9 entries categorized "Technology"

Light-bulb moments of the day

This morning Katharine had to confirm her password when she logged into Google Mail. She uses Google’s two-step authentication on that account — when she logs in, Google sends her a confirmation code by text message. I use the same authentication method for my own accounts.

Pretty routine, entirely unremarkable.

Until this exchange just now.

Katharine: [mumble mumble] “‘...phone number ending in 96.’ It never does.”

Don: “What?”

K: “The number. It never ends in ‘96’.”

D: [looks over at her screen, sees the Google logo] “Oh, the 2-step authorization thing?”

K: “Yeah. It always says ‘enter the verification code sent to your phone number ending in 96’. But the phone number never ends in 96.”

D: [brief stunned silence]Your cell phone number ends in 96. It means *your* phone number*.”

K: [audible click of The Getting It] ”OOOOooooohhhhhh.....!”

A couple minutes of laffter [D] and head-hanging embarrassment [K], then:

K: “So then yours says ‘phone number ending in 07’?”

D, whose cell number has ended in 09 for 6 years now: “No...?”

K: [second audible click of The Getting It]

D: [more laffs!]


Proving wrong the old adage about stuff not growing on trees*

Via a BBC News article:

A novel—and natural—way of creating new bones for humans could be just a few years away.

Scientists in Italy have developed a way of turning rattan wood into bone that is almost identical to the human tissue.

* Yes, I know rattans are not, strictly speaking, trees, but are more like vines. But the metaphor/lame joke doesn’t work if the facts are paid strict attention.


Backblaze’s storage infrastructure

Yesterday Backblaze posted a blog entry on their custom-designed storage solution, necessary to store petabytes of customer data while charging just $5 per month per customer:

At Backblaze, we provide unlimited storage to our customers for only $5 per month, so we had to figure out how to store hundreds of petabytes of customer data in a reliable, scalable way—and keep our costs low. After looking at several overpriced commercial solutions, we decided to build our own custom Backblaze Storage Pods: 67-terabyte 4U servers for $7,867.

In this post, we’ll share how to make one of these storage pods, and you’re welcome to use this design. Our hope is that by sharing, others can benefit and, ultimately, refine this concept and send improvements back to us. Evolving and lowering costs is critical to our continuing success at Backblaze.

Backblaze saved my ass just within the last few months, when I stupidly securely erased my main media drive. 110 GB of music, movie, and photo files blasted into magnetic oblivion because I chose the wrong drive in Disk Utility and initiated a secure wipe, then didn’t look at it again until the next morning. This happened on a weekend, so when I requested a hard-drive restore, they shipped my data backup overnight on the next business day, and I was back to normal a mere four days after my goofed clicking of the Erase button.

Fascinated to see how they’ve balanced their storage needs with the scalability required to support a growing customer base and their existing customers’ growing backup requirements.

Check ’em out, for a modestly priced service you get priceless peace of mind.


Of late

Been a while since I had a non-photo, non-posted-by-mobile something-to-say prattling. Figured I’d catch things up a bit, in no particular order.

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Had my eyes examined twice in four days. Bright lights shone INTO MY EYEBALLS at various times, some after I had been given eye drops that would prevent my eyes’ normal response to bright light to safeguard my vision. Institutional evile, it is.

Eye exams are such an odd thing. A bunch of tests designed to safeguard and even enhance our visual acuity, each test resulting in its own odd killing of vision for a short time.

Today’s tests involved digital photos of my retinas. The pics were cool, blood vessels in a circular cut-out on the computer screen, but the method kinda blew. The technician had me watch for the little red blinky light, just focus on the light, she had to make some adjustments and get things just so, don't worry about blinking, just blink like you normally would and keep focused on the red light, almost there, keep watching the light, another slight adjus—ZORCH the camera flash detonated INSIDE MY EYEBALL, practically. Pretty photos, but I saw the flash afterimage for almost an hour.

And within that hour I got to take an extended field-of-vision exam—I stared at a little yellow light and pressed a button each time I saw, somewhere in my field of view, a little secondary spot of light appear briefly. At one point I got a little button-happy and they had to repeat the test for my left eye because I spotted roughly 12,000 non-existent light blips, but I think it was just the machine getting annoyed with my predictive capabilities.

All of that took only 26 minutes. I think that’s like the old cigarette thing, the one where they say each ciggie cuts something like, what, 7 minutes or 23 hours or 800 years off your life? Yeah, that 26 minutes of eye exam from hell cost me 100 hours of sensitivity to light.

Sometimes at night, when I close my eyes really hard, I can still see the spots.

:: • :: • :: • ::

In other news:

We had a thunderstorm over Seattle tonight. I was on the phone with my friend David, because I LAFF AT DEATH and ignore the old saw that you should never use the phone in a thunderstorm, and also I only have a cell phone so if I managed to get zapped by the phone lines, it would definitely be newsworthy. But anyway, I was chatting with David and gazing out over the city, watching the storm move across town and thinking, definitely a good night for Safeco Field to have a retractable roof, eh wot?, and there was a lightning strike atop the Space Needle.

The Needle is maybe 6 blocks from my apartment, so it was roughly, well, NO TIME AT ALL before the thunderclap sounded. But it was quieter than I expected, and though my usual thunderstorm freak-out nerves were jangling, I was fascinated to see a building strike so closely and so uneventfully. Right at that moment David was talking about his recent visit to Cotton Eyed Joe (WARNING: Flash site, loud audio), how crazy it was and how much fun he had, and I was doing all in my power not to run into my bedroom and shimmy under the bed if for no other reason than I will NOT appear that unmanly in front of my cats, both of whom sat at the balcony door watching the storm and didn’t even twitch when the thunder rumbled over us.

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Speaking of phones:

My Verizon Wireless contract ended Saturday.

First time in my personal-cell-phone-having life—thanks to the miracle of Palm devices, I can tell you that’s been since March 11, 2000—that I’ve hit the twin milestones of

  1. Finishing a two-year cell contract without making changes to my service, and
  2. Keeping a single phone alive through the entire contract period.

See, I’m usually hell on phones. I’ve damaged or outright killed a couple myself, drops and bangs and general use-and-abuse, and then there was the time my RAZR got smacked out of my hands and shattered into pieces on the tile floor of a downtown restaurant when I was only, what, a month shy of the end of the cell contract I was on at the time. So my keeping alive for (so far) 2.5 years a device that’s both a phone and a PDA is something of achievement in my little world.

Even more than that, I’m not running right out to replace the phone. I’m sticking with the current plan on month-to-month for now, because it suits me and I have a couple of ideas on phones I may want to try, but I’m holding off until I know more about them.

I really hope this isn’t some hideous sign of maturity. I’m only 37, I can’t be grown up yet.

:: • :: • :: • ::

So then, what else?

Oh, I started a 3-person carpool a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter so much on the drive to work—we use the SR 520 floating bridge to get to Redmond, and there’s no HOV advantage eastbound.

Westbound, however, the HOV lane between I-405 and the floating bridge on SR 520 is a 3+ lane, and we sail past all those fools in their 1– and 2-person cars as they sit in traffic, mostly idling but occasionally moving forward by a car length or two, and I have to discourage my carpoolers from laughing maniacally and pointing and otherwise possibly causing road-rage incidents even though I secretly want to laugh and point as well.

But I was one of those non-HOV fools until earlier this month. Now I’m routinely home less than 40 minutes after I leave the office, and that includes dropping two people off when I’m driving.

Nice to be home by 5 each day, especially when there are still 3 or 4 hours of daylight to go.

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Saw two movies in cinema the weekend before last: Star Trek, which I loved, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which I kinda liked.

I always want to type Wolvering. Have to correct it every time.

Anyway, two movies at the cinema in one weekend is a lot for me. Usually I’ll see two movies at the cinema in a span of several months, and I’ve realized why. It isn’t the opening-day (or even –weekend) crowds, or the occasionally shoddy projection or the sometimes uncomfy seats or whatever. It’s the people sitting immediately around me who act like they’re in their personal living-room THX auditoriums with the talking and the crinkling plastic and the God knows what other noises are emanating, to say nothing of the occasional dipshit who didn’t silence the cell phone.

I’d usually rather wait for Netflix to deliver the film experience in my own living room, where I know when I’m going to make crinkling noises and I can ignore myself easily.

But yeah. Loved loved Star Trek. I saw it courtesy my friend Matt, who turns 27 tomorrow. (Had to get that in there, of course.) He was dying to see the movie, already had tickets to an IMAX showing on the weekend, but he scored us seats at the 7pm showing on Thursday, May 7th, because he just couldn’t wait two more days for the IMAX showing on the 9th. Good loud visually exciting popcorn movie I’m sure I’ll see at least once more in the theaters and then at least once more on DVD, if I don’t end up owning it.

WolveringWolverine entertained me but didn’t wow me, or even strike me as a very compelling story. Hugh Jackman was good, he’s made the part his own, but I couldn’t buy Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. Something just didn’t ring true, and in a summer blockbuster of mutants with retractable metal claws and sharp fangs and the like, if you can’t buy an actor in a part, something’s just not right there.

And if I never see Will Ferrell again, it’ll be too soon. They showed the fucking trailer for Land of the Lost FOUR TIMES in those two movies, and I’m sure all the remotely funny bits were in the trailer.

FOUR. TIMES.

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OK, I’m done for tonight.

Have a good Wednesday, everyone.