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Website time-wasters and the light tendency of habit

The internet will be the end of some people. It will ruin their otherwise intelligent (and even productive) brain and skillset. Because it’s so frightenly easy for somebody to indulge in the wrong content that will take them away from their goals. If you have goals to produce something new, a news aggregator site like Reddit or Hacker News, indulging in them for too long will take away the mindshare that would help you create the kind of output you’re capable of.

track-switch - Photo by Peter Kaminski - Flickr.com/creativecommons/We think of addiction and bad habits as being this pull we can’t seem to break free of. But if you observe more closely, you start to see how many habits are really just small tendencies. We know what we are supposed to do, but our brain has wired a bad habit. A bad habit isn’t always that strong, we just have the process locked down. And disrupting it is just as easy as indulging in it. Think of it like that track switch lever for a train. Flip the switch, and your off on a completely different course.

My brain loves the new and loves exploring. And it gets rewarded because I found the right sites that feed it exactly what I want. If your brain loves interaction and gossip, your rewards might be easily met from Facebook. If you like to laugh at people acting silly, your dish of rewards is found at Youtube or College Humor. But you can switch the track and it’s not like you’ll suddenly throw a fit or crash. Once on the new course, you’ll think, “Well I’m better off doing this other thing anyway.”

I’ve had a browser extension called Leechblock for Firefox installed for years. I certainly don’t use it enough but I’m really seeing how valuable it is.  It might actually save someone from ruining their career. That’s how important this or plugins like it can be. You enter a web address or a list of them and make them a blockable set. So if you’re too often checking news in the morning. Enter those sites and block them at those times. It’s probably your weak habit or tendency to browse these sites, and it may be all you need. The way you know it’s a weak tendency rather than a real addiction is if you can think back on days when you just forgot about them or didn’t visit because you were so focused on something you actually made more important. It’s very likely that you’ve avoided them for real work before. So there’s no reason you can’t do it more often. Other than inaction or lack of desire that is. Another test is, if you had a site that you used to go to, but now kinda sucks, or went dead. You moved on. It’s not like your still tapping in that old url years later with bloodshot eyes waiting for it to come back. You changed tracks.

Leechblock for Firefox

If you keep sabotaging yourself despite using a blocker, maybe it’s time for something stronger, like further reinforcement such as editing your hosts file to fully prevent those sites.  If you don’t want to ever check a specific site again, you can add it to a permanent block list in Leechblock or through a hosts file.

leechblock-blockpage

When you do habitually type that url or open that shortcut, you will met with the Leechblock Block page. It’s generic, but you can make that alternative blocker page any page you want. So instead maybe have it send you to your online todo list, or to really break the pattern, maybe have it redirect you to something you hate, such as an image gallery of a really annoying pop music artist named Minaj or Bieber.  Or to a custom message page you make, like a big bold quote about habits or confidence or motivation. “Y0u’re an epic (whatever) with some serious chops, stop doing things that make your bank account shrink!”

On Google Chrome, you can use Nanny, or StayFocused which are similar.  For Safari, something called Waste No Time is available, though I haven’t tested it, as Safari is not something I ever use. For Internet Explorer, the solution is really not to use Internet Explorer.

Here’s the thing.  You don’t just correct your procrastinating tendencies by reading a blog post. I mean you might, but I’m writing this thing and I’m well aware that I’ll still delay things. But as you are procrastinating, it’s important to remember that all the crazy sites and articles and videos about news and technology, they all use your brain. Your brain uses a lot of energy and it’s a finite amount for the day really. So if you’re going to distract yourself due to the pain or boredom of an upcoming task, at least you can do is be a little productive about it right? No rule says you must read a specific site while procrastinating.

Productive Ways to Procrastinate when your brain wants to delay a task

Lastly, you already know all this don’t you? So do I. And we’ll still waste time. But since it’s often a weak habit, based on a light tendency rather than a need. It’s ok to try different ways to disrupt it and have them fail.  And you can have a little fun with it too.

May 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm | computers, freelance, inspiration, learning, tools | No comment

My friend Jake…a crazy bike he will make

Sorry if you don’t like rhymes. So my friend Jake Wheeler and I do stunt shows occasionally. He’s a really good ramp rider. For his day job(s) he does all kinds of things, including making crazy bikes, art pieces and even fun shaped bike racks for store fronts. Give him a mig welder and stand back.

His friend made this sweet little documentary about him, featuring a new project he’s unveiling for a high profile client. Have a look.

October 1, 2012 at 6:08 pm | bikes, friends, inspiration, tools | No comment

Yahoo! is not shutting down Delicious social bookmarking

Update: I knew I was rigth on this one. Not that I had actual facts, but just because of critical thinking. Delicious may live somewhere else. (Why not keep the same domain too!) A blog from the Delicious team confirms it will live, though the actual posting is down at the time of this writing.

* * *

No web service is certain. Del.icio.us, or Delicious.com has been around for years and is no exception. So you always take a risk in depending on the cloud, using a free service. And given what happens to Yahoo services like Geocities for example, we’ve been shown that web services from Yahoo can be vulnerable despite their longevity.

Screenshot of Bookmarking and tagging a link on Delicious

But Delicious should be more immune than a lot of other fly-by-night web services. It represents a very important informational center with a long history in web years. Not only that, but as boring as bookmarks might seem it also makes up a unique and usable social network. Using Delicious, I can gauge interest in a particular subject, participate in the promotion of something, and find things that I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. I can locate like-minded people and get a hell of a lot of entertainment from all this information.

I was understandably shocked at the articles about the “sunsetting” of Delicious and a screengrab of an internal presentation at Yahoo! that proves it.  But here’s why I don’t think we have to worry.

We have entered the period where data visualization is JUST about to get a hell of a lot more interesting to a lot more people.  Touch devices in the hands of millions, tablets and readers set to become mainstays, phones, large format screens. This is the age where reading data live and interactive is going to enhance people’s lives.  There is NO slowdown. And let me quote Joshua Schachter, an original creator of Delicious, “Showing a user how popular his actions are is inevitably addictive.”

Ever since I watched this TED talk on Data Visualization by Hans Rosling I’ve understood how meaningful this is.  Services and tools that can be used for trending in more animated ways are here and are coming.

A problem with delicious is that it can be misused and spammed. This hasn’t been much of an issue for most of us though. The popular feeds may contain uninteresting items, but they don’t make up the majority of bookmarks and things will be uninteresting whether they be spambot or deliberate human bookmarks so users expect anomalies and know how to ignore them. They also don’t infect the more specific or specialized tags so the more you need good specific data, the less you’ll see spammy residue.

Let me point to the main reason I’m not convinced of it’s closing Delicious.  PR is a bitch. A user revolt on Yahoo is NOT what they need right now along with an impending layoff. They can call it a service that doesn’t align with their goals. But social bookmarking, whether they like it or not is a service people want and need.  I personally have invested enough time to generate close to 8000 bookmarks of my own. The beauty of it is, even though many of my stored links have probably expired (from dead sites) there is an extraordinary amount of data in Delicious, and feeds are generated from every which way. The mining of that data is valuable, but only if the service remains current.

If people who use Delicious and Yahoo are stripped from their Delicious collection and the ability to use, track and follow the site, you’re going to see blowback in the form of cancelled Yahoo Mail accounts across the board. Delicious being a very “hackable” simple system and has gathered followers that respect that kind of software. Those same followers aren’t ones you want to cross. Because those same people blog, promote and above all, complain in all the right spaces.

Yahoo isn’t ready for the backlash. They aren’t prepared to lose their ass over a simple site. Time to man up, get the right people, lean and mean on the job creating the next generation of tools used to view and data mine all these wonderful resources. And then selling those tools to the tablet content creators, to the tablet owners, to the digital signage companies, making them offers they can’t refuse. That is how Delicious will continue, through exploiting it from the inside and outside. Because as long as the data remains for the majority of us to share easily and hack a little bit, how it’s sold and marketed doesn’t really affect us. After all, we chose to make these things public because we want this data to be seen and found.

December 17, 2010 at 5:32 am | computers, media, publishing, tools, webdev | No comment

Simplify all your social networking with Tweetdeck

I was pretty late to Twitter. Now I enjoy it the most out of all the social networking sites. It was when I got a smart phone that I started looking at social networking beyond just having a Facebook account. For several reasons, being able to check in with your phone makes social networks make more sense. Just on the PC, they seem very wasteful.  On the home PC, checking Facebook once in a while is OK for me, but I don’t see the point of living there. Still want to share some things and add new friends occasionally.  And I realized it’s nice to be able to set up a business fan page that people can press “Like” on and make you feel somehow desirable.

TweetDeck is Free!

Then I realized that I might want to separate business tweets from personal ones. And some new initiatives I’m working on such as my ReaderWar website made me want to create more separate accounts.

Too much redundancy though. I can’t be logging in and out all the time. Too much room for mistakes. I can’t be wasting that much time on them to say the same things twice and 3 times. Maybe it’s better just to post under one umbrella and let things fall where they may.  I thought that until I found TweetDeck.  It’s a cross-platform application that let’s you read tweets on your subscription and see in multiple columns your retweets and direct messages and user profiles.  It doesn’t let you read facebook postings, but it DOES let you post to both your facebook accounts, AND the business or other ‘fan’ pages you set up for yourself. If you’re an admin or owner of a fan page, you can post JUST to that page only using TweetDeck.

How do you post separately?  When you set up multiple account profiles for Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In etc., you can toggle them on or off when writing the tweet. See illustration below.

What you can do with TweetDeck

Post updates to Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Foursquare, MySpace, Google Buzz
View updates from these sites
Post to Facebook Fan pages (that you own or administrate)
Retweet comments from Facebook
Send messages to Facebook users
Look at Twitter user profiles
Attach Photos
Automatically shorten URLs (bit.ly is default URL shortener)
Quick Preview shortened URLs just in case
View embedded Youtube video links in tweets
View Facebook photos and through galleries
Global Filter posts or topics you don’t want to see (e.g. Justin Biebr or #fail)

So TweetDeck does a lot, it’s a fantastic app for your PC, Mac, laptop. They also have an iPhone and iPad version.

Other Applications like this

Hootsuite
Seesmic
CoTweet
Tweetie
Echofon

June 13, 2010 at 1:41 am | friends, learning, media, tools | No comment

Dropbox – the perfect computer utility

Ever get tired of sending attachments to people? You write the email, click “add attachment”, browse, find, upload, wait, AND, send. Blah, that’s annoying just to think about.  I got tired of it a long time ago. That’s why I’ve been using this service called Dropbox for probably two years now, as soon as I heard of it. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it in this blog before, but anyway, you want to check it out and get it. It’s truly one of the best online services ever created. And it’s in both free and pay premium versions.

Simple instructions here, visit getdropbox.com and download their utility.  It works on Windows, Mac and Linux. Install and it makes a networked folder in your computer that will sync up with the Dropbox server. Files dropped in there are automatically archived on the internet for you. Dropbox let’s you share 2 Gigabytes of files free, and you can pay a small fee for even more storage.

To share a file, move or copy it into your Dropbox public folder (create subfolders inside if you like) right-click and choose to Copy public link. Paste this link URL into your email and you can share the file with somebody without having to attach anything, (and without them needing to detach it.)  Here’s an example of the public link you’d be pasting into your email:

http://dl.getdropbox.com/u/000000/foldername/filename.jpg

As a designer, it’s been a great tool to use because I can quickly update a file on my desktop and it re-synchronizes and my client can just revisit the original email I sent for the link. They will always be downloading the most recent file.  Just remember if files are big you’ll watch them sync with the server, the little icon next to the file will indicate when it’s done synchronizing.

Dropbox also archives versions of files and let’s you revert to them. It’s not infinite versioning, but it’s an added bonus that can help you in case of an accident.  If your PC goes down, you can also install dropbox on the new or refreshed pc and it will sync it back for you. Those files will only delete if you actually delete them from your folder.  I also use it to share files between my PC and Mac, so no worries if I’m on or off my home network.

Just get it, and start taking advantage of this perfect utility’s exquisite convenience. Oh and if you had the idea that you might be able to share files over the internet with a second person, you can definitely do that, you could share your login with a person, (which works but might not be what Dropbox intended) or add users within the service as documented.  The free service is great, the pay service is worth it.

getdropbox.com

September 29, 2009 at 11:19 pm | computers, design, gadgets, mac, tools | No comment

Xara Xtreme Pro 5.1 graphics software

If you’re into the digital graphics for a hobby or work, you’ve been told that Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are the industry standard. This is certainly true, but the “standard” doesn’t mean better in all aspects. Xara Xtreme is one of the few lesser-known alternatives that in some areas measurably outperforms Adobe’s offerings. I’ve been using it for several years. I fell in love when I saw the speed and clean interface of the program. Multiple updates over the past couple years have made it even more flexible. I always enjoy telling people about it because it’s simplicity and performance is surprising.

Some notable favorite features for me including some new ones out with the latest 5.1 version:

There are limits to Xara’s superiority. Looking at Illustrator, you can tell it has a great deal more features, just look at Illustrator’s Effect menu. But if I had Xara when I was learning vector graphics instead of Illustrator or Freehand, I think I would have enjoyed the process much more. I also believe if Adobe Flash had Xara’s tools for vector drawing it would also be a better program by far. I’ve often composed in Xara just to export to Flash in order to bypass some of Flash’s clumsiness. In short, I want Adobe to be more like Xara, just as much as I’d like a few things in Xara that Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and even the new and free Inkscape has. I have other “underdog” programs that I swear by, but this is the big one that I happily pay for.

Downsides of Xara, first it’s only on Windows. Linux users can use an older open source free version of Xtreme, but is hasn’t been feature-developed since 2007. This free version is fast and certainly good, but it’s missing some terrific features that Windows has. Mac has no Xara and I wish it did.  Also there are some file import issues I’ve found. Fore example, sharing SVG and EPS files has given me plenty of frowns. Sure it’s not a big deal when you control everything, but when you need to collaborate with others, or send files to print, you need reliability. Also despite the type features having massive improvements over the past few years, you will find InDesign a little better for you for composing most longer documents. I could think of a few more issues, but I could dig for more in any software.

Xara Xtreme has become over the years a must-have tool. Adobe users have become converts plenty of times, after being hypnotized by its beauty.  Even though I really love most of Adobe’s collection, Xara does certain tasks better and faster. You’ll use it for full graphic and page creation, enjoy it’s speed for mockups and maybe as a thinking tool before you’d open anything else. I love working with objects, breaking them apart, modifying shapes. The projects I’ve been able to do solely in Xara such as illustrations and diagrams, I’ve nearly always completed more efficiently than I could with other tools, and with a lot of enjoyment.

www.xara.com

June 11, 2009 at 4:23 am | 3D, design, graphics, publishing, tools, webdev | No comment

My New Favorite Pen: Tombow AirPress

My new favorite pen the Tombow AirPress, made in Japan. I picked it up at a bookstore for about 400 Yen ($4.00). They stole my heart by giving it the commercial industrial look, bright orange, rubberized tough design and perhaps most likeable of all, the perfect clip. I know it’s just a pen, who cares. But there is something rewarding about finding something on your own that you’ve always hoped for.  Pens are never my friends. I always break the clips, the plastic snaps from too much pressure. I can clip this Tombow pen to a hardcover book if I want to. It’s configured as a spring so it will cling to your shirt, portfolio or booklet and has a small hole if you wanted to put a lanyard around it or connect a cable to your belt.  The ink flow is also perfect. As good or better than the Fisher Space Pen. I like a fine point because I always write too small and because of that too many pens don’t work for me. They stop up, perhaps due to the way I create friction on the point. The AirPress feature of this pen, I don’t fully understand (packaging in Japanese) but my best guess is contents are under slight pressure.

A couple pics of the best pen you’ll see today. Damn good pen. A great pen worthy of a great man.

April 18, 2009 at 9:03 am | gadgets, Japan, tools, writing | 2 comments

Name Your Price – Irradiated Software Gets It.

Being a computer power user, you often have subtle needs that can improve the navigating experience. After a lot of time spent in your default environment you think, “I wish I had a utility for that limitation.” or “Why didn’t they foresee this redundant nonsense while making the operating system?” For a long time, my biggest pet peeve with Mac OS X was that you couldn’t resize the app or folder windows without being forced to grab the little bottom-right corner triangle.

For custom resizes, this became a big nuisance, as it requires precision mousing. I’d often argue with people about the inferiority there, even commenting on earlier Mac OS window shade capability. Mac users simply didn’t identify with my problem. No searches yielded any programs. Was I really mostly alone on my window management hassles? Was I just too fidgety for changing my environment? Later, likely due to the surge in Mac purchases and migrations, seemingly enough people were annoyed by this because programs emerged addressing my exact problem.

The first program I found is called Zooom. It’s a commercial utility that allows you to grab or resize a window by holding down a set of keys. Doesn’t even require touching the edges. You can even grab windows from behind others. Despite some cool features, at the time I found it too pricey after evaluating the trial version. Also it didn’t operate properly on all programs. I thought that for a small task like this, there must be a script or freebie out there. Coming from Windows and Linux, hundreds of small single-serving apps like this are free.

One day, I was searching the depths of a web forum and somebody had mentioned a free program written by one guy, called Window Dragon. This program modified your system so all sides or corners of windows and programs were draggable much like Microsoft Windows and Linux. It had some quirks and was programmed for a previous version of OS X. I was too skeptical to try it despite being free. Something in the program description didn’t sit well with me and I felt my system modification might be detrimental somehow with other programs.

Eventually on a day I was really frustrated with the problem, I went back and purchased Zooom. It had updated to a new version and I believed it would work well.  Zooom does what it advertises and some upgrades are free. Plus it can be kind of fun. But at $15.99 and the fact that it doesn’t work properly on multi-panel Adobe software (conflicting keys and jitters that I can’t really articulate verbally) I just didn’t feel my problem was fully solved. I phased it out of my workflow. Since I couldn’t depend on it for everything, I decided it almost isn’t worth initiating if I was getting mixed and unexpected results or annoyances.

A couple months ago, I found a little utility called TwoUp by a company called Irradiated Software. This program will pop your window instantly to take up the left, right, top or bottom half of your screen. No small adjustments, just quick reliable action. This is great for copying files from one folder to another, or seeing the contents of two webpages simultaneously. TwoUp is free. YES!  After they programmed it, the company got a lot of requests for certain functionality. So they created a beefier version of TwoUp with added features and called it SizeUp.  They listened to legitimate requests, kept the free version and asks that people pay for the better version. Many companies have this type of offering, but too many create the good version initially and strategically strip down the LE Lite Edition (Loser Edition). Going in that order, companies tend to take away too much and leave you feeling like, well, a loser.

What I’m very impressed with, and what prompted my comments here is the pricing strategy. I mentioned earlier that Zooom was $15.99. Not that expensive right? Obviously not since I did end up springing for it albeit reluctantly. That’s fine, but a power user often needs 4 or 8 utilities like these for easier computing. A few utilities priced at this level you are approaching the cost of the entire OS X operating system! And when you use little utilities for one thing, and not too often, the popular $19.99-29.99 pricing scheme just looks wrong. That’s why I was so pleased with Irradiated Software’s pricing of SizeUp. They use the pricing scheme called “Name Your Price.” They state that given the cost of sales / download / administration, they need to price it at minimum $1.26. You can own it for that price. They have a suggested price of $7.99 to match what they think it’s worth. And if this is the greatest sliced-bread utility you’ve ever used, you can go above that too and they will be thrilled.

I love this. Their suggested price is very reasonable. Clearly they get it. And they will sell more in volume than if it were $16 or more. Plus, it’s stupid not to buy it at $1.28 if you’ve had the trouble with windows like I have. Plus when you are in the middle of the transaction, you might begin to think, well I appreciate their efforts, so why not throw in a couple extra bucks because I want their continued progress. And certainly among good honest people, many wouldn’t feel right not paying the entire suggested price. Then of course you have the very generous folk pledging even more. There you go.

To wrap up, I don’t want to say that Zooom is bad or TwoUp/SizeUp is much better in all ways. I’m just expressing my appreciation for what I feel is clear, objective thinking and pricing. I think with the iPhone and the app store, there are a lot of people getting used to charging for, and paying for smaller yet useful utlities at lower prices. More might even buy just to try it. Just like you’d spend 75 cents on a video game just to pass the time. These are good tools and I’m glad they exist. See below for links for Mac and for a Windows alternative.

Irradiated Software, TwoUp
Irradiated Software, SizeUp
Zooom/2 by CodeRage
MaxTo for Windows (screen partitioner)

March 31, 2009 at 10:43 am | computers, tools, writing | 3 comments

I bought two laptops today

My wife doesn’t know this yet, and she’ll probably punch me, but I bought two laptops today. This purchase was based on a long-term, well-thought-out impulse buy. So what’s up? Well I’ll tell you and maybe you’ll buy two laptops as well. But you don’t have much time to get this kind of laptop. Oh and it’s a $400 direct hit on the wallet.
One Laptop per Child

Over a year ago, I heard about an initiative called the “One Laptop Per Child” (OLPC) project created by a guy named Negroponte. His mission was to create a way to help educate children in 3rd world countries. He decided he could create a communications and learning device to do this. But he knew he’d have major challenges bringing this to fruition. A device would have to be electronic, but work with all the problems that poorer regions have. His idea became a laptop that would overcome as many of these difficulties. It would be low power and have a means to self power, with a hand or foot crank. It would be shock resistant, easy to use and a very open platform. His initiative grew to an organization and is working with governments to see about getting as many of these into schools as possible.

People, myself included have said that these countries need water and basic necessities, not computers. Not true. In fact, that kind of thinking is very one sided. You see, there are thousands or more villages that have school houses, they have systems in place where kids learn. But they can be given a great resource. I’m a bit concerned that this initiative will make the machines vulnerable to theft. This could be true, but it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried.

The organization originally was only going to build the laptops and supply them in bulk. But they decided that the demand was so strong that it would be a great idea to allow western countries get them too. But with a limit. There is only a two-week window which the laptops can be bought. And the two that I bought, I only get one of them. The other is a donation to somebody. After reading about the laptop, it appears to be something I can use and may even solve a problem I’ve had lately with a project I’ll be releasing in the next couple months.

I like being as philathropic as I can, but I’m fairly selfish too. I’m of course writing off half of this purchase as a charitable donation. The other half will be written off under my company, as it’s a work related expense for special projects I’m doing. In particular as a communications device as well as the tablet stylus features I’ll need.

Some really cool features of this laptop:

There’s a lot more to it, and once there’s a hefty community here in the US, more things will be shared and configured among the techy and education crowd. Plus the world over using it will introduce more cool configurations and possibilities. If I can write articles from it in the car and on trips, it’s really valuable to me. It can also be a good platform to program learning games using flash for example. It might just be great to have in the living room to boot up and find out latest movie times.

If you want the best overview on this laptop, read David Pogue’s review in the New York Times and watch the embedded movie with the article.

This is a huge win of a purchase for me. I don’t know who’s going to get my 2nd laptop, but it’s an even bigger win for them. $400 is a lot of money and of course I won’t be eating for a few weeks. But how cool is it to contribute to a good cause, get a new gadget, change a few lives? It’s really cool damnit!

November 12, 2007 at 8:57 pm | computers, gadgets, learning, philosophy, tools | No comment

A little change of scenery, my new Macbook Pro

I’ve been wanting a new computer for quite some time. My desktop has started to look ancient. In fact, all desktops are starting to look ancient. I appreciate all the work I can accomplish with them. I really appreciate the modular flexibility with home built systems. That’s why I’ve built my own, and friends’ computers for a few years now. Recently though I’m starting to tire of the cabling, the fans, the startup times, the heavy box. It’s like when you’re still driving the big Buick even though the world has changed to smart cars all around you.

Computers are expensive. And I didn’t go the cheap route with my recent purchase of the Macbook Pro. I did get a great deal because I acted quickly on a Craigslist ad. I probably saved 500 bucks off the retail price. You might ask why I didn’t go with Windows? I’m not too happy with Microsoft Windows right now. Vista just came out and sure it looks nice, but there are something like six versions of Vista all at different prices. From the lame loser edition up to Ultimate Kitchen sink variety. And I started thinking about how silly it is to have to even have to ponder all those compromises. Even the networking difference between XP Home and Pro is annoying. Apple wins in the simplicity area. If you get a Mac, you get OS X. And you’re getting the eye candy and the functionality that everyone gets for the same price. Also Intel Macs can run Windows XP, they can run Linux on the computer. So I see

I want something easy, dependable and fun. I had a big prejudice against Macs before, and truthfully, some things are still disappointing. But mostly the problems with them have faded. I still like the way the window panes behave in Windows and Linux a little better. And more utility-type programs are available for them. But some things on the Mac are just better. The fonts look great, the screen is pretty, the industrial aluminum is sleek and I don’t tire of it like I thought I would. The built in webcam and microphone is a must have. What is it missing? Mostly just a built-in card reader for digital camera pics would be the only thing coming to mind right now.

You get some pretty cool software with it too. I’d argue you get more with the Mac than with Windows, but that’s probably not true. You do get some real gems. iWeb is a webpage authoring program. It’s very well done. What does Windows give you? Hmm, notepad…what fun. The Mac has an outstanding comic book making program called Comic Life. I’ve used a lot of software and I can tell you that Comic Life is one of the slickest apps around. For what it does it’s at the top of its game. An old coworker remarked of mine said Comic Life looks like the programmers didn’t have a deadline when they made it, because they seemed to put their heart and soul into it. Another killer program, GarageBand, a music and MIDI program is like that too. You really get a lot with them and they are built in. Yay!

Despite my history of complaints to the contrary, I was able to set up my Mac with a lot of free software utilities that I was very happy to find. I still have to decide what to do about the Adobe CS3 Suite. I want it but whoa, it’s pricey. I’ll have to see what my options are for the Mac before I buy the full Adobe suite.

I thought I might share a few free programs I’m using on the Mac.

NeoOffice – totally free Office Suite (Port of OpenOffice.org)
Max Audio Convertor – Free GPL software converts to tons of audio formats
Bean – A simple Word Processor
Xee – image viewer (lets you view whole folders of pictures)
Gimp – Image Manipulator (Like Photoshop but much more annoying)
Inkscape – Free Vector Graphic program for high quality drawings
SnapNDrag – useful little screen capture utility
Instant Shot – an even better screen capture utility
Colloquy – IRC Chat client (helps me when I need answers from pros)
Adium – Regular mainstream chat client
The Unarchiver – unzipping program
NicePlayer – uses QuickTime but cleans and speeds things up
VLC Media Player – Plays tons of media video formats
HandBrake – DVD ripping program
FFMPEGX – utility does video conversions
Black Light – Does this reversal of white to black on your monitor to conserve energy (might help eyes too)
Process Wizard – a boring yet useful tool to let you know what your system is doing
Flip4Mac – Lets you play WMV Windows media videos
SketchUp – Great little 3D modeler for creating your dream home
Burn – CD Burn utility with expanded options
Jumpcut – multi-copy clipboard program (good for writing, gathering clips)
Google Earth – awesome mapping program
MAMP – I call this the pocket webserver
Celtx – Free Screenwriting application
Smultron – useful tabbed text editor
Blender – My favorite 3D program
ArtRage 2 Free – awesome painting program, like real oil paint
Audacity – another audio editor for cutting up audio clips
Firefox – Please tell me you’ve heard of this web browser.
Freemind – mindmapping program for planning virtually anything
MuCommander – Great FTP client for sending files.
Filezilla – FTP program I use on windows, now available for Mac (Yes!)
Fugu – Another FTP client (compare if you wish)
Renamer4Mac – Batch renaming software (for naming your thousands of pics)
Window Dragon – finally a utility that lets you size window panes from all sides
uApp – an uninstaller helper program
Tofu – triple pane (3 column) text viewer

To end this, if you are buying your next computer, consider a Mac. Mac OSX is easy, it’s sharp and it’s cheaper. Macs overall are shedding their more expensive image of the past. Most people worry about relearning a computer if they are leaving Windows. That may be true, but you do have a lot less to worry about in terms of stability issues. Plus, viruses are almost non-existent.

March 1, 2007 at 4:55 am | computers, mac, tools, webdev | 2 comments

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