STOR-i Computing Group (STORC)


STORC is a computing group organised by students for other stu dents on the STOR-i course. It is a chance for students to share knowledge on common programs and techniques that can be useful when tackling academic research. The sessions also allow for new software to be introduced and questions to be asked in a friendly and understanding environment

The idea for the group came from a specific problem faced by a large research group. In many situations different students will encounter the same computing problems and find different ways to solve their own problem. This can often be time consuming when it would have been easier to ask other students that have already faced such problems. By giving each student a basic grounding in common computing techniques the group aims to reduce the likelihood of such situations. An online forum available to STOR-i students also allows for collaboration and help to be found across years and subject areas. .

The group aims to meet twice a term with sessions lead by students and staff on a variety of computing issues. Information about sessions that have already happened can be found below. For any more information then please contact Hugo Winter .


Previous Sessions


Introduction to Linux and Emacs

Session lead: Jamie Fairbrother and Chris Nemeth

Date: 12/03/14

Computational requirements for researchers differ greatly from the requirements of standard computer users. While software such as Microsoft Word and Excel are invaluable tools for any secretary, the suite of products offered by Windows machines often falls short of the needs of researchers.

Linux based systems are more compatible with the requirements of researchers as these systems are more flexible and offer more resources to researchers to help researchers do what they always do; try things which haven't been done before. This is why 95% of the supercomputers in the world run some variant of Linux, including the STOR-i cluster.

In this talk we'll introduce some tips, tricks and shortcuts that are useful to any Linux user. We'll also give a quick introduction to Emacs, a popular text editor (probably the most popular) that makes it easier to write and edit text documents, including LaTeX, R, C and python to name a few. Text editors can be an invaluable resource for any programmer and were strongly encouraged by Peter Frazier during his visit to STOR-i in January.

Speeding up your R code

Session lead: James Edwards

Date: 19/02/14

Particular characteristics of the programming language R mean that code written in a style appropriate for another language can be slow. This talk will look at some of these R specific pitfalls and how to avoid them. Benchmark and profiling of code to find where bottlenecks occur will also be discussed. Examples and a small case study will be used to illustrate these concepts.

High Performance Computing using STORM

Session lead: Ben Pickering

Date: 29/01/14

High performance computing (HPC) is an invaluable tool for researchers within the statistics and operational research community. HPC allows for the execution of computational activities which would otherwise require a prohibitively large amount of computation time or memory when performed on conventional machines. Such activities may include the testing of complex models, or the implementation of large-scale simulation studies. STORM is the HPC cluster which is available for use within STOR-i. This session will introduce the basic steps which will enable students to begin using STORM as part of their research, as well as highlight some more advanced features which may be of particular interest. The instructions given will be for a Linux-based operating system; Windows users are recommended to use Linux within a Virtualbox.

Useful Links: http://www.vub.ac.be/BFUCC/LSF/

Version control with Subversion

Session lead: Jamie Fairbrother

Date: 31/10/13

Version control is a tool for keeping track of all changes to files in a project. It can be used to monitor the evolution of a project, undo unwanted changes, and in the case of collaborative editing managing conflicting changes. It is particularly useful in programming projects where, for example, you may want to undo changes which caused bugs in your code, or to run code which may rely on a previous version of your project. Version control systems can also be used as a tool for distributing software. This session will introduce the popular open source and cross-platform version control system Subversion. The session will take the form of a tutorial where those attending will set-up their own Subversion repository, and put some code they're working on under version control.

Useful link: http://subversion.apache.org/


Advanced plotting with ggplot2

Session lead: Tom Flowerdew

Date: 22/08/13

ggplot2 is a graph-plotting package for R, which takes advantage of the ‘Grammar of Graphics’, a way of thinking about the process of creating informative images developed by Leland Wilkinson. The advantage of ggplot2 is that one the grammar is understood, creating graph becomes an entirely logical process, and very complex outputs can be formed with little effort.

Useful link: http://www.ggplot2.org/


Mendeley: The easy way to read papers

Session lead: Tim Park

Date: 11/07/13

A large part of academic research is reading and later referencing journal articles and other resources, over the course of a PhD this can amount to hundreds of documents. It is therefore good practice to have a system for saving items you have read making them easy to find later. Mendeley is a free programme for Windows or Linux which can automatically monitor .pdf files you have saved and organise them in terms in terms of authors, journal, year or your own keywords. This makes it very easy to browse the papers you have saved and read them. Mendeley also has an online function so you can access your papers remotely or share them with others. Finally Mendeley easily integrates with BibTex and allows you to create a .bib file containing references for your papers.

Useful link: http://www.mendeley.com/


Drawing figures with TikZ

Session lead: Thomas Lugrin

Date: 20/06/13

In papers and posters figures are what people look at first. Clear and informative figures are thus very important and it is important that we spend some time drawing them. TikZ is a LaTeX package which allows computation of high-quality graphics, based on intuitive and powerful coding. A wide range of tools, such as shadings, fadings and decorations, can be used to generate better visualizations that can help to better communicate the message of your work.

Useful links:
http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/graphics/pgf/base/doc/generic/pgf/pgfmanual.pdf
http://www.texample.net/tikz/


Introductory session and R package development

Session lead: Hugo Winter

Date: 11/06/13

In this first STORC session we discuss how to develop a package in R. Many of the functions that we take for granted when coding in R will have come from a package that has been uploaded onto CRAN. Creating a package can also be useful for research students to keep a documented record of all code that they have generated. Well documented code also allows for easier collaboration between academics and industry partners. This session expands on a talk by Markus Gesmann at the Advanced R course earlier this year. Each student will be able to discuss their issues and offer their tips on how to avoid any pitfalls.

Useful link: http://lamages.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/create-r-package-from-single-r-file.html