Are distractible people more creative?

Are Distractible People More Creative? Jonah Lehrer, Wired Science

He says it right: “We need to be ruthless about throwing out the useless stuff.”

How do great authors write? And great painters paint? They focus. Distraction might flit an idea in your face, but it doesn’t have the power to lead anyone to great production. Just more distraction and dissipation.

Discipline, however, plays a much greater role:

“I write when I am inspired. Fortunately inspiration strikes every morning at 9 a.m. sharp.”
– Somerset Maugham


Bash pipe fun

How about “recursively look at a log of hostnames used to request my site content. Sort them and ensure that only unique ip address and hostname combinations are counted. Find how many use my ‘.biz’ hostname to land on my site”:

find . -iname '*ecommerce-host_log*' | nice cat | nice xargs cut --delimiter=' ' -f 1,4 | nice sort | nice uniq | nice grep \.biz | nice wc -l

I wasn’t sure which commands would be most processor-intensive, so I used “nice” liberally.

The opposite of love is being in a rush

After reading all of this article, I understand this to mean “Multitasking plus squeezing more in equals a gradual failure in our ability to love & empathize with others.”

Your Brain on Computers: Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price
Matt Richtel, New York Times, published 6 Jun 2010

“[Scientists] say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information… While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise. Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information… and they experience more stress.”

I’ve been reading The Shallows by Nicholas Carr — that’s fascinating, as well.

Install a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) plugin for Google Chrome beta running on Ubuntu Linux

Interested in getting Java to work in the just-released Google Chrome on your Ubuntu install? You can always try linking directly to the plugin binary:

$ locate
$ sudo mkdir /opt/google/chrome/plugins
$ cd /opt/google/chrome/plugins/
$ sudo ln -s /usr/lib/jvm/java-6-sun- .

Works for me!

Changing Office 2007’s default document format

Recently at work we upgraded our office suite to Office 2007. By default, Office saves documents in a new proprietary format from Microsoft that is totally incompatible with previous versions of Microsoft Office. We deal with a number of people outside our organization who of course don’t have the kind of money to be forced to upgrade, so we simply changed our default file format to the previous .doc format.

Here are instructions on changing the default Word option; you’ll need to change it in PowerPoint and Excel in basically the same way.

  1. Open Microsoft Word 2007.
  2. Click the “Office Button” (found at the top left of your screen), and at the bottom of that list click “Word Options.”
  3. The “Word Options” window will open. Now click “Save” in the left panel.
  4. On the right-hand panel, change the top option which reads “save files in this format” from “Word Document (*.docx)” to “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc).”
  5. Click “OK” and you’re done.


The button to change options in Word 2007
The options button in Word 2007.

Setting the default file format in Word 2007
Setting the default file format in Word 2007.

You can also ask everybody else to download and install a converter for their Microsoft Office software, so they can open and read the documents you send them. But why not use the ISO-approved, vendor-neutral Open Document Format (ODF)?

Microsoft will be adding support for ODF soon to Microsoft Office anyway:

“ODF has clearly won,” said Stuart McKee, referring to Microsoft’s recent announcement that it would begin natively supporting ODF in Office next year and join the technical committee overseeing the next version of the format.

If you’re facing the choice to “lock” your data within a proprietary format, you should go into the decision with your eyes wide open. Know the reasons you’re placing your data into a format that you’re forbidden from modifying or extending. Be sure to look behind and through common buzzwords such as “open,” or the magic “XML.” Can you really get the data out of there? Or transform it however you please?