Fourth Floor Studio

July 18, 2007

Graceful rebooting

Filed under: administration, geekery, linux — chris @ 1:11 am

When things go wrong, there are more options than the hard reboot.


May 24, 2007

Math(s) for biologists

Filed under: biologists, geekery, science, scientists — chris @ 9:54 am

I’ll break radio silence briefly to catch a meme wave from Neil (via RPM, Deepak and Keith). I’ve disguised my rant as answers to Sandra‘s questions (evil chuckle). Usual grain of salt provisos apply… (more…)

March 15, 2007

Aggregation and meta-blogging

Filed under: geekery, web — chris @ 2:28 am

The food world is at it, too. Of course, we’ve been doing it for a while.

March 14, 2007

Mind mapping and outlining tools

Filed under: geekery, gtd — chris @ 9:37 pm

I like the idea of mind mapping: a graphical, non-linear representation of connected stuff appeals to me (perhaps I’ve been looking at biochemical pathways for too long?). As an on-again/off-again google search, I’ve stumbled across several implementations of this concept:

See a more comprehensive article.

Update: also see this article in the Linux Gazette, the discerning geek’s literature of choice., for a breakdown of available tools.

A helpful BSD login tip

Filed under: geekery — chris @ 8:53 pm

Welcome to FreeBSD!

If you accidentally end up inside vi, you can quit it by pressing Escape, colon
(:), q (q), bang (!) and pressing return.

All you need to know about vi.

Recent R version on Ubuntu 64bit

Filed under: geekery, linux — chris @ 5:46 pm

Something that’s been bugging me lately is that CRAN doesn’t seem to have recent (ie v2.4+) versions of R ubuntu packages for 64 bit architectures. So I finally bit the bullet and added the debian/ stable/ source path to my sources.list, and voila! Instant goodness. You’re not really supposed to cross-contaminate like this, but I haven’t even broken anything – yet.

Trivial, but annoying.

March 11, 2007

Life, organisation, and the war against entropy

Filed under: geekery, personal — chris @ 7:41 pm

I hate the second law of thermodynamics. The one that trashes my desk, dirties my apartment, and reduces my life to a disorganised mess. Barring a complete breakdown in standards of hygiene and work, I am doomed by the universe’s freakish sense of humour to constantly enter energy into aspects of my life that should Just Work.

Unlike Sisyphus however, I have two choices: I can either wait until “stuff” accumulates until I have to do something about it, or I can try to rework my habits to keep everything going on a day-to-day basis. So far, I’ve taken the first approach, and although periodic spring cleans of mind and space are good, they really don’t seem to cut it any more. I’m lost in my workload, depressed by my apartment, and bemused by my life. I’ve experimented with aspects of the second, and I feel they’ve given me quite a lot of mileage. So, over the past few months, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the second mode of continuous operation may be worth a shot.

Now, the death-knell of any resolution is its requirement of massive change at an arbitrary time-point. However, at some point there comes a time where systems must be switched, habits realigned, and behaviours reordered. Mine was a couple of weeks ago, when I switched over to Getting Things Done. I’ve since lapsed, of course, but this time I feel determined to stay on top of things. My difficulty here is two-fold: I’m not a natural list-maker, and my work is largely data driven, in the sense that one analysis will then engender material for the next, without a priori knowledge of what the second should be. Trying to implement a system based on lists of next actions therefore poses a challenge.

Nevertheless, I’m giving this a whirl: the prize of comfort, productivity and lack of clutter are too much to resist. Let’s see where we go.

February 24, 2007

Enabling Firefox plugins on amd64

Filed under: administration, geekery — chris @ 2:46 pm

It appears that proprietary plugins (Adobe Flashplayer, RealPlayer, JRE etc) are generally built against 32-bit architectures. So, you have to cheat and run a 32 bit version of FF. Details on the Ubuntu fora.

February 22, 2007

Adobe Flashplayer 9 for ubuntu dapper

Filed under: administration, geekery — chris @ 1:50 am

The absolute simplest way: download the script half-way down the page, run as root. Done! Uses alien to debianise the Adobe rpm.

Adobe’s own installer doesn’t seem to work, nor does manually copying plugins to /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox (if that’s where they are supposed to live).

Paranoia + memory loss = bad week

Filed under: geekery, personal, stupidity — chris @ 12:45 am

I have data. Lots of data. Lots of unpublished, unanalysed data. Other people’s data. It cost money and blood and sweat. And politics. So one of my worst nightmares is where my laptop gets stolen, and some dumb schmuck decides to mirror my harddrive on the web.

Unlikely, isn’t it? They are much likelier to simply wipe the drive and go on their merry, thieving way. Data loss isn’t the problem – everything is backed up on my server at work. At most, I’ll lose a day’s work. And yet, I worry. So, like all paranoid freaks, in addition to the BIOS, I password the hard drive. The really uncrackable, serious-hardware-cracking-required password level, which won’t let you access the drive’s electronics without the key. The one without which you are, to a first approximation, up shit creek without a paddle. Guess what happens next…

Now, I’ve been around long enough to make most mistakes: sudo rm -rf * , losing passwords, etc. So I keep everything backed up, and I keep a file of passwords. Naturally, being rather paranoid, that file is PGP encrypted. So, I think, no problem! I’ll just open the copy of the password file on my server, look up the HD password, and presto! problem solved. Except…

There is no HDD password in the file.

I must have decided, at some point in the rapidly darkening past, not to store critical passwords! The strong ones, with mnemonic phrases, the ones I remembered by the key sequence rather than the key, the ones that I never wanted broken and would never forget.

At this point, damage limitation kicks in: is the whole laptop dead, or just the drive. Data recovery isn’t a problem, so the drive is expendable. Google informs me that the password is, indeed, uncrackable. It also informs me that a company in Canada provides a basic cracking service for a reasonable fee (data recovery costs much more), but I have to ship them the whole laptop. It’s cheaper to buy a new drive, but there’s a chance the BIOS chip will still insist on a password.

Fortunately, that turns out not to be the case, so I don’t have a very expensive doorstop. After a week of serious connectivity withdrawal, I now have a fresh drive, a fresh Dapper install, and a fresh appreciation for the importance of record keeping. The old drive? Well, an attempt to wipe it with a magnet crashed the heads into the disc, so it’s on the way to an electronics graveyard somewhere…

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