Snow Day Monday: Stata

This post was initially intended for publication last Friday but due to weather was delayed.

Stata: The New Norm in Academic Statistics

Spring semester brings a heightened pressure for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to find lucrative internships, and for the seniors about to enter the “real world” to land full-time employment. One commonly heard piece of advice from human resource representatives is to have an understanding of statistics, no matter your field.


Thankfully, classes can often cater to this desired professional attribute. A fundamental program that professors teach to aid students in manipulating and understanding statistical data is Stata. In this post, I will provide a brief introduction to Stata’s uses and capabilities while touching upon a few of its flaws.

According to Stata’s website, the program has capabilities with data management, graphic displays, modeling, regressions, and much more. In my experience, Stata does all of these exceptionally well. For example, if you would like to try to determine whether or not levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide have any relationship to surface temperature, you simply import your data and run a correlation. Stata will do all of the math for you, and can provide graphic displays of your information. Your graph might look something like this:

Of course, Stata can handle much more complex datasets with multiple variables, time scales and output measures. One example on the program website involves the predicted miles-per-gallon of both foreign and domestic cars as it relates to the vehicle’s weight. Plotting that data could give you a graph like this:

The most useful attribute of the program in my opinion is its intuitive command structure. If I want to calculate the correlation coefficient between two variables, for instance, I just type “corr variable1 variable2.” Want to find a summary of your data, with the mean and standard deviation? Simply type “summarize variable1.”

Though I have only been using Stata for a short period of time, I have noticed a few shortcomings. First, the spreadsheet that Stata provides to edit and manipulate data lacks the functionality of an Excel or Open Office spreadsheet, so users often run both programs simultaneously. Additionally, the offline product lacks a basic tutorial, so someone just starting out might have trouble at first. That being said, it has a vast command glossary, so if you know a command’s syntax but do not understand what it does, you can easily look it up.

No matter what career field students decide to pursue—engineering, politics, academia—a basic knowledge of statistics will be vital to their success. Do computer programs like Stata and others like it teach statistics? Unfortunately not, but they allow students to apply their classroom knowledge on real data and create an experiential learning opportunity. Having that skill can only help them in their future endeavors.


TechTuesday: Evernote!

Disclaimer: I recently accepted a job offer starting July from Evernote as a web developer. That said, I’ve been a huge fan of Evernote since way before I applied to work there. It really is a great tool!


Evernote is an insanely useful (free) note taking application. Like all good apps, there are clients for Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and webOS as well as a fully functional webapp. In this blog post, I’ll be giving you a brief overview of the features of Evernote, as well as why you should consider using it.

Evernote syncs across all the devices on which you have it installed, so you can write up your shopping list on your PC and then access it on the go on your smartphone. Better yet, you don’t need data connectivity to access your notes on any device, so you can continue looking at your notes from class on your tablet when you’re away from wireless internet. The note uploads and syncs online once you’re connected again, so you don’t have to worry about anything, it just takes care of itself!

Text, audio, pictures
With Evernote you can not only write text, but you can also take a picture and insert it into your note, and you can even record audio as part of a note! This works especially well on Evernote for your smartphone of choice – you can very easily take a picture of something you want to remember and insert it into your note, after which it syncs automatically to your other devices so you can come back to the image with a more expansive screen. You can also record something quickly via audio and attach it to a note, enabling you to come back and listen to it later.

Collaboration is easy with Evernote – you can share specific notes or notebooks (collections of notes) with multiple people. This way, multiple people can work on the same notebook and use the powerful features of Evernote together. This is especially useful for working on big group projects where research is a bit part of the task at hand.

Web clipper
One of Evernote’s killer features is its web clipper. Using this tool, you can take a part or all of a web page right from your browser and store it as a note in your Evernote. No more bookmarking of multiple websites to keep track of your info! Instead, just take a clip using the web clipper and you will always have your record of the web page, even if the original page is modified or even decommissioned.

Bonus: Skitch
Skitch is an app by Evernote for OS X, iOS and Android that provides a nifty feature. It allows you to quickly annotate, edit and share of images and screenshots. As an example of things you can do, you can add text and arrows on the image, and you can move them around and rotate them as much as you can. Using skitch, you can take a picture of a textbook, draw and arrow and circle the relevant sentence, and send the image to a friend to help explain a concept. It integrates completely into the main Evernote apps; you can create a skitch from within Evernote and insert it into your note painlessly.

In short, Evernote is a comprehensive solution to the simple problem of taking notes. People use it as a notebook for their classes, write to-do lists using their to-do list feature, and use it as an overall organizational tool. It provides functionality to accomplish a multitude of tasks; it’s up to you to decide what subset of its capabilities to use.

— Ammar

TechTuesday: Dropbox

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could access your documents, spreadsheets, pictures etc anywhere and everywhere? Wouldn’t it be nice if all you had to do was to edit a file, save and close, and then have that file updated across all your devices, regardless of what type of a device it was?

Enter Dropbox. Dropbox is a free* service that will do all of the above! It will automatically upload and backup files you specify, so that you can access your files from virtually anywhere with an internet connection using your Dropbox account.

They have apps for Windows, Macs, Linux, iPhones, iPads, Android phones/tablets, BlackBerry devices and webOS. All you have to do is install Dropbox on your Windows PC or your Macbook, select a folder on your computer to keep your Dropbox files, and Dropbox automatically keeps those files synced across your devices. If you install Dropbox on a mobile device, you can access any of your files directly from your phone/tablet without having to transfer them individually. The files are accessed directly from the internet so they don’t even take up space on your device. You can also download and upload your files directly by going to the Dropbox website.

Dropbox also supports sharing folders with people who have Dropbox accounts, as well as providing a non-Dropbox user a direct link to download a file.

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