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Peter Molfese

Research scientist (Haskins Labs)

in developer, mac, researcher

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Peter Molfese; I work as a Research Scientist at Haskins Laboratories studying how people learn. And if that isn't interesting enough, I use a variety of neuroimaging techniques (EEG, fMRI) to look at how the brain develops and changes during learning. I have a PhD in Psychology with a minor in statistics and an undergraduate degree in Computer Science.

What hardware do you use?

At work I have an Apple Mac Pro with 12 "Westmere" cores, 40GB of RAM and a 27" Apple Thunderbolt Display. This manages to do some fraction of my work; I also farm some of the processing to four other Mac Pros with the similar specs, controlled by the now discontinued Xgrid. I utilize an Apple Keyboard with keypad and Magic Mouse, with a second-generation Drobo for storing data; at most times I have an Astro A40 headset for keeping out distracting noises. My chair is a Herman Miller Aeron Chair, which solved most of my back problems that developed before I learned how important a good chair is.

My personal computer is a mid-2011 1.8Ghz Core i7 "Sandy Bridge" MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and 256GB flash storage. I read books and browse the interwebs on the couch using my iPad 2 Wifi with 32GB of storage. I'm rarely without my black iPhone 5 on Verizon.

And what software?

Both my work and home computers are running OS X Mountain Lion. I install homebrew for easy access to a number of tools, including the GNU Scientific Library and GNU Parallel. I use Apple Mail for email, manage music in iTunes, photos using iPhoto and Aperture and my DVD collection with Delicious Library. My daily schedule is managed by Calendar (formerly iCal) and Fantastical. For odds and ends, there is still a Yojimbo size hole in my workflow as I wait for an iCloud compatible version. In the meantime I'm trying out Evernote, and I like it. I have been using BBEdit as a quick powerful text editor for about a year, and it has changed my life in positive ways.

For analysis of the neuroimaging data I use AFNI (Analysis of Functional Neuroimages) and Freesurfer for fMRI and EGI's Net Station for the EEG/ERP data. Once I have the data in a useable form, I export it to R. For some analyses, I still use SAS 9.3 (running on Windows 7 within VMWare Fusion 5). When my work requires something outside these tools, I program in either C++ or Objective-C using Xcode. Recently, I've started to use Python with Numpy, Scipy, and matplotlib (prototyping code in CodeRunner). I also use Matlab.

For writing articles/books/etc, I use Microsoft Word 2011 and Microsoft Excel 2011 (hoping to transition to iWork someday), managing journal article PDFs in Papers 2. For figures, I rely on a combination of Python/matplotlib, R, and Adobe Creative Suite 5 (Photoshop, Illustrator). For web browsing, I'm a fan of Safari (nightly build) and 1Password for managing the somewhat obscene number of passwords the web now requires. I present with Keynote. My workflow for web development uses Dreamweaver, Coda 2 and Transmit. And of course, none of this would be possible without Dropbox.

What would be your dream setup?

I would love to move most of my work to a 15" MacBook Pro with Retina and pair it with dual Thunderbolt displays. For heavy computing, I would opt for five to ten Mac Pros and a job submission setup using either Condor or Hadoop (possibly both). I would also likely upgrade to a Drobo 5D, for the speed and capacity boost.

I'm pretty attached to my Aeron chair, but I've read so much about standing desks, that I would love to give it a try.