Author Archives: brenthawthorne

Naah, naah, you have cooties and I don’t!

Actually, it turns out most of your cooties won’t grow in me. I’m catching up on podcasts that are a couple of months old, and a Sci Friday story about our skin bacteria caught my attention. Seems that even on our own bodies the bacteria from area to area varies greatly, and the strains growing on you might not grow on me at all. So you can kiss the girls without getting (many) cooties from her!

Serious about your data backups?

I saw this article today on the new ioSafe SSD devices.

ioSafe makes some pretty nice devices. For people who don’t trust the cloud storage services (got something to backup you REALLY don’t want someone else to see?), or, more likely, need a higher throughput (some users report up to a month for initial backups to internet services), they have some serious devices at pretty remarkable prices.

The regular ioSafe devices are impressive: Fireproof to 1550 F for 30 minutes, waterproof to 10 feet for 3 days, so they will survive your house fire AND the fire department’s hoses. And a 2 TB version is readily available for the low price of less than $375. A bit out of my price range, but the 1 TB version for $220 might not be. It is certainly tempting.

Now you can get the SSD version and have something that most airplanes would be glad to have in their black boxes: It can take a 20 ft drop/1000g for 1 ms, a 5000 lb crushing load (balance your SUV on it no problem), and even better waterproofing for 30 days in 30 ft of water (for those people living on houseboats in Hurricane Alley). The downside is it costs like an aircraft component, listing for $1,250 for a measly 256 GB. That data better be worth some serious bucks.

Sherlock Holmes

To jump to the meat of the matter, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, and don’t insist that a movie fit every particular of stories written for an audience from the 1890s, you should see this movie. You don’t need to read any further. Stop here, get in your car and go.

In this new Sherlock Holmes film we have an updated, original story, well tied in to the original stories and historical events in numerous ways. This is no massaging of one of Sir A. C. Doyles stories, but something new written for a modern audience, not taking itself too seriously, and weaving politics, drug habits, good old anti-social behavior and a couple of love interests in, resulting in a very fun take on Holmes.

The casting is nicely done, with a great lead part for Robert Downey, Jr, Jude Law as a nicely done Dr. John Watson, and Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade. Almost across the board I found the actors/actresses nice fits for the characters.

The dark Victorian London backdrop sets the mood very well, and numerous small details of the times are very nicely worked in, such as the Central European immigrants and even the practice of copper sheathing ships that was popular at the time (yes, I’m a geek in many ways).

I hope we see a sequel or two.

Star Trek on BluRay goes great with the new HD TV

On top of all the joys of Christmas bills, this year our main TV, a 7 year old Panasonic projection screen, decided to flake. After a trip to Best Buy, and based on watching movies on the beautiful TV my father recently got, I decided it fork out for an LCD. Like I really had any choice this time around. But the price point is at least finally down far enough I did start choking looking at the price tags.

So, one Samsung LN52B630 later, courtesy of Amazon (over $200 less than Best Buy’s best price with delivery and setup included), and I’m an loving my new Star Trek. While this may not be as great a watch as the Dark Knight BluRay, which I’ve had several people tell me is the one to get, it is a beautiful movie at home. The color depth and smoothness work throughout, and even without running it through surround sound it sounds great. Two thumbs up for new TV and the movie.


Here's a very nice video showing what you can do with a bunch of chalkboards and about 6 months of time: Firekites – AUTUMN STORY – Chalk animated music video directed by Lucinda Schreiber and Yanni Kronenberg

And who doesn’t need a death ray?

Now available from Northrop, a portable, rack mountable (perfect for geek in you), weaponized laser!

A fine example of special interests costing us money

I came across a news story on the National Association of Home Builders’ 2009 International Residential Code meeting that is worth sharing. It seems a bit esoteric, but here is why you should care: This is the code that determines what is required to by in new homes. In this case, it’s going start requiring that you pay for the installation (and subsequent maintenance) of a fire SPRINKLER system.

Now, it irritates me that if I buy a new house, I’ll be footing the bill for something like that, but that’s not what really gets my goat. What just gets under my skin is this:

The sudden — and controversial — arrival on Saturday of 900 fire officials eligible to vote at the International Code Council‘s final action hearings in Minneapolis swelled the number of sprinkler proponents and the measure was approved by a vote of 1,283 to 470 on Sunday morning.    

About 1,200 voting devices were turned in immediately after the residential fire sprinkler mandate was approved, suggesting that most of the proponents left immediately after the vote was taken.


The residential fire sprinkler mandates will provide a sizable financial boon for the fire sprinkler manufacturing industry, which, like NAHB, helped provide funding for building officials to attend the hearings.

In 2005, when there were about 1.65 million new homes constructed at an average 2,340 square feet, sprinkler manufacturers would have reaped about $5.8 billion in revenue, based on average sprinkler costs of $1.50 per square foot, had the sprinkler requirement been in effect.

NAHB had identified several concerns over residential fire sprinkler systems — among them, questioning whether most home owners are prepared to perform the maintenance required to ensure that the sprinklers remain operational.

Builders also cited the potential for pipes installed in attics to freeze in colder climates and they said that the sprinklers can be discharged accidentally, with damaging results. In areas served by wells or where water is scarce, the availability of an adequate water supply is another possible problem.

NAHB pointed to several existing code requirements that have contributed to a significant decline in fire-related deaths and injuries over the past 30 years.

Special interest anyone? 

For the full text:,2624,HPRO_26520_5938189,00.html?nl=HGPro_v185p_top5_fire

Read the originals

The British Library has made available a number of very old books available in their original format, using Turning The Page software. It’s nice to see institutions following Google’s example and making actual scans of the books available. Much more interesting with these historical books to see how the books were originally published rather than just the text.

Who’s the toughest?

Some accidental experimentation has led me to the following observation: Black ants can stand at least 3 minutes minutes on high in a strong microwave oven.

Out of something in the neighborhood of 12 ants that came in on a kid’s bowl, not one dead ant was found after a 3 minute run in the microwave.

If ants could survive that long, I wonder how long the roach, as most likely to survive a nuclear holocaust, would last? Unfortunately my wife frowns on roaches in the kitchen.

So Vista is slow as a dog on a hot summer day…

In a quick post on InfoWorld, Tom Sullivan notes that XP is faster than Windows Server 2008 is faster than Vista. This as Microsoft makes a desperate attempt to woo us into reevaluating Vista, with a commercial noting that once people thought the world was flat. We no longer think the world is flat, but I still think Vista fell flat on its face and stayed there.