Toaster vs Toaster Oven, Applied To Reading

I’m a fan of paper.

There. I said it.

I’ve got notebooks. I write in them, lots. I’ve also got several thousand notes (and counting) in Evernote. I’ve also discovered that for flexibility and convenience, sometimes you just have to go digital.

The Kindle Paperwhite is one device that definitely removes the pain of going digital for reading. The high-resolution display (300-ppi!), the battery life (I’m on 3 weeks and counting), and the ability to sync to Audible audiobooks are all big wins.

Someone once told me the story of the toaster oven vs the toaster. One day, a man decided that he needed to be able to make toast. So he went to the store, and was given the option of buying a toaster oven, or a toaster. He decided that all he wanted to do was make toast, so he bought the toaster, leaving the toaster oven at the store. The next day, another man decided that they wanted to make toast, bagels, and bake little pizzas. So when they went to the store, they bought the toaster oven.

This is an important story – I’m a toaster kinda guy. I appreciate the flexibility of the toaster oven. I also appreciate the simplicity of the Kindle platform. It does one thing (let me read ebooks), and it does it well. I don’t ask for much more.

I originally owned a entry-level Kindle of some variety. The simplicity of the device (e-ink display and no push notifications) was strangely attractive in our ever connected society.

Single purpose devices are rare these days – as early as 2010, it’s been said that your cell phone is used primarily for things that aren’t talking. Your tablet will turn into something that is used for email, and YouTube and everything but reading if you try to do that.

I believe that the Kindle Paperwhite is one of the best products on the market for the discerning technology fan.


  • It’s simple. It lets you read books, and gets out-of-the-way.
  • It doesn’t just sync with The Cloud(tm), it also syncs your bookmarks with the Audible audiobook service (thanks “WhisperSync”).
  • It’s small (a tad smaller than a iPad Mini)


  • Yet Another Device
  • Requires WiFi to add books form the kindle estore.

I think that the highlights and the simplicity of this device (and similar devices) make this a net win for someone who enjoys reading.

*If you’ve gotten this far, why don’t you add me on GoodReads, the social network for readers?

Feburary 2016 Akron Linux User Group Slides

I had the opportunity to give a talk on Ansible 101 at the February 2016 Akron Linux User Group meetup this past Thursday.

As promised, I’ve got the slides below, and a link to the live demo code here.

It was a great turnout, and I’d like to thank Rick, Scott and the other organizers for letting a northerner come speak at their meetup group!

Here are the resources that I mentioned (no affiliate links):


Working In The Cloud: Act One

Working In The Cloud from a SurfaceIn 2011 (four years ago!), there was a very interesting article published by Mark O’Connor about swapping his MacBook for an iPad+Linode. I envy Mark, so I decided to try and emulate his setup as best I could.

Using a Linode 4096 at $40/month, I have the luxury of practically (4TB) unlimited bandwidth, guaranteed disk IO, as well as 4 cores and 4GB of RAM.

It has also forced me to simplify everything that I do, and streamline my toolbox. I used to use the following stack (still do for some projects):

  • VMWare Workstation/Fusion
  • Sublime Text as my editor over NFS/SMB
  • Github for Mac/Windows
  • Another VM for the browser I am testing in
  • Cygwin/PuTTY open for the dev VM
  • A bajillion and one tabs, windows and misc things open that are all screaming for my personal, undivided attention.

Now, it’s more like this:

  • Cygwin, SSHed into devbox (This sets up port forwarding and a bunch of other goodies)
  • Vim in a tmux pane (On window 1, maybe window 2)
  • Browser I’m testing, if necessary via a VM running on my local system

And that’s about it. I can do work from any machine I sit in front of, regardless whether it is an iPad (the iPad mini is a rather terrible platform), a friends Chromebook (Maybe that’s next), my Surface, my desktop, my phone (Don’t try do to real work with your phone), or any other machine with an internet connection.

Over the last 9 months since I started doing things this way (I started in January 2015), I have discovered that there is something strangely zen-like about knowing that if the physical machine in front of you gets coffee dumped on it (or otherwise comes to an untimely end), your data isn’t there – it’s in the cloud!

This requires backups of your server, which will be a topic for discussion at a later date (short version: Give Tarsnap a try).

This setup is not for you if…

  • You are a fan of a GUI editor like Sublime Text, JetBrains or Netbeans/Eclipse.
  • Mobile apps (yay phones)
  • You require a mix of operating systems for your systems (e.g. there is a Windows service, as well as a Linux one)

On the other hand, if you’re developing web applications, I highly recommend this. In the time since I started, I have worked to slim down our applications assets (CSS/JavaScript) as much as possible, and almost halved our asset load time. When you’re traveling across the internet to get your application dependencies, every little bit of performance that you can improve upon counts even more – this has a nice side bonus of directly impacting the customer (Because lets be honest, what customer doesn’t like fast software?).

I hope to write more on this setup as I count down to one year of working full-time on a remote server. I can definitely say that it has been fun.

The Importance of the First Hour Of The Day

Like many of you, I work in a fast-paced environment, with a small team, that demands your attention each and every hour of the workday (And sometimes outside of the workday as well).

Over my career, I noticed that I am most productive at 2 times of day – before 8AM, and after 9PM. Hint: One of these is helpful to a social life and your health, the other is not. I wondered why I wasn’t being more productive, until I read Time Management for System Administrators (Affiliate link) by Thomas Limoncelli.

The First Hour Of The Day

So I tried that. Simply by coming in as early as I could, after three weeks I have come to the conclusion that this is one of the simplest things one can do to improve the amount of work that they can do, interruption free.

I also recommend turning your phone off, or sending all but your boss to voicemail. While some members of your organization might be upset that you are not answering, most will be understanding, because you are actually doing your job. As long as you continue to provide high-quality work and service to your colleagues and clients, most will be perfectly fine with you ignoring them for the first hour or two of the day.

Just ensure that after you’ve accomplished your work, you get back to them promptly – an ignored customer (or colleague) is a very unhappy one, and can ruin the entire flow of work. Try it! Be as productive as you can be, without any of the drag. Your brain and your workload will thank you.

Now, I mentioned small teams specifically in the first paragraph. With larger organizations, it can sometimes be easier to deflect things that can wait – have them open a helpdesk ticket, have them talk to another developer, etc. For smaller teams (particularly teams of one!), this can be difficult. However, do not lose all hope! The solution is to train your users. I’ll be covering that topic more over the next few weeks, including some tactics that have worked, as well as the ones that haven’t.

Until next time,

Featured Image is by Kalyan Chakravarthy, available on Flickr under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.