// Internet Duct Tape

Weekend Reader – javascript, friendfeed, google, lifehacks, web2.0

Posted in Technology by engtech on June 08, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. You can follow this list of links as I post them on Friend Feed or on Twitter. Or you can get the weekly update by subscribing to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

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Weekend Reader – blogging, twitter, marketing, funny, lifehacks

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on May 18, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. You can follow this list of links as I post them on Friend Feed or on Twitter. Or you can get the weekly update by subscribing to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

(more…)

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Weekend Reader – programming, lifehacks, code, blogging, funny

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on May 10, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. You can follow this list of links as I post them on Friend Feed or on Twitter. Or you can get the weekly update by subscribing to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

(more…)

Delicious Links – 20 links – google, blogging, wordpress, twitter, lifehacks

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on April 12, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. You can follow this list of links as I post them on Friend Feed or on Twitter. Or you can get the weekly update by subscribing to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

(more…)

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Delicious Links – 20 links – friendfeed, lifehacks, blogging, programming, wordpress

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on March 24, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together for my blog on Internet Duct Tape.

Subscribe to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

(more…)

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Delicious Links – 13 links – programming, lifehacks, productivity, geek, games

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on February 23, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together for my blog on Internet Duct Tape.

Subscribe to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

Internet Duct Tape is my blog where I talk about software, technology, blogging and other geeky subjects.

This Week at IDT Labs

IDT Labs is where I announce new software I’m working on.

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Delicious Links – 20 links – blogging, programming, ruby, photography, copyright

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on February 02, 2008

Weekly Links

This is my weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together for my blog on Internet Duct Tape.

Subscribe to Internet Duct Tape using RSS or using email.

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

Internet Duct Tape is my blog where I talk about software, technology, blogging and other geeky subjects.

This Week at IDT Labs

IDT Labs is where I announce new software I’m working on.

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CoinStar — Is It Worth It To Convert Your Spare Change?

Posted in Increasing Productivity and Simplifying Your Life, Technology by engtech on January 25, 2008

Lifehacks and Productivity

When I was a kid rolling up the spare change to take in the bank, I always wondered why there wasn’t a machine that would do it for you in bulk. Sorting coins mechanically isn’t rocket science; all you need is holes of different sizes. Now we’re in the 21st centuary. We might not have jetpacks but I see these CoinStar sorting machines in every supermarket I go to. According to their website they are free if you use them to buy prepaid gift certificates for sites like Amazon.com (US only) or there is a small service fee of 8.9% US or 9.8% CDN to get cash.

They say it can count coins at a rate of 600 coins per minute. It’ll definitely save you time (provided you’re going to the grocery store already). But is it still worth it with that service fee that us Canucks are stuck with? It’s pretty easy to figure out on the back of an envelope.

How Much Is Your Time Worth?

I’ve said before that one of the best ways to gauge productivity is to know the net value of your time.

  • If your net time is worth is $6/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $1 worth of coins a minute. (100 pennies, 20 nickels, 10 dimes, or 4 quarters a minute)
  • If your net time is worth is $12/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $2 worth of coins a minute. (200 pennies, 40 nickels or 20 dimes, or 8 quarters a minute)
  • If your net time is worth is $24/hour then the 9.8% fee is worth it if you roll less than $4 worth of coins a minute. (400 pennies, 80 nickels or 40 dimes, or 16 quarters a minute)

So using CoinStar with larger coins (quarters, loonies, twoonies — yeah, we have weird money up here) isn’t worth it at all. Even the nickels and dimes aren’t that good a deal. But the pennies? For sure. It’s a different story if you can use CoinStar to get gift certificates without the hefty service fee, but that isn’t an option in the Great White North.

The good news: your bank might already have a coin counter that is free for use of its members. Give them a call to find out.


Photo by superrabbit

9 Ways to Know When to Jump Ship at a Startup

Posted in Startups and Business, Technology, Workhacks and High Tech Life by engtech on January 11, 2008

Workhacks

For the last couple of months I’ve been plagued with wondering if I should stay at my current startup. I’ve been approached with a few different job offers that I haven’t followed up on, and maybe it’s time I pursued greener pastures. In the words of the Clash: should I stay or should I go now?

Indecision

Changing jobs is a big, life altering decision and if you have my knack for risk avoidment it can be a horrendous see-saw of uncertainty. It’s this state of uncertainty that is ultimately the cause of the most unhappiness in your life. Leaving your options open is always less satisfactory than making a firm decision.

Compensation

When comparing offers from other companies, you need to compare the full package which is a lot harder than it looks.

  • Health benefits / Health insurance
  • Overtime compensation
  • Pension plans / Pension matching
  • Stock purchase plans / Stock discount
  • Stock options / equity
  • Travel allowance / food allowance
  • Raises

In particular it’s very hard to figure out what stock options are worth, if anything. The best advice I’ve read is that your stock options aren’t worth considering in any compensation comparison unless you are a founder.

This wiki page does a very good job of explaining how any employee can figure out what their pre-IPO equity is worth. What’s most important is to figure out the percentage of total options and how much funding the options are worth. Don’t forget to include capital gains tax (eg: 40%) when figuring out how much those options are worth.

More information on equity dilution

Business Plan

When will the startup be profitable? How much money has been invested in the company? How much more funding is needed until the startup can stand on its own legs? The more you can find out about this, the better off you’ll be, because you can’t accurately evaluate your monetary compensation and the future of the company without it.

At my previous job I was making more money than I am now, plus there was an average of a 5-8% raise per year. Startups often have no salary increases until they are profitable, or at least have revenue on the books. When you look at the roadmap to profitability you need to factor this in so you can evaluate if the potential payoff if the startup does well comes close to matching the potential revenue lost working at another company.

Bankruptcy

Most startups fail. The most likely outcome of working at a startup is showing up to work one day and finding the doors locked. There may be no compensation package for the newly unemployed workers until they land another job. Waiting for a golden handshake from downsizing is a worse idea than acting on an opportunity that has presented itself at a different company.

Technical Debt

Startups cut corners. You may not have the best tools available to get the job done. You are always squeezed for time and money, which means quality suffers. Poor quality can throw a monkey wrench into schedules, forcing crunch time in order to meet the delivery dates. This technical debt is just like any other debt in that it requires interest payments and you’ll have to pay it off eventually — although project managers often ignore it completely. Steve McConnell covers technical debt in more detail.

Signs of Success

Success should happen early. If things are always running smoothly then the work environment will be enriching and enjoyable. If things never work properly the first time then it can create a big cloud of doom that hangs over the head of everyone in the company and curses the new work being done.

Positive Reinforcement

How are employees reinforced for good work? In a startup, it usually won’t be monetary but that’s ok because one of the best rewards is the time to work on pet projects. Interesting work is its own reward.

Work Experience

Monetary compensation might pay off the bills, but it won’t make you feel as satisfied as a job well done. What makes me happiest is learning/improving new skills and knowing that I’ve done a good job. Having to constantly return to the same project that never works properly is one of the most soul-sucking experiences I’ve ever had. It’s like a bad relationship that drags on and on. You’re trying to make things work, but there’s always something new that comes up and drags you back into old issues that you thought were worked out a long time ago.

“Will I enjoy the work?” is the one of the most important criteria for evaluating a job change, because passion can’t be faked and it’s the only way a job will enrich the rest of your life.

People

Jeff hit the nail so squarely on the head when he said that the most accurate predictor of job satisfaction and success is if you like the people you work with. No matter what the problem is, it’s a people problem and if you don’t enjoy working with your coworkers then you’ll never enjoy your job.

Did you like this post? If so then please vote for it on digg. Thanks!

Related Posts

People Are Computers Too – How Improving Applications Can Improve Your Life

Lifehacks and Productivity

This week I’ve been talking about code profiling and how if you want to analyze the performance of your application you need to work with large sets of data. Application efficiency isn’t free, it requires measurement, analysis and change. Unsurprisingly, performance analysis for a software application and performance analysis for aspects of your life have a lot in common.

Memory Management

When people ask me how to make their computers faster, my answer is always “more RAM”. The biggest reason why software applications run slowly is because they don’t have enough memory to operate efficiently. People work the same way. You can improve your memory by getting enough sleep at night and by mind-dumping.

Mind-dumping means write things down instead of trying to keep it in your head. Human memory works like computer RAM where it needs constant refreshes of remembering something to keep it from becoming forgotten. By writing down lists of what you have to do in the future you free up your mind and your attention to focus on the present.

Multitasking

Another reason why computer programs run slowly is because there are too many other things going on at the same time. When I’m trying to figure out why a Windows is so slow the first thing I do is look at the task manager or system tray to see what is running at the same time. Context switching between multiple programs adds additional overhead of saving and restoring state information, and if too many things are happening at the same time then nothing gets done.

Like how a computer program will run faster if it’s the only program running, you’ll be able to complete tasks faster if you are focused on only one at a time. Maintaining a list of what you want to accomplish means that when you’re done one task you’ll easily be able to check your list to find something else to work on. Having a list of everything you want to do also makes it easier to prioritize and focus on what’s most important to you.

Profiling and Measurement

It’s easy to read advice on what to improve, but unless you look at your own life and where your time goes you don’t have a clear idea of how your time is wasted. There are several ways to track how your time is used. David Seah’s Printable CEO has print templates that let you easily measure where you are spending your time. I like to use GTDWannabe’s version.

There are a few tools out there that will automatically monitor your computer usage and generate reports about how you spend your time on the computer: TimeSnapper and RescueTime. I’ve been a RescueTime beta tester for a month now and I have to say that I really like the service.

Rescue Time time management screenshot

You can see from my chart that I wasted about 2.5 hrs on personal tasks at work that week. There may be a correlation between working too much overtime and goofing off. Because I know where I’ve spent my time, I know what I can stop doing to free up more time.

Heavy Load

“If you want something done, give it to a busy person.” Nothing makes you more aware of how you are spending your time like when you have no free time at all. Testing your application in a worst case scenario where it has to deal with large sets of data will help you find performance problems. It works the same way with other aspects of your life.

Coming back from a vacation where you haven’t checked mail, email or RSS feeds for two weeks will help you identify the chaff. It’s a great opportunity to unsubscribe from newsletters and set up filters for the major time offenders. You can turn off email notifications when you get messages from Facebook. That relative who always emails you jokes can get their own special folder that you’ll never check. When you have to deal with handling a lot of data it forces you to get rid of the unimportant information.

Do Less

As you measure how your software application performs, you’ll find features that seemed like a good idea but drastically consume resources.  Quite often it is easier to cut those features out rather than spend time improving them. As you measure where you spend time in your life, you’ll find that at their are time consuming activities that seemed like a good idea at the time, but don’t contribute to any of your goals. Don’t spend time on activities with no benefit.

Idle Time

Efficiency for efficiencies’ sake is one of the worst trends of the 20th century. But efficiency in the tasks you have to do frees up time for the tasks you want to do. Every thing you spend time on has an opportunity cost for other things you could be doing with that time. Having idle time in your life frees up room for the unplanned and unexpected.

Best of Feeds – 26 links – programming, webdesign, javascript, design, tips

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on October 14, 2007

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.Subscribe to //engtech to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

  • What I’m Playing: PC, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360
    • I’m on day 10 of “one of those weeks” so I haven’t had time to fully develop the usual cornucopia of rainbow-coloured blog post ideas. All of my time has been spent on work and family with a smidgen of video game playing to decompress my brain. This isn’t one of those…
  • The Holiday Spread – Group Weight Loss Game
    • This past weekend was Thanksgiving (aka Turkey Day) in Canada, which means seeing your family and eating a lot of food together. One of the favourite pastimes at any holiday is pointing out who’s gained weight and who hasn’t. This got me thinking: one of the principals of successful dieting…
  • Best of Feeds – 34 links – programming, google, lifehacks, ruby, funny
    • Tags: blogging, estimation, free, funny, google, gtd, javascript, lifehacks, productivity, programming, rails, ruby, rubyonrails, search, seo, tips

This Week at IDT Labs

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The Holiday Spread – Group Weight Loss Game

Posted in Lifehacks by engtech on October 10, 2007

Lifehacks and Productivity

This past weekend was Thanksgiving (aka Turkey Day) in Canada, which means seeing your family and eating a lot of food together. One of the favourite pastimes at any holiday is pointing out who’s gained weight and who hasn’t. This got me thinking: one of the principals of successful dieting is public accountability. Could we use these family get-togethers as a way to motivate each other to lose weight? So I’ve invented a game I like to call the Holiday Spread.

Family holidays are usually spaced two to three months apart, so that’s long enough to make a noticeable dent in the waistline without being so long that you’ll lose motivation to keep playing.

The Weight In – Holiday #1 (eg: Thanksgiving)

The reason why this has holidays as the start and end is that you can get everyone together in one spot and publicly weigh each other with the Official Scale. Since everyone will be weighed at the same time, in the same place, with the same scale then there will be no whining about variation. Write down the weights on two pieces of paper and have everyone sign or initial beside their weight. You’ll be repeating this process at the next holiday to determine your weight spread.

The Stakes

Have everyone put money into the pot as an incentive to keep playing. The real prize is the lost weight, but if that was motivator enough then there wouldn’t be any point in playing this game in the first place. You want to find the sweet spot where there’s enough of a buy-in that people will want to participate, but not so much that they’ll turn into sore losers if they don’t win. The overall pot should be high enough that the players can visualize something special they want to buy if they win. You’re aiming for a significant amount of cash for motivation and to engage the competitive spirit, but not so much that it can cause hardship and stress. Make sure the game coordinator gets the buy-in as close as possible to the initial weigh-in. This is family we’re talking about, so chances are people will opt-out if you wait too long and they don’t think they can win.

2 ppl 3 ppl 4 ppl 5 ppl 6 ppl 7 ppl
$20 $40 $60 $80 $100 $120 $140
$25 $50 $75 $100 $125 $150 $175
$50 $100 $150 $200 $250 $300 $350
$75 $150 $225 $300 $375 $450 $525
$100 $200 $300 $400 $500 $600 $700
$125 $250 $375 $500 $625 $750 $875
$150 $300 $450 $600 $750 $900 $1,050
$200 $400 $600 $800 $1,000 $1,200 $1,400

Individual Buy-in versus Number of Players gives Size of Pot

Rule Variation – Weight Loss for Christmas

I’m not a big fan of Christmas, so you can try to convince everyone to put the money they would have spent on Christmas gifts into the pot instead. Good luck with that.

Rule Variation – Multiple Winners

If the pot is big enough then you can have 1st and 2nd place winners to increase the chance of winning something.

The Scoring – Holiday #2 (eg: Christmas)

At the next holiday you repeat the same process of weighing each other. You’re again weighing everyone at the same time, in the same place, with the same scale so that should accounts for all variation. There are a couple of different ways you can score it.

Scoring Method #1 – Pounds Lost

This has the advantage of being dead simple: take what the scale said in October and subtract it from what the scale said in December. That’s your spread. It gives a slight advantage to the more obese (but you could also argue that they’re the ones who need to lose the weight most so any incentive helps).

If you’re 6’0″ and go from 190 lbs to 180 lbs that gives a score of 10.0 (tie)

If you’re 5’10” and go from 220 lbs to 210 lbs that gives a score of 10.0 (tie)

If you’re 5’6″ and go from 180 lbs to 170 lbs that gives a score of 10.0 (tie)

Scoring Method #2 – Percentage Body Weight Lost

One way to try and make things more “fair” is to use the percentage of body weight lost instead of the absolute number of pounds. This gives a big disadvantage to the more heavy set.

  • SCORE = 100 * (INITIAL_WEIGHT – FINAL_WEIGHT) / INITIAL_WEIGHT
1 lb 2 lbs 3 lbs 5 lbs 7 lbs 10 lbs 15 lbs
100 lbs 1.00 2.00 3.00 5.00 7.00 10.00 15.00
110 lbs 0.91 1.82 2.73 4.55 6.36 9.09 13.64
120 lbs 0.83 1.67 2.50 4.17 5.83 8.33 12.50
130 lbs 0.77 1.54 2.31 3.85 5.38 7.69 11.54
140 lbs 0.71 1.43 2.14 3.57 5.00 7.14 10.71
150 lbs 0.67 1.33 2.00 3.33 4.67 6.67 10.00
160 lbs 0.63 1.25 1.88 3.13 4.38 6.25 9.38
170 lbs 0.59 1.18 1.76 2.94 4.12 5.88 8.82
180 lbs 0.56 1.11 1.67 2.78 3.89 5.56 8.33
190 lbs 0.53 1.05 1.58 2.63 3.68 5.26 7.89
200 lbs 0.50 1.00 1.50 2.50 3.50 5.00 7.50
210 lbs 0.48 0.95 1.43 2.38 3.33 4.76 7.14
220 lbs 0.45 0.91 1.36 2.27 3.18 4.55 6.82
230 lbs 0.43 0.87 1.30 2.17 3.04 4.35 6.52
240 lbs 0.42 0.83 1.25 2.08 2.92 4.17 6.25
250 lbs 0.40 0.80 1.20 2.00 2.80 4.00 6.00

Initial Weight versus Pounds Lost gives Percentage Loss

If you’re 6’0″ and go from 190 lbs to 180 lbs that gives a score of 5.26

If you’re 5’10” and go from 220 lbs to 210 lbs that gives a score of 4.55

If you’re 5’6″ and go from 180 lbs to 170 lbs that gives a score of 5.56 (winner)

Scoring Method #3 – Body Mass Index (BMI)

The fairest way to measure the weight loss that is still easily calculable without getting callipers and a health professional is to use height and weight by calculating your changing in body mass index (BMI).

  • BMI = ( Weight in Pounds / ( Height in inches ) x ( Height in inches ) ) x 703
  • SCORE = (703*(INITIAL_WEIGHT / HEIGHT^2)) – (703*(FINAL_WEIGHT / HEIGHT^2))
60 (5’0″) 62 (5’2″) 64 (5’4″) 66 (5’6″) 68 (5’8″) 70(5’10”) 72 (6’0″)
100 lbs 19.53 18.29 17.16 16.14 15.20 14.35 13.56
110 lbs 21.48 20.12 18.88 17.75 16.72 15.78 14.92
120 lbs 23.43 21.95 20.60 19.37 18.24 17.22 16.27
130 lbs 25.39 23.77 22.31 20.98 19.76 18.65 17.63
140 lbs 27.34 25.60 24.03 22.59 21.28 20.09 18.99
150 lbs 29.29 27.43 25.74 24.21 22.80 21.52 20.34
160 lbs 31.24 29.26 27.46 25.82 24.33 22.96 21.70
170 lbs 33.20 31.09 29.18 27.44 25.85 24.39 23.05
180 lbs 35.15 32.92 30.89 29.05 27.37 25.82 24.41
190 lbs 37.10 34.75 32.61 30.66 28.89 27.26 25.77
200 lbs 39.06 36.58 34.33 32.28 30.41 28.69 27.12
210 lbs 41.01 38.41 36.04 33.89 31.93 30.13 28.48
220 lbs 42.96 40.23 37.76 35.51 33.45 31.56 29.83
230 lbs 44.91 42.06 39.48 37.12 34.97 33.00 31.19
240 lbs 46.87 43.89 41.19 38.73 36.49 34.43 32.55
250 lbs 48.82 45.72 42.91 40.35 38.01 35.87 33.90

Weight versus Height gives BMI for that Weigh-in

If you’re 6’0″ and go from 190 lbs to 180 lbs that gives a score of 1.36

If you’re 5’10” and go from 220 lbs to 210 lbs that gives a score of 1.43

If you’re 5’6″ and go from 180 lbs to 170 lbs that gives a score of 1.61 (winner)

Rule Variation – Weekly Weigh-ins

One variation to the rules could be forcing a weekly weight check-in with the coordinator in order to keep being a contender for the pot of money. Another principal of successful dieting is weekly weigh-ins to keep on track, so this rule is there to promote that habit. It doesn’t have to be done publicly like the initial and final weigh-ins, it can be an email or a phone call to the coordinator. The goal is to keep people on the weight loss wagon, and if people do drop out then it increases the odds / motivation for the people who are still in the running. Successful weight loss is gradual over time, not a cottage cheese crash at the end.

The Holiday Spread

Put down a spread of money, and lose the spread of your belly by the next time you sit down for a huge spread of food.

Related Posts

Best of Feeds – 34 links – programming, google, lifehacks, ruby, funny

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on October 07, 2007

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.Subscribe to Internet Duct Tape to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

  • Distraction Free GTD: 32 Todo List Web Applications
    • Web Runner is a tiny site-specific web application that runs using less resources than Firefox or Internet Explorer. The whole idea behind a site specific web browser is that you want to access a web application without being tempted to access other sites. You want to access a site without being…
  • Magazine Review: October 2007 Issue of Inc. Magazine
    • I came to a rather startling discovery in the past month: magazines are just blogs with the added luxury of being able to read them while on the toilet or in the bathtub (but hopefully not both). I picked up the October issue of Inc. magazine because Joel Spolsky of Joel On Software has joined the…
  • Blog Tip: Create a Link Post in 3 Seconds
    • One question I’m frequently asked is “how do you build those Best of Feeds weekly links?” The way I do it is pretty complicated, but I’ve found a much simpler way that I want to share with you all.
  • Digest for September 2007
    • Every month I publish a digest post collecting the best of Internet Duct Tape.
  • Best of Feeds – 30 links – programming, productivity, code, socialsoftware, socialnetworking
    • Tags: adsense, advice, blogging, career, code, design, development, firefox, gtd, lifehacks, productivity, programming, ruby, rubyonrails, socialnetworking, socialsoftware, tips, web2.0, webdesign

This Week at IDT Labs

  • [AKISMET] Akismet Auntie Spam v2.04
    • Our favorite Auntie has a new version. 2007/10/04 version 2.04 – Fixed (some) memory problems with v2.03 – Still slow, I need to get it working with a profiler, none of the hacks for Greasemonkey + Firebug seem to work.
  • [DELICIOUS] Delicious Link Builder
    • Build a list of links using your delicious account to bookmark them. Works great with my Yahoo Pipe Cleaner script . Example : [BOOKMARKING] toread – an email-based bookmark service Simple service to use to track stuff ‘to read later’. They store the top 10 for each day. It’s like…
  • [RSS PIPE] Stupid Credit Builder
    • This is a clone of Stupid Feed Rewriter that backdates the entry to January 1st, 1970. Useful for adding a credit link at the end of a list.

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Distraction Free GTD: 32 Todo List Web Applications

Web Browser Tips & Tricks

The fine folks at LifeHacker have forced me to tip my hand with their post on using Web Runner as a distraction free browser. Web Runner is a tiny site-specific web application that runs using less resources than Firefox or Internet Explorer.

The whole idea behind a site specific web browser is that you want to access a web application without being tempted to access other sites. You want to access a site without being distracted by the rest of the Internet. A good example is an online todo list or GTD application. You want to be able to quickly access your todo list to add or checkoff items without getting caught in an Internet black-hole.

internet is a big distraction

(via Coding Horror)

To make things easier for everyone I’ve created a huge bundle of Web Runner web applications centered around accessing ToDo/GTD web sites. This is a list of the supported sites.

Want more sites added? Leave a comment.

Step #1: Install Web Runner

  1. Go to this page on the Mozilla Wiki
  2. Choose the Windows, Linux, or Mac installer
  3. Run the installer

Step #2: Download My “Distraction Free GTD” Web Bundle

  1. Download this zip file (Update 2007/10/10)
  2. Unzip the contents to a folder
  3. Click on a .webapp file to launch the web application you want

Every web app has hotkey history navigation (ALT+LEFT, ALT+RIGHT and ALT+HOME).

Leave a comment if you have any problems.

Best of Feeds – 30 links – programming, productivity, code, socialsoftware, socialnetworking

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on September 29, 2007

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.

Subscribe to //engtech to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

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7 Tips for Learning the Declutter Habit

Posted in Lifehacks, Technology by engtech on September 27, 2007

Lifehacks and Productivity

The roots of clutter come from the same social forces that said collecting comic books and stamps were an “investment”. I don’t know if it comes from corporate greed or from a post-World-War-2 generation where things were so scarce that suddenly everything had value and hoarding became a way of life. But collecting for the sake of collecting is a life habit that you have to break before you find yourself retired and living as a shut-in because cardboard boxes are blocking your doors.

Why declutter? It frees up your house and it frees up your mind. Your possessions own you as anyone who has ever had to move repeatedly over the course of several years can attest. It was moving twice in one year that finally got me to get rid of CDs I no longer listened to and textbooks I hadn’t looked at since university.

Tip #1: Your material goods hold little resale value no matter what you paid for them. This is a hard lesson to come to terms with because you know how much you paid for something. It is particularly hard for electronic goods since they are so costly upfront but become obsolete so fast. Good luck re-selling your bulky CRT monitor set in the age of LCD.

The media format wars means that even if you build up a VHS, DVD, CD, vinyl or cassette tape collection then it will be obsolete in ten years and within twenty years you won’t even own a device that can play them back. Does your new computer have a 3’5″ floppy drive? Changing media formats mean that owning a media collection for the sake of collecting is a useless endeavor.

Tip #2: Digitization is your friend. Photos, music, TV shows and movies can all be stored compactly on your computer hard drive or on DVDs. Have a good backup strategy though because hard drives will eventually fail on you.

Tip #3: “Have I used this in the past year?” is the question to ask when it comes to clothes, shoes, kitchen appliances, all that stuff in the garage or the work shed. Only keep what you really have use for. Your brain plays tricks on you like telling yourself you can lose that 20 lbs in only a few months.

Tip #4: “Will I watch or read this again?” is what should go through your head when it comes to book or movie collections. Lifetime collections should consist of only the favorites you will re-watch or want to share with others, everything else is collecting dust.

Tip #5: Don’t be overly sentimental! When I was 9 years old I convinced my parents to haul a lobster trap back home with us from our summer vacation. It sat in the back of the yard falling apart for years if not decades. Did it inspire any memories of the trip? Not anymore than the easily portable and easily storable photos we had taken with it. Sentimental is keeping things that have special meaning to you — not keeping everything you’ve ever come in contact with.

Tip #6: Renting is more economical than owning. It might not be true when it comes to real estate but it’s definitely true when it comes to books, dvds and any other form of media. Libraries are free. A $6 rental fee is still much cheaper than $25 new or $11 in the bargain bin. Even if it the movie or book is worth becoming part of your lifetime collection then you are still ahead because of all the times when it wasn’t.

Tip #7: Find your downstream ecosystem. When I declutter my only concern is passing things on to someone who will make use of them. It would be nice to recoup some of the cost but the sad fact is most things lose value so fast these days that the effort to regain any of the initial value is wasted.

For small items there are sites like Amazon, Ebay and specialty sites. For large items there are local listings on Facebook and Craigslist. Clothes can go to second hand stores and the Salvation Army. Childrens books and stuffed animals are well appreciated by schools. Local libraries accept books, CDs and DVDs which they then resell to raise funds. With a little digging you can find a non-profit organization that refurbishes computers for underprivileged youth.

The secret to learning how to live a clutter-free life is to realize that items don’t hold their value, that economically renting is cheaper in the long term for single-use goods, and to know how to get rid of stuff in a way that it doesn’t go to waste.

Best of Feeds – 22 links – programming, blogging, tips, javascript, rails

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on September 23, 2007

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.

Subscribe to //engtech to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

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