Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Amazon link), is quite an inspiration. She takes what is, essentially, a slightly mundane activity – decluttering – and transforms it into a ritual; a rite of passage for one who wants to transcend from disorganised hoarder, to cleansed, enlightened minimalist.
Ok, perhaps that is slightly strong an example, but this is the idea. The KonMari method of tidying is quite simple: do this, then do that. Kondo hand-holds her reader through the treacherous caverns of uncertainty and out into a bright, new world. Her two basic tenets are, that one must organise (and purge) by category, not by room, and that one should also focus on what to keep, but only if it “sparks joy”.
It’s simple, but it works – and surprisingly well, too. When followed correctly, it’s an efficient way to declutter, reorganise, and reset.
Starting the Journey
Getting started is remarkably easy. KonMari dictates that purging one’s superfluous clothing is the best starting point. I’d agree. It’s interesting how you can start clinging on to item from your past, instead of looking forward to wearing something in the future!
I have since discovered what I like, what suits me, and what I feel comfortable in
It’s surprisingly easy to start in this way. It teaches very effectively to be selective and mindful about what you keep for your wardrobe, and why. The key lesson, letting go, is learned here.
Like many minimalists, I have since discovered what I like about my clothing, what I think suits me, and – perhaps most importantly – what I feel comfortable in. And, like many, my wardrobe now features a number of more plain black, grey and white items. But I don’t subscribe to monotone styling; blue is the colour I love, so I have a lot of blue in my wardrobe too, plus warmer hues.
Minimalism, to me, is far more about quantity. It doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice style.
Decluttering the House
After clothes comes the decluttering of books, paperwork, CDs/DVDs and miscellanea (random bits and pieces, called komono by Kondo). How much you have kept will determine how long this takes. But a little dedication can bring surprisingly quick results. Several hours are really all that’s needed for decluttering.
Five bin bags of clothes, and four boxes of books later, I feel well on my way to simplifying and minimising.
And what a great feeling, being unburdened.
As I proceeded with old paperwork, the voice in my mind became yet more balanced. I had to double-check on certain items, and felt freedom and empowerment to change my mind part way through – sometimes choosing to discard what I initially wanted to keep, and vice versa. This process is mentally decluttering, and (if I were spiritual), spiritually cleansing.
Decluttering the Mind
Computing, for me, is a big thing. As soon as I could record stuff on computer, I did. I have databases and documents dating from the early 1990s onwards. Sadly, the file formats used for those documents are not widely supported any more.
This creates a problem: Do I keep those old documents, which probably serve no purpose to me now? If not, why did I keep them for so long? Or, do I go to the trouble of getting an older computing platform to convert them from, into a more modern, or at least less-encumbered, file format? Do I still need them? Will I ever? Or do I just archive them all off and save myself the time and effort? (Do you see how all this digital clutter is causing angst and complexity? Why am I thinking about this stuff…? etc.)
These questions have haunted me for quite some time, but eventually I came to realise that while it would be nice to have access to all my data, in reality, I don’t need it. And having access to it would increase the amount of digital clutter that I don’t need to be concerned with.
Am I Swapping Physical Hoarding for Digital Hoarding?
Although previously I wanted to convert all my old files into modern formats, I am beginning to realise that there really is little benefit to doing this. Up to roughly 1999, I would have used my Amiga computer for word processing and other work (e.g. editing images). When I got a PC in 2000, and installed SuSE Linux 7.2, I started using StarOffice (the precursor to OpenOffice/LibreOffice) instead. StarOffice files are still supported in modern versions of LibreOffice, much to my delight.
But for pre-2000 data, I must accept that without significant time, energy and devotion, I cannot easily liberate my files. This means all my university essays, college assignments, personal notes, documents, databases, images and other data are now part of that fabric of digital cruft. The best I can do is securely archive them off, hoping that one day an easy conversion solution will be available.
Yet, in some ways, this is for the best. What good does reading my own essay on Chaucer do, for me, in 2017? I am too busy with other things that are contemporary and relevant, right now, to indulge in that. Digital decluttering is as important as physical decluttering.
I have observed that, during this decluttering process so far, I have had a tendency to hang on to things because of their value to me in the past. My mindset in the present has been influenced by past events, of course, but this has also lured me into some complacency with regard to my beliefs and philosophy on life.
When we start becoming defined by the things we have, instead of the things we do, there is little value in “having” those things whatsoever.
I am looking forward to doing more, and having less.
Have you had a similar experience with de-cluttering? Please comment – I’d love to hear about it!
Locate the CSV file and right click > Open With > LibreOffice Calc (Alternatively, start LibreOffice Calc and open the CSV file).
Using LibreOffice Calc, you will need to modify the CSV file to import it into Firefox. Do the following:
Right-click on row 1 and select ‘Insert Rows Above’. This should insert a single row at the top of the sheet.
Copy the following and paste into cell A1, using Shift-Ctrl-V (to ensure you paste as plain text):
# Generated by Password Exporter; Export format 1.0.4; Encrypted: false
You need to move one column, B, to where column D is – but we don’t want to overwrite your data!
At the top of column B, right-click and select Cut.
Then right-click again and select Delete Columns – this should remove the now-empty column, and shift-left columns C and D, to positions B and C.
Now, on column D, select Paste. Your url data should now live in column D.
Paste the following into cell A2, using Shift-Ctrl-V:
When pasting, you may be prompted to select the data format. Select “Unformatted Text” in the list and click OK. We are ok with overwriting other cell contents, so “OK” that.
Finally, we’re ready to export this data! Go to the File menu, select Save As…In the Save As requester that appears, at the bottom check ‘Edit Filter’ and select ‘Text CSV (.csv)’ in the format drop-down:
Before we get too excited, there’s just one more step to perform – some textual clean-up!Open up the exported CSV file in your favourite plain-text editor. In the first row, you may see this:
"# Generated by Password Exporter; Export format 1.0.4; Encrypted: false",,,,,,
Delete the leading ” and trailing “,,,,,, from that line.
Secondly, do a Find/Replace on double-commas (,,) making them ,””, (with two quotes inserted) instead. You may need to perform this Find/Replace twice. Now save the file again.
In Firefox, click on the burger menu and select Add-ons (or just go to about:addons). Find Password Exporter and click Preferences. In the Preferences window, click Import Passwords. Now locate your saved CSV file and load it.You should finally see something like this:
Many people reach a point in their lives where they see clutter and excessive personal possessions for what they are: distractions and time-sinks that deeply – and negatively – impact one’s life. Minimalism seeks to change this.
I am no different; I, too, have been conscious that for many years I have amassed a vast number of gadgets, had far more clothing than I could ever really wear (before it went seriously out of fashion), and bought books far quicker than I could read them. Freely, I admit, I still do the latter – but I can “hide” them now on my ebook reader!
The Internet’s “Minimalism”
It is amusing to see, particularly on certain social networks, how minimalism is portrayed. Let’s describe a typically “minimalist” image:
White. It must be white. White walls, white furniture, mostly-white accessories, all well lit (often artificially).
An Apple Mac computer, centre-stage on a desk. Typically a 21-inch iMac, but sometimes a 27-incher too. In front of the Mac must be the following:
A wireless keyboard & wireless trackpad – both precisely aligned;
Sometimes… a mug of coffee (although I am allowing myself a crossover into that other bastion of internet imagery here, the “Getting Organised!” image);
A desk lamp;
A single picture on the wall, bordered with a white frame, casting a soft shadow thanks to…
A window on the adjacent wall;
A crappy plastic chair (still white) that no-one in their right mind could ever sustain a day’s work in;
A wooden floor. Or, if the floor is white, then the desk is wooden. Or the chair back might be green. You get the idea.
Flipboard is a great resource for these types of images. Search for ‘minimalist’ and you’ll soon happen upon this template of what a minimalist lifestyle apparently involves.
What Is Minimalism?
If you Google this, no doubt you will see a definition along the lines of styles in art, music or design. But these days, “minimalism” has come to mean something else: the removal of superfluous possessions leading to a perceived reduction of stress and distraction in a person’s life. It’s this definition what I am most interested in, which is the one driving most internet imagery these days.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without
Minimalism is an interesting side-effect of western capitalism. The effect of acquiring wealth is curious; it more often than not seeks to be displayed through the adornment of expensive garments, and through “showcasing” the necessity of owning various accessories, plus the outward demonstration of their worth to a “successful” person. But to many people, myself included, the effect of acquiring objects is that they increasingly demand more time from the owner in order to manage.
This is detrimental to their original purpose, because time will now be split between the owner using the objects, and the owner managing the objects. Thus, the fewer objects there are – whether these are clothes, cars, bottles of liquor in the cabinet, or watches – the more utility such devices actually provide and therefore the more effective they become both at their original purpose, but also as a showpiece.
What Minimalism is not.
Minimalism doesn’t, in my mind, have any connection with frugality, virtue through sufferance, or eco-mentality. To me, “being green” and “being minimalist” can be mutually exclusive, although they can also co-exist very well too.
Minimalism is not, necessarily, about choosing to do without. It is choosing to do with what you need, in the numbers your need it/them, and do without what you don’t.
Minimalism is also not doing without, for the sake of doing without. It’s a great exercise in making one reconsider what is important and what’s really important to you. This is the key. It’s justifiable to say that you need something because it makes you happy. Most people listen to music because, for their happiness and wellbeing, it’s needed. That’s fine.
Being minimalist does not mean sitting in a silent, white room, looking at perfectly pressed shirts hanging in a wardrobe. And it’s also not about choosing £20 shirts instead of £100 shirts. One can enjoy life’s luxuries, and one probably will enjoy them more, if their number is measured.
My Minimalism Experience
For example, just before Christmas I came to a difficult decision: I decided I had to sell my ThinkPad laptop. There were no two ways about it; I had too many computers adoring my house, due to accumulating older work laptops as time went on.
My thinking was, “well, it still works and it’s still powerful enough to do lots of stuff, so I can get more done by keeping it and splitting my activities between the MacBook Pro that I now use for work, and this.” Except that doesn’t really translate into the bigger picture. Sure, I could keep both machines and pretend I’m being more productive, but in reality I started spending more time wondering which machine to do what on, or moving data from one to another, or agonising that I was simply distracted by this entire thought process, or generally finding that the MacBook Pro was more portable and thus my preferred choice to take somewhere.
I historically associated my perceived productivity benefits to my ThinkPad, its wonderful keyboard, and loved how I had complete control over the GNU/Linux operating system I used on it. But in reality, two machines became a burden. Yet, this wasn’t the only laptop I had “laying around” (although occasionally used). Actually, I had four other laptops. This was akin to hoarding, and served no benefit whatsoever. There was basically no chance I would ever use them all until they broke, one by one.
So before Christmas, each laptop – an HP Pavillion, a ThinkPad T420, another ThinkPad – a T420s, and a Samsung Chromebook, all found new homes. They also found me richer – not only for the money I made on them, but also for the less clutter I had around the house.
Finally, the agonising dissipated and with that, the stress went. I had more space to think, fewer options to consider (as far as my computing went) and happier productivity.
Once you get the bug for selling or giving away old stuff, it is hard to ignore. As soon as I can find the time I will work on selling more computing kit I have laying around. And there are other things too – all sorts, in fact. Like old pieces of furniture (bin/tip), old garden tools (tip/sell), old clothes (donate to charity), one or two old TVs (!) … it goes on and on. In fact, the speed at which one can acquire goods is absurd.
Moving forwards, reducing this clutter alongside a renewed focus on personal development has already made a huge change in my self-perception. I feel stronger, lighter and more focused.
If this post has helped you, or if you have had similar experiences, please comment or link below!
Since Facebook introduced the data-harvesting ‘Continuously Upload Contacts’ feature in settings, a change has occurred in the background (the Facebook API, for those inclined..) which prevents you downloading your friend list via a trusted 3rd party app.
In addition, the Facebook app itself no longer supports the older style ‘contact sync’ properly (or at all) on both Android and iOS.
In addition (and YMMV), the calendar sync no longer seems to work either. There is a workaround you can follow (link beneath), to create a Google calendar which syncs your Facebook contacts’ birthdays – and this is the primary reason for my post.
I used to rely on the app syncing calendar events to my phone, so that I could see at a glance whose birthday it is and send them my best wishes, but I’ve missed a few recently and now I know why.
I’m starting to wonder what benefit the native Android/iOS app is these days, versus good old mobile website access. I’m going to ditch the FB app on Android and start using ‘Tinfoil for Facebook’ instead, which looks and feels very similar but does away with the bloated spyware that the official app has become.
This post is not intended to start a flame/holy war or any other kind of religious conflict with regard to Linux desktop environments (DEs). What it is intended to do, is to simply catalogue the multitude of problems I have been encountering while using Debian Jessie and GNOME 3.14. 🙂
I LOVE GNOME (I truly do)
Let’s put this one right out there: The GNOME Shell/GNOME 3UI is, IMHO, the BEST desktop user experience out there for Linux.
“Wait,” you might say, “doesn’t this conflict with the title of this blog post?”
Well yes, it does. But I want you, my learned reader, to understand that I wish that the GNOME DE was as stable and solid as it should be. As it could be. And hopefully as it will be.
You see, this is what Linux and other Unix-like operating systems have been known and reputed for – their stability. I love what the GNOME devs did when they decided to reimagine the desktop for GNOME 3: they used space sensibly, vertically, which to me feels more natural and intuitive. And I love how it’s meant to stay out of the way – another good design motif.
But in terms of stability, sadly, GNOME has been something of a disappointment to me, and I wish this were not the case. Perhaps this is just a consequence of its ambition, and that will always garner my respect. Or maybe my install went terribly wrong, somewhere. But I don’t reckon. So, without further ado…
DISCLAIMER: WRT the issues with DebianJessie‘s implementation of GNOME Shell/GNOME 3, I shall simply refer to it as GNOME. I apologise to the purists out there. I am only commenting on my experience in Debian Jessie, not anyone else’s, nor of any other GNU/Linux distribution. Finally, I intentionally do not go into detail here and am not providing numerous distro/upstream links to “validate” my own claims. I don’t need to. If you’re interested, just search anything I have put below. I am pretty confident you will find stuff…
The 10 Problems
Have you had similar experiences to these? Do comment below.
The problems with GNOME start from the very moment you log in: it’s a disk-thrashing, sluggard of a desktop. And yes, I am using a disk, not a SSD. Why? Because badly written software doesn’t deserve a place in my CPU, let alone being so resource-hogging as to require an SSD.
So yes, Tracker is the first problem with GNOME. From logging in, all the way through your session, to shutting down your machine, it’s there – consuming all available CPU, disk I/O and (perhaps due to a memory leak), system memory. Happily gobbling it all up like a sickly child with no manners. 🙂
Perhaps I am being unfair, inferring that Tracker is “bad software”. It’s not a bad idea and its search seems to work well. But it doesn’t reign itself in. And software that doesn’t adhere to users’ choices through its own preferences panel is software that needs attention.
There are too many people/posts on the web with/of similar experiences. But, why not just disable tracking completely, you ask? Like, through the GUI you mean..? Mmm.
2. Crashes and Freezes
Next up is something akin to heresy: crashing and freezing of the whole desktop UI. Seriously, it’s that bad.
You are in the middle of something, as you might be in a productive desktop environment, and BAM! no window response. That’s it. All gone. This single issue is by far the most perplexing and irritating, totally demolishing my productivity recently.
When you start searching on t’interweb about this, you realise that this has haunted GNOME for years, and in multiple versions. The nearest posts I have found on the web which seem related to the problem I have are here:
An alternative way to make GNOME hang on you is to use the live user switching. Just set up another user account, then Switch User via this menu. Then, as your new user, switch back to your original account.
Do this a few times for maximum effect, until you get stuck looking at the frozen greeter, just after it’s accepted your password for logging back in.
Enjoy the view.
It’ll last a while.
In fact, no need to take a photo. This’ll last long enough.
4. GNOME Online Accounts
Ahh, GOA. Such a good idea. Implemented in such an average way.
GNOME Online Accounts is meant to centralise internet service (or “cloud”, hwk-ding) accounts through one easy GUI component, and then share the online resources of each account with the appropriate desktop software. Think, Google Calendar being visible in your desktop calendar, which is a separate desktop application than, say, your email reader (where you could read your GMail). But no need to set up each application separately; just set up the GOA and each application gets relevant access. Get the idea?
The account set-up bit of this is, actually, great. I’m all for it too – this whole concept. It just makes so much sense.
One of the problems with it is that things don’t work properly. For example, if you use two-factor authentication in your Google account, and rely on application-specific passwords, then GOA doesn’t like that. You will be constantly prompted for your Google account password, which is never accepted.
To be fair to Jessie, I haven’t seen this happen recently, so it may have finally been plugged. Or I may just be lucky.
5. Evolution’s management of GOA’s SMTP/IMAP accounts
Another problem is SMTP/IMAP accounts. Sure, they integrate nicely with Evolution. Until you edit parts of the account in Evolution, which are more application-specific. Then, you return to your account folders list with your GOA mail account being renamed to “Untitled”. A rummage through, and edit of, the relevant ~/.config files is required to correct this error. Not so slick.
I still have hope though. One day this stuff will work great.
6. Evolution Hangs
Yep, another hangy-crashy thing. Sometimes, for no discernible reason, when you close Evolution is hangs, mid-termination. Forever. You have to send a KILL to it to actually get it to close off completely. Why? Who knows. It appears to be a timeout or spinlock type of problem. Sorry for being vague, but look, just do this Google search and pick a year. It looks like this bug has been around in one incarnation or another for a very long time.
7. Nautilus Hangs
Are you seeing a pattern here? Yep, our faithful friend and file utility, Nautilus, also hangs. Quite often. Why it does this, I have not yet been able to determine. Sigkill to the rescue. (You can do a Google search on this too…)
8. Standby and resume with remote file system mounted
Now, I admit, this is a silly thing to do when you look at it, because you are clearly asking for trouble if you have a remote filesystem mounted into your own filesystem, and then put your machine to sleep for a while.
You can make the problem worse still, if you have laptop with a docking station. Simply put it to sleep, undock, wake the machine, then reconnect using your wireless instead of ethernet. The outcome varies from a locked desktop (where nothing works), to a frozen nautilus.
Again, a silly thing to do, perhaps, but also an innocent mistake at times. Like, when you’re rushing to attend a meeting, for example.
So, why not be offered a notification, when requesting to “sleep” the machine, saying that remote filesystems are mounted? I think even I might be able to knock up some code for that one (but I’d prefer to leave it to the experts, who I respect fully and who would do it far better than I).
9. Audio Output Switching
As you may have gathered from previous comments, when it comes to GNOME I am primarily a business user. My business runs and relies on GNU software & Linux. For the experience and knowledge I have gained – not to mention being able to sustain an income and lifestyle I’m happy with, I am indebted to many people for their determined efforts in the free software community.
Unfortunately, little bugs creep in here and there – that’s the rule of life. One minor annoyance with Jessie, that wasn’t present in its predecessor Wheezy, is automatic audio output switching. In Wheezy, after a small tweak to the kernel module loading (via /etc/modprobe.d), the audio output would be directed to my docking station’s analogue jack when the laptop was docked, and then automatically switch to the laptop’s speakers when undocked.
Unfortunately, in Jessie, when my laptop is docked I have to hit the Super (Windows) key and get to the Sound preferences, then switch the output device. After undocking, the same story. This is, apparently, fixed upstream, but regressive and annoying nonetheless.
10. The long pauses and (what seems like) catastrophic resource “sharing”
This is so subjective an issue that I thought it barely worth mentioning, but an issue it is nonetheless. And one that I actually feel is perhaps the worst of all.
When key processes are busy in the GNOME Desktop Environment – say Tracker for sake of argument, the “hit” on the rest of the system is shocking. Right now, as I type this blog entry, any mouse-based GUI interactions are extremely sluggish. This could be the reason why:
top - 16:34:34 up 2:00, 2 users, load average: 16.31, 15.97, 13.93
So what is causing such a load on my machine? It doesn’t take long to figure it out, in top:
PID USER PR NI VIRT RES SHR S %CPU %MEM TIME+ COMMAND
9187 smd 39 19 2239548 210440 34852 R 83.7 1.3 3:50.74 tracker-extract
9148 smd 20 0 693940 59696 8652 S 7.6 0.4 4:33.53 tracker-store
For reference, my trusty ThinkPad T420 uses a 2nd gen Core i7 processor (dual core w/hyperthreading), 16GB DDR3 memory (dual channel), a 64GB mSATA SSD system drive and 500GB Seagate Momentus 7200.4 drive for my /home. It’s a set-up that’s still powerful enough for getting things done, and I’ve grown quite fond of this chunky, heavy laptop (by 2016 standards). Yes, it’s a bit clunky now, but it’s still got it where it counts, and has only required minimal servicing over the years (since 2011).
Back to the main issue, though. You see, I grew up on Amigas. Fully pre-emptive multitasking spoilt me, and I’ve never looked back, or sideways, since. These days, all modern operating systems provide significantly more advanced multitasking and far, far more powerful hardware, but the user’s needs should always come first in a desktop environment. So, having an unresponsive desktop for hours, because a non-GUI process is taking too much CPU and I/O, is not a productivity boon, to say the least.
And just when you thought my tirade was complete, for a special BONUS…
11. Dejadup/duplicity and the inability to restore a backup!!
I love how well integrated Dejadup is into Nautilus. It’s a neat idea, to be able to just navigate to anywhere on your file-system and then say “hey, you know what? I wonder if that file I was looking for used to live here?“, or “I really must restore the earlier version of this file, or that file…”.. And so on. It even states on its website, that it “hides the complexity of doing backups the Right Way (encrypted, off-site, and regular) and uses duplicity as the backend” [my link].
‘GNOME Backups’ was designed to facilitate exactly this, using the Dejadup/duplicity combo, with two main Nautilus integration actions. Firstly, you can right-click in a folder (on blank space) and select “Restore missing files”. Or, you can right-click on a specific file and select “Revert to previous version”. In either case, a dialog will appear prompting you to select a date, from a range of dates when backups occurred. Great, huh?
Except a backup is only good when you’re able to restore it. I was not able to restore mine. The “Revert” functionality simply failed, every time I tried, with a “File not found in archive”-style error message each time. I also tried restoring the entire backup, which also failed. This issue pretty much covers it.
So, perhaps using duplicity (and not Duplicity) as the backend is exactly what it does. I don’t trust it with my back-ups. For that job, I use BackInTime.
Conclusion: I STILL LOVE GNOME
I was originally going to entitle this blog post, Debian’s GNOME is a broken user experience, but shied away from making such a bold, and somewhat unfair, claim. However, it’s hard not to conclude that this might actually be the case.
GNOME 2 used to be amazingly solid. In fact, in my younger years I didn’t use it because I perceived it as being a little boring, instead opting for KDE (v2, then v3) as my go-to desktop for quite a while. I would love to have the stability of GNOME 2 – at least as I experienced it – just in GNOME 3 form.
The biggest problem about GNOME 3 / Gnome Shell, is that I like it so damn much. For me, despite all the wrinkles and annoyances, the occasional memory leaks of “background” indexing processes, the frequent hanging of various applications and the seemingly (at times) untested nature of the software, it’s actually brilliant. It’s fast, feature-full, yet fluid. That’s a rare combination in software.
For me, it’s faster to work in than any other DE, because it combines enough functionality with equally enough transparency. For instance, when I am editing a client’s website files and want to upload them, Nautilus is the hero – allowing me to quickly mount the remote filesystem, upload my files, and then disconnect. No need to launch additional software for that task. We’re just moving data from one filesystem to another, right? That’s what a file manager does and, in the main, Nautilus is exceptional at it.
As an Emacs user, I know I could do a similar thing using Tramp and Dired mode. And I’ll keep that as an option to probably explore someday soon.
I’ve been using Debian for some time now, migrating away from Fedora on my netbook to start with, and then later on my main work laptop. In general it’s an operating system that does so much right, it’s hard when things occasionally don’t work as expected.
I won’t say that Jessie’s innings with GNOME have been the best; fair from it. But hopefully we can look forward to a smoother experience as time goes on.