Hiding in Butler, you’ve got six papers due in ten hours but you’re engaged in a poke war on Facebook.  It’s time to buckle down and get some real work done.  SocketHop is here to help.

late night computing
 Image via Flickr

Lose the Clutter

There’s a million ways to have distraction-free word processing, but Bwog has two favorites.  Dr. Wicked’s Write-or-Die is a website that allows you to set word count and time goals to keep you writing at a consistent speed.  Should you fail to keep typing, the website will flash heart-wrenching colors and spout horrible music.  Writer is a web application that provides stripped-down editing with .txt and .pdf file export options, as well as limited save options.

Half of writing a research paper is, well, Googling other people’s research papers.  And reading all those random articles can be hard on the eyes.  In comes Arc 90’s Readability bookmarklet.  A bookmarklet is a bookmark you can store on your bookmarks toolbar that performs a function (rather than just linking to a Web site).  Readability removes all the clutter from your web-based reading and formats the text with clear fonts in narrow columns.  All this can be customized, as well, creating a distraction-free reading environment.

Save Your Eyes

Late nights in Butler mean late nights staring at your bright, white LCD screen.  That translates to red, sore eyes by morning.  Enter F.lux, a small tray application (Windows and OS X) that solves this problem.  In a nutshell, F.lux modifies the color temperature of your screen to match the time of day.  This means that as the sun sets, your screen transitions from a blueish hue to a yellowish hue, matching the color of your fluorescent hell.  It sounds like a strange idea at first, but once you become used to it, you’ll never switch back.

One more tip and a geek level-up after the jump.

Block Facebook

The major efficiency-stealers when you’re trying to research and write are sites like Facebook.  If you have enough self-control to inflict website blocking on yourself, there’s a simple fix.

The Hosts file on your computer (OS X and Windows) is where your computer looks first when it’s trying to translate a website address (e.g., google.com) into an IP address ( before it asks other computers on the Internet.  You can exploit this gateway by having it point the addresses of distracting Web sites to, well, nothing.

On Windows, the file is located in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\Etc\hosts, and in Mac OS X or Unix, it’s located in /etc/hosts.  The file can be opened in any text editor (e.g., Notepad or TextEdit).  You’ll need administrative privileges to open it.  On OS X, try going via the Terminal (Apps > Utilities) and typing “sudo open /etc/hosts” without quotes.

The files has two columns with numbers and names.  At the bottom of the list, add <TAB> facebook.com, where <TAB> is a press of the Tab key.  This will redirect Facebook (or any other website) to your own machine, effectively displaying nothing on the page.

If you want to block Gmail but still want to use Google, list “mail.google.com”.  It’s important that you not remove “ <TAB> localhost” from the top of the list, as this can break a lot of web and hardware-related applications.  Use extreme caution when editing the Hosts file.  Make a backup copy before making changes.  The queasy can try this Firefox extension.