Alex Payne writes online here.

See also the archive, publications, events.

An individual post follows.

al3x’s Rules for Computing Happiness

A list.


  • Use as little software as possible.
  • Use software that does one thing well.
  • Do not use software that does many things poorly.
  • Do not use software that must sync over the internet to function.
  • Do not use web applications that should be desktop applications.
  • Do not use desktop applications that should be web applications.
  • Do not use software that isn’t made specifically for your operating system. (You’ll know it when you see it because it won’t look right or work correctly.)
  • Do not run beta software unless you know how to submit a bug report and are eager to do so.
  • Use a plain text editor that you know well.  Not a word processor, a plain text editor.
  • Do not use your text editor for tasks other than editing text.
  • Use a password manager. You shouldn’t know any of your passwords save the one to your primary email account and the one to your password manager.
  • Do not use software that’s unmaintained.
  • Pay for software that’s worth paying for, but only after evaluating it for no less than two weeks.
  • Thoroughly delete all traces of software that you no longer use.


  • Do not buy a desktop computer unless your daily computing needs include video/audio editing, 3D rendering, or some other hugely processor-intensive computing task.  Buy a portable computer instead.
  • Do not use your phone/smartphone/PDA/UMPC for tasks that would be more comfortably and effectively accomplished on a full-fledged computer.
  • Use a Mac for personal computing.
  • Use Linux or BSD on commodity hardware for server computing.
  • Do not use anything other than a Mac at home and Linux/BSD on the server.
  • The only peripheral you absolutely need is a hard disk or network drive to put backups on.
  • Buy as large an external display as you can afford if you’ll be working on the computer for more than three hours at a time.
  • Use hosted services in lieu of hosting on your own hardware (or virtual hardware) for all but the most custom applications.

File Formats

  • Keep as much as possible in plain text. Not Word or Pages documents, plain text.
  • For tasks that plain text doesn’t fit, store documents in an open standard file format if possible.
  • Do not buy digital media crippled by rights restriction technologies unless your intention is to rent the content for a limited period of time.

These are my rules and they make me happy. I hope they make you happy too. If you have computing rules of your own that make you happy, I encourage you to publish them.