E-mail Charter

Some guidelines to better use e-mail. Especially in a business environment. As found on http://entregurus.com/email-charter/. Originally on http://www.emailcharter.org/, but that seems expired right now.

  1. Respect Recipients’ Time. This is the fundamental rule. As the message sender, the onus is on YOU to minimize the time your email will take to process. Even if it means taking more time at your end before sending.
  2. Short or Slow is not Rude. Let’s mutually agree to cut each other some slack. Given the email load we’re all facing, it’s OK if replies take a while coming and if they don’t give detailed responses to all your questions. No one wants to come over as brusque, so please don’t take it personally. We just want our lives back!
  3. Celebrate Clarity. Start with a subject line that clearly labels the topic, and maybe includes a status category [Info], [Action], [Time Sens] [Low Priority]. Use crisp, muddle-free sentences. If the email has to be longer than five sentences, make sure the first provides the basic reason for writing. Avoid strange fonts and colors.
  4. Quash Open-Ended Questions. It is asking a lot to send someone an email with four long paragraphs of turgid text followed by “Thoughts?”. Even well-intended-but-open questions like “How can I help?” may not be that helpful. Email generosity requires simplifying, easy-to-answer questions. “Can I help best by a) calling b) visiting or c) staying right out of it?!”
  5. Slash Surplus cc’s. Cc’s are like mating bunnies. For every recipient you add, you are dramatically multiplying total response time. Not to be done lightly! When there are multiple recipients, please don’t default to ‘Reply All’. Maybe you only need to cc a couple of people on the original thread. Or none.
  6. Tighten the Thread. Some emails depend for their meaning on context. Which means it’s usually right to include the thread being responded to. But it’s rare that a thread should extend to more than 3 emails. Before sending, cut what’s not relevant. Or consider making a phone call instead.
  7. Attack Attachments. Don’t use graphics files as logos or signatures that appear as attachments. Time is wasted trying to see if there’s something to open. Even worse is sending text as an attachment when it could have been included in the body of the email.
  8. Give these Gifts: EOM NNTR. If your email message can be expressed in half a dozen words, just put it in the subject line, followed by EOM (= End of Message). This saves the recipient having to actually open the message. Ending a note with “No need to respond” or NNTR, is a wonderful act of generosity. Many acronyms confuse as much as help, but these two are golden and deserve wide adoption.
  9. Cut Contentless Responses. You don’t need to reply to every email, especially not those that are themselves clear responses. An email saying “Thanks for your note. I’m in.” does not need you to reply “Great.” That just cost someone another 30 seconds.
  10. Disconnect! If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can’t go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an ‘auto-response’ that references this charter. And don’t forget to smell the roses.

My first post will be on my attempt to create a minimal Raspbian image to run on my Raspberry Pi. The standard Raspbian image is bloated with all kind of tools and software, to make it easier on new users to use their Raspberry. I think this is useful if you want to quickly enable people to start doing stuff (browsing, programming in whatever language, play around with the GPIO ports etc). However, if you know what you want with your Pi (use it as a home server, install it in your home made arcade machine, whatever), a lot of the tools installed are useless and you might want to consider cleaning it up.

Of course there are images available with a clean, minimal Linux distro for the Raspberry. There are even small images based on Raspbian itself. However, my goal is not just to have a clean image, but also to learn from it; how can I install a system from scratch? What packages are required? And for what purpose? Also; who is to say that the creator of a random small image didn't install a key-logger on it? Anyway, I wanted to install Raspbian from scratch, on a clean, empty image, using just dpkg and apt.

Note that I do not want to compile anything if possible. It is fun and interesting to install Linux by compiling everything, however, I think compiling on a Raspberry Pi will be much too slow. And doing it using cross-compilers will teach you more on compiling, configuring and optimizing stuff, than on installing stuff. Plus, the packages in the Raspbian repository are probably configured and optimized specifically for the Raspberry Pi. If you are interested on installing Linux from source code, I would recommend not doing this on a Raspberry Pi. But have a look at Linux From Scratch. That's a nice project and you can learn a lot by doing it.

In this blog post I will show you what I did to create an empty image, prepare it for installation, install basic libraries/packages and dpkg and apt.  Finally I will attempt to make the image bootable, meaning you can start your Raspberry Pi with your own image and not much more installed than what is needed to install applications from the Raspbian repository, through apt.