MonthMarch 2011

Things I love: Windows Edition

Greenshot

I’m about to save you $50, the going price for Snag-It. Welcome my friend called Greenshot. With Greenshot, you can capture single windows, selected areas, or the entire screen. It even includes a simple image editor for annotation and minor edits. You can choose whether you want to save, print, or copy your screenshot to the clipboard or a combination of the three. If you need to take screenshots, you need Greenshot.

Paint.Net

Now that you’re taking screenshots like a pro, you need something to edit them in. Enter Paint.net. No, this is not the same bitmap-loving Paint program that’s shipped with Windows since the dawn of time. Paint.net is all grown up. It allows for history, layers, a plethora of effects and best of all, has a weightless price tag. Don’t think of it as a more robust Paint but rather a slimmed down Photoshop.

ResophNotes

From pixels to prose, if you write anything worth saving, you need simplenote. Now take 2 minutes and read why. Now that I’ve gotten you hooked on simplenote, you need a Windows client. ResophNotes is that client. ResophNotes offers you a simple interface to simplenote. One pane is the list of notes, the other is the note itself. It offers all the same syncing as simplenote and will export Markdown and HTML. You can save your notes in an, optionally encrypted, database or as plain text files. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing in ResophNotes.

Soluto

You’re running Windows. It’s taking forever to startup. But why? Soluto will tell you. Once installed, Soluto will keep a running clock when you boot up and analyze exactly which applications are starting when you login. In addition, it will group the applications by levels of importance and offer suggestions based on what other users have chosen to remove, disable or delay running at login. Never again wonder why things are taking so long. Take control with Soluto.

F.Lux

You’re a nerd. You compute at night. The bright lights of glaring LCDs strain your eyes. You need F.Lux. As the sun goes down, F.Lux will dim your screen and give it a warm glow making it much easier on the eyes. If you need to do image work it has a “Disable for one hour” check box for color-sensitive work. Ever since I started using it, I could not imagine using a computer without it. Give it a try. I know you’ll feel the same way. As my college roommate used to say, “It’s like tasty roast chicken for the eyes.”

Xooming Thunderbolts

Motorola XOOM

The Motorola XOOM is a terrible name. When I hear it, the last thing I think of is an Android tablet. It’s just another entry in the long parade of Android tablets.

Xoom will always be a free web hosting service I used to use back in the mid-90s. My first web site was hosted at members.xoom.com/peroty. This was until NBC bought them out and turned it into nbci.com and eventually killed off the hosting side of the business in 1999 and NBCi folded in mid-2001. The domain now redirects to NBC.com. Xoom as a web host still lives on in an Italian version at xoom.it. Xoom.com is now a money transfer site, which looks like a PayPal clone.

Thunderbolt

The HTC Thunderbolt is a 4G Android phone coming soon to Verizon. The phone has been delayed according to Best Buy and in the meantime, Apple has used the name Thunderbolt as their name for the new Intel LightPeek technology.

Unlike the XOOM that had about a decade between usages, the competing Thunderbolts seem like more of a coincidence than anything else. I find it interesting that the two Thunderbolts are being used and released so close together.

TV is not the default

Television was not the default in my home growing up. We did not have cable television. We could not get cable television had we wanted to. We lived too far out in a rural area of Northern Virginia. ((Rural as in, the school bus was late because the herd of cows in the road would not move. Have you ever tried to move a cow?))

We had an antenna and a series of stations from the surrounding area. We had FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS ((Sometimes)) from Washington DC. We also had WDCA and Channel 50 which I can’t recall what station it was affiliated with. We also has PBS, and a hand full of local, educational programming stations. So we were never for want of documentaries and science programming. As far as mainstream TV, it was a toss-up. Sometimes you could watch an entire hour of television without interruption and static snow across the screen. Other times, it would render whatever you were trying to enjoy unwatchable and sporting events were no better.

I got to thinking about this because I found myself missing the lazy, quiet Sunday afternoons at home. I would be curled up with a good book or magazine. ((This was a time before the internet.)) I loved the rainy days most of all because the drops would splash off our tin roof. ((Did I mention we lived in a 150+ year old farm-house?))

I was thinking about the peace and quiet of those Sundays because my wife and I were recently curled up on our couch, under a soft blanket reading. Only she had her Kindle and I had my iPad using the Kindle app. It was peaceful and quiet and I was very happy.

The TV was off. The stereo not playing. No video games or talking. It was just peaceful serenity and reading. The Kindle and it’s related apps for iPhone and iPad have reignited my love of reading. But that’s another story for another day.

Urge to make

I have the strong urge to make. I want to write or shoot photos. I want to design or develop something. I wan to have something to show for myself and to be proud of. I want something I can hang on the wall or link to and show people.

I want to be proud of my output. I want to be able to admire my work in whatever form it should take. I want that feeling of hanging artwork on the fridge again.

All day I help people. I fix things. I repair. I support their efforts. But I have nothing to show for myself. I’ve made nothing.

This is changing, slowly.

Fancy Letters

I don’t have any fancy letters next to my name. I don’t have the years learning a craft with a fancy sheet of paper to show for my work. I went to college and I got a degree because that is what was expected. Out of high school you go to college, you get your degree then.

That’s where the story ends. What happens after that?

At every job I’ve ever held people have always asked me how I got to be so good at what I do. Where did I go to school? What did I study? The root of their questions always seem to be who taught me all of this wonderful knowledge I have now?

The answer always surprises them. The wonderful teacher who handed down their knowledge to me, was me.

I did not go to school for a technical degree. I was not a computer scientist. No math or science major. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Creative Advertising. ((My degree reads a BS in Communications.))

I went to school for Advertising because I wanted to be a designer in either print or web. I wanted to make things and communicate with people.

I went to college to learn all I could about the craft of advertising and some marketing. I spent my four years in school learning I didn’t want to work in Advertising.

All those long hours of brainstorming sessions over baskets of friends ((I used to literally sit with my creative partner(s) in a local eatery where we’re hash out our ideas over a basket of friends and soda for me, beer for them.)) All of the selling of junk people didn’t really want or need. I couldn’t work in that industry in good faith. It felt like I was lying to people. I was causing stress in their minds so they’d buy things to make them feel better.

Since I needed something to put food on the table. I started down a career path in Tech Support. My first job out of college was a 6 month contract working for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on a PC deployment (moving from Windows NT to XP). As fate would have it, those 6 months turned into 12 months and I had a blast on the job. We traveled to all the DEQ sites around the state and setup hundreds of computers. That first year made me realize I really enjoyed working in tech support. I had found my calling.

I learned tech support was what I was really interested in. I wanted to bring the same sense of communication about something to customer support and service. I don’t want to make people buy things they don’t really need. I want to make people love and use the things they already have and learn to use them better.