Computers make us more productive. Yeah, right. Lifehacker recommends the downloads, web sites and shortcuts that actually save time. **Don't live to geek; geek to live.** [](

I'm not sure why I haven't read this site before, but it's definitely on my reading list now. It's an admirable message that I sympathize with. Computers, the Internet and the software and data on them are wonderfully powerful tools; but they're just that: tools. There's no point owning a massive industrial lathe when all you need is a Dremel tool.

I'll use Lifehacker for suggestions from here on out. In terms of my absurdly extensive computer experience, the truly valuable yield has been the knowledge of what works easily and intuitively, and what doesn't. I know in many cases the wrong way to do things, mainly because there are many wrong ways and I've tried them all. I also know there's no 'right' way; just the thing that's currently suited for me.

On my software page I've linked the current bests. Some choices: I use Firefox and Thunderbird because they're lightweight and secure; I only use the Windows Firewall because I don't have any real requirement for traffic shaping or extra security; I use the free University of Toronto Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition0 but disable auto-protect because it taxes my harddrives too much while file sharing. With a combination of these and what I prefer to call 'not doing stupid shit' I haven't had a virus infection in years.

I use GAIM for instant messaging because it handles MSN, ICQ, AIM and Jabber (including Google Talk). I still have to switch to actual MSN to view webcams, but that feature should be part of GAIM soon. This would be a bad option for those fond of custom smileys and all the other features of MSN that I personally find annoying. GAIM also tabs message windows much like Firefox tabs webpages; this prevents six conversations from filling my taskbar.

The list goes on - my point is that all software choices should be motivated by certain knowledge:

  • What needs the user (you, someone asking for a recommendation) has.
  • What the available software options are.
  • What the features of each option are.
  • How simple your most common tasks are in each option.

For example, I use FileZilla for FTP and Programmer's Notepad for editing. To do most of my PHP/MySQL coding I'll download one file at a time from the server. FileZilla automatically opens the file in Programmer's Notepad; when I'm done, I save and exit (Programmer's Notepad does this very quickly) and then FileZilla prompts me to automatically upload the modified file. Because the PN interface is clean and helpful, this is a better option than hacking about with command-line editors stuff via SSH; however I do keep PuTTY around for some tasks.

I use a five-button trackball scroll mouse; the outside buttons are configured as Back (left) and Minimize All (right); clicking the scroll wheel opens Windows Explorer. I've got a Logitech keyboard with Media (Opens/Shows/Minimizes to system tray Winamp), Play/Pause, Mute, E-mail and WWW quick keys. I use a custom Visual Style from deviantART that's easier on the eyes than the Windows default. I've got a number of helpful keyboard shortcuts memorized (Ctrl-E in Firefox moves the cursor to the Quick Search box; Ctrl-Tab switches between tabs and Ctrl-W closes them).

The curious result of all this is that I find I can accomplish most routine tasks with only a few clicks or keystrokes, but a lot of people find my computer hard to use. This is fine; I'm not trying to run a kiosk machine. In an ideal world computers would be simple to use out of the box; regardless of what arguments you might make about Macs vs. PCs, they're generally not. The right choice of software can go a long way towards ultimate ease-of-use - ask me if you're ever wondering what the right choice is, and accept that if I give you a technical answer, I do it because it's the simplest you can get.

Now Playing: 30 Seconds To Mars - A Beautiful Lie - 07 - From Yesterday


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