Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Stuff!

I spent a good chunk of today updating this blog to use the latest features of Blogger. Lots of AJAX'ey drag-n-drop goodness is involved, but that's sort of what people expect from Google. Anyway, the right-hand column of this blog will always have lists of stuff I believe to be the best applications around and I've categorized them into various activities. For instance, I tend to be an application developer first but I also wear the hats of web developer, IT administrator, and graphics artist. For the most part I avoid putting stuff that costs money in the right-hand column just because most developers don't want to spend a lot of money on good stuff. And there's plenty of good stuff to be had for almost no cost if you spend the time looking for it. Which I've already done.

I mentioned that I'm a graphics artist but didn't put up a category for it. That's because all the tools I use are well known: Photoshop. Make that one tool that I use. Kind of pointless to put up a category for a tool everyone in graphics design knows about. The choice is usually between Photoshop, GIMP (free but nowhere near as good), or Paint Shop Pro (better than GIMP but worse than Photoshop). And then you've got all the wannabe tools out there that do less than the commercial packages but usually cost money anyway and the free ones aren't that great and the authors get GIMP pointed out to them and the project dies shortly thereafter.

As a side note: I put TopDesk in the list on the right. I've been using this tool since Win98 came out. TopDesk can crash with Explorer add-ins like TortoiseSVN that use full color icons, but those apps usually offer an option to reduce the number of colors displayed (looks ugly but at least nothing crashes). I set up TopDesk to map to the shortcut key Ctrl+Shift+Alt+D (D = Desktop). TopDesk is one of my favorite utilities ever but is kind of geeky and a little difficult for the average user to set up so it starts when logging in. Unfortunately, because it hasn't been updated for a long time, there is the possibility it won't work at all under 64-bit Vista.

People who don't write C++ code might find the Application Developer section a bit odd. I couldn't find a good spot to put MyUpdate Toolkit. I've been told it is better than the Mac update utility...which is supposedly pretty good. Of course that means MyUpdate is pretty impressive. The tool works with any client programming language to provide update functionality (assuming it makes sense - that is, it doesn't make much sense for a web application). It requires a couple hours to integrate the tool into the installer for your product but is well worth the effort.

A lot of the tools/software are tools you have probably never even heard of. This is because I pride myself in finding the best tools...and the best tools are ones that usually have crappy marketing behind them but are otherwise excellent products. They aren't things you'll get told about in software magazines because they only care about uber-successful products and not about finding the best products - the magazines like to mooch with those who have money to burn. The best tools are written by people kind of like me: I'll be the first to admit that I suck at marketing but the software I write is quality code. For example: VerifyMyPC - I'd rather work on version 2.1 than have to trudge through slush and snow around town and pick up the phone and cold-call people to sell copies of version 2.0. And even then, I'm not entirely sure how to market VerifyMyPC...it takes about half an hour to explain how the product should be used to the user and the feedback I'm getting as a result of those discussions is stuff that is slated for later versions. BUT at the same time, the users suddenly get a lightbulb going off in their heads as to how useful VerifyMyPC is. I've had people pull out their wallets on the spot. I had people pulling out their wallets before I even released 2.0. So I'm kind of stuck. I've got an excellent product that people see the merits of, are willing to pull their wallets out for, but at the same time want improvements made before they buy. This is a good thing but not one I know what to do with. I could pull a Microsoft and take their money and run, but I want to not do that. Microsoft is a business that dumps software on the world and then lies about it. Well, they lie about it before they do the dumping too. That company knows how to market a product, no matter how badly written it is, and people will practically sell their souls to buy those products. That's "pulling a Microsoft" and something I don't want to do.

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