The hardest part about blogging is not about WHAT to write, its about
WHEN. As you can see by the latest "irregularity" in my posting cycle
I’m yet again experiencing one of those weeks where "sitting down and
writing out my thoughts" is harder then drawing the formula for
cold-fusion on a post-it. Many of us say that we are "busy", "don’t
have the time to settle down" or "life got in the way". And to some
account that might be true. Over the last week I’ve been constantly
tinkering and tampering (read : FIXING) computers for friends and
relatives. Not that this is something I do on a regular basis, but
sometimes all these little "2do’s"
decide to wait in a corner near the alley and gang up on me. Add busy
times at work, a spouse who is in the middle of her exams (and doing
darn awesome) and the last remaining shards of a "creative routine"
that you have.. evaporate.
Now there are hundreds of websites, podcasts,
lectures video’s and books about ‘ getting thing done ‘ and being more
productive an all that. In truth, I might require some of that
knowledge to keep me on course in the gazillion things I "need to do",
but instead I have reflected about all the things that DO keep me
occupied WHEN i HAVE the time. The runner up in swallowing my free time
is of course "other people’s problems". I have been scaling down on
this one in a BIG way over the last six months, but this week it’s
another case of a cyber-pile up where a Mac mini that needed reinstalling, An ACER
laptop with a bad case of "The Vista"s", A HP desktop suffering from
"crap on the net" and the micro surgical process of installing as many
games as possible on Granny’s EEE–pc. Add a website and another project to the mix and … Well I could quit my day job and still have my hands full.
the major obstacle in "sitting down, writing / recording / doing some
video work / being creative" is not the fact I have stuff to do for
somebody else. The larger source of procrastinating stuff I want to do
for ME … is the constant interruption the miriads
of communication tools out there. Just imagine me, sitting down behind
the computer and "tuning in" to most channels of communication :
– MSN / Googletalk : To keep in touch with family / friends.
– IRC : Mostly scanning through conversations on #ubuntu–uk.
– Mail : If I don’t have my Gmail open, i’m mostly run the command line application Alpine OR get a buzz on my blackberry whenever I get an email.
– Facebook : BIG source of interruptions. Whenever somebody comments on something, sends me an IM or what have you … my Blackberry buzzes AND i get an email.
– Twitter : If there is a black hole where all our focused attention is sucked into .. it MUST be twitter. Tweetdeck only makes it worse since I have entered several "custom" search-bars who keep stuffing me with additional information. Dm’s
on Twitter (ALSO) arrive on my blackberry, replies and new tweets pop
up regularly. Before you know it you’re clicking links and .. well ..
you’re all over the place.
– Feed-reader : Of course my subscription to my RSS
feeds cannot remain absent to the party of interruptions. A pop-up and
a ping when somebody posts something new is a surefire way to take away
Looking through the list it is amazing that I get
ANYTHING done in my "creative time". One can easily sit behind ones
computer in a "reactionary mode": where you only ‘respond’ to
everything that is coming your way (converstations / email / IM
/ links etc ..) and never actually DO anything in particular. I’ve
heard this from friends over and over .. saying they have "sat behind
their computer for 3 hours .." and didn’t get down to doing what they
came for in the first place.
Now there are times when you "need" to be "plugged in". Our computers are (at least to Nyana
and me) our primary means of communication. Seldom do we get
"phone-calls" or "visitors at the door" 95 percent of our interaction
with the outside world goes through our digital line. But these times
of "heavy communication" are devastating to your attention span or your
creative instincts. So I have decided not only to "streamline" that
flow of "communication-static" into something I can manage.
first step is of course to "find peace" in "not being there". It’s OK
when you’re not on twitter for a day .. its OK when you are absent on
client. People can drop you a message if they want to. Twitters
‘replies’ get saved for when you come online, people can send you a
direct message when they need you. On the other hand I have both my IM client AND my IRC client running in terminal mode on my Ubuntu
server at home. That way they are "running and active" all the time, I
just "connect" to the session from whatever computer I’m working on and
chat away. To the outside world it is like I’m "online all the time".
The great thing is I get to "choose" when I "connect and interact".
The second step is that you have to find peace with the fact that it is "OK to miss out on things". There is SOO
much going on in Cyberspace that you just "cannot" keep up all the
time. Either you are 100 percent in the loop on what’s been said in
Twitter-verse, or you are the "all-knowing lounger" in your IRC
channel .. but it will cost you the better part of the night. The
impulse to "sit behind your computer" and "open ALL hailing
frequencies" just to stay in touch, would even give Uhura
one hell of a headache. There are plenty of ways to " catch up " on
things later, and if something is REALLY important ..you will find out
The third step for me is fine-tuning my
communication channels into a clutter free interface. Mostly I do this
by using the "command line" version of these programs on my Ubuntu server. I have replaced MSN Messenger / Adium / Pidgin / googletalk with Centerim. MIRC has been replaced by Irssi. My Gmail page replaced by the tight command line interface of ALPINE and my RSS feeds come through NEWSBEUTER.
All of these applications run in a terminal session I can connect to
from ANY computer and continue to run (on my server at home) even when
I disconnect from whatever laptop i’m
working on. The great thing about the command line interface is that
its a no-nonsense zero clutter environment that helps me focus my
attention to the task at hand. I’m still looking for a decent command
line version of a twitter client where I could "scale down" my twitter
feed to something resembling a good old IRC
channel. The blackberry is ON my desk instead of on my belt so its
"buzz" won’t tempt me to "Check what email I just got" I"ll see the
mail when I check Alpine. While a valuable tool "on the road", the
"interruptions" of the Blackberry are not needed when already BEHIND
"Creative time": And finally it comes down to a
matter of discipline and giving yourself the luxury of solitude.
Schedule or MAKE some "Creative time" where you shut down the flow of
information coming your way and start working on "creating" new
information. Shutting down Twitter, closing the IM
windows.. (and on the mac DISABLING GROWL) is good for you when it
comes to homing in on whatever you want to do. Fight the impulse to
"open up a new tab" while you are writing / recording and put some
headphones up. Upbeat or relaxing music drowns out the world and then
its just ‘you and the screen’. You would be amazed just how much you
can do when you "disconnect" for a while.
In part 3 of our Ubuntu Server series we show you how to install and use a web based configuration tool for your server called Webmin. Learn to control your server, manage backups, up and download files and more using a nice point and click interface.
- Introduction from home base.
- Installing webmin.
- Configure your server.
- Configure services using webmin.
- Cool Tools
- Networking and adding new services.
What is in your bag : Part one : The absolute minimum.
have been a great many posts on the Internet about this very topic. A
topic considered rude if we should ever pose that very same question to
a member of the female sex.
Just imagine the slap in the face you
would get when asking a girl “whats in her handbag” For many women,
it’s one of the unholy questions , straight up there with “what do you
weigh ?” and “how old are you ?”. But when it comes to geeks, the
question “whats in your bag” does open up an entire debate about what a
geek carries around on his daily trek through “meat-space”.
is of course no laughing matter : Packing up sufficient supplies to
survive a trek through the land beyond the keyboard. A wondrous journey
that takes you away from the homely range of your wireless router and
is filled with perils and dangers. Like an explorer running out of
water in the middle of the desert, so can your average geek become
trapped in a dangerous situation where he or she can be cut of from the
constant flow of information from the interwebs. Whenever the oasis of an open Wifi
access point is nowhere in sight .. What is a geek to do ? The answer
is the same.. both in the exploration of the Sahara Desert, as in the
life of a road warrior : Preparation Preparation Preparation !
coming to the question ” what is in your bag ? “, we are confronted by
two kinds of geeks: The digital pack-rats who would lug around a 19inch
server-rack if it had a carry strap, and the Digital minimalists who
would do just about everything (including remote controlled robotic
brain-surgery) using their smart phone. Sometimes it seems like there
is no middle ground. Either you are a binary “hunchback” who has an
entire backpack with enough devices to fill a storefront at wall-mart,
or you are a digital gunslinger that has the power of the inter-webs
tucked to your waist like a sidearm.
My addition to this whole
debacle is to hold a “center ground” and look at the two extremes in a
different way. I try to “pack for the weather” and stuff in my bag
those things I “might need” during my trip. ” What is in my bag ”
depends on what the trip through meat-space is going to bring me. Is
this a little trip to the shop or a full fledged digital safari that
will require a high level of digital versatility. Depending on the
scenario, “what”s in my bag” differs.
Level one ” A quick pop to the shop “
first level of digital connection is not as much “in my bag” as it is
“on my waste” My trusty companion that goes with me everywhere is my
Blackberry Curve 8310. The GPRS linkup to my mailbox is my digital lifeline. Added applications like Twitterberry keep my in touch with the Twitterverse, the Facebook App hooks me up with that side of my social life, Googlesync pulls and pushes my contact and calendar info to the cloud .. and whatever communications remain via voice and SMS also go via the Blackberry.
Additionally I carry my Ipod Touch anywhere for my portable multimedia entertainment. The built in Wifi is a great way to detect open wifi
spots (and access a “broader band” of Internet connectivity) , plus the
myriad of applications I find on the apple store (for free) offer
functionality that the blackberry does not have. But the most important
functionality is as an entertainment center. Downloaded podcasts and screen-casts are stored on the touch + any music. The Usb stick that is hooked to my keychain comes loaded with a set of portable (windows) applications AND a version of Ubuntu, enabling me to jump start any computer with my own version of Ubuntu booting from the stick.
Level two ” The waiting Room”
second level of the absolute minimum features all the items mentioned
above PLUS the addition of my Sony PR-505 for my reading pleasure.
Whenever I’m going somewhere that will require me to “sit down and
wait”, I need something to keep me entertained. To prevent useless
fondling of the blackberry (changing one”s ringtones
50 times to pass the time) I take a good read along with me, since I
have over 500 books stored on the Sony E-reader. Plug in the earphones
from my Ipod, put the blackberry on the tabletop and I’m zoned out for at least a few hours, still able to keep in touch with the web.
In the next part of the series , i pick up my “geek bag” and show you the next level of my digital packrat lifestyle.