// Internet Duct Tape

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Posted in Increasing Productivity and Simplifying Your Life, Links, Technology by engtech on November 11, 2006

Matt from 37Signals has a definitive post on “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. The comments are as good as the post.

I went so far as getting “Flow” from the library a few months ago when Kathy Sierra recommended it, but I couldn’t get past the first chapter. It reminded me too much of the Celestine Prophecy, and that’s never a good thing. But writing style aside, it’s the information that matters.

Flow is that state all programmers love where we’re head deep in the code and things are progressing beautifully. It’s when we’re at our most productive, and the best way to increase your work performance is to learn how to enter and remain in flow as much as possible. It’s also one of the reasons why interrupts are so disruptive; once you’ve lost that state you cannot easily regain it.

>> All About Flow @ 37signals
>> Life 2.0: The Little Book of Flow (online e-book)
>> Reviews of “Flow” at Amazon
>> Video game based on flow

BSoD: BlueScreen – Blue Screen of Death Screensaver

Posted in Links, Software, Technology by engtech on November 10, 2006

The entire fact that this exists is amazing. Earlier this month Microsoft (via Sys Internals) released a Blue Screen of Death screensaver. We’ve all met this monstrosity, usually at the worst possible moment. Now you can wow and amaze co-workers by faking your PC death whenever you are AFK.

One of the most feared colors in the NT world is blue. The infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) will pop up on an NT system whenever something has gone terribly wrong. Bluescreen is a screen saver that not only authentically mimics a BSOD, but will simulate startup screens seen during a system boot.

  • On NT 4.0 installations it simulates chkdsk of disk drives with errors!
  • On Win2K and Windows 9x it presents the Win2K startup splash screen, complete with rotating progress band and progress control updates!
  • On Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 it present the XP/Server 2003 startup splash screen with progress bar!

Bluescreen cycles between different Blue Screens and simulated boots every 15 seconds or so. Virtually all the information shown on Bluescreen’s BSOD and system start screen is obtained from your system configuration – its accuracy will fool even advanced NT developers. For example, the NT build number, processor revision, loaded drivers and addresses, disk drive characteristics, and memory size are all taken from the system Bluescreen is running on.

Use Bluescreen to amaze your friends and scare your enemies!

Note: most Linux distros come with this by default, so the idea is nothing new.

>> BlueScreen Screensaver (via Random Thoughts)

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Peace at Last – The Joy of Telecommuting from Home

Posted in Humor, Links, Technology, Workhacks and High Tech Life by engtech on November 08, 2006

AndyC has a funny piece on the joys of telecommuting from home. I’ll must warn you that he’s British, so he might not actually be funny — just British.

engtech on reading/watching anything British: “hahahhahaha, omg he said tea instead of coffee!! this is z0 funny! He’s typing/talking in an accent!”

That isn’t a horrible slag that Brits aren’t funny, it’s a horrible slag that I find dry wit to be the ultimate form of humour. Your millage(sic) may vary.

I never used to work from home much. When the kids were younger, my wife was at home and without a office, quiet room or even a shed, I found it difficult to concentrate. Accessing the work network over dial-up also was a significant constraint.

Now things are different. My children are both at secondary school and leave the house before I do. My wife also works and I have a broadband connection and VPN access to the office network. So, occasionally, I can save two hours commuting, sit down with a decent cup of tea, be productive and still be back home in time for tea.

>> on hamsters, headhunters, hampers and false religion

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Scrybe Beta Update

Posted in Links, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on November 07, 2006

I’m a bad person. I’m in the Scrybe online calendar beta program and I haven’t given it more than a cursory look, much less an insightful blog post full of juicy details and impressions that would probably generate a ton of traffic for me as everyone is interested in Scrybe after it got hyped by Scoble, Arlington et al.

All I can say at this point is that I’m very impressed with the professionalism of Faizan, the CEO and Co-Founder of Scrybe. When I asked him questions on Reddit before the hype wave hit he was very quick to respond. His latest response to the people clamoring for invites only increases my belief that this is a man who is committed to delivering a well-engineered product.

“We think that both the product and its users will be best served if we exercise a little self discipline right now and stick to our original plan. At this critical stage, a solid approach to engineering the product has to take precedence over gathering users. The important point is to get feedback, analyze it, incorporate some of it, test it and roll it out AND add a few thousand new people to get their fresh perspective. The product will benefit greatly from a few such iterations.”

“Too much growth too fast” kills a lot of startups. You don’t want too many customers to see your product before it is ready for mass consumption. Scrybe’s organic approach of letting a few beta users in through the gate at a time is the correct approach for numerous reasons, one of which is scaling. If you get too big too fast then all of your natural bugs and growing pains become instant bad press.

>>� Official Scrybe Blog: About the Beta invites
Scrybe demo video

Common questions, simple answers, at simplehelp.net

Posted in Lifehacks, Links, Technology by engtech on November 07, 2006

Windows Mac LinuxI stumbled upon an interesting site today: simplehelp.net

Their mantra is “common questions, simple answers”. They try to provide answers to common tech questions (Microsoft/Apple focused) in the simplest manner possible. One gem I really appreciate is their screenshot simulator index. This is amazing for trying to walk a family member through issues with an operating system when you don’t have it available. It’s very well done, and best of all, simple.

They even cover the all important how to reduce memory usage in Firefox (aka “Firefox doesn’t have a memory leak”).

This is similar to my Stupid Windows Feature series:


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Blogging Getting You Down? Try Something New and Interesting

Posted in Links, Technology by engtech on November 04, 2006

Blogs can get to be the same ole, same ole after a while. I have a bad habit of not reading anything with more than 5 paragraphs without an image, a bullet lists or something to break up the text. It isn’t very often you see something really new and interesting.
That’s why this post from the Amateur Gourmet stands out. A comic book styled mash-up of real photos, web images and video where the post is in the blog text.

Here’s a sample image (hotlinked, so it might break)


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Motivating Developers

Posted in Links, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on November 04, 2006

SoftwareByRob‘s Criteria for Keeping Your Developers Happy. Goes hand-in-hand with my Programmer Productivity Tips.

  1. Set Up to Succeed. Defined problem, realistic deadlines, and being allowed to build quality.
  2. Excellent Management. Independent thinking, quick decisions, spokesman for the team, and no micro-managing.
  3. Learning New Things. Let them learn new technologies.
  4. Creativity and Problem Solving. Developers are addicted to solving the right kind of problems.
  5. Respected Opinion. Developers know their job, listen to them.
  6. Recognition. Recognize hard work and exceptional circumstances.
  7. Stuff that Matters. Projects that have a larger place in the world.
  8. Getting Stuff Done. Less process, more decisions. Minimize meetings.
  9. Legacy Constraints. Avoid technical debt that will hold you back.

>> Nine Things Developers Want More Than Money

Related Posts

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Aaron Swartz on becoming a DotCom millionaire

Posted in Links, Reddit, Startups and Business, Technology by engtech on November 04, 2006

Aaron Swartz of Reddit fame is blogging about the experience of becoming a DotCom millionaire this week after Reddit was bought by Cond�Nast/Wired magazine (Aaron’s collection of web clippings on the acquisition). It’s a very interesting read for those of us working at startups in high tech. The fact that he’s a good writer only helps.

UPDATE 2006/11/09: Mike-o-matic has a nice writeup on the same subject.

I remember how when reddit started, the whole thing seemed so childish.

The cartoony alien, the barebones design, the fresh-faced programmers, the rented house. And none of that has really changed. It’s just that with success behind it, it’s harder to dismiss. A scribbled drawing a kid hands to you is “cute”, the same thing on the wall of a museum is “art”. You assume there must be something there, even if you can’t see it.

It’s hard to notice this when you’re in the middle of it. During the days, I mostly saw my co-workers, who lived and breathed the site. At night, I hung out with my friends, who all knew what I did. On weekends, we’d go to parties for local startups, who all wanted to emulate reddit’s success. Everyone we talked to treated us like it was serious.


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Get a Free iPod for gaming del.icio.us (link bribery)

Posted in Contests, Links, Technology by engtech on November 02, 2006

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this, but someone else is giving away free iPods to get links. When the Italian dude did it earlier, he only got 20 links — which isn’t very hard to get. The guys at mostlysavingmoney.com are doing a much better job. The contest ends on November 22nd, 2006 and they are giving away 3 iPods.

Spreading the Firefox 2 Love

Posted in Firefox and Greasemonkey, Links, Technology by engtech on October 26, 2006

Firefox 2 is out. Instead of blogging about it, I’ve been happily enjoying it. Rooster nicely summarized my opinion of the changes (geeks of a feather think together). They can be summarized as:


  • Session Saver can restore browser with same web pages that were open before (this used to be one of the most useful extensions, now it’s part of the browser)
  • Better RSS integration (2007 will be the Year of RSS now that all major browsers support it in a nice and clean manner)
  • An amazing built-in spell checker for all forms. Sure, I had the Google toolbar spell check but I never remembered to hit it. Whenever I enter words in a form (including the WP post editor) they are underlined with red if there’s an error. Now all I need is an extension for synchronizing my Firefox dictionary across multiple machines.

Read more to find out the bad.


Google Custom Search Engines

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Links, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on October 24, 2006

Google has rolled out a new “custom search engine” feature that is going to knock some start-ups like Rollyo dead in the water. It’s simple to set up a custom search for a list of sites. I’ve already created a life hack search engine (example search: how to stop drinking coffee) for searching about common life improving tasks. Creating engines is simple, but what is nice is that they’ve added features so that you can brand the engine, collaboratively develop it with other people, as well as collect AdSense revenues. There is a real incentive to use your expertise to build a top-notch engine.

I predict the rapid development of 356,724 custom search engines that aren’t refined after the first week. After around a few months there should some clear domain specific engines with real expertise behind them.

UPDATE: Fellow wp.com-er Vik Singh made a pretty sweet tech search engine and posted the instructions (via Scoble).

UPDATE 2006/11/15: Google Blogoscoped gives a tutorial on advanced custom search engine tweaking

(FT, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch Blog, TechCrunch, Matthew Ingram, Google OS, Blogoscope, Problogger, Slashdot)

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Paul Graham on Why Startups Fail

Posted in Links, Startups and Business, Technology by engtech on October 17, 2006

Paul Graham has an essay on the 18 reasons why start-ups fail. I especially like how he sums it up to a single sentence: “In a sense there’s just one mistake that kills start-ups: not making something users want.

These are all very valid reasons, and my favorite is Hiring Bad Programmers. Unfortunately it is quite often the only option. If you’re applying “Just in Time” hiring, the candidates you are looking at may be the only choice available. One way to avoid the permanent hit of a bad coder is to hire them on contract with the possibility of giving them a full time position in the future. Giving them an expiry date gives you an easy out, but you’ll still be accruing technical debt the time they are with you.

>> The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups

Marus from PlentyOfFish disagrees with Paul’s reasons. But he missed the One True Rule that overrides them all “make something users want” and you don’t have to worry about the rest of the rules. :)

Developers versus Programmers

Posted in Links, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on October 10, 2006

I really enjoyed this article that compares “programmers” and “developers”. I might not always agree with his classifications, but he does a good job of dividing programmers/developers into two sides of a fence in different scenarios while clearly identifying what the best behaviour is in the scenario.

I’m not sure who the original author is, as the hacknot site seems to be a collection of essays released as Creative Commons.

>> Developers are from Mars, Programmers are from Venus

ScheduleWorld bug fixes

Posted in Links, Technology, Web 2.0 and Social Media by engtech on September 24, 2006

Mark from ScheduleWorld posted another big update in the comments. I’m cutting-and-pasting it here to make sure people see it.

Click to see the update

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My theme song :)

Posted in Geeking Out, Humor, Links, Technology by engtech on September 23, 2006

Startup Lessons – Distribution Channels

Posted in Links, Startups and Business, Technology by engtech on September 22, 2006

Guy Kawasaki covers one of the most basic premises that all engineers forget about: distribution channels. We get our heads down and so focused on getting these things out of the fab bug free (for hardware, software is more flexible), that we might forget things like “do we have an operations team?” and “why would a Huge Market trust someone little like us?”.

It can be summed up with two things:

  1. It’s all about the money, and only the money.
  2. It has to be win/win.

UPDATE: I wrote a response to the Art of Distribution expanding upon viral and scaling.

>> The Art of Distribution

Joel makes me feel better about my Nokia 6682

Posted in Gadgets, Links, Technology by engtech on September 20, 2006

I’m another one of those bloggers who got a free cellphone, and while mine wasn’t as shiny and new as Joel’s (and for damned sure the service provider Rogers didn’t foot the bill), I know I did complain about it. His rant takes the cake though.

I like the idea of getting free stuff. But if you don’t have a good product that’s ready for primetime, all you’ll get is a lot of negative press.

>> Amazing X-Ray Glasses from Sprint!

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Python 2.5 slithers into view

Posted in Links, Programming and Software Development, Technology by engtech on September 20, 2006

(this post has nothing to do with Steve Irwin)

It lives! The newest version of the Python scripting language was released today.

What’s New?

  • See some of the highlights of the Python 2.5 release.
  • Andrew Kuchling’s What’s New in Python 2.5 describes the most visible changes since Python 2.4 in more detail.
  • PEP 356 has information on a bunch of the new features added in 2.5, as well as pointers to the relevant PEPs.
  • A detailed list of the changes in Python 2.5 can be found in the release notes, or the Misc/NEWS file in the source distribution.
  • IDLE has its own release notes, or see the Lib/idlelib/NEWS.txt file in the source distribution.

>> Python 2.5 Release

chartreuse on Paris Hilton – the new sex tape

Posted in Links, Marketing and Promotion, Technology by engtech on September 19, 2006

Okay, not really a sex tape.

For those of you who have never read chartreuse, he’s a blogger who often writes about “the new media” using short sentances and beautiful pictures. He has a great blogging style that really shows the impact of less-is-more.

He hits it out of the park again with this piece on why Paris Hilton is famous — and it can be a great lesson for anyone who is getting their heads around this attention-based web2.0 socialization thingamabubble we’re in right now.

It didn’t take long for designers and club owners to realize that Paris Hilton was a walking billboard. So they embraced her. She paid attention to them, so they paid attention to her.

(What’s of note is that chartreuse does this himself, often throwing out links to other bloggers people may not have heard about — it you link to them they might link back. Synergy.)

Is having attention enough to launch a start-up? Flickr, MySpace and YouTube be damned, probably not. Having a lot of eyeballs doesn’t mean you don’t need a business plan (even if we have to reteach this lesson every 8 years). But not having attention can sink even the best laid plans.

>> Why Paris Hilton Is Famous (Or Understanding Value In A Post-Madonna World)

And just because how often am I going to do this with a tech blog: Paris Hilton washing a car


ScheduleWorld now supports automatic synching with Google Calendar

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Links, Technology by engtech on September 18, 2006

Mark Swanson of ScheduleWorld has announced (giving us the scoop, no less!) that ScheduleWorld now supports automatic synching of GoogleCalendar.

This is pretty big news. He also mentions that everyone needs to update their settings because he no longer stores Google username/password information, instead he uses the Google authorization API.

He also mentions that you probably want to update your Funambol clients because of bugs that were fixed.