Jiwon's Encyclopedia


I have a problem with Netflix, and it's not just that you need a dozen subscriptions to watch everything these days. Even if Netflix had everything, I can't shake the feeling that it rests on a fundamentally unhealthy business model.

The Problem

Netflix promotes binging, one of its key innovations. I'm sure the savvy business folks at Netflix chose that model for sound reasons. For many end-users, however, binging causes unstructured, unplanned media consumption. It's common to have an entire day pass without realizing it.


Modern programmers are well aware that go-to statements are bad. Introductory programming materials actively discourage and even omit, the statement altogether. It's a shortcut for spaghetti code. Why is that?

In March 1968, the famed computer scientist Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote a letter to the editor for the Communications of the ACM. It was aptly titled “Go To Statement Considered Harmful.” In it, Dijkstra first distinguishes between the textual program file and the process of executing the program. He remarks that we are particularly bad at grasping the latter.


Courtesy Jane Pritchard

Sometimes you come across common threads in unexpected, disparate places. I was listening to the Alignment Newsletter Podcast when I came across the idea that artificial intelligence safety is a many-to-many problem with many AI and human agents. This idea is further explored in The Age of Em.

Then I listened to the audiobook version of Deep Survival and learned about disaster siatuations in complex systems. That got me to think more about disasters – more than I already did – and to try to tie it together in some way, since disasters are in everyone's radar these days.


permalink: /vim/

#tech #minimalism #linux

Vim is an essential command-line program. Not only is it one of the most widely installed text editors for Linux distributions, but many TUI applications also use VIM-like keybindings. Learning how to “think in vim” has allowed me to edit text such as this blog post with mouse-less efficiency.

However, vim has a bit of a steep learning curve. Not as insane as emacs or dwarf fortress, mind you, but steep enough to warrant an entire Github page detailing how to exit vim.


#tech #minimalism #linux

In my previous post, I talked about how I use an i3-based tiling window manager for a terminal-based workflow. A great thing about i3 and XTerm, my terminal emulator of choice, is their customizability. These are some preliminary configurations I made for improved quality of life.

XTerm's appearance in ~/.Xresources

The ~/.Xresources file customizes terminal emulators' appearance. As I use XTerm instead of URXVT, I first deleted all lines specific to URXVT.


#tech #linux #minimalism

I've long held a bit of a fascination on the command-line interface (CLI), but was scared to approach it. Experienced programmers vouched for the power of the command line, its efficiency, and flexibility. Furthermore, as Matt Might recommends, the command line is extremely conducive to productivity, as there are little avenues for distractions. That's why I decided to learn how to live in the command line.


#tech #minimalism #lifestyle

Two things happened, and I'm feeling a desperate need to go offline by default.

First, I was learning how to use Linux, and it took a few days to troubleshoot network settings. That gave me a forced taste of a mostly offline lifestyle during which I only had limited cellular data. I was surprisingly productive and felt calm during these few days.


#tech #minimalism #privacy

I think the free and open-source (FOSS) community and privacy-conscious people should talk more about the cost. There is an oft-trivialized cost to going the unconventional route.

It's great that most desktop and mobile software and tools are free. Linux, LibreOffice, FireFox, Atom, and Anki are completely free and open-source software I use daily. When it comes to online services, however, nothing is free. You either pay with your data, money, or time. It costs a lot to run servers; the developers have to get paid somehow.

The first option is the default: use the FAANG tech giants' web services for emails, calendars, contacts, note-taking, and online presence. While it makes me uncomfortable knowing that all of my behaviors are exposed, you may decide you're okay with it.

If you want something similar to Google's suite of web applications that work out of the box, you'll need to pay. ProtonMail is a popular and secure email service that also has calendar and contacts support in beta. I chose FastMail, however, since their calendar and contacts features are more mature. As it's very difficult to set up and run a custom email server without getting flagged as spam, I suggest using one of these services. At most, they cost $5 per month.

If you choose to use ProtonMail's free plan, you'll have to wait for the calendar and contacts support to get out of beta. Etesync is a popular alternative, which helps sync your data on your devices. While I had technical difficulties setting it up, a lot of people recommend it. Lastly, you can use local calendars and contacts if that satisfies your needs.

You don't want to pay for these services? Then you'll have to invest your time and energy learning how to set up and manage home servers. The up-front hardware cost is fairly low, as they can be low-end devices. However, it is quite difficult for novices to run a server. Once configured, both come with every conceivable application except emails. That includes file storage, tasks, photo gallery, calendar, contacts, kanban, and more. The question, then, is how to have redundancy. Paid cloud storage services do the job for you. If you're self-hosting, you'll have to create a remote backup yourself.

If you don't want to go through the hassle of hosting a server, then you need to pay money. You can rent Owncloud or Nextcluod installations on some hosting providers. Alternatively, you can use my cloud storage service of choice, pCloud. Either way, you'll have to cough up the cost. Either choice will serve your cloud note-taking needs. Owncloud and Nextcloud both have note-taking apps; in pCloud, you can simply save markdown files to the cloud.

Lastly, there are a few private ways to have an online presence. You can use a federated social media service like Mastodon. My choice, self-evidently, is to run a website. I bought this website's domain and hosted it on Github Pages. If you're not a web developer and want a simpler setup, you can sign up for a Wordpress hosting provider.

This covers all the major use cases of online services:

  1. Email (ProtonMail for 0\$-\$5/mo, FastMail for $3-$5/mo)
  2. Calendar & contacts (ProtonMail Calendar in beta, FastMail, Etesync for \$2/mo, Owncloud/Nextcloud for \$0+/mo)
  3. File storage (Owncloud/Nextcloud, pCloud for \$50/yr)
  4. Online presence (Mastodon for free, Github pages for free, Wordpress hosting for \$3+/mo, and custom domain for \$10+/yr)

In my case, the costs of \$50/yr on pCloud, \$60/yr on Fastmail, and \$24/yr on custom domain (two of them) add up to \$134/yr or \$11/mo. Considering that it's the cost of one subscription – say, Spotify – for a whole suite of services, I think it's worth it. If you're more price-conscious, then costs could definitely go down. There regardless will be some price though, whether through cash, time, or data.

#tech #minimalism #productivity

I recently came across Jeff Huang's .txt productivity system via Cal Newport's blog post. It was a pleasant surprise, as I've been doing something similar since middle school. Despite having tried every task manager under the sun, I've found a text file to be the most reliable and efficient. It was quite validating to learn that a computer science professor thinks the same.



It's no secret that I love macOS. However, I've been burned enough by Apple's reluctance to timely address some of their biggest hardware flaws: exorbitantly high prices, bad graphics, shoddy thermals, and the infamous butterfly keyboard.

Even so, I stuck around, only as I loved the operating system. I even shared how I game on a MacBook. Shortly afterwards, frequent bugs on Bootcamp made maintaining an eGPU setup a chore and I gave up. That's why I built a PC as my secondary entertainment hub. I used it to play video games and watch movies on a larger screen.