Top 10 Desktop Applications

I am going to preface this post by stating once again that I am a computer science student with the intention to some day to become a software developer. As such, it is no surprise that most of the desktop applications that I can’t live without have something to do with programming. It might also be necessary to mention that my use of “desktop application” might not be what the traditional user would consider a Desktop application. Not all of them are launched by double clicking on an icon. But all of them are, in my opinion, amazingly developed pieces of software that make my life as a fledgling software developer much easier. I am labelling them “desktop applications” because they are software applications that I run on my desktop computers. As opposed to “apps” that I use on my tablet and smartphone.

1. Surprise surprise! To start out on the list of applications that are absolutely and completely awesome programs that most computer users never use: the terminal! I have run Ubuntu on my laptop since I turned 18, but it just in the last year or so that I have really come to appreciate the power that the terminal gives to a user. I use the standard GNOME terminal that comes packaged with all Ubuntu installations, and I find it absolutely fascinating. There are so many cool programs that can only be run in the terminal (three of which also made this list and will be listed later). The commands grep, wget, and cat are just some of the commands that I run on a regular basis. In addition, I’ve also learned how to write a few basic bash scripts which makes the terminal more powerful. It is so much fun to write scripts! I wrote a script for a friend which automatically converts her audio files from her cellphone into .wav files so that she can burn them onto a cd. I also wrote a script which downloaded all of the XKCD comic, and today I wrote a script just for fun that turns the display on my netbook to full power. And, if you add a bunch of aliases to the .bashrc file in your home folder, you can make the command line much more fun to use.

2. I’ve already written a ton of posts on how awesome Dropbox is, so I don’t think I’ll go into great detail here. Check out my post on how I use my Dropbox, if you are interested. Pretty much everything that I am currently working is saved into my Dropbox so that I can have access to it on my three computers, tablet, and cellphone. And Dropbox plays nice with a lot of other software which makes your life so much easier.

3. One of the applications that I am currently psyched about is Sublime Text 2. It is one of the coolest text editors that I have ever seen. I love the gorgeous user interface. There are a ton of cool features, most of which I haven’t learned yet, but I am looking forward to the learning curve. I’m going to have to try the software for longer before I will know if it is sufficient for larger projects, but for now I use it to write small scripts, small programs, or miscellaneous notes of any kind. Sublime Text 2 recently replaced gedit (the native text editor for GNOME) as my number one choice for a simple text editor. It is free to test, but to get a licensed version, it costs $59. Still, the software is obviously well designed and some programmers obviously spent a good amount of time working on it, so if I had the money, I’d totally go for it. Without the license, a window pops up every so often to remind you to buy the software, but you aren’t actually forced to do so. Still…it is maintained by an active community, and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

4. Git is what I have used at work for about the past year. It is an awesome version control software which makes programming so much easier, especially since I usually am working the same project as two other people at my work. If you are interested, you can find my github profile here, although I haven’t actually started my own repositories or anything like that. Git pretty much means one thing: you can concentrate on the fun stuff, like programming, without having to worry about the organization stuff. If you accidentally delete something, you can always restore the files. If someone works on the same file as you and therefore there is a merge conflict, you can fix the conflict with one commit. You can create new branches in your repository if you want to do some major refactoring without adding compiler errors to some file that you colleague is currently trying to use to solve another problem. In short, it is awesome. I personally have also become a fan of using the git software to create my own personal repositories which I sync using Dropbox. Here is the code I use to create a new repository:

~/project $ git init
~/project $ git add .
~/project $ git commit -m "first commit"
~/project $ cd ~/Dropbox/apps/git

~/Dropbox/apps/git $ git init --bare project.git
~/Dropbox/apps/git $ cd ~/project

~/project $ git remote add origin ~/Dropbox/apps/git/project.git
~/project $ git push -u origin master

5. I’ve just started learning Prolog this semester, and I can honestly say that I don’t think that I have had this much fun since I began to learn Java. I have the privilege of taking Introduction to Logical Programming this semester, and we are learning Prolog. It is based on predicate logic and resolution, and…it is just so cool! I would try to explain it further, but unfortunately I don’t understand everything well enough yet to explain it all. If you are interested, I highly recommend looking it up. One of the reasons that Prolog is so cool is because it is a completely different concept than almost every other classical programming language out there (think Java, C, Python, etc). It requires you to really think, and rethink, pretty much everything you’ve learned about programming.

6. I also added my current second favorite programming language to the list: Groovy. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to use Groovy a lot of the time at work (although the majority of the code is still in Java). We have integrated a groovy shell into our tool, and it is simply awesome. One of the coolest things about Groovy is that it is to some extent an overclass of Java. That means you can write syntactically correct Java code and it is also correct Groovy code. This makes learning Groovy extremely easy for somebody who already knows Java, because you can write your code in Java and slowly integrate “groovy-esque” features into the code. Like automatic type recognition, closures, and editing of existing Java classes. The groovy shell is also really cool, because you can test out short snippets of code quickly to see if they work the way that you intend them to.

7. When I learned Java, I used a normal text editor. But when I started working, I learned how to use Eclipse. It was honestly a pretty steep learning curve. Eclipse is a huge piece of software. In fact it is so large, that I tend to avoid using it on my laptop at home because I have less than a GB of ram. However, once you’ve programmed Java with an IDE (Integrated Development Environment), you won’t ever want to go back. It is actually only in the last couple of months that I have really gotten the hang of some of the keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl+1, Ctrl+Shift+o, Alt+Shift+l, …), but they made programming so much easier. In combination with the code completion of course. Why would you want to type System.out.println(); when you can type syso+space? I also like that the eclipse project separates the class files from the source files. This is especially nice when you are programming with Groovy, because Groovy somehow creates an extraordinarily large amount of class files (because it creates a separate class file for every closure that you write. Which could be a lot). Because of this, I’ve taken to using Eclipse for my school work in addition to at work.

8. I use WordPressto power my blog. And if you are currently reading this blog, you are also currently interacting with WordPress. Isn’t it cool? This is the first program on the list which doesn’t make me a complete nerd. After all, millions of other people use WordPress, and I am assuming a good many don’t have the technical knowledge to know what actually goes on underneath the hood. But that is actually what I find so awesome about WordPress. It is easy enough that anyone with a minimal amount of knowledge of how to use a graphical interface should be able to get the hang of it in a very short time. And I’ve actually taken the time to peek under the hood a bit, and I was very impressed with the software itself. It is pretty well organized, simple to understand, and easy to modify and adapt. It’s an amazingly intricate piece of software, and I give the WordPress community some major props.

9. Inkscape is one of my toys. It is a really cool piece of software that allows you to create pretty cool graphics and vector graphics. I’d like to get around to using it more during the next couple of years. I’ve taught myself the basic things: making layers, editing paths, grouping and ungrouping objects. But I think it is really fun. If I were ever to actually get around to making a web comic, I’d highly consider doing it in Inkscape. Mainly because it is relatively easy to make incredibly cute vector drawings.

10. Firefox is my browser of choice. Although if I must be completely honest, it might very well be because Firefox is the default browser in the Ubuntu distribution. But I’ve gotten used to it, and I like it. No complaints. I can google anything in the main search bar, and have another search bar in the upper right corner with which I can search Wikipedia. I’ve bookmarked all of the pages that I use most often, and I have no intention to switch browsers any time soon. One negative is that due to the large header section of the browser, there isn’t that much room for viewing on my netbook. But I’ve gotten used to always hitting F11, so it isn’t an issue.

University Email Address == 500 MB referrals on Dropbox

Everyone who regularly reads my blog knows how obsessed I am about Dropbox. So I won’t go into that again. I’ve known for a while that Dropbox offers 500 MB (instead of 250 MB) of space for referrals to dropbox for those who have a .edu email adress (you know: But what I didn’t know is that the advertisement is misleading. The University of Duesseldorf (where I study) doesn’t have .edu email addresses. I’m pretty sure .edu email addresses are only an American thing. But I read on some post somewhere that if your university is accredited (which mine is), and someone has gone through the process to tell Dropbox that the university website is indeed and educational website (which apparently someone has), then your uni address will also work for the deal. AND the great thing about the deal is that they also offer retroactive credit (which means that if you have already gotten space from referrals, the space that you received through referrals will double).

So how to do it?

Click on this link and enter your university email address. This will send an email to the account linked with your Dropbox. After clicking on the link, BAM! You will immediately receive your retroactive credit! And now you can earn up to 16 GB of space on Dropbox!

And just so my fellow students at Uni Duesseldorf know…your email address does indeed count! =D This just made my day…


Dropbox has updated their service and now offers all users 500 MB for each referral that they bring to Dropbox. This is probably because most people have wised up at this point and already have Dropbox, so the probability that Dropbox users know 32 people who don’t yet have Dropbox and actually want Dropbox is actually quite slim, so the probability of getting the full 16 GB of space is less. Of course, you can also repeatedly install Dropbox on a Virtual Machine and invite yourself through a dummy email address, and thus get the 16 GB space.

Dropbox Tips and Tricks

I honestly don’t know how I would survive without Dropbox. I literally use my Dropbox at least 4 or 5 times a day. In this post, I am going to share my favorite tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Dropbox.

1. Sync Files between Computers

This is the most basic function. When you install Dropbox, you automatically get 2 GB of free space. This means that you can automatically sync up to 2 GB of files between your computers for free. And this isn’t only the case for desktop computers and laptops. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can also download the Dropbox application for Android or iOS, and you will also be able to sync your files between your mobile device and your desktop computer. This is such a handy app because hardly anybody nowadays uses only one operating system (I personally sync all my files between 6 different operating systems). It is even useful if you only have one operating system, because if you have it installed on your computer, you can access those files on the Dropbox website from anywhere that has internet access.

Is 2 GB not enough space for you? Don’t worry! You can often get free space when you participate in various promotions that Dropbox offers. Lifehacker has also published a great post on how to get free space on Dropbox.

2. Share Files with Family and Friends

Sharing files over Dropbox is very easy. Just create a file in your Dropbox that you want to share with somebody. Then go to the Dropbox website and select the Sharing option. Here you will see all the folders that you are currently sharing. Just hit the New Shared Folder option and select the file that you have already created and add the email addresses of the people with whom you want to share the file. One thing to pay attention to, however, is that after you have shared your file with someone, they have full access to all the files that it contains. Any changes that they make to the files will change in your file as well. So don’t put your only copy of something in a folder and share it with somebody. It is probably better to make a backup copy of the file somewhere on your desktop computer before you share it with somebody.

3. Automatically Upload Photos to Dropbox

I am not a photographer by ANY means, but I do have a Smartphone which has a decent camera. As in, the photos that I take on the camera of my smartphone are more than sufficient to post on my blog. And I don’t need to take pictures for anything else. But I find it really annoying to have to plug my Smartphone into my computer and move them manually. Samsung phones are especially annoying, because you need to install special drivers to be able to access your phone. Last year in Venice, I discovered that I didn’t have the drivers that I needed to load my pictures onto my laptop. So I decided to try sending them to my laptop via dropbox. It turned out to be extremely easy. If you have Dropbox installed on your phone, just view the picture you want to add to your Dropbox. Then select the share option and select Dropbox in the menu that pops up (these instructions are for Android, but I assume that iOS uses a similar system). Then you can select the folder that you want to upload to and you are good to go!

After figuring this out, I decided that I wanted to upload them automatically. I used an app I found in the appstore (Dropsync) to upload automatically, but the good news is that there is now an official Dropbox app for syncing your photos automatically! And you can even get free space for trying it out! So now, you don’t even have to remember to upload your photos. Instead, as soon as your phone finds an internet connection, it will automatically upload them into your Dropbox and you can view them anywhere!

4. Sync Your Music Over Several Computers

I love this function of Dropbox, but it does require you to have a bit more space than just 2 GB (unless you only have 2 GB of music). I have over the past couple of years or so, acquired around 16 GB of space (I just got 5 by testing out the photo upload software), so for me, space isn’t that much of an issue. If you do have the space, it is actually really easy to set this up. Just create a folder in your dropbox for storing all of your music. Then just drag and drop your music library over to this folder. If you have a really big music library and a really slow internet connection (like I do), it could take a while for the Dropbox on your different computers to upload and download all the files (it usually takes a day or so for me to sync a couple of gigabytes of information. But that is because my internet connection is HORRIBLE. It doesn’t actually reflect badly on Dropbox at all. On my work computer, which has a really nice wired connection, my Dropbox can download a couple of gigabytes of information in around 10 minutes or so).

Once your music has been uploaded to the Dropbox server and downloaded to all of your computers, all you need to do is reset the default location that your preferred music player uses for its library. Usually, you just have to go to some location like File > Import Media… and select the file in your Dropbox where your music is saved. This is really cool, because now when you just want to add a song to you music player on one computer, you can just throw it in your Dropbox folder and it will automatically sync and you will be able to listen to it on all of your computers.

5. Use to Upload Your Internet Activity Into Dropbox

This is one of those cool little tricks that I decided to try out just because I can! The web application allows you to connect a whole bunch of your web “channels” (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and interact between them. One of the channels is Dropbox, and there are a whole bunch of cool things you can do using to interact between your Dropbox and your other web “channels”. Here are a couple of cool “recipes” that I found on the site:

  1. Download your starred Google Reader items as a .pdf file into your Dropbox
  2. Download the photos from a starred Google Reader idem into your Dropbox
  3. Backup all the photos you upload to Facebook in Dropbox

Those are just a couple of the options. Playing around is really fun!

6. Use Your Dropbox as Your Desktop

By this I mean that instead of saving everything that you do on your Desktop or your Documents folder, use your Dropbox folder. When you download your homework for the week, instead of saving it to a homework directory on your harddrive, you save it to the homework directory in your Dropbox. Then, when you want to look at the .pdf file that you downloaded two weeks ago on your laptop, you can just open the Dropbox that you have installed on your tablet and view the .pdf from there without having to worry about anything. This is the main way that I use my Dropbox, and this is the reason that having to use a computer without Dropbox would irritate me to the extreme. I’ve gotten so used to saving everything that I am currently working on to Dropbox, so I never have to worry about not having the file that I need for school. This is especially useful for me because for university I always have to download lots of .pdf files every week (the class script files and homework sheets), and now, when I get a minute, I can just spend 10 minutes or so and download all the files and upload them into my Dropbox. Sometimes, I do this from my work computer, sometimes from my home computer, sometimes from my tablet, etc. But the point is, that as soon as I have downloaded them, I can access them from all of my computers.

But the problem with having so many folders in your Dropbox is that it can often get very unorganized. I thought that I would post a screenshot and a short description of how I organize my Dropbox folder (it works for me!):

The apps Directory

In the apps directory, I save some different programs that I use on different computers. I don’t use this directory very much, but it is nice to have. In one of the subdirectories, I have saved my favorite GNOME theme packages and my desktop picture of choice so that as soon as I have installed a version of Ubuntu (as long as it is one of the Ubuntu distributions that still includes GNOME 2). Then, as soon as Dropbox has uploaded everything for my new installation, I can immediately customize the appearance of the desktop so that I feel right at home.

I also uploaded the executables for a couple of old games like Rodents Revenge, Ski Free, and Chip’s Challenge. If there is some information that I might need to run a certain program, I also save this in here. For instance, I found a cool command line program that I use to check my ink, but I don’t actually use it often enough to remember the command that I have to enter, so I created a text document called “checkInk.txt” and wrote out some quick instructions for myself.

The Camera Uploads Directory

The Camera Uploads directory is the default directory that is generated by Dropbox when you use the official Dropbox uploader app. I hope that by the time that the official version comes out, I will somehow be able to change the name or move the directory into another directory. I would really like to move it into my uploads directory. Maybe this feature is already available. I’m just going to have to play around with it.

The media Directory

I took a quick screenshot of my media directory. This is where I save, surprise surprise, my media! I have separated it into four different subdirectories. In the ebooks subdirectory, I save the ebooks that I have found somewhere online (i.e. the ebooks that I didn’t buy on Amazon). This includes yet another subdirectory where I save the ebooks that I have found at Project Gutenberg as well as the complete collection of Asterix and Tintin comics. In the music subdirectory, I save my music as I described above. In the pics subdirectory I save some various pictures that I have picked up in various places (I’m really not much of a photographer). The torrents subdirectory is a directory that I created so that when I have my torrent client up and running on my home computer and watching this subdirectory, I can just save a torrent into the torrents folder and, once it syncs, my torrent client (Transmission) will start downloading the desired file.

The personal Directory

I consider my personal directory to be the “junk drawer” of my virtual life. I throw anything in this file that doesn’t really fit in any of the other folders. I have just a few comments on the subdirectories listed above. The names of my subdirectories are pretty self-explanatory. I save my recipes in the recipes folder, my doodles in my doodles folder, etc. I don’t really use the todo directory any more, because I discovered how awesome Evernote is (and it has completely taken over all of my todo list needs). I use my writing directory to save all of the rough drafts of the various pieces that I am currently working on. I also save a list with my telephone contacts (“contacts.txt”) in case I happen to lose the address book in my phone (which has actually happened 4 or 5 times in the past year). And I also save a list of addresses (“Addresses.txt”) of people that I like to send postcards to when I go on vacation.

The shared Directory

After you have been using Dropbox for a while, you begin to collect a large number of files that you are sharing with different people. I don’t actually use the files very often, but they somehow just sit there and clutter everything up. Therefore, I’ve created a shared directory where I have dragged all of the files that I share with different people. This puts them all in one place and I can find them easily if I need them, but they aren’t in the way.

The uni Directory

The uni directory is where I save all of the different files for my different classes. As you can see from the screenshot above, I have divided it further into subdirectories s1, s2, s3, and s4. These save the files from my first, second, third, and fourth semesters respectively (s4 is still quite empty because I haven’t started my fourth semester yet). For each of these directories, I create separate subdirectories for each of the courses that I am taking (I illustrated this by expanding s3). Both BasisIII-Literature (my Lit course) and Sprachpraxismodule (language skills course for English) were separated into 4 different sub-modules, so if you were to expand them further, you would see subdirectories for all of the sub-modules. This is how I organize all of my course work, and it is extremely easy for me to find everything. I also keep a list of the different websites for each course (“Websites.txt”) in each of the semester directories.

The uploads Directory

I am still uncertain if uploads is the best name for this directory. It pretty much contains all of the stuff that I upload to Dropbox from my Kindle Fire or Smartphone. It also contains a couple of folders for the experiments that I have done with So there isn’t that much going on there.

The work Directory

Since I actually use Git or Subversion for most of the work that I actually do (and those files just stay on my work computer), the work directory doesn’t have that much in it either. I mainly keep copies of a lot of the articles that I had to find and read to try and learn what formal modelling is. I also keep my timesheets here.

There is SO much more!

There are so many lists of different things that you can do with Dropbox, that I don’t think it is necessary to go into any more detail. I have pretty much described everything that I use Dropbox for on a regular (daily, hourly) basis. Just google “Dropbox tips” and you will get thousands of articles on customizing and using your Dropbox. When I did this, I found a great article here. My all-time favorite blog Lifehacker also has a lot of great articles about Dropbox (check out the ones here and here).

Don’t have Dropbox yet? Try it now and get 250 MB of free space!

UPDATE: I just found out recently that if you are a student, you can use your university email address to get 500 MB of free space for each referral.

The Technology that changed my Life

I have been studying Computer Science for the past year or so, and I have, of course, learned quite a lot of new things to do on a computer. I learned to program with Java/Java SWING, C, Assember, and Scala. I learned how to use Eclipse and Subversion. Recently I’ve experimented with different text editors: Gedit, Nano, Vim, Emacs (which is my favorite so far), and Notepad++ (for Windows). But not one of these things actually changed how I use computers. But then a couple of months ago, I got my first smartphone. I got a beautiful Samsung Galaxy S II with Android 2.3 and a beautiful screen that cost me a small fortune (at least from my budget). Then I was an idiot and lost it. I literally felt like I lost an arm or a leg because somehow in the two weeks or so that I had my phone, I got extremely attached to it.

I was actually quite late getting on the smartphone train. My brother and sister have been rocking awesome android phones for much longer than I have and they are considerably less geeky than I am (at least my sister is. My brother is an engineer and likes discussing calculus in his free time, so he also qualifies as being a huge geek). My mother even got an iPad last year. But once I made the plunge, I couldn’t go back. My replacement phone is the LG Optimus One with Android 2.2 Froyo:

It is a pretty sweet phone. It was not extremely expensive and it has all of the features that you would expect and require from an Android phone. I am not a photo geek (I don’t like taking pictures at all) and I don’t like talking on the phone either (unless I am in the mood), so the apps that I use are mainly for accessing the web from wherever I am. But I thought I would use this post to give a shout out to my favorite apps:

1. Social Networking Apps:

For Facebook, I use the generic pre-installed facebook app. I don’t actually care for it that much, but then again, I don’t really care for facebook all that much either. Google+ is the new social networking site that was released by google about a couple of months ago. The google+ app is quite nice. My favorite social networking site is still Twitter. There seem to be thousands of different twitter apps, and up until recently, I was using Seesmic for my twitter needs, but the links in the tweets stopped working, so now I switched back to the official Twitter app. I won’t really go into detail here about the differences between all of these sites because it would take too long. I am seriously considering doing a blog on that topic though.

2. Google Reader

One of the major changes that Android has made to my life was introducing me to Google Reader. I used to look up all of my favorite blogs by hand and never really thought twice about it. But once I got android, I found that reading blogs with the provided browser is not the best experience. So I went ahead and installed Google Reader on my phone and I LOVE IT!!! Whenever anybody in my Google Reader list posts anything, my phone syncs the info automatically and the little folder on my home screen shows the number of posts that I haven’t read yet. I can just open up Google Reader and read my favorite blogs in the tram, bus, or really boring calculus lecture. One of the disadvantages is that I am no longer able to comment as easily, so I don’t seem to be using the internet as much, when in actuality, I am using it much more.

3. Amazon Kindle

I have had a Kindle ebook reader for a year now, and I absolutely love that thing. I have raved about my Kindle before, and I consider it to be one of my necessary tools in order to survive long trips (I wrote earlier this week complaining about the 17+ hour bus trip I was on. I didn’t have my Kindle. Otherwise 17 hours would have flown by). The Kindle app for Android is also quite nice. When I was flying back from Venice, my real Kindle ran out of batteries, and being able to finish my novel on my Kindle was a lifesaver! It is surprisingly easy to read a book on a 3.2 inch screen.

4. Dropbox

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t rave about Dropbox at any given time of the day. And it is the truth. If you do have a smartphone, check out Dropbox. There is absolutely no reason not to, and you will not regret it. Even if you only have to sync one file between your computer and smartphone ONCE, you will benefit from it. It is absolutely free to get 2 GB of space! You can sync one file between any number of computers/smartphones. Click here to try Dropbox out and get 250 MB of free space!

5. Email

I managed to find the app “Hot Email” which allows me to check my Hotmail email on my phone. It is alright, although I am definitely open for suggestions. Not that I am that hopeful. I have had my msn address since 2004, and up until I got my phone, I found the email service perfectly adequate. I was just too lazy to actually switch to my gmail account permanently, even though I got that one when Gmail came out (yeah…back in the day when you needed an invite to join Gmail). But now that I have an android phone, I actually use my gmail account more! Why? Because my phone messages me whenever I get an email in my Gmail account and the gmail app is really nice for reading emails and sending them as well. It is awesome! Gmail makes emailing feel like texting.

6. Simple Notepad

I have tried out TONS of different todo applications, but they always annoyed me. I hate it when I have any alarms. I also hate it when I have to make multiple entries and edit a ton. I found that I was missing my mirror (because I always write what I have to do on my mirror). But then I found Simple Notepad. It does have a check-list option, but I always just make a text document and edit it. The nice thing about Simple Notepad is that you can use the widget option to post your todo list on one of your desktop screens like I have done above.

7. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is an app that allows you to text people who also have WhatsApp for free!

8. MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is an excellent app for keeping track of your exercise, calorie intake, and current weight. I just started using it this week because I just started my no sugar thing, but I find it to be a very nice app. I was most surprised with the support it has for the foods in Germany. I found almost everything that I was looking for. It also allows you to record your weight in kilograms which is quite nice.

9. WikipediaMobile

Wikipedia is my search engine of choice, and WikipediaMobile lets me look up whatever I want, whenever I want. It’s pretty sweet.

10. Angry Birds

A very fun and very addicting game!!!


This post was inspired because Lifehacker just released their new Pack for Android, so be sure to check that out as well! And if you have your own favorite mobile apps, please comment and let me know about them!

Arrival! (Safely and without mishap)

The tedium of travel faded away as I lost my self in “The Daughter of Venice” as well as the first two installments of the Three Investigators (“The Secret of Terror Castle” and “The Stuttering Parrot”). I know, I know. The Three Investigators have absolutely nothing to do with Venice. But I have been meaning to reread them for some time now and I figured this was as good a time as ever. After I finished with “The Stuttering Parrot”, I started reading a generic mystery novel that I found for free online. Why this choice? Because I know that if I had begun to read the Foundation series (which was my first choice) even Venice would probably not have been able to distract me from my Kindle. But a generic mystery novel? It can wait.

It is really a beautiful city. I took this photo from my smartphone (it leaves something to be desired…but then again…so did my regular point-and-shoot):

That’s the Grand Canal! (I just found the night setting on my phone. So if I have to take any more pics after sundown, hopefully they will be of better quality).

And my computer doesn’t recognize my smartphone. Problem? Nah. Not when you have Dropbox. I just connected both my phone and my netbook to the free WiFi here and then uploaded the photo to dropbox from my phone. Don’t have Dropbox yet? Install here for free and get 250 MB of extra space! Yeah, yeah…I know I am completely geeky, but seriously? If you have two devices running two separate operating systems, then you should at least try it. I guarantee that you will use it at least once! And it is completely free! So if you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or run dual operating systems, just check it out. You can probably find some use for it even if you don’t use two operating systems.

Sorry…that was an extremely geeky paragraph. And I am supposed to be writing about Venice, the “most romantic city on Earth”. Or something like that. Oh well…I guess you can take me out of Geekland but you can’t take the geek out of me!

Anyway…the walk to the hostel was short and nice and quite pretty. There are a lot of stands on the street with people selling many different souvenirs and other toys. They have a lot of masks! I forgot that  Venice is famous for masks. I could buy one…but personally they scare the living daylights out of me, so I would never be able to hang it up in my room or anything. I would just shove it in the box of souvenirs at the top of closet…but who knows.

The thing that I actually noticed the most was that there are a TON of Americans here. I haven’t seen that many Americans in one place since…well…since I was in America. I guess it is because almost every American student now has summer break and almost every American student who comes to Europe to travel ends up in Venice eventually. So it figures. I spotted a guy wearing basketball shorts! It was actually a breath of fresh air…

In any case, I think I am going to go to bed now so that I can rest up and be ready for a beautiful day of exploration tomorrow. So stay tuned!

A Few of my Favorite Things (with images!)

1. My HP Pavillion dv9000





My first and main computer. While running a beta version of Linux, some one accidentally unplugged the laptop, causing it to crash from lack of battery. That pretty much fried the graphics card (no more ubuntu screen effects…sadly. Those are awesome) and no more wireless receiver. Luckily I can live without the graphics card because I am not a gamer, and I happened to have a usb-wireless receiver lying around, so it was all good. I am currently running Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Edition with the Blue-brass Gnome skin and the Faenza icon set. It looks pretty awesome, even though the graphics card doesn’t work. The 17 inch screen is optimal for programming (as well as the fact that it is a Linux machine) and I really don’t know what I would do without it.

2. Creme Fraiche






This is the most important cooking ingredient of all time. For soups, sauces, and stir-fried veggies that don’t taste quite right, just but a spoon full of creme fraiche in the pot and everything will be well. I learned to cook from my roommate, and she always put creme fraiche in EVERYTHING, which got me started on it. Now whenever I eat anything with that distinct, delicious taste, I always feel so cozy, comfortable, and right at home.

3. My Stabilo pens!






I love to draw, but I also love to draw everything with as many colors as possible. I always draw crazy things in the margins of my math notes, but even more than that, I have a specific color for specific sections of my notes. For instance, definitions are red, proofs are green, examples are light blue, etc… I don’t actually write all the notes in that color, because that would use up my beloved pens too quickly, but I always freak if I accidentally left one color at home (or the whole box! Then it is a catastrophe). I write the rest of my notes in black. But these are the specific pens that I use, and I love them. 20 colors in one box! It is a dream come true. I am also reluctant to lend my pens out, because I always worry that some one will miss-use them. Probably a little bit OCD, but I guess I just am overprotective of my felt tipped pens! (They go flat really easy, so you have to be very careful!)

4. My Samsung N150 plus





I bought this computer last summer with my hard-earned money. It is running Windows 7, but I have also dual booted it to run Ubuntu 10.10 Netbook Remix edition, but the 10.10 NRE is HORRIBLE (DO NOT DOWNLOAD IT!) so I actually run it in Desktop mode. It has the skin and icon set as my big computer, but it is just portable for life on the go. I use it as much as my 17 inch, because I prefer a larger screen size for programming…and pretty much everything else when it comes right down to it. But some things (like MSpaint, mentioned in the last post), a VERY VERY VERY few things, actually require Linux to run, and therefore it is nice to have a laptop with Windows 7 capabilities.

5. Tetris Friends




I don’t do gaming, but I do play Tetris Friends and thoroughly enjoy it. The best game is the 2 player battle, where you play against someone somewhere else in the world in real-time and  try to send them as many lines as you can (you send a line if you clear at least 2 rows with one go). But don’t take my word for it! Check out the site! One Disclaimer: It is extremely addictive. But if you do try it out, you can add me as a friend. My user name is: quietscheente and maybe we could do a tournament or something sometime (you can also play against your friends). My avatar is really cute too, so I uploaded a picture as well:

Awww! I love him! All of the avatars are square creatures.

6. My Ducky Key Chain!






When I googled “Ducky key chain”, I actually found this picture of my actual ducky key chain? He is several different colors of yellow now, because I have used him so much, and the battery for the flashlight and the quacking sounds doesn’t work (normally) any more. But I love him! I used to lose my keys on a daily basis, but now that I have a bright yellow, completely adorable ducky key chain, I don’t lose them any more! That is really an accomplishment in my book.

7. Lifehacker



I love this blog! It is extremely geeky, but all of the articles are very interesting and very useful. I especially love the end of the year posts that tell you what programs are the most essential for windows operating systems and Linux operating systems. But there are also a lot of articles about how to become a more productive worker and articles about do-it-yourself projects. My favorite DYI projects are the one that use Altoids tins. But Lifehacker is also extremely useful for finding the best program that can do a certain function. Every week there is poll about programs that do pretty much the same thing, and then at the end of the week, Lifehacker analyses the programs themselves and gives their recommendation. My golden rule – if Lifehacker recommends it, it works. And my golden rule has never been wrong. It has helped me find many useful programs like CCleanerEverything , and Revo Uninstaller. And don’t forget! It also introduced me to my #8:

8. Dropbox






Dropbox is a file-syncing utility, that allows you to share files between computers. All file changes are synced at start-up, which is really handy especially when you are running more than one operating system. I run three operating systems, but since all of my most important files (that I might need to work on in another operating system) are in my Dropbox, I never have to use a flash drive any more. It also allows you to share files with your friends. If you don’t have a Dropbox already, but want to try it out, click on this link : and we will both get 250 MB extra space. The non-paid for version of Dropbox has 2 gigabites available, but you can also get more space by inviting friends and by doing the awesome Dropquest internet scavenger hunt that awards you more space when you find certain things in the internet. (or maybe that was only this year. BUT IT WAS EPIC!).

If the link doesn’t work, just tell me, and I will send you an invitation per email.

9. Smallville




Smallville recounts the tale of how young Clark Kent becomes Superman. It follows him through high school, a brief stint in college, and to his becoming the “Red-Blue blur” that saves everybody, but is moving too fast for them to actually see his face. And regardless of whether you are in the mood for teenage drama or for building exploding, bullet firing, action scenes, smallville has it all. Although the show has run for almost 10 years (it is in its tenth season now), every season is gripping and fascinating.

10. Twitter






Twitter is an extremely interesting social network. People post what they are thinking about and if you like what they are posting, you follow them. My favorites are the people who pretend to be someone else. There is someone (or maybe a group of people), who has made accounts for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and are always recounting the cases they have been on (or more likely reporting the cases as they are happening). There are also some people who are just funny in general, like Owl City and Zachary Levi. I am not much of a tweeter myself, but you can follow me if you want to. I usually just tweet a link to this blog whenever I update it.


But I didn’t think up this idea for a “favorite things” page all by myself. I give credit where credit is due. I copied the idea from my sister Jenn’s blog. You can check it out to see the original idea.

And please leave me a comment! This week was really boring as far as my life goes, so I just posted about my favorite things, but I won’t necessarily know what to write about next week, so please comment and tell me what would interest you.