It’s that time of the year again, and I had so much fun writing up my favorite digital things last year that I thought I’d make a tradition of it.
But first, a review of my rules:
- List items must be anatomically digital
- List items must have won me over in 2012
- List items may or may not have been released in 2012
I’m hoping that iOS 7 does some much-needed innovating on my favorite operating system, but the app ecosystem is still head and shoulders above other platforms.
Habit List jumped up and surprised me. The conceipt is a simple one: enter things you want to turn into habits and track how you’re doing. It’s not social, it’s not revolutionary, and it’s not even complex to implement, but it is working for me.
Habits I’ve been developing with the aid of this app include shaving regularly (which I abhor), flossing, blogging, exercising, and more.
The best part? Once you get a streak going it compells you not to blow it! Oh, and they just released a pretty awesome 2.0 as I write this post. Good stuff.
Sports Scores & Alerts
I had been a long time Sportacular user until Yahoo! acquired it and turned it into Craptacular. This year I went hunting for something better to track various sporting events1, and boy did I find it.
Sports Scores & Alerts is fast, easy to use, works reliably, and is really really fast. Did I mention that it’s fast?
It has all the in-game push notifications I could want and an interesting freemium business model where subscribing via in-app purchase unlocks more concurrent alerts and other features.
I am not a huge sports nut, so the free stuff gets me where I want to go. I do hope that this model is working for them, though, because I love the app and would hate to have it acquired by some behemoth that ruins it.
OS X Apps
OS X is my work horse. My favorite OS X apps are almost always tools and utilities. This year is no exception, with three tools I use to make my work/life more efficient.
Dash has become one of a handful of apps that I have running all day, every day. It is a code snippet manager teamed with a documentation browser.
I’m not much of a code snippet guy myself, so I mostly use Dash for docs, but boy do I love it for that purpose.
It so nice having offline, auto-updating, searchable docsets for every language/framework/toolset I use. I can hardly remember life before Dash.
Oh, and Dash punts to Google or Stack Overflow if it can’t find what I’m looking for, so there’s really no reason to not use it every time I need a reference.
ImageOptim is a great little utility. It wraps up all the best image optimization tools (OptiPNG, PNGCrush, etc.) in a nice drag-and-drop interface.
It handles many image types and modifies them in place, showing me the savings.
I love finding tools like IMageOptim that do one thing well and make my life as a webdev easier.
CloudApp got my business because Evernote acquired Skitch and then released a terrible, terrible update to the software.2 It wasn’t too much of a surprise, but it turned out to be just as awesome as so many people had told me.
The killer feature? The app shows you how many people have viewed the link you sent them, so you can know for sure whether they saw it or not.
It’s like read receipts for files!
I was once an avid gamer. Then I became a once-avid gamer. Thanks to iOS and the rise of “casual gaming”, I’m slowly returning to form.
When it comes to gaming and me, 2012 has been the year of Hero Academy. In fact, this epic strategy game became such a staple in my life that it made an appearance at my 30th birthday…
My favorite one was the Hero Academy cupcake. It tasted like victory. twitter.com/jerodsanto/sta…— Jerod Santo (@jerodsanto) July 22, 2012
As of today I’ve racked up 404 wins on Hero Academy and I have 14 games in-progress right now.
My wife says I’m addicted. She might be right.
The only game that was compelling enough to rip me away from Hero Academy has been Bastion.
Bastion is a totally unique and stylish RPG that completely blew me away. It’s available on many platforms, but I played it on the iPad and it was a near perfect video game experience.
If you haven’t played Bastion yet, you really need to get on that.
I cycled through a bunch of podcasts this year, but there’s only a couple that have earned must-listen status in my podcast rotation.
This year, The Vergecast took the place of TwiT as my weekly technology-culture commentary podcast. The two shows are similar in their format and topics, but The Vergecast is hands down more interesting to me.
The hosts are funnier, the insights are more insightful, and the rabbit holes are deeper. Plus they take calls sometimes which always result in hilarity.
Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots
Leave it to the Thoughtbot team to enter a crowded market of programming discussion podcasts and still shine by way of great guests, deep insights into development processes, and episode lengths that are just right.
The Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots is definitely worth checking out. A few of my favorite episodes so far are:
- Episode 28: Farther, further, faster
- Episode 19: I have tons of guns and knives
- Episode 18: Trading Hours for Money
I didn’t include a music category last year, but thanks to signg up for Rdio this year, I’ve been listening to a lot more new stuff. Speaking of Rdio…
The biggest thing to happen to my musical life in 2012 was signing up for Rdio. I’ve always naysayed subscription-based music services because I like to take ownership of music that I love, but working alone most days means I spend a lot of time listening to music and even my sizeable collection gets old quickly.
I gave Spotify a try first, but their interface was such utter crap that I couldn’t stomach it.
Rdio to the rescue. Getting to sample from all of the newest music each week is an utter joy. Finally, a reason to look forward to Tuesdays!
If I had to pick an album of the year, it’d be Blunderbuss by Jack White. Everything Jack White puts out is good, and his first solo album is no exception. Every song on this album is interesting and unique, yet it feels like a cohesive work.
The Sounds are not a new band, but they sure are new to me! It’s not too often that I come across a band and immediately enjoy their entire collection, but I was happy to have that experience this year with The Sounds.
Here’s a taste of the goods:
I don’t usually get down with contemporary Christian music, especially Christian rap music. Most of it just feels like low-quality imitations of the real thing.
Propaganda, on the other hand, is the real deal. This man is a face-melting rapper and a poet. Here’s Propaganda on empowerment:
His entire album is Excellent. You should buy it.
Things that Ended
Alas, 2012 wasn’t just about the new. Some of my favorite digital things came to a close.
I had been watching the Totally Rad Show since way back in their first season. That’s long enough to feel like Alex, Jeff, and Dan are close friends of mine even though they’ve never met me. Weird, huh?
I lived much of my geeky life vicariously through TRS. I don’t have time to play all the new video games, see every movie that comes out, or keep up with all the great TV shows, but TRS made me feel like I did all that and more by watching the guys review, preview, and speculate on these things.
I hope something will step up and fill the void that TRS leaves in my daily routine, but I doubt I’ll be so lucky.
Over the last year I went from enjoying John’s rants on technology to flat out adoring them. It is the one podcast that I look forward to every week and I’ll miss it quite a bit.
Thankfully, John will still be making regular appearances on The Incomparable, another pretty good geek culture podcast that I’ve been listening to lately. It’s not the same, but it’ll have to do for now.
Quid Pro Quo
So, that’s my list. I hope you find one or more of these things as enjoyable and/or useful as I have.
Please do recommend any of your most beloved digital things of 2012 in the comments so I can discover them in 2013!