Tools I Use

I work with computers for a living. Here are some of the tools that I use all the time:

Macbook Pro: I’ve used a Macbook Pro as my primary workstation since they were introduced, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve had one significant hardware issue in all that time, and Apple fixed it for me at no charge. As JWZ says: I don’t buy computers based on how fast they are, I buy them based on how easy it is to get things done with them, and Apple is the hands-down winner on this pretty much across the board. OS X is not Linux and it is not Windows. If you really want to run Linux or Windows, I advise you to run the OS you actually want to be using.

That said, OS X appears to be devolving into an OS designed primarily for use on a phone with a sidebar of workstation features. If that slide continues, I’ll probably jump back to Linux. And cry, because Linux productivity software still really sucks.

Postbox is a commercial email reader. Given that reading mail is one of the first use cases of the internet I would have expected a good, free solution to be out there. No, Pine does not cut it. Postbox is commercial software, but so worth it. I don’t even use 75% of the features (integration with social media, RSS aggregation, etc). All I want out of a mail reader is “many IMAP accounts with really good sorting functionality and not too crashy.” Apple‘s used to be a pretty solid piece of code, but I gave up on it as of about 2010.

Chrome: Web browsers are sort of a sore point for me because so many websites are designed to fail. At this point the cardinal sin in a web browser is blocking me or stalling my computer. When I want google, I want it NOW NOW NOW so I can get a fact without hitting a context switch in my brain. Chrome is fast and not very crashy. When it fails to render some particular site, I don’t struggle, I just pop open another browser. In order of “likelihood to work,” I go: Firefox, Opera, and finally Safari. The obvious exception is when I’m looking at Apple’s movie trailer site, which only works in Safari.

Microsoft Office 2011: I do not use productivity software as a political statement. I do not use document editors merely to write things that only I will read (that’s what VI is for). In terms of getting by in the workplace of 2012, I cannot sacrifice a couple of minutes fighting with my word processor every time I try to add comments to a document that somebody else wrote.

OmniGraffle: For making pictures. So very much superior to PowerPoint. Then I dump the pictures into PowerPoint.

Google Docs: The above notwithstanding, Google Docs got it exactly right in terms of collaborative editing. I run a small consulting group based on a few google spreadsheets.

Google Reader: Great RSS aggregator. I think Postbox does this too – but all my links are in Google already.

Fax Zero: Sometimes you’re dealing with someone whose business process is stuck in 1996 and who needs a FAX sent to them. You cannot argue them out of this fact. In those cases, I print to PDF and send them a FAX.

OneBox: A great little company who provide an “800” number that I can point to whatever actual phone I want, a voice-to-text-to-email service, good conference calling, and so on. If you send a FAX to my onebox number, It shows up as a PDF in my email – as God intended.

Adium: Apple finally broke iChat beyond redemption, so I switched to Adium. I have the feeling that it’s broken at some level, but I don’t care enough to dig into it. Of course, I also use Skype because everybody else does.

Amazon’s Cloud: I finally moved this blog over to Amazon’s cloud servers. Next step, turn off the server in the basement and cancel the IP address that I’ve been paying for.

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