Tag Archives: lifehacker

Make the Time, Damn the Details

The beginning of a new school year is always a bit overwhelming in my line of work– lots of administrative headaches and last-minute requests from students who could have prepared better.  But, that’s what we’re here for.  It doesn’t change the fact that the days can be draining, and when you compound that with my 2.5 hours of daily commuting, I’m sort of wiped out by the time I get home.

Another problem I’ve always struggled with is a desire to have an entire project mapped out immediately, and/or be able to deliver a “finished product” in a relatively short period of time.  I tend to dwell on all the things that will yield something polished and worthwhile right away, rather than making some small steps on the road of progress whenever they might come.  It is often a crippling problem that stymies action altogether, which only leads to further obsession about the lack of progress.

Lifehacker had a nice post today that might make you feel better if you’re at all like me in this regard.  Particularly when it seems like I’m awash in other concerns, I need to try harder to just do anything I can with all of my various side projects.  I need to let some of the details slide and get ANYTHING accomplished.

You're Saying You Didn't See This Coming?

Gina from Lifehacker had a post yesterday about Google’s dominance of her personal online data and her [late, futile] attempts to stop it.  Well, basically, it’s a post about how Yahoo! search is more or less just as good as Google, but my summary of her motivation is accurate.

I’m not saying “I told you so,” or anything like that, because I am every bit as guilty of feeding the Googles as most average internetters.  To be honest, there is just too much that they do too well to justify NOT using a lot of their (free!) services.  To only come to grips with the risk inherent in giving one company control of so much information at the three- or four-year mark seems oddly shortsighted, though.

Have we just buried our heads in the digital sand up to this point, innately aware but consciously ambivalent about this course of events?  Is it possible we’ve reached a social tipping point, and this may signal the start of a mainstream Google backlash?

The Heat Is On

I happened across a post on Lifehacker today about the video offerings at PBS.org. I ended up turning on this episode of Frontline that first aired back in October, but it is, of course, still relevant right now (seriously, a total coincidence that I watched it on Earth Day).

I thought this was a great in-depth piece about about the issues facing our nation and world regarding energy consumption, global climate change, and their ramifications for the economy. It’s a investment of time if you choose to take a look (a little less than 2 hours), but I wanted to make it easy for you… enjoy.

What the Hell Is Mind-Mapping?

I mean “what the hell is mind-mapping?” in a”what-the-hell-is-it-good-for” sort of way.  Lifehacker had a write up about mind-mapping software the other day, and the only other reason I thought of it is that they are really hot and bothered about the whole concept at work– to the extent that some outrageously expensive software licenses were purchased and they want us to plot all of our procedures and processes out this way.

I really don’t see the point.  Seems like a lot more work that it’s worth.  Since it’s a “free-form” medium, the first thing you have to do when you look at something like this is figure out what the system (if any) was for the person who made the “map.”  If you are making one yourself, you have to dream up a system.  It seems a lot more straight-forward and easy for collaboration if you work with a commonly-used, easy-to-understand model that people are trained on early in life.  Y’know, like an outline.

If anyone wants to describe to me how or why this is useful, I’m all ears.  But I don’t get it.  I guess I don’t quite get the extent to which we’re moving away from being a society that writes things down into one that draws pictures and puts stuff on TV.  In my mind, this mind-mapping phenomenon is an extension of that.


Fun With Fonts

Like 20 thousand other Lifehacker readers, I picked up on this post a couple days ago that mentioned a website where you could generate your own hand-written fonts FOR FREE.  It took about 2 and a half days for the traffic to settle down, but early this morning, I was able to get in there and scan in a few different “Bocko” fonts.  The timing on the post was funny, because I had asked Michelle just a day or two before if she knew how to design one’s own font; I have a couple projects on which I’d like to use my own digital handwriting…

Anyway, I was really impressed with how they turned out.  I even changed a few default fonts on my system to use my new handwritten ones instead; we’ll see how long that lasts before it gets too annoying for words (I have a feeling that the first time someone else comes over to the house and sits down at the computer, we’ll need to switch back to something else.  But I can read these JUST fine…).

On the geeky-website-news front, I was excited to see that there should be a bug-fixing version of WordPress due out soon.  I took a look at the list of tickets that have been closed on version 2.7.1, and it seems like a couple of my plugin problems might get fixed.  I’m anxious because there are a couple new features in the next version I’d like to be able to implement here on the site.  I don’t think I’m going to bother testing the beta, but as soon as there is an official x.x.1 release, I’ll be on it.

On the geeky-television-news front, Jen figures that Sylar’s dad is invisible.  In more ways than one, Jen, in more ways than one…

On the sisters’-bithdays front, Christy is 26 today!!  I talked to her yesterday and mentioned that it’s time to start that next quarter-century– no lookin back now; next stop: 30!  Happy b-day, Kid.

Time to head out to work– have a fabulous Wednesday.

Windows 7 & the Growth of Linux

Lifehacker had a post on this topic today.  It’s a relatively geeky group that follows that blog, so the comment traffic was understandably dense and heated.  I haven’t had a chance to read through all the commentary, but it raised an interesting thought for me, as I now consider myself an experienced Ubuntu user, and I’m also participating in the Windows 7 beta…

There seems to be some effort on the part of Microsoft to shore up several of their OS’s shortcomings over the last 10 years or so with this newest release.  A few of the features that are being added and more development going in to certain aspects of the software that have been lacking is a big step in the right direction.

I was brought back to the reason I actively switched over to Ubuntu, though: in Linux land, you are a participant in a community of users and developers sharing ideas and helping each other make things work (if I sound like some goddamned hippie socialist, stay tuned…).  With Windows, you pretty much always have (and probably always will) had an easier out-of-the-box experience, and considering the market share that the operating system commands in the developed world, there’s no reason to think that will change any time soon.

However, there are certain ways that even paying customers are made to feel like they’re being punished in Windows (DRM and Genuine Windows validation are my favorites), and that’s not the case for Linux.  I switched because I don’t want to pay a license fee for a piece of software I can get by without.  That is the MARKET working at its best, Commies!  The growth of computing in the developing/third world during this century is one way that I could see Linux “winning” in the long run.  If Microsoft fails at either marketing themselves in these developing areas, or if their product simply proves to be too costly, Linux will eat up that market share, and quickly.

But even then, what is “winning” in this context?  In my mind, the existence of multiple platforms and competing products is what leads to the best consumer experience.  Do you think there would be an Internet Explorer 7 or a Google Chrome if there hadn’t been Mozilla and Firefox?  Of course not.  Same goes for the new Windows.  Being pushed to innovation by your competitors is what American capitalism is all about.

Will a new and improved Windows OS make Linux shrivel up and go away?  Unlikely; the latter has far too passionate a group of enthusiasts working on this software because they ENJOY IT as much as any other reason.  A better and easier Windows might stifle the interest in Linux for some, but that reciprocal challenge is how software development should work.

Still Don't Get It

I grant you that a big part of the ease of my annual tax preparation is that I:

  • am single,
  • make barely any money,
  • don’t own a home,
  • or have any dependents.

However, it seems like the FREAK OUT level in general here in America is huge when income tax filing time rolls around.  Personally, I’ve never had a problem either completing all the necessary forms or walking through the free-to-use online filing options conveniently linked through the IRS’s website.

Is the mere spectre of the Internal Revenue Service itself enough to make average citizens whip themselves into a panic?  Do most people just assume that filing their taxes is too hard, or perhaps not worth the individual effort?  I can appreciate some level-headed confusion about how to maximize one’s refund, or the desire to call in some backup (in the form of a pay-for-use software product, a paid tax preparer or accountant) when it begins to get complex, but what I can’t fathom is the apparent crippling terror.

Maybe this is just because I grew up always seeing my mom complete her tax return at home, by herself, for all the times that I made any tax-related observation.  Probably also helps that as soon as we kids got jobs, Mom had us get on the phone for the easy-as-pie, 10-minute “Telefile” option that existed at the time.  It goes a long way to removing tax-intimidation when your initial contact with the process was 100% painless (and they sent you a check, to boot!!).

Anyway, I caught this link via Lifehacker, saying that ANYONE can now e-file for free (there used to be a income-limit), and reading through the comments on the post makes me shrug with confusion.  I just don’t lose any sleep over it, and I am happily awaiting my refund as we speak (finished filing last Thursday).