Productivity on the road

I am waiting for a flight to Geneva. For a guy that works in an unexciting cubicle, I seem to travel a lot. As Europe is the fourth continent which I am visiting this year. (More about this very exciting trip once I am back) The thing with travelling is that I will be away from my development desktop, amongst other things of course. As I work a day job and can only do my trading analysis and quant development work between the hours that I can squeeze in every day, every free minute is precious. One productivity habit that I adapted from frequent travelling is that I have a portable workflow system implemented. For the sake of completeness by stating the obvious, there are three keys to being productive while on the road.

  1. Exploiting downtime.
  2. Being prepared.
  3. Planning ahead.

Being productive doesn't mean that I coup myself up in a hotel room to work. Enjoying a foreign city and absorbing a different culture help enhance my personal experience in the long run. Being productive means exploiting down-times. The times waiting at an airport (like now), stuck in a plane, the wee hours of the morning when you couldn't sleep because of jet-lag, etc. Being prepared means have your work ready and available. There are three free software/services that I can't live without these days. They are Dropbox, Subversion, and SSH.

  • Dropbox is a web-based file hosting and synchronizing service. Basically, after installing the Dropbox software, anything you put in your "My Dropbox" directory in your computer will be mirrored on their online server. Then you can install the Dropbox software in a second computer and choose to link your private dataset with this second computer. Thus the "My Dropbox" directory will be synchronized in real-time between these two (or more) computers and an online version. All your most important files will be up-to-date and available to you anywhere. No more need for USB drives.
  • A software version control system to keep track and backup my source code revisions. I use Apache Subversion in particular. You can use Subversion to archive any file other than source code. For example, you can use it to keep track of revisions and branches to your presentation slides. [Assembla offers a free 2GB online private repository][] so that you can access it from anywhere and save the hassle of rolling your own repository server.
  • Secure Shell (SSH) is not a service like the other two but a network protocol. It is not as easy to setup so I'll leave it to Google. I use it to securely and remotely access my main computer's file system or the desktop when necessary. A simpler alternative to SSH is to use LogMeIn, a remote desktop service.

Note that some of these links are affiliate programs. But I just use their free services, so I am only recommending you do that too. These tools not only help me stay productive while away, they also ease the trouble of using more than one computers between my office, my home desktop, and my wife's laptop. Together they create a true virtual development environment. While mobile and cloud computing technologies are certainly useful, nothing beats old fashioned planning and organizing. Plan ahead, prepare your work, and have them available with you wherever you are. A lot can be done with plain pen and paper.

Goodbye Microsoft

I have been weaning myself away from Microsoft products these past few years. First to go was Microsoft Outlook. Then Microsoft Office. And then recently, I am finally rid myself of the last Microsoft product that I have--Windows XP. I have been using Ubuntu for the past two months now. Linux is certainly a lot easier to use now than years ago when Red Hat was the most popular distribution. I installed Ubuntu and the system was ready to use. No more hunting for linux drivers or installing packages one by one. Ubuntu was ready for use right off the bat. The first couple of weeks was awkward as there are many differences between Ubuntu and Windows. I often find myself searching online to see how to perform some trivial tasks. Setting up the Ubuntu system to just the way I wanted took some time and IT skills. But after the initial learning curve of about a week, I am very satisfied. Both Windows and Ubuntu have their pros and cons (there are plenty of comparisons online, so I won't compare them here), I wouldn't say one is better than other. As a skilled computer user, I am fine either way. The primary use of my computer is for running my automated strategies and quant programming. As such, system stability is a top priority for me. Which is why I decided to try Linux in the first place. So far, Ubuntu hs lived up to its expectations. I ran the JForex platform non-stop for days in addition to my regular heavy usage without any hiccup or slowdown. Having made the switch, I will be sticking with Ubuntu for the following reasons:

  1. It works.
  2. It is stable.
  3. It is free.
  4. It is fully customizable.
  5. It integrates with other open source software that I use.
  6. I like how it is always up-to-date to fix bugs and security holes.
  7. It runs much better than XP (although that's an unfair comparison as XP is old).
Posted 25 July 2010 in journal.

40 monitors, 6 computers, 1 day trader

I'm still recuperating from my food poisoning from last week. Meanwhile, I came across this unbelievable trading workspace showcase from LifeHacker.

40 monitors trading workspace

I have no idea how this trader can juggle 40 monitors during his day trading. I am satisfied with just one 24" monitor on my desk. However, I'm neither a day trader or a professional trader, so perhaps I'm missing something?

What do you think of this 40 monitors setup? A dream come true or a charts nightmare?

Posted 01 March 2010 in journal.