What OS do you use, and do you update?

Today’s survey (of grad students, postdocs, and faculty in the sciences at Brandeis) asked users up to 4 questions about operating system use and update habits. From 273 responses so far:

Q1. Which of the following operating systems have you used in the last month?

Windows 196; OS X: 173;  Linux: 82; Solaris:	4; iOS: 133; Android: 76; Other: 3

Windows is the most often used system, but the average respondent used two or more of the top computer OSes.

Q2. What is the main operating system on the computer you use most often?

Windows: 111 (41%); OS X: 135 (49%); Linux: 24 (9%); Other: 3 (1%)

As a choice for the primary computer, OS X nipped Windows to grab just under 50% share. Linux users are just under 10%. One person uses FreeBSD.

Windows Users

W1. What version of Windows do you have on your computer?

  • Windows XP:  15  (13%)
  • Windows Vista:  6  (5%)
  • Windows 7:  78  (69%)
  • Windows 8:  12  (11%)

Windows 7 is the most common version of Windows, by a much larger margin than I expected, and Windows 8 is starting to have some traction.

W2. Is your computer kept up to date on operating system updates?

  • Yes, updates apply automatically:  60  (54%)
  • Yes, I am prompted to apply updates, and I do it:  39  (35%)
  • I have no clue:  7  (6%)
  • Not usually, I am prompted to apply updates, but I don’t agree to it  4  (4%)
  • No:  (2%)

Given the dangers of not promptly upgrading Windows, it is not surprising to find compliance with updates at 90% (or higher, I think the people with no clue are getting upgrades)

OS X Users

 M1. What version of OS X do you have on your computer?

  • 10.5.x (Leopard) or earlier:   6  (5%)
  • 10.6.x (Snow Leopard):  44  (33%)
  • 10.7.x (Lion):  30  (22%)
  • 10.8.x (Mountain Lion):  52  (39%)

Users have been upgrading more aggressively than I thought (or are buying new computers?)

M2. Is your computer kept up to date on operating system updates?

  • Yes, updates apply automatically:  18 (13%)
  • Yes, I am prompted to apply updates, and I do it:  97  (72%)
  • I have no clue:  1  (1%)
  • Not usually, I am prompted to apply updates, but I don’t agree to it:  10  (7%)
  • No:  (2%)
  • Other:  (4%)  (mostly “sometimes yes, sometimes no“)

Not quite as compliant as Windows users. I may have work to do to convince them it’s a good idea.

Linux Users

 L1. What distribution of linux do you use?

  • Ubuntu: 17
  • RHEL: 4
  • Mint: 2
  • Arch: 1

Ubuntu wins, despite our Red Hat site license, at least on the desktop. Similar update numbers as for OS X.

Publication Alert Services

I did a little survey today to see what kinds of e-mail or RSS alert services Brandeis scientists (spanning the range from undergrads to faculty) use to learn about new science papers.

About half of them use an alert service. 28% use more than one service, while 20% use a single service. Of the half that don’t use alert services, most of them (42% of total) would consider doing so. Only 10% are turned off by the idea.

Of the services people use, PubMed is the most popular (hardly surprising given how life science heavy we are). Out of 232 responses so far, people said they used alert services from these suppliers:

PubMed 60 34%
   via BioMail 6 3%
   via PubCrawler 4 2%
   via HubMed 1
Individual journals 45 25%
Google 32 18%
arXiv 14 8%
Web of Science 10 6%
SciFinder 7 4%
Brandeis library 5 3%
Faculty of 1000 3 1%
ResearchGate 3 1%
NASA Astrophysics 1
Annual Review 1
EurekAlert 1
HighWire Press 1
ScienceDirect 1
National Academies Press 1

I’m surprised by the strong showing of individual journals and publishers — who says traditional publishing is dying?

If you need some instructions how to set up alert services, see our wiki.


I had a question from a science professor yesterday… basically along the lines:

Why do I have an email from ResearchGate saying my colleague Prof. X invited me to join, but Prof. X says he never did that? Are they spammers? Is this legit?

while yesterday the media were announcing

Bill Gates, the world’s richest person, is helping lead a $35 million investment in ResearchGate, a networking website for scientists.

So what’s up with ResearchGate anyway?

They seem to aspire to be Facebook or LinkedIn for scientists (of course many scientists use those already), and they claim to want to help scientists make their research visible, and to “connect and collaborate”.

I don’t much see the need. I think I would be suspicious of someone who spent too much time putting their papers (or unpublished data) on a social media site instead of relying on the existing journal publication mechanisms.

But I recognize that opinions vary. If you’re a Brandeis scientist with positive or negative views about ResearchGate, drop me a line and tell me why it’s good or bad, and I’ll report back here.

Reviving the Technology Help Forum

At one time, we had a lively public technology help forum (on my.brandeis.edu) where a few of us (I miss Rich!) answered questions for Brandeis users brave enough to ask questions in public.

I’m trying to create this atmosphere again. To ask a question in public, go to the new Brandeis Technology Forum (a Google Group) and post it there. You can also email your question to techforum-group  AT brandeis.edu

To see recent posts, look at the RSS feed at left.

Update: We’re going to do this, but negotiations are underway about whether we do it within our “Google Apps domain” or without. So we’re holding off a little.

Update 2: We are now doing this inside our “Google Apps domain” and I changed the addresses above. Please post!


How do Brandeis scientists telecommute?

The day many of us were stuck at home (while the police chased the Boston Marathon bombers), I did a little survey to see how people who work in the Division of Science get to their work computers (and to see if they knew about all the options available).

The result I thought most interesting was the fraction of people who leave their desktop computers at Brandeis on so they can remote control them. It’s a really useful way to work if your network connection at home is fast, but i didn’t realize so many people were doing it already. Of the people who aren’t doing it yet, the main cause is not knowing that it’s possible.

Some instructions:


The perils of relying on social networking software

Mountain Lion released, proceed with caution

Apple released Mountain Lion (OS X 10.8). I recommend that Brandeis users proceed cautiously before upgrading. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Brandeis has a license for Apple’s maintenance program that will cover the cost of upgrades for Brandeis-owned computers. It usually takes a while before they distribute installers. You’ll save a few bucks if you wait for these to be available.
  2. Mountain Lion’s new features are mostly aimed at consumer use — there is little that will improve your use of your Mac as a research workstation.
  3. The standard wisdom is to wait for the bugs to be identified (e.g. wait for version 10.8.1 or 10.8.2)

The usual consequence of the release of a new OS version is that support for old versions gets dropped. You should not be using OS X 10.4 (Tiger) at this point, and you should be thinking either about insulating your computer from the internet or about upgrading if you are on OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Many Brandeis computers that are still quite functional are on 10.5 and can’t be upgraded, so restricting access to the internet to essential functions might be the best solution.

PS.: There was also a Safari update (version 6.0) today for Lion. I know because Apple sent me an email. The email says

Information will also be posted to the Apple Security Updates web site: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222

but there is nothing about the Safari 6.0 update there. Seriously, Apple? You can’t get your website updated simultaneously with your email announcements. Heck, even Microsoft can do that.

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