Software engineer. Hedonist. Vegetarian. Fiancé of the amazing Cass.

 

Dropbox

Dropbox syncs your files online and across your computers. I found it while looking for simpler version control for my thesis and loved it so much that I now use it for everything.

Its brilliance is that you can forget about it. I always have the same data on each of the computers I use, even my iPhone. The most complicated feature is selective sync (which allows for NSFW data to be kept out of the workplace) and it’s merely a checklist.

I would be happy if Dropbox only offered backups (they’re automated, redundant and regularly rotated off-site) but this app ridiculously over-delivers by changing the way I think about the internet. I thought the future lay in storage-less clients until I used SimplenoteDesktop power will inevitably drag information out of remote servers onto desktops.

The HTML 4 cloud exposes us to latency and connectivity and as such, like the URL, disappoints by being too technical. This may be solved with HTML 5, but the solution for today is transparent synchronisation, and today Dropbox does that better than anyone.

PlainText

All geeks have a todo.txt file. Those of us who haven’t yet found their purpose in life have a folder of these files.

Since I started using Dropbox I’ve been able to edit these files on any of the computers I use, but not on the web and not on my phone (which at the time was a horrible Nokia). I adore Dropbox, but eventually I got tired of taking notes in my phone’s calendar.

Later I fell into the idea that the smart people in my discipline were using Simplenote, so I migrated my files over. Unfortunately in doing so I broke two rules for computing happiness: I switched away from the plain text editor that I know well (TextPad), and used software that must sync over the internet to function.

The Simplenote web app is a bad text editor, and I imagine all cloud editors are the same (Google abandoned theirs). I want my work synchronised to the cloud but I don’t want to work there (see #18), and I don’t want to work with a reinvented wheel. I also felt like an idiot while waiting for my work to hopefully sync before I closed the page because the web app provides no indication of whether synchronisation has completed.

The Simplenote iPhone app is better, but it’s an eyesore, it renamed my tags and I regularly found myself using Notes instead simply because it was easier. Syncing Notes with Google Sync is terrible.

Then PlainText appeared, and I can edit my Dropbox folder of text files with my iPhone, and I’m ecstatic.

If I had seen the app before Tim’s ammendments I probably wouldn’t have used it, but now it’s beautiful. I like that files are sorted by name rather than by modification date by default, and I like watching grey text become black as it finishes synchronising. Dropbox synchronisation is optional, but perfect.

iTunes Media Organisation

I look forward to when file systems are hidden or superseded. Until then the best hope is automation. A good example is iTunes offering to name and file media based on metadata.

iTunes has grown to play multiple media while keeping both an outdated name and directory structure. The latter can be fixed easily (File ⇒ Library ⇒ Organise Library).

I was late to the Apple party (my first iTunes was version 10). Late enough that I avoided most problems, but this setting should be enabled by default.

(Source: minimalmac.com)