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‘Life Hacking’ and Metacity

The NY Times story on “life hacking” is a pretty good one, and an excellent intro for anyone who hasn’t been religiously reading the changing transcripts of Danny O’Brien’s talk and so on.

This line:

Mann has embarked on a 12-step-like triage: he canceled his Netflix account, trimmed his instant-messaging “buddy list” so only close friends can contact him and set his e-mail program to bother him only once an hour.

Reminded me of something I ran into recently.

Last month, I switched from Sawfish, the venerable UNIX window manager, to GNOME’s Metacity, which is the new(ish) GNOME standard window manager. (I was tired of some long-standing Sawfish crashes, and didn’t want to be the last Sawfish user on the planet, which was seeming increasingly likely.)

One interesting UI change is that application windows no longer ‘pop up’ — if an app wants to notify you of some important change, it instead can only cause its taskbar button to subtly pulse in the corner of your screen.

Initially, this threw me for a loop, and I rudely (albeit accidentally) ignored my friends on IM and suchlike. But I quickly got the hang of glancing at the taskbar once in a while when I wasn’t concentrating on a task; it’s now second nature, and has significantly reduced the number of interruptions I find myself experiencing in a typical day.

BTW, in passing: switching WMs is a big deal, user interface-wise. One of the key gating factors, for me, was a feature I use to control windows without laying hands on the dreaded rodent — namely, a ‘move window to screen corner’ keyboard shortcut. This patch implements it for Metacity.

I implemented this last year for KWin, too, to resounding disapproval and bitchy comments about how I’m using the mouse all wrong. Meh. I fully expect the Metacity maintainers to throw it out, likewise, leaving me hand-patching WMs for a while yet ;)

Update, Nov 2006: they applied it! yay.