aka how to use greasemonkey
In my previous post, I mentioned that I've installed a script to limit my browsing of certain sites (notably, lifehacker, livejournal, facebook, and kottke). Since Zandria said she didn't know about that, I thought I'd give a little explanation.
First of all, this script (and others) only work if you're using firefox. You are using firefox, right?
With firefox, you have the ability to install add-ons to increase the functionality of your browser. This is nice for a variety of reasons. First of all, it means that the sky is the limit in terms of what you can do with your browser (within reason -- this thing won't be doing my laundry anytime soon, sadly). Second, I imagine it reduces the size of the initial install; you can have a browser that functions fine but doesn't have anything too fancy. Then, as people want more features, they can just add them in by hand.
It appears that most of the user-installed scripts available can be run through an interface called greasemonkey (caveat: I don't know too much about it, so there are likely scripts that don't require greasemonkey). GM is a metascript that will allow you to manage your other scripts. It's super easy to download and install. Succinctly: go to the website, click the download button, follow the prompts, and restart firefox when it tells you to.
Once you've got greasemonkey installed, you can install scripts that other users have written. The Invisibility Cloak is the one script I'm currently using. As it's written, it will block access to any website you chose from midnight until 3 pm. I've altered it so that my surfing is inhibited until 6 pm. Once you have greasemonkey installed, you can click on the link to the script to install it (the instructions there say right click, but right clicking doesn't give me an install option. Clicking on the script did. Your mileage may vary; I'm on a mac, so I imagine things are a touch different).
Altering the scripts is fairly easy but generally unnecessary. There's a lot of program language, and some scripts will also have "// instructions here" lines (the // allows you to write in instructions, since those lines will not be utilized by the program). I'm extremely mediocre at programming (to the extent that I have problems writing simple programs for flipping coins, deducing odds, etc), and I figured it out. It also seems that there's a good online support network for those who would like to modify these programs and have no idea how.
Kiwi Cloak is the next script I'm considering installing; it would limit my email checking to only a certain portion of the hour. I'm trying the self-discipline route first, but I might install it if I still have problems.
Oh, I forgot the two best things about greasemonkey:
1. a cute little monkey face shows up in the lower right-hand corner of the web browser. When I right click on the monkey, I can manage my user scripts (say, for example, to add more webpages to be blocked until after 6, or to change that time until 9 pm if I have a particularly busy evening).
2. You can turn off a script. For example, say you're writing a blog post about using scripts, and you'd like to link to some lifehacker posts. Just click on the monkey (who will turn sad and frowny), and your script is turned off. Yes, this does mean I can easily circumvent the restrictions if I'm trying to procrastinate . . . but the unhappy monkey and the extra step generally is enough of a reminder to get back to work.