updates @ m.blog

Useful Tools

<p>Some other weblogs I read have been making these lists lately, so I'll throw my own recommendations into the mix.  Here are some "useful tools":</p>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.latex.org">LaTeX</a></strong>:  For most serious writers, scientific or otherwise, <a href="http://www.latex.org">LaTeX</a> is a no-brainer.  Moving away from the word processor into a tool actually designed for <em>writing</em> is liberating.  Combine it with <a href="http://www.iam.ubc.ca/~newbury/tex/bibtex.html">BibTeX</a> and you have an incredibly powerful tool for references and academic publication.  Sure, you might want to keep a copy of OpenOffice or Word around for something like writing a letter to your mother, but for publication quality work involving references, footnotes, and figures; LaTeX can&#8217;t be beat.  For a good introduction to LaTeX I&#8217;d recommend <a href="http://http://www.ctan.org/tex-archive/info/lshort/english/lshort.pdf">&#8220;The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX.&#8221;</a></li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.gnu.org/software/textutils/textutils.html">GNU textutils</a></strong>:  If run a *nix variant (including MacOSX) you already have these.  If you run Windows, and work with text files often, download them immediately<sup><a href="#fn1">1</a></sup>.  Utilities like these coupled with the power of pipes basically let you get answers to many esoteric questions quickly.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.perl.org">Perl</a></strong>:  Technically a programming language, not a tool, but most people use it more like the latter.  Learn enough <a href="http://www.perl.org">Perl</a> to be able to write one-liners for your shell scripts.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://search.cpan.org/dist/WWW-Mechanize/">WWW::Mechanize</a></strong>:  Making the task of <a href="http://www.perl.com/pub/a/2003/01/22/mechanize.html">screen-scraping</a> trivial in <a href="http://www.perl.org">Perl</a>.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.python.org">Python</a></strong>:  For data exploration or rapid prototyping, <a href="http://www.python.org">Python</a> rocks.  The interactive interpreter basically makes Python the world&#8217;s most sophisticated desktop calculator.  Highly recommended for programmers or even for someone learning their first programming language.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/">Firefox</a> + <a href="http://www.chrispederick.com/work/firefox/webdeveloper/">Web Developers Extension</a></strong>: Even if you&#8217;re not a web developer (I&#8217;m certainly not), this extension comes in handy for those of us who are hackers at heart.  Many of the tools are useful for quick reverse engineering of a web page to see how something was done.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/">Firefox</a> + <a href="http://adblock.mozdev.org/">Adblock</a> extension</strong>:  Oh hey, I can read websites again!</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://www.rc0.org.uk/tdl">tdl</a></strong>:  Command-line <a href="http://www.rc0.org.uk/tdl">todo list manager</a>.  Definitely not for everyone.  For some of us, having a command line based todo list that can be specific to the current directory is incredibly useful.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong><a href="http://linuxgazette.net/issue67/orr.html">cowsay</a></strong>: Debian Weekly News calls <a href="http://linuxgazette.net/issue67/orr.html">cowsay</a> &#8220;an absolutely vital program for turning text into happy ASCII cows&#8221;.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong>Tool that is going to be incredibly useful but aren&#8217;t really &#8220;out&#8221; yet</strong>:  <a href="http://www.nat.org/dashboard/">Dashboard</a> and similar software will change the way we use personal computers.  Implicit query is the future of interface design.</li>
</ul>

<ul>
<li><strong>Tools I don&#8217;t have but I wish I did</strong>:  A <em>good</em> TV listings website and/or program.  A calendar/scheduling program that stores all my information on the server (similar to email with <acronym title="Internet Message Access Protocol">IMAP</acronym>) in an elegant fashion, so I can have access and edit it from any computer<sup><a href="#fn2">2</a></sup>.  A Gnome native version of something like <a href="http://kile.sourceforge.net/">Kile</a> or <a href="http://www.winedt.com/">WinEdt</a>.  Know of these?  Let me know.</li>
</ul>

<p id="fn1"><sup>1</sup> To get useful command line tools in a Win32 environment, either get <a href="http://www.cygwin.com/">Cygwin</a> or <a href="http://unxutils.sourceforge.net/">unxutils</a>.</p>

<p id="fn2"><sup>2</sup> I know about programs that will export to iCal feeds, but I&#8217;m talking about something that will use networked storage for its native format, not just export.</p>

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