Archive for September, 2007

The Blind Side

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I just finished reading the best book I've read all year, The Blind Side. It's by Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball) and you should watch his talk at Google a few weeks ago (where I got a copy of the book. The entire story of how the book happened is interesting on its own and the story is just incredible.

In Your Computers, Tracking Your Thoughts

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

The most valuable thing I got out of Google this summer was getting in the habit of writing down what I'm doing on a regular basis. At the end of each day (or each week), writing down what you've done and what you're going to do next makes taking the next step that much easier. About a year ago I tried keeping monthly snippets after reading some motivational piece in Science, but a month is just long enough to get you out of the groove and to lose track of things. Writing more frequently takes the emphasis away from big, grand thoughts and turns it more into a source of reference material.

With that in mind, I decided to setup a system for myself tonight. The first choice was desktop, web, or paper. I chose web because it's searchable, is easy to backup and is available from anywhere. First I checked out Backpack, but decided that paying for something when you can do just as good for free was silly.

With it narrowed down to free, open-source CMS systems I decided to go with a blogging setup because a daily post, single user format works better that way than with a wiki. The two main contenders then were WordPress and MovableType. I've used WordPress in the past so I installed it and tried it out for a few minutes until I read about a sweet iPhone interface for MovableType. The upshot of WordPress is that Dreamhost has a one-click install for it, but the slick iPhone setup could not be contained. Installing MovableType took just a few minutes, and a little .htaccess magic made it nicely hidden away. We'll see how it goes.


Sunday, September 16th, 2007

While searching for a place to record all of my todos (a la Getting Things Done) I have been through various online and offline systems.

First Joey setup Tracks for me. This followed GTD pretty well, but the UI wasn't really appealing. You also couldn't add repeating events and it took a lot of clicks to manage your todos. You have to install the app yourself and that means maintenance and no new features without work.

Next came Gubb. It had a lot of pretty colors and instant UI appeal but it lacked features. And after awhile the UI that looked flashy at first got pretty clunky. Very slow feature iteration.

Along comes Todoist into the market and finally something sticks. It has extremely quick development, can be used almost entirely by keyboard, looks clean with a very nice UI. Has subprojects, repeating events, very nice search functionality, mobile UI, an api, igoogle gadget and much more. If you want something to help manage all of your tasks this is definitely the one I recommend.

To the Alps!

Sunday, September 9th, 2007

It's official, my wife and I are moving to Switzerland! Well, not quite, but at least for a few months. I received an NSF grant to study abroad and will be working on some very cool stuff at the Multi-Scale Robotics Lab under Brad Nelson starting in January. Maybe we'll even visit the real Matterhorn. Not bad for a first trip to Europe.

aNobii is Safe For Awhile

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

I use aNobii to keep track of the books that I own or have read from the library. You can see the recent ones over on the sidebar. Besides having a nice interface, you can add lots of metadata to each book to keep track of whether or not you finished it, if you got it from the library or the bookstore that you bought it from. It will show you how many pages you've read each year.

Google just added a My Library feature to their awesome books project. It's nice because it's extremely snappy and, well, it's made by Google. But you can't do lots of basic things that aNobii and other online libraries like Shelfari and LibraryThing have. But once they get there, their integration within finding books at the library and viewing snippets online will be awesome.

Search Isn’t Solved (Yet)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

If you've ever bought electronic components online you probably have less hair than most people. I think that has one of the worst websites ever. I just stumbled across Octopart (funded by YCombinator) that solves this problem. This search is a thing of beauty. Hooray!