All this working from home is pretty great, but we have to admit that we miss packing up the Hackaday office and heading for the local coffeehouse once in a while to spend a few hours writing against the buzzing background. One thing we don’t miss about the experience is that you’re never guaranteed a place to sit and spread out. And unless you trust a friendly stranger to keep an eye on your stuff while you’re in the bathroom, you have to take it with you at the risk of losing your table.
If only we could afford one of Nissan’s mobile office pod concept vehicles. We’ve always wanted to pretend we’re doing surveillance and would probably have the thing wrapped with graphics for a fake flower shop or something. That would certainly make it easier to park somewhere and borrow someone’s open Wi-Fi network — maybe even from the coffeehouse parking lot after we hit the drive-thru.
As you’ll see in the extended tour video below, Nissan seem to have thought of everything except restroom facilities. The cab-over-engine design and all-terrain tires would make it easier to drive out into nature and really get away from it all. Once you’ve found the perfect spot, you can open the lift gate for some fresh air, or get some sun while you work by pulling out the motorized unibody-constructed cubicle which includes a built-in Herman Miller Cosm chair. (Evidently the Aeron is old and busted now; we disagree). For some reason, the cubicle is edge-lit, and not in a way that would help you work at the desk. According to the video, it’s based on the Caravan NV350, which looks far more comfortable but not as cool when outfitted as an alternate mobility concept.
The office pod has some nice amenities like a DC-AC converter so you can run your Keurig or Nespresso, and there’s even a UV-disinfecting lamp in the glove box. The larger windows behind the cab can be electronically shaded so you don’t bake in the sun. Here’s where things get a bit ridiculous: the floor is made of clear polycarbonate in case you want to park lengthwise over a small stream and watch the surviving fish go by underneath your feet. And if you really want to take a break, climb up to the roof deck and stretch out in the chaise lounge beneath the deck umbrella.
The Pomodoro Technique has helped countless people ramp up their productivity since it was devised in the late 1980s. Breaking down tasks into 25 minute chunks can improve your focus tremendously, provided you show up, start the timer, and get to work.
Lazydoro takes the psychology focus even further. In [romilly.cocking]’s interpretation, a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor is your productivity Santa Claus — it knows whether you’re doing your part by simply applying butt to chair, and your present is a productive 25 minutes where not a second is wasted futzing with timers and worrying about time lost to such administrative tasks. When Lazydoro senses that you have arrived, the Raspi Zero starts a 25-minute Pomodoro timer, and represents the time remaining across a Pimoroni BLINKT LED matrix.
But hold on, you haven’t heard the best part yet. Lazydoro was designed with real life in mind, because [romilly] thought of everything. Whenever you leave your chair, a 5-minute timer starts, and there’s a beep when time is up. If you make it through the 25 minutes and hear the victory beep, then it’s break time. But if you get up too soon, the work timer stops, and the 5-minute timer becomes your limited space in which to fret, stare out the window, or get the snack you think you desperately need to keep going. This makes Lazydoro awesome even without the Pomodoro part, because simply sitting back down is a big step one.
Most people wish they were more productive. Some buckle down and leverage some rare facet of their personality to force the work out. Some of them talk with friends. Some go on vision quests. There are lots of methods for lots of types of people. Most hackers, I’ve noticed, look for a datasheet. An engineer’s reference. We want to solve the problem like we solve technical problems.
There were three books that gave me the first hints at how to look objectively at my brain and start to hack on it a little. These were The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Flow By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Getting Things Done By David Allen.
I sort of wandered into these books in a haphazard path. The first I encountered was The Power of Habit which I found to be a bit of a revelation. It presented the idea of habits as functions in the great computer program that makes up a person. The brain sees that you’re doing a task over and over again and just learns to do it. It keeps optimizing and optimizing this program over time. All a person needs to do is trigger the habit loop and then it will run.
For example: Typing. At first you either take a course or, if your parents left you alone with a computer for hours on end, hunt-and-peck your way to a decent typing speed. It involves a lot of looking down at the keyboard. Eventually you notice that you don’t actually need to look at the keyboard at all. Depending on your stage you may still be “t-h-i-n-k-i-n-g”, mentally placing each letter as you type. However, eventually your brain begins to abstract this away until it has stored, somewhere, a combination of hand movements for every single word or key combination you typically use. It’s only when you have to spell a new word that you fall back on older programs.
[Brad] had an extremely productive January 18th. Considering how many websites went dark to protest SOPA, we can’t blame him. While considering what he could get done if popular Internet time sinks went dark on command, [Brad] thought of the Stop Online Productivity Avoidance box. This build will redirect all traffic to sites like reddit, hacker news, and (gasp!) hack a day to a simple web page that asks the eternal question, “shouldn’t you be working right now?”
The box has two modes: in SOPA mode, the whole Internet is at [Brad]’s fingertips. In NOPA mode, an Arduino communicates with a Python script running on the router to pull up an Internet blacklist. A simple button would be too easy to override, so there’s a ‘nuclear mode’ that shuts off these time sinks for one hour. The only way around the blacklist is to restart the router, a process that takes 15 minutes and will kill the entire Internet for the duration. Not something you’d like to do if you’re slightly bored.
All the code for the SOPA box is up on github and you can check out [Brad]’s demo of the SOPA box after the break.