Saturday, December 22, 2007

Randy Pausch

In the 1980's I attended Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) as a undergraduate on Mathematics.  I followed that with two stints as a Staff Researchers, first in the Psychology Department and them with the Camelot group in the Computer Science Department.    I spent three years working with a group of stellar doctoral students.  They got their degrees while I earned a living and learned about systems and software engineering.

One of our students was Randy Pausch.  He arrived in 1982 and received his PhD in 1988 and went on to bigger things.  Randy came back to CMU and created a program called the Entertainment Technology degreee which merges Virtual Reality, Computer gaming, Art and Industrial Design.

Randy is one of my heros.  He found a way to do cool, fun things in Computer Science without treating it as Applied Mathematics.

The bad news is that in September 1006,  Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  The doctors don't give him much more time.

This fall, Randy gave a last talk at CMU.  

I'm very sad that I have not been in touch with Randy and the others from those years.  I wish him health and happiness.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How not to do backups

I am religious about backups. I bought a large USB hard drive and made sure that my laptop was backed up to the hard-drive every week. I used a tool called SuperDuper, which performed perfectly, even making the external drive bootable in case I totally lost my laptop or its internal disk.

In addition, I recently upgraded to Leopard and I set up a partition on the external hard drive for its 'Time Machine'. I never had to use it, but I did notice that it created very nice incremental backups.

On my wife's computer, I use Xdrive to backup her data to the Internet. It works very well given that she has relatively little data. The 5GB storage limit is plenty. My laptop was approaching 50GB of personal data. The data files for my thesis research add up to more than 20GB.

I made one major mistake. NEVER EVER PUT YOUR BACKUP AND PRIMARY SYSTEMS IN THE SAME ROOM. What, you think I'm talking about a fire or natural disaster. Think again. Its human error (sic).

This week, someone broke into our house in the middle of the night. My laptop was setup in an office on the first floor with an external monitor and the aforementioned external backup drive. The thieves took everything. So, now I have nothing. No laptop and no backup.

We are slowly piecing our life back together. The biggest problem is that all of my writing and research was on those disks. I also had our family images on that system. IPhoto is a very nice tool. Well, its all gone. Hopefully next week, I'll come out of mourning and get my life started again.