Life-Hacking Tips

The Economist provides tips on improving personal productivity:

  • Slow down your e-mail: Set your e-mail program to fetch new messages every 15 minutes or every hour, rather than every minute, so you are interrupted less often.

  • Create form responses: Any time you find yourself typing substantially similar e-mails, create a form version and save it for future use.

  • Go full-screen: Switch your computer to full-screen mode, filling the whole screen with your current application, minimising the visual distraction of other programs.

  • Park on a downhill slope: When wrapping up work on a task, make a note of what needs to be done next. This makes it easier to get started when you resume work on the task.

  • Search Fragmentation

    Fred Wilson writes about the search engines he uses:

    I used to always search via Google using the Firefox search field. Then I switched to Yahoo! Now I search on both and a bunch of other services as well.

    I wish there was a way to track which search services I use the most, but here is my best guess:

    1 – Google – 25%
    2 – Yahoo – 20%
    3 – Wikipedia – 20%
    4 – Delicious – 15%
    5 – Flickr – 10%
    6 – Answers – 5%
    7 – Others – 5%

    I do think that as Firefox and hopefully IE7 offer more opportunity to customize the search field, people will do just that and start choosing the appropriate web service to search before hitting the enter key.

    Pingerati

    From the site:

    Microformats are tiny bits of markup in web pages that label contacts, events, reviews, addresses, geo-locations, and other commonly published chunks of information. Microformats are often published on blogs and in feeds, but are increasingly published on other types of web pages as well such as event databases, social network profiles, reviews sites, and contact information pages. Traditional ping services only handle blog or feed updates, so we’ve set up Pingerati to handle microformat updates on any web page.

    Pingerati is also a ping router (multiplexer). Pingerati receives updates of pages with microformats from numerous sources, and sends those pings to services that support microformats.

    Mobile Social networking

    Business Week writes:

    Just how big could mobile social networking get? This application’s usage could become “as big as online social networking,” says Dennis Crowley, founder of wireless social network Dodgeball, owned by Google. About 45% of active Web users have been to online social networking sites, according to a recent study by Nielsen/NetRatings. As MySpace expands beyond its core market of teens and young adults, “We expect penetration of MySpace mobile to match penetration of cell phones,” which are owned by 80% of Americans, says Digiaro. Mobile access could become even more prevalent outside of the U.S., where in some cases more people use cell phones than personal computers to surf the Web.

    Indeed, it’s the cell phone, rather than the personal computer, that’s the constant companion for today’s hip and socially networked. Why wait till you get home to log onto the PC to tell your 20 closest personal friends about your date? Teens can use a network-friendly cell phone to relay stories, pictures, and videos instantaneously.

    TECH TALK: Computing for the Next Billion: OLPC

    Nicholas Negropontes One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has attracted the greatest attention with its ambitious goals of creating a $100 laptop and getting it out to hundreds of millions of school kids everywhere. Ethan Zuckerman wrote on the project recently:

    [The] goal is to produce a laptop designed for use by children – students in grades K-12. And that requires radically different design decisions that what one would make in simply creating a low-cost laptop The current prototype is little, orange, and very, very cute. It has a molded plastic handle and looks remarkably like a Speak and Spell.

    Its got bunny years – antennas for the 802.11s wireless radios, which are designed to self-assemble meshes with other laptops. The ears fold down to cover the USB, power and mic ports, an excellent design for the sorts of dusty environments I can imagine the device used in. The screen in the current prototype is a conventional LCD screen – the screen in the production devices will be roughly the same size, probably slightly larger than the 7.5″ screen in the prototype, but will be based around a technique that doesnt require white fluorescent backlight. (Many of the questions I need to answer for the IEEE article concern the screen, as its one of the most expensive and power-hungry components of the machine.) The keyboard is about 60% of the size of a conventional keyboard and has calculator-style keys.

    As promised, the laptop can be folded into an ebook, with the screen on top, used as a handheld game player, or have the screen turned around so the machine can be used as a video player.

    Really taking advantage of the potential of the laptop requires changing the entire ecosystem of education in the developing world, a process thats going to require more time than the year or two after laptops are distributed and the efforts of people other than very bright MIT professors. The scale and scope of this project means that a large portion of the questions I most want to ask – how will this be used in the classroom? will teachers accept it? how will kids cope if machines break or get stolen? what happens when people use machines to do decidedly antisocial things? or creative and entrepreneurial things? – are really hard to answer until the machine is out in the field. I wonder out loud if it would make sense to do a small pilot before the project goes further – Jim points out that the current plan to distribute five million laptops in five nations next year is a pilot – when youre talking about building and distributing more than two billion devices, a few million is just a toe dipped into the water.

    Tomorrow: OLPC (continued)

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