Using the web, awesomely.

Technology. Always on. Photo credit: http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/

Most of my working day and quite a lot of my personal time is spent connected to the Internet in some form or other. Sad? Possibly. A sign of the times? More likely.

The online tools and content my laptop gives me access to have resulted in it becoming my go-to hub for work and play. (Something my friend Ollie and I discussed in a recent podcast episode)

Through my own constant discovery and regular advice from others, I’ve come across a few tools that really make my life a lot easier and help maximise my effective (and efficient) ‘online’ time. Here’s are a list of some of these tools:

  • Basecamp – online project management without the frills, beautifully simple
  • LastPass – takes care of generating/remembering passwords with easy to use browser plug-ins
  • XMarks – free cross-browser bookmark manager
  • Spotify – a great way to listen, share and manage your own music collection
  • Cloudflare – distributed DNS to accelerate your web site
  • Tumblr – very easy blogging platform for text/photos/videos etc
  • Skype – instant message/call people, computer to computer, for free.
  • Dropbox – cloud file storage that makes cross platform file sharing/backup painless

By the time I hit ‘publish’ on this post there will already be hundreds (at least) more useful applications that could help me out, most of which I won’t even know about.

Such is the proliferation and pace of technological development, the real skill in this day and age is to quickly evaluate if something that you find/hear about is really going to be of value to you before you register/buy it and start using it.

Equally, it might be the case that something has the potential to be useful to you but the timing is not quite right (it needs another feature, not enough people are using it yet etc). In which case, you either jump right in (like Phil Campbell would) or keep it on your radar.

What about you, any ‘killer applications’ you can’t leave without? Feel free to share.

Applications getting it right

Spotify, cross platform music service

I’m all for decent cross platform applications that make my life easier. Dropbox is the perfect example. Since getting a Macbook back in March and splitting my computing life between Windows (for .NET development at work) and Mac, I’ve been eager to find decent cross platform apps I can use, step forward Spotify.

The cross platform streaming music service has blow up in popularity and it’s not hard to see why. Built around an advertising model, Spotify has built a lightning fast desktop application that allows me to access all my music on Windows and Mac, seamlessly. It’s a service I don’t mind paying for either. I can keep all my own music in Spotify, buy tracks and share music quickly (drag and drop) with Facebook friends that have enabled Spotify social. I’m not a great lover of iTunes and as Winamp isn’t available on Mac, Spotify serves my needs as a music player whilst also giving me access to a wide variety of tracks, anytime I’m online, just by searching.

Spotify are on to a real winner with Facebook integration. It’s easy to see your friends top tracks, playlists and share songs. It all works really smoothly as well. It begs the question is Spotify the modern distribution channel the music industry has been seeking?

I’ll also mention Bootcamp, from Apple, a Mac OS X utility that allows the installation of Windows on a Mac(book). I recently set up my Macbook to dual boot with Windows Server 2008 R2 so I can work remotely on OuterArc’s .NET codebase. Bootcamp made the install very simple and the latest version (3.1) means I can use all my Macbook features (built in wi-fi, iSight camera, sound card, function keys etc) out of the box in Windows. It actually improves the Windows experience as everything works straight away and I can use the play, previous and next hotkeys with Spotify. Beautiful.