Thursday, November 27, 2008

Day 14: Gmail Set-up

This is my GMail setup. It's quite easy to use, comes in one page, and notifies me of all my calendar events. Chat is on the right. My Todos (there aren't any, really) are handled by a combination of tags and stars.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Day 13: To Do Lists

The subject of time management is a sticky one for me. To be honest, I'm not much of a todo list kind of guy. I've always had a really good memory, and I just remember what I need to get done. My job really isn't complicated enough that I have twenty-five requirements hitting me at once, so I haven't really used time management much other than working a lot. I try to change that every once in a while, though.

Before this experiment, I would try to use Evolution tasks, then later Tasque. I couldn't really get past the point where I had to get in the habit of spending my first few minutes deciding what I needed to do and pruning the list. I always just kind of thought about it on the way to work and prioritized in my down time. "Doing" time management exercises always seemed, frankly, like a waste of time for me. The times I let something slip through are so rare that I can't seem to make myself do it. You can tell by my tone in this paragraph that I'm still not convinced.

I'm trying to change, though. I've tried two new methods of keeping track of my tasks during this OS-less phase: GMail tags and stars, and Remember the Milk.

To use GMail, set up a new contact with the e-mail address of and the name Todo. This will still come directly to you. Then create a Todo tag and a filter for this address, putting the messages directly into the tag and optionally archiving them. Next, add the stars labs in settings, using green, yellow, and red to indicate priority. Enable keyboard shortcuts to make this all really quick. That's it. To make a new task, type Todo in the To: field and choose your contact, then type a subject and description. Send. Bingo.

Remember the Milk integrates with iGoogle and Google Calendar. sign up for an account. If you have Google Gears, RtM will ask for permission to use it. On your iGoogle page, search for the Remember the Milk gadget and add it. Log in and remember your username and password. Go to Remember the Milk, Go to the Google Calendar page. Click the Google Calendar button and add the RtM calendar. Your calendar will now have a little check on each date to check the tasks. Finished.
I'm still not really using them, though. :P

I cheated last night and played with a VM.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day 11: Bored

Well, as you can see by my posting history (or lack thereof), I've settled into my new system. I can't say that I'm happy, though. I keep wanting to do something that I'm not allowed to do, but which would be possible: try out a new game for a few minutes (even though I'm not a gamer), use my music player instead of slogging through Jamendo, watching my porn stash, or trying out new server software in a VM. As a result, I'm bored. I spend too much time on Slashdot and, when I run out of that, on Digg.

I'm pretty productive, though, I've written about 50 pages in the last week. I've done a lot of research on Google Apps to see if I'm missing anything. I've changed around my GMail theme now that it's got that option.

I've tried and thrown away a bunch of gadgets for the iGoogle home page. Half of them don't work. I think they're all privately hosted and the servers are no longer up. I'm not sure whether to use iGoogle or GMail for my home page, honestly. GMail has labs for Calendar and Docs, so when I put chat on the right side, I basically get the same functionality as I do on my iGoogle main tab. I have Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail on another tab, though, along with tabs for tech news and games. Right now, I'm trying to get away with iGoogle since that's what they obvioously intend me to try to do.

I've decided that I don't like major parts of the Google Toolbar. The search mechanism just doesn't feel natural for me. I do like the easy sync of bookmarks and browsing history across my two computers.

I've got twenty days left. I'm sure I'll get all my work done, but I guarantee that I'll be really happy when that last day comes.

Oh, yeah, and

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Day 8: I Miss my VMs

I have some things I'd like to try out in some VMs -- building Etoile in one, for starters -- but I'm not able to. I don't see anyone putting a VM in Firefox anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day 5: Problems with MS Word format

I submitted the first fifteen-page proposal to the Ministry of Education last night and hit a major problem: Google Docs doesn't export to .doc particularly well.

My submission guidelines included a requirement for MS Word format, so I had my hands tied. The document looked great when exported to PDF, and of course HTML looks exactly the same as on the preview page, but the footnotes turn into endnotes in Word, and those aren't even really endnotes, but instead are a numbered list at the end of the document.

I didn't really have a solution to this problem other than exporting and editing the document in OO.o, which I couldn't do due to the experiment I'm running here.

Instead, I fudged the requirements and added the contact as a viewer, instructing him that the PDF was better for printed versions and that he should use HTML export if there was to be an inclusion in a web page. MS Word was still available, I told him, but that the document wasn't nearly as polished.

First major roadblock, I guess.

Also, I need to find some time-wasters. I have online sudoku, frogger, and a gems-style game if I need five minutes' break, but there's just not a lot to do WRT entertainment on my computer if I don't use local applications. I may have to dust off the PS2.

Oh, yeah, and I have a lot of ... "movies" ... on my computer that I can't watch now. The online versions are very slow to load and I generally don't think that far ahead when I'm in the mood. That's a major PITA.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day 4: Dashblog = Screenshots!

This screenshot was taken with Dashblog. It's my solution to taking screenshots without saving them to the local disk first.
DashBlog lets you quickly collect videos, images, text/quotes, songs and screen-captures from any web page and publish them to your blog (word press, blogger/blogspot, tumblr) and/or twitter.
You can crop or add text, arrows, and scribbles before you post.
I'm finding myself pretty bored. I'm going to have to find some Flash games or something online.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Day 3: Picture Editing -- Picnik

The last time I wrote (Day 1), I said that photo editing was going to be a real problem for me. It still is. There's no really good solution to creating new pictures completely online. I still have to take the screenshot, save it to my desktop, upload the pic, and editi it online.

Picnik does, however, work with pictures I already have in Picasa, Flickr, and Facebook, so I can edit the screenshot online with no problem. If I had a web storage solution mounted locally, that would solve my problems, I guess, as long as the storage had a public API.

To use Picnik with your online photos, you'll need to go to the  Library tab and click "Edit photos." You don't need a Picnik account if you're just going to edit photos from your Flickr, MySpace, Picasa, or Facebook account. You will need to authorize Picnik to access that account.

After the Flash loads, choose and double-click on the photo you want to edit. The "Edit" tab has some nice one-touch fixes for photos, but most of what I need is in the "Create" tab. Go the the "Save and Share" tab to save, then choose to replace your old file or create a new one.

Not too bad, really.

I've removed some of my FF extensions because I didn't really need them and because I thought they may have been causing some instability. My current list of FF extensions for the test period is:
  • Adblock Plus
  • AddToPicasa
  • Google Toolbar
  • Greasemonkey with Google Docs Download.
I decided to listen to some music yesterday, and took care of that. I'll need to put together some playlists for myself. I hate streaming audio, though -- the quality is low and it stutters every once in a while. Interestingly, the dive bar I went to last night didn't have jukebox software -- they just used YouTube. That didn't seem to be an optimal solution.

I've tried using the AddToPicasa plugin to put photos directly into my Picasa album for this blog, but they don't show up in the "Uploaded photos" dialog when I try to access them. I'll see if there's a setting I don't have right.

Overall, some tings are still difficult, and I have to try to stop myself from running my music/mive player, but most of my problems seem to be related to adjusting my workflow and not about being able to get work done. The work week starts tomorrow, though, so I'll see how I do on a real, full, week.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Day 1: Getting the Work-Flow Down

I showed up at work today and opened the iGoogle page I had set up the night before. I tried to use iGoogle for my work-flow the way that Google obviously intends for me to. I have my claendar, e-mail, and documents there and use the maximize button on the gadget when I want to do something in detail with them. The mechanics are fine and seem to be a good way to work.

The problem is that the functionality is not the same. The maximized GMail gadget doesn't have many of the features of the real page: the gadget is missing the labels sidebar and contact, and the Inbox, Sent items, and Trach are in a pull-down menu. Chat history isn't in the pull-down menu at all. There is also no link to go to newer or older mails. I realize that the real estate is limited, but these are necessary features. Why spend the space on a "Launch full GMail" link when you could just put in a Labels drop down instead?

Other gadgets have similar limitations. I'm only able to view the five most recent documents at a time, though I can create and search. I think the iGoogle maximized experience should be as similar to the regular page as possible. Otherwise, why bother?

Everything worked fine, and I checked Slashdot and Digg using the RSS feeds on my iGoogle "Technology" tab. This saved me some time in the morning since I didn't have as many stories to look through. Score one point for productivity, eh?

Since I had a couple of minutes before I really needed to get to work, I banged out a quick sudoku puzzle on the easiest setting. I didn't want it to take very long. The interface was fine and let me check my progress as I went along. I'm kind of new to sudoku, so I'm not very efficient at it yet.

Once I started work, I hit another snag.

This is essay week for me. I'm writing a set of essays for the Korean Office of Education on ways to improve Guest English Teacher (GET) adjustment and performance and on problems with the current teaching method and materials. Of course I'm using Google Docs to do it.

The problem is that Koreans love cute. Everything is cute. Google Docs, however, are butt ugly, even to me. As one web developer put it, "HTML headings are big, black, and ugly." I wanted to change the style of the headings, but that required manually editing the CSS of the document. It wasn't a problem for me, but I don't think my buddies want to or are able to do that. I put in a feature request to Google for a heading editor. I think that's the easiest way to get a good-looking and consistent document. I don't like changing font size and color manually over seventy times a document. I'd rather just do it once then hit CTRL-#.

I've also run into the image editing problem already. There's no way to do it in Google. I thought PicasaWeb had some limited editing functions like redeye and cropping, but I must have been thinking about the desktop client (which I don't really use, either). Wow. I've put it off, but Monday will give me no choice but to tackle the problem. I'll look into work-arounds over the weekend. Picnik may be the best answer since it can load and save photos from and to Picasa so I won't have to use my local disk space.. Google definitely needs an app like this, though.

That's about it for today.

The Rules of Engagement

Before I start the game, I have to set the rules, eh? I think they should be simple:
  1. Use no local applications but the browser unless unavoidable and all other avenues have been exhausted; and
  2. Avoid using local storage as much as possible.
  3. Prefer Google over other on-line options.
Rule #1 should be fairly easy to follow, but will probably limit my ability and productivity significantly. Honestly, though, just about everything can be found on-line for free.

Rule #2 is one that I'd like to have worded more sternly, but I don't see it happening. I could use GMailFS to save and load everything from, but that violates Google's TOS so I can't expect others to do it and using GMailFS would make the game unduplicatable, rendering it useless.

Rule #3 is used because this is a Google challenge. I'll choose Picassa over Flickr, even if Flickr seems to have a nicer interface. I'll choose Google Docs of ThinkFree despite ThinkFree's better functionality. I may re-run this game without Rule #3 next year.

I've considered using Google Desktop and Gadgets, but I decided that I need to do everything on-line for the challenge.

So ... what are the applications that I'll be using and how will I set this up?

Obviously, I need a browser, and the best choice for this challenge on Linux is Firefox. I need to add some extensions to make my job easier. The Google Toolbar goes in. It's my first time with it, and I'll probably remove it when I'm done with the game, but I'm all in to Google for this one, so I set up the toolbar to take over FF's search, add as much functionality as I can on the bar, including Wikipedia (via Google) and YouTube searches and Google Notebook, set the bar up to share my settings between my work and home computer, and to record my web history on-line for later searching (boy, my privacy bells are making my hair stand on end with that one). The toolbar also has bookmarks available on it. For other extensions, I've got the AddtoPicasa extension so that I can right-click and save a photo. I've also got the Google Docs Sidebar, though I'm not sure if it'll be much use.

GMail is already my default e-mail so there's no transition here. I've set the Google Toolbar to open mailto: links in Gmail.

I mostly use GTalk in the GMail interface, but also I have Yahoo! and MSN accounts that I use infrequently. Clients are available as gadgets for iGoogle, so I'll start with those. If that doesn't work, there's always Meebo.

Office Productivity
This will not really be that difficult for me since I use Google Presentations a lot already at work. I've set the Google Toolbar to open common documents in Google Docs instead of my normal desktop apps.

Note Taking
I normally use Tomboy to organize my notes before I write anything, but I'll be using Google Notebook for this. The toolbar has a notebook link in it to bring up in the browser.

Photo Editing
I'm really going to try to get away without this so that I can use PicasaWeb, but it's going to hurt. If I can't get around the limited editing of PicasaWeb doesn't work out, there are a few other online photo editors using Flash or ECMAScript.

I normally listen to music from Jamendo, anyway, so I can stream that through FF or I can use LastFM.

I guess it's time to browse YouTube. Ack! My hair is standing on end just thinking of it.

I don't really play games, but there are a bunch available as gadgets for iGoogle.

I've set this as my home page and have put up my work page with my calendar, e-mail, Docs, GTalk, Notebook, and Bookmarks. I have another page with my tech reding (Slashdot, etc.), and another one with games.

There we have it. "The game is afoot! No, wait. It's a hand!"

The OS is Dead -- an Experiment

I'm quitting my OS. Well, not really, but I'm going to try to make it as irrelevant as possible. I'm a Linux user so the OS is pretty irrelevant already. Hehe.

Over the last couple of years, I've been using Google applications more and more. It started with GMail, then moved on to the Calendar and Reader, then some Docs. Eventually, I was doing a lot of work in Google Apps so I decided to take it all for a test run.

Not only am I going to go completely on line for a month, I'm going to do it only using Google, just to make it more difficult. I'll write about how I've set myself up, what my workflow looks like, and probably a few rants and curse words as I try to work around things that should be easy but aren't.

Wish me luck.

p.s. This post was created in Google Docs and posted to Blogger from there.