Be lazy, be awesome

Learned that awesome people are generally lazy. Not quite sure where I got that from, but thought of giving it a try. It won’t hurt to try something like that, right?

no no no

Being lazy has its share of problems though. You can’t regularly update the blog if you’re lazy. I would open up wordpress.com every once in a while and start typing in a new post, only to remember that if I do that, the whole point of being lazy is lost. Damn.

Anyway I started this new blog kinda thing called Accidents Happen (don’t ask). Do subscribe to its feed. I’m hoping to choose two lucky subscribers randomly and give them Rs 500 gift vouchers from Vijitha Yapa Bookshop. Well, not really, but you should really subscribe just in case I did. The goal is to publish at least one small post a day there, but then again, being lazy won’t let you do that. Fuck.

During the few days I’ve been trying to act lazy, it dawned upon me that laziness is a productivity killer. But if that’s the price you have to pay for being awesome, you can’t complain, can you?

In other news, I gave up the idea of buying a rubber duck, coz my Ravage transformer seems be able to serve the purpose just fine.

Transformer USB pen

Getting ready for some hardcore debugging

PayPal for Sri Lanka

PayPal doesn’t fully support transactions for Sri Lankans. Yes, we can pay for stuff with Paypal, but we can’t receive money from others. This has always been a major problem for the country’s freelancers. Most clients prefer making payments via Paypal. There are several other options like Moneybookers, but none of them are as popular as Paypal nor are supported by most sites.

Indi wrote about this some time back. According to his post, the culprit is the Central Bank of Sri Lanka. You can send out as much as money you want but you can’t receive any. No inflows; only outflows. This is ridiculous.

Now there is an online petition in change.org demanding the restrictions for receiving money through Paypal be lifted. Initiated by Budhajeewa, the petition has received over 950 signatures as of this writing. The target is 1000, and will be increased most probably once this target is met. There is a Facebook group and a small site as well.

Please do sign the petition if you haven’t already and share the link with friends.

n7player is on sale!

The home screen

Zoom with multi-touch to view albums

n7player is perhaps the most visually appealing music player for android. I’ve been using it since it was in the beta stages and have never looked back. Of course, I’ve used doubleTwist Player (which I still use as a backup), PowerAmp and Mixzing; but none could compete with the beauty of n7player.

Another feature I love about n7player is that it lets you choose what your music directories are. Most other players get crowded with mp3 files that are not in your music collection. Besides this and the stunning appearance, it’s got a graphic equalizer, bass boost, an album art downloader, sleep timer and several other features.

Recently added landscape view

Not that it’s perfect in every aspect. The lack of control the user has over the playlist will get apparent if you use it regularly. This is the biggest grievance you’d hear from a n7player user. Hope the devs would add better playlist management features soon and, mind you, this has never been a reason to ditch the player over others.

The free version of the app is only a 14 day trial. The full version unlocker usually costs $2.89, but it’s on a sale for $0.99 for a limited time. Believe me, you won’t repent even if you bought it for the full price.

LXDE on Ubuntu

The laptop won’t let me dual boot. That’s coz the lappy isn’t actually mine, it’s the office laptop. So I was running Ubuntu in Virtualbox all this time. Ubuntu 9.10  (I know!). But then I switched to 12.04 – Precise Pangolin. Unity is pretty cool now compared to what it was back then in 11.04. However it’s a no-no for running in a VBox. Switched to gnome classic sans effects which improved the performance drastically.

I had used LXDE for a few months about an year back in my netbook. So I thought, why not give it a go again? Without removing the existing gnome packages, I typed,

sudo apt-get install lxde-core

into the terminal. It gave me the LXDE desktop, but that’s as far as it went. Just the desktop. No Leafpad, no PCMan, no LXTerminal, nothing. Hey, that isn’t LXDE! What’s LXDE without Leafpad or PCMan? So I went ahead and typed,

sudo apt-get install lxde

and, voila, here I have what I wanted. (Lesson: don’t install lxde-core, just use lxde and it gives you everything)

LXDE desktop on Ubuntu

From left to right, Leafpad, PCMan file browser and LXTerminal (click to enlarge)

Okay, the interface isn’t as polished as that of gnome, that’s a given. It’s only supposed to be lighter and faster. But unfortunately it felt like the system isn’t much comfortable having LXDE around. It felt like the kernel’s carrying a bulk. Not as smooth as the classic gnome experience. I know this isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen, so I’d try this for two or three days and switch back to gnome. Good thing I didn’t remove the gnome packages before installing.

Oh wait, perhaps it’s a good time to try out XFCE!

Evernote for GTD?

Life is boring. It’s the little things in life that helps you keep the interest. To keep the embers burning. To make the mundane stuff exciting. To keep it real. To keep you diverted from… oh well, I love being redundant. And what a thoughtful way to start a blog post. 😛

Now to the real stuff.

Among the other bazillion things it can be used for, people have been using Evernote as a GTD tool. (For those who are unfamiliar with GTD, it’s the younger brother of to-do lists, who is dead, by the way. Faq here.) Had read a lot about this in blogs and forums, but never bothered to make the first move until three months back. Before this, I’d been using a GTD-optimized version of TiddlyWiki for a few months and doit.im for about two weeks.

The first attempt was a disaster; in fact, the project was given up three or four days later. The main reason being that I just wanted to implement a GTD system but didn’t have a solid idea how to carry on with it. But about six weeks ago I started the whole thing afresh and have been using it with good results ever since.

There are quite a few tutorials, rants and forum posts in the interwebs on how people set up GTD in Evernote successfully. So I wouldn’t go as far as to document my whole procedure here. If you’d like some inspiration, I’d recommend Ruud’s Evernote GTD How To and this shared notebook by bluecockatoo. Just search for ‘evernote gtd’ and you’d find dozens of other links.

One thing to keep in mind is that you’d have to make maximum use Tags and Saved Searches in Evernote for this. Just one notebook is enough for the whole system; it’s the powerful world of tags and saved searches that make the foundation of the whole scene. Ruud’s post mentioned above describes these things in great detail.

For reminders (ticklers, in GTD slang), I’m using FollowUpThen. Here’s a video on GTD + Evernote + FollowUpThen.

Wanted to write some more but I’m being summoned for dinner. So… another time! :)

Backup all your stupid tweets with ifttt

Update : Twitter’s bullshit policy changes has made IFTTT to remove all its Twitter triggers. So the following works no more. :(

IFTTT‘s one of the most powerful tools in the interwebs and it keeps getting better by the day. (Take a look here if you’ve no idea what ifttt is). A few days back the site got a complete overhaul in the interface.

Two new channels to automate WeMo devices have been added. It’s a set of magic tools that lets you control home electronic devices. This opens a world of ridiculously awesome possibilities. We can only hope these stuff will be available soon in this part of the world. Kudos to drac for pointing out. 😛

Yes, this is really possible.

Some really cool ingredients have been added as well. For example, now you can _append_ stuff to a note in Evernote or a text file in Dropbox. I was considering backing up all my tweets in Evernote earlier but what kept me away was the fact that ifttt would create 1000 notes for 1000 tweets. But not anymore.

Here’s a recipe to backup all the stupid stuff you tweet. It will create a note titled ‘Tweet Log’ and append all your tweets to that note. This includes all your replies and retweets, but you can opt them out. Feel free to re-use it or create your own.

The resulting note will look like the following:

Notes:

  • This will log only the tweets you post after activating this recipe.
  • If you’re tweet in high frequency and the note gets bulky after some time, just edit the recipe and give a new name, like ‘Tweet log #2′.

If you don’t use Evernote, you can do the same with a text file in Dropbox. Use the same trigger and choose ‘Append to a text file’ action under Dropbox.

And if you’ve created or come across any cool recipes, please do share! :)

P.S. The same method can be used to log your facebook posts, etc.

P.P.S. Yes, you can log the tweets of your twitter-crush as well. 😛

ICS on the Galaxy Note

Finally the Galaxy Note got its long awaited Ice Cream Sandwich update. Long awaited because Samsung first announced that ICS for Note will start rolling out on Q1 of 2012, but it didn’t until May. According to several Galaxy Note forums the update first appeared in several Eurpoean countries. And now it’s here in Sri Lanka. The update came on 31st of May, so I’ve been using it for about 10 days.

How is ICS on the Note? Impressive if you ask me, but not without some issues. I’ll be just listing some stuff I found out to be quite handy below; it’s not possible to explain everything in detail. Also, some of them might be subjective.

Look and feel
As most of you might have seen or experienced, the ICS interface has gone through a massive overhaul. Frankly, it’s fun to do stuff and see the beautiful menus come out. Most pre-installed apps come with major UI improvements. Sadly, TouchWiz (the stock launcher of Samsung) is pretty much the same as it was in Gingerbread. In fact, you can’t get the real ICS experience with TouchWiz. Dumped it and started using the ICS-only Apex Launcher which is pretty cool.

Home screen (Apex Launcher)

Google Play + search menu + Swiftkey 3 beta keyboard

Notifications
The new notification system is elegant. The most useful feature I found is that you can discard individual notifications by swiping them. Can’t imagine how I used to live without this.

Calling
The call log’s less cluttered and is bundled with more useful info. It’s possilbe to reject calls with preset messages using two taps. Switching between calls is now easier.

Other
There are lots more new functionality/enhancements besides these. Multitasking’s been improved in leaps and bounds. The task switcher is completely revamped. It displays large thumbnails, gives you access to a long history and you can remove items by swiping. No need for third-party apps for recording data usage anymore. You can take screenshots without rooting, but Galaxy Note had this ability since the beginning. There’s a Face Unlock feature I’m yet to try out. Action bars are natively supported now. ICS-only apps are coming up, like Chrome for Android. And several new launchers, twitter apps, etc require you have ICS. The list goes on.

The bad
During the first day after the upgrade things appeared pretty slow. A few restarts solved most of the problems but there are still a few noticeable lags present.
Battery life doesn’t seem to have increased as promised. It wouldn’t last a day sometimes. Forums indicated that this is a common issue and most have solved this by running down the battery and recharging fully a couple of times. Actually I did this when I first bought the Note and it improved the battery life substantially. Going to repeat the process in the coming week.
My biggest gripe is the frequent crashing of the launcher. By frequent I mean several times a day. Then I moved back to TouchWiz and found out the issue isn’t present there. A problem with Apex Launcher apparently. Rather, a problem with Apex Launcher on Note. I’m hoping some updates would come out soon and fix the problems.

How do I get the upgrade?
Connect the phone to the PC and start Kies. A notification will pop up saying you’ve got a new update! The process took more than an hour in my case. Note that some settings like the home screen and the app drawer will reset during the upgrade.

Also, I rooted the Note after the ICS upgrade. That would be another post perhaps.

Nearby.lk – a budding Sri Lankan startup

Nearby.lk is a promising Sri Lankan startup which aims to create a platform that lets you find places around you easily. What? Another one of those? Well, yes. In fact, Sri Lanka is yet to get a proper location-based service that lets you find places and businesses nearby. Nearby.lk focuses on filling that gap.

A service of this nature should ideally be dead simple, available on mobile platforms and should have a vast database of information. One of the key features of nearby.lk is striving to be as simple as possible. The layout is unintrusive and plain. It will soon be getting official apps for Android, iOS and possibly other smartphone platforms as well. These apps will include offline functionality, something most apps of similar nature lack. However the project is still in a beta stage, so the database of locations is still growing. Businesses can list with nearby.lk by sending an email to info@infosurv.lk or calling them on +94 112 873 874, after which a team member would visit the location to verify and record the information.

The dead simple and intuitive home page

Provides you with information, shortest path, pictures, reviews of the place (click to enlarge)

Something that should be specifically mentioned is that nearby.lk uses its own proprietary algorithms and technology to deliver its results. The site isn’t just another database frontend that lets you search its tables. The developers are focused on improving the search algorithms for better search results. And its interface sans promotions or other clutter loads super fast.

If you own a business, it will be a good idea to list yourself at nearby.lk as soon as possible. Also, they’re looking for web developers and marketing executives interested in working at a startup. So if you’re interested drop them a mail at info@infosurv.lk. More info here: http://www.nearby.lk/a#about

Full disclosure: the dev is actually a friend of mine.

¡Qué será será!

Remember your nursery days? How we were made to sing One little, two little, three little Indians and were taught how to count? And how some amused us with little horror stories, like, Hickory dickory dock, three mice ran up the clock, the clock struck one and the others got away with minor injuries? And those that taught us of life and the importance of always being prepared, like, Jack and jill went up the hill to have a little fun, stupid jill forgot the pill and and now they have a son?

Yeah, good old days they were. I particularly remember singing Qué será será, what ever will be will be. Back then the only thing I understood of the rhyme was that it was about a little girl called Sarah. Now don’t laugh, we all have our shares of stupid mistakes.

All of us were kids once, and all kids are stupid

It was not until about a month ago, when I was listening to the Spanish future tense lessons of one of Michel Thomas audio courses, that it finally dawned on me that I’ve been in dark all this time. The verb ser, meaning ‘to be’ in Spanish, becomes será in the third person future tense. So qué será será in fact means what will be will be! Dayum!

Okay, you may have known this from the beginning, perhaps it was only me. But hey, did you know who originally sang Qué será será? And who taught her to speak Spanish? It was Doris Day. First recorded in 1956. And Michel Thomas himself was her Spanish instructor, who taught her how to speak the Spanish accent confidently! I bet you didn’t know that before. It’s okay, coz there are 10,000 ppl learning something for the first time every day according to xkcd. Here’s Doris performing the song, in a movie I couldn’t find the name of:

See how she opens her mouth wide to pronounce ‘será’ confidently?

Michel Thomas

Doris wasn’t the only star to take lessons from Michel Thomas. From Bob Dylan to Jeffrey Archer, his list of clients was quite long. His audio courses and especially his teaching method, known as the Michel Thomas method, have been favorites of language learners all over the world. Born a Jewish boy in Poland, he’d been sent to live in Germany, only to be driven away by Nazies to France, wherein he was finally captured and kept in a Nazi concentration camp. Michel survived, but left for US after learning of his family’s death.

Life in this myriad of cultures had already made him a polyglot. If you’re into languages, his courses can be highly recommended.

And I’ve begun to look back on the nursery rhymes after this. Does Hey diddle diddle, the cat did a piddle have some hidden meaning too?

I Can’t Wake Up!

This blog lives. For the past few weeks I’ve been just wandering lonely as a cloud without purpose. Have never had a purpose in life, but it’s struck me like never before lately. Suicide is but a distant option.

No, you just can’t walk away from life.

There are things in life you don’t have a say on and you just have to survive.

Okay, enough drama for the day. 😛

Do you always plan to wake up early and get some work done, but have never been able to actually wake up? Do you always snooze the alarm until it’s really past the hour? Do you simply turn off the alarm and go back to sleep each time? Have you even given up the idea of getting up early just because you know you can’t do that? Do you always say to yourself ‘I can’t wake up!’? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions you’ve come to the right place. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you, I Can’t Wake Up!

Joking aside, I Can’t Wake Up! is the best alarm for android I’ve yet come across. You can make use of several ‘wake up methods’ to make sure you just don’t turn off the alarm and fall back to sleep. Wake up methods aren’t new to the world of alarms. For example I’ve been using Alarm Clock Xtreme Free for more than a year and it had this ‘math to dismiss’ this feature. You have to solve some math problems of a specified skill level if you are to turn the alarm off. I always chose ‘Hardest’ so that I’ll have to turn on the computer to solve them, thus making sure I won’t go back to sleep. But as of late, I became so accustomed to the problems I could just solve them in bed and go back to sleep.

Main screen

Set of available wake up methods

I Can’t Wake Up includes several wake up methods to make sure turning it off ain’t easy. What made me fall for it was the ‘Bar code’ method. Once the alarm goes off, you have to authenticate using one or more barcodes (or QR codes for that matter) to turn it off. Let’s say the barcodes you find in the back covers of books. You first scan the codes in to the app and place a few books in various places of the house at night. In the morning you’ll have to walk to each book, turn on the lights and scan all the codes (which may take a few seconds per code if you’re too sleepy) if you’re to turn off the alarm.

List of bar codes you need to scan to turn off the alarm

Solve all the math problems to turn it off. Mind you, this isn’t the hardest level.

There are a few other alarm apps that make use of the barcode method, but I Can’t Wake Up does it at the best. And it’s feature-packed than any other. Not that it’s perfect. You can’t sort the alarms by time as of yet, and there are ads in the free version. But the pros outweigh the cons.

Wish it had a feature that would only turn the alarm off after I write and publish a post in the blog. Anyway I promise to continue updating the blog every once in a while. Not that anyone cares if I blog or not, but still. So… until then.. back to wandering lonely as a cloud searching for the meaning of life. 😀