- 1 The Hardware
- 2 Apps
- 3 Other Junk
I use stuff. A lot of stuff. That's what being a tech blogger is all about, right? Using technology to talk about technology. Well, David and Cameron have already pulled back the curtain to show you how they make the magic happen. Now it's my turn!
There is no other way to describe my desktop than "my desktop." This is my workhorse and the centerpiece of my digital life. It's been steadily upgraded over the last 15 years and always by my own hand. I've never even owned a pre-built tower. It currently houses an i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and around 2.5TB of storage, between three hard drives. The next step will be an SSD for the system drive, but one thing at a time.
A more recent addition, that I've discovered I simply can't live without, is the Logitech G110 keyboard. While it's primarily designed as a gaming keyboard, the backlit panel makes it beautiful to write no matter what hour it is. Additionally, it comes with twelve easily programmable keys that I can set up with whatever macro I may need. I used to use Autohotkey to create shortcuts for simple, repetitive tasks (and still recommend it for anyone else), but the extra buttons make it dead simple. They can also be programmed on the fly by recording keystrokes, and the whole board can be set into three different modes, each with their own backlit color. It's insanely customizable. I can never go back.
I'll skip the boring apps—Chrome, Skype, Spotify, mIRC are my main essentials, though, for those wondering—and skip right to the creative apps: the Adobe Suite. In a former life, I was a video editor by trade. My enthusiasm for the craft lulled after three years at an investigations company editing footage that made bigfoot tapes look steady by comparison. However, during that time I used just about every editor known to man, and I keep coming back to the Adobe suite.
This is why I can't give up my desktop yet.
While there are some other good video editors, I still turn to Premiere Pro as my go to program. Photoshop naturally fills the need for complex image editing, while After Effects, Photoshop's lesser known brother, provides a veritable playground for motion graphics and special effects. There was a time when you absolutely had to have a Mac in order to do serious multimedia work. This is simply not the case anymore. With the recent controversial changes made to Final Cut (which I also used extensively for many years) and the strides that Adobe has made with Premiere, the playing field is quickly becoming level. Unless you end up working within a company that requires you own a Mac, I'd hesitate to plunk down the not-insignificant cash it would take to get a decked-out MBP with FCS on it.
My laptop is a Lenovo IdeaPad. It has a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It is, in all brevity, a laptop. In a stunning turn of events, I side with David on this one over Cameron. I don't care to use it instead of my desktop. In fact, I actively avoid it. Maybe it's because I've got an emotional attachment to my big box, maybe it's because I love my big clink-clink-clink keyboard over the softer, flatter keys of the lappy, or maybe it's because I've spent so much time tweaking and customizing my main machine that anything else feels like being away from home. Whatever it is, if given the choice, I'll choose the desktop every time.
Unfortunately, I won't always get that choice, and that's why I have a laptop. I've had many occasions over the last year or so that I've had the need to write something while far from home. For me, right now, a laptop is the only way to do it. Tablets are great and, as Cameron has pointed out, they're getting better at being productivity machines. However, I use way too dang many keyboard shortcuts to be fast on a tablet. And I desperately need to be fast. The Lenovo has served me well, and is gorgeous to boot. If you're going to pick up a laptop, you could do much worse.
Tablet(s): Nexus 7
This is, by far, the best tablet I've ever owned. Bar none. I still sometimes miss the size of my old Xoom (and that's the only thing I miss, but we'll get to that in a minute), but for reading it's the perfect size and for everything else it's blazing fast. This device has left my side perhaps all of an hour since I first got it. While it's redundant hardware when I'm away from home and I carry it largely because I like it, when I am home, it's my satellite device to all the important stuff I need. With rare exception, there aren't many ways people can communicate with me on my phone or desktop that don't also go to my Nexus 7. It also feels much more like a social device. While there are still improvements to be made on the sharing front, I still feel more comfortable handing off a tablet to a friend to show them something than I do my phone. I imagine that the extra screen real estate helps it feel more like a "Look at this!" device.
Hate. I was really tempted to leave this paragraph at that, but it bears more in-depth analysis. The Xoom was actually a pretty good tablet to start with. The construction is solid, if a little heavy. The size is exactly what I like. It may not be the best for reading books (which I absolutely love on my Nexus 7, by the way), but it's fantastic for comics, web browsing, and apps that are designed for it. Flixster, as an example, was a beacon of what you could do with Android and the Fragments API on a 10" display. Of course, they botched that on the 7" form factor, but still.
The bad, though, is that this device shipped without key features like LTE (which required a hardware upgrade), was running on a Tegra 2 processor that was already pretty dated when it shipped, and became increasingly laggy over time. Perhaps worst of all, though is that the Xoom was the first device to demonstrate the CDMA problem. While technically not a Nexus device, it is still treated as an official Google Experience tablet. Yet, the LTE version was updated to Ice Cream Sandwich a few months after the already-late WiFi Xoom upgrade. In short, while I wanted to love this thing, it's a mess that couldn't have made that goal harder.
Phone(s): Epic 4G Touch
Sure, maybe I hate the name. However, Sprint's Galaxy S II has still managed to work pretty well as my daily driver. My previous phone was the original Evo, so the absolutely gorgeous SAMOLED+ display and dual-core processor felt like a dream. TouchWiz has its issues (again, we'll get to that in a minute), but Samsung makes some pretty good hardware. Even now, a year after this phone's release, I still feel like my device can keep up. It could be better, though. Which leads me to...
I've just recently acquired a Galaxy Nexus to be my new primary phone. Without getting into the details of my contract situation, it became necessary for me to renew now and there is only one phone I'd trust to last two more years, despite already being a year old. It's a bit of a risk, especially since it's a CDMA device, but as I've learned from the Nexus 7, stock Android is worth the gamble. I've only had it for a few days, but so far I'm already in love. I think I'll be sticking with Nexus devices from here on out. And TouchWiz? I honestly probably could've handled your annoying messes if you didn't constantly remind me every time I plug something into the headphone jack and turn up the volume that "loud music can damage your ears." Thanks, but I'm just controlling the volume on my car stereo. Or, oh I see. You're going to turn the volume back down every time I unplug, so I have to do the same process all over again every dang time I get in the car.
My Galaxy Nexus treats me like an adult. Thank you, but you're dismissed.
Camera: Nikon L120
This picture taken with the Epic 4G Touch (modified in Photoshop). While the phone takes decent pictures, it's not up to snuff compared to the camera itself.
While the camera in my Epic 4G Touch is great (the Galaxy Nexus camera isn't quite as good, but it's serviceable for most things), taking photos for reviews or articles like this one have a bit higher standards. Without breaking the bank, I was able to pick up this little guy who's been more than handy in the short time I've been using it. There aren't quite as many controls as I'd like, and most things like exposure are buried in menus, but for a cheap unit to take better-than-cellphone quality pictures, it works wonderfully.
I won't spend too much time covering the same ground that my colleagues already have. Suffice to say, I also use Chrome, Gmail, Dropbox, Twitter, and Spotify which Cameron neglected to mention I got him hooked on, but I forgive him because we're buds. There is one that I feel deserves a special second mention.
David touched on this in his article, but I feel the need to expand on it. You see, I'm on Sprint and the option to remove messaging in order to save some money isn't available for smartphone plans. Unlimited messaging comes standard with all unlimited data plans. Yet, I still love Google Voice because I'm able to text from absolutely anywhere. In fact, roughly a third of the time that I'm texting someone am I actually doing it from my phone. Much more often, it's from my desktop or tablet. David is correct that GV could use a little work on both the stability and speed fronts, plus it's in desperate need of a UI overhaul, not the least of which to give it a proper tablet layout, but just adding the ability to send SMS messages from Nexus 7 is boon enough to make the whole thing worth it.
Reddit Is Fun
I've tried just about every Reddit client out there, yet I keep coming back to this one. Not because it's the prettiest (that would probably go to Bacon Reader), or because it's got the most spiffy extras (Reddit News picture previews are a gem), but because when it comes to pure functionality, it can't be beat. Much like Reddit itself, the interface is very plain but you can do everything with it. I'm able to not only read stories, but respond to comments, keep up with with replies, and engage the full community experience. Other apps might be better for readers who don't engage with the community, but I got my start writing words on the internet as a commenter on Gizmodo back in the glory days before the iPhone 4. In my heart, I'll always love talking with people reading the same stuff on the internet that I am.
I hate the stock Gallery app. With a passion. For some reason when Samsung brought Ice Cream Sandwich to the Epic 4G Touch, they kept the weird-looking Gallery app with the stretched out, blurry images background. However, even on my Nexii, the completely random sorting and the inclusion of every single picture you've ever taken, seemingly each in their own entire folder, is just asinine. I also sometimes want the ability to move related pictures into their own folder. You can't do this in the Gallery. QuickPic, however allows you to hide certain folders, and even move pictures around on the SD card, creating your own folders if you'd like. Yes, it means you'll see a file manager and Google hates that. Maybe even for good reason! File managers are definitely ugly. But I'm a big boy. I can handle it. So, QuickPic is fantastic for my needs.
This is perhaps one of my favorite pieces of software. As I've mentioned before, my desktop is the centerpiece of my digital life. In addition, my living room's entertainment center is also run by a Windows desktop. I've used several remote control apps for Android and Unified Remote is the best I've tried. In addition to basic keyboard and mouse, there is a cornucopia of other remotes tailored to specific apps and services including Netflix, Hulu (both web and desktop client), Windows Media Player, VLC, Spotify, XBMC, Boxee and a ton more. If you use your computer as a media consumption device, it's hard to do without Unified Remote.
Sure, it's not going to help anyone be more productive, but I'm a die-hard Marvel fan. With the Marvel Cinematic Universe really getting underway, I have a renewed interest in reading comics. This app has every feature I'd ever need. Offline storage, a huge selection of both individual and collections of comics, not to mention a delightful panel-by-panel mode for smaller screens that makes it very easy to follow a story. In a word, it's marvelous.
R1 Tablet Stand
Seen here, doing it's job!
I use this thing every day. Most of the time, while I'm working, I keep my Nexus 7 just off to the side of my monitor so I can see social network notifications, emails, or other correspondence at a glance. I didn't expect this thing to be as useful as it has ended up being, but between the sturdy aluminum construction, and the versatile positioning, it has quickly become one of my favorite accessories.
EarForce Z6 Headset
I went through probably a half dozen microphone and headset combos in my search to find the perfect podcasting utility. This one has served me rather well since I first got it. Nothing too fancy, but I can't do without it anymore.
While I'm not a hardcore gamer (I am, at any given time, roughly 5 years behind the gaming cycle), I can spend a ton of time in Azeroth or a galaxy far, far away. The G13 gamepad has become essential for me while playing, but it's also an invaluable tool in other ways. For starters, the LCD display is handy as a performance monitor that saves precious space on my screen. Additionally, this thing has 24 programmable buttons and a four-direction control stick. If you've ever done any video editing, you know how valuable an array of customizable keys can be. It's superfluous for most people, but if you have specialized needs for keyboard-heavy applications, the G13 is a fantastic choice.
Lily The Eternal
Because turtles are awesome. That's why.
That about wraps it up. If you've got any alternatives to what I use here that you'd like to share, or if you'd like detailed specs for my turtle, sound off in the comments below.