The importance of a good environment

After a few months of wandering around I finally moved into my apartment for the next year on Monday. The next day I picked up my new Macbook Air. After a good amount of time I’m back to having a good working environment, in more ways than one.

Over the last two months I’ve realized that it’s vital to have a decent environment if you want to get things done. It doesn’t have to be the best, it doesn’t have to have all the amenities, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, overly indulgent environments are probably less conducive to good work than merely adequate ones. However, your environment does have to be good enough for you to sit down and do your work without constantly thinking or worrying about other things.

I’ve grown to like working in coffee shops and similar semi-public spaces. I also like my current internship office and I’m looking forward to setting up a nice office space once I start at Cornell. However it is nice to have a nice home to come back to. It’s nice to have options when it comes to work locations and spaces but it’s even better to feel that you’re not forced to choose. I had romantic notions of being a true techno-nomad – being able to work from wherever, whenever. Unfortunately I’ve found out the hard way that I’m not quite that hardy. I’m all for frugality and minimalism, but a good work and living environment is definitely worth investing in.

Talking of being a techno-nomad, for me my computing environment is just as important as my physical living environment. Just as it’s hard to get anything done if you’re constantly worrying about your living conditions, it’s hard to do anything if your machine is fighting against you instead of cooperating. Since almost all my work involves a computer in some shape or form it’s all the more important that I have a stable, working and adequate computing environment. Admittedly, getting a Macbook Air was a bit indulgent. But I wanted something that would last a few years, was close to the high end and that I could use as my only machine day in, day out. Since I had some money to spare (by virtue of previously mentioned internship) I decided it was worth it. I like the decision so far.

I’m considering the last few months to be part of my leaving college and growing up experience. And the importance of environments is one very important lesson that I’ve learned. I think I always knew that theoretically a good environment helps you create good work. However, now I know the practical effect of that theory firsthand. I’m sure there is some amount of personal preference involved, I know people who have done great work in pretty bad conditions. However, if you have the resources to set up and maintain a good environment then there are very few reasons why you shouldn’t do so.

Enter the ByteBaker

I’ve been blogging on and off since 2005, more off than on. As I’ve mentioned before, my spotty record is mostly due to the fact that I’ve never really had anything very compelling to put out on the Internet. But as I continue exploring computer technology and continue my formal studies in the field, I realize that I’m getting exposed to lots of different and interesting ideas and coming up with many of mine. Most of them are probably not very original, though perhaps people still find them interesting. But irrespective of that, I know that a lot of these thoughts and experiences are things that I would like to keep on record and would like to share with other people out there.

With that in mind, I’m going to make a commitment to recording my thoughts and ideas over the next few years as well as keeping a record of my projects and experiments. I’ve registered a domain name and this blog now routes to it. I’m still running off WordPress.com and will be for some time, but I’m going to be posting everything under my new website : The ByteBaker.

Why call it The ByteBaker? Many people have differing opinions on what computer science really is. According to MIT professor Gerald Jay Sussman, computer science is not a science and is really not about computers. Over the last few years I’ve come to agree with him. Computer science in general and programming in particular seems to be to be quite similar to cooking: If you start mixing ingredients at random, you might come up with something that is edible, but it probably won’t taste very good. To make a good dish you need an understanding of your ingredients and utensils as well as a fair amount of improvisation and inspiration. Computer science is similar that you need to understand the concepts and tools that are a part of your trade and to actually produce something novel and interesting you need a healthy dose of imagination and daring. While cooks and bakers use various raw ingredients such fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, etc., for computer scientists all our creations can be described in terms of bits and bytes: hence enter the ByteBaker (also alliteration is kinda cool).

So what does all this mean for you? Probably not a lot at the moment. You might want to upgrade your bookmarks to point to The ByteBaker instead of Xtreme Computers, because in a few months I will be moving to a different hosting solution so that I can have more control over the WordPress installation. If you’re a feed subscribers, you don’t have to do anything at all: I’ll still be publishing at the old feed URL. So just sit back and enjoy the ride!