“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”-Yoda
There was a post, published on Lifehacker, about lessons learned when the author’s laptop was stolen. The article was PC/Windows-centric, so I promised family to revisit this from a Mac perspective. This is probably not an exhaustive review, but a starting point.
1. Make a backup! Now! Time Machine makes this stupid easy. Buy an external hard drive (or better, two) and set them up today. People working with select agents need to consider hardware encryption for this external drive (http://is.gd/g4IYe andhttp://is.gd/g4IZN and http://is.gd/g4J0D). Encrypted hard drives may even be good for home use, if you worry about break-ins. Time Machine will support 2 different hard drives – envision one at home, one at work. That way, when one building gets wiped out by God/Mother Nature/the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you still have a backup. I recommend a hard drive 3x disk capacity of your laptop. Backups with Time Machine are incremental, so it needs more disk space than the amount of files you have stored on your computer. The best sources for cheap hard drives (my opinion) are NewEgg and OWC. The simplest to use are the bus-powered drives – meaning no separate power cord. Unplug your backup hard drive from all power when not in use. This protects you from sudden electronics-crippling-power-failures. This is the main reason I’m not recommending Apple’s Time Capsule. Time Machine will remind you when it needs to backup.Enabling Time Machine: Connect your external drive. Open System Preferences. Click on Time Machine (4th row down):
Turn Time Machine on (big slider button). The rest is obvious.
2. Logout every time you use your computer or set your screensaver to require a password immediately on sleep. This controlled in the Security preference pane. If you look at the earlier screenshot of the System Preferences, you will see “Security” in the upper row. Click the General tab. Set as you need – my last Federal employer required our computers to lock after 5 minutes of idle time. Should be the same for those of you working with DHS/FBI/DIA stuff in the lab.3. Encrypt your home directory. OS X includes FileVault. The process of encryption can take few hours, so be prepared to walk away. Without FileVault, and if I were a malicious person, even if you have your password turned on, I can still attach your Mac to mine and use “target disk mode” to pull your entire home directory off your computer. FileVault will prevent me from opening that home directory.4. While we’re in the Security preference pane. Turn on your firewall. For some reason, this is not enabled by default. A firewall blocks incoming connections. You will also want to click the “Advanced” button and turn on Stealth mode. The applications you see in my screenshot have asked for permission to penetrate the firewall and I have agreed to let them do their thing. Stealth mode sounds sort of evil, but it means your computer will not respond to pings from other computers on the network (it looks like you’re not there).5. Buy a cable lock. This is especially important for those of us hauling our laptops to our labs/offices, which are open most of the day. Tryten (http://www.tryten.com) makes some of the best locks out there. The Targus Defcon lock has been defeated with fire and a can of beer.6. Track your stolen laptop. There’s two pieces of paid software I am aware of: Undercover and LoJack. I am currently disappointed by Undercover – it still reports my laptop in Pasco and I’m not there. I have not used LoJack.
7. Finally, a note on iPhones. Enable the Passcode Lock and “Erase All Data”. After 10 attempts to break into your iPhone this will return your iPhone to purchase state. You can find this setting in “Settings” -> General. If you pay $99/year for Apple’s MobileMe, you can also use “Find My iPhone” which can do a remote erase. Of course, there are alternatives: 6 Ways to Track and Recover Your Lost/Stolen iPhone.
Promega has been one of the core companies in life science research since before my time as a molecular biologist. I respect them as a company and source of information almost as much as New England Biolabs. Promega has produced an application for the iPhone simply known as ‘Promega’.
- Large collection of basic information in one spot
- Simple, refined interface allows you to quickly find what you want
- Launches quickly, even on my iPhone 3G/iOS4 combo
- Accessing protocols can take some time, requires web access
With the adoption of the iPhone by many in science labs, Apple needs to create a category in the iTunes story solely for science-related applications. For some time, Apple has had a web page that explains the benefits of the Macintosh platform in science. I do believe that there are benefits, but have also been a Mac user, primarily, since I was a kid. As handheld technology has matured, labs I have been in have adopted handheld platforms for various tasks around the lab – starting with inventory control. Now that smartphones have entered the lab, basic tasks, such as dilution, molarity calculations and timing can be accomplished on these platforms. Developers seem to be keen to develop for science applications. So, Apple, let’s create that science category in the App Store.
iLab:Timer from Negative Ninth is a relatively new application to my phone. I had been looking for a lab timer solution for my iPhone for a long time. I dislike carrying my traditional lab timer with me everywhere since it often gets hung up on other objects or I end up taking it home with my by accident (I know I’m not the only one!).
- Design similar to other, traditional multi-timers for lab use
- Counts up, after you have missed that alert
- Can ‘push’ notifications that your timer is done
- Customizable alerts for different timers
- Ability to label those multiple timers to keep track of multi-tasking
- Frequently, when using the first timer ‘slot’, timer finishes early
- Slow to launch on iPhone 3/iOS4 (my phone)
I have several iPhone apps I use consistently in the lab. I figure it’s probably time to review the use of these apps, the pros and cons. I use an iPhone 3G – haven’t upgraded to the iPhone 4, yet. I am running iOS4.
- Clean, simple design, that we have come to know, expect from Mek&Tosj
- Calculates mass or volumes needed for a given molecular weight
- Remembers favorite chemicals for next time
- Database searching, broken by iOS4 and still waiting for the update
- Normality calculations would be a nice ‘feature’
- Significant digit ‘rules’ should be obeyed more consistently
Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of .. knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of being.” John Wooden
Image via Wikipedia
For many post docs, life revolves around the lab. It’s necessary for us to have an escape though, from the pressure cooker that is the lab. For me, most days, it’s the gym, where I am still trying to recover from the horrors perpetrated on my body by grad school. However, Fridays are special. Traditionally this has been beer and pizza night in my household, a tradition my wife and I have continued. Lately, with the good beer that arrived at the Palouse Falls Brewing Company, a new microbrewery in Pullman, the tradition has been streamlined: beer.
Image by ckaiserca via Flickr
Science, as practiced today, requires mastering information flow. Protocols, experiments, inventory of equipment, samples, and training records. That doesn’t even include the flood of information a scientist is expected to keep track of in the primary literature. Have management tools evolved to help the academic lab resist this flood of information? Can current tools, used predominately in the business world be adapted to the science world? Should I go get my MBA?
These questions have been precipitated by the beginning of a new
postdoc for me – round 2. I am very happy to be at WSU, working on Anaplasma,
as opposed to my previous experience working with environmental
microbes. My first job is to simply express proteins that have been
cloned and expressed previously by a former graduate student – simple,
right? So, I was handed his 5 lab notebooks, and off I went. I quickly
figured out the naming scheme he had used, but little else. I spent
the day combing through his lab notebooks looking for how these things
had been cloned, confirmed.
Personally, I filled 13 lab
notebooks in grad school. My adviser sent me the copies – meaning the
group admin had to make the copies – because he was so frustrated at
having to find information. I’m grateful to have the copies too -
something most grad students don’t have. But…since this is the dawn
of a new opportunity for organizing information flow, I am checking out
the new tools.
- In the past, on the project management side, I have dabbled with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) mantra. Mainly, I used the tool GTD Tiddly Wiki which
is an adaptation of a simple, one page wiki system, Tiddly Wiki. It is
a wiki system that has been adapted for GTD and can be stored locally
or on a thumb drive – no web expertise required.
- For time management, I have used the flash-based Emergent Task Planner from David Seah.
- Finally in my former lab, we had a great product for inventory, LabCollector. It was hosted on a webserver, track all the samples in the lab.
of these technologies works well, but I am looking for something new -
to increase throughput and do a better job than a piece of paper and a
pen (traditional lab notebook). I have/am contemplating Livescribe
for a lab notebook, but a major downside to that appears to be the lack
of ability to insert photo images. As a life scientist, I have
pictures of gels, blots, etc that need to be part of my lab notebook.
Has anyone come up with a simple, inexpensive system that allows
information to be shared readily?