Life Technology

Trimming the Fat

Mr. Scatterbrain

Looking at my account at DNSimple, I have something like 5 domain names that are just sitting idly by, not dong anything in particular, and a number of sites that are currently up-and-running but that I haven’t done anything new with in a while and probably won’t do anything with for a long time.

For some reason, this has been and is weighing heavily on my mind and my psyche. Having things perpetually “on the back burner” tends to bash around inside my head, popping up at inopportune times and causing all sorts of issues. I’ve had some issues sleeping, my mood has deteriorated, I’ve had problems focusing on projects … and the list goes on. I’m not going to blame the number of “balls in the air” solely for this, but it is something to be aware of.

So it is time to do a number of things to try to help myself out of this extended rut:

  1. Trim the number of extra projects I am a part of. This could be something as simple as disabling the auto-renewal of domain names I’m never going to use or as drastic as actually taking-offline sites which I know I will not have the time nor energy to really be a part of.
  2. Trim the number of social networks I am actively a part of an engaged in. As far back as a week ago that included Twitter,, Facebook, and Google+. Yeah, not a good idea. I’ve already removed Google+ from my iOS devices so I’m done with that one, but I think I need to trim even more. I will also remove any native applications from my laptop/desktop computers (for Twitter and so that I can try to curb my usage when I am at my desk(s).
  3. Curb my news consumption. This might include unfollowing or unfriending (what a terrible term) people so that I am not as tempted to read news articles. I want to be informed, but currently “staying informed” usually results in “feeling like crud”.
  4. Do away with ebooks as primary reading material. As a “technology person” I’ve been trying to force myself to use ebooks as my primary reading medium … but as ME, it just doesn’t fit. I’ve found my comprehension is worse and my stamina tanks when I am reading an ebook. I’m not sure if I’m just crazy (quite possible) or if there is just something about dead-tree books that calls out and helps me. Either way, I’m back to using dead trees for information consumption for long periods of time.
  5. Get back into keeping track of what I have to do … somehow. Use a notebook, use Things, use blood on the wall.
  6. FINISH SOMETHING. This part happens after I trim things down … but actually get into the habit of finishing things. I have books half-read, apps half-started, ideas half-throught-through and I need to sit down and finish something.

Personally, as I sit here, I think that #6 is going to be the one hardest for me to accomplish and the one that will do the most good in the end. Everything above will have some sort of effect on me, but the last fine, actually finishing something, will get some momentum going again.


SaaS: A Double-Edged Sword

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service, Cloud Services, etc.) are a fact of life for most people and companies. If you are using Gmail, or YouTube, or Campfire, or Basecamp, or GitHub … you are using software housed on someone else’s servers.


This is wonderful on many levels. You don’t have to worry about the software, they’ve taken care of that for you. You can access the software from any relatively modern internet-connected computer from almost anywhere in the world. Your information is store, backed-up (hopefully), and watched-over by someone else on their own time.

These are all very cool things.

However, the power of SaaS cuts both ways, and recently that has been made abundantly clear by Google Apps for Education.

Google made the new compose feature the default about 3 weeks ago, and it has been rocky for some people. While a relatively minor change overall, it is still a change which affects how many people use email every single day. It had been there, of course, for a very long time as an option for people to try out, but they flipped the switch and no-one was able to stop them.

Google Apps also had a major outage this morning, with their Control Panel along with many services being down for about a half-hour this morning. This has happened in the past a number of times as well.

While it is nice to be able to tell people “it is a Google outage, nothing we can do about it”, it still stinks when that is the ONLY thing you can tell them.

The worst part is the loss of control. You can’t “wait” on features: they get rolled out constantly and sometimes, more often than I wish, they can break something in a really strange way.

As an example, Gmail recently would flash onscreen and then it would just go white. Every other webpage I tried would work, but Gmail just would not work. Came in the next morning and *poof* it was working correctly.


You are at the whim of your service provider, and that can be a little frightening when you are a small private college because you have no clout at all. When Google drops support for versions of Internet Explorer, you now have to carve out time to make sure everyone has access to their email by updating browsers or even whole operating systems so that they can have an updated version of Internet Explorer.

That might have been something that could have waited until the next hardware update, but not anymore. Email is too important.

SaaS is wonderful and it is not going away, but native applications with version numbers can be nice as well. The amount of control you have can be a real asset.

Remember that ceding control to someone else is just that, handing over control of some portion of your technological destiny. As long as you are aware of that, it can be very beneficial.

However, that blade cuts both ways. Watch out.

Life Technology


I’ve been a member of Twitter for a few years now and it has been very good to me. Recently, however, my curiosity has been piqued by

I’m not going to rehash what is or why it even exists because I really don’t think it matters all that much. The fact is that it started off as a Twitter-like service in the wake of one of the developer agreement changes from Twitter. It is also extremely limited in number of users compared to Twitter.

With the recent introduction of free accounts, the opportunity arose for me to try out the service without having to pay for the privilege.


So I grabbed an invite from someone offering one on Twitter (that’s funny) and then headed over and setup my account. I also went ahead and tried out a bunch of different applications from the App Store. Right now the main way I consume is using an app called Riposte on my iPhone. Currently Riposte is not available on the iPad, so I’m still bouncing among a few apps on the iPad (including Netbot, which is good … but doesn’t feel quite as “at home” with as Riposte does).

So, how is it going overall?

I, surprising myself at least, really like the service. I’ve been able to stay under the 40-follow mark for free accounts, but I’m already getting to the point where I could see myself paying for a year just to see how things go. The discussion has been cordial and high-concept so far, and I’m following people on that I might not have followed on Twitter.

Can it replace Twitter? Probably not, but I do find the smaller audience to be a nice change. With fewer people, seemingly, come fewer problems. There are issues around a self-selecting group being on because in the past there was only a paid-tier to have entry and it also is HIGHLY developer-centric (I mostly follow Apple developers on at the moment), but maybe those aren’t bad things overall.

I tend to think that the Internet is big, but that smaller groups can form on the greater internet to more-easily keep in touch with each other. Not every service needs to be all-inclusive because the Internet is all-inclusive. Being a part of many different services and groups is a good thing.

Besides, you want diversity of thought, right?


Google Killing Google Reader

Good bye old friend.

Google Reader

And like that, Google has decided to kill off Google Reader after 8 years.

Google Reader is really what I cut my teeth on for RSS, and I’ve had the same account syncing my RSS subscriptions since then. First I worked with Google Reader in iGoogle (which they are also killing) and then moved to Reeder when I picked up my first iPhone in 2009.

However, come July 1, that will all come to an end. I’m going to be on the lookout for an alternative until it finally shuts completely down, but I’m hoping, like Marco Arment, that this will maybe usher in a new era of innovation for RSS. Maybe the death of the 800 pound gorilla who killed all other RSS readers will allow others to come in and really spread their wings.

Alright, that last sentence was terrible. Forgive me.

On the bright side, this is one less thing I will be relying on Google for. This really just leaves Google Talk and Google Docs/Drive as the only services Google provides that I could not easily go elsewhere for.

Maybe they will be replaced in the future … or Google will just decide to kill them off for me.


TextMate Updates File Browser

I still use TextMate 2 as my editor-of-choice.

Recently the pace of the updates has increased and some semi-major changes are being released into the open.

Build r9345 has this in the release notes:

File browser has a new navigation bar. This is work in progress. You can find most actions of the old bar in the Go menu (where you can also see the key equivalents). Presently missing is “Show Hidden Items”, a toolbar below the file browser will soon appear.

And it’s true!

TM2 File Browser

It is nice to see some of the visual refreshes coming into the editor. I’m waiting to see what they decide to do with the toolbar at the bottom and whatever else they might have in store. TextMate 2 has been the beneficiary of opening up its source to the world on GitHub.