Categories
Personal Technology and Internet

Tools I’m thankful for

In the spirit of thanksgiving, even though it isn’t a tradition here where live, and following the same path as some posts I’ve read today, here’s 5 software tools I’m thankful for.

(Of course this is not a comprehensive list, but today these are the ones that come to my mind)

Syncthing

This tool basically lets us sync files with multiple devices without relying on a central service/server (unlike Dropbox or Google Drive). So we don’t have to rely on a 3rd party service to sync your documents, it is all done in a p2p fashion with high security standards.

No Internet connection? no worries, it works through the local network as well.

BorgBackup

I use Borg for most kinds of backups. Many will argue that there are alternatives that do X and Y better, but Borg has all I need for this task and does its job very well. It is compatible with many services, has a nice CLI and several decent GUIs.

Backups are critical, so we should rely on a mature tool that we can trust.

VLC

I don’t remember the last time I had “hair pulling” struggles when trying to play a video file or disk. VLC is one of the reasons why (perhaps the biggest of them). It’s a light and versatile Swiss army knife for dealing with video content and it handles whatever I am trying to do: watch a stream, open a video with a strange encoding or even convert between file formats.

uBlock Origin

Nowadays the mainstream websites are almost unbearable, they are slow, heavy and full of ads (displayed in many formats with all kinds of tricks). Not to mention the huge effort they make to track you “everywhere you go”.

This “little” browser extension takes care of blocking and removing a big chunk of that annoying content, making the pages faster while helping us avoid being followed online.

Python

To finish the list, a programming language and its interpreter. Throughout the last decade I ended up using several programming languages, either on my job and for personal projects, but there is one of them that I always fallback to and is a joy to use.

Easy to read and to write, available almost everywhere, it might not be the a perfect fit for all tasks but allows you to do a lot and quickly.

Categories
Personal

The app I’ve used for the longest period of time

What is the piece of software (app) you have used continuously for the longest period of time?

This is an interesting question. More than 2 decades have passed since I’ve got my first computer. Throughout all this time my usage of computers evolved dramatically, most of the software I installed at the time no longer exists or is so outdated that there no point in using it.

Even the “type” of software changed, before I didn’t rely on so many web apps and SaaS (Software as a service) products that dominate the market nowadays.

The devices we use to run the software also changed, now it’s common for people to spend more time on certain mobile apps than their desktop counterparts.

In the last 2 decades, not just the user needs changed but also the communication protocols in the internet, the multimedia codecs and the main “algorithms” for certain tasks.

It is true that many things changed, however others haven’t. There are apps that were relevant at the time, that are still in use and I expect that they will still be around in for many years.

I spent some time thinking about my answer to the question, given I have a few strong contenders.

One of them is Firefox. However my usage of the browser was split by periods when I tried other alternatives. I installed it when it was initially launched and I still use it nowadays, but the continuous usage time doesn’t take it to the first place.

I used Windows for 12/13 straight years before switching to Linux, but it is still not enough (I also don’t think operating systems should be taken into account for this question, since for most people the answer would be Windows).

VLC is another contender, but like it happened to Firefox, I started using it early and then kept switching back and forth with other media players throughout the years. The same applies to the “office” suite.

The final answer seems to be Thunderbird. I’ve been using it daily since 2004, which means 16 years and counting. At the time I was fighting the ridiculously small storage limit I had for my “webmail” inbox, so I started using it to download the messages to my computer in order to save space. I still use it today for totally different reasons.

And you, what is the piece of software or app you have continuously used for the longest period of time?

Categories
Old Posts

Feito

Generally when I have to develop a website or web application, I use technologies and frameworks that I am used to work with and I have more than basic knowledge about them, in most of the cases it turn out to be django and in some of them I also use node.js. With these two i can always achieve what I want without to much effort (with some exceptions).

Some time ago I was asked to participate in a project that involved Ruby on Rails, a technology that I didn’t have too much knowledge and never had done anything with it, besides attending few workshops and talks about it (where I’ve just got a general idea how it worked). So it was time to give it a try and the fastest way to learn basics is to build something from the ground up with it and understand how stuff works along the way, and that’s what I’ve done at the time.

So the first step was to find something or some idea that I wanted to work on and that would involve all the common techniques and stuff that you generally have to master when you start developing webapps.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

An inverted daily “To Do” list. So basically instead of making a list of what you have to do, you at the end of the day write what you have done and rank it with the amount of effort it took to do it. The system then store it, and shows to you in a pretty graph of your performance along some period of time. For a motivational boost at the end of each week it sends you an email with all tasks that you accomplished and the total amount of effort points.

Basically it’s an app to monitor your daily performance and could serve as a motivational tool to help those who struggle in getting things done.

I know its a basic app and I didn’t implement too many features, but it served its main purpose, at the time, of understanding the basics of ruby on rails.

Yesterday I made it available on-line to anyone who wants to try it. For those who end up using it for some days/weeks I would appreciate some feedback, reporting of any errors you find or even suggestions of new features that would improve the app.

So you can find it at: feito.ovalerio.net (Update: after 5 years, the server was turned off)