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Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Want to be Efficient? Disable Notifications. Read and Reply in Large Batches.

Resisting temptations is a lot easier when they never show up

Got mail

Productivity is — and has long been — a habit or hobby of mine; my blog has a whole section dedicated to it (since 2004). Some people wrongly accuse me of being a “bot” even though everything I post I always post manually (I use 3 computers in tandem, but that’s about workspace, not automation). The culprit which needs to be eliminated is obtrusive “push” as opposed to “pull”; push is when someone tells you what to pay attention to, whereas pull is when you’re totally in control of your workflow and you habitually ‘pull’ updates when time is available or the mind is blank (end of some mental backlog).

15 years ago I wrote down some “Efficiency Tips” and years later I wrote some blog posts about how I manage mail, filtering etc. I have hardly written anything on the subject since then. Over the past decade (or more) a new creeping threat to people’s sanity has emerged; it was further popularised by social (control) media and then spread to other platforms that imitate it (with the notion of notifications, not just in a designated area/page but also persistent somewhere on the screen, urging to be clicked). For people who crave constant attention there’s an element of addiction right there. I too was vulnerable to it.

I read E-mail about once a day (and for those who might send urgent messages I made it clear, reducing the expectation of a fast response; they can pick up the phone in case of urgency). To avoid temptation to open messages in the queue do not download E-mail and keep the E-mail client shut.

But E-mail is to many people “yesterday’s technology”… now there’s a small number of companies — often foreign ones that mine data — controlling people’s communications.

Suppress notifications and read them (and reply) once a day, sometimes even less often depending on the nature of replies and importance of their promptness (some platforms ‘move’ faster than others).

Notification bars can also be hidden, if not in site settings then by moving windows out of view (outside the screen). It’s not always simple to achieve and it depends on the site. It’s almost always possible… somehow.

Reading one notification at a time (not clustering related ones) is just about the worst one can do and the most distracting thing. There’s no way to keep one’s train of thought, concentration suffers, and multitasking results in mental clutter. I’ve seen people who have fallen into the trap of renting (‘owning’) a survrveillance device (they call it ‘phone’) and it constantly bugs them with updates that they attend to. Not good. They don’t even focus on their workout at the gym; so what’s the point even going there?

When Those Who Expose Crimes Are Treated by the State Like the Criminals

Leonie Brinkema trial

Leonie Brinkema, appointed by Bill Clinton, works in a kangaroo court; it’s widely notorious for a rubberstamping-like behaviour in a variety of deeply political cases. “No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” said a letter to the editor yesterday, highlighting the nature of what some whistleblowers had done and got punished for. In exchange for them exposing crimes they got treated like criminals and this is more or less the job of Leonie Brinkema, protecting criminals by putting in prison those who spoke about these crimes. I don’t know Leonie Brinkema personally and it’s not even simply to find a simple photo of her face (drawings are out there and she looks a lot more furious in them).

It is expected that if (or when) Julian Assange gets ‘kidnapped’ and ‘shipped’ to the US Leonie Brinkema will be the sociopath who sentences him to death (or prison until death) for merely exposing the crimes of people like those who appointed her. What a crazy world we live in. They call it “justice”, but to those who set this court up it’s “just us”.

IRC Chat/Communication Panel

IN PREVIOUS posts I wrote about my work desktop, one of 12 workspaces/desktops that include desktop 2 for mail and collaboration, excepting a third screen mounted on a separate machines and connected nicely with Synergy for a seamless experience. In order to shed light on how I communicate online in real-term, here is desktop 4 on my main machine. What’s out of sight here is the weather widget; the wallpapers on the left changes based on the weather. In the other two screens — centre and right — it cycles at random (slideshow). In future posts I will show my other desktops and how I arranged them for improved productivity.

How to Quickly Produce HTML-Formatted IRC Logs

Trunks

ON a daily basis I must produce logs for 4 IRC channels. Over time I found more efficient ways for doing so and this post summarises some of the shortcuts and tools. It doesn’t go into specifics where these are not generalisable.

The first stage is opening a template for the post/article linking to the log/s. The post has X’s where the data goes, so that part must be completed by hand and then copied and pasted into the right fields. The way this is done depends on the site and its layout, but the important thing is, use templates. If this gets done daily, then a lot of work and many errors can be prevented.

Then comes the point where the logs themselves get produced. Logging is typically done by IRC clients, but only XChat works well for me with the script that I use since 2008, irclog2html. The first thing to do is open all the files containing the relevant logs. In my case it goes like this:

roy@roy:~$ cat ./irc-files.sh 
kate .xchat2/xchatlogs/FreeNode-#boycottnovell.log  
.xchat2/xchatlogs/FreeNode-#boycottnovell-social.log 
.xchat2/xchatlogs/FreeNode-#techbytes.log
.xchat2/xchatlogs/FreeNode-#techrights.log

The directory and relative paths may vary and one’s favourite text editor may vary as well (I like Kate). Once all the files are open (about 200 MB in my case), open all the previous logs (if any) and scroll down to the bottom. Then, copy a portion of the last line and search for it in the full log to quickly jump to the latest log line, then extend the selection (highlight with keyboard/mouse) to grab the new log text to be converted into HTML. Once this is done, open a new tab/windows, paste the text, and save the text as a file whose name is corresponding to the channel at hand. In my case, that would be irc-log-social, irc-log-techbytes, irc-log-techrights, and irc-log.

Once all the text to be converted is put in the correctly and consistently named files, batch-run the conversion and open the resultant files in a text editor. For example:

python ./Main/Programs/irclog2html.py irc-log-techrights 
--title='IRC: #techrights @ FreeNode: January 22nd, 2012' ; 
python ./Main/Programs/irclog2html.py irc-log --title='IRC:  
#boycottnovell @ FreeNode: January 22nd, 2012' ; python 
./Main/Programs/irclog2html.py irc-log-social --title='IRC:  
#boycottnovell-social @ FreeNode: January 22nd, 2012' ; python 
./Main/Programs/irclog2html.py irc-log-techbytes --title='IRC: 
#techbytes @ FreeNode: January 22nd, 2012' ; kate irc-log.html 
irc-log-social.html irc-log-techrights.html irc-log-techbytes.html

This is basically a simple command run about 4 times, then 4 files opened. Python is needed to run irclog2html.py and there is room for some parameters like page titles. The opening of the resultant files then makes it possible to save under date-stamped files all the logs separately, then upload them and link to them in the template post. That’s about it. If there are any questions about these very basic efficiency tricks, drop me a line. Having published thousands of logs, it is an area I’m quite familiar with.

Digital Work in the Broadband Age

Forgotten shed

AS SOMEONE who has worked from home since 2006 I can gladly say that motor vehicles are possible to avoid for those who wish to and whose work is location-independent. Spare office space too can be discarded. Both removals would be beneficial to the environment and reduce the impact of overpopulation.

I used to drive around a lot as a teenager, but when jobs become more sedentary and possible to carry out over broadband, what really is the point of driving to another office — an office like one that can be set up at home? This question is troubling sometimes, especially because of answers that are commonly given

To some people, the idea of going to work is the idea of escaping the confinements of a home, “going out” so to speak. To others it is about separation/buffer between home and work — the illusion of having two places to lodge in. Where interaction with colleagues is not necessary (or bossing over one’s shoulder) the idea of lacking the motivation to work whilst at home might only imply utter disdain for one’s work. Just changing location — putting peer pressure and supervision aside — does not provide any more or any less motivation. One can make one’s workspace more pleasant.

The reality is, many people do not work from home because the boss does not permit this. In that case, the boss needs to reassess the old myth that work should not be done remotely, i.e. not from home. People do not need physical access to paper files, for example. Everything changes, except old habits.

Helper Box

IN the middle of last year I found myself with an extra new widescreen monitor that could not be used because my graphics card only supports up to two monitors. I pondered buying a new graphics card to add a third or fourth monitor to the same box, but this turned out to be uneconomic. So instead I bought an extra box and installed Debian Squeeze on it. It would add a processor to my setup and also help stay connected when either of the machine requires downtime. Over time I learned how to properly use this “helper box”, which is connected to a separate mouse and keyboard. It is mostly used for monitoring of information that changes over time.

I decided to share the lessons I have learned about what and how to monitor things using this type of “helper box”. Here is a screenshot that can be viewed in full size by clicking it.

What’s shown here are 7 main components (some of which are hidden). The top left shows the tracking of one IRC channel in real-time, the bottom left shows another (singleton requires different IRC clients to be used). The bottom right displays the “top” output of Web servers (also enabling intervention in case things go awry)). This uses a KDE plasmoid that generally looks quite good and will appear in all workspaces. The same goes for the browser plasmoid at the top right (usually pointing to JoinDiaspora and updating/refreshing once in 5 minutes – there is an option for that). Weather forecast is displayed using another plasmoid and hidden behind the IRC windows are two folderview plasmoids that over SSH connect to the main box and thereby enable simple sharing of files — including text — across the two boxes. The main panel displays the time and date, but very little of interest apart from that. The wallpaper changes based on the current weather (it is a feature of Plasma desktop).

Moving one’s head to this box leads to absorption of a lot of information, which is worth the electricity cost.

Office Suites — A Rant

WHAT is all that nonesense that we find in the news about “OpenOffice.org lacking a mail and collaboration” component? Office suites are made to produce files, not to communicate directly with people. The instant messenger and the mail clients might be suitable for integration. The FTP client and the file manager also. But just as the Web browser (page renderer) never belonged next to/inside a file manager, the mail clients (e.g. Thunderbird) should remain separate from tools that are used to put together and manage complex data.

We don’t need another emacs (program as an “O/S”). Separability facilitates choice and integration can be achieved through standards. Do not borrow Microsoft’s example of integrating the Web browser with the O/S just as means of pushing Netscape out of the market. Don’t repeat mistakes by assuming that one giant framework of programs can replace a personalised collection of pertinent tools.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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