16/01/2017

When Excel is better than machine learning?



Title: Ruins of a castle in southern Poland, Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

I can bet that some of you think that I'm crazy because I'm saying such blasphemies! Surely everyone knows that Excel is not for real developers ;) If you think so, I'll tell you a short story.

09/01/2017

Yerba Mate to the rescue




I heard about Yerba Mate many years ago. It must have been in a television program run by quite famous Polish journalist, writer, satirist and traveler Wojciech Cejrowski who is also a popularizer of this drink. However, it took some time until I decided to give it a try. Now it is one of basic "tool" in my developer tool box. Why? This post explains it.

03/01/2017

Is it possible to do PhD and work full time?



Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

I decided to return to my series about Ph.D. studies and write about sharing a time between a job in the industry and scientific work. According to my experience it is quite a common scheme here in Poland (at least if we talk about the computer science). A vast majority of my colleagues had additional job during their Ph.D. studies. In this post I'll try to answer some question on this topic.

A short clarification. By working in the industry I uderstand engineering/technical work that in general doesn't have scientific part. However, I'm aware that there are positions in the industry that required scientific qualification and I'll also write a few words about it.

Why a Ph.D. student may want to work instead of focusing on his/her research?

Well the answer is trivial and it is money. Let's start with the fact that many MSc / BsC students work during their studies. It means that they may have 2, 3 years of experience when they start Ph.D. studies (I assume here that they start Ph.D. just after MSc). With such an experience their salary in the industry could be 2x, 3x, 4x times higher than on the university.

Is it feasible at all to work full time and finish Ph.D. Studies?

Short answer is yes it is possible. I was working full time for almost all my Ph.D. studies and I did it.

What about money from grants and additional projects on the university?

Someone may say that Ph.D. students can also earn additional money by working for their doctoral advisors. It's true but it depends strongly on your advisor. Some of them have grants, projects etc. and will allow you to earn additional money and sometimes this are quite good money. However, not all advisors have such possibilities. Besides you have to remember that grants/projects will end at some point. So you may have good money for X months and then poor money for another Y months.

Another option is to get a grant on your own. There are even dedicated funds for young scientists. However, I couldn't say much about that because I didn't have such a grant. The problem may be that in order to get such a grant you have to have good results. And in order to have good results you should focus on your research. And in order to focus on the research you can't have a full time job. But if you don't have a full time job, you'll have to live for considerable smaller amount of money...

How did a full time job affect your scientific work?

I'm convinced that my Ph.D. thesis would have been better if hadn't worked full time. I have no doubts here. It may sound trivial but the main problem is that scientific work required a lot of innovative thinking, much more than average programming work. And this kind of thinking is difficult after a day of work not to mention about a time for family.

I have one more, not so obvious, observation. I think that because of my full time job in the industry my Ph.D. thesis has engineering inclination. Is it good or bad? I'd say that it depends. We have to remember that Ph.D. is mainly about doing science and engineering part is less important.

I know the case when Ph.D. student didn't defend his thesis because it was too technical! On the another hand if you know the industry your work may be potentially more useful or it may be easier to find practical applications. To sum up it is important to preserve a proper balance between engineering and science with the focus on the latter.

Last but not least. If you work full time during Ph.D. studies you may not have time to take part in additional courses, trainings... that are dedicated to Ph.D. students.

What kind of job will be the best for Ph.D. student if any?

At the beginning of my Ph.D. studies I was working part time. It was a very good idea. I simply had more time for my research. So, if you need to work I strongly recommend you to consider the part time job. The problem is that not every employer will agree for that.

Of course a full time job can sometimes help you in doing Ph.D. i.e.:
  • when it is somehow related to your area of research
  • if the industry is paying you for doing research
  • if the industry is paying you for doing Ph.D.
In this situation you actually don't have 2 jobs but ideally only 1 job, or maybe 1.5 but still it's better than 2. Unfortunately, according to my experience it is difficult to find such a job.

Do you have tips for Ph.D. students who want to work in the industry?

Except what I've already written it'll be good to find a job with flexible working hours. Thanks to that you will be able to go to the university, meet with an advisor etc. without problems. Besides avoid overtime like the plague. It's another think that can kill your scientific work.

I also recommend to have a rule that every week we have to do something related to our Ph.D. It could be reading some articles, doing an experiment, implementing a tool... It's important to do that despite everything. Thanks to that you will constantly see some progress and you will not lose sight of the main objective i.e. Ph.D.

The last advice might be surprising because I did something different ;)

If you seriously think about the scientific career forget about working in the industry. The only exception is if a job in the industry is related to your scientific work.

26/12/2016

Migration to Nuget V3



Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

Sometime ago I wrote a post about My struggels with GitHub, Subtrees and Nuget and Joseph suggested me another solution of my problem in the comments i.e. to switch to Nuget V3. A few days ago I finally found time to give it a try. I started by reading this tutorial/post written by Oren Novotny. It's really a good source of knowledge so I'll not describe the whole process again. However, I encountered 3 problems that weren't described and I'll briefly write about them.

Project.json vs Project.config

A new Nuget uses project.json file instead of the old project.config so I started with adding this new file to all projects. Then I moved packages from the old files to the new ones. In the next step I reloaded all the projects just to be sure that VS will see changes. After that I built the solution to see if it works and it worked. Finally, I made a commit and pushed my changes. And here comes a problem. In a few minutes I got an e-mail from my Azure (hosted) build controller that a build has just failed.

§ Error: C:\a\_tasks\NuGetInstaller_333b11bd-d341-40d9-afcf-b32d5ce6f23b\0.2.24\node_modules\nuget-task-common\NuGet\3.3.0\NuGet.exe failed with return code: 1
§ Packages failed to install

The source of a problem was apparently a conflict between project.config and project.json so I just removed the former from the projects.

Naming problem

It is not everything. The next problem looked in the following way:

Failed to resolve conflicts for .NETFramework,Version=v4.6 (win).
Unable to satisfy conflicting requests for 'MVVMLight': project/MVVMLight (>= 1.0.0) (via project/MVVMLight 1.0.0)
Unable to satisfy conflicting requests for 'CommonServiceLocator': CommonServiceLocator (>= 1.3.0) (via project/MVVMLight 1.0.0)
Unable to satisfy conflicting requests for 'MvvmLight': MvvmLight (>= 5.1.1) (via project/MVVMLight 1.0.0)...

This time the fix was also easy. Nuget V3 doesn't like if the projects in the solution have exactly the same names as packages! In my solution I had MVVMLight project which is my playground for MVVMLight package. I renamed in to MVVMLightTest.

Last but not the least

After migration to Nuget V3 I had to deal with one more problem and again I didn't observe it locally but only when building on Azure (hosted) build controller. In the build log I found the following error:

The OutputPath property is not set for project 'LanguageTrainer.csproj'. Please check to make sure that you have specified a valid combination of Configuration and Platform for this project. Configuration='Debug' Platform='x86'.

And it turned out that in some csproj files I had the following condition:

<Platform Condition=" '$(Platform)' == '' ">x86</Platform>

It says that if the platform is not specified for a given build then use x86. At the same time these csproj didn't contain configuration, including the problematic OutputPath, for x86. To fix a problem I simply changed x86 to AnyCPU.

23/12/2016

Życzenia Świąteczne / Merry Christmas 2016



Source: own resources, Authors: Agnieszka and Michał Komorowscy

Kolejny rok minął jak z bicza strzelił. Dużo się w nim działo, a w 2016 przynajmniej u mnie będzie się działo jeszcze więcej i z pewnością będzie ciekawie. Zanim to jednak nastąpi czekają nas Święta Bożego Narodzenia, czas odpoczynku, spotkań w rodzinnym gronie... i z tej okazji życzę Wam i Waszym bliskim wszystkiego dobrego.

Wszystkiego dobrego,
Michał Komorowski

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Another year passed like a whip shot. Much has happened in 2015 but even more is going to happen in 2016, at least in my case;) But it is still the future and now Christmas is right around the corner. It is a time of rest, meetings with the family... and on this occasion I wish You and Your relatives all the best.

Best wishes,
Michał Komorowski