Stuff I use to do stuff, as of May 2021.
I posted one of these a few years back and started to update it back in 2020, right before the pandemic lockdowns truly kicked off in earnest. As someone fully remote to start, most of my tools and practices haven’t really changed – despite this not being a year of typical remote work at all. While this might have been more helpful at the start, well, all I can say is “oops” and there have been some higher priority things in my life, and at least now these are all much more heavily tested in a stressful time.
Browsers and Extensions
This one hasn’t really changed much for years. I keep Chrome around for work and Chromecast, but otherwise Firefox Nightly is my daily driver on both Windows and Android. Fortunately, I’m not having to do Internet Explorer testing any longer.
- Firefox (nightly, beta)
Ad and Tracking Blocking
I can’t imagine browsing the web without an adblocker anymore – most pages load much slower, and you can’t trust random ads to not attempt to mine cryptocoins on your machine. Firefox containers are magical for further setting back tracking without doing everything in Private Browsing, and Trash Panda lets you generate throwaway containers for things such as viewing news articles. Containers are also nice for testing multiple logins at the same time, on the same browser.
- uBlock Origin
- Facebook Container
- Firefox Multi-Account Containers
- Trash Panda
On top of account containers, Firefox supports tab groups. That means virtual windows that can be replaced with real windows as I choose, or just kept in the background inactive, to sort out commonly used tabs together. It’s a simple feature, but it helps my brain not keep a million tabs open at one time (visibly).
- Simple Tab Groups
- Want My RSS – Adds RSS handling functionality back to Firefox.
This wasn’t originally part of my plans for this, as it’s not entirely part of “how I work” – though I suppose I do end up with a lot of things to keep myself happily entertained. Anyway, this became a complicated topic with the shutdown of Google Play Music – meaning I’ve migrated back to buying albums via Bandcamp/Patreon/etc and local playback.
- MediaMonkey – This is my go-to playback and tagging solution on both Windows and Android. I’ve got a decent enough syncing setup that this keeps me happy, along with properly respecting multiple genre/artist tags and having great playlist and playback features. I’m not entirely sold on MM5 yet – I’m glad they’re doing a rewrite to be cross platform, and Electron makes sense for that, but small things just feel Off to me.
- OBS Studio – I find myself not just streaming video games but also regularly needing to record quick presentations or explanations for work. Using OBS Studio has been a great way to have control of what gets recorded, along with including my webcam and other content as necessary.
- Media Player Classic – I know it’s deprecated, but I just prefer it to VLC (despite also having it installed). I’m sure I’ll switch someday.
- Snip and Sketch – It’s the default screenshot tool on Windows and works decently well. Just wanted to give it a shoutout, since I find myself using it constantly.
It’s hard to have too much to say here. These are listed in rough preference of use, but really, it’s all kind of the same mess. Slack has threads but not individual replies. Discord has individual replies but not threads. Signal and Telegram are interchangeable except for when they aren’t, which is always at the weirdest moments.
- Google Voice – If anyone has a recommendation for a replacement for managing two phone numbers on my single phone, though, I’m all ears. I don’t trust Google to keep this service running much longer.
- Gmail web client – I haven’t migrated all of my work labeling and filters into Thunderbird yet, so most of my work email is still checked on the web client.
- Thunderbird – Not all of the email addresses I use have fantastic webmail clients and I enjoy having everything in one place. Thunderbird isn’t perfect (I wish there was better notification integration on Windows) but it gets the job done. I switched away from Windows Mail a few months ago, even though it had better integration, just for the additional filtering and inbox management tools.
- Microsoft Teams
Editors and Dayjob Tools
I’m a simple person with simple needs. I mostly write code in Visual Studio Code or Eclipse, based on how much IDE I’m needing.
Dayjob is in Java, and I don’t particularly like the defaults of IntelliJ if I can avoid it.
- Visual Studio Code
- SourceTree – Because I don’t like crafting complex commits by command line if I can avoid it.
VS Code Extensions
The language pack tools in particular are useful, but I don’t feel they’re worth bringing up. I try to not use too many extensions on most of my editors, just so that I don’t get too tied up in things that might stop working or (in the case of vim) might not be everywhere when I open up the editor.
- Markdown PDF – Quick export to PDF rendering of Markdown documents is great for interacting with people who don’t like reading normal text files.
- XML Tools – I wish I could stop having XML in my life, but alas.
Same story as above, though these are a little too helpful to live without for day to day work.
- MoreUnit – Being able to quickly jump to or generate tests, along with coverage, is huge.
- SonarLint – We use Sonar for code lint reasons and the Eclipse plugin is a great frontend for this. It syncs to the server, allows local rule configuration, and runs on save.
Productivity feels like an odd category name here, but it’s the things that I use for managing my life in general. I’ve mostly stopped using Trello and Google Keep, as much as I can help it.
- Todoist – Task management. This is one of the other changes – I switched following the shutdown of Wunderlist, and really, it’s a good fit thanks to the differences in repeating task scheduling making a lot more sense. The new changes as of this month to Free plans make it even more useful to try, though I was a paid member until recently. A lot of what was going into Keep has made its way here as well, which is a welcome change.
- Daylio – Daily mood/habit tracking. This has been really useful for trying to, at a high level, make sure that there isn’t anything that I feel worse if I miss.
- OneNote – Long form journaling for myself, mostly. Almost everything else I’ve used it for has become markdown documents sitting in a cloud sync folder.
- Google Calendar – I truly wish that Sunrise Calendar still existed, but alas.
- DigiCal – Google Calendar’s widgets on Android are terrible and the main app functionality isn’t much better. I use Schedule/Agenda views as my go-to, and need to be able to see things condensed if the same event shows up on multiple calendars.
- Filezilla – I still use FTP, because I have been cursed for my hubris. I’m sure there’s something better out there but I haven’t bothered to find it.
- Office 365 – I actually do not like Google Docs / Sheets / Slides if I can at all avoid using them. They feel like they hit the wrong level of features and UI for the required simplicity, and the move to canvas for them I hate even more. I generally work on things in 365 if I can at all make that work.
- Newsblur – RSS aggregator service. I switched to this after the shutdown of Google Reader all those years ago, and I still use RSS to track webcomics, software releases, news, and more. It’s incredibly worth the cheap subscription.
Security and Backups
This is a bit of a catch-all, I suppose.
- 1Password – Password management across all my devices. I appreciate that they haven’t finished removing the keyboard on Android, since the autofill framework regularly fails on random logins. I believe there’s MFA token management support here now, too, but I haven’t migrated to it.
- Authy – MFA token management, with synchronized backups. I recognize that isn’t the most secure thing in the world, though I generally see losing my device as more of a risk to my accounts than other attacks.
- Backblaze – After the death of a 3 TB harddrive, I realized I needed a better approach to managing backups of my personal machine. Backblaze is a bit annoying to restore from and view files online, and setting things up to transfer contents can be frustrating, but it’s hard to beat it on price and otherwise being “set and forget” backups of your entire machine.
- One Drive – This is my main go to for “files I want on all my machines” thanks to the Office 365 subscription and the admittedly nice integration with Windows.
- Google Drive – Begrudgingly, I still have some content here.
This is maybe a bit silly to include, but I’m generally fairly happy with most of my peripheral and device choices.
- Das Keyboard Ultimate – Blank keys are lovely for typing in multiple languages without any mental overhead, and I’m eternally surprised at how hard it is to come by a good USB hub in a keyboard these days.
- Logitech G502 mouse – This isn’t my favorite mouse of all time, though I do appreciate Logitech’s “infinite scroll” wheel and the amount of buttons available here. It’s a little bit big for my hands, but not intolerable like most other gaming-focused mice.
- Logitech C920 webcam – As I’ve said, I was remote anyway and spend a lot of time on video calls. This is a pretty decent mix of quality and price, though I’m still surprised there’s not really any newer, better options available.
- Fitbit Charge 3 – I like having an incredibly basic watch that I can forget about charging for a week at a time, yet can still give me high level notifications on my phone alongside fitness tracking.
- Samsung s10e – I have a love hate relationship with Android, especially under Google’s stewardship. Samsung isn’t particularly better, but the s10e has a much less noticeable notch, allows me to configure most things about Android through Good Lock, and is a small phone with good specs and storage. I’m not sure what I will replace this with next, but for the time being, it’s a good phone.