Tag Archives: hipsterpda

A letter to my pen

Dear Space Pen,

Although I love you dearly, I believe it is time for us to start see­ing oth­ers. You have a beau­ti­ful body, which is what ini­tially attracted me to you. Your com­pact, sleek form that elon­gates into a full-sized pen is absolutely amaz­ing. As the ini­tial lust for your form-factor is wear­ing off, I am com­ing to the real­iza­tion that it is the stuff on the inside that really counts. This is, unfor­tu­nately, your ugly side. Even though you have a fancy pressurized-gas ink car­tridge that can write upside-down, under water, through but­ter, or in zero grav­ity, at your heart you are truly just another ball­point pen, with all of the bag­gage that goes along with that. I have very lit­tle need to be writ­ing while dan­gling upside-down from a cliff or while snor­kel­ing. I have every need to write in smooth, con­sis­tent, dark strokes. At this, you fail. Your ink comes out unevenly. Recently, you have taken to ini­tially releas­ing large gobs of ink before being able to write. Not only are these drips of ink unsightly, they are sticky and stain hands, pock­ets, and other papers.

I have tried my best to make things work. I tried chang­ing my writ­ing style to bet­ter account for your uneven lines. I tried search­ing far and wide for a roller­ball or gel ink car­tridge that fits your body. I even inves­ti­gated mod­i­fy­ing ink car­tridges for other pens to fit you. In the end, though, noth­ing worked and all I am left with is a beau­ti­ful pen and inkstained fin­gers.

Very soon, a Cross Ion tele­scop­ing pen will arrive.  I do not want you to be fear­ful or resent­ful.  I just want you to under­stand that the Cross will pro­vide more of what I need.



Hipster Sudoku

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/03/

Last time, I talked about print­ing or stamps, but I caved in and sim­ply made a smaller Sudoku grid. The pre­vi­ous grid was 2.75″ (on a 3″ wide card.) This new one is 2.5″ and should fall within the mar­gin of error of con­sumer double-sided print­ing.

Posted in: Projects


My 3x5 Life

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/03/

This is another Hipster PDA report from the front lines. Previous ones are tagged hip­ster­pda.

A month or two ago, I picked up a shirt pocket brief­case from Levenger. It’s basi­cally a leather wal­let and writ­ing sur­face for 3x5 cards. It’s a fancy Hipster PDA vari­ant that’s use­ful for car­ry­ing around to meet­ings with clients. While I still use the ghetto binder-clip ver­sion for all of my own stuff–for that extra street cred, ya’ know–the fancy ver­sion is use­ful for work-related notes (and for keep­ing work at work, iso­lated from the per­sonal Hipster PDA, if that makes sense.)

I noticed that Levenger sells 3x5 file fold­ers that look like your typ­i­cal manilla 8.5x11 fold­ers, but put through the shinkotron. Because I did not feel like fork­ing over the cash and because they are sim­ple enough I made some myself (PDF forth­com­ing, if you’re inter­ested.) This lets me jot down notes dur­ing meet­ings and brain­storms, then group sim­i­lar notes together — like with reg­u­lar paper and reg­u­lar hang­ing file fold­ers, but smaller. It’s also a use­ful long-term stor­age for “back of the paper nap­kin” style notes and dia­grams. I ended up get­ting another cheezy plas­tic recipe-box style box to put them in, but only after spend­ing a week try­ing to find a local place that sells nice wooden boxes of the cor­rect size.

I’ve found a flaw in the Sudoko cards that I designed. The flaw is that the PDF is too accu­rate for con­sumer print­ers. I’m find­ing that most print­ers, when han­dling card­stock, get really finicky about every­thing. Depending on how much paper is in the paper feed and how care­fully you try to feed it through, the results could be as much as a quarter-inch off by the time the printer reaches the other end of the paper. It’s that whole thing about small angles grow­ing to large dif­fer­ences if you fol­low the angle out far enough. Trying to man­u­ally get every­thing to line up each time, then cut things exactly (even with a nice paper cut­ter), is start­ing to be a pain in the butt. I actu­ally talked to a cou­ple of local print houses about hav­ing some­one else do the exact print­work and cut­ting, but over $100 for 500‑1000 cards seems exces­sive to me. As much as I hate to do it, I may just have to shrink down the size of the grid to account for printer inac­cu­ra­cies. Another thought was to have some­one make (or make myself, if there’s a way) a rub­ber stamp to just put the grid on reg­u­lar blank cards, but I have not had much luck in that depart­ment. Most stamp com­pa­nies only want to han­dle text: return mail­ing addresses, check endorse­ments, inspected by #23, and that sort of thing, with maybe a piece of stock cli­part. So shrink­ing the pat­tern might be my only remain­ing option.

Posted in: Dear Diary Work

New Hipster PDA Shopping Template

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/02/

I revis­ited my Hipster PDA shop­ping tem­plate. The items have been grouped by cat­e­gory (i.e. sec­tion of the store) and for­mat­ting has changed in slight ways. The new tem­plate is called shopping2. Just like I said with the orig­i­nal shop­ping tem­plate, it is my own per­sonal set of generally-weekly sta­ples and may or may not be use­ful to most other peo­ple.

Posted in: Projects

Hipster PDA Revisited

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/02/

After about a month of using a Hipster PDA, I have to say that parts of it are work­ing extremely well and other parts aren’t.

To-Do List
This works sur­pris­ingly well, and I have a lit­tle bit of a the­ory about this. With the to-do list in my orga­nizer or on the com­puter, I always have to keep refer­ring back to it. Many, many, many times a day, I will hit the right sequence of but­tons (the “Calendar” key 3 times on my Treo) to bring it up. With the Hipster PDA to-do list, I remem­ber things on the list with­out hav­ing to look at it con­stantly. I believe this is entirely due to the tac­tile nature of the writ­ten list, giv­ing my brain some­thing to latch on to. With the com­puter and phone/organizer, the list is a screen. The back­ground is white, the fore­ground is black, the items on the screen are all a con­sis­tent size in a con­sis­tent font. It’s all cookie-cutter, and there­fore eas­ily for­get­table. It con­veys the infor­ma­tion long enough to look at, but does not leave any “hooks” for the brain (or, at least, *my* brain) to latch on to. With the printed list, there are a num­ber of good mem­ory “hooks.” First off, there is the act of writ­ing out the items. Like a school child writ­ing out the word “ency­clo­pe­dia” ten times in a row as a spelling exer­cise, writ­ing out the items hits a piece of [my] mem­ory that is not hit by sim­ply typ­ing. Second, there are lots of lit­tle irreg­u­lar­i­ties, incon­sis­ten­cies, or just plain unique things about hand­writ­ing on paper that seem to give my brain a bunch of things to latch on to: the spac­ing of the items, the size of the items, the cou­ple of items writ­ten side­ways because there wasn’t enough space at the bot­tom, the way that the descen­der on a par­tic­u­lar let­ter swoops, the “t” that didn’t quite get crossed, the asym­me­try of a par­tic­u­lar cap­i­tal “A,” or maybe just the look and feel of the paper as it fades from its orig­i­nal pure white after days of use. At any rate, there are lots of lit­tle phys­i­cal, vis­i­ble, and tac­tile cues in there that let me actively visu­al­ize the whole card and the items on the card. I do not have to refer to it as much because the items are more mem­o­rable.

I gave up. A printed cal­en­dar just can’t touch the iCal/Treo cal­en­dar syn­chro­niza­tion. It’s pretty much a data­base with mul­ti­ple views–day, week, month, etc. The only way to do that on paper cards is to use non-normalized data (to use a data­base term... or “lots of dupli­cates” to use com­mon English.) Duplicating the same event on the monthly, weekly, and daily cal­en­dars is just a pain.

Yes, it’s sort of a weird card/page, but the Harmony card is work­ing out well for me, but maybe not as well as I hoped. Its main focus is as a to-do, but to track a few short-term items ver­sus sev­eral long-term goals. It also helps bal­ance and track phys­i­cal, men­tal, social, and inspirational/spiritual goals. It’s a bit more rigidly defined than a free-form blank to-do card, and it forces me to think about long-term goals. I find that I’m maybe not refer­ring back to it enough, or maybe not com­ing up with good short-term steps to lead to the long-term goals. So while this is mostly work­ing, I either need to tweak the card or tweak my life to get it work­ing bet­ter.


Potential Project
Awesomeness! I often get crazy ideas for some future project. Sometimes I end up doing the project. Sometimes I drop it. Sometimes I com­pletely for­get about it. Having a spe­cific page for a spe­cific future project is an awe­some idea. There’s a spot for a title, descrip­tion, sum­mary, and a graph-paper sec­tion. When I think of a new idea, I can put it on a new Potential Project page, then for­get about it until later. These projects roll around in the back of my mind (although now won’t get lost because they’re writ­ten down in a spe­cific place) and some­times, with­out try­ing, I think of some cool detail or tech­nique to add to the card. If and when I get the time and moti­va­tion to work on one of these projects, all of the notes are in one spot.

Financial Log
I hon­estly haven’t used this. I tend to use the debit card for every­thing, which leaves an item­ized trans­ac­tion in my bank state­ment. It’s pretty easy to load this into the com­puter and tag it with the appro­pri­ate labels (gro­ceries, util­i­ties, etc.) based on the line item. I haven’t come across a time when I have needed to write down a trans­ac­tion.

Shopping List
The shop­ping list I made works really well. I am prob­a­bly going to flip the ori­en­ta­tion of the back side of the card, though. When I orig­i­nally designed it, I thought of hold­ing it in my hand, then flip­ping it top-to-bottom to get to the reverse. With it a “page,” clipped in to the hip­ster PDA, it really should behave more like a book and flip right-over-left. I am also con­sid­er­ing ‘s sug­ges­tion of group­ing items by kind, rather than alpha­bet­i­cally. One thing that I miss about the Treo SplashShopper pro­gram is the abil­ity to set up tem­plates (like “all prod­ucts nec­es­sary to make casse­role”), which can’t be eas­ily done on paper with­out car­ry­ing around a bunch of recipe ingre­di­ent cards.

Various Other Templates
For me, with my brain, noth­ing works as well or is as flex­i­ble as a blank white card. I have tried a few of the other tem­plates, but have found that [for me], they are either too rigid in for­mat or are so flex­i­ble that I’d be bet­ter off just using a blank card.

So over­all, it is work­ing great as a to-do list and for project notes. It works so-so for a num­ber of other things (shop­ping, long-term goals.) The pre-made pages don’t work well [for me] for other things, but blank pages are like blank can­vases and can hold all vari­ety of notes, so that’s a win. It is a lot more dif­fi­cult to draw a quick dia­gram or jot down a few free-form notes on the Treo, given its screen size and res­o­lu­tion. I didn’t men­tion it here, but the “big box o’ index cards” as a task list at work, as expected and as always, is still work­ing well.

Posted in: Projects


My Hipster PDA

Please note that all blog posts before 8 April 2007 were auto­mat­i­cally imported from LiveJournal.  To see the com­ments and any LiveJournal-specific extras such as polls and user icons, please find the source post­ing at http://brianenigma.livejournal.com/2007/01/

There are very few things I have learned from the eXtreme Programming method­ol­ogy. The major­ity of what I find good about XP is pretty much other pro­gram­ming method­olo­gies that XP has bor­rowed for itself. For instance, the iter­a­tive (or spi­ral) method that goes with the mantra “release early, release often.” The peo­ple that mat­ter (mar­ket­ing, sales, tech sup­port, and beta cus­tomers in my case) see fre­quent betas and can guide the direc­tion of the software/firmware/hardware. On the other hand, the “pair pro­gram­ming” method­ol­ogy of XP, where two peo­ple share a sin­gle com­puter and code over each oth­ers shoul­ders for the entire work­day, is bunk. A sec­ond set of eyes is a god­send for track­ing down the occa­sional tricky bug, but not for every­day pro­gram­ming.

One use­ful thing I learned from eXtreme Programming, which I can’t seem to find on the site (or in the books) now, is the use of index cards. You write each major task at the top of an index card — be it a bug to track down, a fea­ture to imple­ment, or a pre­sen­ta­tion that needs to be put together — with one task per card. As you inves­ti­gate the bug or work on the pre­sen­ta­tion, you dis­cover sub­tasks that need to get done, so they get jot­ted down on the same card. The card ends up being a sort of “call stack” (to use com­puter ter­mi­nol­ogy) so that when you fin­ish the cur­rent sub­task, you can back­track to what the orig­i­nal task was, rather than get­ting dis­tracted by some­thing else. If you run into some­thing big that you can’t work on at the time, but needs future work, it gets writ­ten on a new index card and placed in the pile. You pro­ceed like this, writ­ing down new major tasks, break­ing them into sub­tasks, cross­ing off com­pleted things, until the pile of index cards is all crossed off. At any time, you can “reshuf­fle” the cards to keep in line with pri­or­i­ties. I have been using this scheme at work for a while now. It’s great for pick­ing up after dis­trac­tions. It’s also great for when I’m deep in code and dis­cover some­thing I’d like to refactor/rewrite, but can’t do imme­di­ately (so it gets a new index card at the back of the stack.) It’s not a great pic­ture, but the pile looks some­thing like this, with about 3 cards in the front, 100+ crossed-off cards in the back, and a bunch of blank ones in the mid­dle:

For me, this sys­tem has been pretty suc­cess­ful. I used to do it on Post-It notes, but found that 3x5 index cards are a bet­ter size and shape. Because of the index card sys­tem, the Hipster PDA was brought to my atten­tion about a year or two ago. At the time, I laughed it off as a dumb joke, designed to make fun of the folks who pay sev­eral hun­dred for a Personal Digital Assistant (or “sur­ro­gate brain,” as I call mine.)

These days, I run into more and more peo­ple that use the Hipster PDA as an orga­nizer. It’s kind of scary. So the other day, I took the plunge and decided to start using one. First off, there are a few things that I am NOT going to use it for. Names, phone num­bers, and addresses is one. Those are all in the Apple Address Book appli­ca­tion, syn­chro­nize with my phone, get backed up to a disk array, and don’t need to be writ­ten down on index cards. There are just too many names and num­bers for index cards to be use­ful. I’m also a bit hes­i­tant to use it for my cal­en­dar because the one in my phone/digital-organizer beeps at me to tell me appoint­ments are approach­ing and allows me to eas­ily switch between month/week/day views (with­out hav­ing to write a month card, a week card, and a bunch of day cards.) On the other hand, I find that I sim­ply don’t use the TODO/task list on my phone and rarely use the notes any­more. Nor do I use any of the finan­cial fea­tures. So I thought it would be a good time to start using it for these tasks, pos­si­bly try­ing out calendar-related func­tion­al­ity if it feels comfortable–otherwise stick­ing with the phone/organizer for that stuff.

I started with a few forms from the D*I*Y Planner, printed 4-up on heavy card­stock and sliced into 3x5 cards. Of course, I couldn’t just go with only stan­dard index cards so had to cre­ate some of my own. The first is a blank sudoku grid, also printed 4-up. You can take puz­zles from exist­ing sources (like the news­pa­per or online sudoku gen­er­a­tors) and write the “fixed” num­bers in with Sharpie. Another form I cre­ated (which is still a work in progress) is what I am tem­porar­ily call­ing the ARG/Programmer Reference, which isn’t really for writ­ing on, but is a bunch of pre-printed ref­er­ence data includ­ing: prime num­bers, a ROT-13 table, let­ter fre­quen­cies, morse code, braille, roman numer­als, and a decimal/hex/ASCII table. Yes, the audi­ence for this sec­ond page is likely to be small, but I have a sim­i­lar ASCII chart and prime table pinned to the wall at work that I use all the time. On that same page is a shop­ping list (my own per­sonal set of generally-weekly sta­ples and prob­a­bly not usable to many other peo­ple) and a slightly dif­fer­ent sudoku grid.

Another use­ful cus­tomiza­tion I have made to my Hipster PDA is the use of Book Darts instead of tabbed dividers. Every page describ­ing the Hipster PDA shows how to make a vari­ety of divider pages, some much thicker than oth­ers. Instead of wast­ing extra page thick­ness, I have a set of four Book Darts on four key pages (although I reserve the right to shuf­fles these around, add/subtract darts, etc.) The dart on the left is the “action/waiting on” page, the one on the right is a todo list, the one in the lower left is for spend­ing, and the one on the lower right is for har­mony. The last page has a few extra darts to pull out and use in books.

The whole thing is 20 preprinted pages and about 5 blank index cards. I guess I’ll see how well this works and will prob­a­bly remove tem­plates I don’t need or add/change ones that aren’t quite work­ing fully. That’s the nice thing about the system–you’re not con­fined to “DayRunner Refill Pack #1″ and the like because you can just design and print out your own sec­tions.

Posted in: Dear Diary Work