Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adventures in Recycling!


While I am quite skeptical/opposed to much (if not all) of the environmental activism out there - one day I'll write about the Climate Change / Global Warming / ... -  we do recycle things at home and try to be mindful not wasting too many resources. With that in mind, this past Saturday I took some cardboard to the one of the local recycling depots (Unionville).

As I went to drop off the cardboard, I noticed a wall with hundreds of books people left to be recycled - everything from fiction (hardcover and paperback) to academic books, computer books, college and high-school textbooks, ... ALL FOR THE TAKING.

According to the nice people who run the depot, one can just go there and pick anything they want. The remaining books are recycled (thrown in with the cardboard) about once a week or so.

I spent a good 15-30 min there going over everything they had, both in the shelves and on boxes in the ground, and walked off with about 20 books or so. It's the closest thing I've come to a "free lunch" - if I like the books I keep them, if not I just go back there and recycle them!

Among my finds, Jim Collins' "Good to Great", Tom Clancy "Debt of Honour", a nice Weight Watchers cookbook, several books on investments, text books on Math, Statistics and Accounting, plus many others.

Needless to say, I strongly suggest people take a look at their own centres to see if something like this is available! Certainly not as diverse as a library (we use the Markham libraries a LOT), but a great way to get some free books!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Personal (Dis)Organization System - 1 of 2

I'm always curious about how people organize themselves in this day and age - e-mail, tasks, contacts, etc... - so I can continue to fine tune how I do things myself. I once heard the term 'productivity pr0n'. I don't think it applies to me, but almost... :-)

I decided to break down this post in two:
- a high-level overview of key concepts.
- a description of tools I use to implement my system.

I have read - and heartily recommend - David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD). Some people treat it as gospel - it does have a cult-like following - but I took some things from it and that was that. More than anything, I liked the concepts of:
- Recognizing one's "Inboxes".
- Breaking tasks down to actionable items (define what the "next action" is)
- Having a specific method of handling incoming things: Do now, Delete it, Delegate it, Store it for Reference, Treat it as a Project, move to a "Someday" area of your system.
- Doing periodic reviews.

I also embraced the concept of 'Inbox Zero'. This is extremely liberating - I know that anything not in my Inbox is properly captured elsewhere in my system and I can clearly see what is new.

Finally, I need somewhere to keep the information I accumulate. I would like to build something like a Personal MemEx, but my system is far simpler.

So, to end this post, the key concepts I use are:
- I have multiple (but clearly defined) Inboxes: personal and work email, social media (FB,Twitter,RSS), personal and work voicemail, my own ideas, etc...
- For everything that comes in I process it the same way, deciding what I need to do with it.
- I keep track of things on a somewhat coherent personal knowledgebase.

More stuff on the next post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

iPad - part 1 of ?

While I usually behave and not spend too much on expensive toys, I caved in and got an iPad back in late June. My rationale/excuse - I wanted/needed an e-book reader. I ended up buying the non-3G 32G model after calling a few local AppleStores to track inventory. This post is a summary of my experience with the device so far.

I'll break the content down into several posts - no sense writing a novel in one sitting. If there's any specific question people have, feel free to ask.

People mention the iPad is heavier than expected and glares a bit too much. I agree, but these are not terrible issues I can't deal with - I usually read indoors and I rest the iPad against something.

As an e-book reader, I loved it. The combination of supporting multiple applications - including Kindle, Kobo, GoodReader (PDFs) and others - means I can read pretty much any ebook format I come across. Getting content onto the device is quite easy: some apps support "over-the-air" transport such as Kindle and Kobo. Others integrate beautifully with DropBox, so uploading a file is just a matter of dropping into DropBox on my PC. Not to mention that one can upload EPUB books via iTunes as well. Bottom line: if one is comfortable around manipulating files on a PC, getting content into the iPad is pretty darn easy.

Actually reading the content is also a joy. The primary reading I do is technical - networking, security, IT in general - and the iPad renders technical diagrams/presentations beautifully. The flexibility of screen rotations, zooming in and out, searching, etc... make it an ideal platform for reading and stuying, in my opinion.

As for other uses, I find myself doing a lot more browsing with it than I thought I would. The lack of Flash support is annoying, but not show-stopping. My primary workaround for accessing Flash content is to mark it with the incredible "Read it Later" service and then check out the content later on my PC. Not perfect, but works out pretty well.

OK, I'll continue on another post later.