The Information Diet & LInux

Given that recently I decided to start on an information diet [1], and that the Information Diets’ Tools page [2] doesn’t mention Linux (practically only 3 times [3]), I am writing this post tailored to Linux in general & Ubuntu in particular.First I’ll leave you with a video about the Information Diet & some quotes:

 Selected quotes from “Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible” [4]:

“heavily processed information, like heavily processed food, isn’t healthy but for some reason we can’t get enough of it.”

“Technology journalism today is written by people who don’t understand technology, and it basically amounts to advertisements for Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft.”

“Time is our only non-renewable resource,” he tells me. “You can always get more money, you can always get more food…but you can never get back lost time.”

It’s frustrating for technologists to admit, but the Internet isn’t solving the problem. Johnson explains most  people are usually reading things they already agree with.
“When you read an article online you scroll down to the bottom and you see a thing that says ‘other articles like this one’”, Johnson says. “So you get stuck in a place where you’re just always reading more and more of the stuff that you want to hear.”

Johnson thinks people should schedule their media consumption instead of mindlessly consuming throughout the day. MakeUseOf being a technology site, I asked Johnson what tweaks people can make to their technology to avoid bad information habits.
Enemy number one, he told me, were notifications.
“Eliminate anything that’s push or notifications,” he said. “I think notifications are evil.”
Why single out notifications? Because they pull our attention from what we’re trying to do and pull us instead into our email and social networks – discouraging us from interacting with them only during scheduled times.

“…Nothing requires your immediate attention on Facebook.”

“Stop using your iPhone as an alarm clock,” he said. “When you do that, you’ve awakened and you now have your iPhone in your hand…what are you going to do? You’re going to check your email after you’ve turned off your alarm, and that stuff can wait.”

“You can read my book,” he responds, laughing, before pointing out there is a lot of helpful literature out there: Howard Rheingold’s NetSmart [5] and David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know [6], for example.

Desktop Notifications


To turn Thunderbird’s desktop notifications, click Edit > Preferences. Under the “General” tab un-check each of “Show an alert” and “Play a sound”. You could also go further & disable the messaging menu notifications by un-checking “Show in the messaging menu”.

Ubuntu One

Open the control panel, open the “Settings” tab and un-check “Allow all notifications to this device”. Of course you will need to repeat this on all your devices.


Open the preferences dialog; under the “General” tab un-check “Show desktop notifications”.

Online Notifications


Go to the notifications settings [7] Just click on the envelope to un-check all notifications or use the Tab key (Shift + Tab to go backwards) to move to the next radio button & the Space key to un-check it. Don’t for get to git Save Changes!


Similarly, go to Twitter’s email notifications settings [8] and un-check all radio buttons.


Here’s a list of Linux tools that can be used to help with the information diet:

Hamster Time Tracker

The nice thing about Hamster [9.1] is that you need to manually enter your activities; it doesn’t do it automatically. I consider this a plus since it is not “tracking” you. Moreover, it is both open-source & free. It also has a nice option of exporting our data in a variety of formats (e.g; HTML, TSV, XML, iCal).
To install hamster, search your Linux distro repository or software center & it will most likely be there. If you prefer to install it from source, you can find the source on github [9.2]. Moreover do not forget to install the Hamster Indicator for you tray!


[1] The Information Diet < >
[2] The Information Diet (Tools)< >
[4] Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible < >
[5] Howard Rheingold’s NetSmart < >
[6] David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know < >
[7] Facebook’s email notifications settings < >
[8] Twitter’s email notifications settings < >
[9.1] Project Hamster: About hamster < >
[9.2] Hamster’s github repository < >

Thanks for reading

last update: 2012-10-14


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