The Contracting Life

December 21, 2012

Ah, another involuntary blogging hiatus. This time, for a good reason though. I have work. And it’s work that pays money, is interesting and has some future in it. It’s pretty cool. I’ve also had an offer of more work that I’ve had to defer until next year, which is encouraging. It seems as though this contracting thing might actually work out.

I have two clients I’m working with at the moment. The first is my old research group in Bristol. I’m doing some Fortran programming for them, extending a tool they use for generating input files for the main climate model that they use. It’s not a very complicated job, apart from the historical aspects – there are three main versions of the code for this tool, one of which comes in 269 distinct, slightly different versions… So sorting out which version is most “canonical” is an interesting problem. I’ve calculated Levenshtein distances between all the distinct versions and have used hierarchical clustering to get some idea of the historical relationships between all these versions. I think that this is probably going to be the trickiest part of the job! (There’s also a Tcl/Tk GUI that will need to be modified, which will be about as much fun as a root canal, but the changes needed should be pretty localised.)

The second client is a start-up that’s doing some really interesting stuff. They’re still in a pre-release development phase, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to blog about for now, but suffice it to say that there’s Haskell, Bayesian statistics, Markov chain Monte Carlo and data visualisation aspects to it. I’ve spent the last few weeks working on part of the web GUI front end, which has been an eye-opener, since it involved rather more JavaScript than is good for my mental health. I’ll write about some of that in general terms over the next few days.

I have another mad idea that I’m going to start on Monday. I’ll write about the details of that tomorrow, but it will either result in a 100% productivity increase or some sort of institutionalisation. We’ll see. More from the Department of Irresponsible Human Experimentation tomorrow…