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Inbox Zero: Inbox Down to 50

In June I started getting serious about managing my email, using the "Inbox Zero" system promulgated by productivity guy Merlin Mann. When I started, my inbox contained 222 messages and I battled with it daily, often seeing it balloon into the 300-400 email range. Two weeks into the project, I was at 100. Now I'm down to 50, and am slowly reaching for that wonderful number: zero.

Merlin Mann recently gave a Google Tech Talk last week all about Inbox Zero, and it's worth a look. In it, Merlin talks through his system, demonstrating how (and why) you can develop your own email system. I've seen some comments on my previous entries asking why having such a system is important -- I think Merlin explains that here. The folks at Google are getting 500+ messages a day, some of which are critically important -- how do you find those needles in such an ever-growing haystack? I've been there, and it's important to have a realistic way to deal with that volume of stuff. Now, the system doesn't need to be complex or all-encompassing, but it does need to help you focus on the important stuff (spending your precious time and attention on it), and allow you to quickly remove everything else.

More, including an excellent video, after the jump.

This video is in many ways better than the articles, largely because Merlin's just a funny guy (though he does give the Google folks a hard time about on-campus laundry service). Here's the video:

Back in my world, I've gotten better at doing dashes -- spending focused time processing the inbox to remove items. I've also gotten better at doing the two-minute reply -- spending the time right now to resolve something if it can be done in two minutes or less. Finally, one of Merlin's best kung fu moves is requesting more information -- if an email doesn't contain a clearly actionable request, simply asking a question (and then filing the email away, out of the inbox) gets me closer to something I can work with. I hope to arrive at the real Zero number in my inbox in, oh, maybe a month or two. Perhaps I'll give myself coffee and a banana-nut muffin when I get there.

Original image
Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The End Is Near for Microsoft Paint
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Carol Munro // Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

Microsoft Paint is one of the few programs that has come standard in every Windows operating system since the tech company was founded. Now, after a 32-year run, The Telegraph reports that MS Paint is set to be discontinued.

When the program was introduced as part of Windows 1.0 in 1985, MS Paint allowed users to sketch doodles with their cursor on a blank canvas. The low-tech concept hasn’t evolved much since then, but MS Paint still maintains a loyal fan base, attracting 100 million users a month in 2016. Now, those artists will have to go elsewhere to create their digital masterpieces: In its recent announcement of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft listed Paint as a “deprecated” app, which means the company will no longer support it and it will probably disappear from future Windows versions.

In place of Paint, Microsoft is launching a more advanced art-making app called Paint 3D. Like the original program, Paint 3D allows users to create quick drawings using digital pens and paintbrushes. But the new feature is geared more toward creating 3D art, something that was never offered in MS Paint.

When the Fall Creators update comes out in September, it may mark the end of an era for Windows users. But don’t count on MS Paint being out of the game for good—Microsoft has been known to revive classic features, as was the case with Clip Art in 2016.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow
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fun
Play the Sneakers Computer Press Kit from 1992
Original image
Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

In September 1992, the computer hacking movie Sneakers hit theaters. To correspond with its launch, members of the press received a floppy disk containing a mysterious DOS program that, when launched, asked for a password. Once the reporters "hacked" their way in, they found the Sneakers Computer Press Kit. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can play at being the film press of 1992.

It's hard to characterize exactly what this electronic press kit is. Is it a game? Sort of. It's essentially a very gentle computer hacking simulator, in which the "hacking" consists entirely of guessing passwords (complete with helpful prompts from the program itself), and the payload you discover is silly stuff like mini-biographies of Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, and Sidney Poitier. Still, it's a good match for the film itself, which helped set the template for Hollywood depictions of computer hacking.

A paper folder lies open on a wooden floor, with a black floppy disk on top. The folder is labeled SNEAKERS in giant red letters, as is the floppy. Inside the folder is printed material. On the right flap of the folder are instructions on how to load it.
Inside the Sneakers Computer Press Kit's paper folder. (The right flap contains installation instructions, along with a note that the studio will FedEx printed material if the user doesn't have access to a printer.)
Internet Archive // Sketch the Cow

Always remember: "My voice is my passport. Verify me." Now, get cracking on this press kit and don't be flummoxed—if you can't figure out a password right away, just wait a moment.

(Incidentally, Sneakers did also include printed materials for the press, in case they lacked a computer and/or the patience to deal with this approach. But who in the world would look at that, when they could play with this? There's also a method in the Computer Press Kit that allows the user to print out more detailed materials—provided they have a printer, and it's attached to a particular printer port on the computer.)

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