Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Data Science Trolling at the Airport: Using R to Look Like the Matrix

I've been quite busy at work lately, but I am working on some new, serious posts (one on Support Vector Machines, another on Trumps claims of voter fraud).  For today though, just a fun post about trolling people who like to stare at programmers in public.  

Occasionally, I am stranded somewhere in public (like an airport or a conference) when I need to do some serious coding (side note: one large company has a significant piece of their software architecture running that I wrote on a bench in Las Vegas).  In these situations I open my laptop and start coding, but often notice that people are staring at my computer screen. It doesn't bother me that much, but over time it does become a bit annoying.  A few theories for the stares:

  • It's novel: They've never seen a programmer at work before.
  • It's me specifically: I tend to fidget, and be generally annoying when coding.
  • Its evil: When normal people see programmers writing code in movies, they're always doing something fun and exciting, or evil. They're hackers. 

A Solution:

Anyway, I eventually get annoyed with people staring at me, and based on my third bullet point, decide to give them a show, troll them just a bit.  I wrote this very short piece of code a few years ago in an airport, it's for R and actually quite simple:

It uses a loop, runif() and some rounding to create 70,000,000 random number and print them to the console.  It basically makes your computer screen look like something from a hacker or Matrix movie.  The Sys.sleep() function is something to parameterize based on your system settings, but the point of it is to make the console animate as though you are in a movie.  What does this code create?  I  Here's video of the code running: 

Recommendations for maximum silliness: 

  • When you start the code, maximize the command line portion of your computer.
  • Make sure you're setup for black background and white or green text, for maximum appearance of evil.
  • For bonus points try to give the appearance that you are really up to something:
    • Wringing of hands or nervous fingers help with this appearance.
    • Rocking back and forth slightly while intently staring at the screen.
    • Mumbling under breath things like "it's working, it's working!" or "almost in... almost in."


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