On the glory of .txt

I’m a huge fan of plain text files, the most portable and universally understood file format there is.  They’re easy to search, easy to munge, easy to maintain.  New operating system?  No problem.  I recently had a computer failure, which put my homebrewed backup system to the test, and one part that worked well was my folder of those easily backed up and synchronized text files.  I’ve got hundreds (thousands?) of them but they take up next to no room and are easily accessible on any platform including my phone.

I decided though that it would be nice to have them accessible as well via a web interface, and after looking around a bit I decided to try Evernote.  Even though it doesn’t have a native Linux client, some of its other features really impressed me, especially the ability to scan handwritten notes, upload them to Evernote, and have them searchable.  This also works with cameraphone shots of whiteboards.  When you see it in action it feels like magic.

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Infinite Inbox > Inbox Zero

I’m reading Mark Hurst’s Bit Literacy,  which can be found in the productivity pr0n section of the nerd bookstore.  It’s a good book, worth reading, and it’s full of clear advice on how to deal with the deluge of ‘bits’ — digital information — in our lives.  But I have one problem with it: email.

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SUSE Studio

Juicy ButlerSUSE Studio, now in beta, allows you to build custom versions of our Linux distribution via a slick and easy web interface.

This is good for nerds who want to impress their girlfriends* with portable versions of SLES on a USB stick.

It’s better for ISVs (independent software vendors) who want to create appliance versions of their applications

But, I think, it’s best for corporate IT shops that are looking to create a standard build environment for their technology infrastructure.  In Novell’s consulting organization, we have a popular core build [.pdf] offering, which does much the same thing, except with requirements gathering, security reviews, documentation, and all that complicated enterprise-y stuff.  Remember that a distribution is a kind of application marketplace, with more applications than you’ll ever need or want.  Enterprise IT usually wants less, if only for manageability and security concerns, which is why customers routinely hire Novell consulting to come and create custom versions of the distribution for them.

Suse Studio

If they want to skip all that, this tool (screencast) allows them to create their own core builds and what we call ‘personalities’ on top of the core build — a personality for a database server will be different than a personality for a web server, for example, but the core build underneath will be the same.

Corporate IT teams can use it at the end of a regular build process to create blessed workloads consisting of “JeOS” (just enough operating system) + personality + custom or packaged applications.  These can be XML config files, .iso images, VMs, or AMIs for deployment to Amazon’s cloud services.  The deployment is just a checkbox option; pretty cool.

*  (You must be new here.)

The Problem of Email

I know I’m stating the obvious, but email is very very broken.

I have two email accounts, one personal and one for work, and they are both, each in their own way, profoundly broken.  Like most people, I actually have a bunch of email addresses, but they’re logically separated into work and personal.  I use a combination of Gmail and Thunderbird for my personal mail, and Groupwise for my work mail.

I try to manage my personal account so that at least occasionally I get to the mythical zero inbox, but my corporate account with 3,000 messages in it is just a stream that flows by with me on the river bank with a pathetic net trying to catch the most important bits roaring by.  Right at this moment I have 19 emails open on my desktop, awaiting action.

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