code formating

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Keep contacts plain

In the last 3 years, I have used many contact management tools. This is the story of how I changed contact organization tools across time. This is my story.

At the beginning there was a phone. I didn´t have any contact information anywhere so I started off by introduccing my contacts on the phone. Thus my mobile phone became the base of all my contact management. As time went by and I changed the phone I had to find a way to copy things to the new one.

If you keep the contacts on the SIM card, this tasks it's easy. The only thing you need to do is insert the old sim card on the new phone and of you go.

However, as a programmer, I soon realised the limitations of this technique. At the end of the day, you have a very limited storage on the card. At the same time, I was too dependant on the SIM card. Had I lost it, I would have lost all my contacts. So I imediatelly started thinking of a way to keep the contacs in the computer and being able to sync them to the mobile phone.

These were my Windows days. I had just finished University and since I was a child, the only operating systems I had used were property of Microsoft. Due to this, I didn´t know the advantages and disadvantages of using other Operating systems and therefore I stuck to the one I knew.

In this environment, I tryed outlook to keep all my contacts and then sync them with the phone. The first month I thought I had the perfect set up. I couldn´t see anything else I might wanted to do that It wasn´t posible to do with the current set up. One again though, I sang victory songs to early. The realization came when I wanted to syncronize a second computer without using the phone. I started to dream about synchronizing all my computers online.

So I discovered Plaxo. I thought it was very cool at the begining. Specially with my new windows mobile phone (HTC touch). All contacts were getting syncronized as well as all tasks. The mobile was notifiying me with tasks and birthdays and setting a second computer with all my personal information was as easy as connectiong it to Plaxo. It looks perfect, doesn´t it?

We are however missing and important point here. We are stuck with propietary formats. Not only that but also, Plaxo can know everything about me and my friends. I started to worry about this things. I wanted to see were my contacts were really being saved and I wanted to be able to understand the formats which they were being saved.

I don´t really remember when I started using GNU/Linux. But ever since I did that, I try to make things simple. I hate propietary formats because they make it difficult to interchange data. When I see the data and I can understand it I feel better. I fell on control of my data. I feel free as in freedom.

The path from here is been far from easy and is far from been complete. Being able to be free is a good feeling but it´s really difficult when you really think about it.

I found an editor called emacs and start liking the way it works. I found a contact management database called BBDB and found that there is a way to export contact to a nokia phone using gnokii. I keep the birthdays and tasks in an org-mode file that I managed with emacs.

There is a learning curve for all of this, but the flexibility it gives you is worth it. Everything is saved in flat files and it´s open software and I own all my data. Still syncing everything is as easy as syncing flat files!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Work hard!

My grandpa says "When you work hard, there might be a point where you feel down. But if you manage to continue further, suddenly everything will fall into place".

Today I had one of such days. I manage to open a domain and point it to Blogger using this. You can do everything I did through blogger, however, I wanted to learn how difficult it might be to get a domain. So, I first went to Godaddy and opened a domain there. After that I went to Blogger and opened a new blog. Finally, following this link I pointed the domain to the blog.

On the other hand, I have managed to make a dual display and external only display out of my hp laptop and Eee PC respectively. Note that the HP laptop is running XUbuntu and the Eee is running Debian.

The first step is to have the drivers of the graphic cards recognised. In my case, they were installed with the OS without requiring any effort from my side. For the HP laptop I use extended view display. Basically, the external screen sits on top of my laptop screen and I can drag things from one to the other. On the Eee, I prefer to have External display only (when I'm on the desktop) because the different on the screen size is too big.

For exteded external display I use the following command:
xrandr --output VGA --auto --above LVDS --output LVDS --mode 1280x800

To get back to the single display:
xrandr --output VGA --off --output LVDS --preferred


I tryed aligning side by side as weel but I had resolution problems. So I could only manage to extended above and below.

For the Eee I use the following command to output everything to the external screen so I can close the laptop lit and work as if it was a desktop.
xrand --output LVDS --off --output VGA --preferred

Simple is beautiful


Forgotten old mistakes and miseries, let's make it simpler. Let's make it better. I've got the intention to post more often to keep track of the evolution of my ideas and to have a place for reference too.

I found this at Hacker News. This is a collection of video lectures by Richard P. Feynman (1918-1988). Not very mathematically complicated and very interesting.

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