2009: It is a new year, be productive but dump your resolutions.

Scott StultsJanuary 8, 2009

Every year people tend to spend the first month or two making promises they are going to break a few moments, maybe weeks later.  We tend to lack resolve and have seasonal habits.  We act nicer in December to our fellow man (woman), unless it comes to taking the last tickle-me elmo off the shelf, then its every person for themselves.  We pull out the big grill  that you probably won’t use for the rest of the summer for labor day weekend that you got for xmas to outshine your neighbor’s 2k stainless steal beast he got the year before, all the while making tim the tool man tailor grunts while cooking, .  And of course, its January, its time for a new diet fad (this year it seems to be acri berry diets that boasts you don’t need to really diet or exercise, all thanks to Opera Winfrey having a show about the most nutritional foods with acri berry being #1).

But I digress.  However I do have some suggestions for the new year because more than likely people are more open to ideas this time of year and hopefully maybe one or two will stick, thereby making your life that much more productive and a little easier, or fun.

Optimize the way you work on a pc, Pimp your desktop.

You don’t need to be a power user like on linux or have to buy a mac to have an intuitive and shiny UI (User Interface, in this case, desktop) to be productive. Its taken me some time, but I’ve finally found the tools that really help clean up the desktop. 


First off clean up your desktop, its rare that you really need those icons, especially if you have windows vista with the new start menu. If you like the mac’s quicksilver application, but like me, tend to work on a windows os, you can try launchy, skylight, or slickrun. Right now I prefer skylight since its written using .NET WPF and its extendable.  With Alt + Spacebar, the window appears and you can quickly find whatever program you want. 

Take time to find a desktop wall paper you like, deviant art is good place to start.  People in general tend to enjoy working with things that are appealing to eye. Everyone has different tastes and different styles of work flow. Experiment not only with the wall paper, but also where the taskbar is placed and what toolbars are shown, etc.  Also play with the visual styles of windows as well. Right now I tend to like the vista glass with a lil black in it.  If you have xp, you can get vista glass.  

Add lifehacker.com to your RSS feed, they always have some pretty nifty desktop ideas, tools, and even lists of pimped/tricked out desktops, and just good productivity tips in general. 

If you need icons or if you like the Mac’s Dock, give rocket dock a try, its pretty customizable and you can replace the icons for whatever your trying to open. 

Gadgets.  If you have windows vista, you can try the gallery for finding some halfway useful gadgets. If you’re using xp or want better gadgets on vista you can try yahoo widgets or google gadgets.  Though gadgets are a cool desktop concept, they have really yet to take off with usefulness or high end eye candy, but you might find one or two to meet your needs.

Practical websites

Live Mocha – This is actually social networking language learning website that really has nothing to do with coffee other than the colors of the website. Its a decent learning tool and not to mention a good way of finding pen pals or other people interested in the same languages that you can practice with.

Live Strong – Calorie Counter that has tons of foods, and exercises taken into account? check. Must have information on the latest diet fads?  check. Must have it as an IPhone or ITouch application? check.  Must be a social network so you don’t feel alone… loser, i mean check.

Mint – looking for a good online free way to manage/budget/invest your money with a ton of awesome tools and that you can take with you on your IPhone or Itouch, then mint.com is the place for you

Life Hacker – need ways to be productive, find new gadgets that are worth the money, or just like to learn new ways of doing things…

Mozy – online data/documents/files backup that is unlimited for just 5$ a month isn’t bad, especially if you’re the tech geek for your family. If they have under 2 gigs of stuff, its free.

Remember the milk – Into the GTD (getting things done) way of doing things? Then check out remember the milk for your task lists. They also provide google gears, iphone application, gadgets and many other ways of entering and keeping track of your tasks. 

Doing dot .net?

Pimp your color themes…    Visual Studio Color Themes and Is your IDE hot or not?

T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkit) – Visual Studio has code generation that has been there for while under the covers, not really used, but very useful.  Why are people spending money on code gen tools when you already spent a fortune on visual studio and comes with this gem?

Gallio – The one stop shop for running your unit tests and it comes packages with the killer mbunit 3.0. 

Moq – need an mock library that doesn’t suck, isn’t confusing and uses lambda? then take a look moq (mock you). 

Test Driven .net – I’ve been using this on my opensource project.  This is one of the very few add ons that I install for visual studio. It lets you run tests, code coverage reports and other nifty things right inside of Visual Studio. A time saver.

Reflector – Red gate now owns and updates reflector, but its still free, want to look at the source code for a dll, check this out.

Linqpad – need to write some linq queries and want to make sure they execute correctly, check out linqpad.


General Coding.

E-Texteditor – The power of text mate on windows.  This is pretty my replacement of note pad.  If you have mac font envy, you can grab monaco for windows. Or you can just use Consolas.

Stylizer – css styling for ajax applications, even with tools like firebug, can be a pain, cause that doesn’t exactly help you with IE and it doesn’t always help with doing heavy ajax applications with pops up and such. Enter stylizer (also coming to macs soon), which lets you style with a real time preview of how it would show in the actual browser (IE and firefox). 


winscp – you can ftp down, edit in e-texteditor and ftp the file right back when you save changes to the file.  nifty. 

filezilla – slick fast opensource ftp client and server. 


Instant Messenger?

pidgin – all your fav instant messengers and even ones you don’t know wrapped into one program.  

skype – voip, phone calls, sms texts, chats.  Definitely the professional grade instant messenger/ communications program. calls are even encrypted.

meebo – you online web page instant messaging client, in case your away and can’t download a client. 


Anything that will help you to be more productive always costs something. It could be money, but most of the time, its costs time. But invest some time now that might reap huge benefits later.  So I challenge you to take some time, get organized, find new efficient ways of doing things that fit your way of life and if you know of anything, programs or otherwise, feel free to add those in the comments below.

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