A short list of paid services I use and recommend:
- Skype in/out: I live abroad but have a US number through Skype which I setup to forward to my mobile, wherever I am in the world. I can dial landlines/mobiles from Skype in the US and this is my caller ID. Moreover, it helps my mom sleep at night knowing she can always easily contact me, wherever I am (I have a collection of 20+ SIM cards so keeping track of the changes is unfeasible), and allows me to do business in the US as if I were a resident (I also keep a US permanent address).
- Last.fm: For $3/month I can constantly stream and discover new music, from my computer and iPod. I don’t keep music on my HD/iPhone anymore, just stream. I hear good things about Spotify, however, so may give that a try.
- Papers.app desktop/iPhone: I’ve found this indispensable for research, it’s an organization/search/reading tool for academic papers. It works well with metadata about a paper (so no pile of obscure PDFs to root through). For each project/research interest I create a new folder/subfolder and it makes the deluge of information manageable as well as the process of writing and citing feasible. If it only had good Kindle integration, I could really quit printing things completely.
- RTM pro: The iPhone app is a $25/year subscription, but if you use RTM as your primary todo-list organizer and have an iPod/iPhone it’s indispensible.
- Flickr pro: Handles sharing and backup of all my photos. I don’t keep photos on my HD.
- Dropbox pro 50 GB: This is a recent addition and an experiment which is thusfar a success. I have 5+ machines I work regularly with, and while all are all flavours of Unix, each has its peculiarities. On each machine I have two file directories: Scratch (local stuff which I am comfortable with the possibility of loosing/not being able to access) and my Dropbox, which is automatically synced, with version history, across all machines. It lets me skip worrying about backups and synchronization, as well as forces me to be organized and keep the important stuff under 50GB. In addition, for programs like Papers.app, which don’t handle syncing well, I simple keep all the files on my Dropbox which handles it perfectly. I could deal with 1TB of space, along with some good streaming tools, and then I’d get rid of other cloud services and simply use Dropbox.
- TextMate: Text editor for Mac, I mainly use for quick edits and scripting languages (bash/python/ruby/perl etc.). It has a limited set of Emacs keybindings, but at times I admit I’m frustrated with the lack of the full power of Emacs and fall back on Emacs pretty often. It’s main advantages come when I have a larger project using a scripting language, with a complex hierarchy, which does happen fairly often as I try to find any excuse I can to hack some python, as it has good version control integration, project management, and interpreter integration. I use the free IDEs XCode for iPhone app development, and Eclipse for C/C++.
- Finale Composer: Music composition software, can transcribe from my digital piano, synthesize sounds.
Gadgets. Here’s a list of my most used gadgets in decreasing usage time. I recommend having a good mobile productivity setup, and having good tools for home, work and travel:
- MacBook Pro 15″ (work)
- Apple Cinema 30″ HD display (work)
- MacBook 13″ (home)
- Samsung Ecofit HD 27″ display (home)
- iPhone 2G (dead-water damage) which has since been replaced by, iPod touch and Motorola Slivr mobile phone while I wait for new iPhone release in June (mobile)
- Kindle DX (home, mobile)
- Sennheiser wireless headphones (home)
- Casio Privia digital piano (home)
- Nikon D40 DSLR, kit lens, 50mm f/1.8. Hoping to buy a wide-angle lens soon. (home, travel)
- Asus Eepc netbook (travel)
- iPod classic 30GB, iPod shuffle USB (sports/parties)
- MacMini PPC (has been supplanted by new MacBook pro, but still functional, at some point I’ll get a projector and use this to drive it).
I’m currently borrowing an iPad, which has been much lovelier than my initial “I’d rather have two iPods than one iPad” tweet portended. The killer apps for me are the music making/synth possibilities, the interface for my morning/evening computer usage rituals, mobile media consumption/netbook replacement. But I think the best is yet to come, new ways of making music, giving presentations, and mobile computing along with the proliferation of the concept/data model of the net being constantly in reach.