Brief Thoughts On Task Management

  1. No task management means you’re completely interrupt driven. Whatever email arrives or whoever stops by your office always gets first priority. A lot of bosses will reward you and promote you for this because you’re reacting to their every whim, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best for the company. No task management means you’re not working on anything that’s important yet not urgent (at least not yet). There’s no goal-oriented, strategic thinking there.
  2. Paper task management lacks the far future tasks (like sign up for a conference three months from now) and recurring tasks that make digital powerful. It also lacks scalability, if you’re managing a hundred projects1 paper will make it impossible. Though, maybe if life starts going past what can be managed with paper than it’s too complicated? Maybe there’s something to be said about putting a physical limitation on how many projects you can juggle at once; if managing your life with paper is sufficiently annoying it will encourage you to cut things out.
  3. Digital task management lacks the physical limits that paper has, so cruft builds quickly. You have to constantly trim, review and cut to keep it from getting out of hand and out of date quickly. It tends to attract way more things than you can possibly get done in a year and since its not taking up any space in the physical work you’re more apt to let those far out tasks stick around in the system for longer and longer.
  4. Digital task management also lends itself well to switching between multiple apps. If you’re doing paper task management and you’re switching between notebooks or from a Franklin-Covey planner to a Hobonichi Techo you will have to rewrite at least everything that’s going into the future and then carry the other one around to reference for the past information until you’ve switched for long enough. It’s all too easy to switch between apps once a month (which is a great form of procrastination) and never land on one you fully adopt.

All of that said, I’m using Todoist and I’ve committed to it for a year (to avoid switching to whatever the new and shiny thing is that just came out). The way they represent projects makes having too many painful which I think is a good thing. Omnifocus allows for too many projects and would be way too fiddly for my personality (especially since you can script it).

  1. Not unheard of if you go by the GTD definition of a project.

Taming Nightstand Device Charging

Like most modern-day geeks I have too many devices that need to be recharged regularly. The constant accumulation of new wall warts has turned into this situation next to my nightstand:

Powerstrip with all wall warts

I decided to use one of the new desktop USB chargers to get this mess of cords cleaned up.


Having it sitting onto of my nightstand really didn’t solve the problem so where’s what I did.

Materials List

First attach the charger to the back of your nightsand using a 3M strip. You’ll have to figure out the best height for your cord lengths:

3M Attach Charger

I used a USB extension I already had laying around for my Fitbit charging cord since so short:

USB Extension

Slot the cords through the Quirky Cordie:


Plug it all in:


And here’s the final product, much neater. The extra cord length drapes down the back along with my surge protector:


Running Teamspeak 3 Server As a Regular User

In my previous article on How to run Teamspeak3 on Digital Ocean the instructions have you create a teamspeak3 user and change ownership of the files. I noticed in some of the comments over there that people noticed it was running as root, not the greatest thing for security.

I noticed my server was also running as root, here’s how to fix it if you used my instructions:

Shut down Teamspeak:

sudo service teamspeak3 stop

Remove the /etc/init.d/teamspeak3 soft link:

sudo rm /etc/init.d/teamspeak3

Now edit /etc/init.d/teamspeak3 and set the contents to this:


su -c "/usr/local/teamspeak3/ $@" teamspeak3

Set the file to be executable:

sudo chmod u+x /etc/init.d/teamspeak3

Fix permissions, many of the Teamspeak files are probably owned by root now which would prevent the server from starting:

sudo chown -R teamspeak3:teamspeak3 /usr/local/teamspeak3

Start the server back up:

sudo service teamspeak3 start

Use your client software to connect and make sure everything is operating properly and you’re done.

Embarassing Old Code

The Inspiration

We just switched to Slack at work and a friend created some integrations using PHP. This reminded me of a personal PHP project I’d worked on and thought I should dig it up.

The Setup

Back in 2005 I was doing C# WinForms work for a day job and just dealing with falling out of love with Perl. I hadn’t done any serious web development since college. I got into GTD pretty heavily and was looking around for tools that I could use anywhere. Of course a web app was the best solution for that time since there really wasn’t much in the way of smart phones or devices out1.

I found a great project run by BSAG2 called Tracks. It was built using Ruby on Rails. I didn’t know Ruby or Rails so of course the logical thing to do was to rewrite it in PHP.

I’ve been using Rails off and on from 2008 to 2012 and from 2012 mostly full time. Ruby is now one of my favorite languages and I think this project helped me understand what a good web framework Rails is.

Let’s see what gems we can discover in this treasure trove of old code.


Overall this code doesn’t match my current sense of code cleanliness. There’s a mix of tabs and spaces everywhere and tons of trailing whitespace. There’s lots of dead code, mostly around database access. It looks like I was working on multiple different techniques at once.

$query = $this->db->prepare('UPDATE todos SET context_id=:context_id, description=:description, notes=:notes, due=:due, project_id=:project_id WHERE id=:id');
$query->bindParam(':id', $id);
$query->bindParam(':context_id', $context_id);
$query->bindParam(':description', $description);
$query->bindParam(':notes', $notes);
$query->bindParam(':due', $due);
$query->bindParam(':project_id', $project_id);

About the only thing I have going for me in this code is that I’m doing variable replacement in my SQL statements properly so it’s at least not one giant SQL injection attack.

Project Structure

Project Structure

Man, I had no concept of organization in this thing.

The tpl files are actually just PHP files I was using as templates, I guess the idea is that they were kind of like erb’s. I remember thinking how clever I was to use PHP as the templating language (because that’s what it was developed for) and not something like Smarty.

My Idea of MVC

<?php while($row = $completed->fetch(PDO::FETCH_ASSOC)): ?>
    <td valign="top"><img src='<?=$c->BASE_URL?>/img/done-checkmark.gif' alt="done checkmark" /></td><td valign="top"><?=htmlentities($row["description"],ENT_QUOTES, 'utf-8');?> (<?=$row['context_name'];?>, <?=$row['project_name'];?>)</td>
<?php endwhile; ?>

So… there’s really no division between models and views. I have one giant model that sets up the queries, the views actually execute it and use the raw results.

I remember trying to figure out why people needed models since if I wrote them it would basically just be querying the database and filling in an object with what I already had in my associative array.

class AgingController extends MvcController
  public function route($options, $tpl)
    global $db;
    $model = new TodoModel();

    $tpl->set('title', 'Portage - Aging');

    $body = & new Template('aging.tpl');
    $body->set('c', Config::singleton());
    $body->set('completed', $model->getLastCompleted());

    $agingQuery = $model->getSortedByCreated();

    $body->set('todos', $agingQuery);

    $tpl->set('content', $body->fetch());


My controllers at least load the view and combine some of the data and inject it into the views. I can appreciate some of the magic that Rails does by automatically matching views to controller actions after seeing how much boiler plate code is copied everywhere in here (not that I couldn’t have done better with the language that I had…).

My Crazy Router

else if($options[$c->offset] == "todo")
  if($options[$c->offset+1] == "edit")
    $todoEdit = new TodoEditController();
    $todoEdit->route($options, $tpl);
    if($options[$c->offset+1] == 'submit')
      //set some cookies
      setcookie("last_project", $_REQUEST["project_id"], time()+$c->COOKIE_TIMEOUT, "/");
      setcookie("last_context", $_REQUEST["context_edit_id"], time()+$c->COOKIE_TIMEOUT, "/");

    $todo = new TodoController();
    $todo->route($options, $tpl);

my IndexController.php3 contains a giant nested if statement that handles all the routing for the site. I remember one of the issues I ran into was trying to figure out where I was. If I was hosted at vs I had a global offset variable to figure out where the parts of the URL I cared about started (i.e. /todo/12). I spent a good bit of time reading CakePHP source code trying to figure out how they did it (I obviously never got around to fixing that up).

Death of a Project

I abandoned the project sometime in 2010 then I learned Ruby on Rails and how to deploy it. I used the main Tracks project for quite a while until I setup a task syncing system using gitdocs. Now I’ve moved onto using Taskpaper and Dropbox.


  • I’ve obviously come a long way in my development as a programmer / software engineer / software architect.
  • It’s nice to keep these bits of old projects around as yard sticks with which to measure growth and progress.
  • I hope I see just as much growth in my coding style in another couple years.
  1. My Handspring Visor Platinum didn’t count. Though graffiti worked pretty well.

  2. I even managed to contribute back a little code (my first ever OSS contribution).

  3. Redundant comment! “Redundant comments are just places to collect lies and misinformation.” - Clean Code