Always eat your own dog-food!

So a few days ago I decided to open registrations for my (still alpha/beta) service in order to get feedback and better guide future features.

This is a service inspired in Google Calendar’s 5am daily agenda, but instead of limiting it to send you a summary of events for the day/week, it lets you include all sorts of stuff that matters to you.

In my case, I’m receiving events from different sources, plus a couple of RSS feeds, a daily quote, summary of my Stripe transactions for the past 24hrs, nasa’s astronomy picture of the day, and even the state of my solar batteries at home.

3 days in, I woke up and my 5am email was missing! I logged in to my account and clicked “preview” which builds the content exactly in the same way as when the email is about to be sent. So an error flashed, I found a bug! (ok, I confess to not properly do unit testing!)

Turned out that NASA’s astronomy picture of the day was to blame! On that day they didn’t send a picture but a link to an youtube video, and the json format was not as I expected it to be. A small glitch in my code made the whole content-building process fail and the email was not sent.

So even though I was sad that I couldn’t get any users to help me try it, I got happier due to the fact that at least I got more time to fix nasty bugs!

In the meantime I found a second bug, also because I’m using my own product daily, as a user.

Always eat your own dog food 🙂

Starting a new SaaS side-project

They say you need to launch at least 10 products to be able to find some success. So here I am again, after a couple of failed attempts, starting a new side-project (details to follow soon).

Starting a side-project at this time in my life is a bit crazy. Besides working on a full-time project at the moment with tight deadlines, I also have family life which demands a lot of care and attention and our never-ending off-grid to-do list with plenty of things to fix and improve. On top of that I also provide free IT help as volunteer for 2 organizations.

Still, this project was something I was really excited to try. I have a list of many ideas for software and games, but this one was not one of them! It just popped up some weeks ago, I let it marinate for a while, but it kept growing and growing and I felt I just needed to start something!

My major productivity tips are always the same: break things down in small, doable (and, if possible, easy) tasks. That way, it’s possible to keep the pieces moving forward even with little time.

Of course that, for a software project, you won’t be able to reach far if you don’t find some good chunks of continuous time to focus your mind and write code. But I found out that if I manage to take care of everything else, whenever those opportunities to code appear, I am much more willing and productive, as a result of having a more clear direction and motivation. It’s like an overall preparedness.

I’ve been using Trello for pretty much everything in the past few years (one board to manage my life in general, and then one board per major-project). My first steps were then to prepare a Trello board for this new project. My project lists tend to be somewhat the same all the time:

  • Inbox (new things I remember, but not sure what do to with them yet – just a place to unload without worries)
  • Research (things I need to think, search online, find answers or ways to solve)
  • Dev/Tasks (clear tasks of things to be done)
  • Bugs
  • Later (all the cool stuff I want to do, but need to keep out for now to avoid creeping too many features. Having a clear idea of what your MVP looks like is important)
  • Milestones (one card per milestone, and in each card a checklist of all the important things I need to achieve). I interpret “milestone” differently according to each project. Is just a loose way for me to keep track of where I am and I love that sense of progression.

This weekend, despite being full of household chores, I still managed to put in some solid 3 hours of work into this, 2 of them with code and the other one doing all those small tasks that are important and help keep me motivated. Simple things like:

  • registering the domain
  • setting up email
  • signing up for a few services that I’ll use during development (github, mailtrap)
  • initializing the git repository
  • reading some more laravel docs to better understand how I’ll use it to achieve what I need

So being able to send and receive email with my new product name already feels like something is becoming a reality! Never underestimate the small tasks, the mental motivation they can give is really valuable 🙂

Resuming my fasting practice

When I first started practicing yoga and meditation, about 16 years ago, I also started a fasting practice. My spiritual master advised for a twice-a-month dry fasting method (unless health issues would justify not doing it that way). I’m not going into details of the method since it’s not the point of this post.

I loved fasting in so many ways, not only the physical benefits but the mental as well (meditation was so amazing the next day!). It also helped me recognize that I have more cravings for food than I though (and I’m a slim guy!).

I suspect that those cravings and my mental weaknesses to deal with fasting periods, actually ended up messing up my body due to many occasions when I broke the fast in a terrible way. As time passed, fasting became more and more difficult, throwing me into a very weak state, with tremors by the end of the day. The next morning I would wake up with a bad feeling in my stomach. Drinking water would just end up in vomiting, and I would often need the whole morning just to recover my “normal” state. I began to feel that fasting was making me waste all this time and gradually stopped it.

Since then, so many times I’ve wanted to go back due to wonderful feeling a good fast gives to the body and mind and all the proven health benefits.

I’ve tried Ayurvedic fasting a few times, which consisted of a mono-diet for 2-3 days. It was surprisingly good because you can eat 3 meals so you’re never really that hungry. And what surprised me most was that at the end of the 3rd day I was feeling very similar benefits (both physical and mental) to the one-day dry fast. For some reason I stopped doing those as well, its really boring to eat the same thing for 9 continuous meals! (that’s my taste buds speaking out, instead of my brain)

This year, my first since moving to our house in the middle of nature, surrounded by trees and tall grasses, my seasonal allergies exploded in full force like! I’m writing this post with goggles because I feel like tearing my eyes out due to the itching feeling 24hrs a day. My nose drips and itches for the same period and when I sneeze my daughter laughs because it’s like 10 sneezes in a burst.

When I woke up today the first though in my mind was “oh no, another day of allergies”, which is a terrible way to wake up and a sad focus to the mind. So fasting came to my mind again and after a short research I found countless testimonials of people doing Intermittent Fasting and also find a relief in allergic reactions. This is a good one, in case you are interested in reading.

I’ve thus decided to resume my fasting practice, how, I am not sure yet. Today I’m starting with a fruit-and-water-only fast, and see how my body reacts tomorrow morning. Intermittent Fasting also sounds good for my particular case, or should I say, more bearable. In my country and culture people tend to eat dinner really late, I admire the American schedules for their healthier meal times. But I’m planning a 10hr eating period (8-18) followed by a 14hr fasting period. If everything goes well with my fruit-fast today, I’ll probably start the Intermittent Fast tomorrow.

Very curious to see if it will also help me for the allergies. I’ll write back my findings!

Notes for 16 May 2020

Going to start doing some educational sessions with my 4-yr old daughter once or twice a week, with the use of the computer. Currently looking out for cool educational channels on youtube and things to introduce her to. So far I’ve managed this short list of possible interesting things to try out (based on her interests)

  • geography – google maps/earth – solar system – day/night cycle
  • managing the photos we take of her and her artwork/plays during the week
  • maybe start her own blog to share her photos and funny stories with family
  • educational games? maybe too soon for that and I definitely don’t want to get her hooked on the computer or screens so soon!
  • introducing her to wikipedia / khan academy as good places to learn and seek answers to her questions

Random cool stuff of the day

  • Going to start learning Morse code soon. Here’s a nice one online, with videos that teach you the right way to learn morse (I did not know you should NOT try to read it)
  • Trying to improve my skills in XPlane and radio navigation without using GPS. Found out SkyVector, a great free website to plan flights, check VOR frequencies and more.

Hacking my way through off-grid survival


Last August, after a full year of plumbing, wiring, digging, painting – our family of four has finally moved to our offgrid wooden house.

Off-grid was not the purpose, but given the location, it was not something we could avoid. I always had a personal desire for solar, so for me it was a great chance to materialize it. Our budget was extremely low, so we ended up choosing many parts of our solar system by price instead of quality/reliability. This was a great mistake.

Before moving, I spent many months doing research and using a watt-meter to calculate our average consumption. We had decided to avoid gas-powered equipment in our future house, so electric was the way to go in everything. Usually you’ll find the opposite. People that depend on solar as their only source of electric power, usually try to delegate some things to gas. Most common examples of this (at least in my country): gas water heaters and gas stove.

In our case, we opt to use an electric water heater and an induction cooktop. Everyone told me it was crazy, especially with such a small solar system.

Switching to FastMail

I finally took the plunge and subscribed for a year of Fastmail’s email service. I’ve been looking for a new email provider for sometime. Trying more and more to slowly leave Google’s ecosystem towards something more open and less controlled by a huge corporation.

So why Fastmail? Well, many reasons:

  • its a small company, focused on email, and with a good record on it
  • its a company that seems to support (and improve!) standards instead of creating its own thing
  • it includes calendar, contacts, file storage and notes (these last two I don’t use so much, but its a nice to have)
  • the sync is made through well known and open protocols (webdav, caldav, carddav, ftp)
  • the price is great, the support is great (I tried it during the trial)
  • the features are great! (really, try the trial!)

For sync’ing the contacts and calendar with my android phone I am currently using OpenSync (which is opensource). There are other apps but not free. You also don’t need to use any apps to sync if all you need is email. But android doesn’t support carddav and caldav by default, so in my case I needed something to help in that.