I didn’t believe in this software until I tried it. It started working the first day I used it.
Essentially, it changes the colour temperature of your screen depending on what time of day it is. If it’s daytime, your screen will be normal. If it’s nighttime, it’ll be more red. Apparently there’s a lot of research data to suggest that this helps with sleeping patterns of humans (something to do with the sun). Anecdotally, I can verify that it has helped my sleep patterns immensely.
I just wish it had the incremental colour change option enabled by default. Out-of-the-box, it switches from blue to red quickly after you cross a certain point of day. I like it when it’s more subtly done.
UPDATE! Just a few days after this post, the developer of f.lux updated the software after a period of inactivity. The new features include the ability to go even dimmer during evening hours and a new “movie mode” which disables f.lux for 2.5 hours (long enough for your average movie to play through).
While I wait patiently for Canada to adopt a comprehensive high-speed rail line and commuter service, the next best thing is a car for working on the go. Though I’m the primary driver these days, there have been times when I’ve been the passenger. I write this now from a very comfortable position next to Exhibition Park in Guelph. I’m doing work on the laptop in the passenger seat (using a 3G USB adapter from Wind mobile).
Rail is my favourite mode of transport because:
You face people. Seats are positioned in a way that fosters communication, unlike cars, in which everyone faces the same direction and it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) for people sitting less than a metre away in the back seat to hear conversation in the front seat.
Work while you travel. When you’re driving, you can’t do anything but drive. It’s dead time; a complete waste of human existence. If you travel by rail, you can accomplish work, read, think, relax, read.
It’s fast. Even current rail service in Canada, specifically between Guelph and Toronto, isn’t that bad in terms of speed. My GPS reported that we reached 140km/h at one point. With some proper funding and planning, that could be the average speed, not the top speed.
It’s safe. Rail is a very safe method of travel, especially compared to the car.
You can pee. Every car has a washroom built right in. You don’t have to stop transport to pee.
Still, for times when I need a third place and cafes are closed, I use my car. It’s a 2001 Chrysler 300m. Here are a few things that could have been done better.
Built-in inverter. My car has two access points to DC electricity: One in the front and one in the centre console. It uses the traditional cigarette lighter type adapter, to which I plug in an inverter which gives me AC electricity for my laptop. (An even better solution would be to buy laptops that include a DC plug as well as an AC plug so I could just plug straight into DC since that’s what laptops use natively).
Auxiliary input for the car stereo. I won a free car stereo and had the installers provide access to an AUX IN jack so I could plug my laptop audio in but it would be awesome if this came included out of the box. I have all of my mp3s, oggs, and music modules on my laptop.
DC Access point for the back seat. Currently there is no way to access DC power in the back seat except through the centre console, which, when left open, is uncomfortable for the driver.
Better fuel economy. While I’d love to have a fully electric car (such as the Ford Focus Electric), I realize that in 2001 the technology wasn’t close to being ready. My car gets an average of 11L/100KM in town and 7L/100KM highway. It would have been nice to have the ability to switch the engine between performance mode and economy mode whilst in the city.
Being a web developer, I usually use several different computers on different operating systems across the lifetime of any project. Personally, I have 5 computers plus one server: Access to a Vista PC, a Windows 7 virtualized installation, my main Mandriva Linux desktop, a Eee 701 PC with Eeebuntu, a Mandriva Linux laptop, and a FreeBSD development server.
Moving files from one computer to the next used to be a time-consuming and ultimately prohibitive process. If I wanted to, say, take a break from working on my PC and work at the Red Brick Cafe for a few hours, I’d have to download my work files to a USB memory card then export the MySQL database and do the same transfer again to the USB memory card.
Or, I could burn a CD. Of course, how does one get the updated files back off the laptop and onto the PC when arriving back at home? This arduous process basically meant that freedom of choice in the work environment was severely hampered and was often more trouble than it was worth. But not any more.
Dropbox is a free service that is basically a shared folder in the cloud. It makes sharing files amongst any computer, whether it be Mac, Linux, or Windows, easy as drag and drop. And I really mean that. I love things that speed up my work processes because the less time I spend in administration mode the more time I can accomplish tasks in programming mode. Dropbox exemplifies this manifesto.
Any file you put in the Dropbox folder on a computer will instantly be available on any computer that install Dropbox on. Even better, revisions are kept so if you make a mistake with a file and don’t have backups, you can pull the file in question from the archives to restore it. What makes Dropbox different from any other revision or archiving setup is that this is all done without any administration by the user. Literally if you drag a file into the folder, all this stuff is done for you. No committing changes, no crazy hoops to jump through.
Oh, and the 2GB storage starter account is completely free. It’s the one I use daily. I don’t even think I’ve hit 25% capacity yet.
My laptop is an Averatec 3260. 512MB of RAM, 80GB hard disk, and 1.6GHz processor. It’s had the front panel LCD and battery replaced, by me. It’s still missing the front bezel (I thought it looked cooler with it off.) Up until yesterday, the performance of the machine was just above what I’d consider to be “survivable” regardless of OS.
Then, everything changed.
While I was working with Cory Fowler at Red Brick Cafe and then later at my apartment, I was updating my copy of Mandriva Linux from 2009.1 to 2010.0. During installation something must have gone wrong because KDE4 no longer started properly. It kept bringing me back to the login screen. So, instead of using KDE4 I used IceWM.
I haven’t gone back to KDE4 since yesterday. And I’m the hugest KDE4 fan there is.
If you’ve got an old laptop or an old desktop that’s struggling under the weight of Windows XP or KDE4, grab a copy of Mandriva Linux for free and install the IceWM packages. Give it a go. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the performance of your machine. I know I was! I remember running IceWM a few times when I first started using Linux quite a number of years ago but it has really come a long way since then.
IceWM runs all of the KDE4 programs I care about and even the Gnome programs, too. Watching a video on YouTube is made much easier with the lighter-weight desktop, as is just general browsing.
IceWM offers a lot of customization but some of it is complicated to configure. The easiest thing to do is to replace the God-awful default theme with something way cooler and easier on the eyes. The theme I’m using now is psicopoire.
The Box-Look.org website includes hundreds of awesome themes you can try out. And installing them is actually pretty simple. To install a new theme in IceWM, try this:
Download the tarball
Untar the tarball into the ~/.icewm/themes directory (if it does not exist, create it)
Right-click on the desktop and go to Settings->Themes->Your New Theme’s Name
Does anyone else know any other neat, lightweight software to replace large-scale, heavy applications? I’d love to give them a try.