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A while back, around the time I switched to Linux, I had the realization that any amount of effort I spent customizing my computer would probably pay off. I use the thing just about every day and gains are cumulative so I may as well think about how to make my computer better for me. This, incidentally, makes it nearly impossible for a normal person to use.
It's certain that not all of my customizations will be good for you, but maybe some will be, and if you use a computer a lot, the general idea of customizing it to your specifications is probably a good one.
To start, I use Linux. If you are reasonably technical, you should probably be using Linux of some sort. If you are a programmer, I can't imagine how you use something else. The two biggest factors are 1) Linux has many different flavors, so you can always use whichever one is best for you and 2) Linux is by far the most customizable operating system.
I think a lot of people are afraid of Linux because they think it is hard to set up and use, but that's really not true. I did a fresh install of both Ubuntu Linux and Windows 10 on my Lenovo (designed for Windows) laptop, and Ubuntu worked way better. Windows was a nightmare of drivers, but Linux just worked.
With Linux you have a distribution and a window manager. Think of the distribution as the underpinnings for drivers and updates and default apps installed, and the window manager as the part you interact with. Every distribution comes with a default window manager, but you can always change it.
I started with Ubuntu + Unity, switched to Ubuntu + Gnome, and now use Arch + i3-gaps.
What makes i3 very different from anything you're likely to have used is that you cannot move the windows freely. If you open up an application it will fill the screen by default. If you open another one, it will split the screen. You can have multiple workspaces (desktops), which is pretty essential when apps never overlap on each other.
The idea of this sounded so constricting and annoying that I avoided trying it for a while and almost switched back within minutes of using it. Now I can't imagine switching back. Normal window managers feel so cluttered and disorganized.
I use a program called polybar, which replaces the status bar on the top of your screen. Unlike the status bar in OSX or the taskbar in Windows, it is 100% customizable. On the top left of mine I have my workspaces, in the middle I have a world clock, weather, and crypto price ticker that I made myself, and on the right I have stuff like battery, volume, wifi etc. The clock and weather change based on where my phone is located.
Each of my main workspaces has an icon. Right now there's an envelope (mail), chat bubble (chat), note (notes), firefox, and command prompt. The i3 window manager lets you do cool things like save and automatically restore layouts as well as force apps to open in certain spaces.
So, for example, if I launch Thunderbird, my mail app, the mail workspace is created and it is moved there. When I boot up the Firefox workspace gets created automatically and is populated with two firefox windows and a small command prompt.
You can also create new spaces on the fly. If I'm doing a project that requires a few different apps, I just hit command-1 and it makes a new workspace called 1.
I made some custom scripts to handle hotkeys. If I hit command-W it goes to the web browsing/firefox tab. If I hit command-shift-W, it moves my current window to that tab. The weird Japanese key under my thumb (katakana/hiragana/romaji) brings me to the command prompt space. If I hit it again it brings me back to my previous window. That lets me pop over really quickly to move a file or check something and then go back to where I was.
Learning all the keys took a while, but now it's all automatic. I can move between spaces very quickly and rarely have to use my mouse.
I use Firefox for my browser, Thunderbird for mail, Standard Notes for notes/blog writing, Signal for chat, Terminix for my terminal, Sublime for coding, rofi for launching apps, and KeepassXC for password management. Rofi and Terminix aren't anything special, but the other ones are all so good I can't imagine not using them.
I make scripts for absolutely everything, usually in Bash or PHP. For example, if I type "blogphoto" the script will connect to my server and download the latest photo I've uploaded from my phone into the "Blog Photos" directory.
I use Resilio Sync to keep phone photos and downloads synced across devices. In my experience it's much faster than any other method of syncing.
The only thing I missed from Windows was Photoshop, but I finally got it working on Linux. The process was difficult and annoying, but worth it.
I don't have a strong allegiance to any given PC maker, but right now my favorite is the Lenovo X1 Carbon. I think it's better than every other laptop by a huge margin right now. By using a highly customized linux installation you can always choose the best hardware, the best distribution, and the best window manager. Even replacing all of them, most of the scripts and customizations you make will still work.
Photo is my desk in Vegas. 43" LG monitor, wireless keyboard/touchpoint that is identical to my laptop, soundbar, Teforia tea machine, and a wireless charger for my phone. On the right you can see my laptop hanging off the side of the desk. I use a docking station so that it can stay closed over there.
This is such a niche thing, but you'd be shocked at how many requests I get for information on how I did it. A couple years back I gave a talk about automation, ranging from home to habits to business, and almost all of the follow-up emails I got were about the curtains.
I first automated my curtains because I thought it would be a neat novelty. My apartment in Las Vegas is a very inexpensive one which you'd never expect would have anything fancy inside, so I thought it would be fun to have automated curtains. After using them for a few years, though, they've proven to have far more utility than novelty.
There are three primary advantages to having automated curtains.
The first advantage is that you can have sunlight when you wake up in the morning. I like sleeping in and don't naturally jump up out of bed in the morning. But when I can hit one button and sunlight starts streaming into my bedroom, I find it really easy to spring out of bed. I also use Tasker on Android to automate this so that if an alarm goes off, my curtains open. I almost never use an alarm, but when I do it tends to be for an early flight, so it helps to get out of bed quickly.
I get asked often how I choose what to work on. From the outside, I can see why people ask. The projects I work on are fairly wide-ranging, from coding CruiseSheet to writing blog posts to random adventures and building things.
Things make a little more sense when you understand that making money is only a secondary priority for me. I do like to make money, but I will never do something I don't want to do for money. Google could offer me $1M for a year of work, which is a life-changing amount of money to me, and I would not take it.
Now, that's a massive luxury. Through mostly sheer luck, I happen to be in a position where I can do whatever I want and survive. I have few expenses and some skills that ended up becoming valuable even though it wasn't at all clear they would be when I began learning them.
If I had a family and I needed to put food on the table and didn't have the skills I have, I would gladly mop toilets to provide. I don't believe that I'm above any sort of work. The point is that along the spectrum of trading freedom for money, I'm way over on the freedom side.
I've talked before about how important it is to live frugally. A lot of people probably brush it off because it sounds like too great of a sacrifice or not relevant to them, but I think that's a mistake. It is possible to live frugally and to love it at the same time.
In general, that's a key to how I live my life. I try to figure out what the empirically "correct" thing for me to do is, and then I convince myself to love it.
How much money you should be saving is hard to determine. It depends on your age, your earning ability, and your goals. I will say this, though... there is some way for you to save more than 50% of your income.
That number is probably shocking, as most millenials have a negative savings rate. I'm not saying that you will do it, or even that you should, only that you can. It's worth considering poor immigrants, many of whom work minimum wage jobs and still manage to send significant amounts of money back home. Some people are doing it.
I don't think I'm qualified to suggest how to kick major vices like heroin and alcohol, but I have plenty of experience with minor vices like procrastination and time-wasting activities, both with myself and people I coach.
The fundamental first step that many people skip is determining why they want to eliminate a vice. That it's not a "good" thing to do is never enough. If you don't have a strong reason for quitting, you'll never actually quit.
Sometimes good reasons may exist for quitting something, but they might not be obvious to you. So dig up and find both good reasons to quit and good reasons to continue. If you don't examine both sides, you won't trust your analysis.
If you can't find sufficient compelling reasons to quit the vice, don't bother trying. It's better to table the idea than it is to try when failure is inevitable.
Maybe this is true of most things, but the variance between great tea and terrible tea is absolutely enormous. If tea was what nearly everyone thinks tea is, I would never drink it. A great cup of tea, though, is one of life's great pleasures. And despite being a luxury and an indulgence, it's very healthy for you.
I'd like to share a few of my favorite types of teas and how to brew them to make them delicious.
#1 — Gyokuro
Gyokuro is a Japanese green tea that's shaded for the last three months of its life, which causes it to struggle and produce more theanine and caffeiene, which gives it an incredibly intense sweet and umami-rich flavor. Amongst my friends who like it, most of us consider it to be the best flavor on earth!
Last year I had a truly spectacular todo list. It ranged from building a cabin on the island (with no idea how to do so), getting the floors replaced on a rental property in Las Vegas, a huge number of Cruisesheet bugs and fixes, work on a book, a few dozen emails, and then tens of random tasks that can't fit in any one category.
This happens to a lot of us, especially as we expand too much and take on a lot of big important tasks. And it's actually a pretty crummy place to be, as the psychic load of a big todo list is a major distraction.
The fundamental problem is that the items that cluster on a todo list tend to be the ones which are never urgent enough to warrant action. So we just keep dealing with more urgent things, and simultaneously accumulate more non-urgent tasks.
To get through this, you must treat "clearing your todo list" as a big urgent item, not because any one thing on it is urgent, but because having a big pending todo list is holding you back and affecting your more urgent tasks.
I had never been so happy to have a sore throat, especially such a bad one. My throat hurt so much that it actually woke me up. Surely this was a reasonable excuse to get out of the talk I was supposed to give in a couple days. I sent a text to the organizers saying that I wasn't feeling well and would probably skip the trip to Kazakhstan if I didn't feel better the next day, when I was supposed to leave.
Four months earlier I had felt differently about the trip. My friend Ben Yu got a random email inviting him to speak at a conference called GoViral in Kazakhstan. The people organizing it offered to show him around the country if he could make it out there. When he asked if I wanted to see if they would have me come too, the idea sounded wild enough that I said "of course".
As the date approached, though, I was regretting the decision. There were a lot of other trips I would have preferred to do, and now I was stuck going to Kazakhstan for no real reason. I also didn't know exactly where Kazakhstan was before I agreed, but when I went to buy tickets I realized it wasn't near anything and was going to be a long flight in and out.
My throat got better and absent a very legitimate excuse, I felt that it would be rude not to show up. So I hustled to the Tokyo airport for my long journey to Kazakhstan.
You know that feeling when you're sitting across from someone and they're prattling on about something in which you have no interest? They aren't actually trying to bore you, they just don't know any better. Which begs the question—are you ever that person?
In reality I'm sure we all bore someone sometimes, but we can work on reducing or eliminating that to make sure that it happens as infrequently as possible.
First, think about what benefit the information you're about to share has to the listener. Will they be entertained? Will they learn something useful? Are they a good friend who will want to share your joy or help you with your problem? If there's no benefit, don't share the information. Save it for someone else.
A prime example for me is politics. During the election everyone wanted to talk about politics, which was never an enjoyable experience for me. I was forced into tons of conversations, very few of which were positive experiences.
I've now written seven books, at least three of which were category bestsellers on Amazon. They all get really good reviews and are legitimate enough that foreign publishers have bought the rights to two of them and that domestic publishers have tried to offer me a book deal.
For many people writing a book is a bucket list item, which seems a little bit funny to me because it's actually a relatively easy thing to do. You can write a book in approximately two weeks, plus some time for editing and publishing. My first book (and, admittedly, my worst) was written in two days and was decent enough that many people emailed me telling me it changed their lives.
One of the biggest things that seems to get in peoples' ways is that they believe that writing a book is some huge daunting task, and that the book must be perfect. If you think that way, you'll trip over yourself and psych yourself out and never actually finish the book.
The first thing to realize is that the point of writing a book is to share information with people. If they receive and understand the information, you have succeeded. Take your ego out of it. Your book doesn't have to be fancy or make you seem like a scholar, it just has to help people (or entertain people).