Posts Tagged ‘ productivity ’

5 Apps to Increase Mac Productivity

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

I like to think I have been making the most of what’s available on my Mac. This means taking advantage of some obscure and some not so obscure apps. I want to go through some of those apps and a little about their usage to help others get some of the benefit I get. There are certainly other products available and even ones I use. The 5 apps I describe are the ones I use the most frequently (and recommend to just about everyone I come in contact with who uses a Mac).

Price of Commercials

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

The price of commercials is especially high for engineers. And by commercials, I don’t mean an intermission between pieces of a sitcom or drama, I mean the brief 15 seconds of an interruption when someone asks an engineer in the zone a question that takes 3 seconds to answer. For the sake of argument, let’s say an engineer gets interrupted a mere 5 times per day including lunch and a daily meeting (let’s call it a scrum for fun).

If it takes that engineer, admin, developer or whatever 10 minutes to get focused after each interruption and the initial getting into the office and getting into the swing of things; that means that out of an 8 hour day, 1 hour is wasted just refocusing. Refocusing just puts you back on the issue, it doesn’t put you back in the zone. Some engineers only get in the zone once per day. At that rate, you can massively waste someone’s productivity with a 10 second interruption.

What’s my point? Good question. That commercial/question/interruption that someone is pushing onto that engineer could be the straw that broke the camel’s back on a deadline. So be aware of the situation that your people are in, who is talking to them, who has access to them, and who takes advantage of that access. Those precious periods of concentration can afford you a huge win or bring about a big loss.

Busiest Person You Know

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

The old adage, “If you want something done, give it to the busiest person you know” is probably one of the truest messages you can pass to a technologist. The first thing I want to point out is there is a difference between busy and always doing something. Just because someone is doing something, doesn’t mean they are busy. If they are sleeping, they aren’t busy. But if you know someone who is constantly working on side projects (contributing to their own blog (more regularly than I do), building a web site, working on open source), or they have many hobbies, that is busy. If you ask them to do something, you can guarantee that they will find a way to get it done.

You’re probably wondering why I putting this in a blog where I primarily spend time writing about technology and the things I figure out therein. Well, it is generally applicable because I come up with the most time saving, interesting, and generally reusable solutions to a issue when I am the busiest with other things just trying to get it done.

Recently Joel Spolsky wrote about being a Duct Tape Programmer. And many of the solutions I am referring to here are duct tape style solutions (also known as the ones that stick). It’s usually the quick and dirty solutions that last the longest because they are the simplest and yet somehow most effective (and no, I am not only talking about programming). I’m talking about getting things done. So be the busiest person you know sometimes and just get it done. The solution will probably be better and more effective than you think while you’re doing it.

What About An External Multi-Touch Trackpad For a Mac

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

I used to be a big fan of ergonomic keyboards (and I still am). But I am an even bigger fan of the multi-touch trackpad. I have even extended it by using MultiClutch (I know the link looks funny, but that’s the page title, I promise). MultiClutch allows you to extend the swiping and pinching of fingers to extend to other applications and key combinations (both locally and globally). This means that it is so much a part of my daily productivity that I have had to make due without an ergonomic keyboard.

If someone knows about an external multi-touch trackpad (either wireless or USB) that supports 1,2,3 and 4 finger multi-touch, please let me know. And if one doesn’t exist, please let Apple know :). Ultimately what I would like my “at home” setup to be is a wireless ergonomic keyboard along with a wireless ergonomic multi-touch trackpad.

I’d like to hear everyone’s thoughts on this.

Things (Todo App)

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

After reading and commenting on these 2 blog entries by rbowen: iPhone Todo Apps Things and iPhone Todo Apps; I figured that I would throw my $0.02 on here.

Things by Cultured Code does come with a high price tag. But it is by far the most useful todo app that I have come across.

Let’s do a quick salient point pro/con analysis of this. One of my favorite parts of Things is the concept of context. When you create a todo item, you can tag it with what context it is in. Then you can sort or show your todo’s by context. You can sort by multiple tags. This can be shown with the following example, “How can I see what phone calls I have to make for work?” You can click on the items tagged with work and phone. Then you’ll have which phone calls to make.

The biggest con here is the hefty price tag. It definitely does cause some sticker shock. Between the USD $10 for iPhone app and the USD $50 for the laptop/desktop version, USD $60 can be quite a bit for the simplicity of a todo app.

I have found that since spending the USD $60, I have become a lot more efficient and productive. There are also a lot fewer things that fall through the cracks. I have to face facts that I have a pretty poor memory. So when I have something to do, I immediately put it into Things and then sync it as soon as I am in the same place as my laptop again.

One of the beautiful aspects of Things is its simplicity. It has a simple interface and a very succinct group of menus. The only thing that I believe that Things is missing is alerts. I like the iCal sync and iPhone sync, but I would like it to integrate into Growl. This would be even more useful if you could give specific times that you want the Growl notifications to pop up. I know this isn’t possible in the current state of the iPhone OS (until push notifications from the background are available). But this is certainly an available on the laptop/desktop setup.

I am a big believer in FOSS and Open Source in general. However, I am also a big believer in the right tool for the right job. Sometimes that tool costs a little bit of money. Although it may not be the right tool for everyone, it happened to be a tool that made me a more efficient worker and person.

Designing Towards The User

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Any Systems Administrator who hasn’t heard of Tom Limoncelli should probably do some reading. His latest blog post ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ or ‘Sysadmins at the Keyboard’? over at Everything Sysadmin talks about how sometimes the time spent on designing a product or interface could have been better spent if the organization had just spoken to the people who will actually be *using* the systems.

Those of us that actually do the administering of systems and “grew up” without the GUI for the most part, feel more comfortable in the command line environment. Even when I have to fix something in Windows as simple as networking, the first thing I do is open up a command terminal and type ipconfig /renew. All the time that Microsoft spent developing the end user networking GUI was for nothing when dealing with a user like me. But then again, most users that use Windows aren’t like me. And the time Microsoft spent creating the interface was well spent.

The issues come in when someone like Cisco spends hundreds of thousands of dollars writing interfaces for something like the ASAs (which is actually an excellent GUI as far as GUIs go) and most people who deal with ASAs use the command line. I do most of my Cisco work directly using the command line within IOS. All the *nix machines I administer (which is actually quite a few more than I would like to think about at times), I don’t install any of the GUIs. I do everything via the trusty old command line and I know a lot of others do the same.

Even taking this so far as the development world. Even when I write code, I do so using vim on the command line and not an overkill IDE like Eclipse. Even the long time developers and engineers at my company use the command line when given the opportunity. Now this isn’t to say that GUIs don’t have their place, since they certainly do make some tasks, easier, faster, etc. But the fact remains that companies like Cisco will make these GUIs that costs them hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop/test/deploy/maintain, when the majority of the people that use it usually just want a solid debugging tool where they don’t have to keep clicking over and over (as Tom notes).

Reminder Trick With Quicksilver

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

I have a few tools for making and keeping myself more productive. One of those tools is Quicksilver. I know it is a widely used tool so I won’t spend time talking about everything it can do. However, from the Blacktree website, it is:

A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.

I like to be reminded of things, but I usually hate putting them into Entourage or Things (which I will definitely be covering in a future blog post). A shortcut using Quicksilver is to do the following:

  1. Initiate Quicksilver (in my case): CTRL-SPACE
  2. Type the ‘.‘ to enter text mode
  3. Enter your reminder message: Relax your eyes
  4. Press TAB and select Large Type
  5. Press CTRL-Enter and select a period
  6. For testing, use Run After Delay and Tab over to the third box
  7. Enter an element of time. Again for testing, we’ll use 5s (the ‘s‘ being seconds) and press enter.

And there you have it. It will appear before your eyes 5 seconds after pressing enter. Just remember, there is no stickiness with Quicksilver. If it closes for any reason (computer restart, Quicksilver crash, etc), your reminder is gone with it.