Controlling genes by thought, DNA sequencing in 90 minutes, and cellular memory.

A couple of years ago the field of optogenetics, or genetically engineering responsiveness to visible light to exert control over cells was born. In a nutshell, genes can be inserted into living cells that allow certain functions to be switched on or off (such as the production of a certain hormone or protein) in the presence or absence of a certain color of light. Mostly, this has only been done on an experimental basis to bacteria, to figure out what it might be good for. As it happens to turn out, optogenetics is potentially good for quite a lot of …

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Printing memory circuits on paper and the first memristor based computer?

Computer memory chips are manufactured identically to any other kind of integrated circuit. Wafers of ultra-pure silicon are selectively doped, masked with layer after layer of circuit diagrams, etched.. you get the picture. The extreme sensitivity of the process is one of the reasons behind the cost of microprocessors and memory these days. What if, however, there was a less touchy and expensive process? A research team lead by Der-Hsien Lien, a graduate student at the National University of Taiwan in Taipei figured out how to print memory circuitry on paper with an inkjet printer. The team fabricated a form …

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Turtles all the way down: SoCs and Storage

This brings us along to designs that are rather common even though we don't normally think of them as either common or systems. By this, I refer to SoC's - Systems On A Chip. As the name implies, they are full (or nearly so) computers implemented as single mother-huge silicon chips (relatively speaking). On the die you'll find a CPU or microcontroller, supporting electronics for same, an MMU, and enough interfaces to do whatever you want, be it plug in a USB keyboard and mouse, an Ethernet adapter, or a simple USB-to-serial converter circuit. An excellent example of a SoC is …

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Memristors now a viable component of electronic circuitry.

In the early 1970's an electrical component was hypothesized by Leon Chua, who was working at the University of California at Berkeley as an electrical engineer. Chua was said to be working on a mathematically rigorous foundation for the science of electronics, and during the course of his work he concluded that a fundamental component was missing. A memristor is essentially a component which remembers how much current has passed through it for a duration of time (technically, there is a relationship between the integrals over time t between current and voltage). While that doesn't seem all that interesting it …

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Network update: Leandra back online.

Maintenance on Leandra is finished. I took her offline around 2100 ESET5EDT on Saturday night to remove a dead DVD-ROM drive, remove a pair of 512GB memory modules that weren't doing anything, and swap out her 250 GB hard drive for a 500 GB drive. The RAID array has had 250 GB added to it; specifically, the logical volume holding everything but the /boot and / partitions has had 250 GB added to it. 15 GB from the free pool was added to /usr (so that more software could potentially be installed) and the rest of the free disk space was …

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Shell script: truecrypt-1.0.sh

To scratch a frequently encountered itch, namely mounting and unmounting Truecrypt volumes on USB keys and external drives on a number of systems in a day, I wrote a shell script that automates the command line arguments that I use most often as well as making it simpler to assume root privileges to do so. The script is designed to be kept on the key along with the encrypted datastore, though it could also be placed on each system in a publically accessible location (such as /usr/local/bin)

The script assumes that it'll be run on a UNIX (-alike …

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Solid state hard drives officially announced.

Yesterday Intel announced the first few models of its new line of solid-state hard drives based upon NAND gate technology. Rather than using spinning metal platters that use a lot of electricity ('a lot' is a relative term - when you consider the power consumption of a laptop running off of battery power, hard drives are power hogs) they use flashchips similiar to the ubiquitous USB key that just about everyone has one of these days. The Z-U130 line will come in 1, 2, 4, and 8GB capacities, read 28MB and write 20GB per second, which isn't bad for a flashdrive …

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Archive: 20070108

Note to self: All the walking in DC is making me go through tennis socks faster than I can replace them. I've blown through six socks in three days because they've ripped through without warning walk walking down the street. This is a little annoying because I feel like a slob. It's 2007, so the time for upgrading is probably upon most of us. To wit, here's something that should leave just about everyone drooling in anticipation: This Thursday upcoming, Hitachi will put their one terabyte hard drives on the consumer market with an opening price of $399us. The drives …

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