Fascination with Notion

Over the last couple of months I’ve been really fascinated with Notion.  It has really grown, improved and matured!

If you are not familiar with Notion, let me tell you about it.  Like many cool things, it’s difficult to describe in one sentence.  So here are a few.

Think of content management systems, like WordPress or your favorite wiki.  Now, think of only the good parts of that.  Now, add the ability to easily create and manage basic database tables.  Now add templates.  Now add some basic automation to it.  Now add API.  Now add collaboration.  Now, once again, think of the good parts of all that.  And that’s what you have – Notion!

Once you imagine all that, probably, the first and most important question you’d ask is: What do I use it for?

The simple answer is – pretty much for everything.  But you’ll have to figure it out yourself.  Same things will and will not work for different people, because we are all different.

Here are a few things that I either have done already or still playing with in Notion:

  • CRM.  Our company CRM was getting outdated pretty fast and we were looking for an alternative for a while now.  Notion came along, and we tried to adopt it for this particular need.  It took me around a week to build up all the tables, templates, and automation scripts, and then another 2-3 weeks to prepare, cleanup, migrate, and enrich the data.  The result is not perfect, but it is significantly better than what we had.  And we have space to grow and improve.  Our old CRM has now been in read-only mode for a couple of month, and we are checking it less and less.  I’m pretty confident it will soon be decomissioned.
  • Personal Journal. Not to be confused with the blog, although there’s a huge overlap.  For my rare and occasional blogging, I still prefer and will use this WordPress.  But for more private things, Notion does it really well.  My personal journal includes a whole lot of things like notes, habbits, lessons learned, and even affirmations – something that I’ve learned from other people’s templates.
  • Weight Track. In preparation for the yet another sailing regatta, I started tracking my own weight and exercise.  This works particularly well with goals and milestones.
  • Personal Finance.  Over the decades, I’ve probably tried a gadzillion personal finance applications, tools, and approaches.  In Notion, I’ve built the one that works for me.  And it only took me a few hours of clicking around, while figuring out how to convert between accounting and databases (spoiler: it’s easier than you think).
  • Quick Notes. Again, one of those areas where I shift from tool to another tool after a few years.  My latest choice was Google Keep.  It turns out, I can build a better (for me) version of Google Keep in Notion in just a few minutes.  All I need to do now is import the content from my old and forgotten Evernote account (or do I really need those notes? probably not).

And that’s just me. And that’s just in the last few weeks.  Other people have been using and building in Notion for a lot longer, and for their own needs.

I’m pretty sure that if you give it a try, you’ll find something that it works for really good really quick.  And also you’ll keep or revert to some of your current tools and applications as a better alternative.


Happy 25th birthday, PHP!

PHP 25th birthday

PHP, the language that has truly changed the web, is celebrating its 25th birthday. Over time, it gained an army of fans and army of haters, and it’s still difficult to tell which one is larger.

As someone who is using the language since its early days (yes, PHP 3), I’m glad to see that it is still around, it is still going strong, and it is still vital for the larger portions of the web.

Huge thanks go to the core development team, community, and millions of contributors and users.  It wouldn’t have been the same without you.  Happy birthday, PHP!

And here’s an awesome timeline to help you remember all the years!


Send additional HTTP headers to Nginx’s FastCGI

It’s not that often that I come across a useful, but undocumented feature in a major software application.  It happened recently, so I’ll document it here just for the future self.

For a particular setup, I had to send additional HTTP headers (let’s use X-GEOIP for this example) to the PHP-FPM, which was configured as a FastCGI backend in Nginx web server.  This StackOverflow thread suggested several solutions, but this one was the easiest and worked like a charm: use Nginx’s fastcgi_param directive AND prefix your variables with HTTP_.  For example:

location ~ \.php$ {
  fastcgi_param HTTP_X_GEOIP $geoip;
  ... other settings


macOS in the cloud

With the constant expansion of cloud providers and services, one would think everything is possible and easy these days.  Well, at work, we came across an interesting project which shed some light on the lesser discussed areas of cloud providers and services – macOS.

Both Linux and Windows are well suited for the cloud, and are widely covered.  macOS though not so much.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons, but one of them might be that short, but annoying paragraph in the software license agreement (this one is for Catalina, but you can easily check the others here):

J. Other Use Restrictions. The grants set forth in this License do not permit you to, and you agree not to, install, use or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-branded computer, or to enable others to do so.You agree not to remove, obscure, or alter any proprietary notices (including trademark and copyright notices) that may be affixed to or contained within the Apple Software. Except as otherwise permitted by the terms of this License or otherwise licensed by Apple: (i) only one user may use the Apple Software at a time, and (ii) you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be run or used by multiple computers at the same time. You may not rent, lease, lend, sell, redistribute or sublicense the Apple Software.

Yup.  You have to run Apple software on the Apple hardware.  This alone is a huge showstopper for the cloud.  And only user may use it at a time too.

There are still some cloud providers who offer specifically macOS based products and services (and yes, they run them on the Apple hardware).  Here are a few examples, thanks to this thread:

It’s good to have options here, even if the prices are much higher than what you’d expect.

Toptal: The Suddenly Remote Playbook

Toptal is one of the great companies that I have my eyes on.  If you haven’t heard of them, here’s a brief intro:

Toptal is an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, esigners, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world. Top companies hire Toptal freelancers for their most important projects.

I’ve had some interactions with the company in the past, and I’ve heard plenty of stories from other people.  These guys definitely know what they are doing.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s some proof for you.  The COVID-19 pandemic forced a lot of companies, teams, and people to work remotely.  Some were ready for this, but most had to make major adjustment.  Many are still struggling.  Toptal though is not one of them.  They’ve been doing remote work for a long time now.  Lucky for the rest of us, they’ve shared a lot of that in a rather concise, to the point, easy to read document, titled “The Suddenly Remote Playbook“. It is a playbook for sustaining an enterprise-grade remote work environment, from the world’s largest fully remote company.

It doesn’t matter whether you are just starting with the remote work, or have been doing it for a long time, I promise you, you’ll find plenty of useful information in there.

From the simple and direct quotes like:

People are the most important element of any company, remote or not.

To an impressive list of tools like:

  • Slack
  • Grammarly
  • Zoom
  • Krisp.ai
  • Google G Suite
  • Miro
  • Collabshot
  • Loom
  • Trello
  • Asana
  • Confluence
  • Zapier
  • … and more.

Strongly recommended for reading, studying, and implementation!