Sourcing information

We all do most of our browsing on our phones. When we come across something we don’t know about, we google it to find out more. More often than not, the link that gives us the most information is either Wikipedia or a news site.

If it’s current affairs, it’s a news site. If it’s general information, Wikipedia. Then why do we still google the thing? Why waste time on the middleman? Is it force of habit? Is it because we believe that google will give us the most comprehensive information and links? Is it just laziness?

Perhaps it’s all of the above. Google is our one stop shop for all information. Whether we’re looking to buy something, looking for a website which we don’t often go to, looking for some news, or solving some mystery on the web, google will give you the knowledge you’re looking for. That’s a great product, regardless of any other implications on privacy, advertising, politics etc.

So why should we opt to change this excellent workflow? (Need information, ask google, get information)

Because it’s worth it to go to the source.

  • Google often scrapes data from Wikipedia, but most of the time, it’s incomplete. It’ll be the first line or paragraph in a topic that’s complex and needs some more study to understand. Or, google will tell you a part of the information, expecting you to select a link to learn more from. So why not go to the source directly?
  • When the topic is a current affair, Google will show you links that it judges to be of your interest, or of value to them (advertising, collaborations with sites like twitter which will be surfaced above others). Instead, if you go to a solution such as Apple News (or Google News perhaps) and search for the topic you’re looking for, you’ll see a more balanced perspective because all Apple News is doing is collecting links from various news sources and presenting those to you. Notice that I didn’t say you should go to a particular news site for this, because if you want real news, you’d better be looking at more than one source.

Now, how do we make this easier? How do we give up our google habit and go to the source? On mobile, the simplest way to do this is to move your apps around. On my phone, the Wikipedia app sits on the main home screen and the Apple News app sits inside a folder on the dock (most of the time, I end up searching for the news app on spotlight search, but I’m trying to get rid that habit too).

This is not ideal. In an ideal world, I would not have to go to each app individually to search for the topic at hand. I would be able to select a word or phrase and use the share sheet in iOS to jump to Wikipedia or Apple News, neither of which seem to support this simple functionality.

But those are the technical details, which may change at any time. What matters is where we source our information from and why. I recommend that you start cutting out the middleman and go directly to the sources, sites, and services that you trust, because those are the same ones your middleman trusts too. As for the why, well, start doing this and you’ll see a change in how you receive information and perceive the news. Search is good, but search algorithms may very well not be.

Some Windows tools

I’ve been using Windows as my choice of office OS for a long time. I have a Mac at home, but for office work, Windows seems like the best choice. But not Windows itself. It is the apps that make it my go-to OS and often I find myself looking at OS X and thinking, “well I’m glad I have Windows too!”

Here’s a small list of Windows apps which I use on a daily basis –

  1. Sublime Text 2 – the less said about this, the better. This is the King of code.
  2. WinSCP – you know how you want to find a simple tool to send files to your servers and just can never get the workflow right? Or you want to quickly edit your linux VPS’ .bashrc and hate ssh-ing, then opening the file in vim/nano/emacs/pico/whatevs? This is it. Easy to use and manage. Right-click-Edit to open any editable file in the right editor (mostly Sublime Text for me). Or move files in and out of servers with ease. When I want to look at large log files and can’t be bothered with the CLI, I open them in Sublime Text through WinSCP.
  3. mRemoteNG – I have yet to discover all the awesome features this tool has. Manage your SSH/Telnet/RDP/VNC connections in the same app, organize everything into folders and export the connections as a file in Dropbox for ultimate portability. I recently discovered that if you punch in google.com and connect using HTTP/HTTPS, mRemoteNG fires off its in-built browser for your convenience. Woah!
  4. Rebex Tiny SFTP Server – recently, I got a Windows VM that I needed to send some files to. It was hooked up to the network, but not really setup. I looked for a solution and found rebex through this site. This thing works like a charm! I fired it off and started the default session (username: tester, password: password). The next moment, I had connected to it using WinSCP and was throwing files at it like a pro.
  5. CLink – I’ve only recently added this to my workflow. It makes the Windows command line so much better. The most important thing I needed in there is a persistent history, which Microsoft has till now ignored. CLink does the job and then some!

Notice that I’m talking about a very specific environment here. I’m in the networking-software testing world. But if you’re ever in a fix about what tool to use to edit code on Windows, or fling files between two networked but not truly connected machines, or are looking for a way to SSH into your servers across the world, these are the best tools out there.

I may add tools to this list as I go about discovering what else is out there. But that’s all for now.