I follow 4829.3 posts per week from 32 blogs.
No, I don’t read all of them. In fact I read very few of them. My goal is to reduce the number of blogs I follow and increase the quality of the content I consume.
Using Google Reader has made it easy to track what I’ve read, what I like, and what I want to share with colleagues or friends. I can catch up with Tim Ferris’ blog on the bus and when I get back to my desk I know which articles I skipped and which ones I starred for further review. But tracking almost 5000 posts per week is impossible. Especially when I have deadlines.
To get these numbers and make a plan to prune the feed list I recorded some statistics.
I follow 32 blogs in 8 categories (Tech, Seattle, P2P, Social Media, Life, Games and Fun). Of those 32 blogs, Google Reader estimates 4829.3 posts per week. I estimated that I actually read 15 of those blogs on a monthly basis. That’s about 47%. The rest are either ignored or I only scan the headlines and never expand the article.
To narrow things down even further I compared posts per week to total subscribers. The most popular blog was Engadget with 1,116,958 subscribers. The most active blog was Seattle Times with 2330.5 posts per week! I am not that interested in local news to keep up with that kind of coverage. But on further inspection it became clear that I didn’t need to.
The majority of the Seattle Times’ posts are duplicates, typo corrections, or deleted pages. Apparently they don’t have a quality control process before the RSS feed gets updated. Or they assume that most feed readers are too slow to notice a quick update.
My mission has been to prune this list down to only the most essential news and entertainment outlets. My measurement of success will be reading over 80% of the blogs I follow at least once a month.
Updates coming soon! Until then, here’s the raw data:
I want to spend more time in front of a white board than a keyboard. My goal in career path is to be a software architect. The problem with architecture is you must have a proven record of success (or at least incredible failures) to get people to listen to you.
Just like buildings, software needs architecture, design, engineering and development. The developer is the hammer-wielding lumber-packing implementor. The engineer takes the design from the designer and makes it work in a physical environment. Engineers have to know how things work. It helps to have been a developer so you can make estimations of time and resources. Also an engineer who knows what needs to be done can make alterations to the design to decrease cost and improve stability. The designer is all about aesthetics. People have to want to live in this thing (or live with it anyway). If it’s going to sell it needs to be environmentally friendly and cost effective. Designers take an idea and make it beautiful.
Architects are full of themselves. It’s a job requirement. To be a good architect you have to believe that you can dream up something that is better than anyone else’s dream. And when you’re comparing dreams you don’t have anything other than your own ego. You might think that the world doesn’t need architects because designers and engineers could just get together and make pretty things that actually stand up (or start up). You’re wrong. Architects think up things that haven’t been done before. Or a completely new way to do something common. Just like the other positions in the work-to-thought career path the best architect will have started at the bottom and have intimate knowledge of the process. Then the great architect will forget all of that garbage and invent something that no designer, engineer or developer would attempt.
So think big or go home. But don’t work with your hands if you can work with your head.
Don’t just spend money.
Do spend money and get rewards.
There’s a common desire among geeks to see large numbers next to our names. I remember the hours spent shoving quarters into Roadblasters trying to get my initials onto the top score page. A few years later my brother and I worked hard to one-up each other on our NES to record a higher score on Excite Bike. Now a higher level character on a popular MMO is worth more to some people than the actual time invested trying to achieve that level.
I have tried to put this desire to a worth while goal in my life. By signing up for an Alaska Airlines Credit Card and debit card from Bank of America I earn airline miles for every dollar I spend (either by credit or debit). The result is a big fat number next to my name on alaskair.com. The payoff comes in the form of free air fare that I normally would never have saved for.
I’m flying from Seattle to London tomorrow, a week later I’ll fly from London to Munich. The flight cost me around $140 in taxes. I cashed in 65,000 miles that I earned by paying rent, buying gas, food, gadgets, clothes, and yes, even paying for my Anarchy Online account.
Don’t do everything with the mouse.
Do use shortcut keys when appropriate.
The whole point of shortcut keys is to do things more quickly. My experience has been that many shortcut keys are the opposite of shortcuts. Take for example Windows Media Player. I’ve been using Media Player Classic for years now and I love it. One of the best features (other than the fact that it can play any media format known to man given the proper codecs) is the keyboard commands actually make sense. To pause and play video: space bar. Guess what the shortcut is in Windows Media Player: ctrl+p. First of all ctrl and p are on opposite sides of the keyboard. This means you either have to have very large hands or use two of them. I find it considerably easier to just move the mouse to the big play/pause button and click it.
Winamp has an original keyboard shortcut layout: starting from Z and ending with B the functions are rewind, play, pause, stop, forward respectively. So instead of being mnemonics they are a visual representation of the control bar on the player. Once you have realized this it makes controlling the program extremely easy.
Now let’s get down to brass tacks:
Firefox has a ton of shortcut keys. Some make sense, others do not. For example: Some n00b posted on his blog about some of the cool things you can do in Firefox. He provided a list of keyboard commands and included some that I have never heard of. alt+n to “find next” was a new one for me considering I’ve always used ctrl+g for the same purpose. Think about it this way: ctrl+f to bring up the find bar, ctrl+g to move to the next match. Now try ctrl+f and switch to alt+n. Not very comfy is it? By the way, I never use ctrl+f for the find bar because you can just use /.
How about ctrl+l to go to the address bar? Makes sense if you call it the location bar. But it requires two hands. Try alt+d. It does the same thing and it works in IE and Windows Explorer as well.
Now then, I could write a whole series of books on Windows shortcut keys (and other tips and tricks) but I’ll discuss some of my favorites. ctrl+c, ctrl+x, ctrl+v, ctrl+z go without saying. All those other commonly known combos should be in every computer user’s shortcut list but try ctrl+shift+esc. That’s a handy way to get to the task manager. Very handy if explorer has crashed and you have no mouse cursor. alt+f4 is another handy one in a jam but not very practical when the close button is so easily clickable. Try alt+f4 on the desktop. This can come in to play when using a Remote Desktop connection and you want to restart or shutdown the host computer. WindowsKey+L locks the machine. WindowsKey+D minimizes all windows and shows the desktop. WindowsKey+R launches the run dialog. This is a favorite of mine because it can be used with so many other tasks. I need to do a quick math problem: instead of poking through the start menu to find Calculator I do WindowsKey+D type calc and hit enter. I use the same method for regedit, opening any drive in explorer, and anything else I’ve added to my environment variable path.
Don’t use bookmarks or favorites in your browser.
Do index and tag your bookmarks using some online service like del.icio.us.
I used to be a fan of FavoriteSync which would periodically upload all of your Internet Explorer favorites to an FTP site of your choice. There was also a Firefox plugin that would periodically sync your IE favorites and FF bookmarks. The problem with this is that you still have to add and remove bookmarks on a computer which has FavoriteSync installed and connected to your own FTP server.
Now I use del.icio.us along with the del.icio.us plugin for Firefox and the extension for Internet Explorer. The beauty of the system is that I can tag sites using keywords that I will search for later when I’ve forgotten the name of the site. I can also share the bookmarks with people who I think might be interested in them and search the tags of all 2 million users.
You may also notice that you can see a live list of my most recently tagged links on the right side of my blog. This is just an RSS feed of my last 10 links.
Don’t read headlines or news feeds on your favorite websites.
Do use RSS.
Save a lot of time by collecting the RSS feeds of your favorite sites then use a feed reader to keep up with the latest things. There’s a cool site called Bloglines where you can keep track of all your favorite feeds. It will even log which ones you’ve read and which ones you want to save for later. You can also add RSS feeds to your iGoogle homepage. I have my iGoogle site set as my browser homepage so every time I open my browser I can get a news update.
Don’t decide between Windows and Linux.
Do dual boot.
There’s no reason to choose one operating system. If you have some reason to be using Linux (e.g. just for fun, for some software development projects, etc) install your Linux distribution of choice, partition your drive and install Windows too.
Tips: Install Windows first then use Grub (which will come with any new Linux distro) to manage your boots. Use PartitionMagic to split your system drive into at least an 8GB primary partition for Windows and at least the same size for Linux. You’re going to end up installing programs and that will eat up space pretty quickly. Don’t ever partition your drives to the minimum required for the operating system. Since I install very large programs like Photoshop and Visual Studio I always leave myself 15GB or more for Windows and 10GB or more for Linux.
Don’t go out and buy the latest largest hard drive to store your piles of data.
Do get the most value out of your existing drives by adding them to a RAID array.
You can join an array of drives of any sizes to create a huge volume. You can even install Windows on a RAID volume if you have proper motherboard drivers. I recommend using one hard drive for your operating system and adding an array for data storage.
Things to look out for: a striped array will net you the most space (every drive’s full capacity is used) but if one of the drives fails you lose the whole volume. If you go with RAID5 you get parity and redundancy. If one drive fails you can swap in another one of the same size and recover all of your data. The downside to RAID5 is that one entire drive will be used for parity.
Check out these RAID controllers if your motherboard doesn’t natively support RAID5.
Also, you can trick Windows XP into supporting RAID5 the way Windows Server does: http://www.tomshardware.com/2004/11/19/using_windowsxp_to_make_raid_5_happen/
Don’t buy the top of the line video card.
Do buy two older GPUs and SLI them. If you’ve got an ATI chipset you’ll need to shop for CrossFire compatible video cards.
Let me crunch some numbers for you:
You can buy a GeForce 8800GTX with 575MHz core clock and 1800MHz memory speed for around $750.
You can buy 2 GeForce 8600GT with 620MHz core and 1600MHz memory clock for a total of around $300. Yes they have less memory but turns out on-video memory isn’t as much a performance gain as processing speed and pipelines. The video cards can only process so much data at one time so having a huge memory buffer waiting to be processed is just a waste of space.
The memory interface of the 8800GTX is wider than the 8600GT but you pay a premium for the latest technology whether there is a clear advantage or not.
Don’t buy a crappy eMachine or a Dell.
Do build your own computer. Or at least choose a prebuilt model that has flexible and upgradeable components. Newegg.com has a small selection of barebones machines but they look kind of lame. Just buy a good case, a decent motherboard, and a power supply with at least 30 amps on the +12V rail. The 12V amps are more important than peak wattage.