I recently got a new laptop since my old one broke. How recently? WordPress was the first address I typed into Chrome as I decided I wanted to actually document the software I’m choosing to put on my machine. This thing only has 150 GB of space and Windows alone uses 30 GB. So I need to be somewhat frugal with how I choose to use my space. (I suppose I could also swap the optical drive for one of the TB hard drives I have, but then I’d have to deal with not having an optical drive.
On to software. I’ve loaded a couple dozen PCs, so I have a vague idea of what software might be good to install. In this little series I’ll go over each choice I make, why, and any other fun pieces of information you may or may not enjoy. (Those are literally the only two options.)
There’s a decent chance you already have this installed, but if not, it’s worth looking at. I switched to Chrome after getting tired of Firefox’s memory leaks. I tried it when it first came out and initially disliked the minimalist structure (and lack of extensions at that point), but eventually Firefox became nearly unusable. I’ve meandered between Chrome, FF, and Opera over the past year or so, and while having options is nice in case one doesn’t work in a specific scenario, Chrome gets the job done. It’s pretty quick, doesn’t waste screen space, and now has the extensions I want.
I don’t care much for ads. AdBlock Plus eliminates almost all of them. You do, however, need to go into its settings page and uncheck the “Allow some non-intrusive ads” if you want the full ad-free experience. I find leaving it checked allows sponsored search results on Google, which makes for a worse search experience.
I’ve heard good things about AdBlock (not Plus) and muBlock. In my experience none of the three are much different from each other. I’ve been using ABP for years and have no real reason to switch now.
If I could only choose one extension, this would be it. Sites like YouTube becomes borderline unusable without it.
This past January I picked up a Chromecast. It’s turned out to be pretty nifty, letting me play videos on the TV screen instead of the laptop or phone screen. It’s also made group YouTube a lot easier since everyone can add things with their phones to the playlist. It’s also a lot less obnoxious than pulling out a VGA cable and external speakers. Worth the $30 if you watch much video, especially with people.
Google Cast has the benefit of letting me cast a tab to the screen. This works about as you expect it would, more or less the same as crowding around a screen but now with less crowding and more screen.
The other major benefit of Google Cast is the ability to cast sites like Hulu and DishAnywhere to the screen as neither has native Chromecast support. Things with native support such as YouTube certainly work better, but YouTube also lacks a lot of content.
Videostream fills in the lack of local video playing void Chrome has. I have plenty of videos stored locally with no cloud access. I still want to be able to watch my movies on the TV instead of the laptop screen. Thus I install Videostream. It has issues with speed at times since it has to send the video from the machine to the Chromecast over the local network, but it generally does its job so long as network traffic isn’t heavy.
Last.fm is my online “radio” of choice. It doesn’t limit me the way Pandora does, it has more options and information then Youtube, it plays the music videos when they exist, and ABP knocks out the ads. The biggest issue I find it the stations get stale with a limited pool of songs. LfS here let’s the songs I play on sites like YouTube still be sent over to my play record at Last.fm. This both shows on my profile as well as letting me make a nifty square of pictures of albums I’ve been listening to.
Pushbullet also ranks among my favorite extensions for Chrome. I don’t particularly care for texting on a phone screen. A full size keyboard works better. (In fact, I waited until 2014 to get a smartphone because I wanted to keep my real keyboard.) Pushbullet alleviates the problem anytime I’m at my computer. If I get any sort of notification it shows on my screen instead of making me check my pocket (or wherever I left my phone). Hell, if I forget my phone at home, as long as both my laptop and phone have internet access, I can use it for messaging purposes.
HubSpot has been pushing Sidekick hard, and the application is not without merit. The primary benefit it has is telling me when someone reads an email I sent. I send a lot of emails and knowing whether the recipient has read the email helps inform my actions.
Reddit Enhancement Suite
I use reddit quite frequently. Perhaps too frequently. RES makes the interface more readable and saves me the time of having to click links. After all, who goes to a link aggregator to click on links? The comments also become much more readable. I’m sure it has other nice features, but I almost never use reddit without it, so I wouldn’t know.