Stuff I couldn't do without in 2011
In a concession to both modern grammatical usage (call me old-fashioned, but I’m not a fan of ending my sentence with prepositions1) and current trends, I published a post a year ago, listing stuff I couldn’t live without in 2010, promising that I’d update it if I were still around in 2011.
As a year has gone by, it seems appropriate to share my latest thoughts on the matter. One is immediately struck, of course, on reading this list, by the dichotomy between my real-world environment and my online one: lasting values make up the former, with nothing changed since 2010, trends and frivolity the latter. So let’s look at them in reverse order.
- iPhone 4
- This has obviously now taken the place of the venerable iPhone 3GS. I’m using it with all the coolest apps. Seriously, I’d die if I had to use any other phone.
- MacBook Air
- This was probably the acquisition that most changed my life in 2010. I hardly use my iPad for anything now, as this fits in even the smallest briefcase and weighs nothing at all.
- Sparrow Mail
- This is in my view the best Mac application ever designed. I never thought anything could tempt me away from Apple Mail, but this tiny little Gmail client has changed my life.
- A much better search engine than Google. Beautiful minimal design. Anonymous browsing. More relevant search results.
- Google Apps Premier and
- Nothing new here. I’m using Google Apps as my email server and switched to also using it as my calendar. I’m waiting for Google to get their act together2 before I switch my contacts too and ditch Apple’s overpriced and underwhelming3 MobileMe for ever.
- I have a 100GB account with them on which I keep all my files including over 60GB of music. I can access all this data from anywhere.
- I stopped using Shaun Inman’s Fever which wasn’t being updated and now use Silvio Rizzi’s Reeder to read all my RSS feeds on Mac, iPad and iPhone. Pretty much the only thing I use the iPad for.
- Still the best text editor by far and stunningly minimalist. I still wish they added proper support for Markdown, but I’ve found a workaround for that.
- Let’s get over it: TextMate is effectively abandonware, so I now use Coda, combined with CSSEdit, for all my coding requirements.
- I just wish they had iPad and iPhone editions. The best way to write and manage blog posts, period.
- Friends laugh at my obsession with secure passwords, but experience shows it can be a good idea to take this issue seriously. 1Password is a carefully-maintained application which its developers have enormously improved in the past year. It syncs with Dropbox over the Mac, iPad and iPhone.
- Simply the best note-taking solution. I keep everything in it—scans of my snail mail, and, despite a very ugly interface and a rather steep learning curve, once you master it turns out to be a powerful and flexible tool.
- Version 3 is so good it just doesn’t make sense to use anything else for hosting a regularly-updated website.
- Amazon Cloudfront
- This powerful and amazingly cheap CDN serves all my non-gzippable4 files to readers of my website from its ever-expanding range of locations worldwide.
- I’m still there. Just. I hate the privacy intrusions, but it’s a good way of keeping in touch with my friends. I’m increasingly using my Facebook page, too.
- The inane people at Yahoo that own this magnificent site and have done nothing with it since they acquired it make me nervous. But it’s still the best place to keep your photos in my opinion. Just in case, I now backup my Flickr stuff using Backupify to avoid all my photos being accidentally deleted because of Yahoo’s crass incompetence.
- This obviously becomes more and more indispensable as time goes by and people learn to use it.
- Le bon usage
- I sometimes need this when I’m hesitating between two subtle French grammatical rules.
- Boring, but useful. Still, I sometimes wish it offered more than just links, and also that it had less downtime. Made much better by Brett Terpstra’s Instapaper Beyond extension for Safari.
Remember The Milk
- For Getting Things Done, I’ve replaced Remember The Milk, which has been going nowhere and has neither a Mac desktop nor an iPad client, with the expensive, rather ugly but powerful suite of Omnifocus clients for Mac, iPad and iPhone.
Not much change here. I like keeping stuff for as long as possible, and I don’t switch my custom lightly. In the real world, one year is the equivalent of one hundred on the Internet.
- I’m not enamoured of the vulgar, nouveau-riche people that now haunt this store and the ghastly, pink or lime-green crocodile goods that it is now supplying to cater for them. But my weather-beaten, black leather wallet and belts are looking better every year, and it’s still the only place I’d imagine myself ever buying a tie.
- American Apparel
- Just because it’s badly managed doesn’t mean it doesn’t make the best-ever stuff. I actually like the fact that, unlike supposedly upmarket French stores, they don’t make money off my back and stick up for the underdog in downtown LA.
- Thresher & Glenny
- Nice to know they’re still there, and that I get instantly recognised if I walk in, even if it’s after three years’ absence.
- New & Lingwood
- Not only the best cut in Jermyn Street—and hence the world—but also the best service: they sent me a box of studs I urgently needed last summer and I was able to wear the right shirt with my dinner jacket despite the originals being in a container between South Africa and Europe.
- I find a pair of these lasts about two years. The first three months are the worst, because they look embarrassingly new. I hate new stuff.
- French workmanship at its most understated best.
Unlike Churchill: the story that he rejected the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition originated, according to the alt.usage.english.FAQ with an anecdote in Sir Ernest Gowers’ Plain Words (1948). Supposedly an editor had clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, and the Prime Minister, very proud of his style, scribbled this note in reply: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.” The American Heritage Book of English Usage agrees. ↩︎
See the reasons why Google Contacts sucks: basically, Google thinks Christian name, middle name and surname fields can all be bunched together, which just doesn’t work. It’s stupid, but they’re a stubborn bunch, are pointedly ignoring the complaints and are unlikely to fix it anytime soon. ↩︎
Unless they eventually provide a proper cloud experience, but I’m tiring of waiting for them to realise the importance of this. ↩︎