January 30, 2008

links for 2008-01-30

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January 28, 2008

More Learning Italian

Since my 30-in-30 challenge learning Italian has fallen off my priority list somewhat. Obviously, given that we're living in Torino, there's a background level of exposure and learning going on, but I'd run out of easy materials to learn more.

I've been trying to get back on track though, and so have been taking my mp3-player out with me when I go for a bike ride and listening to some of the podcasts from learnitalianpod.com.

Then via Mark Simpkin's experiment I found the BBC languages website and the Learning Italian pages.

The lessons start from the basics, but there's also a fast track section if you know some Italian. I wasn't expecting to get too far with it, but was pleasantly surprised to get about 75% of the answers right on all of the sections. I'm learning more than I thought, but will be having a look at some of the lessons to brush up a bit.


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links for 2008-01-28

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January 26, 2008

Interesting Advertising

Looking through this list of inspired adverts reminded me of a photo I took on the banks of the river just before Christmas.

Photo of a car trapped in a bubble with artificial snow

Just by chance I happened upon this full-size rally car trapped in a plastic bubble, complete with fake snow being blown round it. I'm not sure exactly why they'd set it up down by the river - it's not the busiest of areas this time of year, and so it was a bit isolated, but it was definitely different and intriguing.


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January 25, 2008

Annual Report 2007

Productivity Report 2007 picture
I don't really do New Year's Resolutions, and I prefer to do my longer-term dreaming/planning as an ongoing background process rather than picking some fairly arbitrary date. However, the start of a new year has happened to coincide with developing a major new feature for tedium, and I've learnt some interesting things as a result.

At the end of each quarter, tedium now compiles a report showing you how much you've achieved and how you've achieved it. The report at the end of the year looks back over the entire year, rather than just three months, and so I can now show you my Annual Productivity Report 2007.

Over 2007 I completed over 700 tasks, although I replaced each of them with something new and a hundred or so more for good measure. Still, that's only a 12%-or-so rise, which doesn't feel too onerous.

If you look at the graph of new tasks over the year, there's a clear peak at the start of November which matches the start of my 30-in-30 challenge but isn't matched by a similar rise on the graph of completed items. I'm quite pleased with how flat both of those graphs are - I'm just steadily getting things done.

The biggest bump in the completed tasks occurs in July, which is when we were getting things finished on the house and organising moving to Italy, and you can see that reflected in the tag clouds. House and Italy are two tags I used to track everything we needed to fix up before renting our house in Cambridge, and things we needed to do for our move to Turin. The other big tags hyperfocus and thisweek show a different way that I use tags - when I'm reviewing what I need to do, I use those tags to flag the tasks that are a priority for me to address.

The main thing that the punctuality section shows is that I don't assign dates to my tasks very often. It's generally only things like dentist appointments and things that have to happen on a particular day. Fifteen tasks out of seven hundred isn't very many.

Things get more interesting in the productivity section. My productivity seems to steadily decline over the week - starting strongly on Monday and Tuesday before fading on Friday and Saturday before a suprise resurgence on the 'day of rest'. The hourly breakdown is more predictable, although it looks like I have a tendency to add new tasks late in the evening - preparing my todo list for the following day, no doubt.

Moving into 2008, I've still got a lot to do, but 253 remaining tasks is only a third of what I completed last year. There's plenty still to do on tedium, and I'd like to do a fair bit more on learning Italian. I'm looking forward to the end of March when I can compare how I've done in the next report.


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links for 2008-01-25

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January 18, 2008

links for 2008-01-18

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January 16, 2008

links for 2008-01-16

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January 15, 2008

links for 2008-01-15

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January 13, 2008

links for 2008-01-13

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January 12, 2008

Marathonpacks - the End of Year 2007 Mixes

I have a constant appetite for new music, and therefore can never resist downloading big compilations and mixes whenever I come across them. I'm almost always disappointed by what I find, and the mp3s will get listened to once and then languish on my hard drive until my next purge to free up disk space.

The Marathonpacks 2007 Year-End Mixes buck the trend. And then some. There are four volumes in total, I and II are here and and III & IV here; each gives you over an hour of great music from 2007.

They've been on continuous play on my laptop since I first fired them up yesterday, and will be for a good while yet.

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links for 2008-01-12

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January 09, 2008

How To Redirect Users To an Updating Page When Modifying Your Website

One of the problems with uploading a new version of any website or web application is that there's always the chance that a user will come along just at the wrong time and try to access something. At best they'll see things in a not-quite-perfect state; at worst they could corrupt the site or break something (although if the user can't modify anything about the site then that's unlikely).

Luckily, if you're using Apache as your webserver and if you (or your ISP) has installed mod_rewrite then there's an easy way to stop this from happening.

The Technique

Basically, we tell mod_rewrite to redirect anyone who isn't us to an "update in progress" page. This means that everyone else sees a page explaining that the website is being updated, and you get to use use it and test it out as if it was live. Then when you're happy that it's all working, you can remove the mod_rewrite rules and let everyone in.

As mod_rewrite isn't the easiest of modules to get to grips with, I've written a little script to help generate the rules.

If you go the rule generator page it will give you a set of rules to copy into the .htaccess file on your website when you want to restrict access.

When they're added, only your computer (identified by its IP address) will be able to see the normal webiste. Everyone else will be redirected to "http://yourwebsite.com/updateinprogress/", so you'll need to upload a suitable "please be patient, we're upgrading the website" page into an "updateinprogress" folder on your website. Here's an example that I use when tedium is being updated.

Remember to make sure than any files linked from the update page are also in the "updateinprogress" folder - so that's any images, external CSS or javascript, etc. - because otherwise they'll be redirected and won't work.

Obviously, you need to remember to remove the mod_rewrite rules from your .htaccess when you're finished uploading your new site. It isn't immediately obvious that they're still there, because you'll be shown the real site - and yes, I have forgotten to do this myself before today...


Unfortunately, using the IP address to decide who should have access isn't perfect because some ISPs stick everyone behind NAT or force you through a transparent proxy.

The rule generator should cope with a transparent proxy, but I haven't been able to test it as I'm no longer forced to use one.

And if the IP address given in the first RewriteCond doesn't match the one you get from running ipconfig (if you're on Windows, from a command prompt) or ifconfig (on Linux) then there's NAT in the way. If that's the case, then anyone else using the same NAT will also be able to see your "real" website too. I've included an optional user-agent check which will restrict things a bit more, but again isn't perfect.

If you're using a broadband router for your Internet connection then that's probably doing NAT too, so check the router's IP address as well as running ipconfig or ifconfig. If the router's IP address matches the one given in the RewriteCond then you don't have to worry about NAT.

Hopefully that all makes sense. If anyone has any questions, or suggestions for better ways to work out who should and shouldn't be redirected, then leave a comment.


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January 05, 2008

The A-Z of Personal Productivity

The A-Z of Personal Productivity

I don't blog about work very often, mainly because I'm immersed in it all the time and so it doesn't occur to me that it would be newsworthy. However, given that part of my current focus is to help people become more productive and achieve their goals, it seems foolish not to promote that on my blog.

Over on the MCQN Ltd. blog I've started collecting useful links to articles about how to get more organized and have also been writing the A-Z of Personal Productivity.

The latter is a collection of tips and techniques on how to tackle and track everything we want to do; from the day-to-day picking up the groceries, to achieving your hopes and dreams for the future. There's a new article posted each week (usually on Wednesday) and so far we're up to D.

Obviously, the methods all work well when paired with an excellent online todo list app such as tedium, but it isn't a requirement for making use of the ideas.

And if you know anyone who might find this useful, or if you've got a blog, I'd be most appreciative if you could spread the word and help me find more people to help.


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links for 2008-01-05

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January 04, 2008

links for 2008-01-04

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