I’ve been warned that I sometimes veer too far in the direction of toolmaker away from the standard path followed by most scientists. Try as I might, I cannot seem to avoid finding the process of doing science nearly as interesting as the goal of getting that science done. And so, my mind has been orbiting around a problem I suspect is endemic amongst all physicists, if not all scientists. That problem, captured so nicely by this PhD comic is that of filesystem cruft. Science, being at it’s core an experimental art, produces for every successful idea a whole panoply of failed experiments, mistakes, and generally messed-up crap. Being paranoid creatures consumed by our own fears, along with the awareness that serendipity has been a cornerstone of great work, we are loathe to sweep these ill-fated children of the mind into the trash where they (mostly) belong. And so those of us who rely on computers for most of our day-to-day work end up with home directories filled to the brim with old scripts, corrupted data files, a dozen different versions of the same list of values, and other digital detritus. And this situation makes for errors, confusion, thousand yard stare, anal leakage, and other evils too foul to discuss in polite company. Just looking at my /home directory on my workstation at the University, I have more than 100,000 files sitting around, waiting for me to stare at them for a quarter hour trying to remember what they were for.
There was a rant that bounced up and down the tubes of the internet this week, talking about how one poor fellow migrated all of his important data into google services, only to have google pull the digital rug out from under him by deleting his account after it was algorithmically flagged. This sucks, but one thing I have always been pestered about is the importance of regular backups. Just because google is “the cloud” doesn’t mean your data is in a deadly limbo state of potential destruction if you don’t back it up. The problem is, backing up a machine you control is damn easy, while backing up your cloudified data is not. Continue reading
So, after my machine ran out of battery power while suspended, I booted it up to be greeted with the most strange bug I’ve ever seen on a linux machine: All my text was screwed up. In every application, including GDM. It disappeared after I ran an apt-get upgrade and rebooted. Has anyone else ever seen this bug? I’m running Ubuntu 10.04, for the record. Screenshot after the jump.
This is something I’ve always wanted to try, and now have the opportunity! My parents had an old relic of the Pentium 3 epoch, which I was able to appropriate in the name of Science. The Dell Dimension 4100 really is an old battle axe, and I’ve given the old bird a new lease on life by turning it into a Media Server. My plan is to use it for a webserver eventually as well.
Our house has not one but two high-speed cable connections, which we divide between the upstairs and downstairs people. The various routers and modems are displayed in a pleasing techno-shrine to the electro-gods in our living room:
The problem is that the shrine is downstairs, while our convenient nook-come-server-room is upstairs. Continue reading