Technology Posts

February 9, 2015

Eradicating Ebola with Grid Computing Linked by the SoftLayer Network

On September 30, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed the first case of Ebola in the U.S. Although not uncommon to hear of outbreaks in other parts of the world, this first case in the U.S. just happened to be in our own headquarters’ backyard—Dallas.

IBM jumped at the opportunity to help find a cure or at least a treatment for the virus, not necessarily because SoftLayer happened to be in the “storm’s eye,” but as Stanley S. Litow, IBM’s vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the IBM International Foundation said, “It is a privilege to partner with The Scripps Research Institute to advance the process of identifying an Ebola cure.”

But finding a cure is difficult. The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), an independent, not-for-profit organization has been researching Ebola for the past 11 years. Dr. Erica Ollmann Saphire, says, “We’ve solved the structures that explain what the surface of Ebola virus looks like, how it attaches to and drives itself into cells, and how it behaves like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hiding itself from an immune response.” [Read more on the research.] Finding a cure could take hundreds of years of computing time—not manpower. And now that more people are more mobile, it is vital to find a cure since the disease can easily spread over vast distances and quickly escalate into an epidemic.

The Technology Behind The Science

IBM’s philanthropic division, Corporate Citizenship, created World Community Grid in 2004 as a way for individuals to donate their spare processing power from their personal computers, tablets, and mobile phones when not in use. The World Community Grid is utilizing grid computing for researchers, like TSRI, to accelerate their research by breaking the research into millions of little tasks. When a device is not in use, it downloads one of these tasks, calculates, and then sends it back to the researchers when complete. Instead of utilizing one super computer, researchers harness the power of a virtual super computer. This collection of computing power is all connected via the SoftLayer network.

After the Ebola outbreak last fall, the number of infections increased steadily until last week. Officials link the increase to emergency funds for containing the disease in West Africa starting to run out. We may not see Ebola cured overnight, but thanks to grid computing and the efforts of scientists and individuals donating their idle computing power resources, hopefully treatments and vaccinations for this disease and many other diseases can be developed sooner.

- JRL

January 27, 2015

Hello, IBM Bluemix!

Developers, if you'd prefer to focus on building new applications instead of customizing your own unique cloud infrastructure, IBM Bluemix provides building blocks to rapidly develop and deploy applications on the Platform as a Service (PaaS) level to make life easier for you. It’s an ecosystem of services based on Cloud Foundry, an open source project designed to make deploying and scaling an application as simple as possible. Leveraging an existing project like this is a large part of what makes Bluemix so easy to use.

Bluemix integrates with Jazz, IBM’s DevOps service, to help manage code, plan versions and release, and actually push code to production. You can still use it with your github projects, so no worries there.

And as a SoftLayer customer (or potential customer), you can rest assured that Bluemix projects can run on SoftLayer’s hardware and network.

Core Ideas

The Application
This is your code. Bluemix comes with a number of predefined buildpacks to get your language of choice up and running quickly, but you will still need to actually develop your application. Bluemix hasn’t solved that problem yet.
Buildpacks
A buildpack is a collection of scripts designed to set up your container and all of the application dependencies. If Bluemix doesn’t have a buildpack that suits your needs, you can always create your own. Extending a buildpack is pretty easy. Simply clone an existing one to use as a base, make your changes, commit it to your github repo, and then tell Bluemix about it so it can build your application properly.
Services
Bluemix has a long list of services you can bind to your application. Instead of making a MySQL server yourself, you can just bind the MySQL service to your application and start coding. Along with many of the standard services expected from a CloudFoundry project, there are also some IBM specific ones, like Watson as a service. While I haven’t had the time to learn about Watson personally, everyone I talk to says it’s a rather neat thing to have on your application.

Getting Started

I recommend reading this tutorial which will get you to a nice “hello world” application. Overall I found that going from “I have no idea what Bluemix is” to “I’ve created my own Bluemix application!” to be a rather pleasant experience.

Creating your first Bluemix project is only a few clicks away. A Bluemix 30 day free trial should give you plenty of time to get an idea if Bluemix is the right fit for you.

Bluemix is absolutely worth checking out. So, what are you waiting for? Give it a go!

- Chris

January 6, 2015

Three Ways to Enhance Your SoftLayer Portal Account Security

We’ve recently discussed how to craft strong passwords and offered advice on choosing a password manager, but we haven’t yet touched on multi-factor authentication (MFA), which has been available to our customers for many years now.

What is MFA?
MFA is another line of defense for securing your user accounts within the customer portal. The concept behind MFA is simple: Users present two (or more) ways to authenticate themselves by providing something known such as a user name and password and providing something possessed such as a one-time password generated by a device or software application.
Why is MFA important?
Keeping passwords secure has always been a moving target. While you can train staff and enforce complex password policies, it’s difficult to prevent users from writing passwords down, saving them to files, or sharing them with others. By adding MFA, simply having a user password doesn't grant access to the resource. A user will need the user password in addition to a MFA token device, smartphone, or application.
What MFA options are available at SoftLayer?
SoftLayer offers three MFA methods to enhance portal account security:
Symantec Validation and ID Protection (VIP) – After downloading this app to a smartphone, when accessed, it will generate a one-time password. This product can be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. The app is $3 a month per user.

PhoneFactor – A unique system where a one-time password is texted to a mobile phone. Users also have the option of receiving a phone call to input a PIN before receiving a one-time password. This can be used to access the portal as well as the SoftLayer SSL VPN. PhoneFactor costs $10 a month per user.

Google Authenticator – Another smartphone application with generated one-time passwords, can also be used to securely access the SoftLayer portal. This can be added for any user on an account free of charge.

Quickly Add MFA to SoftLayer Portal Users Today
It’s easy to add any of these MFA services to portal user accounts.

To add Symantec VIP or PhoneFactor:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. Under the Account Tab click on Users.
  3. In the right hand column for each user, click the Actions icon and select Add External Authentication. You’ll then be able to subscribe to Symantec or PhoneFactor for that user.
To add Google Authenticator:
  1. Log in to SoftLayer portal as the master user.
  2. From the Accounts dropdown menu, select Users and then select your user account name.
  3. Scroll down and click the link to Add Google Authenticator to your account.
  4. From there, just snap the QR code with your GA application and you’re all set. The next time you log in you’ll be prompted to enter your authentication code after entering your username and password.

Any of these three MFA solutions will help ensure that your portal user accounts are secure, are easy to set up, and quick to install. Feel free to reach out if you have any suggestions or questions about MFA with SoftLayer.

- Seth

Categories: 
December 19, 2014

Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Planned Events

Since posting Improving Communications for Customer-Affecting Events, our developers have been hard at work making the SoftLayer customer portal even better. Initially, as discussed in the previous post, we released functionality that allows us to more rapidly communicate with customers about unplanned events such as infrastructure troubles or outages. The tool also allows customers to read and follow updates. Communications are targeted to specific customers who may experience degradation of disruption to their services as a result of these events.

I’m pleased to report a new major milestone: The system is now ready to distribute planned events communications such as scheduled maintenance.

Until now, SoftLayer used read-only tickets as the method to post targeted communications to customers about upcoming planned events. Here are some of the customer benefits from moving to the Event Management System (planned events; unplanned events) within the customer portal:

  • With the mass ticket creation, only the master user account received email alerts. Now, any portal user account with a valid email address and permission to manage bare metal servers or virtual servers are now subscribed to receive the new planned event notifications.
  • Events are clearly organized in their own area in the portal—separate from tickets. The overview list shows relevant columns such as planned start and end times.
  • Customers only receive notifications relevant to their infrastructure.
  • The portal and email notifications will include a table listing which items on your account may be affected.
  • An alert bar will appear at the top of the customer portal if there is an active event in progress, which helps customers quickly find relevant information about any service impact.
  • A notification will be shown in the customer portal if customers open a ticket about a bare metal server or virtual server that is associated with an event in progress.
  • SoftLayer operational staff can rapidly post important updates to events as they arise.

No additional customer action is required in order to benefit from these improvements. However, you may wish to familiarize yourself with the Events view, which can be found under Support > Events.

When we publish information about a planned event that may affect your service, it will appear highlighted on the calendar. Customers can click directly on the date in the calendar to see an event planned for that day.

As mentioned previously, all users are subscribed by default to receive planned event email notifications. You may opt out of these notifications in the Account > Subscriptions dropdown menu.

We’ve already begun to use the new Event Management System for planned events as of December 2014. By the end of January 2015, we will cease using the system which opens up read-only tickets and exclusively use the Event Management System for future planned events.

Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this area of the customer portal, ensure that you have a valid email address associated with your login, and check your subscription settings for planned and unplanned events. Additionally please note that the Master User, as well as accounts that administer customer logins, can control subscription settings for their respective sub-users.

During the next phase of improvements to customer communications, our developers will be focusing on implementing these events in the SoftLayer mobile (smartphone/tablet) client.

Stay tuned for further updates as this work continues.

-Dani

December 10, 2014

Password Managers: One Password To Rule Them All

From banking to social media to gaming, the amount of accounts we have today is growing out of control. Let’s be honest—it’s easy to use the same password or a variation of the same password for all online accounts, but if a hacker can break one of those passwords, they are one step closer to hacking every account.

Who really has the memory to store all those passwords anyway?

That’s where a password manager can help. It controls access by storing (online or locally) every password in an encrypted file that is only accessible by one strong master password.

When a user wants access to their SoftLayer account for example, the password manager will ask for the master password instead of the SoftLayer account password. It automatically populates the username and password fields and logs in.

Password managers are very convenient, but more importantly they enhance security because of the ability to use longer and harder passwords without worrying about forgetting or writing them down on sticky notes posted to a desktop screen.

Do I need a cross-platform password manager?
Today, most people access the same accounts on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. If that’s you, then yes, you need a cross-platform solution. These Web-based options require yearly subscriptions upwards of $50 for a single user. The convenience of logging in anywhere might be steep, but the additional features might make it worth it. Password managers like Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, and mSecure offer:

  • Secure storage of bank cards and any identity cards like driver licenses
  • Password generators
  • Keystroke logger protection
  • Automatic backup
  • Multifactor authentication like biometrics or a token
  • Access to pre-determined contacts in case of emergency or death
  • Team password sharing (the team lead controls the master password for a single account like a FedEx account and grants access via the users individual password manager)

Do I need a locally-based password manager?
If you’re not comfortable storing passwords online or you just use your desktop to access accounts, choose a password manager that encrypts and stores passwords on your PC. This option is the least convenient but most secure. All password managers listed above come in the locally-based option for free or at a fraction of the cross-platform price.

User Error
Although much more secure than not using one, password managers do have some downfalls (that stem from user error). Just like any password, you still need to change your master password regularly, never share passwords with anyone, and once installed, a user should update existing passwords with really hard forgettable passwords or use a password generator for each online account.

And always remember to lock your computer or mobile device when not in use. Although password managers make it harder for hackers to virtually access your accounts, they do not protect against someone physically opening the file.

It’s also a good idea to check settings to ensure that when booting or waking up your device, the password manager requires you to re-enter the password.

Pa$$word1 ain’t cutting it.
If you’re not ready to commit to a password manager, think about the consequences the next time you are prompted to update your password. Adding a “1” to the end of your current password isn’t safe or smart.

We’ve all been there, and committing to a password manager in some cases is expensive and setting one up can be time consuming depending on the amount of accounts, so I understand the hesitation. But it’s worth it for that added layer of protection and security.

-JRL

November 24, 2014

Auto Scale Your Holiday Season

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, but is your online business ready to handle the rush?

According to the IBM Digital Analytics 2013 Holiday Benchmark Reports, Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday recorded the highest online sales period on record—up 16.5 percent from 2012. Thanksgiving Day online sales grew by 19.7 percent, and Black Friday online sales increased 19 percent. But Cyber Monday still came in as the biggest online shopping day in history with a 20.6 percent increase in online sales.

For 2014, IBM is predicting a 15 percent increase in online sales over the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday with more than half of Thanksgiving online traffic coming from mobile devices.

"Without question, this will be a strong holiday shopping season, supported by the power of big data and analytics, which are helping brands better understand their consumers and make crucial decisions in real-time.”

-Jay Henderson, director of strategy, IBM ExperienceOne

And although many are rejoicing this holiday season over the improved economy, managing the infrastructure changes to accommodate the influx of users can cause strain on IT departments. Dealing with crashed sites, slow loading pages, and system backlogs take away time from focusing on growing a business. They are also major complaints of online shoppers.

It might seem counterintuitive, but these problems are good signs that business is doing well. To keep customers happy and coming back, it’s best to avoid Internet lag. With Auto Scale you can deliver an optimal user experience regardless of the volume of traffic or amount of resource usage.

How does it work?
Auto Scale automatically scales up and adds servers to meet high traffic demands providing a smooth running site or scales down so you’re not paying for what you’re not using. For our existing customers, access the customer portal to customize Auto Scale in three simple steps:

  1. Define a Group: Determine which servers you would like to scale in which data centers.
  2. Set a Policy: Establish rules for adding and removing virtual servers from your environment.
  3. Define a Trigger: Create schedule- or usage-based triggers that provision or de-provision virtual servers based on your policies.

Based on last year’s results, online sites would do well to set a policy to add extra servers—depending on the size of business, maybe that’s 10, 20, or 100 servers. Setting triggers when traffic increases around 7:30 in the morning and during high traffic, after-work hours will keep consumers from experiencing unnecessary lag.

Spend money on gifts, not on underutilized capacity.
The last thing you need this time of year is another bill. Auto Scale is free (mostly). You only pay for the servers you need, when you need them. And you can change the group, policy, or trigger in the customer portal anytime. You’re not locked into any long term plans.

The unofficial start of the holiday shopping season kicks off this week.
If you haven’t already Auto Scaled your cloud environment, it’s time to do it. Set up Auto Scale here.

-JRL

Keywords:
Categories:
November 18, 2014

Your Direct Link into the SoftLayer Cloud

Remember the days when cellular companies charged additional fees for calls placed during peak hours or for text messages that exceeded your plan?

The good news is those days are pretty much over for cellular services thanks to unlimited text and data plans. The bad news is there are cloud and hosting providers who adhere to those same old billing practices of charging customers for every single communication their severs send or receive.

At SoftLayer we do things differently. All of our servers come with included terabytes of outbound bandwidth—5TB for virtual servers and 20TB for bare metal servers. Now you probably just noticed I specifically mentioned outbound bandwidth, and that's because we don't charge anything, nothing, zip, zilch for all traffic inbound to any of our servers, nor do we charge for any bandwidth usage across our Global Private Network.

Imagine the possibilities of what you could build on a Global Private Network that essentially comes free of charge just by being a SoftLayer customer.

  • How about building that true disaster recovery solution that you’re always talking about?
  • How about moving all of your backups offsite now that the necessary bandwidth requirements and costs aren’t standing in your way?
  • Or maybe it’s time to offer your app a little GSLB now that replicating data across remote sites, which hasn’t been feasible over the public Internet due to latency or security concerns, is now feasible?

We help put all these dreams within grasp thanks to Direct Link. Tap directly into our Global Private Network at connection speeds of 1Gbps or 10Gbps to establish a Direct Link into any of our 19 network PoPs (more PoPs are being added regularly). You’ll have the ability to seamlessly extend your private networks directly into SoftLayer. Not only does a Direct Link give you access to one of the world’s largest and fastest private networks, it gives you access to elastically scale your compute and storage on demand.

Many companies look to the cloud as a way to reduce capex and adjust spending on demand but hesitate to move workloads due to latency or security concerns. I'd like to say that latency isn’t even worth thinking twice about at SoftLayer. But don't take my word for it; take a peek at our Looking Glass, and see for yourself. In regards to security, a SoftLayer Direct Link enables you to build and deliver secure services on our private network without having to expose your servers to the public Internet.

For more information on Direct Link and connectivity check out KnowledgeLayer or this blog where the author digs into the technical details and explains how enterprise customers benefit from Direct Link with GRE Tunnels.

Thanks,
JD Wells

Categories: 
November 11, 2014

Which storage solution is best for your project?

Before building applications around our network storage, here’s a refresher on what network storage is, how it is used, the different types available, and the best uses for each.

What is network storage? Why would you use it?

Appropriately named, network storage is storage attached to a server over our network; not to be confused with directly attached storage (DAS), which is a hard drive located in the server (or connected with a device like a SCSI or USB cable). Although DAS transfers data to a server faster than network storage due to network latency and system caching, there is still a strong place for network storage.

Many different servers can access network storage, and with some network storage solutions, more than one server can get data from the same shared storage volume simultaneously. This comes in handy if one server dies, because another can pick up a storage device and start where the first left off.

With DAS, planned downtime for server upgrades, potential data loss, and provisioning larger or more servers can slow down productivity. The physical constraints of internal drives and costs associated with servers do not affect network storage.

Because SoftLayer manages the disk space of our network storage products, there’s no need to worry about rebuilding a redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAIDs) or failed disks. If a disk fails, SoftLayer automatically replaces it and rebuilds the RAID—in most cases you would be unaware that the changes occurred.

Select network storage solutions are available with tools for your important data. Schedule snapshots of your data, promote snapshots to full volumes, or reset your data to the snapshot point.

And with network storage, downtime is minimal. Disaster recovery tools available on select storage solutions let you send a command to quickly fail over to a different data center so you can access your data if our network is ever down in a data center.

Types of Network Storage And How They Are Different

Storage Area Network (SAN) or Block Storage

Block storage works like DAS, just remotely—only a single server can access a block storage volume at a time. Using an Internet small computer system interface (iSCSI) protocol over a secure transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) connection, SoftLayer's block storage has excellent features for backup and disaster recovery, and adding snapshot schedules and failover redundancy make it a powerful enterprise solution.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) or File Storage

File storage acts like a remote file system. It has a slim operating system that allows servers to treat it like a remote directory structure. Multiple servers can share files on the same storage simultaneously. Our new consistent performance storage lets you share files quickly and easily using a network file system (NFS) with your choice of performance level and secure connections.

We also have a common Internet file system (CIFS) (Windows), which requires a credential that grants access to any server on our private network. File storage can only be accessed by SoftLayer servers.

Object Storage

Object storage is a standalone storage entity with its own representational state transfer (REST) API that grants applications (not operating systems) access to the files stored there. Located on a public network, servers in any of our data centers can directly access files stored there. Object storage is different in the way those files are stored as well. In object storage there is not a directory structure, but instead metadata tags are used to categorize and search for files. In conjunction with a content delivery network (CDN), you can quickly serve files to your users or to a mobile device in close proximity.

With pay-as-you-go pricing, you don’t have to worry about running out of space. We only charge based on the greatest usage in any given day. That means you can get started right now for free!

Which storage solution is best for your project?

If you are still confused about which network storage option you should build your applications around, take this eight-question quiz to find out if object, file or block storage will work best for you:

-Kevin

October 28, 2014

SoftLayer and AWS: What's the Difference?

People often compare SoftLayer with Amazon Web Services (AWS).

It’s easy to understand why. We’ve both built scalable infrastructure platforms to provide cloud resources to the same broad range of customers—from individual entrepreneurs to the world’s largest enterprises.

But while the desire to compare is understandable, the comparison itself isn’t quite apt. The SoftLayer platform is fundamentally different from AWS.

In fact, AWS could be run on SoftLayer. SoftLayer couldn’t be run on AWS.

AWS provisions in the public cloud.

When AWS started letting customers have virtual machines deployed on the infrastructure that AWS had built for their e-commerce business, AWS accelerated the adoption of virtual server hosting within the existing world of Web hosting.

In an AWS cloud environment, customers order the computing and storage resources they need, and AWS deploys those resources on demand. The mechanics of that deployment are important to note, though.

AWS has data centers full of physical servers that are integrated with each other in a massive public cloud environment. These servers are managed and maintained by AWS, and they collectively make up the available cloud infrastructure in the facility.

AWS installs a virtualization layer (also known as hypervisor) on these physical servers to tie the individual nodes into the environment’s total capacity. When a customer orders a cloud server from AWS, this virtualization layer finds a node with the requested resources available and provisions a server image with the customer’s desired operating system, applications, etc. The entire process is quick and automated, and each customer has complete control over the resources he or she ordered.

That virtualization layer is serving a purpose, and it may seem insignificant, but it highlights a critical difference in their platform and ours:

AWS automates and provisions at the hypervisor level, while SoftLayer automates and provisions at the data center level.

SoftLayer provisions down to bare metal resources.

While many have their sights on beating AWS at its own game, SoftLayer plays a different game.

SoftLayer platform is designed to give customers complete access and control over the actual infrastructure that they need to build a solution in the cloud. Automated and remote ordering, deployment, and management of the very server, storage, and security hardware resources themselves, are hosted in our data centers so that customers don’t have to build their own facilities or purchase their own hardware to get the reliable, high performance computing they need.

Everything in SoftLayer data centers is transparent, automated, integrated, and built on an open API that customers can access directly. Every server is connected to three distinct physical networks so that public, private, and management network traffic are segmented. And our expert technical support is available for all customers, 24x7.

Notice that the automation and integration of our platform happens at the data center level. We don’t need a virtualization layer to deploy our cloud resources. As a result, we can deploy bare metal servers in the same way AWS deploys public cloud servers (though, admittedly, bare metal servers take more time to deploy than virtual servers in the public cloud). By provisioning down to a lower level in the infrastructure stack, we’re able to offer customers more choice and control in their cloud environments:

In addition to the control customers have over infrastructure resources, with our unique network architecture, their servers aren’t isolated inside the four walls of a single data center. Customers can order one server in Dallas and another in Hong Kong, and those two servers can communicate with each other directly and freely across our private network without interfering with customers’ public network traffic. So with every new data center we build, we geographically expand a unified cloud footprint. No regions. No software-defined virtual networks. No isolation.

SoftLayer vs. AWS

Parts of our cloud business certainly compete with AWS. When users compare virtual servers between us, they encounter a number of similarities. But this post isn’t about comparing and contrasting offerings in the areas in which we’re similar … it’s about explaining how we’re different:
  • SoftLayer is able to provision bare metal resources to customers. This allows customers free reign over the raw compute power of a specific server configuration. This saves the customer from the 2–3 percent performance hit from the hypervisor, and it prevents “noisy neighbors” from being provisioned alongside a customer’s virtual server. AWS does not provision bare metal resources.

  • AWS differentiates “availability zones” and “regions” for customers who want to expand their cloud infrastructure into multiple locations. SoftLayer has data centers interconnected on a global private network. Customers can select the specific SoftLayer data center location they want so they can provision servers in the exact location they desire.

  • When AWS customers move data between their AWS servers, they see “Inter-Region Data Transfer Out” and “Intra-Region Data Transfer” on their bills. If you’re moving data from one SoftLayer facility to another SoftLayer facility (anywhere in the world), that transfer is free and unmetered. And it doesn’t fight your public traffic for bandwidth.

  • SoftLayer bare metal servers ordered with monthly billing include 20TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth, and virtual servers ordered with monthly billing include 5TB/mo of public outbound bandwidth. With AWS, customers pay a per-GB charge for bandwidth on every bill.

  • SoftLayer offers a broad range of management, monitoring, and support options to customers at no additional cost. AWS charges for monitoring based on metrics, frequency, and number of alarms per resource. And having access to support requires an additional monthly cost.

Do SoftLayer and AWS both offer Infrastructure as a Service? Yes.

Does that make SoftLayer and AWS the same? No.

-@khazard

October 20, 2014

Clean Your Virtual Desktop Day

“A national holiday specifically for cleaning! Be still my heart,” said the neat freak.

So, I didn’t really know how to start this blog post because my virtual desktop is pretty clean. I adhere to the school of thought, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Does this make me a neat freak void of any creativity? More on that later.

With that being said, I started with a quick Google search for “de-cluttering your desktop.” I didn’t realize there would be so many articles on the subject. No surprise, Martha Stewart even posted an article about the topic full of words like “tidy,” “unholy mess,” and “. . . makes people cranky.”

Wait.

Come back.

We’re not going to talk about Martha’s how-to guide here. [This is SoftLayer—the only how-to guides posted here are about CSS.] I actually found some pretty cool ideas that I’d like to pass on to our readers in honor of the day.

I came across a tutorial on how to create a wallpaper for your desktop in which you “drop” your desktop icons into appropriate sections. The tutorial used Adobe Photoshop, but if you’re like me, Photoshop-illiterate, you can use PowerPoint (I find it so much easier, albeit limiting). Here’s a screen shot of my desktop.

For our more tech-savvy readers . . . download Fences®. It’s basically the same thing as the DIY version I described above, but it allows you to place your icons into resizable shaded areas on your desktop. Pretty cool!

Most people store files on their desktops because they think it makes it easier to find them, but sooner or later, your desktop gets overrun by these once easy-to-find files. If you want something that will keep your desktop free from any documents, install a launcher program. There are lots to choose from, including LaunchBar, Quicksilver, Launchy, or AutoHotkey. Once installed, the program is activated by a keystroke combination. When it opens, start typing the program, folder name, or file you want open. According to users, it’s faster than locating the icon on your desktop and double-clicking. Many users claim they don’t know how they lived without it for so long.

My last tip is similar to when your mom asks you to clean your room, and all you do is shove everything under your bed. Same thing here. Just hide all those icons.

  1. Right click on your desktop
  2. Select View
  3. Unselect Show your desktop icons

That’s right. Out of sight. Out of mind.

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

I don’t know what Albert Einstein was implying when he said that, but I do know personally that a messy desk lowers my productivity. Does this lower my creativity too?

After reviewing a few different studies on whether or not clutter produces creativity or chaos, I have come to the conclusion that if you need to accomplish practical chores like paying bills or replying to emails, you need a clutter-free workspace to focus. If you need to be creative, clutter can distract you and let you think outside of the box.

Personally, I don’t think that a clean slate lowers my creativity because I can’t even begin to work if it is messy. But, some people thrive in chaos. Hey, whatever works.

Happy Cleaning/Cluttering!

-JRL

Subscribe to technology