Better Quest

fail better.

Month: May 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Measure Up | S.B.LattinDesign.

What a fantastic graphic.

The GNU/Linux Lagniappes

I’ve been enamored with free software since Windows Vista decided to disappear what I called my “trial run” Wubi install of Ubuntu. By the end of this “trial” I preferred GNU/Linux so strongly that I had forgotten there was another operating system (OS) installed on the computer.

But then there was a problem. I couldn’t boot into GNU/Linux anymore. Vista was working fine but my preferred OS was missing. I would later discover that my first real issue with GNU/Linux was created by Windows. While this situation did not give me joy at the time, it was extremely fortuitous.

The problem of a “missing” OS prompted my first visit to a support forum. I solved my own issue with helpful guidance from others. A total stranger thanked me or my efforts because they were experiencing the same issue and benefited from the solution I had discovered and shared.

I switched firmly to GNU/Linux that day.

Computing is now an activity I truly enjoy, benefit from greatly, and intend to utilize for the greater good. GNU/Linux is like a rabbit hole of lagniappes; the fringe benefits keep coming. This chain of positives is in addition to the software itself. I now know and care more intensely about computers, technology, sharing, IP law, programming, ethics, teaching, and more.

GNU/Linux changed me. It changed me for the better. There is just one problem: I don’t feel like I’ve changed GNU/Linux. I don’t feel like I’ve given back enough.1

I’ve been working to figure out what I can do to help GNU/Linux. Here are some things I’ve done for a while now:

  1. Introduce people to GNU/Linux
  2. Teach people about the value of the four essential freedoms
  3. Help people become users of GNU/Linux
  4. Donate to projects (e.g. Gimp)

In a post about UX redesign, Máirín Duffy created a graphic depicting the chasm between use and contribution. What a striking image.

CC-BY-SA 2014 Máirín Duffy.

I was left with one burning question: how do I make the jump?

While I continue actively contributing in the ways listed above, I recently came across a very different opportunity to make the leap:

It is time to open the submission phase for Fedora 21 Supplemental Wallpapers… The deadline until you can submit your artwork is the August 16 2014 at 23:59 UTC.

minor commitment: Create and submit a supplemental wallpaper for Fedora 21.

In some ways I believe that this image-based contribution will be significantly less valuable than the educational, philosophical, and monetary contributions I am currently making. It’s not that I don’t think art is important2, it is more that I don’t believe I will clearly see the impact of the contribution so as to correctly assess its value.

When I talk about the necessity of the four freedoms, specific people go away thinking differently. When I help people install GNU/Linux, I am able to see them begin to redefine their relationship with computing. When I donate to projects, I do so with the knowledge that my financial contribution is supporting those who support users. When I submit a wallpaper, I… just don’t know. I can’t imagine what the impact may be and I may never know.

That’s why I’m making the jump. That uncertainty is, for me, a leap of faith. Let’s see if I end up on the other side.

  1. In truth, I don’t know that any individual could give back enough. 
  2. I know art is vital. 

a minor commitment

– remained conscious throughout the day
– stretched frequently
– moved often

– frisbee
– nice weather
– carefree time
– directed interest

– minor accomplishments along the way on small projects that add up to major accomplishments
– slowly built buy-in to more easily port success in one area to large-scale improvements in others
– proved efficacy on previous projects of a similar nature

a minor commitment

A little lo-fi the other day…


I wrote a program that transforms literary and philosophical texts into patent applications. In short, it reframes texts as inventions or machines.

This is just plain awesome software art. Just look at this patent by Kafka! If a visual artist out there doesn’t start creating the visual figures for these wonderful patents I’m going to have to pick up a drawing aparatus and do it myself.

Transform any text into a patent application – Sam Lavigne.

a minor commitment

Mother’s Day
– a clean living room and kitchen
– contact with family
– space for children to play

– reclaimed an older machine I can still use
– started using the R project
– began creating a wallpaper for Fedora

– a pleasant end to the day
– relaxing body and mind
– conversational aid

a minor commitment
three things: one
three things: two

– a walk in the park
– beautiful weather
– an early start
– a park
– a snack

– a decision pre-made
– a collection pre-created
– a clear objective
– a step-by-step pathway to success

– something you are interested in to listen to
– no distractions
– a clear and meaningful objective
– tea

  1. consider making this outing one you repeat. 
  2. with many unnecessary books taking up space in boxes in basements I decided to give paperbackswap a trial run. So far so good. 
  3. happy mother’s day 

a minor commitment
three things: one

Basement Cleaning Activity1
– Loud children’s music by the brilliant Justin Roberts provided the soundtrack
– Simple objectives for my little helpers (e.g. these in the box; these on the table; these in the garbage)
– The only distractions were game-oriented and fun

A combination of:
– The stories they request
– The poems of A. A. Milne — some favorites: Buckingham Palace and Independence
– Patience

Book Selection3
– You’d pre-selected them first
– You chose from the much smaller pre-selection
– They were awaiting action when you arose for the day

  1. tl;dr — fun music and clear game-like objectives won the day 
  2. tl;dr — (1) let them choose a few. (2) finish with something good that you enjoy. (3) wait. 
  3. tl;dr — remove the unnecessary 

a minor commitment

– The coffee was strong
– We arose to bright sunshine
– We were up earlier than usual
– There was laughter and smiles

– We put in the work — when it didn’t make sense — in order to capitalize when it did
– We honed our skills on other projects which enabled quick completion on this important one
– We pushed for a better timeline when the argument was strongest
– We worked with the relevant stakeholders

– Great (new!) flavors
– Quite impressively from scratch
– Rambunctious, beautiful, hilarious children
– Good friend
– Weather change: cooler, windy, rainy (brief hail), thunder

  1. tl;dr — good weather, food, and company 
  2. tl;dr — we cared early, prepped often, pushed when necessary, and collaborated 
  3. tl;dr — well-prepared new flavors and interesting weather with good friends and children makes for a great time 

It is astounding how simple it can be to cultivate happiness. Each time I encounter another way to increase happiness and improve well-being I am awed by the simplicity of the action required and the largess of the result. Dr. Seligman, a positive psychologist, suggests the following for a better life:

“Every night for the next week, set aside ten minutes before you go to sleep. Write down three things that went well today and why they went well.”

I’ve done similar reflections before for the purpose of synopsizing the day, reevaluating present exhaustion, mitigating negative thoughts, or simple journaling. Intuitively and experientially I know that this type of reflection is undeniably positive and that it takes a negligible amount of time. So why don’t I use this beneficial exercise consistently?

A minor commitment to myself: set aside 10 minutes to reflect on three things every day starting today.

via A Simple Exercise to Increase Well-Being and Lower Depression from Martin Seligman, Founding Father of Positive Psychology | Brain Pickings.

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