There are a few things we all do to a computer when we get it to make it work the way we want. Years ago, this would have been more about technology dreams and shareware, but now these are bits of technology I use almost everyday. Yes I am a geek with a bit of a geek lifestyle.
Software is all about technology. But, I’m glad to say, the non-techies are starting to drive software interface design. Still, this is tech, and there are some tools I like. I’m leaving off terminal/command line, but those are still part of my vocabulary. I’m also leaving server software off of this part of my technology list.
I’m largely a PC user as that is what work gives me. I appreciate the BSD core of a MAC, but I hate the proprietary Mac limitations. Linux is fun, but most work tools are from the PC.
- Image/Photo Editing – GIMP – a little but of a learning curve, but full featured and cross-platform.
- Text Editor – Notepad++ – Windows only, but a lot of features, clean interface and fast.
- Personal Docs – Google Docs – Also Google drive in the app form. I actually use the spreadsheet a lot. In my opinion, this is the best collaborative office application.
- Browser – Chrome and Firefox – Chrome is growing on me, but I like a few things in FF for my daily browsing. For web development, they are about a tie with some slight difference to warrant the use of both.
- IM – Skype – Great IM, good phone, good international. TBD with Microsoft acquisition.
Apps and Cloud Tools
It seems I’m doing more with technology tools that are both browser and app based. I think the ones that sync are a must as I don’t always have on-line access.
- Calendar – Business Calendar – Does a nice roll up of my calendars and displays them in a great widget. Many features to customize. My favorite part is that the widget scrolls into the future and you can choose the calendars you want to display.
- Conference Call Dialer – Mobile Day – Android doesn’t dial conference calls well. This app works great. It scans calendar items for call information and then can dial both the number and the access code. It has worked with all of the conference services I’ve used with it. When I had a blackberry, you needed to format the dial string just right. WIth Mobile Day, you just touch dial and you are in. Great when you are on the go.
- Notes – Catch.com – this on-line note tool does one thing others don’t – it Syncs for offline. I use it on the plane a lot, so it is great. Others may do this now, but when I first looked, they didn’t. I add/edit notes in the browser, and then when I look on my phone, everything is there. If I edit while up on a plane, then the information is there after I land. I can add notes I use on the boat when out of data range, and all the information is there for me.
- Pedometer – Accupedo – I did a review of this already. It silently sits there and lets you know how many steps you’ve taken. This has been great during my laminectomy recovery.
- Reading – Kindle for books and Zinio for magazines – I’m closing in on an all digital reading lifestyle. I like magazines a lot, so using Zinio is great; I don’t get the piles of magazines anymore. I feel/hope this is better for the environment. The kindle app is good for books too. I like that it is text oriented and you can adjust the font size. It goes great on my Nexus 7. Both of these have browser options which is nice. The only downside to digital reading is that airlines still think they shouldn’t be used during takeoff and landing…
- Music – Slacker – Slacker may not do quite as good as Pandora for the music selection, but Slacker allows me to cache channels on my phone. I’ve got hundreds of hours cached (it is just on my phone and no streaming data is needed). I use my phone as my music player on the boat, and there is no data signal when you are offshore fishing, or on a plan, or maybe you don’t want to burn a limited data plan. I can stream too, so I’m not limited. Right now I have it set to refresh the cache at night when on wifi.
- Navigation – Google Maps – I felt very sorry for iPhone users for a long time… Google Maps has always been great. From back to when I discovered it on my blackberry 6 or so years ago, I’ve loved the traffic option and now the navigation with it on my phone is great.
- Song ID – SoundHound – Simple interface and tells me what song I’m hearing. It has some trouble in noisy settings, but it has solved more than one bar debate.
- Streaming radio – TuneIn radio – I like to listen to sports and other things on the radio. I use TuneIn both through my phone and our outdoor stereo via Squeezebox when I can’t go old fashioned am/fm.
- Text Messages from other platforms – Mighty Text – I’m ok with the native txt app on my phone. With Might Text, I can see my texts from any web browser and from my tablet. You can send texts too. All from your phone’s number (it sends via your phone and just acts like a proxy).
- Tides – Tide Chart – great for fishing and surfing.
Hardware is a technology segment that has been getting smaller and benefitting from Moore’s law for quite some time. My favorite technology may indeed by focused on fishing, but I’ll keep this list more focused on classic geek technologies.
- Phone – Motoroal Droid Razr Maxx – This is my second android based phone after the Droid X. It is my third “Smart Phone” as I had a blackberry Storm many years back. From what was once a dream to a nicely integrated piece of technology, I’m a fan of my smart phone. I don’t think I use it as a toy as much as others, but it makes work, communication, navigation, organization and knowledge much better in my life.
The best thing about my phone is the battery life. The rest of the phone are nice (screen size, speed, size, storage and more), but I’ve actually gone almost 3 days without charging.
- Tablet – Nexus 7 – Work gave me an iPad. The iPad got me more interested in tablets, but iTunes really turned me off and as a first generation device, I really began to not like the iPad. I decided to spend my own money, and after research and testing a bunch of things, I went with the Nexus 7. I use it mostly for personal things, and it is great. The kids steal it for games which are good (but I haven’t gotten into them). With its size, I think it is great as a reading device. Web browsing is ok, but reading is where it shines.
- NAS – ReadNAS NV+ – This is a low powered RAID network attached storage. I schedule it to turn on a few evenings a week, then all of the local computers in the house run a backup script to it. It then shuts down later on its own. If I need it, I can turn it on manually, but it has become a great low powered (low cost in California) backup solution. I can also use it to stream multiple media types (it has the Squeezebox server running which can do my apps above).
- Media Center – Dune HD Max – This is our home media center that looks like a normal stereo component with a user-friendly remote. It has a blue-ray drive and a 2TB harddrive. An HTPC may come in the future, but this is easy and nice.
- UPS – I’m not sure this warrants a comment, but I do have my main tower and NAS hooked up to a UPS each. Just a good idea. A better idea is to have sine-wave power.
Accessories is a potentially long list. I’ll keep this to the core main things I use.
- TSA approved Backpack – right now I am using the Swissgear SA1908 backpack. First, it is a backpack which is much better for your back and shoulders than an over-the-shoulder bad. Second, it is TSA approved. I travel for work a lot, and you unzip one zipper, put it on the security belt and it goes. You do not need to take your computer out. I keep my computer in the computer part and my tablet in the main compartment. All good. It is not an overnight bag, but I have done overnights with it.
- Foam Ear Bud Tips – these are noise blocking. Easy to retro fit on existing earbud headphones. They are comfortable and when you put them in your ears, they mold to the shape. My favorite thing about them is that they greatly cut down on the ambient noise around you. I use them on all flights now and they are great. They don’t use power, so they work all the time. I think they actually block more noise than my Bose Quiet Comfort III headphones.
- Touch Stylus Pen – A stylus for touch devices (tablets/phones) is not a new idea going back to the original Palm Pilots. Current touch devices need your skin due to some electrical properties; try them with a glove, they don’t work. I found a few on Amazon that have real pens inside. A double bonus. Not only do these work great on the touch devices, but they don’t get finger prints on them.