Keys arranged to spell out Control-Alt-Backspace.

Welcome to Control-Alt-Backspace, a place for collecting ideas on regaining control in an increasingly complex world. Check out the manifesto to learn more about the purpose of this site or the sitemap for an overview of series and topics, or jump right in with recent posts below.

Control-Alt-Backspace updates every Monday. Got questions about something you read or suggestions for new posts? I love hearing from people – shoot me an email!

Recent posts

On Scales, Skills, and Leaky Abstractions

12 minute read

Imagine for a moment one of the old-style balance-beam scales at a doctor’s office. You get on the scale and the nurse slides the weights across the beam...

One Big Problem

4 minute read

When I help family and friends with computer problems that get thorny, they often apologize for making me frustrated or causing trouble. The thing is, ...

Time Assets and Debts

5 minute read

Time is the scarcest resource for many people in industrialized countries, and no matter what, it’s the only resource we can’t directly get more of. ...

Reverse Polish Notation

5 minute read

Reverse Polish Notation is a curious way of writing arithmetic operations. Instead of writing the operations between the numbers they apply to (called in...

The Magic of Index Cards

7 minute read

I find that nowadays the humble three-by-five index card is extremely underappreciated. True, some of the former roles of index cards are much better...

Slow Pumpkin Bread

8 minute read

After last week’s post on slowing down and given the season, I figured this would be a good time to share my recipe for pumpkin bread, titled “No...

How to Slow Down

19 minute read

Reading and thinking lately, it’s becoming more and more clear to me that we all feel the world is moving too fast. I don’t pretend this feeling is u...

Introducing the Likable Software Catalog

less than 1 minute read

This week I am introducing the Control-Alt-Backspace Catalog, which will gather together content and tools of various types that align with the philo...

Two Problems

6 minute read

Some people, when confronted with a problem, think, “I know, I’ll use regular expressions.” Now they have two problems. Jamie Zawinski

In Defense of Chalkboards

3 minute read

How many cruddy whiteboards have you used in your life? We have a bunch of them at my workplace. You draw on them and your marker squeals and skips. Then whe...

Fix Your Control Key

5 minute read

Here’s a keyboard trick: although you may never have noticed it, the Control key on most keyboards isn’t in an effective position. If you have a desk...

Against Deadlines

7 minute read

I just counted: I have 205 tasks in my task manager – without my reading list, purchases list, or blog ideas list. And that’s only counting my pe...

Buying Duplicate Items

3 minute read

People today need a lot of items to go about their daily life, and sometimes dealing with them can get annoying. I’ve rarely seen this discussed anywhere...

Edit Week 2

3 minute read

This is the second Edit Week in Control-Alt-Backspace history (see here for an explanation of Edit Week).

It’s Probably Me

6 minute read

Back in my introduction to debugging, I observed that debugging often causes enormous frustration:

Take a Break

5 minute read

Debugging involves minutes or even hours of trial and error – and we tend to focus on the error part and get frustrated. Presented with error after error...

Scientific Method

5 minute read

Imagine for a moment that you’re an auto mechanic with a knack for attracting eccentric customers with unusual problems. Which of these scenarios would y...