Friday, January 26, 2007

Battlestar Galactica II

Okay, now I've seen the whole first season now, and still like it a lot.

They use music in a very efficient way, just like Veronica Mars and Whedon's shows, which is important. In contrast with for example Star Trek: The Next Generation, which has very bad and anonymous background music (but it's still a pretty good show).

The dialog isn't always entirely satisfactory, especially when the show is running one of its spiritual plot-lines (god is actually a pretty central theme in the show). It's not terrible like the spirituality in the matrix, but it isn't Joss Whedon either. It's just kind of squarish at times, like "I am a scientist, and god cannot be observed or measured, so it's just fairy tales!"

The plot-lines are good. They have the right pace -- the right amount of time passes before each new big step... and it has some interesting (and daring) turns. I'm not too fond of the political plot-lines, but they're not too bad either. I just hope the 'terrorist' really is just a terrorist, so they don't try to make him "complex" by adding some true honesty, good-will and 'one man's terrorist is another man's freedom-fighter'-stuff to him. That would be cliche-like in a terrible way, and I'm sure they would handle it badly.

It's still deliciously dark.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Battlestar Galactica

Recently saw the mini-series and first three episodes of Battlestar Galactica. Not bad. It's dark and brutal and is based on an interesting idea -- which is basically... hm, terminator meets blade runner meets star trek... meets BtvS. There is the war against machines (terminator) and the human-like machines (androids, replicators, cylons, whatever) themselves than may not know they are machines (that's Blade Runner) and it takes place in space with space ships and life on board those (that's Star Trek). Lastly, like in BtvS they take things beyond certain established borders, like having the good guys abandon or killing innocent people, or having lots and lots of people put in jeopardy without any "last minute"-saving (i.e. they die like flies) that is so common and boring in TV shows like Star Trek (although ST has other values).

Well, that's my view so far.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Software -- CoffeeCup Free

I got a new html-editor, the freeware CoffeCup. Like it better than my last one.

It's not a WYSIWYG, which I don't want or require. But it's possible to preview the code in one easy click (probably available in most html-editors, not like back in the days when tools like notepad were commonly used... anyone using notepad these days for coding of any sort has got to be mad in some way.)

It has an inbuilt ftp-uploader -- which is really important for me, since I need to test out php-code all the time (and I don't have an php-interpreter locally, and CoffeeCup won't even let me interpret html-code in the preview-mode if the file contains php-code, so even if I just change the html-code I need to upload it in order to see the change...)

And of course it has code-highlighting (also a must), and using all these things is intuitive and simple (uploading a file -- or even all files -- is done very quickly.)

One annoying thing is how it handles tabs, which makes is somewhat difficult to work with at times, especially when writing php-code. However, there might be some option to change that. Couldn't find any, but perhaps I need to look more closely.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reinstallation of Windows

Yesterday (or the day before that actually) I got into trouble big time after my computer stopped working properly. I accidentally deleted a few system files and suddenly it went all terminator on me. Not with the killing and destroying, but it wouldn't do what I said and it behaved weird. So I had to erased it and re-install it. Man that sucks. Some info got lost, and it meant lots and lots of work reinstalling everything (which includes searchin' the net for drivers of all sorts... which itself means trying to de-code some pretty cryptic hardware names/codes to get the right drivers. Still isn't done. Not to mention all my nice progs from giveawayoftheday which is now lost and can't be re-installed.

Life sucks and all that.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

open loops

An open loop is, as mentioned some months ago, an unfulfilled purpose, something yet undone. And these tends to bother you -- they will remind you of that which isn't done, they will create stress and restlessness and things like that. The way to make them go silent is to GTD them, which involves three things:

1. Determine what the successful outcome is.
2. Determine the next physical action.
3. Write it down in a trusted system.

Examples of open loops: You've decided to do something, or you've been given some assignment by someone else, or something has just landed in your life and you need to do something about it (an email, a suggestion by someone waiting for a answer) or you have an idea you think is valuable but don't know exactly what to do with. Psychologically it is experienced as something on your mind that won't go away even though you don't want to think about it.

A certain type of open loop is when you get into trouble of some sort. It is particularly open loopy and disturbing to your mental peace if it's a serious problem involving things you fear and things you don't know how to handle. To make that leave your mind requires... well, drugs or loud music or something like that. Or that you come up with a way of solving the problem.

Well, I have encountered one of those big problems now, and it won't let my mind rest. But it helps to some extent to know that I don't actually need to solve the problem completely for my mind to rest. What I need to do is to determine what the successful outcome is, the next physical action and get it into my system.


Friday, January 12, 2007

GTD is anti-evasion

The ultimate sin in Objectivism is evasion, the nameless act of pushing things out of your mind. Things that some part of you know you should be thinking about. Anything you can do to guard yourself against evasion is a good thing, and GTD seems to be really beneficial in that regard. With GTD you get all your concerns out in written form, and things that are externalized that way can't easily (or at all) be evaded. You have a system of reminders, so you can't conveniently "forget" to do or think about some things. Maybe you can prevent the thought from forming properly before it even gets to the stage of being written down, but even that is made somewhat difficult because GTD has those regular "mind-sweeps" specifically executed to bring to awareness things that are floating about in your mind that isn't yet externalized.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Quake 4

I bought Quake 4 recently at discounted price. I had fun playing Quake 2 some years ago, but I don't particularly like Quake 4. For one thing, it is very "noisy". Lot's of things going on all the time, many warriors running around shooting at the same time, both (computerized) friends and enemies. I want my FPS's clean and dynamic. Clean as in "not too many things going on at once" and as opposed to blurred. Fewer (but perhaps better) opponents (and friends) make for a better game. Also, fights should have an element of sneaking and waiting too, not just running around shooting like crazy. That's the dynamic part. Best FPS is still Unreal 2004. That's a great game.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Social control

Part of the secret behind being successful socially is being able to tell how people will react to different things. Not having a decent grasp of that is like wandering around in the dark. In fact, that comes before that "controlling the flow of information" that I've been written about.

As a small example: In many of my conversations on the net many years ago I unintentionally got into fights. At that point I really was clueless as to which statements were provocative and which were not (I didn't even really know that statements could be evaluated after how provocative they are). And getting experience and experimenting is the only way to learn. That particular lesson I did learn; I rarely get into fights these days and I have a good grasp of what is provocative and what isn't.

To have a good grasp is to understand causality in that setting, and at that point it's possible to start to control the flow of information.

A good analogy would be the history of science. Before the era of science people had very little grasp of the universe. They didn't understand what was going on, and to travel to the other side of the world would be out of the question because they didn't know there were such as thing as another side. To them that would be marching towards the edge of the world. And of course no technology was possible. Scientific understanding of the world is necessary in order for technology to be constructed. So they lived in a world they didn't understand and couldn't control. Success whether in social contexts or whatever requires knowledge of many kinds.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Political Correctness

I recently encountered someone who thought he was an independent thinker for criticizing Microsoft. He complained about all politically correct people who have been fooled into thinking that Microsoft creates good software.

Well, that's just amazing. If there is anything that is politically correct to criticize, it's Microsoft. That, Bush and Fox News are probably the most politically correct things to criticize of all things in the entire universe, especially where this guy lives. Basically, if you're a complete non-thinker who only adopt others views, you'll be anti those things.

Of course, nothing is neither good nor bad because it is politically correct or incorrect, but the point is that I find it completely amazing that anyone can think that being anti-Microsoft is brave, independent and politically incorrect. Jebus.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Software - RoboTask

RoboTask is one of the free programs on giveawayoftheday. Usually costs 99$, and it's a neat program. You write scripts to automatize certain tasks. It based on actions and triggers. It can perform a number of different actions (or series of actions) and these actions can be activated by any of a number of triggers. The scripting language of course has if-statements and loops.

The only really useful thing I'm using it for this far is uploading files to my web server. I've created a folder on my local computer and when I push a button anything in that folder uploads to the server. The pushing of the button is all i need to do to upload (aside from putting the files in that folder) and the process is over in a few seconds. As against starting up the 'ol FTP-program och doing it manually, or log on to the server and do it that way. Neat, although I'm sure many homepage editors have that function as well.

You could also easily create a backup-program with RoboTask (as well as many other types of programs that manipulate files and folders). Upon a certain trigger (hot keys, a certain time every week, clicking a ikon etc) it could backup any number of pre-set folders and/or files to any folder (even a remotely located folder). I already have a backup program so I don't need it for that, but it's still neat. It's like it has an inbuilt backup-capacity.

It has some functions to access he clipboard, so you could build a clipboard-enhancer if you like. It could be set to automatically copy anything in the clipboard to a file, or only copy it when you push Ctrl+q (or whatever), or any other of many possibilities.

You can write scripts to access the registry (add, delete, change, search), run program, download (and parse) or send mail, and some other stuff. It can ping, so if you have a network you can write a script to make it ping all servers and notify you if a server is down (and have a time-based trigger, let it auto-ping every 30 minutes or so).

None of the above will impress anyone that has been working in commando-mode in UNIX and been writing scripts, but it's kind of hard to get that functionality in Windows. Also, it's easier and more fun to work with RoboTask than Bash. In fact, the interface is really nice and intuitive which is a big plus.

I wouldn't buy it, but it's worth the price when it's free. And that FTP-thing is going to make life much simpler for me.


Software - Maple Professional

Another small revolution. Maple is a notes organizer. Not to be confused with the note holding ability of NotesHolder. NotesHolder is just a place to collect notes, but it's only temporarily until you get around to put them into your real system, which for me primarily is Maple.

Maple is basically a bunch of notes organized in a tree structure. In these notes I write down much of what is relevant in my life. Much of this stuff is things that are a part of GTD - a list of all my projects and next actions and areas of responsibility and someday/maybe lists and so on. That alone is a lot and it's great being able to put everything in the same place, and it would had been nightmare to try to write it all down without having the tree structure and the possibility to quickly switch between documents (using only, say, ordinary text-documents in a folder... that would have been completely non-working and chaotic). The tree structure makes it possible to group things that belong together. For example, I have various someday/maybe lists (lists of things that I will or might do someday). One is a list of things I might write someday (emails, blog posts, reviews, etc), another is a list of things to possibly buy, and list of things to read, and so on. All of these lists are placed as sub-nodes to the node "someday/maybe".

I tried other note organizers, but Maple Prof. is the most intuitive and neatest. Highly recommended.

I'm not GTDing as well as I would like to (mainly because of bad health and all that), but without Maple I wouldn't be GTDing at all.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Software - NotesHolder Vs DayMate

A while after I found and bought DayMate, a program called NotesHolder came to the give-away site. Turns out it has a functionality similar to DayMate, with some differences.

How do they compare to each other?

One similarity is the possibility of programming an unlimited amount of reminders. NotesHolder has the following advantage: when setting reminders to remind you regularly it's possible to set pretty much any interval from minutes to years. You can get a reminder every 11th minute, or every 9th year, and anything in between. With DayMate the smallest unit is actually a day, so you can't set it to every 11th minute or fourth hour unless you type in the events one by one. (Actually, you can cheat a little and "snoozing" non-recurring events to get that functionality, but that has its own drawbacks which I won't go into now. Also, there is a possibly to get voice-reminders at certain pre-set intervals like every 30 minutes or once per hour, but I don't like voice-reminders nor not being able to choose exact interval myself, and lastly this option can't be set in advance to start at a certain time.)

DayMate looks nicer, and it is arranged around a calendar so if you want a reminder a certain day you can click that day directly and write the message. So it's actually a little faster to write a note than with NotesHolder (where you have to write in date manually.) And you can easily in DayMate check what day and week number a certain date a certain month is, which is useful sometimes (and regularly getting a graphical view of how many days it is between now and a certain date has some advantages as well). DayMate also has some graphical stuff like being able to attach different colors to different events (like green for personal events and blue for business events etc). I haven't used that very much, but maybe it could be useful.

NotesHolder is basically just a series of lists (you create the lists yourself, how many and what theme each should have, and of course the content in each). Which isn't all that bad. You get a quicker overview of what notes you've added within a certain theme (DayMate is day/week-based, not theme-based, so it's quicker if you want to see what happens a certain day or week. But I rarely look ahead like this in DayMate anyway, I just wait for the reminder to occur)

Here's a biggie: NotesHolder can also function as a holder of notes, which DayMate can't really. DayMate is a pure planner with automatic reminders, whereas NotesHolder can function both as a planner (though not as well as DayMate in all respects) and as a holder of notes. If you get an idea you quickly want to write down before you continue with whatever you did before, you can open of NotesHolder and place it in a certain category you call 'ideas' or 'inbox' or whatever. And then at some future point you go through these notes and do whatever needs to be done about them (like putting them into its final destination in my GTD-system).

Anyway, if I had to choose one of them I think it would be NotesHolder actually (which btw also is cheaper, 15$ I think). But as it is I use both. I use NotesHolder as note collector and for reminders of regular events, and DayMate for events that is to occur once and checking time-related stuff like days, dates, weeks.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Software - DayMate

This little program has meant a small revolution for me. I got it a couple of months ago and been using it every day since. Basically, it's a planner. A place where you write down stuff you want to be reminded of sometime in the future. But since it is a digital planner you don't have to remember to look in it (like you would have to with an analog one), when it's time for something it pops up a little window saying so. If the computer is turned off, it shows the message the next time you turn it on.

What do I use it for? Pretty much everything. The standard stuff of course, like appointments at the dentist. But also things that are coming up soon, like a phone call I have to make in 2 hours. You can set to remind you regularly, like once every week at a certain time (like the start of a TV show), or once every day or year. When I want to learn something or change a habit, I set it to remind me of it once every day.

It offers other possibilities too, like sending a pre-written mail at a certain time.

It is definitely in the category of things you don't understand how you once did without.


Software for free

I have begun downloading and trying out (and buying) lots of new software, something I rarely did until recently. Some of that software has made a big difference in my life, which I wouldn't had guessed before. I will write more on these little programs later, but let me begin with mentioning a great site:

They give away a new free piece of software every day. Not freeware but shareware. It's not illegal; they have an agreement with the vendor. Some of the conditions are different from buying the program though. It is a full program (not a 30-days trial or with limited functionality), but you don't get any support and you must install it the same day (this is checked) and lastly you don't get any updates. But other than that, it's free as in free beer.

It is usually software in the range of 15-40$, but there have been a couple of more expensive ones too (like 100-150$).

Even when I'm not downloading I've found that visiting the site is a learning experience. I get a more clear idea of what software can do.
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