Monday, December 9, 2013

[#CSEdWeek] My favorite software

Happy Computer Science Education Week. I did my part! I debugged a memory leak with a pre-literate child sitting next to me, wanting to punch the meta-key in emacs. I can't remember if he realized we needed an extra * or I did, but all I can say is that if pointers are so simple a five year old can explain 'em, no grumbling allowed, undergrads.

Anyhow, to kick off CS Ed Week, I'd like to talk about some of my favorite programs. These are small utilities most of you have probably never heard of, but they fill me with great joy.

1. DTerm (OS X)

This, is, hands down, the piece of software I have been waiting for my whole life. It's basically a "command line anywhere" sort of program. See, for some bizarre reason, OS X doesn't allow you to, say, create a text file in the Finder here , like Windows or even some versions of Linux does. I have no idea why, but this was a gross oversight.

DTerm saves me tons of effort. Old way: Launch terminal window, cd tab-tab-tab-tab-tab (or drag from finder), touch foo.txt. New way: Dtermshortcut: touch foo.txt. Done!

2. Quicksilver (OS X)

Along those lines, Quicksilver is also super useful and has accelerated my workflow. Instead of trying to find things (which I'm terrible at), I just type command-period, type the first two letters of the application name, email address, text file, whatever, and boom - there it is. I am so used to this now I have to install it on new machines, or else I can't use them. (Sad but true).

3. F.lux (OS X, Android, iOS, Windows, Linux)

This program is very clever - it dims your monitor/screen to help simulate getting ready for sleep. For someone who ends up foolishly doing work at 11pm or 5am, and who travels through way too many time zones than is healthy, it's nice to give the 'ol hypothalamus a break.

4. Instapaper (All OSes, web-based)

This is the best piece of software ever written. It lets you save a webpage, from anywhere, for all time. (Removing all ads and annoying stuff). It's shareware, but if you give the developer $3, you can also search through your clippings. It's beautiful, well designed, and wonderful for reading lots of news/journal articles on long airplane rides.

I think that's it for now. I've been trying to be like Beki and stop using my inbox as a TODO list, but I'm still experimenting with applications for that. It's my New Year's Resolution. I'll leave you with a CSEdVideo from Obama (h/t CCC blog). Enjoy!


  1. > I've been trying to be like Beki and stop using my inbox as a TODO list, but I'm still experimenting with applications for that.

    Check out org-mode in emacs.

  2. That's neat, thanks.

    Unfortunately, since writing this post I've sadly reached the point where I need to make a TODO list to write a TODO list, so email it still is. Which basically means I haven't written back to anyone in about 6 months :/