What's on Ryan Smyth's Desktop

My name is Ryan Smyth. What I do for a living is a bit hard to pin down to a title, but I've settled on the title "Evangelist" for my day-job. Basically, I do software marketing for a software company here in Korea.
Published: Sep 24, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Software that can help Good for Cow Rating
Mozilla Firefox for Windows 20.0b6
Download This browser provides pop-up control and a tabbed navigation mode that lets you open...
Mozilla Thunderbird
Open Source
Download Mozilla Thunderbird 2 makes e-mailing safer, faster, and easier with such features as...
GIMP for Windows 2.7.5
Download GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program.
EditPlus 4.0
Download EditPlus is a text editor, HTML editor, PHP editor and Java editor for Windows.

My name is Ryan Smyth. What I do for a living is a bit hard to pin down to a title, but I've settled on the title "Evangelist" for my day-job. Basically, I do software marketing for a software company here in Korea. That involves translation/localization, building web sites, coming up with inventive marketing plans, analysis, promotion, copy writing, SEO, editing, testing, setting up servers and whatever else it takes to get things done. Being the only English speaker in the company, what I have to do varies quite a bit. I also run my own business, Renegade Minds, with programs that I write. Custom work that I do is entirely through word of mouth.

I've been using computers since I was 9 or 10 and my first computer was a TI 99/4A. I can remember lusting after the ever so slick hard drive that was quite large at about the size of a small suitcase and sported an equally massive storage capacity of a couple MB. Later on, I got a very sweet and powerful machine - a Tandy 1000 running DOS with a massive 128k of memory. The dot matrix printer I later bought was equally impressive and could print in not just black, but red as well! My how times have changed!

For me to pick just one favorite work-related program is pretty tough, but I'd have to say that EditPLUS, would be it. It's a solid text editor and it just works.

I rarely ever play traditional video games (2 or 3 times a year is frequent), but I do play one online game at http://www.Diplomacy.ca, and absolutely love it. Diplomacy is a game where you are one of seven European powers out to conquer Europe. There are no dice and there is no luck involved. Negotiations are conducted online through the web site and email. Games take months to play, but for those that like strategy games, it doesn't get any better than this.

Though I do have a laptop, I rarely need to use it much anymore and my primary computer at home is a custom box that I had built. It has an Intel Pentium 4, 3.2 GHz CPU, 1 GB DDR RAM, two 200 gigabyte SATA drives, LG DVD burner, no floppy, a 100 Mbps NIC, a Creative Audigy NX 24/96 USB external sound device, a 4 port KVM, a flat 19 inch CRT monitor (1600x1200 @ 75 Hz) and an old 15 inch CRT (1024x768 @ 60 Hz) (takes less space on my desk than my other 19 inch monitors), 128 MB video card, a USB 2 card, a grounded microphone, an HP 1000 Laserjet, and an 8-port router/switch. The speakers are generic, so I use a 5~30,000 Hz pair of headphones for audio work. The box is running Windows 2003 as the OS. Overall, the system performs quite well, though it could use more RAM, perhaps a better cooling system, and some big refrigerator sized speakers. I also have an old Palm 3 that I no longer use, so I'm starting to look for a new PDA/palmtop computer, primarily so that I can develop new software and test it (and of course to have another expensive play toy).

My primary box at the office is nowhere near as powerful, and needs some upgrades. It also runs dual monitors, which is probably one of the most important things on any system for me as it lets me work a lot faster and easier.

I also have several other computers at home that are a bit older now. My Windows 98 box that I bought in 1997 has a 300 MHz CPU and is the oldest of the lot.

My desktop is a complete mess. I have program shortcuts, folders, projects, PDFs, program installers, media files, documents and lots of temporary files that I use once or twice. It's a great way to organize because they're always real close to the Recycle Bin, that is, if I ever get around to it. Other areas of my computer are very neatly organized.

At home, all my computers use the Windows default desktop settings and wallpaper. At the office I cycle through different wallpapers simply because it's a part of my job. At the moment it is a picture of a frog that I took in Guam. But that changes between ALTools desktop wallpapers and various pictures that I take with my digital camera.

At home and at work I try to stick to monitor resolutions at a 75 Hz refresh rate or higher. As I sit in front of them all day, anything less is quite literally painful after a while. On my 15 inch, I switch between 800x600 @ 85 Hz, which is nice to look at, and 1024x768 @ 60 Hz, which is not good for long-time viewing. At work, I keep my monitors at 1152x864 @ 75 Hz. I don't go below 75 Hz because it's just too difficult to work with. At work, my primary monitor has darker settings than my second monitor. This helps keep down eye-strain for me. For color settings, I generally use 32-bit color, though I do occasionally flip back to 16-bit color.

Though I've tried some software to change the look of my computers, I've never found anything that I really liked enough to use consistently. My computers exist to do things for me and make my life easier. How they look is less important to me. Though on Linux systems I really like the Enlightenment environment as it is very clean and easy to use. I have a Mac running OSX, but it still looks fine and works well enough.

Over the years, I've refined how I choose software and how I test software to decide if I'll actually use it. However, the busier I get, the more I rely on people I know and trust to recommend software to me. But no matter what, everything on my desktop gets a real workout before it gets added to my short list of things I need. Anything that presents problems gets axed real quickly and I look for something else that will work. For me, software is all about solving a problem in a way that suits my needs without being too technical. I'm more interested in getting things done right than in learning all about the latest and greatest new widget, unless of course that widget will further my plans for world domination :-)

That being said, I use multiple similar applications that have overlapping features quite often. I choose one over the other for specific jobs when a specific feature or workflow suits my purpose better. I've got a lot of favorites across a wide variety of purposes, and this is going to be a bit long, but if you stick with me, you might find a couple gems that you'll like.

I'm very particular about my computers, and loathe even letting anyone else touch them. I've had people muck up my computers within seconds of touching them, and I don't enjoy fixing things anymore than I have to. To me, everyone that offers to "show" me something or "help" on my machine is a potential BOFH. I even have computers at home set aside for testing software before I install it on my primary machine, which is the result of me installing some software once that killed the OS beyond repair.

EditPLUS is a text editor that I've been using for years and is the first application I run when I start Windows. It has very strong syntax highlighting that I really appreciate, and it works with large files. It also supports regular expressions and I would have a very hard life without them. I use it for writing emails, HTML, fixing up code for Visual Studio and even just to "clean" text that I've copied before I paste it into another application. One of the things that I really use a lot is the regular expression functionality in it. They let me search and replace through files and save me countless hours of work. I need to use different languages, and it works for that too. From Arabic to Swedish - it does what I need. For a lot of people, they won't need a text editor, but for those that do, it's simply a great program that works well and is easy to use. Writing in pure text lets me paste things into other programs consistently and without errors or "features" that I don't want. It has also been about the best $30.00 I've ever spent on software. Incidentally, the developer is from Chinju, which is where I spent my first year when I arrived in Korea. I didn't know that until years later.

Firefoxis just a better way to surf the Internet. I really like the tabbed browsing in it and there are many great extensions for it. My favorite extension that I use all the time is the Mouse Gestures extension. That lets me navigate really fast and saves me a lot of time. There are just too many great things about this browser, so the only thing I can really say is GET IT!

Thunderbird,- After a long time I finally switched over to Thunderbird for my email client. It offers some nice security features like not displaying images on remote servers, and is really easy to use. It lets you send emails in text format, text and HTML, or just in HTML, which I like. And like Firefox, it has numerous extensions and themes available to customize it. As a quick example, the "Remove Duplicate Emails" is very useful.

Windows Messenger - Rather than use MSN Messenger, I just use the cut down version. I don't need the extra bells and whistles that MSN Messenger has, and Windows Messenger does what I want it to. This is a great program for minimalists.

Xnews - Gregg Seelhoff recommended this news reader to me in the Association of Shareware Professionals news groups, and I'm glad he did. I was having troubles accessing one of the news groups and this solved my problem. It's very good and even free. I don't actually use even half of the functions in it, but it does everything I need it to do.

RealVNC - This program lets you remotely connect to your computer from any where in the world. It's simple to use and there's even a free version. I like being able to access my computers from anywhere because I can use the programs on my own computers from anywhere and I can get files easily with it. Since I have over a terabyte of storage on my computers at home, carrying around even a small portion of them isn't practical, and if something comes up suddenly, RealVNC lets me get what I need from home with zero fuss.

The GIMPis a free graphics editing program that I use because it's just too expensive to have PhotoShop on more than 1 machine. It has an excellent feature set and if you're familiar with PhotoShop, then it doesn't take too long to get used to the GIMP.

Media Players & Audio Software - I tend to jump around a lot and use a lot of different media players, especially MP3 players. Brand loyalty for media players in me is near zero, but there are a few that I've more-or-less settled on as standards that I use for specific things and always install on every machine. I love music, play guitar, and mess around on the keyboards as well, so I've got a lot of favorites that I like in this area. This is a shortlist of some of my favorite players and how I like to use them. (I won't get into the not-so-short-list of other media software I use.)

Windows Media Player - This works great and I use it for viewing regular video files. It's a solid player, but I don't use it for audio much, but if I'm cleaning the house, I sometimes use it for the playlist for MP3s. I also use it for ripping CDs sometimes. It's free, does a great job, and it comes installed on every Windows machine.

Music Match Jukebox - This is my alarm clock and wakes me up every morning. I don't actually use it for listening to music much except when I do house cleaning, in which case I usually pop in a CD. I do use it for ripping MP3s from my CDs or transcoding to MP3 format. There's a free version and a paid version. I have other applications that I use for the paid features. The free version does everything I want it to.

Developers Tools - These are some of my favorite tools that I use for programming and building web sites.

Visual Studio - This is a developer's tool, but it's just so nice to use. Quite often I need to write custom utility to do a job for me because there isn't anything out there that works the way I want or the cost is just very high for something that does work. With VS, I can write quick little programs to get things done without worrying about a lot of low level details that just get in the way of being productive. Each new version keeps getting more powerful and also lets me get more done quicker. For anyone that is interested in programming, there are now more affordable versions of it available. Another great thing about it is the huge developer community out there that is willing to help out when you've got questions.

DeZign for Databases - This is a great little Entity Relationship Design (ERD) tool to help visually design databases. Though I haven't upgraded to the new version which offers quite a bit more, it still helps me visually design solid databases that I can use in production environments. With it, I get to focus on the logic of the database and making sure that it will meet or exceed expectations without having to worry about writing lots of SQL code and making sure that I haven't made any silly typos. It isn't something that everyone would need, but for anyone who needs to design a data driven application on a budget, it is certainly much more affordable than many others. This is an ideal program for people that want to work visually and focus on getting things done right rather than focus on technical details.

SSCodeGen - Again, this is a database tool that I use to help write SQL code for MS SQL Server quickly and easily. It only produces basic code for inserts, selects, deletes, updates, stored procedures, and some VB and ASP code, but it is much faster than writing it all by hand and has saved me countless hours of menial work. For a free program, it's hard to beat.

MySQL Front - Dealing with the obtuse command line for MySQL is more than I'm willing to deal with for jobs that should be fast and easy, so this little tool makes life infinitely easier for me and well worth the small amount it cost.

DotNetNuke - This is a web site portal that I use almost religiously. I have several installations of it on my primary machine, and I use it for every new web site. What I like about it is that I can create a complete web site with forums, blogs, news, and many other features in a fraction of the time it would take to do otherwise. You don't need to know how to write any code with it because you can do everything WYSIWYG, but if you want to get into coding, it includes the full source code. For anyone that wants to make a web site quickly, easily, and still have a lot of cool functionality, this is what they want. It's also free.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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