Category Archives: Software Hacks

Useful App: IFTTT

Ah, if-then logical constructs. The computer programmer’s bread and butter. Just another piece of logic for the rest of us. Here’s an example: If you promise to shut up about using if-then statements in your program, then I’ll be eternally grateful.

 

In the app IFTTT, if-then transcends the coding environment and is abstracted into a sort of matchmaker for a metric fuckton of your favorite apps. That is, you can say something like the following:

 

If

<New Picture is Acquired on Phone>

Then

<Post Picture to Facebook>

 

That right there is a QUALITY combo. Especially if you’re feeling all hot and bothered and decide to send that ol’ hoodrat Susie down the street a dick pic. Kind of like a miniature anti-Fappening. I did configure this pairing with my blog website instead of Facebook, so keep your eyes peeled for the day I slip up, forget to turn the app off, and whip out my member for the whole wide world to jeer at and harass me about what level magnification did I use for it.

 

Indeed, though, you can accomplish some truly miraculous things by breaking out your mortar and pestle and channeling your inner alchemist to concoct some crazy “recipes”, as they are termed internally to IFTTT. A list of popular and most widely shared recipes is available and frequently updated too, so you can mooch off other people’s cleverness to reap benefit in your own life. See the two orange tinted screenshots below. I apologize for the tint overlaid by the Twilight app for Android, but like so many creative types, my finest work is a nocturnal creature.

 

My recipes page. Here is where the fruits of your experimentation are listed.
My recipes page. Here is where the fruits of your experimentation are listed.

 

 

You can also see the top recipes and those rising in popularity.
You can also see the top recipes and those rising in popularity.

 

I wish to restrain myself from contracting blogospherical dysentery and bore you to tears with excessively long-winded posts. So I conclude by imploring you to check out IFTTT because it is legit. Yeah. Also the Sparkshots are brought to you by IFTTT’s naughty recipe for picture uploading.

Useful App: Squirt

In this next installment of software lifehacks, I will be talking about a topic near and dear to my heart (while also stubbornly evasive since it is a difficult skill to master): speedreading.

 

Here’s an article where information overload is actually the relevant topic (a reference to my page on a prior segment of the software reviews, f.lux). Whether we are:

a) browsing research papers and documentation on the job,

b) browsing Reddit on the job,

c) flipping through the latest literary masterpieces at Barnes and Noble,

d) browsing Reddit off work,

or whatever, we’re continuously bombarded with information. Knowledge is power; as absolute power corrupts absolutely, absolute knowledge or omniscience makes one look like a giant pretentious douchebag. Still, to gain all that knowledge before we find ourselves in the lovely world of diapers, dentures, dementia, drool and discharge bequeathed to us by old age, we must master the art of speedreading.

 

A dual-faceted skill, speedreading not only necessitates a rapid progression of attention from one blob of characters to the next, but an equally fast comprehension, retention, and storage procedure. I don’t need to instruct you on proper use of search engine technology to find tutorials on improving your speedreading capabilities, although I may feature an article on the topic someday if I become proficient enough to offer advice.

 

For now, though, I will vouch for the browser plugin called Squirt (don’t worry, despite the name, this won’t end in an underhanded redirect to a NSFW site. I promise. You also don’t need instruction in blocking and / or reaching those sites yourself. However, innuendos are fair game here).

 

So what is Squirt? Put simply, it’s a black-box type tool to convert any webpage you are viewing into a stream of words, projected one by one on the screen in the exact same position (the horizontal center of the browser window) and at a user-specified pace defined in words per minute (WPM). You’ll likely grasp the advantage that this information-absorbing modality carries, namely, saving your eyes from passing back and forth following lines of text across the screen. Instead, you become the garbage can recipient of a relentless fountain of black, serif knowledge-vomit making a direct beeline for your brain.

 

A snapshot of Squirt vomiting a Wikipedia page.
A snapshot of Squirt vomiting a Wikipedia page.

 

Wonderful, Bill, now that a vivid image of the Internet tossing its cookies at me (har har, very pucking punny) is cemented in my mind, why don’t you grace me more with your anecdotal experience with this plugin? Glad you asked! I started off with Squirting by first gauging where my reading speed was at – this entailed maxing the WPM meter and wondering …

 

… just how in the honest-to-god !@#$ does someone absorb anything from such a display of pyroclastic puke before having a seizure?

 

The answer is practice, lots and lots of practice. I’m trying to work my way through the 300s of WPM. It’s tough, at least for me. Think something like the opening scene of Robot Chicken: eventually you’ll become a clucking, all-knowing cyborg after strapping yourself down in front of your laptop with your eyes pried wide open 24/7 taking in feeds of news articles. Though if you can master multiple screens at once, why are you even on this blog, you goddamn robot?

 

In any case, it’s worth your time to pick up Squirt, available as a plugin (well, technically a bookmarklet, oh gee let’s all be freaking pedantic now) for Google Chrome as well as Firefox and Safari. A couple points:

 

First, it’s delightfully simple to use, as you just click the button on your bookmarks bar when you navigate to a page you’d wish to have Squirted into your face.

 

Second, it has been known to glitch out in my experience by spewing out undecipherable HTML tags and other behind-the-scenes nonsense. If that happens, don’t fret. You haven’t reached a heightened level of Matrix-esque existence and awareness. Your little browser buddy is just having trouble getting it up on screen. So, either just give it a cyberviagra or two by refreshing the page, or settle for regular old-school reading.

 

Good luck, godspeed, and happy speedreading! Hell, test it out on this post. Squirt: It just works!

Useful App: f.lux

As part of my series on the Terrajolt blog featuring reviews of software lifehacks, I’d like to jumpstart that vein with a somewhat brief review of a small yet powerful desktop program called f.lux.

 

In yet another maladaptive facet of modern culture and the Information Age, we humans have become all too accustomed to being plugged in to the cyber-world on a nearly constant basis. One need only step into the nearest sports bar to be lambasted with bright TV screens in full rich HD color broadcasting the day’s game or highlight reels. He or she then breaks out the smartphone to either confirm the now-tardy arrival of friends at the venue or stall time on Reddit until society’s greatest social lubricant and crutch (alcohol for those clueless few) kicks in and suppresses anxiety. Or perhaps one can also journey to the local Starbuck’s to furiously study and type away at school projects well into the night in front of his or her bright laptop monitor.

 

Wherever you happen to be, the ubiquity of electronic displays vomiting out information cannot be escaped. Information overload, despite what I’ve implied, isn’t the problem I’m unearthing though; rather, the lighting and color of these screens physiologically disrupt the natural process of the body preparing to enter into the twilight hours.

 

See, these screens were designed to mimic sunlight, which is all well and good, until the sun gets chased over the horizon by Skӧll, that scumbag wolf from Norse mythology, and the stars come out. Now you’re staring into a sunlight screen when there’s a clear absence of glowy, life-bestowing orb in the sky (giant ass disco balls don’t make the cut here, sorry). Your eyeballs warm up, burn and sting, spontaneously combust, and before you know it, you’re writhing on the ground screaming bloody murder because you just glared at your laptop for way too !@#$ing long.

 

Enter f.lux. This nifty mini-program process runs smoothly and silently in the background on your computer, not making a whisper except for two precise times of the day: sunrise and sunset. At those moments, f.lux swoops in like a cyber-ninja and alters the color content of your screen’s backlighting. At sunset, it reduces white light and drapes your screen in a relaxing shade of orange, subtle enough to warrant little more than a brief notice yet powerful enough to minimize strain on your eyes in the context of usual indoor lighting. At sunrise, it performs the opposite transition, increasing white light to promote the alertness evolutionarily packaged with a typical human’s morning routine stemming from being greeted by sunlight.

 

You can view the difference in the two screenshots below.

 

My screen prior to sunset.
My screen prior to sunset.
My screen after sunset. Noted the muted blue. This is what our eyes want!
My screen after sunset. Noted the muted blue. This is what our eyes want!

 

So why do I advocate getting this free program? Well, mainly because of the sleep-improving effects it possesses, and if there’s one thing us wired, frantic, party-loving, boozing, ball-busting, plugged-in Americans love to screw with and loathe, even more so than foreigners and minorities, it is our sleep schedules.  Also, it’s pretty clutch to watch the transition unfold in real-time (it doesn’t change colors instantly), like your computer’s going into red alert and !@#$ is about to get real.

 

I’ll eventually be compiling an entire segment of articles on sleep and why you’re not receiving high-quality shuteye, despite what you may think, but I figure this little snippet is a sufficient striptease of what is to come. So download f.lux and give it a trial run for a while. Also nab the mobile equivalent, Twilight, on your Android phone while you are at it (don’t know if it’s on the Apple Store as well but it’s worth a looksie).