Four Letter Nerd

Category - Tech

Productivity 101: The Pomodoro Technique

If you are anything like me, sometimes it can be hard to stay focused at work.  If you work on a computer all day long like I do,  it can be mentally exhausting to do the same thing day in and day out.  Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be able to leave my beige-walled cubicle and start working from home at my real job, which has been fantastic.  For the most part I’ve been able to stay around the same level production-wise, but I was expecting to be able to get more done now that I am away from my colleagues that like to stop by and talk, or the over-the-cubicle-wall talk about the Jackson 5 or listening to older ladies discuss Miley Cyrus (both of which happened occasionally).

It didn’t take long for me to realize that the distractions found at home are way better than those found in the nondescript cubicle farm where I still go one day a week.  I had to set up my desk in the bedroom because the only extra room in the house was between the living room and play room, and I didn’t feel like getting pummeled by our three year old who thinks he’s both a Ninja Turtle and a Power Ranger every five minutes.  You know what else is in the bedroom? A bed, a TV, whatever books I am currently reading, and a window to the world outside (mostly a view of my shed, but what can you do).  That is four things I never had to worry about at work.  The only TV we have at the office is in the basement and plays the Andy Griffith Show and the Price is Right on and endless loop and at an unbelievable volume.  Seriously, the show choices and the insane volume is like being at my Granpa’s house when I was a kid.  My production at work hadn’t dropped per se, but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be.  I needed something that could get focused on my work, while also staving off the constant cycle of burnout.

Enter the Pomodoro technique!

The interestingly named Pomodoro technique is a productivity system that promises to help you eliminate distractions, avoid burnout (burnout is a major drag), and create a better work/life balance.  The user sets a timer – Francesco Cirillo, the founder of the technique, used a Pomodoro timer (a kitchen timer that looks like a Pomodoro tomato) hence the name – to alternate between periods of intense focus on work and complete separation of all things work related.  Generally, before setting your timer and starting your first Pomodoro, you set up a “To-Do” list of things to accomplish, and work them in order of priority.  Once one item is completed, it is checked off the list and the next item becomes your priority.

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Now let’s get into the system itself.

Each Pomodoro takes 30 minutes total – 25 minutes of work and 5 minutes of play.  After all, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” (is that reference still relevant? I assume people still read and/or watch The Shining).  Once you complete your 25 minutes of focused work, a check mark is made on a notepad, and you are now free to do something completely separate from your work, whether it be a walk, stretching, straightening up the house, or, I don’t know, finally thinking of that witty comeback you wish you would’ve said to Gary last night… but seriously, spend 3-5 minutes completely disengaged from your work.  After the break you reset the timer and get back to work.  After four Pomodoro’s you then give yourself a 15-30 minute break.

“That’s a lot of breaks!?” the middle-manager in you might say.

Here’s the thing, since your 25 minutes are meant to be hyper-focused on work, you are actually likely to get more done than you would were you just to do your normal routine of interspersing work with browsing the internet, going to get coffee, or catching up with the few colleagues that you actually enjoy being around until you get your fifteen minute break.  I have only been using this technique for a week or two, but I can go back and look at my production levels and there is a significant difference between by pre-Pomodoro work style.  I was honestly surprised by the amount of improvement between my already decent numbers and my productivity using this system.  Please note: I am not trying to Billy Mays you into trying this technique.  I am legitimately interested in what works, and, as of now, this technique is on fleek (I have no idea if I used that right… I am dreadfully boring).

It also appears that the technique delivers on its promise to manage burnout and eliminate distractions, as far as I am concerned.  Knowing your next break is always less than 25 minutes away makes it easier to keep your mind on the task at hand.  It also helped me eliminate my random Facebook/Google News browsing, because it’s easier to convince yourself to block out those distractions knowing you will get your chance when you are in your 5 minute work hiatus.  Throughout my Pomodoro trial run, I’ve noticed a significant increase in my focus and production, while experiencing a marked decrease in pretty much all of the common distractions found in both cubicle land and at the work-at-home office.

If you are interested in working smarter and increasing your output, while still getting time to mentally reboot and feel refreshed, the Pomodoro technique is definitely for you.  If you decide to give it a go you can get more details at their official website here!  Let us know in the comments how this technique works for you if you decide to try it out!

4LN Review: SMS Audio Biosport Earbuds by Intel

Product: SMS Audio Biosport Headphones Powered by Intel

Summary from Intel:

Intel and SMS Audio have announced a collaboration to develop the first personal audio system that brings together lifestyle and technology to provide smart exercise capabilities to athletes of all levels. The battery-free, sweat proof SMS Audio BioSport In-Ear Headphones will motivate and encourage consumers to reach optimal levels of fitness. The in-ear headphones will integrate biometric sensors with a heart rate monitor and sync with RunKeeper to empower athletes to collect fitness data and achieve peak physical performance. The collaboration marries the latest in fitness-monitoring biometric technology with high-quality audio and style

I was taken by surprise when I found out that Intel made these headphones. With the wearables industry booming with smart watches, fitness trackers, eyewear and more; it makes sense for Intel to jump into the competition with a pair of smart headphones. I am by no means a gym rat or active person, but I am probably the biggest headphone snob that you will come across. So here are my thoughts on Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds.

BUILD & SOUND QUALITY

The build on these earbuds are legit. They’re sturdy and are really comfortable to wear. With earbuds I always struggle tangling the cord and shorting them out, so I was very happy with the flat cable design. The sound is really good, with a really nice range. The mids and highs are fantastic, but I would be happy with some more bass. This is a common issue I’ve found with any fitness style headphones though, you tend to sacrifice some of the bass for the comfort of the earbuds. By no means is this a deal breaker for the Biosport earbuds, it’s really the only complaint I have about them. Overall the sound quality is far beyond similar styled earbuds that I’ve tried before.

PRACTICAL USE DURING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

The big feature of the Biosport earbuds, is the fitness tracking aspect.  The earphones have a built in heart-rate monitor that you can use with a fitness tracker on your smartphone.  As I mentioned earlier I am by no means a gym rat, but I did use these at the gym the few times I went. The comfort and sound really do make these the perfect gym headphones. The rubber ear pieces are water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about sweat accumulating and the earbuds falling out. I used the RunKeeper app to use the heart monitor feature, which seemed to work quite well. I did an interesting experiment at work where I would wear them throughout the day to chart out stressful parts of the day based on my heart rate. It was pretty cool to see, and would let know when I would need to step outside and take a walk to unwind.

OTHER THOUGHTS

Overall Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds are a great piece of technology and proves how everything is becoming smarter with each passing day. These are made by Intel so it’s no surprise that they’ve made a high quality product like this. I’ve made them my main pair of earbuds and they now have a permanent spot in my backpack. The only complaint I have is really that I would prefer more bass. I’m interested to see if Intel will add more smart features to future versions. If you’re into fitness or physical activity and are looking for a high quality sound experience, look no further than Intel’s SMS Audio Biosport earbuds.

(Featured image and video courtesy of Intel)

Britain Crowd-Funding Moon Mission

After a lengthy hiatus, humans have turned their attention back to the Moon, but this time with a modern twist – Kickstarter.  That’s right, the Brits are attempting to fund a mission to the Moon the same way that guy you know funded his mediocre EP.

Lunar Mission One, the terrific name for the British lead mission, plans on raising £500 million via public donations in order to land a robotic probe on the Moon. The probe would explore the South Pole of the Moon to determine if a human base could be set up in the future.

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I assume it looks like this

Like most Kickstarter campaigns, Lunar Mission One is providing incentives to those who donate to their cause.  David Iron, the project lead, said that “Anyone in the world will be able to get involved for as little as just a few pounds. Lunar Mission One will make a huge contribution to our understanding of the origins of our planet and the Moon.”  Those who donate will be able to have everything from text and photos to DNA sent to the Moon.  For a few pounds you can send a text message to the moon, for a little more you can send a compressed photo.  A short video will be about £200, while a strand of your hair (for DNA purposes) will only set you back about £50 (the downside to sending DNA is that it will inevitably be used by the Alien overlords when they discover Lunar Mission One, which will also contain a digital archive of human history and science).

The first phase of the four year fundraising campaign hopes to raise £600,000 via Kickstarter over the next few weeks in order to fund the initial phase of the project.

With most governments cutting space exploration funds, Kickstarter might just set a new and exciting course for discovering the Final Frontier, while also inspiring a new generation of youngsters to look to the stars.  Lunar Mission One plans for the lander to reach the Moon’s South Pole by 2024.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the project, you can check out the Kickstarter campaign by clicking the link below.

LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone

“In The Beginning…” – The Origin of 4 Letter Nerd

A long long time ago, on a Facebook thread hidden deep in the interwebs,  there was a little boy named Bill who wished upon a dying star that he could somehow work in the nerd community. And like the shadow of Xerxes’ arrows, 3 old guys and a tech genius descended upon him within minutes and began what is now known as Four Letter Nerd. That is where our journey began a year ago, and we’d like to invite you to read the thread itself for all it’s glory. Enjoy.

 

Origin 1Origin 2Origin 3Origin 4Origin 5Origin 6Origin 7Origin 8Origin 9Origin 10Origin 11Origin 12Origin 13

Origin 14

 

As you can see by the main image at the top of this article, we’re throwing ourselves a Birthday party! We’re calling it 4LN’s BirthdayCon, and we want you all to come! Come party with us at our favorite comic shop, Comic Collector Live: the Store! Get more info by going here: on.fb.me/1ANqbfM

 

It Must be a Good Deal

(Editor’s note: This guest article was written by Shane Davis)

 

The ad says It retails for $259.00 but the big box store is going to graciously sell it to you for $49.00, so

this tablet must be a great deal ….right….right….? Well it might be, but buying anything based only on

price is basically wrong. I think most people just want a head nod from me that they can spend under 50

bucks and get an iPad or Surface equivalent, but about three sentences into it the person realizes they wish

they had never asked me (I assume it is that way with most things).

 

 

So here is some good advice for buying a tablet this year. The reason tablets can be sold for under 100

dollars is because of the cheap components that they put in them or the lack of software and hardware

support that will be offered for the tablet after the point of sale. Instead of price, get an idea what the

person you are buying it for wants to do with it. Do they want it for work, or for games, or to just watch

Netflix. All of these things and much more create a picture of what you should purchase and what price

points are best for you. So let’s say the person wants it for work, and you have a hundred dollar budget,

well then my friend I am sorry but you need to look at getting them something else, because processor

speed , portability and document conversions are very important and very costly in the tablet world.

On the other hand they just want to watch Netflix and YouTube videos and stalk….I mean visit Facebook,

well then, you just need to make sure it plays flash videos and has a mildly decent processor.

 

 

The hierarchy goes like this in the tablet world:

Work/Gaming—Very Expensive

Netlix/Youtube/Mobile Video Support – Mid Range Cost

Supports most Popular Apps- Low to Mid Range Cost

E-reader – Cheap

Can get on the Internet but not much Else – $49.00

 

Another important thing to know is that how information is dispersed (internet, media sources, gaming)

pushes what devices are sold and supported, so buying that cheap dual core tablet this year, will most

likely mean that halfway through next year, the apps and games will not support it, because they have

moved on to focus on the faster more agile quad core tablets being sold this year. What you want to

do is find that sweet spot between cost of the device and the expected usage and life of the device.

I generally give most technology about two years before it becomes obsolete. I do this by taking into

account catching the middle of the technology wave (front side of the wave is very expensive new

technology and back side it stuff on the way out) and not the tail end. A good example is buying a 150

dollar Quad-core tablet today will most likely ensure a good 2 year run, where that 49 dollar tablet will

probably be useless out of the box for anything other than surfing the web (sitting right next to the

router).

 

Hopefully this was helpful to someone and will save them from an embarrassing phone call on the 26th

asking for the receipt because this thing “can’t even get angry birds.”

 

I’m Getting Nerdy For Christmas!

(Editors note: this article was written by Shandi, Stephen’s wife.)

Today, I’d like to talk to you all about Nerd Gifts. No, not Nerd GIFs. That’s something completely different. As seen here:

 

We all know nerds are the easiest to shop for. Buy a few comic books, box set of Firefly, a life-size Thor stand up poster , a t-shirt from the Sheldon line of Menswear, anything by the RR’s   Martin or Tolkien or perhaps a pizza cutter in the shape of the USS Enterprise (also available in 24k gold). Right now, in the first 10 seconds of this article I just crossed off 6 names on your list – you’re welcome.

 So this article and all the time I spent writing it and looking up all the links for you are pointless, right? Wrong! And I’ll thank you to value my time a little more in the future.  This article isn’t to inform you of what you already know. This article is to help you bring your nerds out of the basement and into the light of civilized society. Now I love my big man nerd and our little nerd spawn just as much as anyone, but when he put a Superman hand towel in “My” kitchen, I had to draw a line. These are gifts that non-nerds can be happy to have in their homes and be seen in public with while still allowing our nerds to express themselves.

My wish for you this holiday season is lots of love and happiness with your Nerd Ones. Scratch that, I wish for the life-size Thor stand up poster.

Happy Shopping…

 

For the Office

Class it up with this Shield Tie Clip $16.88

 Source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/157350969/marvel-superhero-golden-vintage-maps-tie?ref=market

 

HULK back up documents with these Avengers Flash Drive $119

 Source: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA26H0P80884&nm_mc=KNC-GoogleMKP&cm_mmc=KNC-GoogleMKP-_-pla-_-USB+Flash+Drives-_-9SIA26H0P80884&ef_id=UmNGLAAABWJbzzBQ:20131211024154:s

 

For Fun

Fandomize your lip balm Geek Lip Balm Set $35

Source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/168640226/geek-lip-balm-set?ref=shop_home_active

 

A little something pretty. Pretty Awesome! Legend of Zelda Tri Force Necklace $11.80

Source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/151511526/tri-force-necklacetriangle-necklace-from?utm_source=google&utm_medium=product_listing_promoted&utm_campaign=jewelry_low&gclid=CMCI8M–pLsCFdEWMgoda28A9w

 

For the House

 A classier way to represent their favorite characters. Minimalist Posters $15

Source: https://www.etsy.com/listing/152108240/star-wars-lightsabers-geek-art-movie?ref=shop_home_active

 

Nerdify your kids: Have portraits of your kids transformed into the Super Heroes we all know they already are 🙂 $50-$100

Source: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MakeMeASuper?ref=shop_sugg

 

For the Book Hoarder

 You shall not borrow! Library Embosser $26

 Source: http://www.houzz.com/photos/90902/Library-Embosser-traditional-desk-accessories-

 

Way Better Than a Long Box Geek Chic “League” Cabinet $1350

Source: http://www.geekchichq.com/the-league-comic-book-storage.html

 

DIY Subtle Nerd Gifts

Bowties are cool necklace

Source: http://3chicgeeks.com/2013/04/29/diy-doctor-who-inspired-bow-tie-necklace/

 

Comic Book Coasters

Source: http://modpodgerocksblog.com/2011/09/diy-geek-coasters-by-man-podger-david.html

 

Leo the Homeless Coder Releases His App

Robbie previously shared the story of Leo Grand, a.k.a. the Homeless Coder. In August of this year, Patrick McConlogue gave Leo a choice — $100 now or the opportunity to learn to code. Leo chose learning to code and has been working hard ever since.

Recently Leo released his first app – Trees for Cars – which is a mobile application that helps users carpool to their destinations. It works by having the driver choose a carpool pickup point; the app will then suggest riders who are in the area. Once invitations are accepted by both parties the driver can pick up the rider, and the rider will be able to track the amount of CO2 emissions eliminated by carpooling. The entire app was built by Grand with only 16 weeks in coding lessons, and all of the proceeds of the app will go to Grand, who plans to continue his programming education.

The app is available for both the iPhone and Android phones. You can sign up for updates here.

The Best Headphones That I Have Ever Owned

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To say that I am the worst person in the world with taking care of headphones would be an understatement. I am terrible with them. I mean TERRIBLE. I’ve been using headphones ever since getting a walkman cd player in middle school, and I would not be shocked to say that I have probably been through close to 100 pairs in my 23 years of life. I’ve had every possible style over the years. Ever since high school though, I have been using earbuds. After shorting out another pair (a decent pair of Skullcandy earbuds costing around $40) a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to change up what I use. So I was in the market for a pair of over the ear headphones with a removable aux cord. After scavenging Amazon and eBay for a few hours one day, I found my saving grace: the August EP650 Headphones.

Not only do the EP650’s have a removable aux cord, but they also have Bluetooth wireless. The big selling point on these headphones are the specifications and the price point. While shopping around, I had a budget of around $50 to spend. I knew going in, that I wouldn’t be getting a pair of overpriced Beats By Dre (though, they do sound good.) I expected to get something good at a decent price, but not an amazing pair for an amazing price. The August EP650 headphones have nearly identical specs to Beats By Dre (plus Bluetooth) for $55.

After reading reviews, comparing specifications and everything else possible, I placed my order. I even got excited enough to get 2 day shipping (I was desperate to stop using my backup headphones.) So I waited 2 days and it they were finally delivered. I unboxed them like a kid on Christmas, gazing at the quality of the product. I was shocked at how well made these headphones are. Size wise, these are the perfect fit. The ear cushions are so comfortable, to the point that you almost forget that you’re even wearing headphones. Of course, they do have an adjustable headband (with even more cushioning!) so you can fit them to any head size. They’re built very solid, not flimsy at all but weigh just the right amount.

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The battery life on the EP650’s are fantastic. If I were to guess, I would say they get around 12 hours for every charge. I literally listen to them all day at work and every night when I go to sleep. I maybe have to recharge them every other day. The good thing though, is that you can charge them through an included mini usb cable and still listen to them. Or you can plug in the aux cord and use them as normal headphones, no power needed. On the side of the right earphone, there is a small control panel that allows you to adjust volume, change tracks as well as play/pause whatever you’re listening to. As far as range goes, it is listed as 10 meters. I can generally walk into another room before I start losing any signal.

All those features are great and all, but the sound is what really matters and what really blows me away about these headphones. Like I said earlier, the EP650’s have almost identical sound to Beats By Dre. Whenever you buy lower end headphones, the bass tends to lack. Not with these headphones though. The frequency range is from 40hz (lows) to 20,000hz (highs), creating a really dynamic range so that you hear an insane amount of detail in music, but especially movies. The sound can get extremely loud and starts to sound pretty gainy if you turn it up too high, but I have mine set to around 1/4th of the way and it’s more than enough.

I really don’t know what else I can say about these headphones. I have never backed a product like I do with the August EP650 Headphones. If you’re in the market in headphones (or will be soon), just go on and buy these. I can pretty much promise you won’t find a better deal on headphones anywhere. Pick them up on Amazon for $55 now!

 

 

 

5 Techy Black Friday Deals That You Can’t Pass Up

PS3 Holiday Bundle  $199 – Available At Most Retailers

ps3

The PS3 holiday bundle is at the top of the Black Friday list for me because I missed out on the past generation of game consoles. For $200 you get a 250GB PS3 with two of the year’s top games: The Last Of Us and Batman Arkham Origins. If you’ve missed out like me, or just have stuck with your Xbox over the years, you should definitely pick this up.

 

Gamestop Buy 2 Get 1 Free Preowned

gamestop

Gamestop has a killer deal that is too good to pass up if you’re a gamer. Buy ANY 2 preowned products and get another free. This includes games, accessories, consoles, electronics and any other preowned product in the store. Like my above mention of missing out on the past generation of consoles, I plan on racking up on some of the classic games for cheap too.

 

iPad Mini $299 (with $75 Gift Card From Target) – Available At Most Retailers

ipad

If you don’t have a tablet or are needing an upgrade, you should consider picking up the iPad mini. There is nothing bad to say about this at all and you can’t find a better tablet in my opinion (sorry Nexus lovers). The great thing is if you buy this from Target you get a $75 gift card. The full size iPad is also on sale for $399, with a $30 Taget gift card included as well.

 

RCA 200 Watt Surround Sound System $80 – Available At Best Buy

rca

While surround sound is definitely not the sexiest Black Friday deal, you would be crazy to pass this up if you’re looking to add surround sound in your home. You can generally find 100 watt systems on eBay or Amazon for around $100 to $120, but you can get this 200 watt set for $80.

 

Element 50” LED TV $229 – Available At Target

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This may be considered the hottest deal by many for this years Black Friday. A 50 inch LED HDTV for $229. As far as deals on a TV, I highly doubt you’ll ever find one as good as this. The biggest question I have about this is: How many people are going to get knocked out in fights while trying to grab this from Target stores across the country?

Comicat Review

 

comicat

 

(Todays nerdy guest is one of our friends Patrick Delaney)

Let me start off by stating that I do not condone the illegal downloading and/or sharing of comic books or graphic novels. The comic industry is still a struggling business and it’s creators, writers, artists, letterers, inkers (tracers), and local shop owners need and deserve your business. If you appreciate the art someone is putting out do the right thing and drop some coin.

That being said, before I lived in a town with a reliable place to purchase my books I may have dabbled in the .cbr world of scanned comics. I have since tried my best to purchase all of which I’ve obtained either physically or digitally. But every now and then I will want to read an old favorite and might not want to sift through my 20+ long boxes or carry around a heavy omnibus. This means trying to find a new comic reader o that I may enjoy this literary gem in a means that won’t crash or distort the art and letters every time I try to zoom in on a single panel.

After trying a ton of free comic readers on the Android market I decided to cough up the $2.99 and give Comicat a try.

Taken from the Comicat page :

ComiCat is a fast and slick comic reader and catalog manager. You can manage and read your comic collection right on your Android. You have lots of options to make the most of your reading experience. Native code base written and optimized for android devices. Extremely fast and stable with no battery drain. With Facebook integration, you can let friends know what you’re reading and how you like it. ComiCat comes with lifelong free updates that bring in new exciting features and usability enhancements.

– Support for all popular comic formats like CBZ, CBR, CB7, CBT etc.
– Feature rich yet easy to use.
– Auto scanning of your device to build your catalog in seconds. – Multiple catalog views, sorting options and search for easy access to your comics.
– Virtual bookshelf look with multiple themes.
– Password protection.
– Reading list management.
– Performance and experience tweaking options.
– Fast viewing of comics through efficient caching.
– Multiple view modes, pinch to zoom and orientation options.
– Right to left and left to right reading order for Manga fans.
– Gestures for page turn, fast forward, fast reverse and almost all navigation needs.
– Auto split two page scans and auto crop margin.
– Bookmarks, auto remember reading location and comic reading status indicators.
– Single button sync of your comics from your Dropbox account.
– Parental control with password protected hidden folders.
– Image enhancer that auto adjusts brightness, contrast and saturation of comic pages. Works great on old comic scans, removes paleness and makes them more vibrant.
– Efficient caching for best performance without going out of memory.
– Works well with Jellybean’s multi user changes.

For now Comicat is only available on the Android market. I have read that there might be a version moving to iOS, but no dates have been given. Comicat is killer app you should toss on to your phone and tablet.

Check it out here:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=meanlabs.comicat&hl=en&referrer=utm_source%3Dgoogle%26utm_medium%3Dorganic%26utm_term%3Dcomicat