good shit: techy stuff i love

So I’m kind of anal retentive, you know? (Yes, yes you do.) And you’ve got to know by now that I have a deeply, deeply obsessive personality, yeah? (Of course you do.) and that I like techy things and gadget-y stuff? Okay, well, that all culminates pretty intensely on my computer and phone and, since I use lots of little things that make my life easier and am also driven to tweak how things look like a crazed monster, I thought I’d like, you know, share some of those things and tweaks.

So my desktop pretty much always looks something like this:

And right now it looks just like this except without all the writing and arrows showing you what’s what:

[click to embiggen]
So let’s start with Adium which I have been using as my chat client since I got my first Mac as a college graduation gift in July of 2007. It integrates pretty much every chat client* you could possibly want to use into a single interface so you don’t have to have a million things open and it does it while being extremely customizable.

I use Decay 2.0 which is an included theme and layout and just tweak it obsessively until I like the way it looks, including changing the font to Helvetica Neue to match the message style I use. I use the Minimal set of service icons, White Chat Bubbles status icons, and Flat Bubbles 2.0 for my dock icons. I don’t keep a menu bar icon active because i don’t like doubling up in my dock and menu bar. Redundancy is ugly! I’m c r a z e d about this.

My message style is Pretty Simple used pretty much as is. I set my background to gray and made it nicely transparent. There is also a nice matchy Pretty Simple contact layout and, though I like the font, the layout doesn’t work for me because I keep my list pretty narrow and it cannot display statuses below their contacts. I prefer Decay 2.0 solely for this reason and just changed the font to match my messages. I told you, I’m super intense.

My favorite tool by far is TinyAlarm which I’ve been using for approximately 1,000 years. It’s a little menu bar timer that lets you set alarms super quick. It’s tiny and effortless and I use it pretty much daily. I mostly set timers to remind myself to do things — usually to go upstairs and cook dinner or check a load of laundry, stuff like that — because I am unbelievably terrible at knowing what time it is and remembering that I have to do things. I also used to do it to set productivity windows but I’ve recently moved on to the next item on the list for that.

While writing this I realized I hadn’t updated the app in forever and when I did, it was new and ugly and also shareware that costs $7 after thirty days. I hate the new menu and was irritated with the whole thing in about a minute, so I downgraded via my Time Machine backup and am much happier again. Since it was free for such a long time and is no longer the same app, I’ve uploaded the old version so you can have it too.

My next favorite thing is Eggscellent which is a productivity app based on the Pomodoro Technique. I use thirty minute chunks and five minute short breaks and I love how easy the app makes it. Plus I can throw a bunch of things on my list and have them waiting when I’m finally ready to get to them. I’m still figuring out the right settings for everything and I wish the visual timer were more customizable — I’d like it to be significantly smaller and preferably square and definitely sleeker (Is that nest and egg situation really necessary?) or I’d like the internal/external distractions to be clickable in the drop down from the menu bar so that I could close out the visual timer entirely — but even with my complaints, I’ve already used it every single day since I installed it.

When I discovered If This Then That through Flickr last week I had one of those rare moments where my eyes went really wide and my mouth dropped open and I went, “Oh my god, how did I not know about this already?!”

Basically, IFTTT lets you create recipes for actions on the internet. I use mine to automatically upload Instagrams to my Tumblr and Flickr and also to automatically share new posts I make on all the various social media accounts I have. I am really, really bad at self-promotion and terrible at remembering to crosspost, so those recipes are incredibly useful to me.

I also have to throw out a recommendation for freethephotos which is a migration tool to get all of your Instagram pictures into your Flickr account. I tried Flickstagram with almost no success (It lagged like crazy and stalled halfway through and also added a bunch of unnecessary tags to my pictures.) and so I tried freethephotos instead and it was super simple, fast, and didn’t lag or over-tag. And since I set up an IFTTT recipe to do it automatically after I Instagram something, I don’t have to worry about using it again.

My phone is also, obviously, important to me too, but I am much less likely to use really useful things on it since I do most of my being productive stuff while at my desk. Most of my phone apps are for photography, including my most recent download InstaPlace. Because I live in the middle of nowhere, this is not yet all that useful to me, but I have a feeling that when my gf and I take a road trip later this year, it will be. It’s a fun one to play with anyway.

My last two recommendations are Hippo Remote Lite and Sleep Cycle. I’ve been using Sleep Cycle for a long time — on and off since I got my first iPhone in 2009 — and for the last 99 consecutive nights. I don’t know that the data it accumulates has any real value — most of the nights I wake up feeling the worst, the app tells me I’ve had a 90% or higher night of sleep — but the gentle alarm is great. Hippo Remote Lite, on the other hand, is very new to me and has already been super, super useful. The last three Monday nights we’ve had storms that interfered with our satellite and interrupted our recordings of Teen Wolf and we’ve had to resort to watching on the MTV website. My computer is pretty big, but we have an Apple TV and would much rather use AirPlay to watch it on our tv, so we do, but using the mouse from a distance is kind of weird and almost impossible depending on where we sit with it. Hippo Remote Lite solves that by letting me use my phone as a mouse right in front of the tv. Magical.

Now go forth and anal retentively organize, tweak, and time. You deserve it.

*: I know that it doesn’t integrate Skype (Although there is a plugin that will make Skype work with it) which is the chat client du jour but I won’t use Skype as a chat client because Microsoft has made it effortless to wiretap you with it. I only use Skype for vidchat when absolutely necessary.