Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Constructive Wastes of Time

I'm a bit behind on my promise to make a webpage for the course I'm teaching. Mostly this is beacause the page is actually unnecessary. Everything the students really need to know, they can get on Oncourse.

Still, I like to make these pages because then there's a central place for me to put announcements that they don't have to log in to. That cuts down considerably on whiny exucses for not having seen postings, etc. Also, it allows me to preempt the professor, if necessary. I find that I get things done faster, on average, than the primary instructor, so it's nice to be able to post announcements as soon as I know they're needed.

But all of that is neither here nor there since I've been totally unmotivated to do anything about this page all week.

I think mostly it's the lack of novelty. I've made several webpages by hand at this point, and it's now at the stage where it's tedious, and yet I still feel like I have to relearn HTML every time I start. Oh, not the concepts, of course. But I can't remember specific tag names and so on. So it's a lot of flipping back and forth in books, web searches, etc.

So I finally decided to join the 21st century and use an HTML editor. And the one for Fedora 5 seems to be Quanta Plus. Naturally, it doesn't come installed with the operating system, so I had to install it.

Now, in theory, installing things in Fedora is easier than running Windoze Update (or whateverthehellitsactuallycalled). You just, whenever you feel like it, log in as root and type "yum -y update," sit back and relax for a bit. Yum takes care of the rest. And if you want a package that you don't have (like, oh, say, kdewebdev, which has Quanta Plus in it), you just type "yum -y install kdewebdev." Simple.

In theory.

But as with all things Linux, there are sometimes hangups. Like today, for example, I discovered that there are some updates packages for dealing with my graphics card that apparently haven't come out yet (for Linux, I assume) but are nevertheless necessary. So running the general "yum -y update" thing no longer works - because it runs into dependency problems and crashes. Great.

It also means that intalling any single packages (like the aforementioned kdewebdev) leads to dependency problems (because the packages that should be there from the general yum update aren't, since yum crashes now).

Fortunately, yum is really easy to use, so all I have to do is look at the error messages, figure out what it's missing, and run yum for all that individually. And today, conveniently, there were actually only three things that needed to be installed.

Of course, doing all this took rather more time than I was planning on spending on getting this page up. And, in fact, even installing Quanta Plus in the first place is more time than I should really be putting in to this - since, after all, I already have practice just coding by hand.

In theory, having Quanta around saves me time in the long run since it makes the process of page design less tedious and more efficient. But in the short term (which means today) it's a waste of time because of course I have to first learn how Quanta works.

Actually, it's intuitive. I gave up reading the manual because everything was so obvious. But a penny here, a penny there - eventually I'd wasted an hour or so on all this. It's amazing where time goes when you insist on being interested in everything you do.

Well, I wouldn't go back to Windoze for the world, and I'm glad I'm using an HTML editor now rather than doing all this by hand (why did I ever do that?). But I'd also like my hour back!

Just goes to show - time management is an issue, and computers are giant, distracting toys.

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