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March 31, 2003

Tough to get things revving on Monday

It's always so tough to get started and motivated on Monday's for me. Most normal people (i.e. scientists) out there can't wait to get into the lab and get going on Monday's. I only get those bursts of excitement occasionally nowadays. I've been reading James Watson's "The Double Helix" in the hopes of trying to spark that motivation once again. Honestly, reading his recollections of those momentous years is quite comforting, given the fact that he also had difficulty engaging in those scientific pursuits that he had to follow. I get the impression that his mind was always wandering towards other "distractions"--but the difference between me and him is that his other distractions were other scientific problems and not the distractions that I'm tempted with, like the war news coverage, or just any news coverage in general. I could be wrong though. I'm also currently enjoying another occupation--being a dad. I wouldn't say he's just another "distraction." He's more than that, he's now my life. I'll leave with an interesting quote from the book. When talking about Linus Pauling, James Watson says:

...The key to Linus' success was his reliance on the simple laws of structural chemistry. The a-helix had not been found by only staring at X-ray pictures; the essential trick, instead, was to ask which atoms like to sit next to each other. In place of pencil and paper the main working tools were a set of molecular models superficially resembling the toys of preschool children.
     We could thus see no reason why we should not solve DNA in the same way. All we had to do was to construct a set of molecular models and begin to play--with luck, the structure would be a helix. Any other type of configuration would be much more complicated. Worrying about complications before ruling out the possibility that the answer was simple would have been damned foolishness. Pauling never got anywhere by seeking out messes.
p. 38 (Watson, 1968)

Words that ring true not just to science, but to all aspects of life. The simplest explanations tend to be the truthful ones. Watson here just described the age-old adage--Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS). Use it to evaluate the scientific hypotheses that come across your desk, use it to evaluate the news, use it to evaluate your vocation in life. Let me know if it works for you.

Posted by johnvu at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2003

Cheap PocketPC

Compare Prices and Read Reviews on Audiovox Maestro PDA1032C Handheld - 32MB Memory at Epinions.com. Remember how I advocated buying a PocketPC rather than an MP3 player like the Apple iPod? Well, I went against my own advise and went with a dedicated MP3 player anyway, deciding on the Archos Jukebox Studio 10. I can't tell you how much use I get out of it now. Although the headphones are a bit uncomfortable, it works well enough for me to listen to music when I'm doing my tissue culture work or my other experiments. One thing I wish I could add to it is a remote of some sort where I can control my selections without using the front panel--something like a wired remote with a tiny dial to choose tracks. I had a cassette adapter to attach to a portable CD player and now use it for this player, so that on my commute to work, I listen to either music or audio books that I've ripped. And because it has 10GB of disk space and can be used as an external hard drive, I store work files for backup on it, i.e. to transport home. Currently I'm contemplating getting a subscription to Audible.com to get the most out of this unit. I ended buying it from CompUSA with a $30 rebate, and so I got it for under $150 after taxes and shipping, not too shabby. You must be wondering what prompted me to write about this after already having gotten this player for a month, even against my own advice? Well, it appears that CompUSA now has a rebate deal for the Audiovox Maestro PocketPC. After the rebate, the final cost is around $150. Not bad for a PocketPC! Even with the below average price, it has all the average specs--compact flash slot, SD/MMC slot, etc. Moreoever, according to a review on epinions.com, the unit is almost exactly the same as the Toshiba Genio e570, which costs $200 more! There's no reason to buy a brand and spend that much more for Toshiba, when you can get the same out of Audiovox. So for those of you who haven't gone out and spent on the standalone MP3 player unit like I have, this is a great alternative! Plus you get a PocketPC to play around with and use for fun things like war walking/driving. Alas, since I bought my new laptop and have a portability with that system, I have no real need for this Audiovox (other than as a "toy" to play around with). I do suggest that if you decide to get this unit, do it soon, as CompUSA has a tendency to sell out quickly (or so they say). Good luck! And if you get the PDA, please let me know how it's working out for you.

Posted by johnvu at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2003

Cheap photo prints

19 Prints. I came across this deal listed at Techbargains.com. I haven't seen a comparable price anywhere on the web. The next best price was 26cents per print at Walmart. However, if you have Sam's club membership, you can get prints there for 19cents per 4x6. Looking at the quality of prints nowadays from digital shots, there really is no reason to stick with 35mm any longer for the non-professional, unless of course you're looking for the nostalgic quality.

Posted by johnvu at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2003

Get Win XP CDRWIN functionality with open source

Since my university was selling Windows XP Pro for a mere $20, I decided to buy it and use it to upgrade my laptop's Win XP Home (for Pro's additional uses). But in the process of upgrading, I lost some pre-installed software like Roxio's Easy CD Creator. No biggie, I preferred Goldenhawk's CDRWin anyway. But being the advocate of open-source software that I am, I decided to bypass buying CDRWin and sought an alternative. The combination of XDuplicator and CDRDAO did just the trick. Installation was a breeze: first, install the ASPI drivers from Adaptec; second, install CDRDAO; and lastly, install XDuplicator in the same directory as CDRDAO. Enjoy! Oh, BTW, you must be wondering how I now handle ISO images. Luckily, XP Pro has built-in capabilities to create and write ISO images. Alex Feinman has exploited these capabilities and wrote a Power toy called ISORecorder to help in the process. Enjoy! With these tools, I don't have to turn to expen$ive software any longer.

Posted by johnvu at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

My new workhorse

SOTEC 3120X Laptop. My Pentium 200 desktop at work was getting quite dated, even with linux running on it. I was acquiring more data that required analysis with a good spreadsheet. Since my boss is rather reluctant in purchasing new computer equipment, I decided to splurge and buy one myself. I decided early on that this new unit was going to be a laptop, as light as possible, and as cheap as possible. Speed wasn't a deciding factor, since, face it, anything nowadays will seem to be exponentially faster than the Pentium 200 that I'm used to. Ultimately, I decided on the Sotec 3120X. It weighs a mere 4.4 lbs and is 1.3 inches thin. At a final price of around $800 after all rebates and tax from BestBuy.com, the features on this unit is well worth the price. If you're looking for a laptop that is useful, lightweight, and portable, don't pass this one by. Currently, I've got MikTeX installed in it to compile my documents (namely by papers and my thesis). Wireless access appears to work well (just stay away from the D-Link DWL-650 PC Card). And with a built-in CD-RW, I'm not stuck with no means to transfer data, come crunch time.

Posted by johnvu at 01:44 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2003

Benefit from the Government's Hand-Me-Downs

GSAAuctions.gov. Ever hear of those wild commercials late at night, or read in your paper's classifieds about auctions of seized vehicles or merchandise by the government? If you're like me, you never really trusted the auctioneers' advertised intent. I always questioned the true source of the merchandise from these shady auction houses. However, if you're still curious and/or desparate to get some of the advertised merchandise, you can now actually go to the source and buy from your local, state or the federal government themselves! Just go online to GSAAuctions.gov. I was tempted to keep this little secret to myself, just in case I saw something interesting and wanted to keep the traffic down to a minimum---but, what, all two of you out there who actually venture to read my blogs (alright, I'm overestimating) won't make a dent in the auctions' prices. Plus, the more people who actually buy from the government, the better right? We need to get out of this deficit/debt somehow? Anyhow, if you're curious, check out what's auctioned today. I've seen in the past SGI Irix machines, laser printers, boats (or were they actually yachts?), and even lathes for auction. The computers were auctioned at ridiculously low prices, but understandable since you buy them as-is, no warrantees. If you decide to bid for the items, good luck. If you actually win and got them sitting in your home right now, this instant, please let me know your complete experience, from the time you placed the bid to the time you picked up the merchandise. I'm curious to see if the process was actually worth it for you.

Posted by johnvu at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)