2015: The Tools I Use

Continuing on what I started last year, here is the list of tools that Iʼve used this year.

Mac

Again this year, my Mac is my primary work device.

  1. neovim — I continue to do most of my work with text, whether that is Ansible playbooks or code. I could easily just use vim but, neocon has a couple of nice extras, mainly that it properly handles pasting without using paste mode.
  2. iterm 2 — iterm continues to be great to use. I donʼt really like the built-in terminal on OS X so Iʼm lucky that iTerm exists, especially since I do almost all of my work in the terminal.
  3. tmux — I generally keep iTerm running full screen since, I do most of my work there. While this works pretty well, itʼs a bit of a waste as its a huge amount of space for just one thing at a time. I use an inverted T, where I have one large split on top and two smaller ones on the bottom. The big split on top is generally used for neovim and then I can run related tasks in the bottom two.
  4. git — git is basically the standard for version control. Git has it flaws but, I really like it.
  5. mailmate — I switched email clients since last year. Mailmate definitely feels more like a traditional email client. Itʼs really well done.
  6. Alfred — Alfred is a keyboard launcher. It does many more things than just launching apps. I use it all of the time.
  7. Arq — Arq is a great secure backup solution. It supports many cloud storage providers so youʼre able to pick your favorite.
  8. Textual — Textual is a pretty good irc client for OS X.

iPhone

  1. Tweetbot — I like using Twitter but, I really donʼt like Twitter’s design decisions. Tweetbot fits me much better, Iʼm not looking forward to the day when Twitter cuts off access to 3rd party access.
  2. Prompt — Prompt is good to have around in case you need to access a server over ssh. Prompt is a very well done ssh client but, ssh on a phone sized device isnʼt a fun experience.
  3. Spark — While the built-in mail client on iOS is perfectly functional, I find it quite cumbersome to use. Spark is a really great iOS email client.
  4. Unread — Unread is a pretty great RSS reader on iOS.

Multiple

  1. 1Password — Keeping yourself secure online is hard. Having to remember a unique password for each service is pretty much impossible, particularly if you try to make them secure. 1Password solves this problem. Itʼs so good that itʼs easier than using the same username and password for everything. Their recently announced team features are bringing this same great setup to teams. Available for Mac, iOS and a bunch of other platforms.
  2. slack — We continue to use Slack at work. Slack definitely had momentum last year but, it seems like everyone is using them this year. I like Slack but, Iʼm not sure itʼs good enough to have this much attention on it. I also think that itʼs unfortunate that many open source projects are starting to use it as their primary communication method.
  3. Dash — Dash is great documentation viewer for Appleʼs platforms. I use it everyday. Available for Mac and iOS.

Server

  1. WordPress — As I previously mentioned, Iʼm back to using WordPress to manage ruin. While there are definitely some things that I don’t like WordPress but, itʼs pretty great at handling writing.
  2. ZNC — ZNC is an irc bouncer. It has quite a number of features but, I donʼt use that many of them. I mainly just use it so that I donʼt miss anything when my machine is offline.
  3. tarsnap — Tarsnap is great solution for secure backup. The siteʼs design looks pretty dated but, its a great backup solution.

Apple Music

Apple music seems to be rather polarizing. Quite a number of people have fairly disappointed in it. From what I read, your opinion of it will be largely determined by what you were using before Apple Music. If youʼre currently have a large number of songs in iTunes then youʼre unlikely to like Apple Music. On the other hand, if youʼre currently using a music streaming service like Rdio or Spotifiy then, there is a lot to like. I happen to have been a long time customer of Rdio.

The most obvious advantage to Apple Music is its deep integration into iOS. This is definitely an unfair advantage for Apple. In the past few years, Apple has introduced apis that make 3rd party audio apps integrated more deeply into iOS but, its still not quite parity though. My carʼs audio system has the option to connect over bluetooth. In my previous usage of Rdio, quite frequently it would fail to start playing when I got into my car. This has not happened once. It is also currently the only native music app on the Apple Watch. That, of course, will be changing with WatchOS 2. Then there is the Siri integration. You can ask Siri to play one of your playlists, an artist or even a song and it will start playing in Apple Music. It seems unlikely that this particular functionality will ever appear for 3rd party apps although, the opening up of Spotlight to search 3rd party apps in iOS 9 does make this scenario seem plausible.

The initial setup for Apple Music is a little bit wonky. The interface doesʼt make it clear when youʼve selected a sufficient number of genres so, you have to figure out that youʼve selected enough and then hit next. The artist selection step seems a bit more straight forward. The inital artists that Apple Music suggested werenʼt really my taste but, after selecting the couple that I did like and hitting “More Artists” a couple of times, they got better. There is a limit to the number of artists that you can select. As you select addtional artist, the screen fills up with their bubles. When you hit the More Artists button again, it simply replaces the artists that you didnʼt select with new ones. This places a hard cap on the number of artists that you can select. Additionally, when you have quite a few artists selected, the interface is extremely slow to scroll. It is clearly optimized for selecting a small number of artists.

A screenshot of the the apple music popup

The initial playlist suggestions were ok. They were pretty much exactly what I asked for, They were all related to the selections that I made. It was a mix of deep cuts of my favorite bands with a smattering of genre focuessed playlists. These days, I find the playlist suggestions to be a bit better but, I donʼt often listen to them. I use it in almost exactly the same way that I used Rdio which is mostly picking my favorite songs and downloading them for offline use. However, I have found a few songs that I like by listening to the suggestions.

Managing songs is a bit cumbersome on what must be the primary device, the iPhone (purely because there are way more iPhones than Macs or iPads). Apple has hidden most of the actions that you can do behind a pop up menu. Not only is this an obnociously long list, most of the things that you might want to do with a song are hidden in there. Strangely, the “heart” is not available in that menu. As far as I can tell, that is only available from the now playing screen. The options that are there are somewhat confusing. You can add a song to your music, you can make it available offline and you can add it to a playlist. Does making it available offline add it to your music? Does adding it to a playlist add it to your music? Its not remotely clear. There is a similar set of actions for Albums but the favorite is far easier to get to.

I mostly avoid all of that complexity. I simply make the songs that I like as loved. Then, I have a smart playlist that contains all of my loved songs. I have this set to be available offline. Using it this way is mostly automatic, I hit the heart to add a song to my playlist and then it is downloaded for offline use on my iPhone.

I canʼt exactly call Apple Music a run away success. I find it to be better than any of the other options but, I find it to be better than any of the other options. I guess it works for my very limited use case.