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I'm currently working on a DPhil in HCT at the University of Sussex. This section of the website is for an on-going 'learning diary', for me to write my thoughts and notes on various courses and my thesis.

Entries in software (1)


Software stocktake

We had a discussion in the lab meeting on Friday about the software we use day-to-day. Liz followed up by talking about all the software she uses, and asking the rest of us what else we've got. I thought I'd have a go here. 

My 'job' falls into two quite distinct categories: writing code and writing/reading sentences. The tools I use follow that split for the most part. I use a Mac all the time now, with some iPad stuff thrown in.

Writing code: 

  • SmartFoxServer is the main server tech we're building our game on. It's free for 100 concurrent users, supports a Java backend and various front end technologies. We're using Flash (ActionScript 3). 
  • Eclipse. I use that for Java code for the back end of the system. I use the Subversion and JUnit integration for version control and testing respectively. 
  • Sequel Pro gives me access to my database. I'm running MySQL and I could do the whole thing through the commandline, but I'm just not that hardcore.
  • FDT for Actionscript. I use the standalone version rather than the Eclipse plugin, because I like having the front end project open in one window and the backend in a separate one. The different icons makes it easier to flick between the two! I've got lazy though, and I really miss the code completion and open declaration stuff when I have to switch back to TextMate on my home setup. 
  • TextWrangler for HTML. I'm a bit oldskool and like to handcode, even if I do use a GUI for my SQL. 
  • Sometimes when I'm just thinking through the code structure I use Note Taker HD on my iPad. I used to scribble on random bits of paper, but at least this allows me to find my notes later if I need to. 

Writing/reading sentences:

  • Word, especially for getting feedback and making sure I've got papers etc. in the required format. 
  • Scrivener. I keep trying to use it. I'm sure there's a way to make it useful to me. Little things like the lack of tables, and the fact that my supervisor doesn't use it so I have to export then manually re-import any changes afterwards is kind of leaving me rather ambivilent about it though. 
  • Evernote. I was late coming to this, but I have to say it's brilliant. I have a stack of notes about conferences, notes about my studies, meeting notes from supervisions, notes on papers I've read and loads of other stuff, all sorted, tagged and easy to find.
  • Evernote Clearly. Loving this plugin for my Chrome browser. It makes reading articles so much nicer by removing all the flashing stuff and putting it into a lovely font. I also use Reader on my iPad Safari browser. 
  • Again, for planning structures of the documents I use Note Taker HD. 
  • At the moment I'm using Excel for stats. Learning SPSS is moving rapidly up my todo list!
  • I use Mendeley for my references. It's working at the moment. I am currently manually dealing with referencing though, and I suspect that's going to become a problem as my papers turn into chapters!
  • I used to use Instapaper and send articles to my Kindle once a day in a digest. However, that got a bit cumbersome somehow. At the moment I'm not really using either for research.
  • I use GoodReader for papers on my iPad. I have Mendeley set up so that the papers get renamed and stored in my Dropbox folder. GoodReader allows me to set up servers including Dropbox, so I can download the papers from my Dropbox folder straight into GoodReader and save them locally when I start annotating them. Brilliant, frankly. Makes me keep things in Mendeley, and gets me a copy where I need it.
  • I use Google Reader to keep up with my blog feeds, but actually read them on the iPad using FeedlerRSS. That's my favourite lunchtime activity!  


  • Subversion for everything on the uni servers. All my code gets committed very regularly to a shared Subversion repository. We also have our own, and I back up study data, paper submissions and so on to that semi-regularly. I use the command line to access it. Learnt it when I was working on a Ubuntu system. 
  • Dropbox for immediate backup. It's failed me once or twice (I blame the network connection at the university, which can be a little twitchy) but because I don't have to think about it it's still my first line of defence. 
  • WD external harddrive. Pretty much the same stuff gets backed up here as the Subversion repo, apart from the code. 

Social Media:

  • Square Space for the blog. 
  • Echofon on the iPad for Twitter, twitter.com at all other times. Twitter tends to be where I go for information and news, particularly professional webdev stuff or interesting academic links. I don't follow the phdchat meetups because I find them hard to follow, but I use that network between meetings as a sounding board/information source. 
  • Facebook I use more for personal stuff, but with the DIGRA student group now active on Facebook that may change. 
  • Email (it is social, after all) I use Mail.app for my uni mail. Boring but mostly serviceable. 
  • I'm using ifttt.com to automate a few things now, like sending a link to Twitter or Facebook when I write a post (depends on the blog - this one will go to twitter, whereas personal posts go to Facebook).


  • I use a pomodoro app when I'm struggling to get into something, but quite often I just use a timer instead of anything 'official'. 
  • I use Producteev when I'm being organised and keeping track of my todo list (not as often as I should).
  • Google Calendar is my friend for remembering to be at the right place at the right time. 
  • I use stickies as a kind of extended clipboard. I used to use Tomboy when I was switching between Mac and Linux, but Evernote has really replaced that for me. 

I think that's most of it. There's probably a few bits and pieces other than that, but nothing I use regularly! It'll be interesting to see how and if that changes as I carry on, and compare to other people.