4.23.2010

Interfacing

I spend the majority of my day either in front of a computer or working on a computer. As the computer is pretty much my reality, I've put a fair (or unfair if you ask my wife) amount of time into making my interface to the computer as easy as possible. To that end, I implement a hodge podge of utilities, shortcuts, apps, extensions and other doodads to make my day better and more fun. I'm going to try and put together a more or less comprehensive list of what makes my tech world roll.

So here's my list of computer resources I make use of most everyday, I was going to try and rank them from most to least important but their importance is situational and varies throughout the day (plus I'm lazy). The vast majority of these resources are web-based and usable by all manner of OS, Mac only resources are in italics:
Quicksilver - app launcher and much, much more.
LogMeIn - remote access over the web to my home computer.
XMarks - saves your bookmarks in the cloud!
FEBE - backs up your FireFox extensions, save the file to Dropbox below
Dropbox - like a flash drive that you can access anywhere but better and more awesome because it'll play videos and music and show photos even if I access them via my iPhone or Touch. Makes it very easy to keep my most used documents both backed up and accessible.
Apple Remote Desktop - easiest way to control Macs.
Remote Desktop Connection - control PCs or log into remote servers.
Google Reader - stay on top of dozens, hundreds and even thousands of sites in one location. And here's a link to my Shared Items page if, you know, you wanted to follow me.
Google Docs - need to have something available at all times from anywhere? Create the doc in Google Docs and you can access and update it easily. I have my workout program in a spreadsheet that I can access and update via my iPod Touch at the gym just because I can.
Twitter - entertainment, connections, information and more. Twitter is a great resource that can also be a total distraction.
Remember the Milk - how I manage my tasklists, syncs to my iPhone, accessible via the web and pretty simple to use make it work for me. Oh yeah, tags and Smartlists make it highly configurable too!
Pandora - life without music sucks, Pandora makes it easy to listen to music you like.
iTunes - when Pandora is unavailable or not giving me the goods, iTunes will absolutely deliver music I want.
Flashblock - Flash is ubiquitous on the internet, the vast majority of it is worthless CPU-sucking advertising. This stops most of it before you even see it. (Firefox only).
Adblock Plus - What Flashblock misses, Adblock Plus catches. I rarely see ads on sites now, they load faster, they don't have seizure inducing flashes and I'm not "tempted" by before and after muscle pics or de-flabbing of bellies. (Firefox only).
Bit.ly - URL shortening with lots of data on the back end to figure out if your links are being clicked at all.
VMware Fusion - some of my work must be done in Windows and on Internet Explorer, VMware Fusion makes it pretty easy to fire up XP (or the Win7 install I'm doing later today) and do what I need and then shut it back down, all without rebooting!
MS Office - Yes, its a necessary evil.
Workgroup Manager - Currently driving me crazy but when it is set up and working properly it can make computer management simple and awesome.
Firefox - Most customizable and useful browser available. A post on how I configure Firefox should probably be in the works after this post is published.

And the bit players in my digital drama:
Handbrake - ripping DVDs is easy peasy.
iPhoto - photo organization and some minor editing capabilities.
Aperture - more powerful than iPhoto but nowhere near as intuitive to use.
Flickr - was far and away the best photography based social networking site, has slid a long ways since Yahoo took over but is still a great resource and inspiration.
Flickr Uploader - Have been using this to post photos to Flickr for a long time but with the Flickr integration into iPhoto I'm not sure there's much use for it anymore.
iMovie HD - iMovie 08 and 09 suck. Sorry but I simply cannot stand the new interface and will not do any video editing in either. I much, much, much prefer iMovie HD (or iMovie 6 as it is also known).
iDVD - mastering DVDs is pretty easy (if slow) with iDVD. You can slap on some cool themes and let it encode overnight to wake up to a beautifully rendered master. Wish it were faster and didn't require re-encoding if you quit and restart the program (like say if you wanted to do something else on the computer) but it works well and can churn out disks at a pretty good pace if you need to produce a bunch.
Skitch - if you need to add some text to a graphic (photo or gif) then Skitch is definitely the simplest way to do it I've come across.  (Site is currently down as of this posting.)
Macromedia Contribute 3 -  I have to use this POS website editor to update some of my school site websites. It is a bad program and I don't like it much but it is the only option I have. I mean, come on now, I can't just edit the damned HTML directly? That's stupid.
Touch Mouse - This cool program works with an app I've downloaded to my iPhone and Touch that lets me use the iPhone/Touch as a remote (and wireless) keyboard and trackpad. This can be exceptionally handy when giving a presentation, using a projector or just wanting to demonstrate how freaking awesome technology is. That it is free is even cooler.

I'm sure there are resources I'm forgetting about and maybe I'll come back and them as I remember. But, for now, this is my list and I'm sticking to it.

What are the digital resources you can't live without?
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