Sunday, June 14, 2009

Switching between windows with a directional mouse-gesture (or a map)

Here’s an idea for how a computer operating system could enable you to quickly switch between windows. The idea is that you could press a some key or key combination to indicate you wanted to switch windows, and then you could specify which window simply by shifting the mouse pointer from its current position just a little bit in the direction of the window you wanted to switch to.

The operating system would guess which window you wanted to switch to and make it flash or something. If it had the one you wanted, you could press the mouse key and that window would get the focus. I think the system would have to figure out which window was, overall, most in the direction you've gestured.

If it didn't select the one you wanted, you’d move the mouse again to try to make it clearer which window you wanted. How would this work? Imagine that you’d moved the mouse to the right to indicate a window to the right, but you the one you actually wanted was further to the right of the one the system guessed.

To indicate that other one, you could just move the mouse a bit more to the right and it’d figure out you meant the window more to the right. Whatever the subtleties an actual implementation would have to deal with, I think there’s a good chance you could figure out a workable solution.

(On windows, instead of simply pressing a key, you could press and hold down the Windows Key and move the mouse pointer and then release the key once it has seleted the one you want).

As different approach, instead of gesturing direction, pressing the ‘switch windows’ could bring up, at the place where the mouse pointer was, a small schematic map of the desktop indicating all of the windows’ locations. Mousing over a window on that map would highlight the actual window it corresponds to; clicking it would switch to that window.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More birds-with-arms (pics)

Some more photoshopped pictures of birds with added arms, thanks to the good people on the Something Awful forums.

When I see a picture of a bird now without arms, like this one, my brain is thinking "amputee":

Here they are:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Photoshop Arms Onto Birds!" (pics)

Over on the Something Awful forums, Paradox86 said "It's pretty simple. A friend and I agreed that birds are pretty pissed that they don't have arms. We decided this should be fixed."

Yes, this is what the world has been needing. Pictures of birds with arms. Yet it is somehow strangely compelling - there's some pretty brilliant stuff there... here's a handful of them:

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Rough notes on getting things done

Doing an assignment, writing a book, losing weight -- whatever the task is, there's no doubt that it can be hard to get things done. Here's some rough notes -- that I'd like to clean up sometime -- on ideas to make it a bit easier.

  • Build habits. Habits have momentum, and they can suck you into a task without you trying.
  • Associate a place with a task (if you can). That's one good way to build a habit. I go to a local coffeeshop to do PhD writing. That's all I do there, and I don't go there otherwise. I find it quite useful. If it's a place you don't do any other tasks at, it's less likely to trigger habits associated with them.
  • Make the habits generic, so you can always invoke them. If you make the initial task "start writing" (start writing anything - it doesn't matter what), then this applies regardless of what you are writing or what you are writing it for.
  • Minimised the (perceived) next task. Make it easy to start.
  • Doing has momentum. Make the initial task very simple. Simply by continuing to work on it, it can gather momentum and snowball and if that happens you don't have to even think about trying to do next thing.
  • Impose non-negotiable constraints (where possible). The coffeeshop I do my PhD writing at doesn't have any internet access, so I can't stuff around on the net even if I wanted to. (I understand that many tasks require internet access - this is just an example of the general principle). I also don't have Freecell or Solitare etc installed on my computer.
  • Have others around who can see you. That's another thing I suspect is an benefit of writing in a public place... it feels harder to slack off. May not work for some sorts of tasks.
  • Be prepared for initial Suck when getting into any new sort of task / setup. Basically it’s like developing a skill - it's going to take a while to get into it.
  • Learn to recognise and acknowledge when you’re refusing to consider doing something or how to do it, and just pushing it back. and that if you can do this, this could be all that’s required to actually get your major goals done.
  • We seem to have a tendancy to try to figure things out in our heads before starting. This tends to make the task seem to big, and you just end up staring at a blank page or screen. So learn to recognise when you’re doing this.
  • Related to this, there's a tendancy to want to go into a ‘perceptual response’ mode of thinking – you get stuck. (need to do more work to explain this).
  • As a longer-term proposition, try building up desire to achieve what you want to achieve.
  • Try to have “definite critiera” (I need to do more work here to explain what I mean) -– like writing something that reads from start to finish, rather than just a bunch of notes.