Why I Don't Have a Facebook

April 24th, 2013 about me

Summed up in this wonderful little passage:

...I count myself among those who are often very critical of Facebook. To be clear, I do not dislike Facebook as a company and I don't dislike the broad-stroke services it provides. For hundreds of millions of people, Facebook is an amazing product that helps them keep in touch with friends and family, plan events, play social games and plenty more. It brings the world closer together, there's no question.

For me personally, however, it's just awful.

The constant trivial updates, the recycled posts, the event invitations from people I haven't spoken to in 15 years, the app invitations, the game invitations, the fact that other people can check me into places and tag me in photos that appear on my page automatically... it gets infuriating.

Privacy settings help, of course, but then every time a new feature is added, users have to tweak their settings to block it. Most of the time, I'm not even aware new features roll out until I get some awful email notification about something that someone else posted on my wall. Then I have to log in, block the new feature and disable email notifications for another half-dozen list items.

Creating Our World

January 22nd, 2013 about me

Sometimes I take a step back and actually think about everything I interact with on a daily basis. My computer is capable of billions of computations per second and can connect with millions (billions?) of other devices just like it through some magic cables that run all over the planet. I can fit an entire computer in my pocket. My phone is essentially a complete computer as well, and it can literally communicate with anywhere in the world just through the air.

I can wake up warm, dry, and safe every morning in a giant wooden structure. I can buy a digital piece of paper on my phone before I get out of bed. After getting out of bed, I can hop in the shower and have clean water rain down from a magic tube. I can eat food that was made hundreds of miles away and delivered to my house. I can then get in a self-propelled, hollow, metal box with wheels and use it to travel several miles to an airport. From there, I can climb aboard a long metal tube with wings and take off into the sky, arriving at my destination within a few hours. It's absolutely incredible to me.

How did these inventions come about? How is it even possible to create something with that magnitude of complexity? I struggle managing a mere several thousand lines of code or a dozen wires. I cannot even comprehend how people, even hundreds of them working together, could create something as complicated as an airplane, or a home, or a CPU, or an office building, or anything I have ever used. How did we fly to the moon?! I simply cannot understand it.

What's even more amazing is that so much of this advancement has taken place in less than a century. The Ford Model T, the first affordable automobile, was produced in 1908. The Wright brothers made their first flight in 1903. The first programmable computer didn't exist until 1936. We landed on the moon in 1969. How on earth have these inventions become so popular so quickly? How did we go from a computer that can compute one operation per second to one that can computer 3.47 billion operations per second in each of its six cores in less than 80 years? How did we come so far in such a small amount of time?

It's truly an incredible time to be alive. Don't forget that.

Personalizing

October 19th, 2012 about android, linux, and me

One of the biggest reasons I appreciate Linux and Android so much more than their competitors is the absurd level of customization available to me and the relative ease with which I can use it. Almost any feature or idea I can think of has already been implemented by someone else and is readily available for me to download, use, and modify to suit my needs. This is my ideal situation; I love digging into settings and tinkering until things are exactly the way I want. Beyond looking exactly the way I want, making a personalized UX provides me with an incredible boost in productivity. By setting up keyboard shortcuts to quickly perform common tasks such as opening a terminal, tiling my windows, and switching workspaces, I can keep my hands focused on the keyboard without ever having to touch the mouse. Mice are slow, so not having to use it to do tasks makes working go significantly faster.

For most people, however, being presented with dozens of configuration choices can be daunting, overwhelming, and push them away. Not only can customization deter many users, it can make it downright impossible for others to use your custom setup. I've streamlined my computer, phone, and tablet with shortcuts and gestures that are impossible to figure out without already knowing them. For example, ctrl+alt+z launches a run dialog, ctrl+alt+x launches a terminal (which is already fairly arcane for most people), and ctrl+alt+c launches an interactive JavaScript shell. super+x and super+c control volume while super+a/s/d control media playback. I don't even have window borders, titles, or a task bar enabled; I throw the cursor into a corner to switch windows and use my keyboard to move and align my windows. I have gestures on my phone to open the app drawer, launch specific apps, or toggle settings.

For those who are unfamiliar with my unique setups (ie everyone that isn't me), all of these decisions seem inefficient and confusing and make the device almost unusable. But if someone were to actually take the time to learn all of my shortcuts, they might start to realize the reasoning behind it all and why I've chosen to set things up that way. Personalizing your own devices is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your efficiency in day-to-day tasks.