Into the Wayback Machine

My buddy Connell runs an election/campaign advisory firm. He has a database that he uses to track voter profiles, create outreach lists, and the like. To minimize annoying voters — never a good idea when you’re running a campaign — he needs to stay on top of whoever has already voted, so he can take them off the outreach lists (who has voted is a matter of public record; how you vote is not).

Unfortunately, his database/computer guy isn’t available, and Connell wasn’t sure how to import the voting data. Worse yet, he couldn’t find the manual for the software. Between the two of us we came up with a number of different ways to try and work around these problems…but none of them succeeded. So, as always, when subtlety doesn’t work, it was time to turn to brute force :).

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Less Noise Is Good News

In preparation for moving to a new home I’ve been going through my stash of surplus motherboards, hard drives, etc., and getting them ready to donate to the local community college district. This finally caused me to look into disk-scrubbing software, since I don’t want to release drives that may have confidential information on them.

The scrubbing exercise has reminded me of a few things I’d completely forgotten about:

  • I am so glad the industry moved to the SATA interface from PATA. Those !@#$!@#$#@ forty  pin EIDE connectors, and power connectors, are a pain in the butt to remove.
  • It’s laughable how much storage capacities have grown. None of the scrubbed drives are more than eight or so years old, but the earliest ones stored only 6 gigabytes of data. I just built a NAS4Free file server around four 3 terabyte (3,000 gigabyte!) drives, each of which has 500x the capacity of those old drives…in the same volume. For the same cost. In nominal dollars. Wow!
  • Those old drives were noisy. Work environments must have been a lot louder back in the day. Yet I don’t remember that.

Reality is Fuzzy…Fortunately

I’ve sometimes found it ironic that many of us strive for clarity and precision in our thinking when the world, as best we can tell, is fundamentally fuzzy. In fact, one can argue that the world, at least as we know it, could not exist except for the fuzzyness at its roots. I’m thinking here, of course, of the discoveries embodied in quantum mechanics (if you’re interested, search for the ultraviolet catastrophe and standing waves).

Yesterday I learned about another example of the importance of fuzziness. One that is pretty central to life on Earth.

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