Scatter-brained or Diligent?

Having little to no professional equipment, it is necessary to do everything that I do from an older computer, namely an HP Compaq 6715b laptop. From running Qemu to compiling Android roms, it is all done from a laptop that is several years old. Perhaps you also find yourself in this particular situation, and wonder how you can work on multiple projects at once with limited resources.

There seem to be two main options, become scatter-brained, or start being diligent with your resources.

If you choose to become scatter-brained, you will find several benefits along the way. First, you will be able to work on many projects because you will forget that you were working on them and start new ones. Second, you will not fear failure, because you will never complete anything. Finally, you will be happy, because ignorance is bliss.

If you instead choose to become diligent with your resources, you will miss out on that blissful ignorance, but may actually know the joy of successfully completing something. You will also get more done, hopefully. As for myself, well, perhaps I am somewhere in the middle, but I strive for the latter.

There are many great ways to make less work more, and we will consider three here, based on some of my current projects, that hopefully will be helpful as others weigh out setting up their own equipment for maximum use:

Lighten up.

A great way to make the most of a now low end laptop is to lighten up your environment. I use a Linux machine, and a great way to do that is to choose a lighter desktop environment and/or windows manager. Windows managers such as JWM, ICEWM, and LXDE use substantially less ram than their counterparts, such as Gnome3 and Unity. Cutting back here can save you as much as 200 MB of ram, which goes a long way when that is 5-10% of your overall ram capacity. It also can save you plenty of processing power by not running processes in the background that are not needed.

Schedule your projects.

Compiling Android roms takes every ounce of my computer’s capacity. With only one processor and dual cores, it will quickly eat up system resources trying to run multiple projects at once. The problem is that compiling often takes hours, leaving you sitting around, wasting time and accomplishing little to nothing, because your computer is in use at the moment, but not by you.

A great way to get around problems like this, from video editing to compiling, is to schedule these heavy duty tasks for a time that you know you will not be using your computer. Consider this command:

…/slimroms6 $ sleep 3600 && . build/envsetup.sh && brunch jfltetmo

Here, when set in an open terminal tells the computer to wait an hour before starting a build process which will take all of your system resources. With this scheduling, I often set my computer up to run the compiler after I am done using it. If I know I don’t plan on using my computer for a weekend away, I can set multiple process up with longer sleep commands, waiting to be run later. You could also set up cron or acron jobs, but this is pretty simple for one time runs.

Limit your resources.

Another great way to get the most out of your machine, is to limit your resources. There are many ways to do this, and it really depends on the application in question, but the principles still remain. For instance, if you must download a lot of material using torrents, you could set your torrent download speeds to lower levels, and allow yourself to continue working while using the internet for other good purposes. Repo commands allow you to do the same by choosing the number of threads to use, such as repo sync -j1, which will only use one  thread and will not kill your internet.

Using quotas can limit the amount of space a project can take up, keeping space free while you work on other things. This might help if you have “ballooning” storage devices used for emulators. Programs such as Qemu allow you to run a complete computer instance in a window, allowing you to minimize the screen to work on different projects. Another great thing about using emulators is that you can devote a specific amount of ram or just one processor to a project, keeping the remaining stash free for you to do other things.

Or you could just be scatter-brained. Which sounds a whole lot easier.

Linux – keep it simple.

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