Nick Ang profile picture

Nick Ang

Stop to think

I recently went back to Singapore for a 6-week visit. After being in COVID-19 quarantine upon arrival for 3 weeks with my wife at a hotel, I spent every day in the remaining 3 weeks meeting friends and family.

From being so bored that we played catch with sock-balls in our small hotel room to driving everywhere to meet people every day, the contrast in our lives before and after the Stay Home Notice (what Singapore calls quarantine) was huge.

In the latter 3 weeks I was experiencing a special kind of loneliness. I was either thinking of who to meet or meeting someone, never stopping to think for myself. I wrote in my journal about midway through:

I just wanted to be alone after so many days of being around people and talking and contending with their ideas. I need my own time and space to be with myself, to recalibrate, to know what I’m thinking.

I think what I felt was a separation of my mind and body. My body was busy doing things and lost touch with my mind, and that felt lonely. It’s like I strayed from myself.

Making time to think for myself is important. That’s why these blog posts are so important to me and I never miss publishing at least once a week. It is my mechanism to stop to and think regularly. Without it I am just a raft floating in the confluence of everyone else’s stream of thought.


Macbook slow and laggy after upgrading to macOS Sierra / Big Sur

mac os sierra banner

Find your Macbook slow after upgrading to macOS Sierra? I recently did too. As a developer, it was painfully obvious that something needed to be done - there is no way I can develop with my Macbook Air (mid-2013) going on overdrive when only Chrome was open. In the end, I solved the problem by finding the process that took up a lot of RAM (syncing of Internet Accounts) and removed it.

I hope this short post will help you resolve your slow and overheating Macbook woes.

Macbook in overdrive

My Macbook was noticeably overworked immediately after upgrading from OS X Yosemite to macOS Sierra. Mine is a mid-2013 Macbook Air.

Prior to upgrading the operating system, my laptop hardly ran with an audible fan in the background, even with Chrome (> 10 tabs), Atom, Spotify and a few other apps running simultaneously. The fan turned on within 10 minutes with just Chrome running after the OS upgrade.

Finding the problem

The first thing I thought about was Apple engaging in foul play (I still think there might be an element of this, but that’s just a personal belief and I’m not interested in spreading conspiracy theories). That aside, I really wanted to resolve the problem. Googling yielded this relevant thread on the Apple discussion forum.

A senior member in the forum recommended to use EtreCheck to diagnose the issue. EtreCheck is a third party software that runs checks on your Macbook to find “serious problems” and “annoying adware.” I downloaded the software and ran it. The report was out in about 5 minutes.

One thing immediately stood out in my report: 90% CPU usage by 2 processes. They were the soagent and callservicesd. Googling led me to this MacRumors thread on the same issue many others were facing.

The solution

People in the discussion forum pointed out that these two processes were related to Internet Accounts in the OS.

Internet Accounts is the central place to link up Gmail and other sorts of services to your Macbook - something useful but non-essential. To prevent the soagent and callservicesd from continuing to hog your RAM:

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Go to Internet Accounts -> remove all Google-related email accounts
  3. Restart your laptop
  4. Verify that your laptop is running at normal speed again (no longer slow)
  5. Re-add your Google email account (I re-added and the problem didn’t reappear)

It may be a bug in the new macOS, I’m not sure. But I’m glad it solved the problem. Hope it does the same for you if you’re in a similar situation!

Update 16.06.2021: I encountered this problem again, this time after upgrading to macOS Big Sur 11.4. I suspected the root cause might have been the same and applied the solution described above, and it once again resolved the problem for me.


Ulcer

I just recovered from an ulcer on my lip the other day and it felt amazing. It was an ulcer caused by clumsy chewing. I 5 days of pain before it recovered to the point where toothpaste stopped feeling like acid when it inevitably touches the wound.

That 6th day was wonderful, I finally could eat without worrying that the food will rub against the open wound.

The 7th, 8th, and maybe up to the 10th day were also great. I appreciated the fact that my wound, which had been hurting like a bitch before, had healed fully. Food tasted better, and being able to once again brush my teeth without being tortured felt like a gift.

But as the painful memory faded with time, I became less conscious of the way I chewed…

… and today I bit myself again. A fresh ulcer developed a few short hours later.

I know that if I’m mindful in chewing my food, I can virtually eliminate all future bite-induced mouth ulcers. Yet here I am.

An ulcer reminds me that I am bound to repeat the same mistake almost as soon as I forget to pay attention.

To never repeat the same preventable mistake twice, one needs to be mindful.


How I was nudged to driver better

photo of my Toyota car dashboard showing the fuel efficiency number and eco light indicator

I’ve been driving a lot lately in Singapore as I’m home for a visit, and I’ve had the privilege of driving several different cars, one from my mum and two of my brother-in-law’s (he has a car rental business). As I drove around, I kept subconsciously looking at one thing on the dashboard: the fuel efficiency number.

Fuel efficiency number

I never had the habit of toggling that particular metric on my dashboard, especially not when I’m driving someone else’s car. But this time, by some force of god, that metric happened to be staring at me every time I turn on the ignition, on all three cars.

While it has certainly taught me something about various cars’ fuel efficiencies, what’s been fascinating for me to learn is how I can influence that number.

I learned that while a car’s engine capacity and other factors, such as aerodynamics, determine the range fuel efficiency, I, the driver, get to influence what that metric ultimately ends up being.

After a few days of driving a 13-year-old Toyota Corolla Altis, I’ve noticed the efficiency number on my dashboard hover between 12 and 13 km/l. If I stepped on the paddle more lightly, the number would slowly climb toward 13.

Of course, someone — a designer with behavioural psychology training — has already figured out the effect of making this metric a computed variable that could be displayed on the dashboard, something which a driver has to look at as he drives.

Like it or not, the driver will notice that number if it was displayed there. He is likely to subconsciously track that number and see how that number fluctuates. And he’s going to want to know why it fluctuates. Why is that number sometimes closer to 12 than 13?

“Eco” driving behaviour

But wait, there’s another nudge tactic. Assisting the driver to figure out the reasons for the fluctuating number is another indicator: a green “Eco” light.

This indicator lights up when I’m stepping the accelerator lightly, and disappears when I’m pressing harder to overtake. It trained my brain, subconsciously, to drive in a way that keeps the green “eco” light on.

Together, the fuel efficiency number and the green “eco” indication light have succeeded in influencing my behaviour as a driver. I tend to go gentler on the accelerator nowadays.

How could I apply nudge theory to what I do at work to train our customer support representatives (at Smartly.io, that’s almost everybody in the company) to do more of X and less of Y and support our customers better? How could I similarly apply this to train our customers?

How can we make use of micro nudges to inform good behaviour? The people at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport had a clue.

photo of a sticker of a mosquito pasted on a men's room urinal Image source: Stefan Bellini


Ideas for a more thoughtful web

Right now the web is a very noisy place. It’s a constant shouting contest, and very few people, even those with good intentions, speak softly and with conviction. The first page results from a google search provide all the evidence of this.

A better model should exist. I’m setting out to make my site a model.

How?

First, don’t enable public comments on your blog.

To leave a comment on this blog, you have to send me an email. This way each would-be commenter is nudged to be considerate before sending a message to me. If it’s a thoughtful comment, I’ll ask for your permission to add it to the bottom of the original article.

Second, disseminate new posts via email (if someone is on the mailing list).

I won’t be sharing new posts on social media going forward because they will always be received in a noisy environment. It’s like asking someone to read and contemplate nonfiction standing in the middle of a bazaar.

Email, on the other hand, is personal and completely within the reader’s control to subscribe or stop receiving.

Third, always attribute credit clearly to create a kinder, more collective web. This is a habit I gleaned from Austin Kleon who explained it in a blog post, Credit is always due:

[If] you fail to properly attribute work that you share, you not only rob the person who made it, you rob all the people you’ve shared it with. Without attribution, they have no way to dig deeper into the work or find more of it.

A more thoughtful web is by design.