Be more productive

I just got done reading a great article called HOWTO: Be more productive on Aaron Swartz: The Weblog. One part I found interesting:

Time when you’re hungry or tired or twitchy is low-quality time. Improving it is simple: eat, sleep, and exercise.

If you’re not exercising, I’d like to encourage you to start again. Please feel free to encourage me next time I forget that exercising actually makes me more likely to get other things done.

Switching from Mac OS X

A couple of months ago I bought an iBook. The idea was to get a laptop with good battery life and to try out Mac OS X. I’ve used it for a while, and decided that I prefer Linux.

The current version of iTunes is the best example I can think of to show what bugs me about Mac OS X, as a platform. iTunes does a ton of things now – music, video, shopping, downloading, burning, and podcasts. I don’t think it is possible for a single application to do all of those things the “best” way. For one thing, what’s best depends on the person. Another thing is that some applications just don’t go so well together – like music listening and podcasts. When I’m browsing and listening to my music I don’t want to see my podcasts in my library with the music. Another thing is music and video.

I prefer to have a bunch of small applications that I can pick and choose from. And this extends to other parts of the OS. Especially desktop managers.

I’ve read several well-written negative reviews of Mac OS X. I found one today called How MacOS X sucks.

Finally, I’ll mention how I’m doing the switch. I like the ability to run all major OS’s, for testing, so I’m not getting rid of OS X entirely. But I want it off the laptop I use every day. So I’m going to get an external drive, install Mac OS X on it, and boot from the external drive when I want to use Mac OS X. But I’ll stick to Linux for programming.

Update: I changed my mind about installing Linux on my iBook. It’s a hassle, and I thought of a number of good things about Mac OS X that I previously had not considered. Also, I re-read that link, and realized that a number of the problems have been fixed, or aren’t real problems. Finally, I’m removing the text suggesting reading it for insights into software design – it really has nothing to do with the subject. It’s a rant.

Y Combinator’s New Location

I just thought I’d share this thing I noticed with anyone from Startup School who might still be reading my blog.

After Startup School for Hackers there was an Open House at Y Combinator, a unique Venture Capitalist firm started by Paul Graham and others. I might apply for funding for their 2005 summer founders program. Y Combinator’s office was in a home-type building in a neighborhood in Cambridge. They’re moving to Silicon Valley for the winter, though.

A punch of the address to google maps reveals that in Silicon Valley they’ll be using a traditional office building.

Firefox 1.5 Beta

After having some performance problems with Firefox 1.07 (slow-scrolling text with the new design on Joel On Software), I opened Firefox 1.5 Beta and tried viewing the page with it. I found that not only was the scrolling issue gone in the beta, but that the time it takes to go back to a previous page is much quicker.

This is good to see. Firefox is playing a key role in moving from desktop applications to web applications. They have long been good about implementing new features, but with the current generation of web applications, a lot of work needs to be done on other things, like performance.

One thing that I see happening is Firefox dealing with lots of issues normally left to the Operating System. Firefox is no ordinary program – it’s a platform for running applications, and has to deal with lots of issues of being a platform. When many pages are open, memory management between different pages becomes an issue. Same with page histories, and making the back button instantaneous. I also see a lot of work to be done on isolation. I’ve had Firefox freeze a number of times with complicated JavaScript, CSS, or Flash. The obvious thing to do is to make Firefox do internally what the OS does when Firefox crashes, that is, isolate the crash to a single web page, the same way the OS isolates a crash to a single application.

I see a lot of exciting times ahead for Firefox.

Queens




Sea Lion

Originally uploaded by vote_zaphod_beeblebrox.

Yesterday, of the places I planned to go, I only went to the Empire State Building. Instead of going to the Gugenheim Museum and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Queens Zoo, and the New York Hall of Science in Queens.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a very large building with thousands of exhibits. I could spend a whole week in there.

Queens is very green and very beautiful. It also has some poor areas, something I have not seen in Manhattan.

NY

I’m in New York right now. So far I’ve been to Central Park, Times Square, Washington Park, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I’ve also been on a ferry to and from Staten Island, where I saw the Statue of Liberty. I ate some pretty good New York Pizza in Manhattan. A friend also showed me a great dumpling place called The Dumpling Man.

Tomorrow I’m going to the Empire State Building, the Gugenheim Museum, and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

I’ll post some photos later.

I’m blogging this

The Startup School is excellent. About two thirds of the talks have been given, including talks by Paul Graham and Steve Wozniak.

Paul Graham had another interesting mathematical observation that nobody else ever seems to come up with. He said that there is an even smaller percentage of female software company founders than there are females in the computer field. He explained that this is because people generally hang out with people of the same sex, and so the minority is reduced to an even smaller minority when we’re talking about partners. Then he tied it together with a joke: “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by math”.

Steve Wozniak’s talk was amazing. He talked about starting Apple, and the goal of creating a complete computer system.

Michael Mandel, Chief Economist of BusinessWeek, said that he expects a boom right now, because of people like us, who are starting companies.

I asked a question at the end of the talk and used the word “lifestyle”, which for me meant whether people do things online or have to talk to people on the phone, working hours, etc. Almost everyone burst into laughter after my question. I think it’s because they heard the word “lifestyle” and thought of “alternative lifestyles”. Should have known. I hope I’m not visible in the video!

Adobe/Macromedia Merger

Adobe:

Dmitry Skylorav, arrested after a complaint by Adobe, for DMCA violation by overseas company.

From the Macromedia Flash Player EULA:

You shall not use the Software to develop any software or other technology having the same primary function as the Software, including but not limited to using the Software in any development or test procedure that seeks to develop like software or other technology, or to determine if such software or other technology performs in a similar manner as the Software.

I don’t like the new company.

My first Ning creation

http://popreviews.ning.com/

A soda pop review site. So far I haven’t done much in the way of real programming (I spent a fair amount of time making the logo, due to my lack of experience with image editors). But I found out a couple of things. Ning is written in PHP (among other things, I’m sure). Ning provides an interface to edit php files, upload, download, etc. But you typically get the original code by cloning an existing site. A few templates are provided. I grabbed a review template. The root directory contains the controllers, such as “index.php” and “addSubject.php”, the actual urls that load up in the web browser. It also contains “config.php”, which serves to allow people to customize a cloned app. There is a template directory called “html”. I edited config.php, a couple of templates, one of the “views”, and uploaded an image. I haven’t investigated the models yet, but I probably will need to when I further customize the site. Or maybe not for this particular one, but a future one. There is a maximum of 10 apps per user.

I am quite impressed with Ning so far. The templates are very well written, and customizing them is an absolutely fantastic way to learn php. AFAIK the user-modifiable application code is in the public domain, too (the code that manages the sites is not).

If any readers have tried Mountain Dew Pitch Black II (sour grape), I’d be interested to read a review.

Ning

From what I’ve seen so far, Ning looks like an awesome web application. It’s billed as a tool for building social networking sites. For people to make sites they need to sign up with the developer beta program. I signed up and am waiting until they have room for me.

I can see quite a bit of variety, and every site seems responsive. But I don’t yet know that it can easily be used to build a site like craigslist. Time will tell.

One page of particular interest is the confess page. The page uses AJAX (I finally decided to give up the terminology war). I guess I am a sucker for visual effects, but there is an animated gif spinner logo, like the one in Firefox and Mac OS X, that spins when the AJAX request is being loaded, right next to where the user clicked. Very cool.

Update: (9:08pm) Just got word that I am now in the developer program. More informed opinon coming shortly.