You’re running out of time, 2% a year.

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking…

Two years ago, I realized something that completely changed the way I consider time.

If you want to do something meaningful with your life, to have an impact on this world, you can do it roughly from your 20’s to your 70’s. Of course, there are examples of brilliant people outside this timespan, but for most of us, that’s when we have most chances of doing something.

So every single person has roughly a 50-year timespan to do something useful with his/her life. 50 years. It may not sound much, but it gets worse when you consider that one year accounts for 2% of this amount. Every year you spend after your 20th birthday, you are burning 2% of your time. I’m 26 year old, so I’ve already burnt 12% of my time to do something meaningful in this world.

Of course, this is a very pessimistic way of thinking of time, but I like to keep this thought in mind. Whenever I think of it, there’s a voice screaming in my head: “ACT! NOW!”

Qt developers rejoice: KDE Frameworks have been announced.

I’m back from a week in Randa, Switzerland, where 60 KDE developers where gathered to discuss, among other things, the future of KDE. And it is quite exciting.

As you probably know, KDE is a large project built on top of Qt. It features a desktop environment, many applications, and a full set of very useful libraries that either fix broken stuff in Qt or add totally new features.

Those libraries are a gold mine for Qt applications, but most Qt developers either are totally unaware of their existence, or think they only work for KDE applications. This is about to change with the KDE Frameworks.

Basically, we took a look at every single class inside KDE and decided whether each of them could be useful for Qt applications, or if they where solving KDE-specific problems. We then further broke down between libraries with only Qt as a dependency, libraries with dependencies on other Qt-only libraries, and so on.

All this work resulted in a set of guidelines and specifications to make sure that all the incredibly useful stuff in KDE will be available for Qt applications in a simple and modular way, called the KDE Frameworks.

Qt developers will be able to browse the libraries in the KDE Frameworks, pick stuff that fits their needs, drop it into their project, and start coding. Problem solved.

Head over here for the full announcement, and keep an eye on the KDE-devel mailing lists for more information.

Update on the DIY standing desk: now with dual monitors, too

The fine folks from Grooveshark wrote in to let me know that the standing desk hack also works for people with a dual monitor set-up.

No, really. Check it out:

(Hey kids, this is Skyler, Groveshark’s Android wizard. Hi Skyler.)

Of course you lose a little bit of screen real estate, since the two monitors are overlapping, but heck, it seems totally worth it. And at least now when he says he hasn’t seen your IM because Skype was in the background, he really means it.

(This mechanical retro IBM keyboard is totally awesome)

Thanks to Melissa, Skyler, and all the Grooveshark team. Keep up the good work. And careful not to drop any of those 20” monitors.

meelg asked: What's your background? Where are you from? And also, how's your Vietnamese?

I’m French, but I was born in Brazil and lived there up to 15. I started programming when I was 11, and “geek” probably is the word that best describes what I am.

My Vietnamese is good enough to order food in any place I go, but I wish I could make more small talk. Currently I can’t go past the traditional “What’s your name / Where are you from / How old are you?”

howlingmime asked: Why Vietnam? Affordable labor? Strong hacker community? And which part of Vietnam? Curiously, hm.

Hi Stephen,

I wrote about it here

In short:

  • Very cheap country to live in.
  • Sun, beach, travel: good for the health
  • Hedging my risk: if the project fails, I won’t have any regrets, because I had a fantastic life experience here.

How to hack yourself a standing desk in 3 easy steps - an illustrated guide

Standing desks are the latest trend all the rage in modern software development. All the cool guys are coding standing now.

Look:

A typical startup in Coalbrookdale, England, circa 1760. See any Aeron chairs? Nope. Standing desks? Check.

The thing is:

  1. You’ll eventually get tired of standing, so you really need an adjustable standing desk.
  2. Coworking spaces are also a must-have for any decent startup now, and few of them have standing desks. How do you get the benefits of both? 

In this guide, I’m going to teach you how to make your very own adjustable-height 360-degrees-pivotable standing desk, for free. And the best thing is: you won’t need a pentalobular screwdriver!

Just follow this tutorial, lovingly illustrated with my best MS paint skills.

Step 1.

Lower your chair to the minimum:

(If you don’t have an adjustable height office chair, you can stop here and get yourself a decent chair)

Step 2.

Get your fat ass off your chair, put the chair on the desk, and your Mac Air Book Pro on the chair.

(Of course, if you have a SPARC server, you have two problems now.)

Step 3.

Adjust the height of the chair as needed, and enjoy your new standing desk.

Pro tip: you can even use the 360-degree z-axis pivot feature to show your work to your coworkers.

You think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding:

Geographic Arbitrage: Hedging Your Risk As a Startup Founder by Going Abroad

The idea behind geographic arbitrage, as defined in Tim Ferris’s book The Four Hour Work Week (which I haven’t read) is to get paid in one currency, say US dollars, but live and spend the money in a much cheaper foreign country. This concept works well for freelancers, and interestingly enough, it also applies very well to bootstrapping startups.

Con Dau Islands, Vietnam. By: Gregory Schlomoff

(above: Con Dau Islands, Vietnam, where I spent a few days. This is *not* a stock picture)

Bootstrapping in Vietnam

I’m writing those words from a beach-front restaurant in Mui Ne, Vietnam’s best spot for kite-surfing, waiting for the wind to hopefully rise this afternoon. 10 months ago, I was in Paris, looking for a job, searching for my soul. What the hell was I supposed to do with my life, now that college was over?

Founding a startup is something that has always been in my mind. But as everyone else, I was scared to death at the idea of giving away all my savings and at least one year of my life for something that would most likely fail. This is when I got the idea of starting in Vietnam, where one of my best friends was living. I thought that no matter what happened, I would always have a great experience discovering a foreign country.

3 months later, I was moving to Hô Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s economic capital, with two French developers that I had recruited in Paris for a 6 months internship in my soon-to-be startup. We’ve spent the last 5 months working non-stop on BetterInbox, and I’d like to share my thought on how things are going in Vietnam.

Cost

This is a no-brainer. Vietnam is an incredibly inexpensive place to live in. You’ll find a room for $200, a good meal will cost $2, a beer costs $1, air is free, and that’s basically all you need. I’m spending around $800 a month here, less than what my rent alone would cost me in Paris. And this includes all the trips and tourism during the weekends.

It’s also easy to cut payroll costs down, either by employing local people, or by convincing people from your home country to join the adventure for a lower salary, because they put a premium at the opportunity to go abroad. Overall, a quick back-of-the-napkin calculation tells me that, had I spent those 5 months bootstrapping in Paris instead of Ho-Chi-Minh-City, expenses would have been 2 to 2.5 times higher. Put it another way, for the same amount of capital invested, I have twice as much time to make a profitable product.

A woman looks at the rain in Saigon. By: Gregory Schlomoff

A woman looks at the rain in Saigon. Still sunny.

Happiness

But way more important than any cost-cuttings is the happiness that comes out of enjoying life in a cheap and sunny country. Had I stayed in Paris, I would have spent those 5 months living on a budget, having to watch every euro I spend, and with a rather unattractive weather. Being in Vietnam, on the other hand, there’s the constant joy of doing something new each weekend, discovering new places, going to the beach, and more generally, living the life of a high-revenue guy, except with zero income.

Needless to say, when you are a startup founder, this is a tremendous morale booster.

Other benefits

Other things that I’ve noticed, as a geographically-arbitraged startup founder:

  • You can do much more focused work, because there are fewer distractions. Friends are 7 time zones away, and there is less noise from mainstream news and media.
  • Being in a foreign country for a limited amount of time gives a very clear and hard schedule to your project. You know that you’ll have to launch before going back.
  • You get a lot of serendipitous connections, and you’re more likely to find people willing to help you, because you are doing something unusual. This is how we got free office space from Franco-Vietnamese company Officience.
  • It gives a nice touch to your startup pitch, making it more remarkable.
  • And, not startup-related, but worth mentioning: you’ll find a whole lot of new friends :)

Bottom line

After those 5 months spent in Vietnam, I can tell you that not only this is a fantastic experience, but also that I would have never been able to get that far, had I stayed in Paris.

Besides the obvious benefit of cutting costs, geographic arbitrage is a great way for startup founders to hedge the risk of creating their startup. No matter what happens, you won’t lose the time and money you’ve invested. Because the life experience you get by simply living for 8 months in a country like Vietnam has already covered the investment.