Archive for March, 2007

How To Get Rid Of Those Nasty Odours

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I’ve noticed of late that I’ve been posting relatively few student-y posts, and since I always meant this to be a student-y weblog, I thought this little post at frugal for life (found via Lifehacker) might be relevant.

Now, I guess you could argue that stinky student flats are par for the course, or at least part of the stereotype, but it’s understandable when you consider that most of us are living out of the home for the first time so we’re not familiar with all of these little lifehack-y tips. So this is definitely worth a look, and might make people want to, I don’t know, stay in your house for a little longer.

Want to open lots of images in Preview? Here’s a faster way…

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

So at the moment it’s a bit of a hassle to open large numbers of images in preview. Lifehacker have posted a handy little app called Xee which takes a lot of the kerfuffle of browsing through folders out, but I thought it might be worth noting that Preview can actually open whole folders at a time, though it can be a tad reticent.


Normally if you drag a folder onto Preview’s dock icon, it shakes it’s head at you and refuses to highlight. In order to open the folder, you have to force it by pressing Alt-Apple. Then you’ll see the magical highlights.


One thing that can speed this up is my earlier comments on Quicksilver as a kind of pusedo-dock, quick interface for droplets. Observe:


Yes, I’ve started using Fumo. I must say I rather like it – expect to see a review soooooon…

Tomfoolery: five signs that you’re using quicksilver too much

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007
  1. You’ve started referring to apps by their abbreviations instead of their actual names
  2. You’re seriously considering installing an applescript-controlled x10 system in your home just so Quicksilver can actually make you coffee in the morning
  3. You’ve changed the keystroke to Cmd-Space instead of Ctrl-Space just so it’s that little bit closer.
  4. Your hands twitch in the junkie Ctrl-Space gesture whenever you’re looking for something in a shop, library, or similar public place.
  5. You’ve actually written long, exhaustive articles on the pros and cons of different quicksilver interfaces

Of course, this whole post is entirely facetious as it’s impossible to use Quicksilver too much.

Developing Strengths and Learning Who You Are

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

LifeDev posted this back in February but I forgot to blog about it because I Am But Human and the link kinda got lost in my Google Reader Starred category (seriously, it’s a cool feature, but a number-of-starred-items indicator would be nice).

Anyway, I mostly agree with the opinions put across in the article, and the 70/20/10 model is a useful one. This is an issue I’ve had problems with personally over the years – I’m a little obsessed with becoming a triple threat (I’m aiming at writing and programming at the moment, but haven’t decided on a third talent yet), so perhaps instead of ‘looking for new ways to maximize your abilities’ I’d go for ‘developing ancillary talents’.

Perhaps this is part and parcel of being a student – at its core, being a student isn’t about getting a piece of paper that says you know about something, but rather it’s about learning who you are and what you are.

So don’t specialize too quickly, else you’ll end up doing something you think you want to do, rather than something you actually want to do.

4 stages of productivity

Monday, March 19th, 2007

OrganizeIT have posted a nice little meta-review of Your Best Year Yet by Jinny Ditzler, looking at concepts expounded in the book and expanding them into general GTD practice.

It’s interesting stuff – although it seems obvious on the surface it’s worthwhile to note that ‘Do’ and ‘Complete’ are different stages, as are ‘Complete and ‘Reward’. Personally I often tend to gloss over that last step, although I’m working on it – it all comes back to taking care of yourself.

[OrganizeIt via]

How to get free books, totally legally, honest guv

Friday, March 16th, 2007

One of my favourite things to do is read. One of the cheapest ways to get books, however,isn’t Amazon or whatever – if you really want the classics on the cheap, you need look no further than Project gutenberg.

Gutenberg is named after the inventor of the printing press, and stands to be equally revolutionary. The objective is to place every public domain work online, in plain text, for free. There’s no DRM or anything on these works and you don’t have to pay a penny (nor should you have to for public domain works – technically you already own them, after all.

Reading can be a touch tricky, of course – reading on a monitor isn’t astonishingly comfortable for long periods, although I’ve used eReader extensively. I tend to use my Palm Zire for reading ebooks – it’s a little more expensive, but the money I’ve saved using a combination of it and Gutenberg more than makes up for it. And with other readers potentially on the way, things are looking up for this nice way of getting ahold of cheap entertainment.

How to train yourself like you train your dog

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Now, this is going to seem like I’m going off-topic here, but bear with me for a second.

I want to talk to you about dogs.

## Dog Training ##

I read a lot about habits, particularly from Steve Pavlina. The act of working out what habit you want and embedding it deep in your psyche and muscle memory is really cool, and it’s a technique that has applications from martial arts to human-computer interaction (I will regularly teach myself a new UI trick by doing it over and over and over again to really embed it in my psyche – things like adding a new snippet to textexpander through the services menu).

This has similarities with how you go about training a dog, or at least from my understanding of it, never having owned one myself: you get a dog to do something over and over again and it’ll embed itself into the animal’s psyche just as effectively, and it’ll soon be house-trained or learn to beg or able to sing along to Mr Lonely.

What’s my point here? When a dog does a good thing you treat it, give it something to eat, stroke it, make it feel good and really get that positive reinforcement going. That’s what we all need to do when enforcing these things: not just being hard on ourselves and working through discipline, but really getitng those positive associations to work well.

Academic Productivity

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

A nice new academic-centric productivity blog that’s worth a look: Academic Productivity. In particular, I enjoyed this interview with Dave Navarro, in which he talks about how he writes academic papers – a ‘bottom up’ approach, choosing figures and chunks of text and then slowly building up into the big picture. Which is interesting, because that’s the precise opposite of how I write essays. Hmmm…

[Via This Writing Life and PsychSplash]

Tomfoolery: copying text out of password protected PDFs

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I’ve lately found myself having to copy text out of a range of password-protected PDFs for Entirely Legal Reasons. Under Windows there’s a nice set of tools for engaging in such tomfoolery: see this lifehacker article for more info – but I’ve found a stupidly simple way to do this under Mac OS X, provided you’re allowed printing privileges.

Open the PDF up in preview, bring up the print dialog, and on the handy-dandy ‘PDF’ button-menu-thing (doesn’t that thing break, like, a gazillion bits of the human-computer interface guidelines?), choose to Fax the PDF. When the fax dialog opens select ‘preview’, and after a brief pause it’ll bring up a new PDF, out of which you can copy the text without having to worry about passwords.

Ain’t that wunnerful? Obviously this depends on the PDF allowing you to print, but it does the trick for me.

Thanks to Dimension in the comments who pointed out that Colorsync can do the same thing – just open the file in there and save it out as a PDF and it’ll no longer be password protected.

Taking Notes

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Taking useful notes is really, really important across all fields – not just in an academic context. I use the cornell index card system for note taking, writing my notes on index cards and later ‘tagging’ the notes in the left-hand column.

## The Proper Cornell System ##

Wikipedia details the Cornell system in great detail here – there are a bunch of places online where you can print out paper, and if you’re working in a field where you need to take detailed notes on the same subject, you may well find it handy in it’s virgin state.

## My Cornell System ##

Personally, though, I find smaller chunks of text easier to handle, which is why I use a modified cornell system on index cards – with a space for tags on the left and a space for followup tasks at the bottom. Generally I can get one or two subjects on each card, which works well for me.

I’ve made a little pdf template with the rather awesome D*I*Y Planner widget kit and draw. Give it a try if you’re into the whole index card thang – otherwise, this is a good PDF generator to roll-your-own notepaper.