Tim Cushing's Subjectively Awesome Stuff Of No Particular Timeframe

from the and-now-for-something-completely-different dept

Our weekly Awesome Stuff post generally deals with interesting and/or useful new products currently being crowdfunded. This week's post will be a little different (actually, entirely different) as I was tapped to fill in for Mike and, unlike many award winners claim while being handed a statuette, I actually had nothing prepared.

So, rather than put together a small list of poorly researched crowdfunded projects, I have decided to write what I know. This post will deal with the tools I use as a Techdirt contributor, as well as with some of my favorite places on the web. Will it be as awesome as most Awesome Stuff posts? Considering we have a pretty active set of commenters, this question is far from rhetorical.

We'll start (I say "we" as if you had a choice where we start) with my most-used tools.


When Google decided to pull the plug on its RSS reader, it prompted a panic among those who had become reliant on a service they assumed would be around forever. (There's a lesson in there that has something to do with eggs and baskets…) I'm currently subscribed to 400+ feeds (nothing compared to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who claims more than 1,900), so a capable replacement was essential, rather than just a nicety. After trying a few others out, I settled on Feedly, which offered a streamlined, text-only feed that roughly approximated the Google Reader experience.

I find Feedly's mobile version superior to the desktop version and use it almost exclusively. Sharing is pretty seamless and its inline browser can usually handle the job. I do wish Feedly would give you the option to open links in another browser because when it can't handle a site, it tends to lock up for a bit before gracelessly crashing to the "desktop." The other small issue I have seems to be cache-related. Clicking on one article might open up one from a "page" or two back, or from somewhere else on the current page. This is often more disconcerting than annoying and is liveable.


Another essential tool. Anything I think I might write about or simply want to read later is sent to Evernote via Feedly. Unlike Feedly, the desktop version is actually superior to the mobile version, and it has an extension that allows you to "clip" nearly anything from any webpage.

It's a very streamlined note-taking tool that I rarely use to take actual notes. Mine's filled with links to articles and posts (nearing 4,000 at the moment) and that number swells by about 300 notes per month. I often look at the growing number of notes and swear that I'm going to clean it out, but I think we all know that's not going to happen. Falling storage costs have made the idea of "cleaning something out" (email, Evernote, etc.) completely absurd. Why clean it out when you've got space to store it all?

Google Docs

This became my go-to composing tool once Google released its offline version. Even without a Wi-fi signal, I can still write and simply sync it up when a signal is acquired. A lack of a signal is becoming increasingly uncommon, but it's still handy having that option, just in case.

That's the Holy Trinity (as it were) of my writing process. From Feedly to Evernote to Google Docs before ending up on Techdirt. The main problem with the feed reader is lag. Feeds trail other sources like Twitter, where information flows almost instantly. To make that change would mean organizing lists on Twitter to trim down its firehose tendencies. And building lists on Twitter is about as enjoyable as bathing multiple cats. Failing that, I could just do what Mike Masnick does and keep the entire internet open at all times.

Moving on from the essential, here are some other essentials not entirely related to the writing process.


If you're going to browse Reddit using your phone, do yourself a favor and pick up BaconReader. It's a much cleaner experience, it handles multiple accounts, and it has an inline browser that actually works without periodically dumping you out of the program. (I'm looking at you, Feedly.) The premium version is only $1.99 and completely worth it.

Reddit Enhancement Suite

If you're going to surf Reddit anywhere else, you have to grab RES (Reddit Enhancement Suite). Visible vote counts on comments and posts, an inline Imgur/Youtube viewer, Never Ending Reddit (a tumblr-esque neverending scroll of posts) and a ton of other enhancements makes vanilla, unenhanced Reddit about as appealing as navigating the US government's PACER system.

And if you're going to surf Reddit, you may as well subscribe to these subreddits:



Speaking of which, if you have to navigate PACER, go get RECAP. It's an extension that will fires up when PACER is accessed and lets you know if the documents you seek have already been archived (at the Internet Archive), thus allowing you to browse those without paying the US government $0.10/page for documents created with taxpayer funds. If the documents you're attempting to view aren't already stashed at the IA, RECAP will stash them as soon as you access them, which means your $0.10/page hasn't been spent in vain. You may be getting screwed (by both the per page charge and PACER's hasn't-been-updated-since-1995 interface) but at least you're helping pry some PDFs out of The Man's hands.

The Great Suspender

Another useful extension targets those of us who keep too many browser tabs open. The Great Suspender (whose name riffs on the The Platters' classic hit) suspends tabs once the user-defined time limit has passed, freeing up more RAM. This is a Chrome essential because as Chrome users know, each tab is a new "instance" and multiple tabs leak RAM faster than Snowden leaks documents. (Timely!) Sites can also be "whitelisted" to prevent them from being "put to sleep."

Recommended Reading

Not everything I read is directly related to Techdirt's many wheelhouses. Hidden among the 400+ feeds are a few sites I read simply because I enjoy them. A few of these publish very infrequently, so subscribing to a feed makes more sense than simply bookmarking them.


The sometimes-home of the wordiest developer/game critic in the business, Tim Rogers. If you like reading game reviews that approach (or frequently exceed) 10,000 words and leave no tangent unexplored, this is the place for you. Rogers' review of Bulletstorm is still a stone classic.

Ministry of Truth

Pseudonymous blogger Unity uses well-researched facts and incisive wit to deflate the hysterical for-the-children claims made by politicians and talking heads. UK-oriented.

Make It So

Detailed deconstructions of the tech user interfaces as presented in Hollywood scifi films -- what works, what doesn't and how it could be improved. 51 posts alone dedicated to the tech on display in The Fifth Element.

That Guy's A Maniac

Named after a badly-delivered line from the original Resident Evil, TGAM tackles Resident Evil stuff, console RPGS and is resolutely Nintendo-focused. Runs on in-jokes, Pokemon and deftly-deployed self-effacement. Tackles the State of Gaming by criticizing game criticism, new console releases and the UK's underwhelming game retail outlets. Some mild swearing.

Finally, here are three blogs well worth reading, all coming from the criminal defense perspective.

Simple Justice

NY defense lawyer Scott Greenfield's blog, published early and often and featuring a comment section where fools are suffered not at all.

A Public Defender

The public defense perspective via the pseudonymous Gideon of Connecticut. Published not quite as frequently but still essential. Most recently quoted by Techdirt expressing his shocked disbelief that a grand jury could crank out 276 indictments in four hours. Also helms a fairly entertaining Twitter account.

Defending People

Houston-area defense lawyer Mark Bennett's blog. Again, no one keeps up with Greenfield, but Bennett has produced some remarkable work, including several posts deconstructing Prof. Mary Anne Franks' misguided legislative attempts to criminalize "revenge porn." Perhaps best known here at Techdirt for calling out investigative reporter Teri Buhl (Gideon from A Public Defender was also involved) for her claims that her tweets couldn't be quoted without permission (and receiving a lawsuit threat in return).

Hopefully, this post pointed you to at least one piece of software/web destination you weren't already aware of. If not, then the good news is that the regularly scheduled programming will be returning shortly. Feel free to make recommendations of your own in the comments so I can scrape them for a quick post if this situation should present itself again next week. (I'm only halfway kidding.)

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Filed Under: awesome stuff, tim cushing, tools

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  • icon
    Rikuo (profile), 15 Feb 2014 @ 12:23pm

    Nice list. Now...what Skyrim mods do you run?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2014 @ 12:47pm

    I like browsing RSS feeds with Feedly but the sharing I hate because it routes everything through their own servers instead of just using the URL of whatever I'm linking. For example if I wanted to share this through Feedly instead of the real URL it would use http://feedly.com/e/SXVtQG23. I find that somewhat distasteful and I wish I could change the settings or opt out of that kind of tracking somehow.

    I also noticed a copious lack of ad blockers in the above list. Disconnect" for desktop browsing and AdAway for Android are the ones I like the most. AdAway in particular is great for mobile phones since it blocks them at the hosts file level, redirecting to return nothing and saving possibly precious mobile data.

    Incidentally f-droid, where AdAway is hosted, is a fantastic repository of FOSS aps for android. It can't replace a full blown app store unless you want to live without proprietary apps from the likes of Google, Netflix, et al but it's got some great stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nate (profile), 15 Feb 2014 @ 12:50pm

    If you think 1,900 feeds is a lot, my peak was over 2,300. I can confirm first hand that if you followed more than 2k feeds, you would break Google Reader:
    http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/11/01/i-broke-google-reader-an-adventure-in-extreme-re ading/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btrussell (profile), 15 Feb 2014 @ 12:55pm

    I'm going to have to say that desktop feedly must be superior to mobile as I have been using it about the same time you started and it has never crashed on me. It also updates my feeds before I have finished going through them once. I probably only have half as many feeds as you though.

    RAM concerns? Time for a new PC, or browser. Try Firefox. It may be a thousand milliseconds slower, but I doubt you will see the difference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 16 Feb 2014 @ 6:39am


      My biggest issue with the browser version is using the mouse to scroll through feeds (with those passed being automatically marked as read) seems to get jumpy depending on what your mouse scroll is set at. So, I end up with all sorts of "read" items going unmarked as the I scroll through the list.

      I also find the sharing to be not as seamless.

      Generally, I don't have a problem with RAM, but as I do most of my work on a Chromebook, there are times when it starts slowing to a crawl when there are enough tabs open. On my actual PC, this isn't really an issue.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btrussell (profile), 15 Feb 2014 @ 4:20pm

    Kickstarter Hacked, Change Your Passwords Now

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Sayin', 15 Feb 2014 @ 10:18pm

    Gotta laugh

    I am absolutely amazed at your tolerance for buggy, semi-functional software. It proves that RSS feed readers are just not really a concept ready for prime time, Google left the field for a reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2014 @ 10:05pm


      horse with no name just hates it when due process is enforced.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    alternatives(), 16 Feb 2014 @ 3:31am

    PACER's hasn't-been-updated-since-1995 interface

    Is it working?

    If it works, why spend money on updating it? Techdirt has many stories about "this software project is over-budget and still broken", so why should money be spent on making PACER somehow "better"?

    Would it be better if the page fee went up to "improve" the website?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), 16 Feb 2014 @ 6:43am


      It would be better if the fee went toward improvements. It seems to have been designed with complete antagonism towards the user and the fee slapped on top of it discourages even more people from navigating the system.

      It does work, I'll give it that. I can usually find what I'm looking for but it's completely ridiculous that the $0.10/page fee applies even to searches that fail to return any results.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        alternatives(), 17 Feb 2014 @ 4:05am

        Re: Re:

        it's completely ridiculous that the $0.10/page fee applies even to searches that fail to return any results

        That I understand, but that is why recap is in existence. Good for recap.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2014 @ 6:34am

    >"RECAP. It's an extension that will fires up"
    >"extension that will fires up"
    >"will fires up"

    Can't wait for mine to fires up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Feb 2014 @ 2:13pm

    Don't know if it's true or not, but I think I read that PACER's 10 cent per page fee caps at 30 pages, the rest being free. Is that the case?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Feb 2014 @ 2:31am

    Nice job! Maybe the Awesome Stuff article could be updated to offer useful stuff that's already taken off (ie: it's not seeking crowdfunding) such as the web tools you mentioned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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