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Going Paid

Yes, I know, first world problems and all that, shut up…

With the news that Instagram can now start selling my photos, something I didn’t agree to when I signed up, I’ve been looking at what services I use the most and wondering if I might be better to switch all my online/digital actions to only use paid for options.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for companies to make money and that offering services for free isn’t ever going to be properly scalable until you reach a critical mass (think Facebook and Google). What really irks me about the Instagram change is that I don’t have an option other than to stop using it and delete my profile. If they’d given me the option, I’d likely have paid for it.

That got me thinking, could I switch to only using apps and services I’ve paid for?

I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for most of my ‘social’ activities. I’ve recently gotten back into FourSquare (as I pull the data into the journalling app Day One) but it’s not really something I’m using socially, it’s purely a tool to make up for my own, shockingly bad, memory! I use several Google services, Mail, Docs, Calendar for my personal information management.

I do not pay for any of these services.

I use Evernote to capture incidental data, notes and links, and the wonderful Dropbox (try it!!) to sync files between all of my devices (personal and work laptops, iPhone and iPad). I have an iTunes Match account to host my music in iCloud.

I pay for all of these services.

So I guess the question is, can I replace Twitter, Facebook, Google and Instagram with paid for options?

For many years I’ve paid for a Flickr Pro account. It was one of the first services I used that even offered a ‘paid’ option (I was still using Blogger at the time) and thankfully, it seems to be going under a bit of a revival. I looked at alternatives (500px) but with such an investment in time, I’m happy to stick with Flickr. The Flickr app seems pretty good, and I’ve also got the Camera+ app on my iPhone which has allows me to upload photos to Flickr. That takes care of Instagram.

When it was announced, I paid for access to, a pseudo-replacement for Twitter. Whilst I’ve not really gotten into it, perhaps all I need is a bit of a push (and for more of my friends to be using it). I’m not ruling out Twitter just yet but as it continues to look to lock down it’s system, I’ve no doubt there will come a tipping point which pushes me to ditch it.

So what of Facebook and Google?

I can replace the latter for the most part, a combination of Dropbox for documents, my own mail server (part of the hosting account I pay for as part of this blog) and the calendar is already driven from my work Exchange server (it just syncs to Google). I’m not inclined to leave Google though, their ecosystem works well.

That leaves Facebook. I’ve pondered deactivating my account there before. I get some value from it, as I have friends and some work colleagues on there, not to mention my family. What value does it have? Well that largely comes about because ‘everyone’ uses it. Organising a get together or a trip is pretty easy if everyone has a Facebook account. The problem with only me closing my Facebook account is that my friends would still use it and I’d likely miss out on news and events in my social circle (well, one of them at least). Sure I could try and convince them to use Google+ (which is definitely improving) but that’s not gonna be easy.

Other than Instagram, I’m not making any decisions right now. I can see a time when I delete my Facebook account, but as someone said, I’ve not yet accounted for the next cool new service to come along (although they are increasingly looking more like aggregators than anything ‘new’). Time will tell but at least it’s good to know there are options out there for when a company pulls a fast one and leaves you with little choice but to seek alternatives.

There is a couple of weeks before I need to close my Instagram account though, and whilst there is still time for them to back track and for it all to be deemed a big mistake, the fact this was allowed to happen at all is what leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Bye bye Instagram.


UPDATE: Instagram have published a clarifying post, stating that there intention isn’t to sell photos and that the wording wasn’t great in their original T&C update. I disagree, I think the wording was very clear (I’m not alone in this) and so whilst the words may have changed, the intention to monetise Instagram is clear and understandable. For me, it’s not a question of them being ‘bad’ for trying to make money, it’s the lack of options for me, the user. If anything, whilst I probably could keep using Instagram, the whole affair has given me a bit of a kick. It’s very easy to ‘rely’ on a free service then grumble when it changes.

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On my MacBook Air

My Desktop

More for my own notes than yours, and because I’ve done this before and it was useful to some other people, here is what I have running and installed on my MacBook Air. I’m not done yet but for the most part I’m happy enough with this lot.

My workflow is dominated by Apple devices, MacBook Air is my home computer, I have iPhone and iPad, but all of my personal tasks, email and calendars need to be accessible from my work machine (a Windows laptop). That’s very easy these days and I rely on Google to host most of that, pulling the info into various apps on my different devices.

For now.

So here is the list, and this time round it’s not all free. That’s one thing I’ve realised in my time with iPhone and iPad, some apps are well worth paying for and I’m happy to pay for them (same as some services, Instapaper being an excellent example).

  • Moom - gives me Windows 7 style window positioning options which I’ve grown used to.
  • Growl - still THE notification engine it seems, highly configurable.
  • Caffeine - one click to stop your Mac going to sleep until you say so, handy for viewing movies etc.
  • FuzzyClock - change the time to an approximation, seems to help me be less ‘minute’ obsessed.
  • Alfred - quick launcher, file finder, all round awesome tool. Seems to have overtaken QuikSilver.
  • The Unarchiver - deals with most archive file formats, nice and simple.
  • Witch - window switching made easy, a must have if you are moving from Windows.
  • TimeMachine Scheduler - lets you schedule timemachine backups… obviously.
  • Air Display - extends my screen to my iPad or iPhone (still playing with this one).
  • Microsoft Office  - much as I love the Apple versions (Excel still rules though), most of the files I work with are Office formatted. Home Use Program got me this for £10!
  • Twitterific - Twitter Client. I have Tweetbot BETA installed but prefer the lighter design touch of Twitterific… however Tweetbot has a MUTE filter for hashtags which may sway me.
  • CyberDuck - FTP client. Transmit gets a lot of plaudits but this one has a duck as an icon. It also now supports WebDAV and Google Drive.
  • Notational Velocity - stores and retrieves notes. I use this primarily to access SimpleNote notes (a web app) as it’s synced to Dropbox.
  • Adium - IM client. Another duck.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner - used to create a bootable backup of my machine.
  • Dropbox - quite simple, I don’t know where I’d be without this service. Hosted files, apps on all my devices. Drop something in a folder and it’s synced everywhere.
  • TextWrangler – powerful text editor. Looking at Tincta for something a bit simpler though.
  • uTorrent - for downloading torrents. Duh.
  • VLC - video player, supports a multitude of formats.
  • Google Chrome - I use it on my Windows box, so syncing keeps my ‘web environment’ the same wherever I go.
  • Day One - Journal app, only downside is no web app, syncs with iCloud and/or Dropbox.
  • iA Writer - a ‘focused writing app’, clears the screen of distractions. Syncs with Dropbox and/or iCloud.
  • Reeder - already on my iPad and iPhone, my RSS reader of choice. You can post out to InstaPaper, Pinboard and other services from there.
  • Read Later - an Instapaper client for the Mac. A nice companion to Reeder (you can use it for Pocket as well).
  • Skitch - fantastical app for screenshots and image tweaking.
  • Postbox – current email client. Hooks up to GMail well. It’s not as nice as Sparrow though, which Google has just bought so still not sure what I’ll settle on.
  • HandBrake - video transcoder, for converting video files. Simples.
  • Calibre - eBook management, for my Kindle.
  • Spotify - because sometimes listening to random playlists created by someone else is all you wanna do!
  • CamTwist - bit of a daft one, but lets you add effects during video chats. Also lets you share your screen on a cam session so potentially useful? YMMV!
  • BetterTouchTool - I love the touchpad, multi-touch gestures are changing how I work, this add-on lets you take that to the next level, still figuring it all out!
  • ControlPlane - context based configurations, change your setup depending on where you are, what you have plugged in and so on.
  • Bartender - file under, why didn’t Apple fix this? Removes a LOT of visual clutter (it’s the small bar on the top-right of my screenshot above).
  • Fantastical - I’d be lost without my calendar, but iCal is less than great, this makes using the calendar quick and easy.
  • Skype - because it’s Skype..
  • Crashplan - web based backup. Still trying to figure out how to include my NAS drives in my plan but feel much more secure already!
  • Cobook - fed up managing your own Address Book? This will hook into FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter (more services on the way) and keep things up to date for you. Sync to iCloud.. sync to devices. SORTED.
  • scrobbler – cos I can’t stop logging what tracks I’ve listened to now!
  • AppCleaner – for when I want to remove some of these apps, it’ll find all the related files and get rid of them too.

Still to find

  • Image Editor – iPhoto is fine for tweaking photos but I need something for when I’m building out websites. Seashore is a likely candidate.
  • To Do – I use Astrid these days, but they don’t have an OSX app. I’ve flip-flopped on To Do list apps on my iOS devices a lot recently so expect this to change again (been through RTM, Orchestra and a couple of others).

One thing that struck me, whilst writing this up, was how loyal I am. Not to Apple, but to services or applications that I like. I know there are other RSS apps out there but I will not budge from Reeder, same for InstaPaper, Chrome and a few others. Once I find something I like, I tend to stick with it until I don’t have the choice (Sparrow being the most recent example).

Still a couple of things to sort out, I need a nice thin sleeve for my MacBook Air, but I’m very happy to have made the switch.

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Quick wins

At work I have a laptop running Windows 7 and every lunchtime, as I lunch away from my desk, I lock the machine.

Except what I should do is pause iTunes, set my IM status to Away, and then lock it but I forget to do all that most days and just bash Windows+L.

However, I’ve found two small, free, applications that will now allow me to do all that with one mouse gesture, specifically it will pause iTunes, set my IM status to Away/Idle, mute the laptop speakers and turn off the screen.

Hot Corners handles the mouse gesture (and allows you set to other actions), and MonitorES handles the media player, IM and screen actions.

Simple and effective.

I do like it when things just work.

And yes, I know the Hot Corners idea is a direct lift from OSX but they wouldn’t buy me a MacBook… :(

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