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Firefox OS: Why My Hard Drive & Software are Obsolete

Firefox OS: Why My Hard Drive & Software are Obsolete
Firefox

    While the debate of Windows v. Mac v. Linux rages on, at times rising to a roar in certain circles, I meekly raise my hand and offer a newly emerging fourth choice: none of these operating systems really matter anymore.

    Why not? Because for writers like me, and for many others, all the software and storage space you really need is now online. All that matters is that you have your browser — and at the risk of sparking another flame war, I recommend Firefox.

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    Need a word processor, spreadsheet, photo program, or really most anything useful? Old-fashioned desktop applications aren’t necessary anymore, for the most part. You can fire up your browser on any computer, and given a decent internet connection, you’ve got your entire OS and hard drive right there, from anywhere you log in.

    Now, before people start chiming in with “But I need X Application in order to do my work!” I have a disclaimer: my needs are relatively simple, so you may not be able to do what I’ve done. But I’ve intentionally simplified my needs, and for many people, this simplification can not only work, but be better than what’s offered on the desktop.

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    Here’s my Firefox OS, with an intentionally heavy reliance on the Google suite of software:

    • Word processor. I use Google Docs & Spreadsheets. I used its predecessor, Writely, in the past, and it works well. I’ve never been a fan of the bloated MS Word … until recently, I used the much smaller and faster open-source word processor, AbiWord. But when I would forget to email myself a text file from work to home, I cursed myself and made the switch to Google Docs. I haven’t regretted it yet.
    • Spreadsheet. Again, Google Docs & Spreadsheets. It isn’t as feature-rich as Excel or OpenOffice yet, but it does the job for most of my needs. In fact, it’s rare that I ever need anything more, and I suspect that’s the case for most people. And I expect the software to improve over time.
    • Email. This is a no-brainer. Gmail, all the time. It’s so much better than desktop email apps, and better than its competing webmail apps too. Fast, easy to use, powerful searches and features … enough can’t be said about Gmail. It’s my No. 1 app for work and personal use.
    • Feed reader. I’ve tried a lot of blog readers, including some good desktop and online readers. But Google Reader is by far the most efficient. I read it 2-3 times a day, and crank through my feeds. I can get through 100+ posts a day very quickly.
    • Blogging software. For my main blog at Zen Habits, I’ve tried various software, but so far the best for my needs is WordPress. It has everything I need, and is very extensible with lots of great plugins.
    • Photo software. One of the biggest reasons I need a hard drive is for all my photos, at work and home. I’ve solved that with Picasa Web Albums — another Google solution. I tried Flickr, but their free account is too flimsy, and Picasa just works better. Plus, if you like their great desktop software, it’s so perfectly integrated. I just uploaded all my thousands of photos from home, and it’s nicely organized online.
    • Hard drive. What do you need a hard drive for? Besides the space needed to run your system, and software such as your browser, we use hard drives for file storage — for our word processing and spreadsheet documents, photos, music files, PDFs, etc. Well, for the most part, all my files are now saved online. Between Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, and Picasa, everything I save is stored on the internet. The one thing I haven’t found a perfect solution for is mp3s, but I haven’t been using those much, and I’m sure a solution will turn up soon (let me know in the comments!). Another great solution is online storage such as Box.net, MediaMax (25 GB for free!), Gmail Drive and the like.
    • File management. The main reason for an OS is to manage your files. Well, since all my files are online, that’s now a moot point. How do I manage my files now? Well, as I use mostly Google software, I use Google’s philosophy: tag and archive everything, and use the tags or Google’s fast and powerful searches to find anything you need. This takes a bit of an adjustment on the user’s part, trusting this new paradigm to work, but trust me, it’s much better than filing stuff in folders. You save a heck of a lot of time filing and finding stuff. It’s not hierarchical, so that’s difficult for many people — but it works.
    • Backup system. One of the big problems with a hard drive is the very real possibility that it will crash sometime during its lifetime. And unless you’ve been good at backing up your files, you will lose that data. With all my files saved online, there’s no need to back up these files, which can be time-consuming and troublesome. Good news: most of these services do a good job of backing up your data for you.
    • Calendar. For its ease-of-use and simplicity, Google Calendar (of course). It doesn’t have all the functionality of certain desktop calendar programs, but it works great for me.
    • Bringing it all together. I use a lot of Google apps, but Google’s main problem (for me) so far is that it doesn’t integrate these services well. Well, enter another Google solution: the Google Personalize Homepage. It’s now my home page. But I don’t use it like many others do, with all kinds of fun and distracting widgets, or to read all my blogs. No, I just have all my Google services on this page for easy access, along with quick bookmarks for all the other stuff I use for work and for my blogging, and some stickies for taking quick notes. One page to rule them all.
    • Miscellaneous. I’m a fan of GTD, so I use Tracks for my to-do lists. I use other online software, such as Backpack for keeping other lists, but the ones above are the main apps. I also use AutoHotkey to quickly bring up the pages I use a lot, like Gmail, my to-do lists, my story ideas file, and the like, as well as to type my different signatures and other shortcuts.
    • Firefox, of course. All of this is possible with Internet Explorer or the very good Safari or Opera browsers, but Firefox just makes it that much better. It’s so easy and fast to use, plus there are certain extensions I can’t live without — Foxmarks, Gmail Manager, FireFTP, Download Statusbar and Web Developer among them. Give me Firefox, and I don’t care what brand of OS I’m using.

    Is online software as feature-rich as desktop software? Not yet. But it’s good enough for my simple needs, and it’s getting better all the time.
    Have I really gotten rid of my hard drive and software? Not yet. I still have all my old files on the hard drive, but they’re collecting dust. I no longer store my new files on my hard drive, and I rarely use my old desktop software. I keep them on my computer just in case I need to open up a specially formatted file, but for my nitty-gritty daily work, I don’t need that old software anymore.

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    Someday, none of us will, and the decades-old OS debate will be a thing of the past.

    Leo Babauta is a writer, a marathoner, an early riser, a vegan, and a father of six. He blogs regularly about achieving goals through daily habits on Zen Habits, and covers such topics as productivity, GTD, simplifying, frugality, parenting, happiness, motivation, exercise, eating healthy and more.

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    Leo Babauta

    Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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    Last Updated on February 13, 2020

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    What Is Speed Reading and How to Successfully Learn It

    Too much to read, too little time! Don’t you wish you could read faster without compromising your knowledge intake? This is where a valuable learning technique comes to the rescue: speed reading.

    Speed reading is the top skill to learn in 2020. Read on to find out all about this amazing technique!

    What Is Speed Reading?

    On average, an adult can read somewhere between 200 to 300 words per minute. With speed reading, you can read around 1500 words per minute.[1] Yes, that sounds impossible, but it is true.

    In order to understand how this skill works, you first need to know how the reading process works inside a human’s brain.

    The Reading Process

    The first step is for the eyes to look at a word. This “fixation” on every word takes around 0.25 seconds.

    Next, the eye moves on to the following word. It takes 0.1 seconds for the brain to move from one word to the next. This is called “saccade.”

    Usually, a person reads 4 to 5 words or a sentence at once. After all the fixations and saccades, the brain goes over the entire phrase again in order to process the meaning. This takes around half a second.

    All in all, this allows the average person to read 200 to 300 words in a minute.

    Speeding up the Process

    The concept of speed reading is to speed up this process at least 5 times. Since the saccade period cannot be shortened any further, speed reading emphasizes quicker fixations.

    To accomplish this, scientists recommend that the reader skips the subvocalization: when the readers actually say the word in their mind, even when reading silently.

    Basically, speed reading is the technique of only seeing the words instead of speaking them silently.

    Do not confuse this with skimming. When a reader skims through a text, they skip the parts that their brain considers to be unnecessary.

    You may skip important information in this process. Moreover, skimming does not allow the brain to retain what has been read.

    Why Speed Read?

    Speed reading is not just quick, but also effective. This skill saves a lot of of time without sacrificing information.

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    Also, it has been proven to improve memory. The brain’s performance improves during speed reading, which allows the reader to remember more information than before.

    Since speed reading stabilizes the brain, the information is processed faster and more efficiently.

    Believe it or not, this technique leads to improved focus, too. As the brain receives a lot of information during speed reading, there is far less chance of distraction. The brain focuses solely on the job at hand.

    Since the brain is, after all, a muscle, the process of speed reading acts as an exercise. Just like the rest of your muscles, your brain needs exercise to grow stronger, too.

    A focused brain means improved logical thinking. As your brain gets used to receiving and organizing so much information so quickly, your thinking process will become faster.

    As soon as a problem is thrown at you, your brain will quickly put two and two together. You will be able to retrieve stored information, figure out correlations, and come up with new solutions, all within seconds!

    Still not convinced? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Learn Speed Reading

    Greater Benefits

    With a healthier brain, you can expect better things in other parts of your life, too. A boost in self-esteem is just one of them.

    As you begin to understand information at a faster pace, you will also begin to figure out more opportunities all around you.

    With the ability to deeply understand information in a shorter period of time, your confidence levels will quickly grow higher.

    Moreover, all the aforementioned benefits will relieve you of stress. You will manage your readings in lesser time, your brain will be healthier, and you will feel so much better about yourself.

    With all these advantages, your emotional well-being will be healthier than ever. You’ll feel less stress since your brain will learn to tackle problems efficiently. Speed reading will lead to a relaxed, tension-free lifestyle!

    How to Learn to Speed Read

    Speed reading is a superpower. Fortunately, unlike other superpowers, this one can be learned!

    There are different techniques that can be used to master this skill. Opt for the one that best suits your learning style.

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    1. The Pointer Method

    The person who is credited for popularizing speed reading, Evelyn Wood, came up with the pointer method. It is a simple technique in which the reader uses their index finger to slide across the text that they’re reading.

    As the finger moves, the brain coherently moves along with it. It is an effective technique to keep the eyes focused where the finger goes without causing any distraction.

    Readers have a tendency to back-skip. The pointer method prevents this from happening, thereby saving at least half the reading time.

    2. The Scanning Method

    In this technique, the reader’s eyes move along one part of the page only. This can be the left or right side of the text but is usually the center since that is the most convenient.

    Instead of pacing through the entire text from left to right, the vision shifts from top to bottom.

    This method involves fixation on keywords such as names, figures, or other specific terms. By doing so, the saccade time is minimized.

    3. Perceptual Expansion

    Generally, a reader focuses on one word at a time. This technique, on the other hand, encourages the brain to read a chunk of words together. In doing so, this method increases the reader’s peripheral vision.

    Here’s the thing: even though the fixation time remains the same with perceptual expansion, the number of words that the eyes fixate on increases.

    So basically, the brain receives 5 times more information within the same amount of time.

    This technique is the hardest to master and takes the most time to learn. You’ll need help from speed reading tools in order to practice the perceptual expansion method.

    However, once you master it, this technique will offer you the fastest reading pace with the maximum knowledge intake.

    The Best Speed Reading Apps

    The easiest tool to aid any process in any part of life these days is your smartphone.

    You can use mobile applications to learn speed reading on the go. It has been proven that regularly practicing speed reading is the fastest way to learn this skill. [2]

    Here are a few great options to look into:

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    1. Reedy

    If you own an Android smartphone, you can download Reedy to your mobile. Otherwise, get the chrome extension on your laptop to enjoy speed reading with Reedy.

    This app trains readers to read faster by displaying words one by one on the screen. Instead of having to go through lines or long texts, Reedy prepares the user to focus on one word at a time.

    Although this isn’t an effective method to learn speed reading long texts, it is a great way to start.

    Once your brain gets used to the idea, you can shift to another app to train speed reading sentences or longer texts.

    2. ReadMe!

    Whether you’re an android or iOS user, you can take advantage of the ReadMe! application. This app even comes with some e-book options to practice speed reading on.

    Start by choosing your desired font size, color, layout, etc. Other than that, there are different reading modes for the user to choose from.

    If you want to practice reading sentence by sentence or in short paragraphs, you can choose the focused reading mode.

    The beeline reader mode changes the color of the text to guide the eye to read from the beginning to the end at a certain pace.

    Lastly, there is the spritz mode in which the app focuses on chunks of words at once. This controls the reader’s peripheral vision. However, this mode is not fully available in the free version of the app.

    3. Spreeder

    Spreeder is available on both iOS and Android. However, users may also gain benefits from Spreeder’s website. This application lets the reader paste in any text that they would like to speed read.

    Starting off at a rather low speed, the app flashes words one by one. Gradually, as the user becomes more comfortable, the speed increases.

    Slowly, the user is trained to speed read without having to skip any words.

    This app is different from the rest because it tracks the user’s reading improvements, recording the overall reading time and speed.

    The progress and improvement are tracked in order to motivate the user to perform even better.

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    Adjustable settings, such as the speed of the text, background color, etc. are in the control of the user.

    The Controversy Surrounding Speed Reading

    Truthfully, speed reading does sound too good to be true. It’s hard to believe that it is humanly possible to attain such a fast pace in reading without compromising the quality of information you receive.

    Perhaps as a result, there are people who do not trust the process of speed reading. They believe that when you read through a text at such a high speed, you cannot comprehend the information successfully.

    According to these people, your brain is unable to process information at the speed that you’re reading, and so, they regard speed reading as problematic.

    It is true that speed reading will be of no use if you do not understand the text you’re reading, no matter how quickly you did it.

    Similarly, if you were to read slowly and still not retain or understand the information you read, that would be useless, too.

    However, there a few factors to consider here. When reading at a normal pace, there is enough time in between every step of the process for the brain to get distracted.

    Conversely, speed reading leaves behind no time for the brain to focus on something else. It is unlike skimming. No part of the text is skipped, which means that the brain receives every single bit of information.

    Conclusion

    Keeping all of this in mind, speed reading cannot be labeled a hoax or a failure. Science has backed up this technique, and numerous readers have been using this skill to improve their learning ability.

    At the end of the day, it is your decision whether or not you want to trust this process.

    However, if you decide to take advantage of the opportunities speed reading provides, you will find a world of possibilities opening up to you.

    We live in a fast-paced world. Consuming information faster will help you keep up with that pace and find further success.

    Speed Read Like a Pro!

    Featured photo credit: Blaz Photo via unsplash.com

    Reference

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