10 years, 10 posts

Well, it’s been 10 years since Ron Conery (@robconery) inspired me to start a blog, and I’m disappointed to say I haven’t been posting, on average, more than once per year. The day job has kept me quite busy, and happy that things are progressing! My hobbies, meanwhile, have tended to be non-computer-oriented – brewing beer, learning accordion, dabbling in political activism. But hey, 10 posts is not nothing, right? Right? Thinking about a new side-project, so we’ll see if that changes. Onward and upward!

New theme

Spent a few minutes updating my old WP theme to something a little more with the times. I chose Ecto, as it seemed clean and worked well with multiple form factors.¬†Hope to post more often this year, so stay tuned. ūüôā


Up until now, there hasn’t been a simple tool for installing and maintaining all of your desktop software for Windows. Linux people have apt-get (and others), Mac users have¬†Homebrew, but Windows users have been more or less left in the lurch….until now.¬†Just discovered my new favorite tool – Chocolatey. Never before have I seen software (for Windows, at least) that makes getting a new computer populated with software so darn easy. I’ve blogged before about Ninite, which is great. But, it’s far from comprehensive – I’m still left with a long list of things to install manually. With Chocolatey, it’s simple:

1) From your command prompt (Win key -> type “cmd.exe” –> hit Enter), paste (with right-mouse button) thetext on the chocolatey.org website home page (“@powershell … “)

2) Close cmd. exe, start it up again, and install whatever you want (there’s a searchable list here). E.g.:

cinst GoogleChrome

It helps if you start cmd.exe in an elevated prompt, to skip some of the admin elevations that happen throughout the installs. Here’s my current setup (paste the whole thing into cmd.exe, or save it as a .bat file and run it:

cinst MicrosoftSecurityEssentials
cinst git.install
cinst 7zip.install
cinst GoogleChrome
cinst javaruntime
cinst SublimeText3
cinst adobereader
cinst paint.net
cinst skype
cinst dropbox
cinst resharper
cinst gitextensions
cinst VirtualCloneDrive
cinst CutePDF
cinst tortoisehg
cinst dotPeek
cinst Quicktime
cinst teamviewer
cinst imgburn
cinst 1password
cinst dependencywalker
cinst vcredist2005
cinst vcredist2008
cinst vcredist2010
cinst flashplayeractivex
cinst CrashPlan
cinst InnoSetup
cinst VisualHG
cinst resharper
cinst monogame

Pretty impressive! The only thing missing (besides Office and Visual Studio) in my typical list is Cyberduck. Between GMail Dropbox, Basecamp, GitHub/Bitbucket, and now Chocolatey, less than ever am I worried about a computer going up in flames. I can get up and running with any workstation in less time than ever.

Services I use

Back in October 2009, I created a post called “Stuff I Install” which gave a snapshot of the stuff I use to setup a new computer. Since then, each day it seems like there are fewer and fewer desktop apps I rely on, while my dependence on web services, web apps, and web data have grown tremendously. This shift has been partly caused by/facilitated by my use of/need for heterogeneous computing (iPhone, Windows Desktop). In fact, most of my new choices for services are based on the requirement that they work with my iPhone.¬†So, I thought I’d take a moment to review this and catalog for myself my current “setup.” I also do this as a bit of a digital “time capsule” – some of these choices seem so obvious to me right now, but might seem silly in another 4 years…will be interesting to see if I’m married to Office 365 and a Windows Phone by then.

GMail + Google Calendar – Goes without saying, but these are indispensable tools. Even from iOS, I use the dedicated GMail app to do deep, contextual search of all of my digital life since November 19th, 2004 (what I did before that is hopefully still archived in an Outlook .pst file on an old server somewhere, but god knows where that is). Priority Inbox has significantly improved my ability to filter email and keep track of important starred to-do items.

Basecamp – Speaking of todos, this is my new favorite collaboration tool for keeping track of the myriad of activities at work. The biggest benefit is that it pulls important data and decisions out of email inboxes, which inevitably become confusing or end up dropping an important stakeholder from the thread. Our team at the day job has done a great job of integrating this into most all our work activities. Besides allowing basic organization and threaded discussion on any topic (we use a Working/Ready/Backlog todo list structure for each project), Basecamp also recently introduced Client Projects¬†which add a simple way to bring in non-Basecamp users and unify the strategy of keeping things solely in email. All that said, it’s email integration (ability to email/forward/reply to Basecamp projects from email) is what sets it apart, IMO.¬†The one downside – it’s not free (try¬†Trello¬†for a neat free task manager). But in my opinion, it’s priced just right and totally worth what you get.

Dropbox – Important data/documents/presentations do not belong 1) siloed on a single PC, or 2) stuck in email attachments. And in my opinion, they also¬†shouldn’t be archived on a centralized server. You won’t always have access to that server and manually handling synchronization is a nightmare, especially when collaborating with others. Dropbox is great because any of my computers that I sit down to have all of my important files up to date. Selective sync keeps my laptop SSD from getting too full, and Packrat (an extra fee) makes sure if something accidentally gets deleted/modified, we can easily retrieve any of the older copies. The real synergy here is with Basecamp – if your team can agree on a common shared location for the files (e.g. “C:\Dropbox”), then you can add direct links in Basecamp posts to folders and documents on Dropbox.

Feedly¬†– My savior! Google killed Reader and Feedly has taken it’s place. I spend too much time on Feedly, but it’s awesome for aggregating all of the interesting internet things, as well as a good tool for listening to replys on forums, getting notified of source code check-ins, etc.

Netflix Streaming – Feels a little frivolous to put this in, but non-traditional sources of long-form video have finally crept into daily life. Beyond the DVR, my wife and I have been pretty slow to adopt new living room technology. But, Star Trek TOS (because Roku). That happened. Plus, we finally splurged on a Logitech Harmony which makes changing between Roku/TV/DVD activities a cinch with a single remote, even with a fairly complex entertainment system setup.

Bitbucket, GitHub, CodePlex, Team Foundation Service¬†for managing all of the codes public and private. I won’t gets into a much larger collection of sites that I use daily, except to mention how profoundly StackOverflow.com has fundamentally changed what’s possible for a developer to do/learn/grok in such a short time.

I have now outsourced almost all of my IT to online services such as GoDaddy hosting, WordPress.com blog hosting, Drobo Sync (for secure offsite replication of TB-scale backups), and CrashPlan  (for backup of GB-scale personal data).

That all said, I still use Windows 8 as my main PC OS. Here’s the stuff I (still) install onto my three desktops and two laptops:

Ninite gets me started with all the free basics: Chrome, Security Essentials, Skype, Z-Zip, QuickTime, Java, TeamViewer, ImgBurn, Paint.NET, Dropbox, Reader, CutePDF

Then, 1 Password,¬†Virtual CloneDrive, Sublime Text, MS Office,¬†CyberDuck, WinDirStat, and some dev tools like¬†¬†Visual Studio,¬†TortoiseHg,¬†VisualHg,¬†Git Extensions,¬†Git for VS, and¬†XML Notepad 2007. I also recently started using Fuze for free, 3-way video chats (see also Google Hangouts).¬†I find¬†AlternativeTo.net¬†a useful tool for making sure I’m making good choices (for me, at least). And¬†Scott Hansleman. Which is why I’m going to try¬†Choclatey¬†to see if I can’t get more of¬†this paragraph’s installs automated (tried it with MDT a while ago, but couldn’t get the hang of it).

I’m sure I’m forgetting things, but that’s the gist of it for me – feel free to post your opinions in the comments!