Posts by Category

memory

Tweaking the Scheduler

9 minute read

Anki’s default scheduling settings are good enough in most cases. But sometimes they don’t work optimally with certain types of material or study pattern...

An Introduction to Mnemonics

11 minute read

Mnemonics is the art of reversibly substituting easy-to-remember things for difficult-to-remember ones.

Partnering with Anki

23 minute read

Less experienced and less successful spaced-repetition users tend to treat their SRS as a magic box: put information in, and knowledge comes out. In ...

When to Learn with Anki

7 minute read

After you’ve determined what to learn and how much to learn, you might wonder when you should do your study. In one sense, it doesn’t matter at all; ...

Case Studies in Writing Cards

17 minute read

In this post, we’ll look at three case studies of real things I added to my Anki collection recently and how I selected and wrote the cards.

Catching Up On Your Anki Reviews

18 minute read

Everyone gets behind on their reviews occasionally. Here are some strategies for getting back in Anki’s good graces when that happens.

Maintaining Your Collection

5 minute read

Maintenance might not be fun, but if you think doing maintenance isn’t fun, try not doing maintenance. Here’s a plan for keeping your collection neat...

What to Learn with Anki

15 minute read

If you start a spaced-repetition collection and diligently study every day, you might soon face an unusual question: what should you learn? Sometimes...

Organizing Your Cards

15 minute read

If you start seriously using spaced repetition and add material from all areas of your life, it can get tricky to keep track of all your cards. Maybe...

How Much to Learn with Anki

24 minute read

When you’re starting out with Anki or another SRS, you might wonder how much you can expect to learn with this newly efficient method of studying. Be...

Dealing with Leeches

18 minute read

One of the foundational principles of spaced repetition is separating easy cards from hard cards. We can then review the easy cards rarely and the hard c...

Rules for Designing Precise Anki Cards

25 minute read

Reviewing in Anki is easy: all you have to do is answer the question and press a button to indicate how well you remembered it. Creating the cards to...

Spaced Repetition Glossary

9 minute read

Spaced repetition has a bit of a learning curve of its own, but too much of it comes from not understanding a few relatively straightforward terms an...

Getting Started with Anki

14 minute read

By popular demand, the memory series is back! Thanks to all those who wrote to and asked me if I was going to write more. Over the next few weeks, we’ll ...

Spaced Repetition From The Ground Up

17 minute read

Last week we looked at three principles that combine to create an extraordinarily effective, scientific study method called spaced repetition. You ce...

Spaced Repetition

6 minute read

In today’s fast-paced, information-driven world, everyone must constantly learn new things. While learning itself can be challenging at times, rememb...

Human Memory by Example: Weaknesses

13 minute read

This is part two of “Human Memory By Example.” Last week we focused on strengths of human memory; this week we’ll look at weaknesses with an eye towards how ...

Why You Still Need To Know Things

11 minute read

It’s hard to learn things, and it’s even harder to remember them after you learn them if you’re not using them constantly. Humanity has had this problem sinc...

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efficiency

Fix it Forever

8 minute read

The pursuit of “lifehacks,” or solutions to small annoyances, seems to have recently caught a lot of flak. And there is good reason for some of the disli...

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...

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...

Just Get Started

11 minute read

If you like reading Control-Alt-Backspace, I expect there’s a decent chance that you also like doing things right. Maybe you’re not a perfectionist, but you ...

Why I Hate Texting

6 minute read

Except perhaps for the fax machine, texting is my least favorite extant form of communication. (Come to think of it, fax machines seem kind of cool and r...

An Introduction to Keyboard Shortcuts

7 minute read

The computer mouse is a fabulous invention. It makes many things that would be extraordinarily frustrating without one (editing images and videos, finding op...

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simplicity

Book Review: Digital Minimalism

7 minute read

Every once in a while, I run into an article or book or website that eerily matches what I’ve been thinking about, and sometimes even writing abo...

A Complete Definition of Badness

10 minute read

One of the classics of The Onion’s video series is entitled “Sony Releases Stupid Piece of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work.” The segment discusses how...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Why and How to Follow Websites with RSS

9 minute read

How do you get most of the news and other material you read nowadays? If you’re like most people, a lot of it comes from social media of one type or anot...

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sabbatical-updates

Sabbatical Update, Week 2: Neatening Up

4 minute read

This week felt really long and was unexpectedly tiring. I think that’s pretty normal after a big routine change, though – for me it usually takes about two w...

Sabbatical Update, Week 1: Camping

4 minute read

Welcome to my first sabbatical update post! I’ll be publishing one of these every Friday or Saturday (yeah, I know my first one is on Monday) which gathers t...

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filesystem

Dealing With Duplicate Files

14 minute read

In the physical world, we encounter much difficulty because it’s hard to create copies of things: objects use finite resources and are expensive to produce, ...

When to Delete Files

8 minute read

By now we’ve studied a variety of organizational questions relating to filesystems in detail. But here’s a seemingly foundational one we haven’t touched ...

Managing Temporary Files

9 minute read

So you’ve followed the tips in the design section of this series, and you have a nicely laid out, organized filesystem. That’s great when you know where ...

Starting Off with a Backup

12 minute read

What would happen to your digital life if your house suddenly burned down tomorrow? Would you be all right, or would you have yet another nasty problem piled...

Why Keep a Local Filesystem?

8 minute read

I like to start out my series here on Control-Alt-Backspace by discussing why you should care about the topic. After all, if I can’t convincingly answer that...

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announcements

Upcoming Sabbatical

3 minute read

I’m reaching the end of my stint as a developer and DevOps engineer at Federated Insurance. It’s been an excellent four years working with a lot of great...

Updates on Grok TiddlyWiki

3 minute read

Since several people have started to write to make sure I’m OK after seeing that I haven’t updated since my COVID-19 post, I figured it would be a go...

Another Victim of the Plague

less than 1 minute read

Unfortunately I have somehow managed to come down with COVID-19, despite having 0 CDC-defined close contacts in the past two weeks and going nowhere ...

A Brief Pause

less than 1 minute read

I neglected to mention last week that I was planning to take two weeks off from Control-Alt-Backspace posts due to a particularly busy period in my m...

Updated Likable Software Catalog

less than 1 minute read

This week, I added several new entries to the Likable Software Catalog, which is based on my article about likable software. Each application in the...

No More Google Analytics

1 minute read

Since the beginning, Control-Alt-Backspace has been using Google Analytics, the most popular analytics service for websites. You likely visit dozens ...

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...

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).

Edit Week 1

3 minute read

This is the first occurrence of an institution on this blog that I’m going to call Edit Week and hope to repeat every few months. As you might have f...

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debugging

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, ...

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

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...

Minimal Working Example

7 minute read

When we encounter a problem with a complex system, it’s easy to misidentify the problem. In other words, we can seize on some small piece of the syst...

Gather Information

6 minute read

It is impossible to solve a problem without some kind of information about the problem.

Talking to Ducks

4 minute read

Have you ever called or gone to bother a friend or coworker for some information you can’t think of, only to remember the answer the moment you ask? ...

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design

Two Takes on the Eternal September

11 minute read

September, and with it the start of classes at most educational institutions in the United States, is almost upon us. In honor of this, I’d like to l...

Yes, I Do Mind Reviewing Your App

8 minute read

Do you have a bunch of apps that constantly nag you to review them? The nicer ones have a “never ask me again” button or give up after one or two times, ...

The Art of the Sign

3 minute read

Ever since smartphone cameras became commonplace and you could quickly and conveniently grab a picture of anything anywhere, I’ve been taking pic...

A Design-Centered View of Digital Piracy

11 minute read

While the rage has died down in recent years, many of my readers will remember a time in the 2000s when big media companies were screeching nonstop p...

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...

Why and How to Focus on Requirements

6 minute read

I got in an argument at work during a meeting last week. It was one of those annoying arguments where you’re sure you actually agree with your opponent, ...

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psychology

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...

The Power of Names

13 minute read

I have found people have a tendency to discount or ignore the important role of having names for things in human thinking. This can lead to neglecting or...

The 2018 Concentration Project: A Review

12 minute read

Over the course of 2018, I’ve been undertaking an extended project which I’ve titled the 2018 Concentration Project. The goal was to improve my ability to co...

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notes

The Fortunes File

4 minute read

Some months ago we talked about commonplacing, a technique for recording quotations and other random ideas you come across. In this rather short post, ...

How and Why to Create a Commonplace

15 minute read

Commonplacing is an ancient technique for recording passages and ideas you run across while studying or living your life. The technique was developed...

Why Keep Notes?

5 minute read

Nearly every literate person has written notes for herself at some point in her life. However, most people haven’t spent much time thinking about all...

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prevention

A Blizzard Postmortem, Part 2: Analysis

18 minute read

As the title suggests, this is part 2 of a two-part post which began last week with my story of getting stranded in a blizzard. As discussed more ful...

A Blizzard Postmortem, Part 1: The Story

32 minute read

You may have noticed, if you read Control-Alt-Backspace regularly or if you pay close attention to the dates on my posts, that there was no scheduled...

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information

Free Speech: A Credo

5 minute read

I hesitate to write about politics on a blog that is rarely overtly political. But this is a special kind of politics. It is a kind of politics that tran...

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...

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scripting

Scripting as Effective Communication

11 minute read

Take a moment right now to recognize how amazing a device a computer is. That little hunk of metal on your desk or in your pocket or in a vast se...

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documentation

The Paradox of Documentation

9 minute read

When you buy a new consumer product, do you usually read through the manual? What if a small warning on the product says “read manual before using”? (I once ...

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math

Does Speeding Make Sense?

23 minute read

Most Americans exceed the speed limit almost every time they drive, to the point that we rarely even think about it. The conventional wisdom is that we’r...

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books

Best Books of 2021

5 minute read

I read about 30 books in 2021. Here were the ones that stood out the most; I highly recommend all of these.

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world

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