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It seems people introduce themselves here, so why not...
I am doing research in Japan, though I am French and have spent 4 years in Germany. I am a physical-chemist and do both experiments and simulations/modeling. I have been doing scientific programming from my undergraduate studies (statistics in Matlab, Artificial Neural Networks, etc.) until now. I have "some" experience in Fortran and now prefer C++. (You do not need highly involved things for scientific programming, one class is usually enough and preferred).
I have been using Gentoo as my first and only distro for over a year. I recently bought a small and pretty laptop, gentoo was not suitable for it and it received Ubuntu (did not like it) and Debian (liked it) and I am now writing from a Mac book pro 2 (It may or may not see Gentoo in the future, when I have time). I have contributed a little bit to Gentoo, writing shell scripts and a small program in Python in order to return something to the community (nothing is free in this world). I also administrate a workstation, but t would need to be updated from Suse 9, however, I have better things to do than fighting Japanese inertia. Maybe someday I will just format it and apologize very much.
Using Linux is only my personal preference, I have nothing against Microsoft (they make very good mice and fonts) but I find their OS very difficult to use...
I do not know if anyone reads these introductory posts apart from the LQ staff.
And synss does not mean anything and I pronounce it like "sein" s (the French word for breast + s) or "saint" in French + s.
I have contributed a little bit to Gentoo, writing shell scripts and a small program in Python in order to return something to the community (nothing is free in this world).
Thanks for contributing *and* telling us you did. I hope other people will follow that example with their distro of favourite piece of F/OSS. And welcome to LQ, hope you'll like it here.
If you will be writing papers, you will probably also learn to use Latex. I would regard statistics and neural networks as being highly involved!
I like LaTeX very much, I use it for writing papers (unless my coworkers oppose it) and presentations.
And I agree, statistics are highly involved. I do Kinetic/Dynamic Monte Carlo, now. What I meant is that the programs for solving these problems can usually be kept relatively short and simple. The theory behind, master equation and so on, is definitely not simple! But I am a post doc now and it is my job.