Random new stuff I'm using

Here's a few quick bits about some new apps I'm using now that I have full time job again.

First, I'm back on a Mac. This was mostly because my coworkers are ex-Apple and/or use a Mac, so I went with the flow. This is not without pain, however. Specifically, I hate, hate, hate the Dock. I've been using a Task Bar since Windows 95, and that's a *long* time - I even set up my Ubuntu box I now use regularly to mimic a standard Windows desktop still. The Task Bar paradigm is just more useful and a better user experience. If you think otherwise, you're just a raving Apple zealot - read this for 9 reasons the dock sucks to get a clue.

Happily though, I've found a great little app for Macs called FanTASKtik which creates a little task bar on the bottom of the Mac interface. It's great! No more hidden windows, and I can use my *mouse* (imagine that!) to switch to exactly the window I'm looking for, and not having to alt-tab in circles like a nutjob, or try to figure out which one of the blurry, randomly placed, Expose windows is the one I want.

The other couple apps I'm now using are on my server. We've got a pretty nasty firewall at work that only opens a few ports, so my personal email and IM accounts for the first week were unavailable.

First, rather than forward my email through another service since I can't have a local client access it, I'm now using RoundCube Webmail on my server, and it's great! It's written in PHP, and super-easy to set up and get working with my current IMAP account. I'm not sure how it compares to other email systems like SquirrelMail - it may not be as full-featured - but it's so clean and easy to set up that I'm very happy with it. Definitely try it out if you're looking for decent webmail access to your email.

Then IM - port 443 is open, but it's a pain because though it's good for AIM/iChat or a Jabber server with SSL like Ovi.com or GTalk, Yahoo! IM doesn't work and my personal Jabber server wasn't set up for SSL connections. After a couple days of trying to get jabberd working with SSL (which up until now has been great - easy to setup and stable as hell), I finally gave up and loaded up OpenFire, a Java-based Jabber server which is *awesome*. It's probably way too much for just one person using it - but now that I'm not hosting my web business on that server, it has plenty of cycles to spare. It supported SSL "out of the box" and also has a bunch of IM transports built in as well through a set of plugins. Such a great project! So now I'm able to use Adium to connect through the port as per normal, and have IM as well.

So there you go. As I discover new interesting stuff, I'll post it as well.


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