Archive for June, 2005

Simplifying the organization stuff that was supposed to make things simpler

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

A Million Monkeys Typing has The Beginner’s Mind, a Zen riff on too much organization getting in the way of living an actual life:

Why did I need to have several versions of a contact list, in three different forms? One is enough. Did I really need two ways of tracking projects, and did I really need a web interface for them? Why did I need four different calendar-based ways of keeping time? Did I need to make all my project files text-searchable? Was it necessary to have my IM lists tied into my contact lists?

Phew. I’m feeling tired just thinking about it. Let this be a warning to all of you. Via 43 Folders.

Internet telephones – FAQ

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

I like the idea, but haven’t done it yet – I get free long distance on my cellphone, and since I’m a social recluse, I just don’t talk that much anyway. Our landline has the ringer shut off since we only use it for DSL. But I know that eventually we’ll go with VOIP, if only to get rid of another annoying monthly bill. Lifehacker points us to this good FAQ on how to do it. Still too confusing, but it is getting better.

Handhelds/PDAs replacing laptops? I think not.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Brighthand recently ran an editorial titled Handhelds vs. Laptops — How to Lighten Your Load in One Easy Lesson. Well, that’s an appealing premise – I’d love to lighten my load, but I still take my Thinkpad with me when I need something more than my cellphone. It isn’t because handhelds and PDAs aren’t amazingly capable. It is because I don’t want to spend the time and effort learning the foibles of another operating system, figure out how to get my data back and forth, and have another thingee to charge, maintain, etc. Blech. Laptops are getting very small and light. I think they are going to win for any real work situation.

And yes, I’ve tried the fold-up keyboards, pocket versions of Word and Excel, and the whole 9 yards, so no comments about how I just need to try it out.

IMAP is better email

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

IMAP lets you have the best parts of a corporate email server for your personal life. Jennifer Berger at MacWorld recently saw the light – you should take a look. As she says:

IMAP lets me keep all my e-mail on my company’s e-mail server, along with any custom folders, and my Sent items. I can now find my way though any e-mail thread, no matter which machine I’m using. The downside of this situation, of course, and one that might make a lot of people nervous, is that everything is stored on a server unless you move items to your computer.

Well, if you use a client like Thunderbird, you can cache all the email locally and back it up to CD, avoiding the problem of having email only on the server. Once you have it all set up, it really is simpler than trying to fake everything through POP3 access. I’ve even moved my mom over to IMAP through Fastmail.

Consolidate your computer and TV

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

This is a great way to save on clutter and expense. We live in an apartment, so the computer is right where an entertainment center would be anyway. Rather than buying a big, heavy, expensive TV plus a big, heavy, expensive monitor, put all the cash into a nice LCD monitor. You’ll need a TV tuner card – but they can be picked up pretty cheaply now, even for good quality modern cards. Apparently software like Beyond TV is pretty cool, but most cards come with basic software included. There are HDTV / Digital TV solutions as well, but that whole story is too complicated for this Minimalist – we’ll wait another year or two before looking into it again.

But what about your laptop? Digital Media Thoughts pointed us to the amazingly small and simple Compro USB TV Tuner Stick. It looks like a USB thumb drive, but you plug it in, and it is a full TV tuner. No need for external power or an antenna. Yow. If it actually tunes in well, that looks like a pretty nice solution.

The anti-minimalist zippo lighter case

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

The very un-minimalist Uncrate (“Uncrate is a web magazine for guys who love stuff. Our team finds the best gadgets, clothes, cars and more so you can blow your rent money easier.”) has a pointer to the Zippo Cargo Case, which allows you to stow your indispensible Zippo lighter in your checked luggage. Hmmm. Now that’s a pretty darn specific need to fill.

That said, Otterbox has pretty cool cases for protecting your gear.

Via Gizmodo.

It costs less per day than your coffee!

Monday, June 27th, 2005

How many different services advertise that they cost less than your daily cup of coffee? Of course, they don’t mean Folgers drip in your skanky old mug – they are referring to the $3-4 coffee at one of the ubiquitous coffee shops like Cairbou or Starbucks. Still…that doesn’t seem like much cash. But especially for students, it adds quite a bit to student loans, as Javanomics 101: Today’s Coffee Is Tomorrow’s Debt, points out in the Washington Post. I love cafes – I think they are great. But it is certainly a coup for coffee shops to have accustomed us to thinking that it is a trivial cost, when it really isn’t. We complain about movie tickets being $10, but that’s 2 hours of real entertainment if you don’t pick a dud. Everyone will always spend money on non-necessities, which is fine, but coffee as a daily habit can really rack it up:

To quantify the craziness, Lim distributes coffee-consumption charts. One shows that a five-day-a-week $3 latte habit on borrowed money can cost $4,154, when repaid over 10 years.

Maybe cut back to once or twice a week? It’ll make the trip feel more special, and you won’t regret it two years down the road.

In defence of idleness

Monday, June 27th, 2005

AlterNet is running a Mother Jones interview with Tom Hodgkinson about his theory that idleness is a good thing. I was skeptical of some of his points, such as:

I had lunch with these French people who said, “Travailler moins, produire plus.” In other words, the less you work, the more you produce.

The problem is that France is not generally regarded as a highly productive country, with their massive social spending. But when I looked for data to back that up, I was surprised to find some well-regarded sources indicating that French productivity is actually pretty darn good. It is even better by some other measures. It is important to note that Mr. Hodgkinson is not advocating laziness, but rather less fixation on “time is money” as a reason to maximize work hours. Moving away from maximizing the time spent on work for money can free up time for other work and creativity:

For most of us, the opportunity to become creative is being squeezed at both ends. We think, “Well, I’ve been doing all that work, and now I’m going to reward myself by doing a lot of spending.” What would happen in the days before time was money and money and machines weren’t quite so dominant would be you’d have all this other time when you’d do what turned into hobbies. Little things like making clothes, baking bread, cooking, even useless things like bird-watching, sketching flowers, playing guitar in the home — that sort of time is gone. And the time we have? We’re so exhausted, we want to let ourselves get sucked in to the escape world of TV. I’m speaking from experience; I’m not above all this.

I’d say idleness is a red herring for this article – I think the point is more about limiting unfulfilling work for cash, and the problems that causes with consumption.

“The Joys of Clutter” – Oh, the horror!

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Loyd’s basement office sounds like my worst nightmare:

At times, it can be difficult to navigate through piles of hardware. With various PC cases littering the floor and every tabletop surface holding heat sinks, CDs, manuals, game boxes, and other assorted small hardware, the basement lab will often look like the Tasmanian Devil just whirled through.

But it’s my space, and I like it.

Hie thee to an electronics recycling service!

Do Zen Monk Robes Have Pockets?

Friday, June 24th, 2005

Similar topic to our Jedi robes post a while back. Celsius1414 talks about getting rid of all the junk in your pockets. Save your back from evil thick wallets! That said, I don’t think I can give up my cargo pants yet. Via 43 Folders.