A Father’s Favorite Apps and Online Services
When I was a kid, I remember the TV commercial: It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile. The intended message was the classic, luxury American car was somehow hip and befitting of lifestyles led by younger generations.
Well today, it’s certainly not my father’s Internet!
I’ve been on the Internet for almost 20 years, and a lot has changed. What’s changed most of all is my reliance on the Internet for work, news, communication, creativity and connecting with so many essential things in my life.
From college grad to new career to becoming a husband and father, I’d say the Internet is helping many people like me to overcome challenges, manage daily life and pursue our dreams.
Where my dad was pretty mobile thanks to the automobile, CB radio and later the mobile phone, I’d say my generation is about 10 times (OK…100 times) more mobile thanks to [Moore's Law](http://www.intel.com/technology/mooreslaw/) and the Internet.
Unlike my father’s generation, which grow up in the 1960s, many from my Generation X are living in the Internet cloud. Our music, movies, shopping, finances, healthcare management and even taxes are created, stored and/or shared on the Internet.
Later in his life, my father was content having a desktop PC with a set of souped up speakers. I haven’t used a desktop PC in seven years! Instead, I use a laptop for work and MacBook to help me create, edit and distribute my photos, videos and other media. I also have been using a Blackberry for four years and recently became fascinated by what I like to call my ultimate [Internet snacking ](http://mylifescoop.com/featured-stories/2009/11/internet-snacking.html)device, a [Viliv X70](http://www.myviliv.com/ces/main_x70atom.html), which is the tiny, might Intel Atom processor inside.
Inspired by a Rocketboom Tech segment “11 Useful Web Apps” (video here), I thought it was time to stop, reflect and pay homage to the key applications and services helping me get the most out of the Internet. These apps help me be super productive, connect to important sources of information and they allow me to be mobile so I can devote myself to family, work and life when and where I’m needed most. These are the applications and services I use, ones that fit my personality and needs. Most are free, and some offer premium services if you pay a subscription.
**MacBook and Laptop**
Browser — [Firefox](http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/) is the free browser that you can personalize with colorful themes and optimize easily anytime with new [add-on](http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/) applications or build multiple tool bars to help my workflow (find, bookmark, share). Firefox is speedy and seems to handle almost any Webpage I visit. I’m looking forward to the [Firefox mobile phone version](http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-10411569-264.html).
Email — [Google Mail](https://www.google.com/accounts/ServiceLogin?service=mail&passive=true&rm=false&continue=http%3A%2F%2Fmail.google.com%2Fmail%2F%3Fhl%3Den%26tab%3Dwm%26ui%3Dhtml%26zy%3Dl&bsv=zpwhtygjntrz&scc=1<mpl=default<mplcache=2&hl=en) is my second, more personal email account that I use for non-work related communication and for setting up new online accounts like Twitter and Facebook to personal banking or Communities that connect you with parents and teachers. After setting up Google Mail, created some [Google Alerts](http://www.google.com/alerts), which feed email box daily with fresh links to important topics I follow, especially my own name!
Blogging and Microblogging — I’m enjoy writing, so starting a personal blog [Movin' Ahead ](http://kenekaplan.wordpress.com)using the free [Wordpress](http://wordpress.com) site was a perfect tool to share my creativity, collect tips, videos and knowledge then build an archive of things happening in my life. More recently, I’ve been trying out [Posterous](http://kenekaplan.posterous.com/) to clip material from Websites and post in my blog. The microblogging wonders of [Twitter](http://www.twitter.com) allow [me](http://www.twitter.com/kenekaplan) to follow what people are saying about topics and exchange links and short conversations directly with friends, coworkers and anyone with a Twitter handle. Twitter is great, but applications like [Seesmic Desktop ](http://seesmic.com/)and [TweetDeck](http://www.tweetdeck.com/) make it much more fun and engaging.
Bookmarking — I love the idea of finding, voting and tagging information, photos or great videos I discover online. [Delicious](http://delicious.com/KenEKaplan) was the first social bookmarking site I started with a few years ago, but soon found that I have more fun with [StumbleUpon](http://kenekaplan.stumbleupon.com). By bookmarking sites, blog posts and other content, I essentially put my stamp on it and I can grow collections around my favorite topics, and even enjoy the social networking features that allow me to keep tabs on some very creative, knowledgeable people sharing their bookmarks. I added the Thumbs up icon to my browser tool bar so I can quickly bookmark, tag and comment on Websites I want to collect. I also use the bookmarking feature in my browser, so to copy those and make them accessible to any computer I log-in with…I use [Xmarks](http://www.xmarks.com/).
Other Tools — I really appreciate the URL shortener [Bit.ly](http://bit.ly/). It allows me to create short links so I can fit them easily in emails, through Twitter and Facebook. The shortened bit.ly links are collected into my account, where I can track the number of time people click on my shared links. I have been using the browser tool bar add on for a while, but recently added the [Sidebar tool](http://bit.ly/pages/tools), which is very useful, allowing me to post my links to multiple accounts and even email.
Store and Share — I’m a shutterbug so [Flickr ](http://www.flickr.com/)has inspired me to get deeper into my passion, share my work and discover incredible work from people all around the world…especially my favorite place, Italy. Flickr lets you do so much: organize with tags, sets and groups; download diffferent sized photos; and embed code so you can easily post photos into my blog. I rely on the batch [Uploadr](http://www.flickr.com/tools/uploadr/) tool to save time uploading, titling, descibing and tagging. When I create documents, photos or videos I want to share with other people or groups of people, I use [Drop.io](http://drop.io/). It allows me to store material, create special password protected links that I can share with specific people, and the best part: it allows me to let people preview videos or audio without having to download the whole file.
Video — I shoot HD video and edit with FinalCut Express. I like sharing and storing my videos on [BlipTV](http://kenekaplan.blip.tv) because it’s great quality and the site allows anyone to download the source file. That comes in handy for me when I’m away from my computer, and someone calls me asking if they can have a video file. I really think [YouTube](http://www.youtube.com/k4karma) is a big sensation and it keeps getting better all the time, as it provides me with good stats, creative, colorful embeddable players that can be embedded into my blogs. I also think that [DownloadHelper](http://www.downloadhelper.net/) is an interesting Firefox Add-on, that allows me to download almost any video I find on the Web, in case I want to create a mashup.
Personal finances — Having my banking, bills and investments accessible online is so important and liberating. Rarely to do I step inside a bank, and I’ve cut down on writing checks and snail mailing monthly payments. This year I discovered [Mint](http://www.mint.com/), the site that pulls together all of my accounts, from 401K to 529 plans to my checking and….every account I have associated with the Internet. It pulls me in every week to peek at trends, organize payments and in some cases it provides tips on how to save money. This site helps me keep together all the information I can’t keep in my head and makes things easier to fine than when I stuff things into our medal finling cabinet.
For years, I only used my Blackberry for email and some Websurfing. But this year I have found a handful of fun and productive applications that I downloaded to my mobile device. These applications integrate into the main menu so I can control and move across applications with a few simple thumb clicks.
The [Facebook application](http://na.blackberry.com/eng/devices/features/social/facebook.jsp?) from Blackberry’s Website is a lot of fun.
A super helpful application has been [UberTwitter](http://www.ubertwitter.com/), which has many useful one-click commands that allow me to get a Twitter experience almost like Seemsic Desktop.
I set up an account on [TwitPic](http://twitpic.com/) then programmed it as a contact on my Blackberry. Now I can shoot a photo with my blackberry and email the photo, which publishes to TwitPic and appears on my Twitter and Facebook timelines. Here are a two examples: [Snowy holiday circus](http://twitpic.com/s9sic) window in Hayes Valley, San Francisco and [California Christmas Tree](http://twitpic.com/rwmo6), San Francisco’s Union Square.
I added the [Google Mail](http://www.google.com/mobile/products/mail.html#p=default) for quick and easy access and control of my second email account. Google Maps application is helping me find driving direction
For fun about town, [mobile Foursquare](http://m.foursquare.com) is a hoot! It’s fun to stop in at my favorite cafe or pub and “check-in.” I get points for adding new venues and checking into my usual hangouts. I also get to see if any of my friends are nearby, as I send a Tweet with the map to my location.
I added the [WSJ ](http://online.wsj.com/public/page/0_0560.html)application for blackberry and it helps me consume all of my favorite sections on the online version of the newspaper. This is great when I’m waiting at the dentist office.
The most recent application I added to my Blackberry is [Vlingo](http://www.vlingo.com/), which allows me to talk to my device to create and send emails, SMS and notes. If I can get the hang of this one, I might be able to give my thumbs a rest!
I’d really like to learn what are some of your favorite applications and online services?