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I've recently had cause to refresh everything installed onto my Macbook Pro, which got me thinking about the applications I love and use the most. The first five apps I immediately download and install onto any computer I have to work on are:

  • Jumpcut is a super minimalist clipboard buffering application that I've been using since 2003. It's easily my favorite application of all time, as it's saved my ass multiple times a day every day since I first installed it. You should get it!
  • Alfred lets you easily launch applications and search your computer or the web for anything. I used to use Quicksilver for this, but I've found that Alfred does the trick quicker and better.
  • Chrome is Google's browser, which I use because it loads pages faster than any other browser, lets you search in the address bar, and perhaps most importantly for my needs, it can handle having a gazillion tabs open in multiple windows at the same time for months at a time without constantly crashing on me like both Safari and Firefox are prone to doing.
  • Postbox Express is my favorite mail client [1], which says a lot since I've been dissatisfied by every single OS X option available to me since I left Windows—and Pegasus Mail!—behind over a decade ago. I use privately-hosted IMAP for my primary email (instead of Gmail like most people do) partly because I'm paranoid and don't want my entire life living on Google's servers, and partly because I find myself far more productive with a desktop email interface. It just does everything I want it to do.
  • Meteorologist lives in the menu bar and keeps you updated on current and future weather; it balances having a stripped-down view and being fully-featured better than all of the other current menu bar weather applications [2]. I walk a LOT, and like being appropriately dressed for whatever temperature it is outside, so this app is key for me!
  • Fraise is a super simple text editor. Everyone needs one, even if you don't work with many text files and so don't think you do, and this is the one I like best. [3]

A few other applications I use and love: the Last.fm scrobbler, for tracking the music I've been listening to over the past few years; Flickr Uploadr, for when I have a huge bunch of photos to upload to Flickr; VLC, the best media player for OS X; Transmission, the best torrent client; Paparazzi, for taking screenshots of webpages; Dock Dodger, for disabling dock icons of apps that are assholes about not letting you choose to keep them in the menu bar; Dockdrop lets you drop files onto its icon and immediately uploads them via ftp/webdav/Flickr; and everyone's favorite, Dropbox, for syncing shared folders to the cloud. What apps do you recommend?

[1] I'm sure Postbox 3 is fantastic, and I'd be more than happy to pay for an upgrade to it in the future if I need to, but Postbox Express currently meets all my needs.

[2] I switched to Meteorologist after WeatherDock 2, which I loved, stopped working, and might eventually switch to WeatherDock 3 when it eventually comes out if it's like the previous version.

[3] Fraise is based on version two of Smultron, before the latter's developer first stopped developing it and disappeared, and then reappeared, closed source, and started selling it. I might consider switching to Smultron 4 once I upgrade to Lion.

January 22, 2012 4:42 PM comments (4)

This video demonstrating the stability of a brown owl's head is seriously the best thing:

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go stand in front of my bathroom mirror and pretend to be a brown owl for the next half hour. TTYL!

November 2, 2011 1:17 PM comments (0)

I spend less than 20 minutes a month on the phone, and those minutes are usually spent doing either of two things: 1) ordering food, or 2) trying to get directions to find someone at a pre-arranged meeting place. I hate talking on the phone for pretty much anything that can be done more efficiently through sms or email, and I really resent most people who call me when I'm not expecting their call and it's not an emergency. So obviously it's not a surprise why this recent comment by villanelles at dawn on Ask Metafilter explaining why phone calls suck really resonated with me:

Because phone calls are incredibly presumptuous! You're basically inviting yourself unannounced into their home or wherever they may be at the moment. If phones had been invented after email they'd be regarded as the greatest social crime imagineable. Phones are useful for many things but I don't think you're crazy for preferring email for catching up with someone, it's an excellent way to communicate a large amount of information. Email (or a text) says "Here is what I have to say, consider it and respond when you can," a phone call says "TALK TO ME NOW, TALK TO ME NOW. I AM IN YOUR HOUSE TALK TO ME NOW" Not everyone thinks this way though so you're going to get some friction, but that doesn't mean you're wrong.

Related hateful things: people that leave me voicemail even though my voicemail message says I never ever listen to my voicemail so please text or email me instead; people that call you multiple times when you don't or can't pick up instead of just texting or email to let you know why they're calling and why you should return their call; people that make long phone calls on public transportation; people that make any phone calls in restaurants.

October 25, 2011 2:28 PM comments (0)

I mentioned in my last post that Movable Type doesn't have pagination built in, which is only slightly untrue—someone at Six Apart did actually put together a guide to enabling pagination for version 4.3 onwards, except that a) it's a pain in the ass to get working, and b) what it's actually doing isn't pagination-as-you-expect, but using search scripts to do the job. What? No. And again, it's unacceptable that pagination doesn't just work out of the box, since it's a feature everyone now considers basic.

Anyway, I wanted pagination for my front page here and in my archives (which will be up at some point), so I spent a few minutes yesterday getting Alden Bates' Paged Archives 1.4 plugin working on my 5.1 install. The only thing I really had to do to get it work the way I wanted was have it spit out the page numbers/links within <li>, so I could style them within an unordered list. All I had to do for that was replace lines 230-231 of pagedarchives.pl with:

$pagelist.=$spacer.'<li><a href="'.$filename.'">'.$pagetext.'</a></li>' if($ii != $pagenum);
$pagelist.=$spacer.'<li class="pagination-current">'.$pagetext.'</li>' if($ii == $pagenum);
October 17, 2011 1:49 PM comments (0)

Last week was the tenth birthday of Movable Type, the content management system that powers this blog. I'm currently on version 5, and have used every single available version over the last nine years—my license key is so old that it predates Six Apart's hiring of Employee #1, a.k.a. Anil.

All this time later, Movable Type is still solid in many ways [1], but looking back at its history is basically one object lesson after another in what not to do [2] when creating something you actually want people to use. For instance, it's both tragic and hilarious that years after both Blogger and Wordpress started paying professionals to design gorgeous themes, Movable Type was and is still stuck with hideous default themes. It's celebrating its diamond anniversary and the goddamn thing still doesn't have pagination built in—a feature people now expect as standard behavior, that Wordpress & Blogger made default years ago, and that Tumblr has had since launch. I wonder how many people switched away from or never chose it because of the lack of pagination, which is killer for upping page views. Oh, and it still doesn't have a native mobile version of either frontend or backend. What?

It's weird that I feel weird about the fact that I still really like using Movable Type to build client sites, right? But it still works really well, and still meets my needs more often than any of its competitors. I wonder if anyone's as sad as I am that when I publish this post, I'm going to get an error back that says

Ping 'http://www.movabletype.org/update/' failed: HTTP error: 302 Found

[1] Seriously, I can't think of a high traffic site running MT that's ever gone down because of it. Can you? Daring Fireball routinely kills other people's servers—usually running Wordpress—with a single link, but has never crashed that I can remember.

[2] Written by Movable Type's former Project Manager, this had me wincing multiple times.

October 16, 2011 11:09 PM comments (2)

I can't believe it's been over two years. I miss Jarvis. I'm still upset he had the nerve to up and die on me; in my heart, I really expected the two of us to grow old together. Sounds silly, but it's true.


I don't think I've said this in public before but I'm beyond grateful for all of Jarv's friends, who followed his adventures over the years on Flickr, and I'm so glad so many of them got to meet him in real life—I wish they'd all had the chance to. When my heart was breaking, it helped immensely to get all your notes and know that he'd made other people's days cheerier too, that I wasn't the only one missing him terribly; it still does. Thank you all so much for letting a small fat dog into your lives, and for sharing your love for him with me.

October 7, 2011 11:33 PM comments (0)

Batman's always been my favorite superhero, which is a little weird if you think about it. Batman's not a superhero in the way we generally understand superheroes to be—he doesn't have any powers, he's just a dude with very obsessive tendencies who happens to also be incredibly smart, a terrifying fighter, and rich enough to make whatever he wants a reality. One of the most important things that makes Batman the most dangerous human in the DC Universe is that he constantly invests his money into R&D, making all kinds of devices, both big and small, to fit his needs: from the Batmobile, to armored suits fit for any environment, to his Batcave computer that does everything you can think of and then some. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, it was the latter I was always most jealous of, but computers then were large, expensive things, and there just wasn't software available to me at the time to do most of the things I really wanted to do, other than write papers for school. Only Batman really got to have one.

It was nearly unimaginable then but today, some sixteen years after buying my first just-for-me computer, I have a device in the palm of my hand that lets me read books on the subway, watch tv shows in bed under the sheets, insert kittens into photos to make my friends laugh, and most importantly to me, instantly communicate with people I care about all over the world. Every day, I am Batman, and so are you, and none of us will ever be able to count the thousands of ways in which Steve Jobs was responsible for making our lives so much richer. Thanks, Steve. I miss you so much already.

October 6, 2011 2:03 PM comments (0)

The Straight Man’s Guide to Getting Hit on by Gays: "1. This will probably never happen to you anyway, so stop being paranoid. Gays mostly stick to their own, and besides, you’re probably not attractive enough to get past our raptor-like imperfection detectors. The reason we’re looking at you like that is because we’re judging you, not lusting."

August 28, 2008 12:07 PM comments (1)

Josh Koenigsburg vets potential girlfriends by making them burritos:

"This is not really an elegant dish," he said of his burritos as he added jalapeños, with seeds, to the pan. "Some girls feel weird about getting sauce on their faces; it’s too intense for them. On the first few dates this is the test for me. If they like the dish, I’m smitten. If not, I know it’s not going to work. There’s no girl I could care for who would be immune to it."

Love that last part, it's sweet and probably a fairly accurate test. I like guys who are adventurous eaters with good appetites, but I think my dealbreaker is seeing how they treat my dog; they don't need to pick him up and fuss over him when they meet him, but if they can't at least say hi and pat his little head...

August 28, 2008 11:36 AM comments (0)

The amazing Brandon Bird, Painter of Might* finally has a blog, hurrah hurrah. And he's created yet another painting I love and require on my walls: Pax Cybertronia. Everything is better with Jack McCoy.

August 28, 2008 10:58 AM comments (0)