A Filing Cabinet in My Pocket

Having your important files everywhere is a huge convenience. I lost count of the number of times I needed my passport, a recent proof of address or my CV handy.

In all of these cases I was grateful for Dropbox. Dropbox is a cloud storage service owned by an American startup of the same name.

There are similar solutions offered by Microsoft and Google. I prefer to support the underdogs.

The free plan offers a generous 2GB of cloud storage. That’s more than enough to store all your important documents. Dropbox has apps for just about every platform, including Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. This means you have access to your files on all these platforms. The app takes care of saving the files on the cloud for you. All you have to do is place them in the dedicated Dropbox folder.

Other than file storage, Dropbox also lets you share these files with others. It also offers recovery of deleted files for 30 days from deletion.

I opted for their plus plan, which offers a whopping 2TB of storage for £7.99 ($9.99) per month at the time of writing. This gives me the peace of mind of never running out of space when storing all my important documents.

Whenever I receive an important letter, I immediately scan it and keep the scanning in my Dropbox. Doing so saved me incredible amounts of time in the past.

Don’t get caught without your important documents. Use Dropbox.

I’m Not Buying It

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Boxing Day, Prime Day… Sellers are definitely making a huge effort to take money out of our pockets and into theirs. We worked HARD for that money.

Do I really need that fourth gaming console? Will I ever use this home exercise bike? I mean, it’s probably cheaper to buy a clothes rack. And don’t get me started on the countless widgets I bought and ended up using once or never at all.

These sales are consumer traps. My four-year-old TV is still great. I don’t need a new one. So what if it’s discounted? There are always sales. There are always new models with marginal improvements.

Over the years, I developed a strategy. I maintain a wish list. I touched on this in one of my early posts. These are things I want to buy, but not urgently. I can afford to wait. These are the items I’d buy on a sale. That way, a sale actually saves me money. Otherwise, what’s the point of a sale?

Hello, Friend

If you are a developer, you probably know this. Developers are notoriously socially awkward. Sure, I met a few exceptions. For the most part, though, the reputation seems fair.

Maybe it’s being introverts that leads people to become developers. Maybe it’s the long hours in front of a computer screen that impair one’s personal skills. Either way, there seems to be a strong correlation between developers and social awkwardness.

This is why I try, from time to time, to focus on my personal skills. I approach it the same way I approach programming: by studying. My preferred way of studying is reading a good book.

The book I think helped me the most with understanding people and healthy interactions was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The skills this book can help you acquire won’t just help you in your personal life. These are skills that can be applied at work, too. Dale teaches you how to win people’s support. He shows you how to win a client’s heart. The book also helps you communicate better with others generally.

If you feel in a social rut, pick this book up. It might just help you make a friend or two.

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

A Hidden Stash

If you own a Nespresso machine, this is for you. A Nespresso machine is pointless without coffee capsules, or pods. I typically have between 50 and 200 pods at any given time.

Having this many pods requires a storage solution. I have tried many storage options in the past, and considered many others. All of them took up space I needed. Some took kitchen top space, others cupboard space.

Eventually, I found the perfect solution. The Nespresso Pod Storage Drawer is a really clever product. It takes up virtually no space. Placed under your machine, it keeps your pods close to where they are needed. It can store 50 pods, which is 5 sleeves worth of pods. All 50 pods are easily accessible. It is also quite affordable.

To be fully transparent, I moved home right before getting the drawer, and that solution no longer worked for me. The new kitchen doesn’t have enough space above the machine. This makes this post a rare one. I seldom recommend a product I didn’t buy and try for myself first. However, I was so happy I found this solution I thought it was worth sharing.

Don’t Be a Slave to Jira

If you’re a developer, you’ve probably come across Jira. If you’re working with Jira right now, you probably know the pain.

You pick up a task. You move its ticket into “In Progress”.

You raise a pull request (PR). You move the ticket to “Code Review”.

Your PR is merged. You move the ticket to the “QA column”.

And you need to remember to follow these steps for every task. There is no reason. We have workflow triggers. You can configure your workflow so that tickets move automatically based on certain events. A PR is created? Move the ticket. A PR is rejected? Move the ticket. A PR is merged? Move the ticket. You get the idea.

Even if you don’t manage your Jira board, get whoever manages it to set up workflow triggers. It’s a huge time saver. It also improves the accuracy of your Jira board.

If you’re using other project tracking software, look for a similar feature. It is probably there.

Save some time. Spend it on something more productive than moving tickets around.

Kickstart Them When They’re Down

A once in a lifetime opportunity. This promise is so worn out.

But there are still genuine once in a lifetime opportunities. You can find many of them on crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

The opportunities on these sites are a gamble. Some of the projects never deliver. Others deliver very late. Then you have the ones that deliver a poor alternative to what was promised. Lastly, you have those who deliver but then go under.

Out of those, you can grab some really good products. As you can imagine, some of those you will never be able to find again. Anywhere. Ok, maybe you could find them on eBay.

One such product was the G-Ro luggage. This was a very high quality product. It is unique in many ways. It has optimal storage space. It is robust. It turns heads thanks to its design. And you can no longer get one. The website is gone. The company doesn’t reply to emails. It seems they went under. What a shame.

Another such product is the RiutBag. This backpack by Sarah Giblin served me very well for very long. I still have it and it is still a great backpack. While Giblin is still selling new products, the backpack is unfortunately out of stock.

I’m a huge crowd-funding fan. It’s an amazing platform for small businesses and individuals to launch unique products on. However, you have to be really, really careful. There is no promise of a product or its quality. Do your homework before committing. And don’t buy any silly old thing you see. I’m sure you work hard for your money.

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

I often get calls when it is least convenient. I don’t want to just hang up, because it feels rude. I don’t want to let it ring, because it is annoying.

I could flip my phone to silence the call and let it go to voice mail. But then the caller doesn’t know why I haven’t picked up. And if they do bother leaving a message, I’d have to listen to it. I don’t want that, now do I?

I found a better solution. Most phones let you define your auto-response templates. These are text messages you can quickly send a caller when hanging up. This is the perfect opportunity to explain why you can’t pick up and suggest a better way of reaching you.

My favorite is something along the lines of: “I can’t take a call right now, you can reach me at my.email@gmail.com”. This is because for me emails are easier to manage. I can respond when it works best for me. And if the call is important, the caller has a way of following up. If it isn’t, well… Time saved.

So my advice for you is simple: set up an auto-response template. Tell the caller you are not available right now and how you’d prefer they would follow up. Should they call you after a certain time? Send you a text message?

Whatever you choose, try to avoid promising getting back to them yourself. This would just add to your commitments and worries. Leave it to them to get back to you in a way that works for you.

Making Oscar the Grouch Proud

What bin do you have in your kitchen? Up until a year ago, I had a push bin. When holding something in my hand, I couldn’t easily open it. It sounds like a silly problem to have, I know. But obviously it’s a common one, or we wouldn’t have had paddle bins.

The main problem with paddle bins is the mechanism tends to get stuck. Soon enough, you’re spending more time struggling with getting it working again than you do tossing stuff in it.

Then you have swing bins. These don’t tend to break as often. But boy, do their lids get dirty. Again you find yourself spending half your time maintaining your bin.

No, I couldn’t have it. I had to find a bin that had a working mechanism and required minimal maintenance. And I found it.

The EKO Phantom Sensor Bin is everything I wanted in a bin and more. It has good volume. It has, as the name suggests, a motion sensor. This means moving close to it is enough to open it. It closes automatically after a few seconds. I can keep it open if I want to with the touch of a button. It looks great in the kitchen. But most importantly, it is virtually hassle free. Except for emptying it and changing the batteries every once in a while. Of course, with rechargeable batteries, that’s not a problem.

I bought the EKO Phantom a year ago. So far, it works flawlessly. So, if you’re looking for the perfect bin, I known your pain. I’ve bin there (see what I did there?). Get this one. A smart bin, who’d have thought.

Photo: Sesame Street.
I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

The Enhanced Spelling Bee

Writing doesn’t come easy to me. Writing well is even harder. I do try to hold myself to high standards, though.

Technology has progressed a lot on this front. You used to have to install applications to have your spelling checked. Spell checkers are now built into most browsers and editors.

The next thing is improving our phrasing. Services such as Grammarly and the Hemingway Editor use machine learning to help us write better. Microsoft recently launched its own solution, Microsoft Editor.

Others have covered the differences between these services in detail. My recommendation to you is simple. It doesn’t really matter which of these you use. Use one. It will do wonders for your writing. I use Microsoft Editor when writing emails. I use Hemingway Editor when writing my blog posts. They’re easy to use, and their suggestions make sense. Oh, and they’re free. If only they could do the actual writing for us!

Who’s In Charge?

I remember as a kid we’d have batteries everywhere. Most commonly, they’d be in the fridge, so they’d last longer. When you’d need one, you’d pick up a random one and hope it still has some juice left. More often than not, it didn’t.

It is a bit surprising to me that you could still get disposable batteries. They are horrible for the environment, and over time they cost you much, much more.

After my usual research, I opted for the Energizer Universal Charger. I bought it almost 4 years ago and it still serves me well. It charges AA, AAA, C, D and 9 volt batteries. I can charge A LOT of batteries at the same time. It has a cool screen that shows me how much charge is left in each battery. This would be my recommendation. As always, you can explore AliExpress.com for cheaper bargains.

I stopped using disposable batteries altogether. All my batteries are now rechargeable. That means I never have to buy batteries again. I always have charged batteries when I need them. As soon as they run out, I recharge them and swap them for fully charged ones. It’s amazing how easy it is. And I no longer have dying batteries all over the house (or in my fridge).

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.