Author: Gerrit Coetzee

About Gerrit Coetzee

A writer on subjects ranging from machine design to project management. He currently resides in San Francisco California as a writer, contract design engineer, and contract project manager.

Overwhelming Task Management

Yes, I actually spent a few sheets of full size drafting paper to come up with this nonsense. Haha.

Recently as the number of things I take on increases, I have found myself more and more overwhelmed. Between, boxing, a full time job, trying to get a girlfriend (haha), trying to start up a hardware business, and also keeping my life organized, I find myself unable to turn the complicated tasks into actions without my mind blanking in rebellion. So I talked to a large number of people more successful than me, and read a few books. However, all their advice was the same,” break it down into tasks.” Which is great in concept, but practically useless if you have no idea how to start. What is a task? How many tasks? Should I plan out every single step? What if I don’t even know what the steps are before I start the task? Last time I tried this I spent hours just making the task list and it didn’t help me at all! Huh, what do you think about that!? Your precious tasks were a task all by themselves. Recursive jerks.

So, I spent an afternoon or two working through imaginary task lists until I came up with a very simple method of  classifying tasks that makes it possible to determine exactly when you are butting your head up against a wall.

Overwhelming Task Management

This method works on the assumption that there are two types of tasks, only one of which is overwhelming.

  • Type 1 tasks are complex, but only require work to complete. These are not overwhelming. It is easy to give an estimate of how long it will take to complete this task in hours.
  • Type 2 tasks are complex, but require planning to break down into type 1 and type 2 tasks before they can be worked on. These are overwhelming. It is not easy to give an estimate of how long it will take to complete this task in hours.

The rules for the practical application of this idea are as follows:

  •  The only work that can ever be done on a type 2 task is breaking it down into type 1 and type 2 tasks.
  •  If a type 1 task proves to be overwhelming, then it must be reclassified into a type 2 task.
  • Don’t waste time expanding all type 2 tasks until the immediately workable type 1 tasks are done.

Practical Application:

You wake up on a Saturday morning and want to clean your house. You take one look around at the incomprehensible mess, curse your past self, and prepare to sit down and avoid the work with a healthy dose of video games. However, right as you walk over to the game console, you remember this method. In your head you quickly reclassify it as 2. Clean house, and break it down.

1. Do dishes
1. Take Out Trash
1. Sweep
2. Laundry
2. Organize Bookshelf
2. Sort Papers on Desk

This way the whole task isn’t held up by Laundry, Organize Bookshelf, and Sort Papers on Desk. It is easy to see where to put time working, and where to put time planning. After doing the first three, you might feel super optimistic. Laundry can be turned into.
1. Drop-Off Laundry at Laundromat
1. Pick-Up Laundry
1. Sort Laundry

Another example might be:

Task: 1. Math Homework

Math homework proves very difficult to solve, task becomes overwhelming. Break down math homework into type 2 and type 1 tasks.

Tasks: 1. Study Notes, 1.Work Example Problems, 1. After Studying, Attempt Math Homework Again

After some time:

1. Study Notes, 1.Work Example Problems, 1.After Studying, Attempt Math Homework Again

Math homework still difficult, reclassify as type 2.

1. Work Math Homework, skipping any problems that prove too difficult to solve, compile list of unsolvable problems
1. Present Problems to math teacher, take notes on advice from math teacher
1. After the above, Attempt final problems

Math homework now done, all overwhelming steps have been safely avoided and compensated for, without an inordinate amount of upfront planning or panic.

“What program did you use?” an essentially useless question.

The question, “What program did you use to make this?” is inevitably asked a hundred times in the comment section of every cool video and project on the internet. It seems innocent, but at its core it speaks of a great misconception in those looking to produce something similar. The misconception being that the software has anything at all to do with the result. That somehow the software is the object responsible for the great work.
Now, don’t get me wrong, good software helps. Good tools help. The distinction to make is that good tools help those who have the skills to use them.

Acquiring skills is a long and painful process. There’s been many times when I’ve seen a master at something produce work a thousand times better than I have using tools I considered inferior and beneath me. I always try keep in my mind that we flew to the moon using nothing more than slide rules, drafting tools, and paper. That’s it. The lunar rover was some crappy aluminum tubing welded together in an “H”. Now we would use our rapid prototyping facilities to do the same thing, but I doubt we’d have a much better product.

Tools are there simply to express your skill. If you don’t have skill, no amount of fancy tools will help you. The only way to acquire skill is through countless hours of daily work.

Whether you’re coding or playing sports this stays constant.

Don’t ask what tool was used. If you have to ask you’re already doing it wrong. Research, practice, learn, and suffer.

Thanks for ruining my programming font DejaVu

I run Windows 7 on my desktop with great success because I cheat and run ubuntu 9.10 in a virtual machine for all my programming needs. Yesterday, much to my dismay I realized that my font looked strange. Quickly, I navigated to my font menu and went to select my favorite “bitstream vera sans mono”.

“Ah, it’s not here, it must just not be installed. I’ll just fire up Synaptic and… Oh god, where is it”

I panicked. A fast ctrl-t and a google search later I find my answer, “In Ubuntu 9.10 we decided to replace ttf-bitstream-vera with DejaVu. Forget you, it’s better.”

“Ah, well”, i thought to myself, “It says here that this DejaVu font is exactly the same as Vera but with more characters, that’s cool.”

This, however, is a horrible lie. Why?



To me, what makes a programming font is that you can see every character. There are some languages that depend on the programmer being able to count those little “_” marks .

It may be a small thing for most people, but it bothers me intensely. Especially since it’s a blatant lie. This isn’t bitstream-vera this is something else. Things have been changed, that makes it different. End of story.

It’s like someone forcing you to drink pepsi because they cant tell the difference between it and coke.

How to make soldering fine pitch surface mount ridiculously easy.


This simple tool will change your life. I was lucky to learn how to solder surface mount from a master. He had crafted a tool very similar to this for himself and used it daily.  The design is simple, a weighted pin is attached to a piece of round stock and this holds the part down on the board. Using this tool I soldered an entire surface mount board with no errors on my first try.

When you assemble the tool make sure that you push the bolt through and thread the nut first, because you might bend the threads while filing the tip down. Make sure that the tip has a round point about the size of a standard ball point pen. Any sharper and you could damage/mar

To use the tool just put the part under the pin and go. It’s that simple, no re flow plates or panavises or any of that junk. You don’t need to worry about tip size for most jobs either. Another plus is that the bolt acts as a heat sink so small parts don’t fry.


You see that tiiiiiny little part. You’re welcome.


The most annoying IRC personalities 2

There are many annoying people in this world and it would come to reason that a good deal of them come to troll on IRC. After the semi-success of the previous one and a few suggestions from other IRC users….

Here are a few more:

The Expert In the Mist: This guy knows almost everything about the discussion topic. He can program in 30 different languages and can build just about any electronic device from scratch. He has the answer to ALL of your questions. The only problem is he only stops idling for about 10 minutes, 12:00 at night on the first full moon of the year if the ambient temperature in France is equal to the the average temperature of the arctic icecaps multiplied by negative pi.

Mr. Quits: This guy quits randomly, often in the middle of a conversation, with no warning at all. Mr. Quits will be 3 lines away from fully explaining how to fix that obscure problem with your system when he suddenly quits. Mr. Quits never means to leave you hanging but he does it with such frequency that one can only assume he has a subconscious need to frustrate and shatter hopes.

The Drunkard: This si thast guy who stll massags oi got oblime nd talk abt…. stuff… even after he’s brought himself 2 drinks away from alcohol poisoning. He normally starts off by listing in detail exactly what beverages were consumed in order for him to bless you with his current state. Then he slowly becomes less and less coherent until he gives a semi-coherent away message and passes out.

The Unknown Idler: This guy has been idling since the channel was started. Upon checking the logs you find that he said “hi” about two years back. May be dead.

The Playlist:
I’ve often wanted to know exactly what song the other channel members are listening to. Thankfully, The Playlist is there to help me out. Shamelessly informing everyone in approximately 3 minute intervals the poorly formatted title, artist and play time information of their blatantly pirated mp3s. To make matters worse, The Playlist normally has horrendously bad taste in music.

The Morally Terrifying:

This guy has no discernible morals. The morally terrifying is the only one who thinks a discussion about gun-point rape and the like is a fun channel topic. Freud would have a heyday with this man. We can just hope his mother knows better than to hug him for too long at a time.

Lucifer the Op: Just try to wander off topic or be slightly abrasive and Lucifer will kick/ban for the next 3 months. Lucifer tends to select a few close friends who make sure that he doesn’t miss an opportunity to ban someone.

The Uninformed:

This guy will join in on the discussion and talk about the topic. Can get very repetitive and infuriating. Whether it be about religion or cars he will contribute something… normally obvious or blatantly wrong. Will make sure you completely understand that smaller tires give you better gas mileage.

The Internet Aggregator: This guy never says anything of his own (other than the occasional lol or yea) but constantly sends links of funny/interesting finds on the internet. A internet aggregator is most terrifying when paired with digg and bash.

The Bot: The Bot is a hideous twisted peice of code that sits in the channel and spams useless information. Normally some withered malicious soul controls the silly thing, making sure that it has all the features nobody wants, such as the google compare feature or the all popular insult generator. The Bot’s owner will normally start using his bot during the most interesting discussion of the day, there by ending it. The Bot is often modeled after other annoying IRC personalities, so that the channel will always have an Internet Aggregator and Lucifer the Op.

View the original post here.

A list of some of the most annoying IRC personalites

Anyone who IRCs regularly know of a few distinct personalities that irritate to the core. It’s almost as if there is a nest somewhere making sure that the supply of lost AOLers, obnoxious 13 year olds and elitist know nothings don’t run out. No matter how many you try to kick/ban off the planet.

This is by no means a complete list, but just a few that stuck out in my mind at the time of writing.

The Elitist Know Nothing: This guy talks about everything with complete authority and refuses to budge on any topic as if he were the one who invented it. In all actuality, The Elitist Know Nothing, picked up most everything he knows from biased trade journals written by other Elitist Know Nothings. He has never really ever applied any of his knowledge to see if it’s actually true or not. He just assumes that it is, and makes sure that you know your 20 years of programming experience mean nothing in the face of his all knowing intellect.

The Lost AOLer: This guy somehow managed to find IRC. He doesn’t know exactly where he is. He is constantly confused as to why the ##linux (must be some kind of kinky sex act) members don’t want to cyber with him.


The Scary Asian/Arab: This kid barges in the channel and asks questions in mildly coherent English that most likely threaten every bit of security you have. For example: say you run a shell server, the Scary Asian will come asking for an account.. for stuff and ssh. When you ask what kind of stuff he will give some vague answer. You figure he’s harmless because he kinda sounds like the 10-15 year old. Two weeks later all your bandwidth disappears and you find most of it going through a ssh tunnel he set up. The FBI knocks on your door to inquire about some files going through your server.

The I Can’t Read The Topic Guy: This guy will wander into the channel and paste 30 lines of code right off. Of course the code is C and the channel is #perl, but that doesn’t stop him. He then goes on to ask a question about the code while four other channel members try to explain various things to him such as “this is #perl” or “there’s a pastebin for a reason.” The I Can’t read The Topic Guy will then make some sort of apology and go spam all 30 lines of code in #C.

The Enter Key Abuser:
This Guy
Does not understand
pressing enter after every
1-5 words
is irritating
and that people would listen
to him more
if he stopped that

Mr. Offtopic: This guy never talks about anything on topic. He’ll tell you about the state of his room, the color of his socks, or about how awesome the hot pockets him mom brought him are. Never mind the fact that this is the #cryptography channel and you are trying to explain something to someone. Mr. Offtopic does not actually need any interaction from other users. He will continue rambling on regardless.

The Evil Wizard: This is the guy that’s been programming for 30 years and has achieved wizardry. His sole purpose in life is to hang out in the help channels and inform anyone who asks a question how dumb they are. He refuses to part with any useful knowledge and instead tells people to google it or links to the most cryptic documentation he knows of. Delights in making newbies give up on whatever they were trying to do.

The 50/50 Guy: This guy actually knows his stuff.. Half of the time. The other half he cycles between all the annoying IRC personalties. He’ll be talking coherently about a C program he wrote one minute and then suddenly go into a string of expletives and tell you about his toenails.

View the original here.