What is your computer most often plugged into?
I used to use APC UPSs (those suckers are heavy!), but now my surge survival plan is a non-ups APC surge-protector plus cloud backup and insurance. The surge protector handles the most frequent kinds of surges, no problem. For computer-killing surges, I have a "computer equipment" rider on my renter's insurance, which will replace any damaged machines (with a modest deductable). Annual cost of the rider? $42.27. Cloud back-up (CrashPlan) costs $149.99 for 10 computers. What about down time, you say? Well, I can work from my laptop for the time it takes my iMac to be replaced (likely only a few days after filing a claim; we have an Apple store in town). Any files from my dead desktop machine can be quickly and easily transferred to my laptop from my cloud backup. But I don't expect to ever need to; I live in NM, and OK before that, two of the worst states for intense thunderstorms. Yet bad surges are rare. Heard many a tornado siren wail (scary in a bad nighttime storm!), but ever lost a machine to a surge. I'm not heedless of warnings about aging infrastructure, but in my experience, machine killing surges are pretty rare.
The Billion-Dollar Website
This is a nice way of saying that the governing bodies of many large organizations are staffed by idiots. I recently did technical work in Asia, as a contractor for a well-known company with a global presence. They've been in business for more than 100 years. They have a beautiful website, filled with inspiring photos and pages and pages of uplifting copy, talking about their important altruistic mission. So I naively thought they would be experts at their core work. What I discovered was a company run by greed-driven overlords at the top, and clueless staff at almost every other level. Technical proficiency was clearly not an valued commodity -- it was all about maintaining the facade of being the good guys, saving the world. I was shocked by how much they relied on boiler plate to write nearly every document, and the serious lack of technical skills necessary to do their job. The few technically competent people were marginalized, while the loud, pushy "A" types in charge of daily operations mainly worked at protecting their own status in the company. What was truly sad to see: how the recent graduates, hired to do the core tasks, had their enthusiasm and can-do attitudes suck out of them by the continuous stream of obfuscation, redirection, and soul crushing obliviousness. I guess some things never change.
Ask Slashdot: Professional Journaling/Notes Software?
I learned to keep detailed, highly organized notes while working as a field biologist as a young man. In those days, if you were lucky enough to be museum trained, you used "The Grinnell System", which was a binder-based system that specified everything from the kind of ink to use (high carbon, black india ink), the paper (acid free high cotton bond), and layout elements, such as the locations of margin lines, dates, and page numbers. Tabbed sections were used to organize notes by activity. We used 8 1/2 inch binders because the smaller size was easier to use in the field. I spent many a long rainy night, usually in a tent or the front seat of a truck, completing my notes of the day's observations. My notes are now deposited in a museum, where they can be accessed by researchers working in the regions I used to haunt.
These days, as a statistician, I still take copious notes. But the ink and binders are gone (and so are the ticks and mosquitoes!). Organization is key: I need to record the entire data analysis process, from data formatting and cleaning, to graphical analysis, coding for models and processing scripts, and finally construction of figures suitable for publication. I looked long and hard for a digital note taking system before finally settling on NoteTaker by Aquaminds. I think it's binder-like system appealed to me, after so many years using binders in the field. I've been using NoteTaker now for at least 7 years.
NoteTaker is not completely free-form like some systems: note books mimic lab books in style and format, with digital pages in a digital binder. You add discrete entries, which are organized consecutively like an outline (entries can be moved around in the hierarchy). There is a table of contents for each book, and tabs are used to organize books into sections, much as a physical binder. Content can include everything from text to jpegs to sound files and video and everything can be time-stamped. Auto-indexing is a useful feature, though of course there is a built-in search utility, too. Notebooks can be ported to PDF, and there is a free reader for sharing notebooks with people who haven't purchased NoteTaker.
I've used NoteTaker for many academic and professional projects over the years. I've grown to rely on it as my main method now for keeping track of projects. It's not the Grinnell System, but for people trained on a binders, it feels like a natural replacement.
Ask Slashdot: Life Organization With Free Software?
If you're willing to consider alternatives to freeware, I recommend taking a look at NoteTaker ($24.99). I've been using it for about five years and I find it meets my note keeping needs. NoteTaker's design is essentially a lab book, but being electronic, it permits a wider range of media in addition to text, including jpegs, pdfs, audio, and video. And of course it's searchable.
Each 'book' can be organized into sections and subsections, and there are tabs for easy access to each section. You enter notes as snippets ('entries') which can be one-liners or multiple lines with a figure, etc. You can customize fonts, colors, and some aspects of layout. Also, you can export books to PDF.
Aquaminds offers a free notebook reader (NoteShare), so you can share your notebooks without forcing others to pay for the software. And there's a 30-day free trial version.
I know I may get modded down for suggesting payware, but given the positive comments about lab books, I decided to throw it out there. And it's not expensive. I use NoteTaker to keep track of academic research projects and work I'm doing for clients (I'm a bio-statistician). I'm pretty satisfied with it, so I hope the company doesn't disappear any time soon! But if it does I can convert my existing notebooks to PDFs, which makes me feel less vulnerable.
Ask Slashdot: Advice For Summer Before Ph.D. Program?
If plan to work in industry (private sector) or a national lab, then by all means, go ahead and blow off some steam before the slog. But if your plans include an tenure track position in academe, you've got no time for such frivolity. Competition for academic positions in the biological sciences has reached the highest levels ever. Expect between 150 and 250 competitors for each position you will apply for. With that kind of competition, only the shining stars become assistant professors. And current expectations have risen to ridiculous levels of productivity and achievement. So if it's a tenure track position you're after, better use your last summer to get started on a grant proposal and submit your first few manuscripts. That's what it takes these days to succeed in academia.
Slashdot Anniversary: Toronto, ON, CA
I will be there! Just moved up from the states. Glad to see an active Slash community here. I work in a department at U of T where no one's heard of Slashdot! It's pretty lonely for a programmer/geek!