as to make a chart showing the number of accidents in the previous year versus sign. (And cleverly even included the "13th" sign of Ophiuchus.)

People started freaking out though, so the memo was pulled. Allstate just issued a statement saying "Rating by astrology would not be actuarially sound."

However, there's some fine print... they didn't fake the data, it's based on actual crash data and actual driver birthdates! So maybe they should be using the horoscope in their ratings. Hmm.


What price market share?

Without a doubt, the big AAPL news of the week has concerned the announcement that Steve Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence (not accidentally timed to take advantage of MLK day to reduce/avoid a huge market selloff). Companies can have good CEOs and bad CEOs, but the COS (Cult of Steve) is so strong that this second medical "vacation" has prompted all sorts of "can Apple survive" chatter both on the interwebs and on the older kind of tubes, the TV kind.

While I think that Tim Cook will do just fine, both in the interim and when Jobs eventually steps aside, Steve's guiding vision for Apple cannot be overstated. Design of individual devices aside, one key aspect of the Steve Jobs Apple has been to prioritize quality above quantity, to prefer to make awesome computers (Macs, Mac Pros, Macbooks, etc) that get 10% market share, compared to pumping out a piece of shit frankensoft hodgepodge of bloatware and inconsistent-quality hardware with a monopolistic market share. Apple has generally itself avoided being an early adopter; instead of debuting a piece of technology ahead of its peers competitors losers, Jobs prefers to let other companies suffer through the development stage and then release a far superior and better-conceived device.

In light of the above, I think this note today, that (based on revenue) Apple is now the world's largest mobile phone vendor, is especially interesting given the timing of Steve's absence. Does this mean that, for the iPhone at least, Apple can no longer be content to sit back and enjoy strong margins on 10% of the market? Or, with Steve possibly out of the picture, will Cook et al have the discipline to "stay true" to the Apple brand and avoid "slumming"? I actually don't think this is a problem since the cost of a Blackberry + iPod is comparable to an iPhone, unlike the false choice of cheap PC vs expensive MacBook, but I do have to think that becoming the dominant "cell phone" maker could lead to unforeseen difficulties down the road. What's next after the iPad?

Oh, and while we're riffing on TUAW posts, this is pretty sweet:



Quick, look down at your ring finger (if you have a y chromosome). How does its length compare to that of your first/index/pointer finger? That length ratio can tell you things, but in the end you may wish you'd not read this post.

Several different studies have correlated the length ratio of ring/index fingers to certain health and/or personality characteristics, generally as a result of in-utero testosterone exposure levels, including athletic ability, aggression/lack of generosity, aptitude for math, heart disease, earning power, and more recently, an increased chance of prostate cancer.

See, there, now don't you feel better? Stupid science. I'd much rather at least the illusion of free will. 🙂


"Porn in a cup"

File this one under "bad idea"... or perhaps "lawsuit waiting to happen"?

A Brooklyn coffee shop owner has "invented" a deci-shot (20 oz) espresso, with the explanation that sounds like it was copied directly from a 12-step meeting:

"Sometimes I'll drink a double espresso and say to myself, 'I need another double.' And then another double will turn into another double. And I was like, why not drink a full cup?"


Memory Card Recovery

I haven't had a memory card die on me yet, but I got concerned the other day that I really had no idea how to get my pictures back if my camera did something crazy when I was at a wedding or something like that.

The basic idea is that flash memory has a limited number of write cycles. So "deleting" a file really just means that the file system forgets where the file was, rather than actually writing zeros or random numbers over the location. Overwriting would made the chip last half as long. As with any other storage media, if the directory dies though, you lose everything because you can't find the files anymore. With a hard drive, you then typically overwrite the file you want to recover and it's lost permanently (unless you're the NSA).

With flash memory though, because of the limited number of possible writes, there's a chip in the memory to try to make sure that each possible area of the memory gets used equally, so one part doesn't wear out before the rest. This means that typically the part of the chip with the most recent pictures on it won't be overwritten until the entire rest of the disk gets filled up. It's sort of a best case situation for data recovery.

Thus, to recover files, you just run through the entire card and find things that look like image files (or any other kind of file).

The entire point of this post is that you can spend $50 on fairly poorly written software to do the recovery, or you can just download PhotoRec which is open source and does exactly the same thing. I did a test run on one of my cards and pulled 4 GB of perfectly valid files from it, pretty nifty if I ever run into a problem.

This brings up another issue too, flash memory is completely insecure. Incriminating/trade secret files/messages/whatever could be lurking on any memory card or thumb drive. So, if you have one that you're done using make sure you either physically destroy it or actually wipe it.


I am not an astronomer

Since Nathaniel is otherwise occupied, I figure it's my turn to report on astronomy-related news.

In today's segment, an interesting application of crowdsourcing has resulted in the discovery of a previously-undiscovered (duh) pit crater on Mars... by a class of 7th graders.

The students were participating in the Mars Student Imaging Program. This special program lets students use NASA's technology inside their classrooms... [they] are asked to think of a geological question about Mars to research. Then students can adjust the cameras on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft to help answer their question.

"The students developed a research project focused on finding the most common locations of lava tubes on Mars," said their teacher, Dennis Mitchell. "Do they occur most often near the summit of a volcano, on its flanks, or the plains surrounding it?"

So the class pointed Mars Odyssey's cameras at lava flows near Pavonis Mons, a large volcano on Mars. That area of the Red Planet is rarely photographed. Their photos revealed lava flows, as the class had hoped. But they also showed the unexpected crater.