Desert Island Hard Disks

Desert Island Hard DisksYou find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with all the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a reasonable network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier? 

Today we hear from Kevin Ashley, Director of the Digital Curation Centre.

When Simon first suggested this to me, it raised lots of questions, most of which I didn't ask him but agonised over. And then I realised that the only way to approach this was for me to state my assumptions, and I'll do so in a way that seems favourable since to do otherwise would be punishing myself unduly. To begin, this machine I have must be more than just bare metal since otherwise the challenge of making use of it and its network connection would be an order of magnitude higher than it would otherwise be. Since Desert Island Discs long ago decided that every island (or at least the ones for British castaways) would be provided with a copy of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, I'm assuming we're in an analogous position. My computer will have an operating system and the suite of utilities that I would expect to see…

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DIHDBy Neil Geddes

You find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with all the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a reasonable network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Neil Geddes, Director of STFC Technology at the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

I can’t believe that I actually agreed to do this. Being asked to provide some desert island insights seemed like such as honour at first, but then the scientist’s sceptical paranoia sets in: exactly how am I getting the electricity? Does the computer come with an OS? Do a language and a compiler count as two? Do I need libraries? What sort of internet connection is it? Am I allowed to download stuff? Will my choices look weird, stupid or just ill-informed? Am I really being sent to a desert island?

Calm down: don’t over analyse; and get into the spirit. If I had to rush out of the office right now, I think that this would be surprisingly easy. I’d grab my web browser, pick up my python IDE and I’d be off. I guess that the browser is sort of cheating since I am assuming that it gives me access to essentially everything else I could think of,…

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DIHDYou find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives, F1000, and Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Policy Institute at King’s College London.

I feared that I might be the most unqualified person to have been invited to contribute to this blog. Having read previous entries, I checked with Simon (Hettrick) at the Software Sustainability Institute to see whether he seriously wanted a contribution from me, and I received the encouraging reply “it's not really about the software, but about what the software says about you.” So assuming that the Institute isn’t seeking to dumb down its excellent work, and that at least one person wants to know what my choices of software say about me, here goes...

The first thing I would need is the ability to write. I would record my daily trials and tribulations and, while it might not be fashionable, would need…

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DIHDYou find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Mark Plumbley, Professor of Signal Processing at the University of Surrey, and Chair of the Institute's advisory board.

What software do I need if I'm stuck on a Desert Island? Let's see...

Out-of-office with chatbot (based on deep learning, of course). I don't want to be concerned that people will notice I'm away. So instead of an out of office responder that simply replies "I'm away and I will delete your message on my return", my out-of-office-bot would reply in the style that the recurrent neural network had learned from my other messages. Nobody will notice the difference, so I can relax properly knowing that nobody will send out a search party.

Evernote, customized for my GTD/TSW variant. Indispensable. I would finally have time for all those Next Actions accumulated in 5-SomedayMaybe. With the necessary saved searches and shortcuts set up to keep me organised, I'll never be stuck knowing what to do next. Hmm, it seems that most…

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You find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Greg Wilson, founder of Software Carpentry.
 
Like most people who have moved from programming to managing (and in my case, teaching), I feel nostalgic for the good old days when all I had to do was fix memory leaks in multi-threaded C++. So when I imagine being stranded on a desert island, my first thought is, I could use the time to learn how to program again! The reality is that programming has moved on in the decade since I last shipped a product, and I'd enjoy reacquainting myself with the craft I used to love.

The first software package I'd bring with me would therefore be the Glasgow Haskell Compiler (GHC). There are many newer functional programming languages, like Clojure, Scala and F#, but Haskell seems to have inherited the title of a tool for thinking about programming that for many years belonged to Scheme. Becoming a native speaker of Haskell would, I hope, force me to see all of programming with fresh eyes,…

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You find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we'll be hearing from David De Roure, Director of the Oxford eResearch Centre.

I've always felt that, should one ever find oneself in a fairytale "three wishes" scenario, then surely the first wish would be to be able to do magic. Hence my first software package must be a programming language with which I could do anything, and for me that is Lisp. To be specific, it would be the Scheme dialect, and the MIT compiler, but that might all depend how much I can grab in those precious seconds – "any Scheme will do" as someone once nearly sang. And given one Lisp I can make any other – or indeed any other language, of my own invention. Metalinguistic magic. Lisp was and is my first language and I believe my brain might be programmed in it.

Chances are I might find the next one lying around on the island but I can't risk being without it. It's make. For me it's…

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You find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Andrew Treloar, Director of Technology at the Australian National Data Service and Co-chair of the Research Data Alliance Technical Advisory Board.

I still can't quite remember how I ended up on the desert island... It may have been a particularly bad performance review, or possibly my boss just took me a bit too seriously when I said I needed more time to sit and think? In any case, the only bit of the process that is still clear in my memory was having a short window in which to decide which device to take and what software packages I was allowed to load onto the internal flash storage. (Hard disks? Who uses hard disks anymore?)

The device answer was an easy one. Although I am getting more productive with my iPad, there are a whole range of computing tasks for which a traditional laptop are a better fit, at least for me. And while curling up with my laptop in a…

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You find yourself stranded on a beautiful desert island. Fortunately, the island is equipped with the basics needed to sustain life: food, water, solar power, a computer and a network connection. Consummate professional that you are, you have brought the three software packages you need to continue your life and research. What software would you choose and - go on - what luxury item would you take to make life easier?

Today we hear from Daniel S. Katz, Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute, University of Chicago & Argonne National Laboratory, and currently Program Director, Division of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, National Science Foundation.

Following the example of lots of fairy tales, I’ll bend the rules and say that I want a single tool that enables me to do lots of different things: a browser. Yes, this is the equivalent of using my first wish for an infinity of additional wishes. (I wonder how the fable authors will punish me for my conceit in trying to trick them?)

Do I really need a browser? Couldn’t I build my own? Probably, given enough time and effort, but what’s the point? We are social (collaborative) animals, and how we’ve gotten to where we are (a desert island, in my case) is by building on each other’s work.

A browser gives me two things. First, and most obviously, as hinted at above, the ability…

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