Pay By Usage

Recently, my wife and I noticed we were spending most of our time on Netflix just searching for new content. With the pandemic freeing up a lot of our time, we’ve consumed all the interesting content. We also have Amazon Prime, so we’re in no rush to watch content that isn’t exciting for us.

The solution was simple. We froze our Netflix account for a few months. That gave Netflix enough time to refresh their content, while we weren’t paying for… Well… Nothing.

When enough content was added to Netflix, we renewed our subscription. Following this pattern every few months can easily reduce the overall cost of having Netflix by half.

Check your current subscriptions. How many of them do you keep paying for just by force of habit? See if you can freeze some of them, if they don’t offer immediate value. You can always resume your services when you need them again.

Cover image credit: Akhil Arora/Gadgets 360

Happy Halfversary!

Today’s OptimisingMyLife’s 6 months birthday!

This is a good opportunity for me to talk about birthdays.

I forgot a good friend’s birthday. I felt terrible. How could this happen? He never forgets mine. And then I realised I’ve grown to depend on Facebook to remind me of people’s birthdays. I’m not on Facebook as often as I used to be. So I started missing birthdays.

I remember my granddad had a calendar by his phone on his desk. He marked every birthday of anyone he cared about on that calendar. He never forgot a single birthday. You could set your watch by his calls to greet you every year. I remember how impressed I was by that.

It doesn’t take long to greet someone on their birthday. It makes them feel you care. For a single day in the year, they can feel it’s all about them. And, let’s admit it – making others feel happy gives you a pleasant tingle inside.

So, as I was saying, I missed my friend’s birthday. I swore this was the last time. So I imported Facebook’s birthday calendar into my Google one, which I actually use. There are many ways to do this, like the one described here. I’ll never miss a friend’s birthday again.

My advice to you? If you care about your friends, add their birthday to your calendar. Don’t miss an opportunity to make them happy.

Happy Birthday, blog!

If I Was A Rich Man

I don’t currently own my home. In fact, I’ve been renting for many, many years. Renting has quite a few downsides. One downside stands out for me. Since I don’t own my home, I can’t make significant modifications. I can’t install new faucets, paint a wall or put up new shelves, for example.

On the other hand, having lived in multiple flats had its advantages. I got exposed to a lot of different potential improvements. Once I do move into my own home, I have a few plans.

One thing I really liked having in one of the flats I rented was a waste disposal unit. It reduced the frequency at which I had to go out to throw the trash. It also ensured the trash did not smell so bad.

Another thing I found useful was having a pull-out kitchen faucet. These make cleaning the sink so much easier. Filling up bottles, kettles and buckets also becomes much easier.

One more improvement I’d definitely consider in my own home is a tankless water heater. Having hot water on demand truly is priceless when it comes to quality of life.

Lastly, if I could choose my white appliances I would go for a washer dryer over just having a washer or having a washer and a dryer separately. Having a hybrid machine saves up a lot of space. Not having to take out the clothes from the washer and move them to a drier or hang them saves time, too. Without a dryer, towels just aren’t as soft.

What about you? Do you own your home? If so, what improvements have you made? Are you planning any improvement? If you don’t own your home, what would you have done to improve your home if you could?

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Let It Rise

Few things in life can beat the smell of fresh bread in the morning. It always makes me feel like I’m on a vacation. It starts my day on a really positive note.

Making bread takes time, though. And patience. And it’s kind of messy. Plus, timing it just right for when I wake up isn’t easy.

A few years back, a friend gave me his old bread maker. It changed my life. This isn’t an exaggeration. Mornings just aren’t the same when there’s fresh bread waiting for you.

This was back in Israel. I have since moved to the UK, and left the bread maker behind. As soon as I settled, however, I did my usual research and bought a new bread maker.

This time I got a Panasonic SD-ZB2502BXC. Operating the bread maker could not be easier or less messy. Being able to time when your bread will be ready is just great. This bread maker can make cakes, jams and compotes, too. It also has a raisin and nut dispenser, which helps when making specialty bread. It really is feature-packed.

If you haven’t bought one yet and have the counter space, I seriously advise you to get a bread maker. It’s the yeast I can do.

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Tap Dancing on the Edge

The next time you see a software notification on your phone, don’t ignore it. Here’s why.

Software is flawed. There are security holes in almost every application or game we use.

There are minor flaws, which can lead to local loss of data. There are greater flaws, which can lead to hardware damage or serious privacy violations.

Hackers work around the clock trying to find these flaws and invade our devices and lives. Luckily, the developers of the applications we use are also at work. This is why most software has updates and patches.

Unfortunately, not all patches are great. Some introduce new bugs and new security problems.

So how do you tread this fine line between cutting edge software and unstable updates? It’s hard. From experience, in most cases I give updates a few days in the wild before installing them. I make an exception when I’m informed the flaws being fixed are severe.

The most important thing I can say, however, is this: don’t hold off software updates for too long. Don’t ignore them. You may be missing out on great new features. But more importantly, you maybe missing out on a safer experience.

So don’t let hackers beat you to it. Update your software.

RTFM

I read manuals. You know, these booklets that you get with many of the products we buy. It’s amazing how many things I discover about products by doing just that.

I often come across “the top 5 things you didn’t know about…” blog posts. They cover my phone, my laptop, my TV, my headset… You name it.

I read quite a few of those. And I can tell you with confidence most if not all of these were written by someone who read the manual.

What’s wrong with that? I hear you asking. Well, I’m glad you asked. The problem is the writer chooses what he/she considers to be the best features. These might not be YOUR favourite features. You may very well be missing out on really useful features.

So, instead of wasting time reading “top 5” posts, just read the effing manual.

Nice and Tidy

Appearance matters. I noticed that when I let myself go and don’t bother with tidying up, it has a snowball effect. What starts as a cup left on the coffee table soon becomes a messy home.

The same is true for code. If I don’t keep a high bar, soon enough the whole thing is a tangled mess.

There is a theory that explains this phenomenon. It’s called The Broken Windows Theory. It basically says that when appearances are neglected, things deteriorate quickly. Leave a broken window unfixed, and it shows apathy. Apathy is contagious.

It is much easier to deal with mess early on. There is little mess to begin with, so there isn’t much to do to keep things tidy. Tidiness, too, is contagious. Keep things clean and tidy, and others will respect the tidiness.

This is why I try to keep the bar pedantically high when it comes to code. It also works when it comes to keeping my home tidy. OK, I have to admit the latter is much easier thanks to my wife. Having a cleaner come in once a week helps, too.

So don’t leave that cup on the coffee table. Keep your sink empty. Don’t leave messy code behind. Enjoy the tidiness.

Same Phone, Different Feel

I’ve been an Android user since the very early days. One of the things I’ve always really enjoyed in Android is how open it is for modifications.

You can choose from a broad range of manufacturers. You can choose from a broad range of models. But most importantly, whatever you choose, you can still maintain (almost) the same look and feel.

It’s quite amazing how much you can tweak your phone, even without rooting it. You can change how your notifications look. Your can change how your icons look. You can change how your lock screen looks. You can even change the entire user interface. It’s this last bit I want to focus on.

Choosing a launcher is worth your while. A good launcher would save you time by decluttering your phone. It will help you focus on doing what you really want to with your phone. A smart phone is incomplete without a proper user interface.

The Android system user interface is called a Launcher. There are plenty of custom launchers out there. They cater for different needs. You have Before Launcher if minimalism is your cup of tea. You have Alpha Launcher, if you want an unconventional launcher. You can use Google’s own Pixel Launcher for a Pixel-like experience.

My favorite launcher is Nova Launcher. I’ve been using it for years now. It is consistently maintained. It’s highly customisable. It runs smoothly. In fact, I like it so much that I have the paid version.

What’s your favorite launcher and why? I’d love to know.

I’ve Ad Enough

Ads are everywhere. In magazines, newspapers, by the side of the road, on TV, all over the Internet.

There is a constant effort to brainwash us into spending our hard earned money. Even if we’re really good at not falling for it, it’s a hassle. It’s a constant background noise that drives our focus away from important things and content of real value.

Unfortunately, we can’t block all of the commercial content. But we can block some of it. I use uBlock Origin. It has plugins for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Opera. It’s lightweight and It helps with blocking the most aggressive (pop up, pop under… You know the ones) ads.

Now, I appreciate some content providers rely on these ads for survival. That’s fine. I’m considerably more tolerant towards companies that are transparent about it. Don’t force ads on me, and I won’t block them. I simply don’t appreciate the aggressiveness.

At the end of the day, we all have to decide what level of spam we can live with. I set my bar with uBlock. What’s your level of tolerance?

Legacy Code

What is legacy code? I was asked this question in an interview for a contract once. I answered that all code, once written, is immediately legacy code. I got that contract.

I still believe this to be the case. Any developer worth their salt never stops learning. This means yesterday’s code is inevitably not as good as today’s code. The code you wrote yesterday is also likely to differ from how you’d write the same code today.

Who would be affected by our code becoming legacy? Any future developer, obviously. But our future self, as well. When I was less experienced, I often wrote unfriendly legacy code. When I’d revisit the same code a few months later, I’d have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote the code. I could only guess what it was doing.

Why does it matter? It matters because it tells us how to approach writing better code. If know our code is likely to be legacy soon, this would have a few implications.

We should:

However, everybody makes mistakes. Legacy code tends to not be great to work with.

This is why I find Working Effectively with Legacy Code to be such an important book. It gives us the tools we need to deal with legacy code when it’s not written with care.

So, in short. Write your code with care. Imagine you’re writing it for your future self, because you likely are. And share the knowledge, because any developer’s code could be your legacy code tomorrow.

* In the picture: Margaret Hamilton, lead software designer of the Apollo project, standing next to its software listing. Courtesy of MIT Museum. Imagine working on that code base! Colorized using the Image Colorization API | DeepAI

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