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Archive for the ‘lifehacks’ Category

My State of E-Learning #elearning #coursera #udemy #udacity

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Recently I’ve gotten the online learning bug back, not that it’s ever away for long, so I’ve been busy again on Coursera. And thanks to a HTML 5 course I also started to use Udemy. An Eric Ries course is waiting on Udacity for me to start it. In the past I used to use iTunesU to follow online university courses, such as Yale’s Game Theory Lectures by Benjamin Polak.


I’m currently enrolled in 6 courses, and I’ve followed a number of courses here, yet none to completion within the time period set by the tutor. Often the amount of time I would need to set aside for the course can be between 6 and 12 hours each week, this is entirely possible and I often do manage to do a couple of hours in the evening. Another issue is that to receive course credit these Problem Sets need to be in at a certain date, or courses which have been running over 1 week it is often impossible to submit these on time to be eligible for course credit.

Coursera does allow you to download all the video’s, so it is possible to view these at a later date, or even from the beach somewhere. And they sometimes offer the course multiple times, so in the example of Model Thinking I have enrolled a second time so I can complete easier.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

March 19, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Posterous Migration [UPDATE]

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I just migrated all my posterous posts to here, it decided to post all the drafts I had in posterous. This might take a little time to fix. 🙂

UPDATE: if it isn’t all fixed respond to this post and I’ll fix it.

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

February 24, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Posted in humour, lifehacks, personal

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Mac Screen Saver Issue #security

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Apple Logo

Sometimes I need to use my computer to read things, as somebody who considers himself security conscious it means I need to have my finger at the ready as my computer turns on the screen saver after 3 minutes (180 seconds) and password locks it. However I do need to be able to read something without needing to be sure to interact with my HIDs. My old solution was to set my screensaver to lock after 15 minutes (900 seconds), however this poses a security risk as I can forget to lock my screen using the hot corner (see image) if I were distracted by something.

System Preferences - Screen Saver

So I needed a way to automatically reset the screensaver back to the 3 minutes after a grace period. OSX has a tool called default which allows changes to be made to the system settings, and it allows you to change the screensaver like this:

defaults -currentHost write idleTime -int 180

Now the only time I really do this is at home, so I need my computer to be secure before I leave for work in the morning. I decided that 8:30 would certainly be a time that I would still be in the house and my Macbook would be open should I have forgotten to reset the timeout. So I first added this following line using crontab:

30 8 * * * defaults -currentHost write idleTime -int 180

Naturally this is still not very secure, sure the effort is half way there, and it should really reset it more often. Perhaps I would want to set it every 15 minutes, which should give me a maximum grace period of 15 minutes. This would be unhandy in the evening when at home.

0,15,30,45 * * * * defaults -currentHost write idleTime -int 180

Or every 15 minutes only for the period of time you are in an environment where you may not entirely control who has physical access to your machine. This could be on a customer site, at a conference or in a shared office space. Or at home while the kids are still awake.

0,15,30,45 8-21 * * * defaults -currentHost write idleTime -int 180

This says between the hours of 8:00 and 21:45 I want you to set my screen saver to 3 minutes every 15 minutes.

Image source: me, Brian Solis

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

September 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Posted in access, lifehacks, OSX, security

Pythagoras taught us how to get things done #productivity #gtd

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Some time after 530 and 510 BC after Pythagoras woven to Italy and had gathered his students he would established a strict routine for his students, being Pythagoras he paid particular attention to the hours they woke and slept. On rising his students were advised to repeat the following verses:

As soon as you awake, in order lay the actions to be done the coming day.

At nightfall they were told to recite:

Allow not sleep to close your eyes

Before reflecting on the following questions three times:

The actions of the day.
What deeds done well?
What not?
What left undone?

Source: The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI – Mario Livio

Image source: zerojay

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

Posted in lifehacks

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Design – Re-Inventing the Wheel #agile #scrum #xp

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Everybody tells you not to reinvent the wheel, and I am going to explain why everybody is wrong and you should start re-inventing. Programming paradigms and design patterns are the staple of all new programmers, and they enable everybody to communicate in a common language which can be easily understood when their rules are strictly adhered to. The issue is that beginner developers have cursory knowledge, expertise and familiarity with the design patterns they are required to implement.

A recent practical example a group of relatively inexperienced programmers with the Model-View-Controller paradigm found that the controller they were using didn’t make their life easier, so in some specific cases they deviated from this and implemented their own heuristics. This caused the underlying database to get more SQL queries that even Facebook reports it gets. At the point the website ground to a halt a simple investigation revealed that they bypassed the controller and model to access the database. Common heuristics would usually point to scaling vertically or horizontally.

If it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, guess what? It’s a duck.

A Duck?

It is not always a duck. Current thinking is that common things are common, and common problems have common solutions. This isn’t always the case, Henry Ford summed it up best: “If I had asked people what they wanted,” he said, “they would have said a faster horse.” By living in the constraints of their knowledge when people hear hoofbeats, they think horses, not zebras. And “[w]hen faced with a result that doesn’t go according to plan, a series of perfectly effective short-term tactics are used until the desired outcome is achieved.”[2] Some developers believe that once this hurdle has been taken all will be well, I can tell you the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.[4]

When you are in a hole, stop digging! That is exactly how we got into the mess in the first place.

How do you stop digging?

You have become increasingly convinced of the truth of your misjudgment, developing a psychological commitment to it. You have become wedded to this distorted conclusion.[1] Realizing this is your first victory. “In the material world, the unknown is a place of uncertainty and potential risk … [b]ut we make a mistake when we attribute the same qualities to the world of our thinking.”[3] The second victory is having the courage to throw out everything you have done up to now, baby and bathwater.

“There is a wonderful story of a group of American car executives who went to Japan to see a Japanese assembly line. At the end of the line, the doors were put on the hinges, the same as in America. But something was missing. In the United States, a line worker would take a rubber mallet and tap the edges of the door to ensure that it fit perfectly. In Japan, that job didn’t seem to exist. Confused, the American auto executives asked at what point they made sure the door fit perfectly. Their Japanese guide looked at them and smiled sheepishly. “We make sure it fits when we design it.” In the Japanese auto plant, they didn’t examine the problem and accumulate data to figure out the best solution—they engineered the outcome they wanted from the beginning. If they didn’t achieve their desired outcome, they understood it was because of a decision they made at the start of the process.”[2]

Clean Slate

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Starting with a clean slate learn to question everything you know and are told, especially what I tell you. Learned heuristics can be good, but they are only as good as your teacher. You own experience is key to be able to implement anything. Having a prototype or an example can help you, and a prototype is only as good as the developer who wrote it. Don’t be afraid to start over rather than refactoring, there is little to lose and everything to gain by ignoring the old paradigm: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  1. How Doctors Think – Jerome Groopman, MD
  2. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  3. Effortless Evolution – Jamie Smart
  4. Wall Street proverb

Image source: Sebastian Fritzon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 6, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Posted in lifehacks, programming

Tagged with , ,

Recognizing Signals #scrum #xp #agile #lifehack

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Signals come from everywhere, they are tell us something about our environment. Whether it’s hot or cold, wet or dry, and painful or pleasant. These signals are rarely binary, there are gradients in the signals. And we have signals with which we aren’t dealing at that moment, which we’ll call noise in that instance. Feedback is also a signal, perhaps it causes a painful sensation or it causes a pleasant sensation. Whatever the sensation it causes that sensation too is another signal which we can choose to regard as noise.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Posted in lifehacks, programming, work

Tagged with , , ,

Just Finished Reading: Start With Why #startwithwhy #book

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I was advised to read Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why by a social media guru who practically abandoned his – albeit limited to the Netherlands – stardom to pursue a position in a turning round a company who’s why was determined by governmental decree, and as such was fuzzy for customers and company. And I came to it with many preconceptions of cones and funnels, expecting it to be a Gladwellian book with limited practical application beyond creating awareness – which in some circles is already a Herculean task.

Sinek started by blowing my Anglo-American expectations out of the water by posing a question on the first page of the book. It acts as the first warning in the book to not take things at face value – the What and How – and go straight for the jugular: Inspiring with Why you are doing what you are doing. The nature of the thought is that our experience of the world is created “from the inside-out”[1], understanding that the Golden Circle has Why at the centre and the How and What are just the physical manifestations of Why we do things.

As examples he uses Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, the Wright brothers and a host of others for whom we already know What they did and shows us How they did it by being inspired with a reason – their Why. The stories he tells and the way he tells them influenced me and my story, and my answer to Why.

What’s you Why?

  1. Effortless Evolution – Jamie Smart

Image source: Amazon

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

January 2, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Posted in books, lifehacks

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Coriolanus Effect and Wakoopa Stats #productivity #timemanagement

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I first started writing about Wakoopa in 2009, when I wrote the article Time Spend, is Time Earned on using it for time management, it has mostly been running in the background to give me some statistics on the way I use my time behind my computer, and whether it is used effectively. Recently I started a new projects with new computers and again installed the Wakoopa Tracker to measure the effective use of my time. Naturally the Parato principle still holds, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Coriolanus effect: n. the act of going around in ever decreasing circles until one vanishes up one’s own backside.
Glaswegian expression

For Sunday it is possible to see the amount of time I spend creating a Christmas card, and I see that – split over Mac and Windows – I seem to be spending the productive 62% of my office time on development, documentation and mail. Again I can also immediately see correlations between any dips in time – such as Monday – and real events, in this case meetings. Furthermore the relatively short time spend on development on Monday can be seen to have a ripple effect that continues on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m sure that had the statistics been available for Thursday this line would continue.

Using my calendar I could get a similar graph, and although the details of how long I was “researching” a recent XKCD joke are still lots be lost, Wakoopa enables me to see the usage of my time slightly better and the collection is entirely passive.

Image source: Wakoopa

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

December 16, 2011 at 2:08 pm

Educating Children to Stimulate the Economy #lifehacks

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I watched a micro-documentary on Dutch television about Tiger Mothers, the opinion of the commentators was that all these children are unhappy and that there is no such thing as 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, although the other commentator rephrased it to Parato’s terms of 20-80. Or as Gladwell says: “… the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.”

I believe he is wrong, and I will tell you why.

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Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Posted in books, lifehacks, school

The unhappiness of action and inaction?

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UPDATED: to remove the embedded video Why are we happy?

Like many people I am lazy, this is sometimes handy as it means I will automate mundane important tasks and ignore unimportant tasks. And it’s a pattern that I’m not always happy with, even with it’s obvious advantages. I go on time management binges, spend my time creating frameworks for organizing my time, yet I often don’t get to the execution of the framework. The journey is sometimes more fun, than the goal.

This means that many handy, and even some fun things, are left in to do lists with little chance that they will be crossed off. And I’m quite happy with the situation.

This leads me to the reason I started this post: I watched Dan Gilbert’s TED video Why are we happy? and came to the question: Can I enable myself to see my inaction as a choice? And choose something different?

I may be unhappy whether I do or don’t, says Gilbert. Wondering whether I made the right choice until the end of time. It’s also impossible to see the choice as immutable as the choice can always be changed at a moments notice. And yet, as is suggested by Gilbert, the power of the mutability of decision is an illusion. Having the ability to choose will make it impossible to know whether the path chosen is the right path – even if there is no right or wrong.

This leads me to believe that the Reinhold Niebuhr quote: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. should actually read: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can change, the courage to not change the things I can, and the wisdom to make choices immutable.

Written by Daniël W. Crompton (webhat)

June 18, 2011 at 10:08 am

Posted in lifehacks

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