Essential software

Microsoft software is just wrong. I do without, pain-less-ly. But here’s what I must have:

  • Linux: I’ve been using it for years, and now have Fedora Core 4 on a few machines. Stable, secure, and quick. To hell with Bill and his overpriced crapware.
  • Palm OS: Simple, elegant, smart. My Handspring Visor has been great. Best $250 I ever spent on hardware: Visor + Targus Mobile Keyboard does all I want to do mobile-wise. I love that my Palm will remember my place in notes or on my calendar, even for weeks (like over Christmas break). With the Palm Desktop or Gnome-Pilot, I can do hardcore scheduling quickly.
  • OpenOffice: on Linux or Windows, way better than MS Office, and nobody knows they’re trading documents with a non-Microsoft user. The style sheet implementation in OO Writer is sweet, and I love the PDF button. I’m just starting to knock my head against the XML business OO is built on, and it’s amazingly cool.
  • Firefox: Like Linux, it’s faster, more secure, and better than alternatives. Spiffy logo, too. How did I ever not used tabbed browsing? Add the Web Developer Extension, Sage, Fasterfox (make sure prefetching is turned off), and it gets even better.
  • Thunderbird: IMAP all the way. It’s easy to move messages between accounts or from the server to my Linux box (when it’s time to make archives). Pretty good spam stuff (though SpamAssassin does the heavy lifting; see below). Smart security, too.
  • Perl: the Swiss Army Chainsaw. When I have text to mangle, and I often do, ain’t nothin’ better.
  • del.icio.us: Never lose another bookmark again.
  • iTunes: Erin and I are moving our CDs off the shelf and onto the computer. Pow, less clutter, searchable, and mobile (with the iPod and iTrip).
  • iPhoto: dang, digital photography makes for a LOT more photos. iTunes helps. I just wish our version had tags (we’ll own up soon).
  • Bash: though I was weaned on tcsh, I’ve grown to like bash as well. Really, as long as I get some modern command line, I’m happy; stupid unix tricks with perl, sort, and uniq amuse me to no end. And quite often, they get things done.
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements: the interface for CS sucks. I can’t use it. Look, I don’t want my image manipulation program to read my email, m’kay? I just want to tweak the image a bit. I’ve tried the Gimp and I do use it, but I’ve been using Photoshop so long it’s hard for me to break my photomanip keystroke and click habits. Someday, I’ll own up. (N. B. Adobe has different sites for Mac OS and Windows versions of this program. Huh? I picked the older (read: less bloated) one.)
  • WordPress: I haven’t been doing this weblog thing for very long, but I’m very pleased with WordPress; its modular design works very well (go go Spam Karma 2!) and it’s been stable for me so far.
  • Emacs: Yeah yeah, escape meta alt command shift, I know. But I’ve been using it too long to think of anything else, and when I started, using ‘emacs -nw‘ over telnet was way better than downloading and uploading files. I love that TextEdit and some other programs silently do Emacs keystrokes. Add tramp and remote editing is even slicker. As above, someday I’ll probably look elsewhere, but it fits now.
  • Procmail and SpamAssassin: death to UCE! Or at least /dev/null.
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18 Responses to Essential software

  1. Erich says:

    Um, NEERRRDDD!!!!

  2. Erich says:

    Although really, how is OpenOffice any better than Word, from a user’s perspective? I understand the political arguments, and the benefits of using an XML-based file format. In day-to-day use, though, I find OpenOffice to be about as annoying to use as Word. It automatically screws up formatting in numbered lists, for example, and like Word automagically formats stuff in ways that I would prefer it didn’t. I find myself still using Framemaker in Wine (well, Crossover Office) because I just can’t get styles to work correctly in OOo. I, for one, would like to either see Adobe release a version of Frame for Linux, or for someone to develop an open source clone.

  3. jeff says:

    Emacs. Ha ha. NWE flashback. Why not Pico!

  4. cbd says:

    I hate the automatic crap. I turn all that off.

    OOo does images, references, and tables of contents much better than Word. And I haven’t had a problem with styles; in fact, the templating system works a lot better, IMO, as opposed to the invisible “Normal.dot” disaster. Also, styles seem to cascade better in OOo than in Word.

    About the only thing I use Word for these days is Title Case conversions.

    Gawd, pico. I bet Ulmer is still using it.

  5. Jonathan says:

    For academic writing, do you really need Framemaker? Only someone using math or a nerd masochist (*ahem*–looks around) would use anything other than a wordprocessor for an article or even dissertation.

  6. cbd says:

    I don’t miss that much about LaTeX, but I do miss being able to grep my academic texts meaningfully. Yeah, you can do something like:

    find ~/academics -name *.odt -exec "unzip -c {} content.xml | grep string" \;

    but the reduced usefulness of that sort of stupid unix trick is readily apparent after a few moments.

  7. jeff says:

    “I don’t miss that much about LaTeX, but I do miss being able to grep my academic texts meaningfully. Yeah, you can do something like:

    find ~/academics -name *.odt -exec “unzip -c {} content.xml | grep string” \; ”

    Uh. I do “FIND”

    Sweet sweet Mac.

  8. cbd says:

    Spotlight doesn’t fix that problem, but Loook does. Why I didn’t Google for something like this before, I’ll never know.

  9. Erich says:

    Jonathan, you’re probably right that Framemaker is overkill in most situations, but I find that Frame is the only reasonably user-friendly application that applies paragraph and character styles in a non-intrusive way, and that allows me to focus on content, while knowing that the app won’t fsck up my formatting. I’m not nerdly enough to use LaTeX or to write in XML, although both those solutions seem acceptable too. Maybe Bradley’s right, and OOo can be configured to stay the hell out of the way. I hope so.

  10. Erich says:

    And another thing…I don’t approve of this pico-bashing. I still use Pico pretty much every day on the University’s AIX server, and I use nano at home in both Linux and Windows. It gets the job done.

  11. cbd says:

    Overkill is a God-given right. If you want to use Frame to make text files, go for it. Lots of folks use their mobile phones to tell the time. Why not?

    But why in hale does UVa use AIX? What a piece of crap. I’m happy to say I have not been exposed to that monstrosity since August 2001, when I watched Allan West shut down the NWE 1.1 servers for the last time.

  12. Clancy says:

    This is only marginally related, but you know how some people will refer to someone’s web site in a blog post but then type “(sorry, I’m way too lazy to link it)”? But they’re not too lazy to type out the testimonial that they’re too lazy to link to the site? It irritates me. If you’re too lazy to link, fine, but let it ride, you know?

    To me, it’s a lot easier and faster to go ahead and do the link. But whatever. It makes me think of doing html code vs. using Dreamweaver, NVU, etc. To me it’s a lot easier to just do the code than to learn some tool that does the code for you. I guess it’s a matter of what you learn first, right? I learned html before I was ever exposed to an html editor. You’ve probably addressed this matter in some way in your research, Bradley, right?

  13. Clancy says:

    Ack, pretend the double “right?” in that comment isn’t there. I’m going to create an account right this minute so I can edit future comments.

  14. Erich says:

    Bradley aks, “But why in hale does UVa use AIX?” Good question. Here’s their FAQ. The cluster runs on IBM RS6000 hardware. It would certainly make my life easier if they were to run Linux (which IBM supports on this hardware). The differences between the GNU toolset and the non-GNU stuff is just significant enough to really be a pain.

  15. cbd says:

    Installing the GNU toolkit on AIX would make it less painful. Although I could probably put up with AIX if there were sysadmins around 24/7 to kill spinning processes, etc.

    BTW, for those of you who’ve made accounts, I’ll be tweaking the config so you can edit more stuff. I plan more tweaking when I go up to WP 2.0 later this semester.

  16. Clancy says:

    (Sample comment to see if I can edit my comments)

  17. Someone else below asked this already about antispam scripts.
    I am getting nailed with Spam on my website mails and in our blog website – now its offline too

    much spam. Is there anyway to stop this? If not, there really isn’t any point in leaving it up

    and active. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for help, Keep up the good work. Greetings from Poland

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