Monday, June 26, 2006

My New Laptop Bag

I never really got that excited about the bag I carry my laptop in. For the past year or more I've been using a canvas J. Crew bag I picked up on sale to carry my G3 iBook and Dell around. It served it's use well, holding books, power adapters, keys, pens, all sorts of things. Lately though I've had concerns about the safety and well being of my toys and did some searches for quality bags that didn't cost to much or shouted out "steal me!".

Eventually I stumbled upon Crumpler bags and decided I'd pick up the 12' Skivvy to hold my iBook. It's a little smaller than I would have liked, but it fits the laptop snugly and I feel that it's adequately protected. The usual array of other accessories also fit into it with the subtraction of a few lesser used objects. It has a quality feel to it, with tough stitching and a large velcro piece on the flap that overlaps the bag generously and keeps everything in without the fear of it coming undone. The padding is about a quarter to half inch thick around the main laptop compartment and I have a feeling (not that I'm going to test it) that if it drops form waist/table height minimal damage will occur to contents. The accessory compartment has a nice thick zipper on it that opens/closes easily enough and it doesn't feel like it will get caught on anything. Finally the entire bag is water resistant, and even with the little rain we get in Southern California it seems it will keep everything fairly dry. The only complaint I have about it is the large patch of velcro is quite loud when you open it, but that's not a major issue.

During my search I came across some listings of what people carried in their bags which fascinated me for some bizarre reason. I guess it was some sense of dorky voyerism and I wanted to do the same thing. My old bag has a lot more in it, but most of it I never used and the new crumpler made me minimize some:

  • 800mhz G3 12' iBook with 256mb RAM and 30gb disk space
  • Mead composition Notebook
  • Pilot Gel Pens
  • Moleskine Pocket Notebook
  • UCSD ID and Bus Pass
  • 512 USB Memory Stick
  • Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens
  • Costco Acid Reducer Pills (boooo heartburn)
Exciting eh? It's not much, but it keeps me entertained on the bus on during lunch.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Typical Day Online

I spend a lot of time online, some people would say it's excessive, but normally most people just ask what exactly do I spend all that time on? Instead of explaining it to each person I figured I'd write a bit about it. I have an odd way of computing which I'll explain and then follow it up with what resources I use.

The Network is the Computer

I'm a systems administrator by day, and one thing I'm always looking for is a way to make tasks easier. Centralizing systems and resources so I only have to do something once is the key here and I carry it over into my personal computing habits as well. I have three computers I normally us, my G3 iBook, an old Dell laptop, and a 64-bit GNU/Linux Debian server. Why so many computers? Well diversity for one, they represent all three major operating systems and platforms and with the exception of cutting edge games I have all my bases covered. Also if I lose a laptop I'm not completely disabled computing wise. The server also has backups for it so we're safe there as well.

The two laptops are essentially satellites of the Debian server, and they contain little to any non-recoverable data. All music, movies, pictures, documents, everything that is important, is stored on the server. I then access it through the web, encrypted SSH connections, and tunneled VNC desktop sessions. Security has a heavy focus, and any IPs that want to connect must authenticate through a webpage, as well as the use of SSL for sensitive connections. The advantage to this is as long as I have a connection to the internet I'm always at my computer. It also allows other people I trust to connect and use various shared resources.

This fits into my daily routine by logging in via SSH on my laptop or desktop at work, then tunneling VNC to my shared desktop. The shared desktop contains my instant messenger, cd burning app, filesharing app, web browser, and whatever else software debian has installed


Here's a list of sites I usually have loaded in a tabs or Live Bookmarks:

  1. Slashdot - I've probably learned more from comments here than I did in four years of college
  2. Penny Arcade - Only on Mon/Wed/Fri, but they have excellent commentary on the gaming industry
  3. Gmail - Where all my personal emails are, go figure
  4. Google News - Gives me more mainstream current events tailored to my preferences
That's it, really not a whole lot when you break it down, but it's a good cross section of the rapidly changing webscape and there's hours of things to read and look into

With the combination of the computing approach I described above and the techniques and list of sites is usually how I spend my day online.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things You Should Read Before You Die:
  1. 1984 (Cause then you'll know who Big Brother is)
  2. We (Cause everyone and their mom has read 1984 but probably not this one)
  3. Adventures of Huck Finn (Cause Mark Twain is a freaking genius)
  4. The Iliad and the Odyssey (Know your roots)
  5. Catcher In The Rye (But only before you hit 18)
  6. Into the Wild (Once again, only before you're 18, although when you're older you'll only just stop shaving for a while)
  7. At least one Orwell Essay or Short Story (trust me)
  8. Any "A Very Short Introduction To...." (condensed knowledge for the intellectual on the go)
  9. Anything written by a non-American author
  10. Any book written by a comedic liberal
  11. Any book written by a conservative to counter the one before
  12. Any amateur magazine, story, or blog
  13. The U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence (no explanation needed)

UCSD Summer Reading Program

Working at UCSD has some pretty cool perks, one of them is full use of all the university libraries. Over the last couple months I've been taking advantage of my library privileges, checking availability, reserving books, and renewing renewing them.

Recently on the staff intranet there was a post about the Worship a Good Book program, which students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to check out books from the libraries and then write a short review on them. They give you the choice of answering a few questions, such as "If you could rename the book, what would the new title be? Why?" and "Discuss one new thing you learned reading this book.". You're only required to answer one, and you get various prizes for the more reviews you do.

I plan on getting up to ten reviews by September 4th, when the contest is over, and then I'll be eligible for a book bunje (whatever that is). They also have various awards, and I'm going to shoot for theJust Siskel Award" for most creative and insightful. Below I posted my first review of A Scanner Darkly which is soon to be a movie this summer, enjoy!

Worhsip a Good Book Review of A Scanner Darkly:

Name your favorite character or theme in the book and why:
The theme of constant surveillance. Even though Bob knows that his other personality, Fred, is watching him he still acts as if nothing is happening. Would we in reality do the same if we knew someone was watching us constantly? We already know that to some extend we're being monitored, with surveillance cameras in banks, stores, and even red lights. Does this somehow add pressure on our subconscious, the fact that every move and every thought we make can be monitored and recorded? Technology is becoming so prevalent in our life it's like a the drugs in the book, we don't know where it stops and we begin.
Discuss one new thing you learned reading this book:
At the end of the book there's an Author's Note, in which Dick describes his own drug experiences (the book is a loose autobiography on him) and those around him. He dedicates the book to those he knew whose lives were damaged or destroyed (including his own) because of their addictions and relentless pursuit of their version of happiness. Drug addiction isn't something that someone just decides to get into like a hobby, gradually events in someone's life leads them into it. This is seen in the book with the character of Bob Archer and him starting as a narcotics dealer and eventually dropping so much Substance D that he splits his personality into two.The first a drug addict and the second an undercover agent watching him more and more with the surveillance equipment, both totally unaware of each other.. This is Dicks allegory for the drug addict, one side wants to stop the actions he's doing, and the other continuing to do so cause it's the only way they know happiness. What I've learned from the story and characters is that even though drug addiction starts as a choice, eventually it becomes something uncontrollable and out of the users hands, no matter how much they want to stop.