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February 29, 2004


Right now, there is a bit of a lull, as we just finished the FEMBA midterm testing cycle. (I did rather well, if you are curious.) I utilized some of my free time to play computer games and run a backup of my important files.

I very rarely backup. But then again, I’ve never really stored that much important content on my own computer. Most of my product has been stored on servers that are backed up by professionals. (My company got hit by the MyDoom virus, which wiped out some shared drives. It remains to be seen if the IT group managed to restore from the backup.) But, considering the amount of time that I have put into this website, and the fact that it is run off of my own server, I want to prevent a virus or harddrive crash from destroying my work.

My backup process was this: Archive my /var/www directory and certain folders in my home directgory. Use the command

mysqldump -a -u xxx -p xxx > web-db-2004-02-29.bak
to make a backup of the mySQL database that Movable Type uses. Archive some of my important project directories that reside on my laptop. Burn them all to CD.

I’m not particularly pleased with the process. It was too much manual labor, and took too long (about a half hour). Furthermore, I missed a lot of the configuration files from the server, as well as less immediately-critical stuff from my laptop. (For example, I don’t have a backup of my MP3’s.) I didn’t even have a felt pen to write the date on the CD!

Ideally, I would have a cron job on the server that would occasionally archive all of the designated files from the server, and have that archive available for burning or replicating on another (remote) machine. My other Windows machines and my laptop could then replicate designated directories onto the server (automatically, when I connect to my home LAN?). Note that the above scheme means that there is a full backup occasionally: Right now, everything fits comfortably on one CD, but someday that may change.

I’m planning some other interesting projects, so I really should get this backup thing straightened out.

February 15, 2004

Valentine's Day Dinner

Elizabeth and I have been dating for eleven months, which is definately worth celebrating (especially since it was Valentine's Day yesterday). We had originally planned for a weekend in Palm Springs, but I couldn't get a hotel reservation anywhere. We decided to make dinner together instead. Weekend planning is hampered by the fact that I have MBA classes on Saturday morning. This week, I had a takehome midterm in Finance, so it was theoretically possible to go somewhere (as long as the hotel had internet access). Unfortunately, many hotels were booked (or "fully committed" as one clerk said) due to Valentines Day and the long weekend. Ah well.

I made baked salmon with cilantro sauce and a spinach orzo sidedish. Elizabeth made cucumber salad and a tasty chocolate cake (not box mix!). It took some time to put together, but it was fun, the ingredients were fresh, and the result was delicious. An excellent side-benefit was that we did not have to contend with the crowds of Los Angeles.

Cucumber salad, in progress.
The orzo side-dish. It had carrots, garlic, and spinach in addition to the pasta. We found the recipe in the cookbook that my parents gave me for Christmas (Betty Crocker's Quick and Easy Cookbook).
Me, preparing the topping for the salmon dish. (This was also a recipe in the cookbook.)
Elizabeth, displaying all of our hard work.

February 08, 2004

Linebacker Lounge

Sooner or later, everyone ends up at the 'Backer.


Rather than getting ready for tomorrow’s trip to Atlanta, or working my Finance case study, I spent some time playing around with Microsoft’s new OneNote product. (I am currently in day three of a 60-day trial.) OneNote is (as the name suggests) a note-taking application, which promises to improve a critical process for students and researchers.

OneNote’s main competitor is the pen and paper, and I have to wonder if I will be able to wean myself from the yellow pad. The old-fashioned approach is so simple, intuitive, and versatile that I have some concern that I would be giving up functionality.

Why do I take notes?
• To help me stay awake during a lecture. In all honesty, I very rarely review my notes, but I still take notes because it helps keep me focused on the lecture. I have a pretty good memory, and often the writing of a note is enough to cement it. (Notes are memory-triggers, especially when one has to take notes quickly.)
• To use later on while writing a report on the event. (See my first bullet, though.) Sometimes, I need to communicate what happened at a lecture, and notes are a useful way of itemizing all of events.
• To record my progress through research. I might be scanning though books or webpages, learning about a topic. Notes are a way of capturing some of this knowledge (and their origins). This is different than the above bullets, as it is not quite as time-critical.

What is good about my current process?
• My notes are private. Other people can see that I am writing on a piece of paper, but they really can’t see to much. This is a concern with taking notes on a laptop… The other people can read what I am writing. One writes what one believes is important, and that might give information away. This is probably just an annoyance in a lecture class, but may be very important in a multi-company meeting. (Maybe I would have less concerns if my laptop screen wasn’t so big, or if I had a tablet PC.)
• I have a set of annotations (written in the margin) that I use to designate different thoughts. For example, I use an triangular arrow to designate an action item, a question mark to write a question about the material, and an exclamation mark to write an interesting thought or application.
• I can easily switch between drawing graphs and writing text. I try to use graphs or figures whenever possible.

What do I wish was better about my note-taking?
• Notes get lost or forgotten.
• They are rarely useful out-of-context. (Lecture notes in particular.) I sometimes take notes that are only understandable given the lecture. They almost seem to have a half-life, in which the memories that they trigger slowly decay.
• Notes are rarely complete. I suppose that this is related to the above.

I think that an electronic note-taking application could be helpful. My notes would not be lost or forgotten (assuming that my hard drive does not crash). I might be able to take more relevant notes, and maybe organize them on-the-fly. To be really useful, OneNote will have to minimize the downside of the electronic format (less versatility, less freedom in form), while maximizing the potential upside (searchability, links, readability, automation of rote tasks). I have noticed that it does have a “note flag” feature, which is similar to my notation. (And one can view all of your note-flags at a glance…. Very good!)

My MBA professors generally make the PowerPoint lecture slides available ahead of class. The people in my class that take notes on their computers seem to write directly in the notes section of the PowerPoint. This is useful because it puts the text directly with the relevant slide. It would seem as though I can do the same type of thing, as I can copy/paste a slide straight out of PowerPoint, into my current note page. Then, I can write or draw next to it or below it. (Good!) But it would be nice to import all of the slides into a note page at once, so I wouldn’t have to copy them one-by-one. (OneNote current does not have Automation or VBA. Several people have suggested that this would be useful for adding blogging functionality. It would certainly enable me to quickly add the functionality that I want.)

A couple of product reviews can be found here and here. and A FAQ can be found here.

Some more useful writeups about experiences with OneNote can be found here and here.

I should note that I used OneNote to keep track of links and such while researching this entry!