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11 wonderfully horrible modern productivity anti-patterns

You are a modern web-worker. When the internet in your office goes offline, it is a major drain on your productivity. Here are some things you may do or see in your daily life that are "anti-patterns" or behaviors which are counter to productivity. Please, don't do them! If someone else does one of them, maybe send them this post (it includes solutions).

When people break these rules (especially via email) it just makes me feel like Billy Sorrels: DELETE, DELETE, DELETE.

1. Putting Screenshots into Microsoft Word Documents

You make a screenshot using the "PrtScr" key and want to share it. How do you do this? You open Microsoft Word, paste the screenshot into the document, and send it via e-mail. It's an image, not a document. Save it that way.

The Problem: Bloat and speed meaning fewer people read the message. It takes way longer to open a document than to open an image. It also takes up more space in my inbox. I mostly don't care about e-mail/inbox size these days, but when I'm on a slow connection (via phone, via internet in a foreign country) it can be an issue.

The Solution: This depends on the operating system you use. Windows users: take the screen shot, open "Paint" (or another graphics program like Gimp) and paste the screenshot there. Save it as an image. If you are going to do it often I humbly suggest Skitch or AwesomeScreenshot.

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New Discover Credit Card Design: Metallic front, details on back

Various news outlets are covering the release of the new Discover credit card, like Daily

Discover Card Design

And, here is the card design:

Discover it card design

It's interesting how they have completely broken from the standard way of lots of information on the front of the card. It's a really clean design with just their Discover logo/wordmark and a little orange "it" on the top right edge. The name, number, and all the other junk is on the back of the card. I haven't been able to find the design of the back of the card anywhere. Apparently the new card will be sent via expedited mail, getting it to customers in just a couple days instead of the industry standard "3-5 business days."

Their delivery box is not only going to get to you faster, it's attractive too:

Discover it delivery box

Commercials: Support and better features

Discover also has several new ads to go along with the card. This first one emphasizes the human, America-based support that is someone so friendly you might just call them for fun:

And this second one emphasizes the "no change to APR for your first late payment" while still giving the human, America-based, friendly support:

Drawbacks to Discover

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Is Wal-Mart replacing Green Dot with American Express for Prepaid debit cards?

There's lots of news coverage today that Wal-Mart is partnering with American Express to offer prepaid debit cards in their stores. Wal-Mart previously offered Wal-Mart branded Visas via a partnership with Green Dot. American Express is accepted less widely than Visa, so it seems likely that Wal-Mart will want to continue offering a Visa or Mastercard either with Green Dot or someone else. On the other hand...since Wal-Mart accepts American Express they might see this as a feature: it means people will choose them if another merchant doesn't accept AmEx.

Press covreage of prepaid expansion by Amex

Amex/Walmart deal affects GreenDot shares

In trading on Monday, shares of Wal-Mart (WMT) and American Express (AXP) were largely unchaged while Green Dot was down about 20%. Investors have been watching closely to see whether Wal-Mart will renew their current agreement with Green Dot which is set to expire at the end of 2012.

Fees for the Bluebird debit card

According to a reuters article:

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Easy MCC - Merchant Classification Codes in XLS, CSV, ODS formats

As I work on we are considering how to leverage Merchant Classification Codes (MCC) data for a variety of purposes. It will be helpful to better understand our customers, to give our customers more information about their transactions so they can know who is using their card (for example, a few weeks ago I got a transaction from "TSI Inc." but by digging into the MCC I was able to see it was for gas and that reminded me of which gas station it was).

These codes are used on every single credit and debit card transaction to identify the nature of the business. This is helpful for accounting, tax reporting, and can even allow for some pretty interesting analysis like the Brighter Planet mastercard app that assigned a carbon footprint to debit card transactions based, in part, on MCC values.

Unfortunately, MCC values are mostly available in formats that are incomplete and hard to parse.

Sources of MCC Data

A new source: Merchant Category codes on Github

So, I created a github repository of mcc values. The data is available as

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Installing Jenkins - Quick, Easy, Somewhat secure

Step 1: firewall off port 8080

Jenkins, by default, launches on port 8080 and anonymous users have full rights. This would let anonymous users run arbitrary code on your server. That's great for usability for a tool that's usually launched inside firewalls, but if you have a machine without a firewall...derp.

So, my recipe that provides some flexibility and some security was:

sudo ufw allow 22
sudo ufw allow 80
sudo ufw allow 443
sudo ufw default deny
sudo ufw enable

That lets http, https, and ssh traffic from anywhere on the net get into the box, but denies all other traffic. Defaults of ufw also allow all outbound traffic (which is handy for apt-get and other similar stuff). To be ideal you'd lock down specific outbound connections and also only allow 22 (i.e. ssh) from known good IP addresses. I'm not into managing that closely for this particular server. Read more docs on ufw.

But do you connect to port 8080 for Jenkins access? You use an ssh tunnel:

ssh -qNf -L8080:localhost:8080 [email protected]

Then you fire up a browser to http://localhost:8080 and it's being tunneled over ssh to the server. But...nothing is running there yet...step 2.

2. Install Jenkins on Ubuntu

I was installing this on an Ubuntu 11.10 server (Oneiric) but I think this is probably a good guide: Jenkins Wiki on Installing Jenkins on Ubuntu. They use their own package outside Ubuntu's repository so you have to add the key, but I found it to be much more user friendly than the default Jenkins that comes with Ubuntu. So, I'm using it!

3. Securing jenkins (basics)

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