Stuff I Like/Use: Fall 2020


It’s been about nine months since I last went over some of my current favorite apps and services.

Since then, a lot has changed, so I thought that it might be

Apps

Some of my favorite apps:

  • Tonal Energy: My favorite tuner/metronome app. I have a full review here. If you don’t have a tuner, get this one. If you’re looking for other options, I have a whole bunch over on my Apps for Musicians page.
  • Notion: This app is like a bunch of productivity apps all rolled into one. Calendars, databases, Kanban boards, notes/documents, to-do lists, etc. It’s both flexible and powerful. It’s also free for individuals! If you’ve not played around with it, it can be pretty fun (and maybe a bit addictive)!
  • Todoist/GoodTasks: Two great to-do lists. Todoist is a simple but powerful cross-platform app, but since I’ve recently dived headlong into the Mac/iOS ecosystem, I’ve been using GoodTasks. It uses Apple’s Reminders as a database (so you can get location notifications and easily use Siri) but provides much more power and flexibility to organize and prioritize your tasks. Either one of these are great.
  • You Need A Budget: If you need help with finances, I can’t recommend YNAB enough. It took me a bit of a time to get used to its methodology (just 4 simple rules), but it really has been great for financial peace-of-mind. Considering that both my wife and I are freelancers, financial security (especially now) is not something that just happens.
  • Zero: I’ve been on the intermittent fasting (IF) train for several years. The health benefits of IF are receiving more scrutiny, but I just enjoy the fact that I feel better in the morning (and evening) when I have a few hours a day that I don’t worry about eating. This app helps keep track of when (and when not) to eat.
  • Overcast: My podcasting app of choice (on iOS). While there are lots of other good options (PocketCasts, BeyondPod, Castro, Castbox, etc) try to stay away from Spotify. Spotify is trying to ruin podcasts.
  • iOS Shortcuts: I use this app to connect other apps. I haven’t done a lot with it yet, but I have some different Shortcuts to make tracking thing easier. I have different icons set to start timers pre-filled with specific information – push a different button to stop the time tracking and push it to a calendar. Very useful for freelancers! You can really go down a Shortcuts rabbit hole if you’re not careful.

Hardware

  • Chromebook: While it’s showing its age a bit, I’m still enjoying my Samsung Chromebook Pro. If you’re looking for a device that can be both a laptop and tablet (although it’s not great at either), this is worth a closer look.
  • Amazon Kindle: I’ve had my Kindle Paperwhite for a few years, and it’s continued to be one of my favorite tech purchases. The E-Ink screen really is less harsh on my eyes (especially at night) and the ability to easily highlight and make notes and import them in to something like Notion has been wonderful. When I was gigging, the fact that it’s easily portable was also nice, but that has been less useful lately!
  • Zoom H4N: While this is a standalone recorder, I’ve also been using it as an external microphone for online teaching. It’s probably not quite as good as a high-quality, boom-mounted mic, but it’s much better than the mic on a laptop or webcam. Plus I can unplug it and use it on the road!
  • Mac Mini: My desktop PC dramatically died several weeks ago, and I went back and forth on what to replace it with. I knew I didnt’ want Windows 10, and I wanted to build a PC and put Linux on it, but so many things that I use (Adobe apps, MS Office) are not available for any Linux distro. So I bit the bullet, and so far, it’s been great! The Apple Tax is real, but the hardware/OS integration does feel much better than Windows.
  • Keychron Keyboards: I’ve got both the K6 (65% compact) and K8 (10-keyless) keyboards. These both seem to be high-quality, wireless mechanical keyboards for a reasonable price. You can use this link to get 10% off, if you’re looking for a new keyboard!

Miscellaneous

  • Mint Mobile: While I definitely haven’t been “mobile” much recently, the fact that I’ve only been paying about $20/month for cell service (for 8 gigs a month in data and unlimited talk/text) has been very nice. Surprisingly, it’s been even cheaper than my wife’s Google Fi plan (which starts at $15 before using any data).
  • LastPass: I’ve written about the importance of password managers before. If you don’t have one yet, you’re probably due for a bad time soon. Password breaches are getting more common, and the only defense is having long, unique passwords for every online account.

Anything I’ve missed, or something neat that I should be using? Let me know!


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at ColinDorman.com!