Tag: efficiency

Self-disciplined Surfing at Work

I found, given recent political developments, that I get tempted to access news sites, social media sites, and other non-work related websites at work more and more often lately.    I wondered what I could do to force myself to be more disciplined.

One day as I was rigging my hosts file to point to a particular webserver to do some testing, it occurred to me.    I should make it harder for me to access these sites by modifying the hosts file for this purpose!

What is a hosts file?   If you’re a computer newbie this might be a revelation to you.   The hosts file is a legacy system that has plenty of useful applications in today’s networked world.    I won’t go into them here, but for the purposes of this post, we want to edit the contents of the file.   On most computers, you will need elevated access (Administrator on Windows, root on MacOS) to save changes to this file.

The location of this file on Windows is in the \Windows\system32\drivers\etc folder.   It’s named “hosts” without a file extension.   This follows the UNIX convention, although years ago it was “hosts.txt”.

Normally this file is almost empty but usually has the “loopback” address there as a lonely entry:          localhost

You can leave that there.   On a new line, you can start making entries to start blocking access to websites.   Here’s a few of mine: http://www.facebook.com facebook.com http://www.twitter.com twitter.com foxnews.com http://www.foxnews.com cnn.com http://www.cnn.com

Make sure to save the file and close all open browser tabs and the browser itself.   Now when you access twitter in an impulsive moment, you’ll get a nice 404 message.


Note that this technique is also useful for blocking out ads without triggering the “You’re using an adblocker” warning from the website itself.   I recommend adding this in, too: tpc.googlesyndication.com googlesyndication.com

Bye-bye Google ads!

I’ve done this to my work computers several months ago and I’ve found myself to be tremendously more productive.   Now, if I want my internet fix I pull my phone out while getting coffee.   Hope it helps you too.

Why I hate UCE (Unsolicited Commercial Email)


The seedy underbelly of the internet is home to denizens of the dark – spammers, the “darknet” black market warez sites, illicit porn.   Today we’ll shine a bright light on a technically illegal but incredible consumer of yours and my time – unsolicited commercial email spammers.   You might drop by the friendly website at Spamhaus and read their definition of spam. According to them, spam must be both unsolicited and bulk.  Unsolicited is self-explanatory, but bulk deserves a one liner: a bulk email is one that was not hand written. It’s a form letter blasted out to a mailing list where key fields such as name and job title have been dynamically inserted (think Wordstar mail merge!)

Sample email where the SPAMMER couldn’t figure out their spam software:

My name is {!User.FirstName} {!User.LastName} and I am your local Regional Director here at SignalFx. I would like the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your current Infrastructure monitoring and Application Monitoring. We will only take about 30 to 45 minutes.  I know that your time is important so we would be glad to do this over lunch or happy hour if that works better for you.

SignalFx is the most advanced monitoring and alerting solution for modern infrastructure and applications. Our mission is to help cloud-ready organizations drive high levels of availability and performance in today’s elastic, agile, distributed environments.

Since I have a LinkedIn profile, and because companies such as the one I work for commonly use an easy to crack pattern for email address name conventions, I get inundated with spam.   I get about a dozen new spam emails a day.   Let me take some time to tell you why I despise spam with such a visceral hate.   It interrupts my work momentum.    I have to read my email for a large part of my day.   When I find myself scanning the boiler plate salutation sent from a spambot site such as Marketo or ConstantContact (née ConstantSpam) it derails my train of thought and I find myself instantly angry at the distraction.

On occasion, I’ve interacted with the spam authors who crank the spam out from their spam factories day after day.   I’ve received several nice replies however the mainstay is rudeness, bitchiness, and worse.    Here are the three reasons they send me spam.   They want to sell my company something and they don’t care what my role is.   I’m an application developer manager.   Why the fuck would I want to read your sales pitch about PMI Certification?   Clearly, spammers think I control the budget for all of IT as well as I’m snowed under by requests for QA, DevOps, training, and of COURSE consulting services.   I’m inundated by requests to hire everyone from every consulting agency.   If the account managers who blast out their spam only knew that I receive about 50 NEW emails from agencies a week they would realize that I would have time for little else if I read every spam email and sent a reply back.    I get that they’re trying to generate a sales lead, but when all of your competitors cold call and send spam, how are you different?    How on earth do you think you will be heard?

One thing I’m thankful for is getting rid of my work phone.   I used to get a cold call every other hour on some days…I’m not exaggerating.   Because of the selfish nature of business – every salesman for himself – these account reps do not care that they are interrupting me.   They want a sale.    After getting rid of my work phone you would likely not be surprised to know that somehow my personal mobile phone number started to ring about once a month.   I tracked down the online scum agencies that do this and threatened them with legal action and got the info removed.