Category Archives: gtd

Google announces Priority Inbox, only six days too late

An ear of winter wheat.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve come to the realization that email is destroying my productivity.  It’s not a distraction; it’s destruction.  There are days that I find I’ve gotten nothing done but handling emails.  It’s a completely victim-oriented approach to time management, having your day driven by what drops into your inbox.

So I began the process of separating all the chaff from the few grains of wheat.  I’ve created a dozen or so filters (they’re really all the same filter, but Gmail limits how long a filter can be) that move all the chaff out of my Inbox and assign a label named Subscription.  These are all the occasional reads, such as InfoWorld, NetworkComputing, etc., etc., etc.  My goal has been to have an empty Inbox, other than real emails sent to me by a person.

I’ve been at this for a week or so, and just when I’ve pretty much reached my goal, I see a little red link at the top of Gmail that says “Priority Inbox.”

Google is basically using their spam filter now to decide which emails are important to you.  The introductory video says that it’s based on things like what you open and what you reply to.  And you can train it by giving emails an “important” attribute.

A lot more elegant than my brute force filters.  But a week too late!  It will be interesting to see how my filters and Gmail’s Priority Inbox co-exist.

Which reminds me…

It sure would be nice if Gmail allowed you to deactivate a filter without having to delete it.  Of course, I can always mail myself a copy.  And mark it important.  😉

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The pain of finding a domain name

I know why Web 2.0 brings with it all the groovy spellings and made up words like Flickr, Friendster, and Facebook (and that’s just the F’s). It’s because the damned cybersquatters have already registered every decent English word and phrase you can imagine.  There’s nothing left for the people who are actually trying to do something.
There is nothing more infuriating than coming up with the perfect domain/product name and finding that it’s unavailable. Worse still is when there is nothing occupying that domain but one of those sleazy Google AdWords pages that add no value to the Internet. I am all for personal freedom and believe in capitalism, but there ought to be a way to shut down these leeches. I have a long list of domains I tried this morning that were unavailable, 95% of which pointed to nothing of value.

What’s always interesting is how adversity builds character and forces you to innovate. As frustrating and disappointing as it was that my “perfect” domain,, was taken and nothing but an AdWords site, I think I came up with something that I like even better. It’s one of those little gems that I might not have stumbled upon, had my first choice not been taken.

I give you Maileable.

Symlinks for Windows

One of the handiest things I learned at No Fluff Just Stuff this weekend was from Neal Ford, who showed a way to set up soft links (symbolic links, symlinks, it’s all the same idea) in Windows. This allows you to install different versions of JDKs, Tomcat, Groovy, Grails, JRuby, whatever, and use the latest version without having to change anything but your symlink.

For example, you can install Groovy 1.0 into c:\sw\groovy-1.0. Then create a symlink at c:\sw\groovy that points to c:\sw\groovy-1.0. Set up your GROOVY_HOME and your Path to also point to this symlink. Now, when Groovy 1.1 comes out, you install it in c:\sw\groovy-1.1. Then, simply change your symlink to point to c:\sw\groovy-1.1, and you’ve got an instant, machine-wide upgrade! If anything goes wrong, you can easily change the symlink back to the 1.0 version, and everything goes back to the way it was before.

This is the kind of thing that Unix, Linux, and Mac users have been doing for years. The one drawback to the Windows version is that you can only symlink to directories, not to individual files. Not the end of the world, but a limitation to be aware of.

You can download the free utility from the great SysInternals site, where you can find dozens of other brilliant, free utilities. The symlink utility is called Junction and can be downloaded here.

Can you identify the source of your spam? Can you shut it down?

It’s amazing what I can see, thanks to the use of domain-specific email addresses. I can see when one company uses another company’s mailing list. I can see when a company doesn’t honor its unsubscribe requests. I can also see when a company’s mailing list has been compromised.  Best of all, I have the power to do something about these things.
I’ve gotten at least five Nigerian scam emails from the mailing list in the past 24 hours. They’ve been hacked.

Since I know that, I can surgically shut down that address without having to go through extreme measures like changing my email address, so that I can keep the infected email away from the healthy stuff.  It’s a kind of quarantine that doesn’t rely on magic spam filters.  This system simply works, and I’m in total control.

You can learn more about it at

Sharpcast seamlessly syncs photos

Sharpcast, Inc.I’ve long thought that digital asset management for the masses is going to be one of the big challenges in coming years. Now that our personal photos, home movies, personal correspondence, and most of our productivity are stored on hard drives, the effort and expertise required to management, maintain, and preserve these important keepsakes are beyond the ability of the average user. Even as a tech-savvy poweruser, I struggle with keeping things safely backed up, tracking if things are backed up, making sure that I don’t have too many duplicates, managing multiple versions, etc. I have no idea how my parents handle it, but I’m sure it’s terrifying. It’s a truly complex and dangerous task. All of our important memories are at risk.

Sharpcast has come out with a service that takes all the pain and uncertainty out of the equation, at least for family pictures. Photos from multiple sources are sync’ed (Sharpcast likes to contrast that to uploading), keeping all PCs and mobile devices up-to-date. An entire family or other group can share an album, comment, even chat about particular shots.

Most promising is an upcoming service, code-named Hummingbird, that promises to do the same for all your digital assets including documents. For the road warrior, or simply anyone who transitions from an old PC to a new one, the ability to store what’s important to you in a reliable and remote repository is quite attractive.

And we’re back…

Ugh! What a frustrating time it’s been, having my blog broken. There have been so many times I wanted to post something, but I couldn’t, because Pebble had lost its mind. It would sporadically accept new posts, then trash them. All the while, it’s spewing errors into my Tomcat logs at a rate of about ten per second!

And now I’ve got the issue of all kinds of inbound links that are probably no longer working. Worst of all, I’ve got my sites spread out at three different web hosts! I used to have everything at Kattare. Then I opened an account at HostGator. Then I got a really good deal at Kiosk. So I’ve got a lot of organizing to do! Plus, I’m trying to transition everything without having any downtime, which seems nearly impossible, especially for database-driven apps.  When you’re waiting for the DNS switch-over, you’re in a very nondeterministic situation.
I can’t wait until everything is where it belongs.