[Crossposted from Appleseed Blog]

While I do almost all of my work - and maybe a little too much of my play - on a MacBook laptop, I keep an older desktop computer in my office for tasks that are better left to sessile machines. I seldom use it interactively, though, and its display - balanced on the back edge of my desk - usually shows only whichever screensaver has most recently caught my fancy. (Was running SurveillanceSaver for a long time, but lately have favored HAL-9000.)

Recently, I discovered, quite by accident, a new use for this arrangement that may permanently improve the way I work. For a project I'm working on, I had reason to comb through some video footage that existed only on one of this machine's two hard drives. It was a time-consuming task, so inevitably the usual forest of Twitter clients and Gmail windows and RSS feed-readers and such sprouted up as I worked. (How strange, yes, as if by magic.) Presently I completed by task and switched back to my laptop, but decided that I liked how all the happy little info-stream windows looked on the larger display, so left them there.

After getting back to work, I quickly realized that the constant Bing! New email and Bong! new tweets and Doink! new news articles interruptions I had going on my laptop were now entirely redundant, as these same activities were also evident on the screen in the background. My background in physical space, recall, running on a separate computer.

Experimentally, I turned off all my laptop's many new-event notifiers. I found myself in a new place: the streams were still present, and I continued to stay current with the outside world, but the sense of constant interruption had vanished.

Now, when I need a micro-break, I need only cast my eyes up at my other display and see what's changed. I do this often enough that I never fall behind; the crucial bit is that I decide when I'm ready to take another sip from my personal external-info fountain, rather than have it splash me in the face while I'm in the middle of a thought.

I realize this exact solution isn't something that everyone can implement, since not everyone happens to have the same computing setup I do. But I do recommend that fellow information workers who share the need to be continuously plugged in, but also feel the constant low-level stress of continuous, clangorous interruptions, re-invent this solution in whatever way works for them. I'm hopeful that, in a small but crucial way, it's changed my life for the better.
prog: (khan)
A colleague from my past had a bike accident yesterday and went to hospital. He got roughed up real bad and needed surgery, so that happened today, and he's now improving rapidly. I know this through frequent updates that his wife's been making to a carepages.com page.

And I appreciate this, even though I have discovered that Carepages is to emailed or blogged health updates as Evite is to emailed invitations. Except even worse than that, times ten. First, you have to register before you can even see your friend's page, and much is the grumbling wtf-ery. Once you do this, you start to receive emailed notifications whenever the person's page gets updated, but the email contains no details about the update. When you click the link read the update you have to log in again, because there's no option to keep a session cookie with the website!

When a significant percentage of your users are worried-sick friends and family who hold their breath with dread every time there's news, what you don't do is announce this news with a content-free email and a link that makes them fumble around for their password when they're too stressed out to type straight, every goddamn time. That is fucking wrong.

It's kind of tacky to get mad about bad UI in this situation, but I'm relieved that he's gonna be OK, and so I think I have the right to vent that this shit just crosses the line. I just emailed my friend to wish him the best. Oh, RFC 821: you are much maligned, but you're there when we just need simplicity.

Deathspam

Thursday, 21 February 2008 15:22
The Bad Astronomer got a great piece of spam I haven't seen before, basically saying "Send me money or I WILL KILL YOU." With a great little story that the author is an assassin who's been paid to whack the recipient, but decided to give them one chance to outbid the client before he follows through. Awesome!

(I chuckle at the comments that are all OMG CALL POLICE, though. Yes, like your local PD can do anything about trolls in Latverian sub-basements hitting the 'send' button on their bulk mailer programs.)
I have figured out why a lot of expected email's been completely unfindable, not even in my spam folder. It's because it's been falling into jmac.org's spam folder, which is different from my mail gmail account's spamtrap, now that I've started to let Gmail handle all jmac.org's mail directly. Only the survivors of the jmac.org spam filter were moving along to my gmail inbox. Failures were just invisible. Arrgh.

So now I look like an ass to at least one client, and maybe to a few friends as well. If you were expecting a reply from me about something and it's been missing, please let me know. I'm attempting to configure things better now.

Werk

Tuesday, 2 October 2007 00:01
Today was wacky. A kerfuffle resulted from volity.com's highly intolerant mailserver refusing an important mail from a client several days ago, due to the fact that the mail was sent from a hotel with a reputation for spam. The client didn't see the bounce message that the server instantly shot back at them, so they didn't know that I never read the mail. Come Monday morning, frolics abounded. By Monday evening, everything's settled, insert folk juju-dispersal here.

Then had a good Volity meeting. There's only a few steps left before the alpha, which is now slightly late if you want to be a bastard and hold me literally to the dates I called months ago, but it's gonna be close-enough-dammit. Cross your fingers.

During the bits of downtime today, I worked on updating my professional presence. Following a conversation I had with [livejournal.com profile] taskboy3000 last week, I'm switching my self-assigned title to "Software Consultant", and have been busily retouching all my resumes and linkedins and such appropriately. I also redid my contracting consulting page, expanding the portfolio section and dropping a lot of the technobabble and buzzwords, reckoning that the resume's a better place for that stuff.

Need to redesign jmac.org. I am tired of the "Big Gray 7" layout that's, what, four years old now? On pages like this, that top bar is just oppressive.
prog: (khan)
If you are not the intended recipient, please do not retain, copy, use, or otherwise disclose the information contained in this message. Instead, please delete it and notify the sender.

Has this ever happened in the history of email?

"When you are finished recording, you may hang up, or press star for more options. (pause) To leave a numeric page, press pound. (pause) *boop*"

Has this ever happened in the history of telephony? As an alternative to leaving a voice message and then hanging up, I mean.

The first one is just insulting legalese that I barely notice, but the second actively wastes my time every time I leave a voice mail for practically anyone. I hate it!
prog: (khan)
You get an email that actually looks like it may have been composed by a native English speaker welcoming you to a web-based community you may not necessarily recall asking to join, and providing a raw numeric IP address (uh oh) as a confirmation link.

Clicking the link calls up a bare-naked web page (uh oh) with a single line of text apologetically informing you that you need to download (uh oh) a "secure login" thingum to actually see the website, and offers another link to an .exe file (uhhh ohhh).

I assume that carrying on with the download and running the file would (if I were on a Windows box) instantly zombify my PC and put it to use making DDoS attacks against the Turkish government or whatever they're up to now. When it comes down to it I guess I'm really just impressed that the initial email actually doesn't look entirely unreasonable, except for the giveaway raw IP link.

OK, that's enough

Thursday, 14 June 2007 22:25
I'm shutting down all of Volity's SourceForge-hosted mailing lists. Discussions' been moved over to the web forums, anyway.
In light of more frequent well-intentioned mistaken-identity emails, I updated my contact page last week with giant-type messages about who I wasn't. It still doesn't always work.

I just got an email from a person who is putting together a cancer-fundraising basketball tournament, which compelled me to actually write him back about his mistake (as well as sending props for his efforts; I mean, that's a good thing he's doing). It's made more bizarre by the fact that this person apparently read enough of my website to figure out that I was in Boston (while the young Mr. McElwain is in Rochester, NY). Eh.

I should make a new jmac.org front page, anyway. The stuff about my blog not being there anymore hasn't been news in years.

A sad fact

Friday, 16 February 2007 16:02
prog: (tiles)
The painstakingly rendered ASCII art and precise columnar formatting in your email signature doesn't work anymore.

It hasn't in a long time. Sorry. I know, I miss it too.

Whoa

Thursday, 15 February 2007 13:39
prog: (tiles)
Jason, as you probably know you have touched America and myself. I work for the U.S. Army and travel all over the world and you would not believe how
many people have been touched by J-MAC. You have inspired soldiers who have faced difficulties beyond your wildest dreams. If J-MAC could do it so could all of us.
I am not big on writting letters but I just have to say if you or your family are ever in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa. area please feel to call. I would be honored
to meet you and your family. Thanks for helping me!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, this doesn't feel like spam, not is it one of the mis-aimed Jesse McCartney fanmails I sometimes get because he calls me "Jason". But I don't think he had me in mind either, much as it would make me proud to think that all my blogging about playing Memoir '44 inspires our boys in the trenches.

Any guesses? Maybe the mirror-universe jmac guy? But it's not like he's any more famous than I am. So confused.

Update [livejournal.com profile] tahnan notes that it's almost surely Jason McElwain, whose athletic prowess in the face of disability apparently made him the butt of much beglurgement a year ago.

AGM

Friday, 29 December 2006 13:58
14,327. That's about one new spam every three minutes, and nearly triple the frequency seen on Dec. 1, 2005.
13,001 13,002 spams in search of a home called Earth.

I heard an interesting "On Point" last week that today's spam largely comes not from misguided entrepreneurs but organized criminal groups, many in Eastern Europe. I was not aware of this.
I'm starting to fear that Jeopardy-style quoting is so prevalent now that many people just stop reading as soon as they see their own name in an email.

For example, imagine an email reply that was shaped like exactly like this blog post, with a preamble paragraph like this before I got into actually responding to what you said, which I shall begin to do by pulling a quote from your original message.

On Tuesday, Nov 14, 2006 at 12:01 PM, You wrote:
>
> Hey jmac. Did you know that I like cheese?
>
> It's so delicious. I can't eat enough of it. I wish I had some.
> :(

And here's my response to your dilemma, perhaps telling you where you can find some cheese right around the corner, but you won't read this far because you see the "On Tuesday..." line with all the quoting underneath, and figure that everything afterwards is just a copy of the mail thread so far. But you'd be wrong. No cheese for you.

This has started to cause some real problems, for me, I think. It's annoying but there's little I can do, other than never begin with a preamble if I'm going to do any quote-interleaving. (Leading with a quote never seems to confuse anyone.)

AGM

Saturday, 21 October 2006 17:16
Wow, the pace has really picked up. 12,151 spams in 30 days!
It took a while since the last one, but here we are at last:

10,208 spams in the last 30 days. Oops, ding: 10,209.

I should throw a party. Maybe after the next Volity milestone. It can be a combo milestone party.

Jeopardy

Thursday, 13 July 2006 09:50
The war against Jeopardy-style posting is lost, and has been for a long time. I've only come around to realizing this lately.

I bet that the only people who don't do it are people who still post to Usenet, a set also expressable as people who know what "Jeopardy-style posting" means.

I don't mind, and I still write my replies "correctly" because it's better that way. But I have to accept that nobody will pick up on my example.

A. G. M.

Monday, 5 June 2006 18:54
9003 in the last 30 days.

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