The end of one era marks the beginning of another. Change is the only constant.
The end of one era marks the beginning of another. Change is the only constant.
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!
It is amusing to see, particularly on certain social networks, how minimalism is portrayed. Let’s describe a typically “minimalist” image:
For an example, check out Jessica Comingore’s minimalist studio.
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.
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.
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!
I used to typically find New Year celebrations a mixed blessing.
Sometimes they can remind you of all the good, great, sad and bad events of the concluding year, in a way that makes you grateful to be alive and with loved ones. Other times, the gratitude can give way to pensiveness, reflection and perhaps also regret.
This new year (2015 into ’16) was a little different, though. Following a very busy but also very rewarding year, the period over Christmas gave me opportunity for reflection and redirection.
2015 was a “solid” year. And by that, I basically mean unrelenting. It was a year without a single week off for annual leave, which proved extremely tiring as the autumn months came around. At the same time, after a gruelling late summer with web projects “galore”, things started a gentle easing towards the end of the year.
It wasn’t to last, but amidst the business of work projects was also a number of social engagements which provided plenty of entertainment and some light relief! All of which was enjoyed on social media, of course (want to connect? Find me on whatever you use).
Naturally, life eventually returns to matters of work, which I love. This year, my focus is on quality and quantity. Well, if you can have both, why not!
My belief is always that there is no substitute for quality . I apply this principle to all the work my company, Warp Universal, is commissioned for by clients, and to all hosting services too. I’m currently working on some ideas to further guarantee the highest quality project management and delivery to clients, whatever the challenges!
Providing quality support is paramount in my eyes. I have always been proud to offer good support to our customers, but this hasn’t been without its challenges (being forced to quickly reconsider data storage, in the wake of Schrems vs Facebook, being the most recent).
Managing a micro business is no mean feat, as anyone who has done so will testify. At one time, I considered growth to be the largest (and perhaps only) signifier of a successful business. But this is false, and I’m glad I realise that now. Many struggling businesses are those that have grown too quickly, without enough consideration, or without the ability to back-off sales satisfactorily. It’s my intention to grow the business, organically, sustainably and vertically.
2016 is looking to be a very promising year for Warp Universal 🙂
Alongside work, 2016 is looking to be a great year for my surfing. Not because the weather patterns look particularly convivial to it, nor that my free time is that much greater than it was before. It’s simply that I want to surf more in 2016, and I’m in a position to make it happen.
Along with that, it’s definitely a year to align my media production with media consumption. A great love of mine is music, and work commitments have often meant I’ve lost touch with newer acts on the scene. I look forward to reconnecting via a music subscription service.
The year ahead is an interesting prospect. 365 days remaining from today (leap year, remember!) to achieve so many goals. And not forget that life is short, so a little fun should be had also.
 A phrase once used by my Grandmother.
I’ve decided I need to dance more in my life. Being a techy-programmer-web_developing-CEO-type, there is so little time anyway. With the remainder, I usually indulge in sci-fi, walking the dog, eating… and occasionally sleeping too. Yet, being almost an artificial intelligence by any reckoning, I can tell you that Androids are too busy to dream.
Well, this has to stop! No more sleeping! Only raving. It’s essential.
A trip to Miami is essential too. After all, you can’t be #superhuman all the time!
I am the first to admit that I am a product of the old guard. What do I mean by this? Well, when I started running a business in 2001, when the internet provided unbridled commercial opportunities and there was a scarcity of talent to develop for them, there was a certain modus operandi: keep your cards close to your chest. Shedding this behavioural axiom feels like the equivalent of standing up naked, in front of a live TV audience, promising them you really are still going to the gym and it’s all a work in progress. You can expect mixed reactions.
But in the last thirteen years, a lot has changed. We have seen the meteoric rise of internet-enabled devices and the framework, especially via social networking, for people to express themselves more freely. In fact, not just “more” freely, but FREELY, period. With this certain stream-of-consciousness we have also seen how businesses, once the “big blue”s of this world – hidden behind glass and steel, dictating the new world order – have become much more bottom-up, and even grassroots in appearance, if not in total nature.
I would argue that smaller teams in larger businesses will become more fashionable, because they tend to get things done more efficiently. The challenge has become less about the big wins, and more about how the small, inter-connected wins can be made to work well together. This, after all, was the original spirit of Web 2.0 (remember that?!). What Web 2.0 represented was the idea that instead of developing a monolithic web site or business platform which covered all functionality, you could actually interact with other sites and use them too. And they could use you and your services/data.
This is very much the case today. How many web sites do you visit where you can log in using credentials from another service/site? This flexibility and openness is not necessarily less secure, though some might argue against global logins – and there are good reasons to be cautious of this.
But, authentication is one of many possible services available on the web, and exploring this loosely-coupled architecture is becomming faster and easier than ever. Through a much greater spirit of discovery, we are bearing witness to an age of more open experimentation, more open discussion, and more open engagement amongst interested parties. Clients, friends, rivals, competitors. Finally, we can also celebrate the “failures” too. The increasingly scientific nature of modern thinking allows egos to be left at the door, and the excitement and joy of new adventures in technology to be more fully appreciated.
Many of us are into technology because of this excitement and enlightenment, myself included. It’s childlike and, IMHO, a desirable quality in a person. When you accept you are but one person, you accept a universal truth shared by everyone – and in so doing, acknowledge that while your time is precious, sharing whatever you can from it is a great investment.
On that basis, I am intending to up my blogging rate ten-fold, to try to document the events of my days and weeks and the challenges I face in them. My experiment will be to see if in doing this – i.e. openly blogging much more of what’s going on in my microbusiness, there is a positive effect on people around, the interest in my business services and, ultimately I suppose, a positive effect on me.
And I will be open about the result. Stay tuned!
Part #3 of the Data Liberation series
Is there ever time in the day to reconsider your online security? I mean, really consider it?
Take the most common access point for communication in the 21st century – email. Yes, you read that right. It’s still email. Email is the root of online authentication for people worldwide, not only allowing them a “safe place” to recover lost account credentials, but also facilitating properly secured communications with the use of PGP signed and encrypted email. But is your email storage secure?
The woes of web mail
The “problem” with email is that its ubiquity spawned, some years ago, the explosion of “free” web mail services. All the big players provide it. These services are advertising-supported. In other words, the cost of providing such services are met by revenue generated from scanning your email and providing “relevant” adverts within your browser to click on. Each click is tracked and the advertiser billed accordingly.
An issue here, then, is that your email is scanned. All your emails are read by an indexing process which scours every single nugget of information. What information could that include? How could it be used? How about this little list for starters:
That’s not all
If the sender is using the same “free” web-mail service as you:
There are yet more ways your data can be exposed. If they are not using the same “free” web-mail service, but are using another service which they log into using their web mail service’s credentials:
Finally, a crucial problem with all online services is that there is no guarantee your data is actually deleted when you choose to delete it. After hitting “delete” through a web site, this could simply flag the email to be removed from your visible account and stored in MegaWebCorp’s vault of “deleted” email, remaining there forever. Or until needed…
This is the risk of putting data into another provider’s hands – what gets uploaded or stored in your name, stays there in your name, forever. What goes up, sometimes stays up.
Resolving the privacy crisis
Coming back to email, then, the first priority for someone who wants to maintain some privacy with respect to their life activity needs first to remove the source of indexing from MegaWebCorp’s database – the link between all things you do, your email address.
When the email address is removed from the purview of MegaWebCorp’s systems, your online activity can start to become your business – not the advertiser’s.
Getting your own address is simple. You can register a domain name with any of numerous providers around the world and sign up for a low-cost hosting plan. For any person who values their privacy and the sanctity of anonymity, this is a small hurdle to overcome.
For the gain in privacy you can achieve by hosting your own web site, the price attached to a “free” web-mail account may seem rather high.
If there is one thing I become acutely aware of, as time rolls by, it’s that the effort to write a page on my blog never diminishes. As the length of time since my last post increases, so does the psychological pressure to produce the next post. But one has to question, why is there this innate need to compose something, share it to the world and possibly see no return for the effort?
As strange as it sounds, I am intrugued by blogs that appear to have “stopped” at some point in time. When you come across a really useful post from a blog that was last updated three years ago, you can’t help feeling a bit sadenned by it. What happened to the poster? Did he/she get busy doing more even interesting stuff – so much more interesting and so much more busy, that they have neither the time nor the inclination to share?
This is a problem I have and I suspect I’m not alone. Sharing what goes on in my daily life is sometimes not possible. People count on me to provide web hosting support the moment they need it, not after I write a blog post. Working with a number of UK graphic design agencies, my days are kept busy and varied. Staying on top of the latest technical developments – often blogged by others in the industry, means I have little time to share this newly-acquired knowledge myself.
To address this issue, I am going to start worrying a little less about the content of my blog posts and more about their timeliness. Sound strange? Perhaps. Having read others’ blogs, though, it seems that social, political and technical comment is still a sought-after item of value in cyberspace. It all comes down to trust. Do you trust the opinion of the writer of this blog?
In our increasingly exposed digital world, establishing trust is something that comes from interactions and being able to judge a person’s character through what they share. As time rolls on, I will attempt to share more of my thoughts and observations through this blog and other social media sites, and worry a little less that I’m not providing a how-to on “everything you ever needed to know”.
If you have any comments, please feel free to add them below. Thanks.
Working alone can be tiresome. If you are your own boss, it can be pretty gruelling to keep tabs of your schedule, stay on top of development plans, keep up communications with friends, family, business contacts and your wider network.
Here are five tips that I find help me enormously on days where I work alone.
1. Structure your day
Decide on a routine and stick to it and don’t be tempted to “just do this” when it means overshooting your alloted time
2. Be mindful of your caffeine intake
It is very easy to keep piling up biscuits and gulping down pints of coffee, but this can have a deleterious effect on concentration and productivity
3. Get outside!
As simple as it sounds, taking just 30 minutes away from your screen at lunchtime can make the second half of your day as productive as the first
4. Speak to people
Being totally isolated and not having the benefit of human interaction can make the brain lethargic. Stimulation by interaction – whether a phone call, or video chat, can help minimise this
5. Decide on your end time
If you are the type of person who likes to knock off 30 mins early, see if you can discipline yourself to complete “on time”. Or, if you tend to overshoot and work longer than you should, be firm. Make your deadline real and stick to it.
I find that these simple rules help maintain a clear mind during both busy and less intense periods.
Let’s be clear: I am a stubborn git. I’m the first to admit it. To the dismay or, perhaps, bemusement of my friends, I struggle with product concepts such as the iPhone, iTunes, Amazon Kindle, eBooks in general, Facebook and Skype.
My friends tell me it’s because I don’t like to conform with the “normal” things that everyone else does. Things like broadcasting my whereabouts and the company I keep at all times in my life, wherever I am. Apparently, disagreeing with the background, terms of service, patenting practices and Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) of various “social media” service providers is anti-social and rebellious.
It’s a curious thing to be a digital pariah.
What my friends don’t understand is that I don’t restrict my opinions to Apple, Facebook Inc., Microsoft and Amazon. It’s just that they’re the companies my friends use, so to relate to them I cite them as examples. I feel exactly the same way towards some of Google’s services and products, although I do have slightly more faith in Google than any of the above named alternatives. They do more good, in my opinion. And, with Google, at least you have confidence in being able to delete anything you create.
My main objections to these services & products, then, are:
Less is more, as the saying goes.
While I love using Fedora in my daily work, sometimes when I want to relax I find using an alternative distribution is good therapy. Fedora is fabulous with its GNOME Shell finery, but occasionally I hanker for something simpler and more lightweight. It’s also good to see how the other half lives 🙂
So, I decided to put Debian on my netbook. With no GUI. Everything I do on it must be by the command line, including web research. Compared to Fedora, Debian‘s system requirements are practically non-existent, which is especially good if you want your system to still run nice and quick.
Therefore, my software changes are:
$ sudo aptitude remove exim4 exim4-base exim4-config exim4-daemon-light vi mutt
$ sudo aptitude install emacs w3m-el sendmail
$ sudo aptitude install xserver-xorg-video-intel
You’re on to a winner here, because Debian Squeeze is already set up for Kernel Mode Setting. In other words, as soon as your system starts booting up, the video drivers get loaded and the optimal video mode is enabled (or, at least, that’s the intention).
Whether or not it’s worth specifying screenmode in grub is open for debate. FWIW, I put this in /etc/default/grub:
… And in /etc/grub.d/40_custom:
Then, I simply updated grub with the new config:
$ sudo update-grub
Please note that this step relates to my Intel-based netbook. Yours may vary.
$ sudo aptitude install wireless-tools iw wpasupplicant autofs nfs-common
** PLEASE NOTE: this step assumes your wireless network device doesn’t require firmware or that you already have the firmware installed in /lib/firmware. **
Once done, you need to uncomment the /net line in /etc/auto.master and restart autofs:
$ service restart autofs
If you want to refer to server by hostname and are not running a DNS server, add the hostname to /etc/hosts (somewhere below the localhost lines):
111.222.333.444 myserver.mydomain.com myserver
At this point, assuming all went well, you can cd to /net/
So, this takes care of a basic local network configuration, but we still need to actually get connected to it on wifi. So, there is, in my /etc/network/interfaces:
# The loopback network interface
iface lo inet loopback
# The primary network interface
iface eth0 inet dhcp
iface wlan_mynet inet dhcp
Once done, save this file and change the permissions for extra security:
$ sudo chmod 0600 /etc/network/interfaces
– and connect up, like this:
$ sudo ifup wlan0=wlan_mynet
Voila! With luck, maybe a little patience, and possibly an extra step or two (which you can hopefully figure out, if needed) these are the key set up steps which will make your netbook/laptop nice and lean, and perhaps more fun to play with.
Next time, I’ll go through a few tools I use for ‘net stuff.