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.

Geoff Wozniak is Quitting OS X

Furthermore, I found that I had stopped using the majority of the primary apps that ship with OS X: Mail, Safari, iTunes, and Apple Creativity Apps/iLife. For the most part, I ran essentially three apps: Firefox, MailMate, and iTerm2. Most of my work was done in terminals. The culture of the operating system at this point was more about sharing than personal productivity.

In short, I was working against the grain of the environment. It was a gradual transition, but OS X went from a useful tool set to get my work done to an obnoxious ecosystem of which I no longer wanted to be a part.

More damning than the lack of personal connection, though, was the complete lack of transparency and general decline in software quality, as I perceived it.

Geoff Wozniak on Curried Lambda

Iʼm really starting to feel the same way. While Iʼve been using OS X for quite a number of years. I started using OS X in 10.3 and Iʼve been using it happily ever since. At the beginning, I used all of Appleʼs built in apps. Gradually, Iʼve moved away from Appleʼs apps.

In the last couple of years it has gotten to the point were the only Apple app that I use is Safari. I have still enjoyed using OS X as it looks nice, in recent years it is very energy efficient and it has been very stable for me. I usually go months without rebooting.

But the stability part has definitely taken a dive with Yosemite. It hasn’t crashed on me in a couple of months but, there seem to be little bugs all over the place. The most annoying one to me is that when I switch spaces, all of the menu bar icons move around. That in and of itself wouldn’t be that annoying but, it seems like that causes everything to freeze while it is happening.

Since Yosemite was released, Iʼve needed to forcefully reboot my computer more than I ever remember needing to do so including, Windows 95-2000. Usually what happens when I need to reboot is that I try to wake my Mac from sleep and it just doesnʼt. I hit a bunch of keys, click the mouse a bunch but, the screen never changes from black. Iʼm not sure if it simply not reading the input or if it gets stuck trying to wake up. Either way, its maddening.

iCloud has been awful. iCloud drive is exactly the file sharing solution that Iʼve been looking for but, its execution has been abysmal. iCloud has become nearly unusable for me since the release of iOS 8 and Yosemite. Prior to that, iCloud syncing seemed to be working just fine for me, I used it for a number of apps. Now, it seemingly doesnʼt sync for hours at a time. It certainly isnʼt something that I want to keep using.

Iʼve really thought about leaving OS X behind, like Geoff has. Really, I donʼt need OS X for the work that I do. Really the only things that I need are a unix terminal and a web browser but, there are a few apps that I would really miss. For me, the main thing that I would lose is Dash, which is an app that I find to be hugely helpful for software development. I think I would also miss a native 1Password app. Sure, the Windows version of 1Password works under Crossover but, that isn’t a great experience. There are a number of other apps that I use which Iʼm sure I would only be able to find crappy replacements for. For me, this has always been Linuxʼs weakness: While there is some really powerful software for Linux, the user experience has been dreadful. Seemingly the people that develop software for Linux donʼt seem to care at all about user experience. That is what I would miss most, the vibrant ecosystem of 3rd party OS X developers.

There are also some OS level features that I would miss. Iʼm sure that I would also miss the power management of OS X. I’m sure that I would lose a couple of hours of battery life should I move my machine off of OS X. Also, Iʼm sure that the Macbook Pro that I use would run considerably hotter. Finally, the last time that I tried to run Linux on a Mac, the touchpad drivers were awful. While they seemed functionally sound, they felt really awful in comparison to OS X. I do frequently use my Mac without a mouse attached, so this change would bother me quite a bit.

On the other hand, my work involves Linux. Switching to Linux would mean that I gain some really awesome tools to make my work easier. Not only that, at this point I would also be gaining stability by choosing a Linux Desktop. That isnʼt something which I ever thought that I would write. Appleʼs software appears to be at an all time low for stability yet, their hardware has never been better. I wish that Appleʼs software would live up to their hardware. While I think that I would see some benefits from leaving OS X, I just feel like I would be leaving too much behind at this point. Iʼm not excited for what Apple will choose to do their OSs next.