August 2007 Archives

Picking Your Battles

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Trying to organize your desk and your life can be a real chore sometimes. Lately, I've been going through spurts of undoing the madness I've accumulated in the years passed.

I've been a pack-rat of tangible things, and so I've been throwing away much I feel is now unnecessary (such as old issues of PC Gamer from my years of youth). But no matter how much ends up in the garbage, there is always more work to be done.

Lately I've taken a diversion to cleaning up my PC. This is going to be a much more difficult challenge: data is easier to pack-rat than physical goods, because all the data I have fits into a power-sucking RAID array inside a small tower. But I have identified one area where I can make progress, and so I have.

Over the last few years, I went on a subscription spree. I signed up for the mailing lists of KDE, xorg, the Linux kernel, hal, dbus, Familiar, mod_perl, Apache, Gentoo, and others. I am genuinely interested in what is going on in each of these fronts, but I barely have the time left to read lkml, much less any of the others.

I let messages accumulate from these lists into a set of Maildir folders underneath one of my email accounts. My mailer (KMail) wept visibly trying to keep up with all these messages. Strange glitches were common. Kontact, the organizer application that wraps KMail, consumed on average 25% of my available page frames (2 GB). I mitigated the glitches with a Perl script that would archive the messages of high traffic mailing lists into an archive subfolder, keeping only the most recent 2000 in the main folder, but the memory usage remained.

It took forever to come to the common-sense realization that there was no way on Earth I could personally consume all this information. When I decided to go on an unsubscription spree, I had over 170,000 unread messages. Deleting them brought Kontact's RSS to 5%, and became one more step in my ongoing process of learning to pick my battles.

I've decided to keep my subscription to two lists: lkml, and cryptography@metzdowd.com. I don't really have the time to read either of them right now, but I couldn't let these ones go. :P