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Category: Tech

My Favorite Web Apps

These are some applications (free and not free) that I have been using a lot, and that I would now consider myself unable to live without. All of them are web-based in that they are accessible from the internet and can be logged into from anywhere. This makes working from home, from the office, and from the coffee shop a breeze.

Backpack –
This application is excellent for anyone doing any sort of project management, freelancing, or collaboration. I was skeptical at first when I signed up for the free trial, but then I realized the power after using it for a few weeks. I was hooked when they lowered the price of the mid-level package.

Backpack allows you to set up projects (Pages, as they call them) for each of your projects. Each of these Pages has to-do lists, Notes, file uploads, the ability to share this content with someone, Writeboards, and more.

One of my favorite features is the Reminder feature, which will send you an email and/or a text message on your phone when an event is about to occure. Also, there is the ability to send an email to Backpack and have it be added to a Page automatically. Pretty darn cool.

TimeTracker v2.0 –
After trying numerous time-tracking apps that run off my PC, I landed at the TimeTracker web site. I can now set up projects and keep track of how much time I have spent on each. Slices of time can have notes appended to them so I can keep track of what I did during any given time. This makes billing clients for work I have done a breeze. Oh, and it’s free!

ForPerfect CInvoicer –
This is an online billing/invoice system that you have to download and install on a web site yourself, but it does everything I need it to do, albeit a little confusing. I wanted a tool to keep track of client invoices, send out reminders, send out recurring bills automatically, integrate with Paypal and 2checkout, and be reasonably easy to use for clients. This does it all. Configuring it to look and act like I wanted took a little time, but once it was done everything is running smoothly.

It costs $39.95 and requires a little MySQL knowledge to install it. There is a live demo on their web site (linked above).

HipCal –
I have talked about HipCal before, and I still love it. It is more feature-rich than any of the other online calendars I have toyed with. For a while I thought 30Boxes was going to trump HipCal, but when their developers showed a lack of interest (if not a defiant stance) in enhancing the repeatability of events, I gave up on them. They are shooting themselves in the foot if you ask me, but I digress…

HipCal rocks, and after their first couple of rocky months (bugs, server issues), things seem to have stabilized and I am enjoying the free calendar a lot. It will send me reminders of events, and has a simple to-do list on the side.

Netvibes –
Netvibes keeps getting cooler and cooler. It’s a ‘start page’ of sorts that allows you to customize the layout and content to your liking. You can add your favorite RSS feeds, widgets, email interfaces, and more. They just launched a major upgrade that has a ton of great features. I have tried other similar start pages, but they all suck and are clunky compared to Netvibes.

That about wraps it up.

Internet Explorer

Still using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser on your Windows machine? Stop already!

With the most recent critical, unpatched security exploits running wild, reports are coming in regarding otherwise innocent web sites silently installing malicious programs that steal your passwords and other sensitive information.

Do yourself a favor and install Firefox or Opera, both free browsers that provide a much better, safer Internet experience. There is no reason not to do this now, unless you like other people having access to your computer and everything you do on it.

If you are still using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer on your Macintosh computer, well, you are missing out on the Internet as it is today. This browser is not subject to the same exploits that the Windows version is, but it is no longer updated or supported by Microsoft, and doesn’t take advantage of many of the newer features of the World Wide Web as we know it. You too can upgrade to Firefox for free.

More Pics, Other News

I just added the pictures from February to the Ye Olde Photo Gallery. I still have one hour and 12 minutes left before March starts. How you like them timely apples?

I figured I better go ahead and get them up there as I am about to get slammed with a bunch of side projects. That is a good thing though. They all seem to come at once, and really haven’t let up much since October or so.

At my day job I finally got Apache 2 talking to Tomcat via the mod_jk connector. It has been a problem that has had me befuddled for the last couple of weeks. Turned out to be not anywhere near as simplistic as it was in the Apache class I attended a few weeks ago. I found it odd that not until I was a week into this did I learn that mod_jk2 is depricated, and that mod_jk is what I should have been dealing with all along. Seems like they would have mentioned that in the class. The silver lining in the cloud is that I am now much more familiar and confident with both Apache and Tomcat now.


Windows Free – Update 1

After about 4 hours of using Ubuntu Linux, I ditched it and installed Fedora Core 4. The main reason was that Ubuntu does not have a root user. This may seem odd to experienced Linux folks, but the intentions behind it are good. Unless you know what you are doing, you can completely hose a Linux operating system as the root user. So, in order to become as user-friendly as possible for Linux newbies, they require you to use ‘sudo’ for everything in Ubuntu.

To me, this was a slowdown. I decided to go with what I am most familiar with, and that is the RedHat-based Fedora Core 4.

More on my venture to discard Windows from my life will soon follow.

Windows Free!

I got fed up. Fed up with a bogged down operating system. I got tired of viruses, spyware, licenses, etc etc etc.

Tonight I made the switch.

No, not to Apple. To Linux. Full-time, full-on Linux. Ubuntu, to be exact.

Within two hours I was up and running a smooth desktop, playing music from my iTunes library, browsing with Firefox, checking all my email in Thunderbird, and enjoying the feeling of being free from Windows.

The remarkable thing is that almost all of my USB devices work. My webcam does not, but a quick lookup found a tutorial on setting it up. Transferring all of my files was easy too. I just mounted my WinXP hard drive and whammo – it’s all accessible.

It’s still very early to tell how well I will adjust to this in my day-to-day working environment at home, so I will report back here on the matter in a week or two.