Update on 21-Feb-2012 : Looks like Canonical had the same idea!


Instead of Canonical trying to tinker with the UI of Ubuntu Desktop Linux, I really wish they thought differently™ instead.

I find iPhone incredibly easy to use because of iTunes. Regardless of your feelings about iTunes, I find it an indispensable software and have been constantly wishing there was something similar for Android.

That’s my wish for Ubuntu’s direction – instead of trying to reinvent the UI, simply focus on integrating Android with Ubuntu, so much so that if you’re an Android user, you’ll be tempted to switch to Ubuntu because it makes life so easy.

For example:

  • iCloud equivalent that would sync Ubuntu and Android Address Book, Calendar, Notes, etc.
    • Yes, there is Ubuntu One but that only talks about the Dropbox aspect of things, not the integration into the specific data apps such as Address Book, Calendar, Notes, etc.
      • Maybe even combine forces with the CyanogenMod folks if it requires a custom Android build!
      • Possibly just use Dropbox as a backing store and maybe cut a deal with Dropbox to highlight Ubuntu, just like iOS integrates Twitter for mutual benefits, for example, Dropbox can be bookmarked in the “File -> Open With” window by default in Ubuntu, and so on. This is a marketing angle that will probably inform most Dropbox users, out of which a large segment will very likely have Android phones, about the possibility of considering Ubuntu.
    • This “uCloud for data” assures me that my data is always safe which is what I’m never comfortable with every new breaking version as well as changing apps in Linux/Ubuntu – “The new default photo app is Shotwell? What happened to F-Spot?” and other situations.
  • Connect your Android phone and auto-sync photos, music, etc.
    • Especially the facility of copying over new photos to the desktop and giving good organizational functionality such as deciding which photos to keep and which ones to delete.
  • Assist with making it easy to read EPUB and PDF both on the desktop and the phone like saving “last read location”, etc. just like the Kindle app
  • Other possibilities such as a IFTTT that involves the desktop, the phone and the cloud (an alternative to the Automator in OS X)

If a high build-quality laptop came supported with Ubuntu (there is a list of crowdsourced recommendations but none that you could depend on, it’s your guess and fate on whether all the hardware works well with Ubuntu) + an Ubuntu that works super-well with Android, then I would love to eventually switch away from Mac and iPhone to an open source Ubuntu and Android combination.

Benefits include:

  1. Open source benefits, as well as makes future of open source platforms more brighter rather than next generation assuming closed platforms where you can run apps is how it always has been as opposed to having a fully hackable environment
  2. To protect myself against future lockdowns – when I heard of Cory Doctorow talk about the coming war on general purpose computation, I thought he was being too negative and then Apple announced a lockdown of apps for OS X Mountain Lion amongst other AppStore sandboxing issues. Sigh.
  3. As a developer, I’m already highly dependent on Ubuntu server edition, would make it neat to use it on the desktop as well.
  4. This makes it super-easy to transition someone to Ubuntu since it works well with their phone which they rely so much on already, and since the data is suddenly available on the desktop as well, the fear of the unknown reduces and they become more open to trying out a new OS.
  5. I can finally have a usable Android phone.

P.S. Another random thought – An Ubuntu laptop that comes with a SIM card slot built-in so that I can put in a SIM card and will have internet always-on, just like an iPad.

Update : Submitted as Brainstorm Idea #29231.

I was struggling with focus in the past week, and I needed a refresher of the basics. So I was looking for reading a new book that I haven’t read before, and luckily there was a free one – the Focus Manifesto by Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.com fame.

The whole book boils down to few things for me:

  • Shut down or shut out all distractions, including email, twitter, phones, internet access, noise from outside, etc.
  • Start with one thing that is important today and do only that, which is called the MIT (Most Important Task for today)
  • Follow the Pomodoro technique, at least in concept – focus in a mindful manner in intense periods with short breaks in between

Nice and simple. And very hard to do. But it was surprisingly easy to do today after I read the book last night and today morning and was strongly reminded about the basics. Sometimes, all you need is to step back and revise the basics.

In particular, I am intrigued by the “Disconnect and Connect Working Routine”:

Consider a routine such as the following:

  1. Disconnect for a day (or two). No Internet connection — perhaps no computer at all if using your computer is too much of a temptation to connect. Use an actual paper notepad and pen, writing and brainstorming and making pages of notes or sketches. Make phone calls instead of connecting via email or IM. Meet with people in real life, and get outside. Get a ton of important work done. No mobile devices except for actual phone calls.
  2. Then connect for a day (or two). Take all the notes and work you did during your disconnect, and type them up and email them and post them online and so forth. Answer emails and get other routine tasks done, and then prepare for your next day of disconnect.
  3. Repeat. You can vary the number of days you’re disconnected or connected, finding the balance that works for you.

While some may feel this will limit the work they can do, I think it’ll actually do the opposite: you’ll get more done, or at least more important tasks done, because you won’t be distracted.

You’ll also find it a calming change from the always-connected. It’s a peaceful routine.

What I find interesting is a “mostly offline” mindset as opposed to a “mostly online” mindset I had – I (mostly) used to switch off WiFi for the first two hours of the day. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I was more productive in Goa where I had severe Internet connectivity issues. Hmmm.

I discovered recently that people are really using my repositories and getting pull requests for the same.

So I just wanted to mention here about the updates to these repositories so far since the last time I wrote about them.

dotvim

The biggest change to my Vim environment is that I switched from vim-addon-manager with vim-scripts.org to Vundle, thanks to Anirudh’s comment on my previous post.

The second major change was the discovery of Solarized which was an amazing color scheme that I just have not been able to live without ever since I first saw it seven months ago.

solarized with vim with dark background

A great side effect of this was discovering iTerm2 for Mac. I now use iTerm2 solarized dark theme + vim solarized theme with dark background for the console version and vim solarized theme with light background for the GUI MacVim version. I’m absolutely adoring it and I find it very pleasing and easy on the eyes.

Other changes in dotvim include incorporating stuff related to CoffeeScript, Ubuntu Upstart, nginx, etc. whose syntax files are not part of the default Vimfiles, not in a git repo, etc.

dotvim is at https://github.com/swaroopch/dotvim.

dotbash

After realizing that people have tried using dotbash and found the installation process cumbersome because the bash-it, by default, asks the user to approve every plugin that they want installed and they found it annoying. I replaced the default install script to install all the plugins (except recent buggy ones) and made installation much more simpler.

Again, after realizing that people are using dotbash and subsequently they were surprised that it overwrote ~/.gitconfig and other files by default which basically nuked their git email addreses and added mine and ended up me being listed as a “guest” committer on their repositories, I got rid of the username-specific stuff in the repository.

And also it is merged and keeping up with the master branch of the bash-it repository.

dotbash is at https://github.com/swaroopch/dotbash.

As always, looking forward to feedback on whether others find this tweaking of the development environment useful and feedback on how to improve it further.