Tuesday, March 18, 2003
      ( 8:28 AM ) Matt  

An Effective Work Log

Recently I spent far too long searching for some old notes that didn't exist. I probably should keep a paper log of everything I work on, but I am not good at keeping track of papers. There's only one thing that I find paper really useful for, and that is scribbling notes. I think best when I have a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Unfortunately the result of my scribbling is never suitable for archiving. Keeping a log on the computer is also very limited, and I can never keep myself to it.

What I've started doing is to keep a key log of absolutely everything I type at work. This provides me with a searchable record of all the work I've done. To supplement this, it would be nice to have records of screenshots.

Screenshots have potential to take up a lot of disk space very quickly. This makes it necessary to have an efficient way to store them. A lot of screenshots are going to look very similar. We could save a lot of space by computing the difference between two images, and compressing the difference. The trick is finding similar images in the database. That's where wavelets come in. A signature for each image can be computed. This signature has the very useful property that two similar images will have similar signatures. A database of signatures can be searched much more quickly than one of images.

Another question which needs answering is: When should the screenshots be taken? There are programs available which will take screenshots periodically, but let me propose another solution. On a Windows system, a screenshot is taken when the Print Screen key is pressed. The content of a window can be captured by pressing Alt-Print Screen. The screenshot is not written to disk. Instead, it is copied into the clip board. An application could monitor the clipboard, and add the new image every time the clipboard content changed.

This would allow the database to track more than just screenshots. My TV card lets me copy video frames to the clipboard too. Graphic editing programs also typically use the clipboard. With a database like this, you could efficiently store a history of all the images you've worked on.

Now, one more crucial point which must be addressed is: How does one wade through this wealth of images? Two very useful methods that are facilitated by a database like this one are: sorting by date and sorting by (signature) similarity.

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