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Ask Slashdot: Really Short Time Wasters?

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the time-to-widdle dept.

Idle 279

rueger writes "At various times during the day I need a quick break from serious work. Browsing the 'net is not a good choice because it invariably winds up consuming an hour on places like Slashdot, so right now that means my break is a game of Solitaire. Loads in seconds, takes maybe a minute to play, then back to stuff that matters. I'm wondering what other goodies could fill that role — maybe games, maybe something that actually leads to knowledge, skills, or a measurable output? Think of it as an on-screen micro-hobby. Any Ideas?"

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World of Goo (4, Interesting)

solune (803114) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891231)

I quite like it. Shortish puzzles, an "open" mode where you compete against others; an all around good lil game

Re:World of Goo (3, Interesting)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891393)

Yeah, my favorite time-wasters at the moment (most tend to rely on playing with other humans):

Web:
http://fantasticcontraption.com/ [fantasticcontraption.com] : build 2D rigs to solve puzzles.
http://freerice.com/ [freerice.com] : buff your SAT words, earn grains of rice for charity
http://youdontknowjack.com/ [youdontknowjack.com] : nice weekly trivia quiz, 1-2 players (maybe, haven't done this for a decade or so)

PC:
World of Tanks (15 minute battles, free to play)

Android:
Wordfeud: Scrabble where you can play multiple people at once, and have up to 2 days per turn.
Chess Online: timed games against similarly-ranked players... you can wrap up pretty quickly
SketchIt Online: Pictionary, and sometime penis.
Zombie, Run! : Get from point A to point B IRL, while running away from zombies on your GPS map.

But mostly I just Fark and Slashdot.

Re:World of Goo (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891585)

You fark around on Slashdot? Or you fart while reading Slashdot?

Re:World of Goo (4, Informative)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892293)

http://fark.com/ [fark.com] ... it's all the not-news that doesn't matter.

Re:World of Goo (5, Informative)

galatian (52029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891455)

If you like puzzles, specially hard ones with some nice math and logic try Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzles [greenend.org.uk] . I'm currently addicted to sign post, but I can recommend net, light up, and loopy. Depending on the difficulty level, you can spend any kind of time doing them. The puzzles are awesome since you can pick pretty much any difficulty and enter your own parameters. For net I prefer a 25x25 grid, but for signpost I'm currently working on a 7x7.

They're available in android in a really good port. But stay away from the IOS version, you have to pay and it's garbage.

Re:World of Goo (1)

dorix (414150) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891707)

Seconded. I love playing a 44x22 grid of Range. Pearl is one of my favorites, but generation of solvable puzzles beyond a certain size takes a very long time, and they usually end up sharing a single common pattern. I've had games of Pearl take a day and a half to generate, and I've solved it in 10 minutes. Loopy (16x10, Kites, Hard) is my next favorite, but the yellow lines on grey background is difficult to focus on. I've tried tweaking the source and haven't found a colour that works well for me on that level.

FICS (2)

Aighearach (97333) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891559)

I recommend playing chess at the Free Internet Chess Club. You can play a 5 minute game and there is a time cap of 10 minutes. And you get a relaxing mental excercise that distracts from work without putting you to sleep.

Oooh! (4, Funny)

Gertlex (722812) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891239)

[Insert euphemism for masturbation here]

Re:Oooh! (1)

verifine (685231) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891463)

Yeah, that's fun and stuff but...

I catch up on news (from an outlet I *mostly* trust, not named here). Natch, I check out /. Also Techdirt, which now and then has fantastic stuff.

But I have a deal with myself (and unspoken and unwritten with my employer.) I have my home Email accounts open at work, and I read and respond to messages. When I'm at home I have my home *AND* work Email accounts open, and I read and respond to all.

I continue to be surprised by how well this has been received at work. I guess I work at a pretty cool place.

Staring (4, Insightful)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891247)

Staring out the window is actually beneficial. If you spend alot of time on "near work" such as staring at a screen, it is good for your eyes to take a break and stare at something in the distance for a short while. If you can walk to an empty conference room/break room that has a window.

Re:Staring (5, Interesting)

karnal (22275) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891419)

You know what's sad? Why should you have to go to a break or conference room for a window? I don't know if it's 100% true, but co-workers I met in Germany state that when they build out cube farms/offices there, each person has to be able to see out a window. Natural light and all etc. Instead of huge walls walling off a support section, they had plexi/glass up so you had natural light and a view outside.

I once had a window cube; somedays I do wish I had that back.

Re:Staring (4, Interesting)

istartedi (132515) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891667)

When I was an *intern* back in the 80s I had a space with a window. There wasn't much to do sometimes. On one particularly slow day, I decided to verify that most cars are white. I tracked the colors of cars going up an exit ramp, using good old paper-and-pencil. Sure enough, most cars were white. I was surprised. It just doesn't register until you actually track it.

Just verifying popular colors isn't all that interesting. Maybe if he took daily traffic statistics some more interesting patterns would emerge. I never went any further with it. Of course if he doesn't have a busy ramp outside his window, he'll have to find another hobby...

Re:Staring (3, Funny)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892139)

I once had a window cube....next to a column, so my cube was offset from the window about 3 feet making it extra large......and it had a view of the Hyatt pool! Oh, and the column put it on a "dead-end" aisle, so no sneaking up on me, either. That was the best cube ever.

Re:Staring (2)

strength_of_10_men (967050) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891671)

If you can define "short" as ~ 15 min, then I usually just take a nap. A 15 min nap and I wake up surprisingly energized and recharged. Of course, I work by myself so can do this without worrying about what coworkers are thinking about me, but if you have your own office, close the door and set the alarm and you're good to go.

Re:Staring (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891959)

Also, taking a break in which you are not actively engaging your brain to solve some kind of goal will help reduce mental fatigue.

Sodoku is obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891255)

But, don't overlook Angry Birds or Bad Piggies. I find Bad Piggies tends to appeal more to geeks who like engineering, since you need to build things to solve the level.

Fapping (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891257)

Only takes a few minutes if you learn to rush it, and it relieves stress

Lesbian Porn? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891259)

Just a suggestion.

Chess (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891261)

Whenever I need a break, I play chess.

In 5 minutes, you can think of a move in a high-level long game, or play a couple of games of speed chess.

It's mental, fun, and doesn't have to stretch into any more time than you want.

Re:Chess (3, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892015)

I agree with turn based games, but not speed chess - rushing isn't good when you need a break.

My preference: Infocom games. They'll wait for you, and you can spend as little or as much time as you like.
The graphics is also awesome - way better than Skyrim, for sure - powered by imagination.

Wagic: The Homebrew (2)

mister_playboy (1474163) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891263)

http://wololo.net/download/ [wololo.net]

Initial setup for the game and building a deck are somewhat time intensive, but once you are familiar with the game you can start it up and play a game or two and then shut it down.

We're all nerds here, and this game has enough complexity to satisfy. You can also help with coding if you like by hacking on the game files, since the official game that Wagic is based on is always moving forward!

Get up (5, Insightful)

al0ha (1262684) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891271)

Get up and take a short walk outside - rest your eyes, get the blood flowing and some vitamin D absorption if it's a sunny day. Your body will thank you in the long term.

Re:Get up (2)

Jaktar (975138) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891331)

I was about to suggest something similar. Many people would benefit from a body weight only exercise (or weights if you can have them where you work).

There are a myriad of exercises that you could knock out in under a minute.

Re:Get up (5, Interesting)

chihowa (366380) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891565)

Drop and give me twenty. Seriously, though, quick little body weight exercises are great for getting your blood moving and decramping your butt after sitting in a chair for hours. People do tend to look at you weird, though, so a little privacy is nice. (On the upside, after a few weeks they stop looking at you weird!)

Re:Get up (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891429)

Plus, if you have a job that requires you to think, you'll probably find that those short walks increase your productivity.

Re:Get up (0)

crafty.munchkin (1220528) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891529)

This.

Re:Get up (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891733)

Back in my school days, the few minutes outside the computer room was as productive as the time I spent inside.

Khan Academy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891275)

Khan Academy has a bunch of exercises to keep you up to speed in various skills in math.

CHESS TITANS !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891281)

!!

Stretch exercise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891287)

There's ton of them on the net, and some exercise will do you a lot of good.

Slashdot (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891305)

Um... I spend my day commenting on Slashdot at EMC. During my short break, I post troll comments rather than shill comments on all the Dice Slashvertisements.

Robocode (1)

BuypolarBear (2713397) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891307)

If you're looking for a way to improve your skills, a couple of quick rounds of Robocode and changing a couple of lines of code will give you a quick distraction along with a small increase (or creation) of your Java skills. More about it here: http://robo-code.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

Sudoku (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891315)

It only takes a few minutes at the mid levels.

Re:Sudoku (1)

Dan East (318230) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891467)

I second this. I prefer playing the easier levels and speed-solving, which is solving without having to use pencil marks, etc. My average time is around 2 minutes at Easy level. Occasionally I can get under 60 seconds if the puzzle is conducive to the techniques I use to solve. One of my favorite implementations is Sudoku 10,000 for Android.

You can also play harder levels fairly fast by having the computer calculate the pencil marks for you.

It's rather addicting once you start figuring out the simple algorithms, but it can get a bit tedious at the really hard levels, where you have to use advanced algorithms to place a single number.

CSR Racing (1)

SavoWood (650474) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891317)

I started playing CSR Racing. It burns through a "tank" of fuel in 10 minutes, it's free, and as long as you have your headphones on, you look like you're really intently working on something.

To be clear, it's not a great game. It's still a short distraction and is fun for those few minutes.

My actual favorite, as in while I'm waiting for the "tank" to fill up again, is going for a walk. It sounds goofy, but I actually enjoy just walking out the front door to check the mail. I live in a warm climate so it's possible to do this any time of the year.

Breaking news. (-1, Troll)

mutube (981006) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891321)

Yvonne Lee, Community Manager at Dice.com writes,

I'm pretty short, and I waste everybody's time.

flashcards, art, exercise (1)

jehan60188 (2535020) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891323)

vocabulary flashcards (either "college words" in your native language, or a new language)
listen to a song
smoke a cigarette
do 10 lunges
doodle, or paint (i like doodling on my tablet, but i also carry watercolors and a stack of 3x5 notecards)

Carpal tunnel prevention break (5, Interesting)

rwade (131726) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891327)

If it is me - and this guy sounds just like me - he needs to take that time and do anything but be on a computer. Take 5 minutes for longer breaks to grab a coffee or make a phone call you have been putting off. Or if you need a short break, sort out your desk or stare out the window for 30 seconds.

Your wrists will thank you - if you are an information worker, you are at risk of being seriously debilitated in mere years if you don't take steps now.

Re:Carpal tunnel prevention break (2)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891739)

I have one of those spring-based hand exercisers on a shelf near my computer. I pick that up and squeeze it (alternating hands) while I look out the window.

And you're posting on Slashdot? (2)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891351)

What greater waste of time do you need?

Learn a language (4, Interesting)

davidannis (939047) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891367)

Just not a computer language. I use flashcard programs [byki.com] and mp3s from Pimsleur and Japanese Pod 101 [japanesepod101.com] to learn Japanese. You can do the mp3s while walking outside as others have suggested. It has worked well for me, though my breaks last about 15 minutes.

Needing a break (4, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891369)

How about just walking, going up and down some stairs, stretching, looking out the window, eating a fruit, or drinking a glass of water? If you want to gamify that activity, you could even place a pebble into a jar every time you performed that activity to keep track of your progress.

Juggle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891375)

Juggling is great for short breaks.

Is your work environment private? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891379)

I can think of one particular time-honored activity that only takes a couple minutes. And as a bonus, your wrists get a workout!

World of Tanks (1)

WolfeCanada (604888) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891381)

Short rounds, no more than 15 minutes each. Or, usually, much less.

Get up ! (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891385)

I find the best breaks are alone, but some like the coffee machine chit chat.

A quick walk around the block is great. Greet people and animals, buy knick-knacks (like your next meal ^^).

You can choose to remain seated, though that's less of a breather. Music maybe ?

The WIki Game! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891407)

Race from one Wikipedia article to another using only your mouse. Takes a minute or 2 per game and it pretty funny trying to make the connections.

http://thewikigame.com/

Learn a new Language (1)

ianchaos (160825) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891423)

This site has done an amazing job of turning learning a language into a game...Duolingo [duolingo.com]

Vocabulary cards (1)

JanneM (7445) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891431)

I study Japanese so I'll run through a few vocabulary cards (using Mnemosyne, but Anki is reportedly good too) whenever I need a quick mental break. Works nicely as a way to shift focus, even for a minute or less.

Re:Vocabulary cards (1)

aiht (1017790) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892199)

I study Japanese so I'll run through a few vocabulary cards (using Mnemosyne, but Anki is reportedly good too) whenever I need a quick mental break. Works nicely as a way to shift focus, even for a minute or less.

Seconded.
I am also learning Japanese, and I take short breaks to do some kana flashcards when I'm getting too caught up in work. I use Kanatest on Linux, and Obenkyo on Android.

Push-ups (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891435)

Seriously, just do as many pushups as you can. It gets the blood flowing, the body working, and the girls swooning.

BattleDawn (1)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891441)

enough said.

BD is awesome, and being tick-based it's perfect for short breaks here and there. It forces you to take those breaks, because you want to see progress on the game, you sent some units out, wanna see how it went, or check if you are being attacked, etc. And the amount of things you can do in a tick usually won't go over 2 minutes.

Best MMORPG ever.

Galcon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891443)

A little strategic galactic conquest in real time. Better than minesweeper... and it may improve your office political play too!

Also Neptune's Pride.

That is, if you are compelled to play a game...

Minesweeper (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891445)

Assuming you use Windows, which is really a terrible assumption, play minesweeper. Variants exist for other OS's.

Freecell (1)

alteveer (979070) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891471)

..it's still awesome!

Re:Freecell (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892179)

Before I installed a new OS, my Freecell score was over 1,500 wins (at 100%).......while it was a good break, it was never really that challenging.

In a word: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891479)

Sex!

Although, seeing as I'm an AC, it is usually solo.

robot rising (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891481)

I've been playing a game called Robot Rising on Facebook which is pretty good. Sort of an action RPG with robots, Diablo style, and free to play... You can play through a level in 5-10 minutes. One caveat, it requires the Unity plugin, which isn't a big deal for me because I already had it installed, but some people don't like plugins...

Buy a harmonica (5, Informative)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891491)

Besides being an enjoyable time-waster, you'll eventually get good at playing the harmonica and chicks dig musicians.

Anyone can blow "Oh, Susanna" on day one but in a few months, you can play real blues harp. Watch your friends' faces when you pull a harp out of your pocket and wail on the opening bars of "Juke" by Little Walter or "Whammer Jammer". There are scores of quick two-minute lessons on YouTube to get you started. It's relaxing and there's evidence that it improves lung function.

A Hohner Special 20 in the key of A (useful when you play with a guitar player) will set you back less than $40.

Re:Buy a harmonica (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891581)

One copper penny back in the day son, one coppery penny.

Re:Buy a harmonica (4, Informative)

cosm (1072588) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891665)

This would go over swimmingly with my cube farm cohabitants.

Re:Buy a harmonica (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891693)

I'd recommend a drum kit instead. It's less disruptive in an open-plan office.

Re:Buy a harmonica (5, Funny)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891779)

I was thinking bagpipes.

That will liven up any quiet cubicle farm.... ...and get you stabbed.

Re:Buy a harmonica (4, Funny)

Namarrgon (105036) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892001)

So... if I buy a harmonica every break, I'll be a musician, and chicks'll dig me? Guess they'll certainly be impressed at the size of my harmonica collection.

I like to... (1)

sesshomaru (173381) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891501)

I like to put sleeves on my Magic: The Gathering and Call of Cthulhu cards during breaks.

Tetris (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891517)

meta-x tetris-mode.

Answer a question on StackOverflow (5, Interesting)

phallstrom (69697) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891527)

Build a filter on stackoverflow.com (or equivalent) focusing on the technologies you like/know-something-about and watch the new/unanswered queue. Answer one. Usually doesn't take that long, good questions put you in a different mindset, and you're helping someone out.

Thinking (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891549)

Thinking FTW.

Coffee (3, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891579)

or your favorite beverage that requires walking more than 3 feet to refill.*

*if your coffeemaker or fridge is that close to your keyboard, you get points for efficiency but you'll need to find a different micro-break. May I suggest moving it across the room?

Re:Coffee (1)

Art Challenor (2621733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892093)

If your coffeemaker and fridge are that close, then there's a clear and frequent micro-break that your going to need shortly. Let's hope that's a little further away.

Go to (3, Funny)

olip85 (1770514) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891587)

Dice.com. I hear it's a nice place.

Re:Go to (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891785)

Die.net is nice. :)

Beat Hazard (1)

Spacejock (727523) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891605)

I load up my fave game (Beat Hazard, available through Steam) and blast away on one of my fave MP3s. As short as 3 mins, or as long as 30. Obviously it won't fit the bill if you're using a work PC, but I code at home.

I'm not associated with the company, related to the developers, etc, etc. I just find it a very good time-waster for short amounts of time.

Brainworkshop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891611)

If you have a pair of headphones handy, one session of dual N-back demands complete concetration a couple of minutes. I found it a good way resetting mentally.

Of course, if you're trying to learn a foreign language, vocab tests will be an efficient use of time (provided you are not testing yourself on vocab you already know).

For me, I've found no more effective complement to difficult work than short breaks of juggling, but I doubt this meets your criteria.

Learn to juggle! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891617)

I find juggling takes me away from the part of my brain I use for work, and allows me to enter a playful, free state of mind. I am still managing a task which has rewards (catching the balls), so it is structured enough to engage you and make you feel good as you progress, but functions very differently than a computer game. It helps blood flow, and likely helps things like reaction time, coordination, and recognizing sequences. You can juggle casually, or you can really get into it if you want - I often think about patterns as I juggle, leading me to entertain thoughts about geometry, physics, dance, human physiology, etc. while I get a little exercise.

Read... (1)

ignavus (213578) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891661)

When submitting statistical jobs on a mainframe, which would take much longer in real time than in CPU time, I used to read examples in the statistics programming manual. I would see interesting functions to try out, and then I had to buy a stats text book so that I could understand what the functions were doing in more detail and how to interpret them. Gradually I taught myself lots of stats AND I was able to try out new functions and apply them to my work.

two words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891713)

angry birds

also...what a shit question... get a life and get off /.

Documentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891719)

This is when you write documentation...

On a more serious note: http://www.khanacademy.org/ just watch a little at a time. Most of his videos are broken down into chunks under 10 min.

MAME (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891757)

Two words: arcade games.

MAME emulates a lot of arcade hardware out there, and it's reasonably simple to setup. 99% of the games (ROM based games, anyways) take up very little space- usually around 1 to 20mb/piece (disk and drive based games are around 250-2GB though, but most of those games aren't emulated properly or don't even work). There's a bucket of fantastic titles to pick from, spanning anywhere from the early 1980s to 2008 and beyond.

The great thing about arcade games is that they're great fun for short amounts of time. If you spend 5 minutes playing Raiden Fighters then die, you're probably not going to feel like playing it again right after that. Pace yourself and don't credit feed (continually insert quarters) the games, tell yourself when you're dead you're dead until your next break.

We setup a MAME cabinet in the office where I work specifically because of this- the games are short, intensive bursts of extreme fun. And, well, the quarters go towards filling the community fridge with various pops, cheeses, and the cupboards with chocolate bars and such. So it's really a win-win. Nobody has abused the machine for any length of time since most folks are only interested in one or two games, and those games might last 2-5 minutes/pop. All in all it seemed to lighten the mood considerably in the office since everyone has something in common- best scores on whatever their favourite game is.

In any case, MAME is easy enough to setup and run on your computer. It loads fast and runs quickly, so you can get into an arcade game in about 5 seconds flat. Since arcade games are designed to push quarters, you'll find that most games don't last more then 3-4 minutes, but they're really bloody fun while you're playing them. Just pace yourself and refuse to keep inserting quarters, because that's absolutely no fun. Give yourself enough credits to start the game and that's it. When you die, you go back to work.

Dicewars (1)

dcollins (135727) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891759)

I find that Dicewars is just the perfect lunch/dinner-time thing for me. It's turn-based so I make a move, then turn to take a bite and chew while AI goes, then back to my turn. It seems to take the exact amount of time that it takes me to eat (~15 min). Sometimes I do wish there was a bit more hardcore, classic fantasy/sci-fi, and/or useful skill-building equivalent that I could find.

TED talks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891807)

How about TED talks? They are often educational and can get your mental juices flowing. Most of them tend to be short and easy to listen to.

Code breaking (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891823)

Here's something I used in that way years ago.

I download some books as text files from Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] , and had a program which would randomly select a ~10 line section from a random file. It would then encode this file as a simple substitution cypher [wikipedia.org] . Finally I had a little program to aid with decoding - it would display the cypher text, and let me try various cypher-letter to plaintext-letter assignments.

I left word spacing and punctuation intact, which makes the problem pretty easy and entertaining. For example, a cypher word 'ABCA" is very likely to be "that" (or otherwise "else" or "says".) If you see words "ABC" and "DBC" they are probably "the" and "she".

Here is the encyphering program. (I couldn't find my original of this, so I've just rewritten it now. I remember the original was a one-liner using all sorts of trickery, but my Perl is too rusty to reproduce that now.) It acts as a pipe - it takes the text to be encyphered on standard input and writes the cypher text to standard output.

#!/usr/bin/perl
use strict;

my $plain = join "", map{lc}<STDIN>;
my %translate = ();
my $nextCodeChar = 'a';
my $cypher = "";
for my $plainChar (split "", $plain) {
        if ($plainChar =~ /[a-z]/) {
        if (!defined($translate{$plainChar})) {
                $translate{$plainChar}=$nextCodeChar++;
        }
        print $translate{$plainChar};
        } else {
        print $plainChar;
        }
}

I've managed to find the decoding program, reproduced below. This program is designed to run from a text terminal, and takes the filename of the cyphertext as a command line argument. Automatically extracting the random plain text, encyphering it, and then running the decypherment program on the result is left as an exercise to the programmer.

#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;

# decypher: aids solving simple substitution cyphers.
# usage: decypher filename

my (%freq, %cypher, %decypher);

# Read the cyphertext
my @cyphertext = map{lc}<>;

# Count the characters
my @copy = @cyphertext;
map{s/[a-z]/$freq{$&}++/ge} @copy;

# To do:
# Print cypher and frequency ordered by plaintext
# one, two, three letter words and frequencies.
# digraph frequencies?

# Loop getting commands
while (defined(chomp(my $command=<STDIN>))) {
        if ($command eq "f") { freq_table(); }
        elsif ($command eq "p") { plain_text(); }
        elsif ($command eq "q") { last; }
        elsif ($command eq "c") { clear(); }
        elsif ($command =~ /^([a-z])=([a-z ])/i) { guess($1,$2); }
        elsif ($command =~ /^([a-z])=$/i) { guess($1," "); }
        else { print
"Unknown command '$command'
Commands are:
'f': print frequency table
'p': print cypher and partial plain text
'q': quit
'c': clear letter associations
<letter1>=<letter2>: associate cypher letter1 with plaintext letter2
<letter>=: remove plaintext association to plaintext letter\n"; }
}

sub freq_table {

        my $count = 0;
        for (sort keys %freq) {
        printf "%s%s %3d %s", $_, $cypher{$_} ? "=$cypher{$_}" : " ", $freq{$_}, (++$count%5 ? "" : "\n");
        }
        print $count%6 ? "\n\n" : "\n";
}

sub plain_text {

        my $tr = "";
        foreach ("a".."z") {
        $tr .= ($cypher{$_}) ? $cypher{$_} : " ";
        }

        for my $line (@cyphertext) {
        $_ = $line;
        print;
        eval "tr/a-z/$tr/";
        print;
        print "\n";
        }
}

sub guess {
        my ($cypher, $plain) = @_;

        $cypher = lc $cypher;
        $plain = uc $plain;
        if ($plain eq " ") {
        # deleting a guess
        delete($decypher{$cypher{$cypher}});
        delete($cypher{$cypher});
        } elsif ($decypher{$plain}) {
        # duplication error
        print "Error: $plain already assigned to $cypher\n";
        } else {
        delete($decypher{$cypher{$cypher}});
        $cypher{$cypher} = $plain;
        $decypher{$plain} = $cypher;
        }
}

sub clear {
        %cypher = %decypher = ();
}

Masturbation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891825)

Over in a couple of minutes with measurable output. Benefit of stress relief on the side. Can't say you'll keep that job for long though........

Short-form competitive typing (1)

ender- (42944) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891853)

If you'd like to improve some of your typing skills, you could always try TypeRacer [typeracer.com]

Mental Math (1)

bmearns (1691628) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891891)

Practice doing mental math: get 2 to 4 ten-sided dice from your local game store (or another random number generator of your choice) and practice doing addition, subtraction, and multiplication in your head. If you're good, you can do things like raising e to a random power, multiplying a number by pi, finding the sine/cosine of a number, etc.

Wrist slitting (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42891895)

I hear wrist slitting is popular given the economy.

Just grab a razor blade and think about how much money the CEO pigfucker makes.

simple (0)

shentino (1139071) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891929)

Ask your boss for more work.

Khan Academy (1)

Ikyaat (764422) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891935)

I enjoy working my way through the lesson trees at https://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org] . Most of the stuff is pretty simple but the multiple choice tests are enjoyable to me. And the Lesson Dashboard is shiny and sparkly.

email (3, Interesting)

hort_wort (1401963) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891937)

At the risk of sounding too mushy, taking just a couple minutes every day to email someone important to you might be the most worthwhile thing to do. Just that little bit each day is something a lot of us antisocial nerds don't do.

Practice problems... (1)

WSOGMM (1460481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42891979)

For example, if you're interested in physics, pick a section out of Halliday's Fundamentals of Physics PDF, read it, then later during another break take a look at an example or practice problem. Hell, practice the method of Loci memorization technique. You'll get something out of that if you stick with it.

Really, just pick anything you're interested in.

Say what? (1)

uvajed_ekil (914487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892049)

Sometimes I notice a lot of people here bitching about how slashdot has lost its way, or whining about other people's stupid questions, and I usually ignore them and move on, thinking they are getting old and cranky. But what the hell? Somebody asks how to kill ten minutes because he can think of NOTHING to do with that time, and the post gets approved? Seriously? For fuck's sake, come on... Take up crossword puzzles, or try walking, or just play Angry Birds like everybody else. Or is that too many choices? Need to know where to go for lunch, too?

Guess free minesweeper (3, Interesting)

blibbo (928752) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892095)

I found this for android: "Guess-free minesweeper"

It has an ad-supported free version and a cheap paid version, $1 - $2 I think . It's like the puzzle game that comes free in Windows but less frustrating... you never get to an unsolvable point.

It still requires enough focus that it'll close your brain off from your serious work, and on the "expert" setting you'll find that you're better challenged than the old windows one... you keep searching (rather than guessing) for a solution because you know there is one.

I think someone's made something similar for windows too as freeware. Anyhow, it's good... but surprisingly addictive. I guess that's different problem though :)

Re:Guess free minesweeper (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42892213)

I used to play the old windows version constantly. Alt-tab, write term paper, alt-tab, play minesweeper, alt-tab... After a while, it almost became hypnotic.

I don't see why it was a problem if you reached an unsolvable point. Just guess - if you lose, start over again. The games don't take long and just the right amount of thought.

Hexapawn (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42892153)

A nice short game [wikipedia.org]

Play With My Balls (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892285)

I have four two-inch 1.1 pound steel ball bearings (What did you THINK I meant?!) that I can whip out and twirl or juggle if I'm feeling particularly adventurous. It's a nice break from typing and they're heavy enough for it to feel like real exercise. You can get 'em on amazon.com, just search for 2" steel ball bearing. Make sure you actually click on the 2" ones, they're just the right size!

Watch something informative. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42892357)

Ted talks are usually 5 - 20 minutes, just find something interesting and go.

The Binding of Isaac (1)

Khyber (864651) | about a year and a half ago | (#42892381)

Always random, quite fresh, plenty of replay value, cheap as dirt. Also loaded with tons of references.

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