Tue, 03 Sep 2013

The Cod is swimming again, AKA Ode is back online!

I took a look at my website this morning and saw that the Ode mascot, a photo of an atlantic cod, was swimming in the sidebar again :) This means that the website ode.io is online, which is great news.

I also just realized this is a big admission I've been very a-socially doing a cross-domain image request all this time, and I should probably get a copy of that image locally.

But here's an ode to Ode (o-dee), the versatile personal publishing engine! I hope the new season is a profitable one for all web technology fishermen and -women.

Tue, 06 Aug 2013

Fundraising appeal: let's keep the Ode project online for a year

Ode (pronounced o-dee) is the publishing platform that runs this site and which has helped me and others learn a lot about web development in recent years. Due to recent circumstances, the Ode community websites (the blog, the forum, and the wiki) have gone offline. At the same time, Ode's creator has indicated the desire to broaden the scope of the project a little. To shift the focus a bit from Ode the software to the collaborative learning community that has begun to grow around it.

I think this is a good opportunity to contribute back and increase our communal sense of ownership and community. I say let's pitch in to fund Ode's hosting costs for a year. I think that's a good stretch of timein which we can see what shape the wider Ode project might take. It's hard to set up a sustainable plan at the moment, but I think a year is a good balance between short-term aid and the longer term. Rob has indicated hosting will cost about $100 USD for a year. If even a few of us contribute, we can easily cover this.

If you, like me, have benefited from Ode and its community forum in the past while -- I say pitch in! Or if you don't know Ode yet but are curious, you're welcome to help out too (feel free to ask for more info in the comments below).

I'm starting with a commitment to $30. Give whatever you feel is appropriate for yourself. If we can get the Ode website(s) up again, I'd like to take a more active role in helping build the new learning community.


Sun, 04 Aug 2013

Organization Part II: using Zim to process incoming items and organize them for future reference

This is part 2 of a report on my recent experiments with GTD-based task management. In the previous post I outlined what I want to discuss in this series; in this post I will look at my workflow of processing items and the computer applications I use for this.

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Sun, 14 Jul 2013

Organization: Report on methods and tools

In answer to the clamouring for more information on my inventorizing and organizing adventures, I want to report on how it's been so far. I decided, two weeks ago, to take a whole week to collect all the tings on my mind -- commitments, projects, and ideas -- and process them all at the end of the week. That weekend turned out to be a satisfying and effective review session. I only processed about half of the items I had collected, but by the end of the two days I had a good system in place for a GTD-based workflow and I felt much better. The following week -- this last week -- I spent my commutes processing the remaining items from the week before, and the new ones I thought of as the week went by.

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Wed, 03 Jul 2013

Gathering what's on my mind to get organized

The difference is this time I'm giving myself a week to gather before I start trying to organize.

Since David Allen says (sorry, can't find the exact time in the video) that most people have between thirty and a hundred projects, and about a hundred and fifty next actions on their mind at any one time, I'm curious to see how many I can organize out of a week's worth of unhurried collecting.

Fri, 14 Jun 2013

Inventory-management: trying out some lightweight photo managers

The idea

I recently came across a fairly old article on linux.com in which Chad Files explains how to use the f-spot photo manager to create an inventory of possessions. The idea is quite simple: you use the tagging/organizing functionality of a photo management application to organize photographs you take of all the things you have to make a searchable/sortable inventory. Indeed, this is by no means tied to f-spot: there are quite a few similar programs with the same functionality allowing tagging, categorizing, and organizing in collections.

This is interesting for my personal itch of wanting to create a digital representation of things I have in storage and in my document archive. I've been using tellico -- an excellent app, and it does the job, but with two major shortcomings for my purposes.

  1. Folders, boxes and other objects which contain other objects cannot be identified as such. In other words: to record that an object (say, a tax notice) is in a particular folder (say Folder A), you have to add the folder as a property of the object, and you cannot create an object 'Folder A' of type folder that knows that it contains that letter.

  2. Entry of objects is slow and tedious and duplicate prone (partially as a result of point 1), and bound to a pre-determined set of object properties.

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Converging on the short stack, clearing out mental cruft

I give myself 300 words for this post (including the title and this notice).

I'm cleaning the house and getting some important correspondence done, today on Friday my free day. Working four days a week - having a three-day weekend -- is almost like leading a double life! The trouble seems to be that I do all of the same stuff in the other half of my life: trying to work with computers, just beyond my capabilities.

I've borrowed some important insights from Mike Levin today. His thesis of the need for a 'short stack' resonates with what I've felt for a while. I think he's expressing it well: Unix is a masterful base of flexibility, and knowing how to use Unix at the level of muscle memory is going to be the key to survival in a fast-changing technological landscape. I didn't say that very well; go read his site. and in particular his Levinux project.

That brings me to well over half my wordcount. The point is this. I'm an information addict. My use of computers is conditioned to be one of consumption. I keep dropping into 'hang mode', hanging in front of the computer consuming more and more information. Even when I start out to take some concrete steps to automate or reliable-ize or secure some of my computer usage, I end up spending most of my time looking for the perfect tool, or brainstorming the perfect tool which is several steps beyond my current practical coding abilities.

So in forty words: my life is not in computers. Computers are part of where the many lines from which my life emerges take place. But I can do and organize things outside computers too. Words used up; more later.

Mon, 03 Jun 2013

Walking from Amersfoort to Brummen

I'm going to walk from Amersfoort to Brummen this summer.

Emmaly also wants to do it. She's said so several times (even after a lengthy tiring walk :). So I guess I can publicly commit. Before the summer is out, we want to walk from Amersfoort to Brummen. A rough calculation of this distance (walking directions in Google Maps) says it's almost exactly 60 km by the shortest route.

We've been talking about various options and for now the most likely scenario would be to do it in three days. While it could be done in two, that would really be pushing it and maybe would be stretching our luck (I've walked over thirty kilometres in one day before, but doing that two days in a row?) Twenty kilometres a day seems more reasonable. The plan is to stay in hiker's huts at campgrounds and/or bed-and-breakfasts, so we can pack as light as possible.

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Sat, 25 May 2013

Talking with computers

When trying to make sense of how my use of computers works, there's a guiding metaphor which seems to help me. It's the idea of streams of conversation.

What I mean by this, essentially, is that all my activities with the computer, and all the computer's activities in support of my activities making use of it, are ongoing streams of events: conversations, logs, checking states and taking action based on that.

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Wed, 22 May 2013

Blog publishing with a private 'cloud'

git-annex for archiving

I'm planning on trying out git-annex very soon. Git-annex is a system built on top of the git source control management system which makes it possible to store large files in git repositories and use the system as a file synchronizer and archiver. Git by itself can't handle large files very well, but git-annex makes this better and also sort of automates the synchronization process.

According to its website, git-annex "is not a backup system [but] it may be a useful component of an archival system, or a way to deliver files to a backup system".

My backup system is horribly out of date. Since git-annex also has some more Dropbox-like features that I have wanted to do for myself for some time, I plan on trying it out very soon as a way to synchronize files and 'deliver files to a backup system'.

blogging on a filesystem-based publishing platform with git-annex (or just rsync)

I also realized yesterday that git-annex and similar systems might have a bonus advantage for people like me who use a plain-text blogging platform. Since, unlike Dropbox, with git-annex (I think?) I have fine-grained control over which directories sync with which directories, I can use it to effectively synchronize my blog post drafts, and publish new posts, from any machine without having to log in and/or mount my remote drives.

Note that rsync could be just as effective for this. Using git-annex means using git which means everything is in version control, though. (Of course, I could sync with rsync while keeping everything in version control beside that).

Plus, apparently git-annex now has an android application. Type short, tweet-like blog posts on my phone on the go, and queue them up to sync to my hosting account over ssh as soon as I get a connection? I like the idea.

If this works, I think it would solve a problem that has been keeping me from posting more often. I've complained about it before. It's a very small thing, but somehow it does affect my propensity to post. This is that while it's great to be able to start a blog post anytime, anywhere, in a plain text file, this means that it's an additional step to mount my remote filesystem and transfer the post. Or remember my login details if I want to post from somewhere else. Of course, with a web-based interface (e.g. Wordpress) the hurdle is simply one step forward: to log in before you can start posting. So it isn't really a disadvantage. _But_, with something like git-annex (or just rsync), I get the advantage of being able to start blog posts cheaply (just open a text editor), and (from all my computers anyways) the computer will take care of copying it to the server (and to all my other work and backup locations).

I'm looking forward to trying it.