All posts tagged “tech”

So. Over 400,000 email/password combos were leaked from yahoo yesterday. Check out this tool to see if you were in the unlucky pool.

Mountain Lion releases soon. Check out Macworld’s article on getting ready for it, if you plan on installing.

An interesting tale of performance computer art run amiss of the law…

PSA, or, a Good Reason to Move Away From LinkedIn

Really Bad Password Policies

Some apps that have proven themselves useful

Interesting Links

Well this seems like a good enough roundup for now. Hopefully you can find some good reading material there!

SaaS for Small Non-Profits in Africa


My “new” job (I guess it’s not super new…I’ve been at it for a little under a year now) has afforded me a lot more time to explore web apps and the “software as a service” (SaaS) model. I’ve come into an office making use of very little in the way of technology and am doing my best to explore the possibilities of tools that would (a) increase our efficiency, (b) improve the quality of our interactions with people locally and abroad, (c) provide cost effective solutions to tedious problems and (d) do this all in a manner not over taxing to people who may not enjoy or be used to using software.

To give examples of what I mean, before I stepped into my role there was little in the way of a data backup plan (this still needs work), contacts are stored in an old physical book that is following apart, and any time a mass email is sent out everyone scrambles to find all of the addresses to send to.

There are other issues that need dealing with as well — this is just a sampling — but it (hopefully) gives you an idea of why SaaS is a serious consideration.

In the search for tools to use I’ve gotten to experiment with a lot and so thought I’d start a series reviewing them from the perspective of a small non-profit working in Africa. This might give a bit of a different review than typically written as multiple factors will come into play:

  • Ease of use for non-westerners and those for whom English is not their primary language.
  • Price, which is very important for a non-profit with little operating budget.
  • Access speed locally in Africa (and along with this, reliance on bandwidth heavy images).
  • Does it solve an issue we have in a way that we would (does the tool fit our needs or are we trying to fit the tool to our needs?)?

These are a smattering of the questions that I have to ask before considering presenting a tool to our leadership. Hopefully you’ll find these reviews interesting and, if you are the developer(s) or owner(s), you won’t take offense if we don’t like your app due to our unique circumstances.

My Personal “Must Have” Mac Apps

I thought I’d followup my Must Have iPhone Apps post with a mac version.

  • Accordance — It may not be the prettiest but this is the best Bible software on the mac. It does everything you need — notes, highlights, word search, passage/translation correlations, deep searches, etc. Using this, I’m able to highlight and annotate the Bible to my hearts content, making it the perfect decentralized journal.

  • Safari — You’ve got to browse the web with something. I keep wanting to go with a different browser but Safari is the best looking and easiest for me to use; after a day or two or five, I always come back to it.

  • iTunes — I listen to a lot of music so music management is necessary. This app does it best on the mac. I don’t think it needs much more explanation.

  • Adium — Chat software is a must in my job as a system administrator. It’s an easy way to keep in contact with co-workers and others that might be experiencing problems. As we don’t have a centralized chat service, it’s necessary to have a client that will allow me to connect to everything without a ton of windows. It’s fully themeable (contact list and chat windows) and keeps detailed logs (which comes in handy more often than you’d think). Skip iChat and check Adium out if you do any chatting.

  • Tweetie — This is “must have” because it’s a twitter client and its just so nice to microblog the day (and keep up with others doing the same). I’m not convinced that this is the one I’d settle on in the long one. I’ve tried it, Twitterific, TweetDeck, SeismicDesktop and others not worth mentioning; of these Tweetie is the best for me so far. You should consider the others as well if you are looking for a twitter client.

  • TextMate — This is a text editor and so much more. I use it daily — all of my blogs are written here, daily notes are written here, random bits of info are collected here and even coding is done here. It has an extensive bundle system that extends functionality (converting Markdown into HTML, highlighting code and turning a text document into a wiki are just 3 examples). I say it is a must have, even though it’s not free.

  • Terminal — Another built in app and another must for sysadmins. It’s the command line interface that not only allows you insight into the inner workings of your computer but allows you to easily connect to other systems to do administrative tasks. It’s another daily use app.

  • Espresso — This app is new on my radar. I used to use Coda for web development but am really impressed by Espresso. It feels lighter, but is just as powerful, still doing everything that Coda did.

  • Dropbox — 2 GB of free for online backups (with paid upgrades that aren’t exorbitantly expensive). It autosyncs all of your machines and allows access online. It’s super easy to share folders and files with friends too. All in all, Dropbox is the best that I’ve seen in this genre of app.

  • Calibre — This program became necessary as my pdf library increased and I found myself with mobile devices (kindle and iPhone) that worked as ereaders. It allows for as seamless as you can get conversions from one format to another and easy transfer to external devices. It’s also open source and multi-platform. If ebooks are something you care about, this is the software to check out.

  • DaisyDisk — This is a slick app that’s often handy in basic computer tuning exercises. It graphical gives you a look at all of the files on your machine, allowing you to visualize the amount of space they take up. It makes identifying run away log files or those old home videos you’d thought you’d archived easy so that you can reclaim the space.

  • DateLineDateLine is simple in its function: it provides a calendar that sits on top of your desktop, as a line, and distinguishes the current day so that you always know the date. Visually it’s stunning in its simplicity and its utility is well worth the download.

  • DrawIt — For professional design work, Adobe products tend to be the standard. They are expensive and have a steep learning curve for non professionals though. Thankfully, there are some very rich, easy to use and independent design apps out there for the mac. This is my favorite. It focuses on vector based designs and is incredibly handy in making quick design mockups for web sites and other such things. As an added bonus — it won’t break the bank either!

  • LightZone — This is another graphic app, focused on photography rather than vector based design. It’s easy to use and quite powerful. Less expensive than a lot of the competition makes it a good choice to get your photo editing needs done.

  • Pixelmator — While LightZone focuses solely on photo editing, Pixelmator will do any other bitmapped based editing, making it comparable to (but not yet as powerful as) Adobe Photoshop. If you need something cheap and relatively easy to use, check it out!

  • Scrivener — Scrivener is one of those hidden gems. It’s a writing tool designed specifically for screenwriting but has application beyond that. I use it as a collection place for topical notes and scripture thoughts and discussion. Often longer essays will be formulated in this app first. One if its bonuses as well is a full screen mode (the word processor becomes the screen, hiding all other open programs, including the dock and taskbar). If you do much writing, you really should check it out.

  • VirtualBox — Sometimes you need to be able to run another operating system without new hardware or without rebooting your machine. Virtualization software allows you to do this from within your running OS. VirtualBox is Sun’s, and it is open source (read: free) and on par with the apps you’d normally have to pay to use. I run both a windows VM and a linux VM without issue on it. If this is something you need to do — check it out before spending your money.

And there you have it — a good list of apps to check out. A lot of these are freely available, but not all. Most of the commercial ones though have demos and should still be considered if they solve a problem you currently have. Suggestions about other apps to look at or opinions about the ones mentioned? Leave them in the comments!


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