Monthly Archives: May 2011

TTL-Technology – Getting Things Talking to Each Other

A common issue in psychology research is getting various bits of hardware linked up in the right way. To take a simple example, I mentioned in this post that you can build a simple response box for your experiments, but (deliberately) neglected to mention what happens with the signals from the response box at the computer’s end. How does the computer ‘know’ that your participant has pressed one of the keys? The answer is TTL (Transistor-Transistor-Logic) signals. TTL signalling was invented back in 1961, and intended as a standard way for a piece of electronic equipment to send bipolar logical signals (i.e. 1=on and 0=off) to another piece of equipment. Long before ethernet, the internet or TCP/IP, this was how computers communicated with each other. TTL-type signals can be presented through most computer’s parallel and serial ports. Read the rest of this entry

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Choosing a computer – Mac? Windows? Netbook? Laptop?

These days most university departments provide at least some basic computing facilities for their students, but most students also want to have their own computer for all-night last-minute essay-writing sessions and/or illegally downloading episodes of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ or ‘Jersey Shore’ (depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on) outside their university’s firewall. Not that I would ever condone or seek to promote such activity, oh no. Anyway, computers are cheap nowadays, but they still represent a major investment for most students, so here is my advice on the matter. All opinions are mine alone, your mileage may vary etc. etc. Feel free to flame me in the comments if you feel I’ve unjustifiably dissed your favourite OS, or whatever.

The initial decision you need to make is which operating system takes your fancy most – and there are really only two options – Macintosh OS X or Microsoft Windows.* A lot of people get very excited by the Windows vs. Mac issue and Mac users in particular seem to have a genuine and somewhat creepy devotion to their chosen OS. My take though, is that the latest version of both (Windows 7 and OS X 10.6) are excellent, and either one will do everything you could possibly want. I regularly use both and have very little issue with switching between the two pretty much seamlessly. Nowadays, you can even install Windows natively on Mac hardware, so you could potentially buy a MacBook and use it purely as a Windows machine. If you were some kind of pervert. Read the rest of this entry

Best iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps for psychology students

The iPhone is much more than just a phone – it’s a powerful mobile computing platform which has completely changed the way  we interact with our mobile devices. If you’re a student who has one (or an iPod touch, or even an iPad, you lucky, lucky thing) there are many ways you can use it to make your life easier.

Mendeley. If you use Mendeley (and if you’re any kind of student and you don’t use it, or something like it, then you’re basically nuts) then a download of their free app is a must. The app connects to your online library of references and allows you full access to any PDFs you’ve synced to their servers for download and reading. You can sync papers to your library using the desktop version and read them later on your iPhone or iPad. Sweet. And it’s free! Read the rest of this entry

Which fMRI analysis software (SPM, BrainVoyager, FSL)?

This one’s a bit advanced for the kind of information I generally want to include on here, but I thought it might be useful to somebody, so I’d put it up. I was recently asked to do a talk on fMRI software, so put together a presentation comparing three popular choices for analysing brain imaging data: SPM, BrainVoyager and FSL. I’ve used all three packages in the past for my work, although I’m not so expert with the new versions of SPM as I used to be. The talk was pretty basic, and focussed more on features and the UI experience of the three applications, rather than any technical details.

Anyway, the slides are available for download here (PDF, 3.6Mb) if anyone’s interested. All content is my personal opinion, your mileage may vary, etc. etc.