Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Interesting Science Gizmos

It's been some time since my last entry. Spring at college is a strangely downbeat time, as everyone is ready for the summer break and tired from working hard through the fall. So as the critters and flowers are getting ready to explode into action, students and faculty seem to be gearing down.

I found a great site filled with science gizmos lately, while looking for interesting activities for my daughter. Okay, she's only 10 months old, so I'm probably looking a little too early, but I'm glad I did. The site is, and you have to love a catalog that has a Leonardo Da Vinci action figure.

The Giga Ball ( is one of my favorites. I may have to buy one just to have around in five years when my daughter will be ready for it (although, at the rate she does shoulder rolls on the bed, she may be ready pretty soon!)

There's also a section on the site with enough ideas for science experiments that should keep any child busy up through middle age. I can only imagine what havoc I could have created for my parents if I'd had access to this material way back when.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Full Moon Madness

I don't know if it was the full moon or not, but it certainly seems like some sort of madness descended on the Internet lately.

I participate in a number of email lists on various topics, and this past week the majority of them descended into flame wars over various silly topics. It wasn't even so much people arguing principles as people becoming annoyed at the way in which another person was communicating.

Flame wars tend to raise the traffic on email lists quite a bit, although the value of the content drops quite a bit. So I've been skipping any discussion that has more than 20 emails in it lately, because it's a good bet it's degenerated into name-calling and comments on other people's characters.

It's an interesting study in psychology and sociology, the way the Internet allows us to behave in ways we never would if we had to look the other person in the eye while doing so.

So, full moon, or just Internet rudeness? I don't know, but I'm hoping it levels out soon, so the email lists can get back to normal.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

USB Stick Goodness, Part II

Okay, the downside of a 2GB USB stick is that it takes quite a while to completely backup the files to a hard drive. And while the Travel Drive I have seems reliable, I've had USB sticks corrupt files before, so not doing a backup isn't an option.

So I went looking for software that would keep the USB stick and the hard drive synchronized, by copying over only those files that have changed. What I found was Allway Sync, at

Allway Sync will manage changes to files in both directions, so if you forget to synchronize and update files on the hard disk, you can still update the hard disk with changes from the usb stick and vice versa to get them in sync again. Obviously, it can't know what to do if you've changed the same file on both the USB stick and the hard drive, so it may just let you know that it's found a problem.

But if you use the hard disk solely as a backup for the USB stick, then it becomes extremely easy to just run Allway Sync now and then to quickly update the hard disk from the stick. The product even makes sure that files you delete from the USB stick get deleted from the hard disk.

It's still not a quick process, since Allway Sync has to do some analysis of the differences between files, but it's much quicker than a straight copy of everything on my 2GB USB stick.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Spring Break!

I'm officially on spring break right now.

Since I was paid to be a computer geek for years, and now get paid to teach other people how to geek, it's a nice change to have some time to be outside. I usually forget, in the press of getting things done during the normal semester, to take time to just enjoy being outdoors. I spent some time today in our woods doing some cleaning up. Picking up broken branches for kindling, digging out some weed bushes that have gotten out of hand, that sort of thing.

It didn't take too long, since our woods is only about 60' by 90'. We have a long lot, and the back third of it is natural woods. Nearly everyone else in the neighborhood had cleared out the trees and planted grass long ago, but we were lucky enough to buy one of the two houses that still had some natural woods left.

Lest you think I'll be spending the entire week enjoying myself, I do have grading and lecture notes to work on before the week is out. But I like to take a couple of days to do absolutely nothing except what I'd like, to cool down from the hectic pace of working.

The rest of the week will probably end up being busy, since I have a list of about a dozen major tasks I'd like to accomplish while I have some significant free time. I doubt I'll get them all done, but by the end of the week I'll probably be ready to go back to work!