Essential Free Software For The Mac

A new Mac buyer recently asked me for the best starter set of software for a new Mac. I am very Apple — which means I have an iPhone, a Mac, an Apple TV and an iPad, so I like things that let me work across all my devices seamlessly. For all office work I highly recommend Apple’s Pages, Numbers and Keynote apps — they are very very good, are free, and work everywhere (except the Apple TV). You won’t find a note-taking app in my list because I’m using Apple’s inbuilt Notes. I also use Mail, Calendar and Address Book — all default apps. And I can’t even begin to talk about how good iMovie is for video editing (I have been editing video since 2005, and while my professional video editing days are behind me, I love how easy iMovie makes life for me).

Anyway, here’s my list (and I would recommend installing in this order):

Essential Software:

System Cleaner
Run it once and then set it up to auto-execute on a weekly/monthly basis. It will clear your system of un-needed files.

Dropbox (iOS + OSX)
Cloud Storage
I used only free storage for around a year, now I pay for a Terabyte of storage. I cannot imagine life without Dropbox.

FTP Client
And not just FTP, supports S3, Azure etc.

Torrent Client
My favorite way to download files — uTorrent is a very good alternative, but for some reason I’ve always preferred Transmission.

The Unarchiver
File Compression
Zip, Rar and almost every other file compression format is supported

Media Player
Plays every media file out there. I use it instead of Quicktime.

Video Format Transcoder
This is what I use to convert video files into formats supported by iTunes so I copy stuff over to my phone/ipad.

Text Editor
If you code, you’re going to love this. If you like text-editors, you are going to love this.

Photoshop Replacement
As powerful as Photoshop and ridiculous overkill for most people.

Pixelmator (Especially, if Gimp feels like too much)
Image Editing
Powerful image editing — most of you will be happy with this.

Illustrator Replacement
Ridiculously good. Seriously.

Pocket (iOS + OSX)
Article Reader / Saver
My favorite way to save articles I live/love — I have a pocket button in my browser, the app on all my devices and I love it. And I love the clean interface it gives me to read articles.

Reeder (iOS + OSX)
RSS Reader
Old school 🙂 Still use an RSS Reeder and send almost everything I like to Pocket to read later.

Removes unwanted language files (saved 3+ GB of space when I ran it recently)

Buying A New Phone: iOS vs Android vs WP7 Part 2

There have been a wide variety of opinions expressed to me since I wrote the first part — catch up on the story till now here: Buying A New Phone: iOS vs Android vs WP7

Most revolve around people recommending phones that they already have, or phones they wish they had bought. In the meanwhile, I started to focus on a single thought: how the would phone evolve over time.

Today, the phones we buy are a combination of hardware and software. Most features on the phone are dependent on the software. And with operating system upgrades, we have come to expect the phone’s behavior to change.

Here’s my dilemma: the Android operating system update path just isn’t clear. For one, the device manufacturer controls when a phone receives an update (if you don’t root the device). So, while the world may have moved on to Android 2.3, a number of HTC phones are stuck with 2.2 or earlier.

With Windows Phone 7, there is a major update on the horizon, called Mango. The problem here is also related to the software: while the OS is good from what I can figure out,  not enough phones are selling for an app ecosystem to thrive. And that’s the other part of the puzzle: our phones evolve because of the apps we install on them.

The only people who seem to have got this right are Apple: a tightly controlled hardware-software combination has ensured that the evolution experience is the same for everybody. The number of phones they are selling has ensured the BEST app ecosystem possible.

The only problem is the cost. And I am torn between buying an iPhone 4, which launched today in India, for INR 34,500 or buying a cheaper Android phone and an iPad 2.

For the moment, I am swinging towards the iPhone 4. I’m going to wait till Sunday, when unlocked versions will be available on online stores like Flipkart.

I guess the iPad will have to wait.

So, Apple wins. More appropriately, iOS wins. It offers the best experience amongst all the phones available. Perhaps, only because I believe that whatever surprises await me will be pleasant.

And yes, Samsung Galaxy S2 has better hardware, more RAM etc … but Samsung is in the middle of a dispute with Apple over whether they’ve been copying the iPhone. That doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me: what if Samsung are forced to issue a UI update that completely changes the look and feel of the Galaxy S2? There’s no guarantee they’ll get it right — if they had the chops to build great UI, they wouldn’t copy Apple.

No story is over till the credits roll — and I still haven’t bought a phone. I doubt my experience, and my vacillation, is unique. I’m sure more phone buyers today are as conflicted as I am. I guess, we’ll just have to wait and see where I put my money.

Will post photos and an update as soon as I buy a (i?)phone.

Buying A New Phone: iOS vs Android vs WP7


I need a new phone. My Nokia E71 has served me faithfully for the last two+ years. I bought the E71 after Shyam Somnadh (@codelust) recommended it to me — mostly by waving his own E71 around. I’ve had no major complaints, and have loved the battery life going two-three days without having to charge it.

I decided to be a little more scientific this time: I have a checklist, and I’m not buying the first phone I see. And I’m documenting the process — now we all know that documentation makes everything scientific and process driven. I mean, how many software companies do you know that go on and on about how process driven they are? Of course, most of them are body shopping experts that learnt documentation from the US Embassy while applying for visas. But hey, I’m not knocking them, I’m paying the highest compliment by emulating them 🙂

Let’s start with that checklist:

Number One: The phone needs to cost me less than a decent laptop. That immediately rules out the iPhone 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S2. I’ve set myself an outer limit of INR 29,000 (approximately $650).

Number Two: Battery life is super important to me. I use the phone a lot, both for voice and data. So, I need a phone that nots going to conk out in the middle of the day.

Number Three: It needs to be pretty. I like design and typography. And while I’m not great at design or typography, I know good stuff when I see good stuff.

Number Four: It needs to be reasonably future proof. There’s no point in buying a phone and then it going completely obsolete in six months. The E71 is a bad example, but it still works fine and lets me check email, get on to twitter, make phone calls and send texts.

I’m plan to buy the phone online at — I don’t have the time to go to a mobile store and butt heads with uninformed salesmen. Along the way, if you know a place where I can get a great deal, I’m listening.

Let’s start with a list of phones (ordered by price):

Phone OS Price
Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Android 2.2 INR 21987
Dell Streak Android 2.2 INR 24399
Motorola Milestone Tablet Xt720 Android 2.2 INR 25299
Samsung Google Nexus S Android 2.3 INR 25499
HTC Incredible S Android 2.2 INR 26399
iPhone 3GS 8GB iOS INR 27799
Samsung Galaxy SI9000 Android 2.3 INR 27999
HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7 INR 28292

The phone that’s currently out of stock is the iPhone — but more on that later.

I’m using reviews at Phone Arena, Anand Tech, GSM Arena, and Phone Dog to figure out which phone is good for me — but I still don’t know.

Stay tuned for Part Two.