Favorite things, part the second

Here’s round two of Stuff I Like. (Part one is here.) Who cares? Hmm, I don’t know, but it is nice to make lists of this. Like a reverse wishlist. Not so much something I want as something I want others to know they should want.

Harmony Remote – Gobbled up by Logitech (but apparently none the worse for wear) the Harmony Remote is by far the most usable, most intuitive universal remote out there today. The most important features of this remote are what it does not do.

It does not consider its screen the primary way of dynamically reconfiguring a new interface for each remote it emulates. Instead it uses hard buttons for as many buttons as possible that overlap the most number of devices. You’d be suprised how few functions are device-specific.

It does not require you to “teach” it the IR codes of your other remotes. Instead, you connect the remote via USB and log in to your account at Logitech. You choose your devices there. I’ve got a bunch of obscure and ancient components in my setup and it had every one of them and far obscurer too.

It is not device-centric, but rather activity-centric, asking what do you want to do rather than which device do you want to access to attempt to do what you want to do? When you login to your account you define activities — watch TiVo, play music, whatever — and almost never need to refer to individual devices again. Activities of course are a nicer name for macros which are just sets of remote commands. But thinking in activities rather than which device must be set to which input blah blah is so much more intuitive. I am about the zillionth person to laud this feature, but hey here I am. (Don Norman loves it, for example.)

Win2VNC – The very definition of a useful hack, this program rides on top of VNC to allow you to use a single mouse and keyboard across multiple computers on a desk. (It’d work longer range, but why?) I use this app every day when I plop down in front of my laptop and need to do things on the three other machines on my desk. Getting rid of all those keyboards and mice really frees up a lot of space.

Mozilla Firefox – So I like Firefox, big deal. Using Firefox on PC is a no-brainer. IE is such a steaming turd there’s really no choice. But when I finally switched to Moz on Mac I knew something really important had happened. I mean, Safari is an exemplary browser, truly awesome. For a while there were things I could do in Safari via AppleScript that I could not do in Mozilla, like aggregate all open windows into a single window with multiple tabs. But with Mozilla’s flexible extension architecture it wasn’t long until even that feature was made cross-platform. There’s no Safari for Windows or Linux and I like my browsing experiences to be consistent. Bless you, Firefox.

7UP Plus Mixed Berry – As the only person in the world who actually likes this new drink I feel that I must declare my allegiance here, in public. There, I said it. No need for counterpoint links. Just Google it. No one else likes this beverage.

Anapod Explorer – Probably the most useful piece of iPod software for the PC. The best features include being able to stream music over the web directly from the iPod and being able to manage/access your music via an SQL database of your music library. Oh, also, you can download music from your iPod, something iTunes don’t do.

Sunrise Earth on Discovery HD – You had to know that ambient imagery would be the next logical step after high-def television became somewhat mainstream. Sure, there are media players that’ll load art packs, but Sunrise Earth is one of the first completely non-narrative programs that is just beautiful to look at — and that’s it. The subject of the show is a single sunrise, taken from multiple angles in full surround sound. I love it.

The window side seat on the upper deck of a 747 – No photos for this, so visualize if you will. The curvature of the hull of the 747 is somewhat extreme on the upper deck of the 747 so seats can’t fit right against the window. This is a good thing. Whether the bubble is configured for coach of business class, the gap created by the curve means you get a little footlocker next to your seat that is good for storage, putting your feet up and reclining almost completely, and resting your laptop while you dine. Try it. It feels like a credenza or something.

That’s all for now. Tell me, what I am missing here?