What apps and services did I pay for (and love) in 2020?

I missed the 2019 list, because when you’re a new parent, you often forget anything not directly related to your child. So this is really a 2019/2020 list. I just didn’t want the headline to get too long. But here are the apps and services I’ve paid for this past year (or so…), because I think it’s helpful to spotlight things worth paying for. Especially from a Linux perspective:

  • More Fastmail (referral link): I use a Gmail account for automated notices, like deliveries and orders. But I also used it for handling my music writing. It began out of laziness and convenience, but then continued until I had the bandwidth to grab a new Fastmail account and connect it to a different domain, so the music emails aren’t in my personal email account, but are also out of Gmail. Making the switch was easy. The hard part was emailing everyone and getting them to update their address books. And even that didn’t take too long.

  • TunnelBear: I switched my VPN to TunnelBear because my previous one felt laggy and also seemed to be constantly flagged as sketchy. TunnelBear works fine on my Android phone (there’s an app) and while it doesn’t have a Linux client, it integrates seamlessly and easily with OpenVPN.

  • pCloud: My wife and I both paid for Dropbox and were super sick of it; they charge way too much money for way too much storage. I grabbed a pCloud "lifetime" family account for $400, so if it works for 2 years, it’s paid for itself. It’s not as seamless as Dropbox. The initial file upload takes a while. We never got the client to install on my wife’s Dell XPS 13, which came with Ubuntu pre-installed. However, it worked once she upgraded to Ubuntu 20.04. But the pCloud technical support wasn’t helpful. I’ve also had sporadic issues with the Android client. So there have been bumps that have been resolved, but it’s definitely worth looking at. The more I use it, the less I think ‘This was so much easier with Dropbox.’

  • Otter: This is an automated, browser-based transcription service I use for interviews. It’s not flawless, but most of the time it gets you a good 80-90% of the way there, depending upon accents and speech speed. It’s a tremendous time-saver for me, well worth the subscription.

    TweetDelete: This is a bulk Tweet deletion service. I paid $10 in November 2019 and it’s now $15. One could argue this functionality should exist within Twitter. For free. And that no one should be on Twitter anyway. I agree with all of those points. I’ve been on Twitter since 2007 and while I’m not prolific, I don’t see the need to keep things up forever. I also now automatically purge Tweets after 90 days.

  • Zoom: I paid out-of-pocket for this for work before my institution got a subscription. It’s neither free nor open source and there are lots of privacy issues, which hopefully the Keybase people will address (acknowledging it’s a tall order). But it’s easy and it works and people know how to use it.

  • iReal Pro: My guitar teacher recommended this. It’s chord sheets and backing tracks so that you can play along with songs. The library is huge and you can change the key and the tempo. It’s perfect for practicing. At first, the $14 for a phone app seems high, but once you use it, it seems cheap.

  • L.A. Times subscription: I find the New York Times, especially their political coverage, hyperbolic. I switched to the L.A. Times, which has beefed up its reporting, and I’ve been happy with them, except they recently became problematic for me in their unequal treatment of some of their writers. I’m locked in for a year, though.

  • Trello Gold: I paid for this again. I’m not sure why. I go through Trello phases and I was within one when I upgraded. It’s a good tool, but it doesn’t work as a stand-alone answer for me. I was using it to track writing projects because AirTable can feel very busy to look at, but I ultimately decided to tweak an AirTable view so it looked like Trello. Trello is useful but I probably won’t renew.

Things I Paid For and Still Love

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