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Sleep and biorhythm tricks

One winter I stayed so much in the house, that I could not go to sleep any more, my biorhythm was completely off. My luck,  I had the time to make my own research and experiments. In case you want to try (with no warranties), here are my “workarounds” for a good night sleep:

Step 1

Making sure the body knows when the day starts

According to recent studies we need to expose in the morning for 15 minutes to light of 1500 lux. The trick: there are 1500 lux outside, even if cloudy, but not so often in the house. My shortcut: taking breakfast on the balcony, or going for a short walk early in the morning. A lux meter app on the smart phone is useful to check the light intensity.

Some cold face on the face and hands may help to amplify the morning cortisol spike.

Scheduling cardio exercise in the morning also is a good sign we send to our body the day has started ;)

Never tried, but Philips blue light lamp for the mornings seems an excellent idea.

Also it seems that exposure to outdoor light during the day improves the production of  melatonin in the night.

Step 2

Making sure the body knows when the day ends

After a normal day ends it helps not to expose yourself to blue light, which is specific for daytime. To do so:

- use warm light bulbs in the house (approx 2700 Kelvin). I prefer halogens, the color spectrum has higher quality than the economical light bulbs.

- i installed f.lux on my laptop, it makes my screen orange after sunset. I installed a similar app on my smart phone and tablet.

- I do not use a computer screen to watch movies, I project them on a wall, like in cinema.  TV screens have too much blue light, it does not help watching TV 1-2 hours before going to bed.

- special trick: late in the night I close the light on the ceiling and I start a light that stays on the floor (to mimic sunset). We are also influenced by the position of the light source.

- I changed to red/orange colors the background  on all devices that I use after sunset (anything but blue is better)

- no cardio exercises in the evening. If this is not possible, it helps at least lowering the exercise intensity and scheduling it as many hours before sleep time as possible.

- I prefer lower light intensity in the house 1 hour before going to bed.

- in the bedroom there is complete darkness

- I use a kindle paperwhite to read before falling asleep. E-ink technology makes pages visible with very little light, and it does not disturb my sleep quality. It is so much better than using a tablet, and even better than reading a “real” book with a light bulb on

- I try not to use lights if I wake up during the night. Low intensity red lights with movement sensors may help avoiding to turn on the lights. These night lights are easy to find in the stores.

Step 3

Making sure the body knows that you want a high quality 8h sleep

A new study suggests we are hardwired to sleep in the coldes 8h of the  24 day hours. Having a slightly colder bedroom seems to help (19 to max 21 degrees Celsius)

Our body knows if it is spring/summer/autumn/winter  via Vitamin(Hormone) D3 levels. Our metabolism, like the metabolism of all living things on this earth, adapts to seasons, and our sleep patterns also. D3 is a very smart season indicator, used by animals, because naturally you can have it very elevated only during summer, and very low only during winter.  During summer the night is short, so  we sleep without waking up in the night. Nature is abundant in the summer, so the body knows it has lots of energy to use as needed.  In winter nights are long, the sleep is not continuous, we wake up from time to time. Animals conserve the  resources in winter, because they are scarce, and they have a lower metabolic rate. But as we stay all day indoor, working in our offices, our D3 levels indicate to our body that is winter. But we want to stay up at night until late, as it was eternal summer…   Optimizing D3 levels is a long story. There are lots of info at Vitamin D3 Council. There is a blood test called 25OH, to add to the yearly medical checkup. Optimal daily sun exposure is very important. If needed, D3 supplements can be used when the sun is not strong enough.

 

Step 4

Diminishing other potential biorhythm disruptors.

- as low caffeine as possible. Some people (like me) are more sensitive to caffeine, as it is processed  very slowly. Usually I am ok with green tea. I gave up caffeine addiction many times. Always is the same for me: for two weeks  there is hell, then I start feeling as good without coffee as I was before with it. Bonus, sometimes I manage to take a nap after lunch (but not when drinking coffee in the morning). To be able to lower caffeine, I found music gives me a great energy boost, also fresh air and exposure to cold water.

- not (too much) alcohol before going to bed (it lowers sleep quality)

- no eating heavy meals before going to bed

Step 5

Adding good daily routines

- drinking lots of water in the morning, right after getting up

- eating at the same hours each day (small meals if we are so not hungry)

- opening all the house  windows for at least 10 minutes early in the morning, and again before going to bed at night. Also during winter.

I could watch the quality of my sleep improving using my mobile phone. I installed a good sleep app and put my phone  under my pillow (in airplane mode ideally). I liked it more than using a wrist sleep monitoring device, because in the morning I could immediately see the sleep report on the phone screen. No need to synchronize a second device with a phone app. For iphone/ipad I liked a lot an app called “Sleep Cycle”. My prefered smart phone app a year ago was   “Sleep as Android”.

 

Of course, we would not need these tricks if we lived the lives of our grandparents. The biorhythm is disturbed in a soft but definitive way by our technology (artificial light, screens of devices, staying all day indoor, not exposed to the elements). The good news:  solutions like the ones above are very easy to apply.

 

 

My Tuxedo laptop

It’s been more than a year since I have my new laptop, and I feel I  can give it  a onest review now.

The equation was simple: I needed a very light and a very fast 15” laptop. That meant 512 G ssd hdd (no more spinning disks), an IPS Full HD Display, 4th generation Intel processor and arround 2Kg. Of course, with 3 years warranty.

It exists, but for most producers (Dell, Lenovo, Sony, Apple etc.) it is the most expensive (or at least it was a year ago). At Apple I needed  to sell a kidney for the 3 year warranty.

Then on some Ubuntu forums I learned about System76 laptops (rebrended Clevo laptops manufactured in China – as the other  expensive laptops on the market) I wrote them an email, they do not ship to Romania, and  it would be complicated to quickly fix any warranty issue. But from some online forums I found the equivalent in Europe, the Tuxedo laptops:

http://www.tuxedocomputers.com/

They have an online configurator (in german, but google translates well), more versatile than Dell in their good years, and the high-end features (512 SSD, IPS Display) do not double or triple the laptop value.  Warranty, even 4 years. Time to deliver in Romania: 5 working days. They have a good contract with Deutsche Post so the deliveries are fast most times free.

The only downside, the 15” case has a numpad (which for me is totally useless), but it’s so hard this days to find a simple and efficient keyboard. If I were a writer, I would not have bought it. The numpad moves all the “good” keys to the left, so the hands and touchpad do not stay aligned with the center of the screen, which is quite annoying.

But I gave it a try, made the order, and one week later I received my laptop. Than, I noticed the screen was not IPS, so I send it back and received it changed. It was very hard to adjust to the keyboard, so hard that eventually I asked for a replacement, and I received it free of charge (I was able to change the keyboard myself, it was very easy).

What can I say, after using it for more than an year:

- it is incredibly fast (only SSD,  16G Ram)

- it is so quiet.

- the sound is not that great, but I have a good pair of profi Behringer external speakers that compensate.

- no problems installing Linux

- the IPS display is great. the contrast is fabulous.

- I do not miss at all the Nvidia graphics. (I was not playing any games anyway)

- It is so great not to have a spinning disk. Especially when carrying the laptop arround a lot (in the car, on the bicycle, etc. ) And so quiet. And so fast.

- I missed not having a CD/DVD Reader only once. It’s worth having a lighter laptop, I think. I can always buy an external CD Reader. And they have such a short lifespan.

If I would buy it again, I would choose the 2 year warranty and so that I can get the newer model faster. Replacing the laptop is a lot cheaper than for the old Dells. The new models always have better display, more hard space and more memory. I was just looking at the up-to-date Tuxedo configs, you can by a 1000G SSD, and the 500G SSD has a very decent price these days.

 

 

 

 

 

kindle paperwhite & ubuntu & foreign languages

My experience with Kindle Paperwhite (best technical solution I found so far to take books with me on the beach)  has been more than positive, but a few tricks made a big difference (from the point of view of a Linux user):

- I installed Calibre, the library management software (apt-get install calibre)

- I opened in Calibre the pdfs that  I wanted to be able to read on my Kindle (containing text, not photographs of pages) and converted them to mobi format (I converted to mobi, not epub as by default,  as I noticed that only in mobi format the Kindle option to select  font size was available. Or changing default behaviour:  calibre preferences -> behaviour -> prefered output format -> mobi.

 

Special tricks for foreign language learning (German in my case)

- optionally – I set the Kindle interface to German (I recommand changing interface only if already mastering the language at an intermediary level)

- I set the preferred dictionary to the default German-German dictionary (comes free with the Kindle).  I also bought from Kindle Shop the  Collins Concise German-English  dictionary, which is integrated with the Kindle. Now I can use the Kindle as a dictionary (I  go to search, select the dictionary – if it is not already selected, write the word in German and search it). No need to switch to German keyboard, if I keep a letter longer pressed, a popup allows me to choose a corresponding German special character (the umlouts).

But the best is that if I read a German book, when I select a word and keep it pressed, the translation pops up (from my default dictionary).

For instance: I go to a  German Wikipedia article, I go to print/export  and download the epub format. Then I convert it from the command line (Ubuntu Calibre graphical interface converts books only as English – or the corresponding interface language, does not have yet the option to set language per book):

ebook-convert PabloPicasso.epub PabloPicasso.mobi –language de

Then I open the converted mobi file (with German language in metadata) in Calibre graphical interface

 

And the most important part, putting the files on my Kindle:

- I connect the Kindle with a cable to my laptop, with a standard usb cable (the same cable that I use to charge/connect my Android smartphone) and open it

- From the Calibre graphical interface I right click on a book (after I verified that I correctly set the author and title) and select “Send to device” -> “Send specific format to” -> “Main memory” and make sure that I send the mobi format.

Last but not least the Kindle has an option to switch reading to landscape view (for even bigger fonts, for those of us that want to protect eyes from fatigue in any way possible).

 So I can have a ton of books with me wherever I go, including an incredibly powerful contextual dictionary. No buttons, only touchscreen, the battery seems to hold forever and the pages are as perfect in the dark as  in the bright sun, I can set the fonts as big as I want and I can read texts from other sources than the Kindle bookshop. I am very happy with my Kindle Paperwhite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISSION TO THE EDGE OF SPACE: LIVE

Cu parere de rau pentru cei care lucreaza in televiziune, ma uit in direct pe net la Red Bull Stratos:
http://www.redbullstratos.com/live/

(acum 3 luni ma uitam live pe net la Olimpiada de la Londra)

The future is now.

Xubuntu

Its just perfect.

The install was smooth, no errors at reboot, then when I saw the clean  look I breathed with ease.

Within seconds I was able to set my 5 workspaces, and not for long I had the top bar moved to the left and all my shortcuts working. I succeeded in half a day to reinstall all my working environment (including an Oracle database …), my email accounts, and make everything work. It’s true I had  lists with all the steps (from previous ubuntu updates), but nevertheless, it was very fast. Everything is not as before, but much better than before. My mouse is working fine, my windows have scroll bars, the pdf viewer is not twice as wide as my desktop. It  comes by default with Pidgin and Banshee is not installed by default (what a relief).

It gave me joy and made me remember  my first install of Mandrake, Gentoo and then Ubuntu in the good days before the infamous unity.  It’s not a technical review but a very subjective one, but I surely had the feeling the guys from Xubuntu are on the right track.

linux mint for half a day

Very tired of the ubuntu interface problems I said to myself to change things in 2012, so i tried Linux Mint 12.

First, I tried with naivity to use the cd. The dvd gave a write error and the cd waited a thousand years to boot, without luck. So I wrote myself a bootable usb. Will never try to boot from cd again.

Then I started the install, which went quite smoothly but afterwards it did not boot. The error was nice, event though I don’t have a clue what it means “GRUB: invalid arch independent ELF Magic error fix”.  I found fast the solution: to reboot from usb and reinstall grub:

sudo mount /dev/sda6 /mnt

sudo grub-install –root-directory=/mnt/dev/sda

It gave me an warning but it worked.

Then searched the Update Manager and updated packages.

Next: I need gnome2 looks (i’m too old for gnome3 …)

the package is called mint-meta-mate

I installed it but could not find where to change the system to use it.

I tried to set my 5 workspaces, but couldn’t, to find on the internet that once you open a window you get an extra workspace. It worked, infinite number of workspaces but not 5 :(

It was very jumpy and the gnome 3 interface was making me very nervous.

Then all went for the worse: one usb stick refused to work completly (never to recover again), the other was painfully slow. I set my favorite shortcuts but the settings worked only after a reboot. At boot I saw strange error messages, and afterwards all seemed to be out of place. I could see any time at least 4 types of fonts and font sizes on my screen, nothing was unitary. It was plain ugly. I had a nervous meltdown, started to search for alternatives on the net and decided to give next day a try to xubuntu.

Google Chrome

At my latest album upload on facebook my Firefox was not handling multiple uploads, so that was the impulse I needed to install Google Chrome.

And it’s been a charming experience. I remember having the same feeling when ditching old Mozilla for Phoenix (old name for Firefox) .

It’s fast, it’s simple and it works. My other “itch” with Firefox, minimum font size, which at some point had stopped working properly on my computer, was solved in 2 seconds (I do not wear glasses and take all necessary measures to delay the unavoidable).

Optimization of vertical space? It’s a default, did not have to spend  a day to search and tests all kind of plugins for that…

It’s a breeze a fresh air, a great product that just works and was built with simplicity in mind.

Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick on Dell Inspiron 11z

Made curious by len’s install, I could not resist and tried the new Ubuntu Netbook edition on my 11z, in search of perfect use of my 16:9 display, with incredible 1366 horizontal pixels but only 768 vertical ones.

First, backup. Shortest backup ever: I do not have any developing tools installed, all my media files are also on my external hard drive, my email is on an imap server, so I’m truly mobile with this mini laptop. I just made a copy of the background image :)

Next, the install. I took the usb and started. I chose manual handling of partitions (I kept the windows install, it’s good for tests from time to time), after that the install started and a bit later was done. Excellent, smoothest install ever.

After restart though, came to face the real problem, that I also had with the previous version of Ubuntu: the wireless was not working, the error message: “device not ready firmware missing”

Plugged the cable and looked for a solution. The problem obvious, the infamous broadcom chipset:

Read more »

sharuiesc, deci exist

M-am lamurit, sunt de moda veche, cu blogul. Conversatiile acum nu se mai poarta pe messenger, sau pozele pe picassa …
Pisicii draguti isi gasesc stapani pe twiter.
Ce discutii pe mess din acelasi birou? Oamenii converseaza pe facebook, chiar daca stau in masina pe aceeasi bancheta … Daca nu impartasesti, nu existi …

History, reloaded

New King of Technology: Apple Overtakes Microsoft

Regele a murit, traiasca regele.