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Archive for the ‘Productivity’ Category

Now Working Even More on the Web Sites

I left my job in December, one month after Techrights had turned 16 (it was known as “BoycottNovell” at first). Yesterday the site turned 16.5 — a fact that I only realised about an hour ago. Here’s “whois“:

BoycottNovell domain in 2023

Summary: Another small (or semi) milestone for us; it’s an opportunity for reflection

The site started when I was 24. I was a student at the time. I had begun writing my thesis months earlier and I didn’t feel eager to find a job in some centralised office. In 2007 I started working from home exclusively and that hasn’t changed since. The working environment evolved and improved over the years. When working in front of a computer it’s important to make things pleasant and last year I moved everything to a dedicated room, formerly the dining room. Here’s what it looks like this morning (minutes ago; I’ve since then added a plant to the beige table on the left, as there’s available space there).

Working 2023

The photo shows the 9 screens, 5 webcams, 4 mice, 3 large speakers (from 1994; they still work), 7 keyboards (two are external), and as of this morning (2 hours ago) there’s a cactus-like pair of plants on the table that I took out yesterday (because it’s getting warmer), the 16.5-year anniversary of Techrights.org. All these computers run GNU/Linux and they’re not expensive at all (refurbished, old, low-budget). Each serves its set of purposes. The electric bill is 1.5 pounds per person per day (inclusive of everything, cooking as well) as these machines dim down while AFK and there’s no GPU.

If 16.5 years from now the Web site does not exist it’s likely it’ll have already evolved for whatever comes after the Web, maybe something like Gemini or IPFS. We’re flexible enough to handle change and budget isn’t a problem because we are not a company.

Last year I started experimenting with a standing desk. With two soft carpets on the floor and ample space for weights it’s possible to also exercise a bit while reading. It’s like a form of therapy that is healthy not just for the body but also the mind. I’m stationed near the desk about 15 hours a day, on average.

Bosses That Never Admit Mistakes

Video download link | md5sum 517c825e6b2b4ff488a8c7557ed7b5ce
Management Always Right
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: Sirius ‘Open Source’ has a seemingly very common problem; managers cannot be held accountable and even when shown that they failed at something, instead of apologising or taking actions against themselves they resort to accusing/blaming the reporter

TWELVE years ago the management at Sirius was a lot better. I was there. I saw it. Managers were typically technical people (like programmers and sysadmins). Things have changed though.

In recent years managers were just self-styled ‘managers’ or “professional managers” with experience in babysitting (literally).

As noted here a few hours ago, bringing a concrete example to the table, managers had made bad technical decisions and then refused to admit that. The evidence does not matter! It’s all about one’s pride. It’s about protecting brands*.

Moreover, in that same example, it should be clear that staff wasn’t properly informed or trained; then, a falsified timeline was constructed for post hoc-type cover-up.

This example is about a year old, so in relative terms it is recent. If you work in a company that behaves in this way, consider leaving. Things won’t improve as this sort of attitude repels geeks.
_______
* At Sirius, Google and AWS/Amazon were stubbornly defended no matter what (also Slack and Clownflare to a lesser degree). Readers of Techrights would likely be going one step ahead, correctly guessing some companies (not Sirius!) or even universities/governments (public sector, accountable to their citizens) which made a move to Microsoft would be ‘religiously’ defending bad decisions/choices (bribes often play a role, as Microsoft whistleblowers have repeatedly demonstrated in the recent past).

And whenever things fail, as always happens (Microsoft products are even defective by design), Microsoft just pushes them more Microsoft as the supposed solution. More sales! The culprits who brought Microsoft to the business/government want to “prove” it’ll work; so they pay Microsoft some more, albeit not at a personal expense. It’s a vicious cycle. Everyone loses, except Microsoft. And if only everything ran on Microsoft, they insist, things would be ‘optimal’ (until the next ransomware attack).

As an associate put it (to paraphrase), the problem is always that there wasn’t sufficient faith in Microsoft and that is always solved by buying TheNextVersion(tm) and MORE of it. For decades the cycle has been the same, namely it’d work if only they could achieve 100% Microsoft integration. Once that happens, the target goal posts move, and it would work if only they could purchase TheNextVersion, and if that happens before they run out of money, then the goals posts move again. At that point it becomes, it’d work if only they had the right Microsoft training. Then by that time, the $TheNextVersion has become $ThePreviousVersion and that part of the cycle starts again. And yet they still blame outright collapses on “Linux people” and your average worker agrees to believe that excuse. The problem is not new, it as it goes back to the 1990s. But for a recent example look at Aaron Swartz’s blog post about Conde Nast and why he had no choice but to walk out the door and not look back.

The Pension Appzone

SOME days ago I ranted about totally useless ‘apps’ and ‘Web sites’ that are falsely marketed as making things easier even though in practice they mostly offload/outsource all/most of the actual work to the clients. Their real purpose is to lessen expenses for private companies that formerly had actual staff, offering actual service (of course those useless ‘apps’ and ‘Web sites’ also lead to a severe unemployment problems).

Today people are ‘meant’ to study how to do all their banking (different interface for each bank), how to process and package their groceries (different machines and different programs in each chain of stores). The list goes on and on. Apparently many people are self-taught ‘masters’ of how to manage water bills and power bills ‘online’ or with ‘apps’. This means no trail of paper either. Is that a plus?

I don’t mean to blow a bubble here. I’m far from the first person to complain (or even rant about this repeatedly). The world is becoming a more difficult place. Technology was meant to simplify life, to make life easier through automation. So how did we end up having to ‘learn’ (self-train) a lot more? This is not progress.

Case of point: I want to move my pension away from some awful provider. I have no online account and don’t wish to create one. I paid into this particular pension for 5 years. In the ‘old’ days (say, 1990s) I’d probably phone some number and it would get done by a specialist. Today, it’s almost impossible to even find a contact form on a site; they suggest creating a Web site “account” (as a person with a pension there I already have an account!) or downloading some “app”. Sorry, not everyone complicates or worsens one’s life with so-called ‘smart’ ‘phones’. Some of us have better ways of getting things done. After several days of them not responding to a complaint of mine I once again told them (in a faceless, voiceless Webform): “Please e-mail me or phone me to arrange this.”

Time will tell if they even bother. If bad service persists, maybe I’ll name the company. It’s pushing my patience (a week already).

Sirius Open Source Operating in the Dark

Video download link | md5sum b1726ae376189bc6db959452e1e46683
Working in the Blind
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: When companies behave like monarchies where staff has no role at all in decision-making and decisions are made in violation of those companies’ tenets (or mission statements) it is inevitable that staff will issue concerns, first internally and — failing that — in other channels

THE company Sirius fancies the word “Open”, but it does not engage in open debate. Staff is left in the dark about the company’s own affairs, never mind clients and the general public. Everything is decided secretly by an inner cabal; it wasn’t always like that!

In the more recent past, bad decisions were made like abandoning Open stuff in favour of proprietary spyware such as Slack, Skype, Google, and Zoom. A decision regarding mobile phones came much later, without any consultations at all with those actually impacted by the decision. They say there were concerns about the staff pushing back, but if staff isn’t being listened to, then key staff will leave the company. This already happened before. Managers, for instance, were making our infrastructure obsolete and driving out people who can maintain it, leaving rotting foundations and massive bills for “Clown Computing” (the same could be hosted for like 10 times less and be controlled directly).

The video above mentions taxes, addresses, and a pattern of misleading clients while taking great risk. This is no way to run a company, except into the ground. Its long-earned reputation (almost 25 years) cannot compensate for recent bad karma.

When the Desk is Too Narrow Go Portrait Mode, Not Landscape

Click to zoom

setup-portrait

Summary: The old workspace mode had one screen on top of another, which was sub-optimal (one screen was too distant to see properly). So I spent a few hours reshuffling the layout again, on a desk with limited width. My screens now stay in portrait mode permanency. It will not rotate into landscape mode on the right, as I have scripts that rely on that particular screen layout. This is so much better. I see a lot more without having to move the head, only the eyes.

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”.

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