What I Use…

A snapshot of tech in my life

 

For my first post, I though it might be an idea to let you guys know what tech I actually use. After all if I didn’t do this, you might not believe that I use any, and we couldn’t have that!

Home Computer & Network

Desktop – Packard Bell iXtreme M3720, x64 based, Quad Core. 4GB Ram, 2600GB of Storage.

Screens – x2 HP W1907V monitors, a snap on eBay!

Operating System – Windows 8 Pro (Upgraded from Windows 7 Home Edition)

Keyboard – Really old HP which I have used for the last 7.5 years at my old job for about eight hours a day. Suffice to say the keys are LOOSE, and that’s how I like em!

Mouse – Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse, wired. I originally used an awesome wireless mouse from some random brand that frustratingly escapes me, but it was fast, and so comfortable. I am yet to find another wireless mouse as nice.

Virgin Media SuperHub – To be fair, this thing is pretty damned ‘super’. It never dies (touch wood) is deathly silent and has five ethernet ports for your use. Internet speeds that we pay for is 30mbps and it very rarely drops under 25.

Devolo Power Network Kit – As the Virgin Hub is downstairs and the Desktop (which does have a WiFi card, but the signal isn’t so good due being upstairs and on the other side of the house) is upstairs, I invested in this kit which contains x1 ethernet cable, and x2 plug’s with ethernet ports built into the plug itself, you can also use them as Wireless amplifiers. Setup was so simple too.

First: Plug the main plug (which has 3 ethernet ports embedded) into the wall socket by the VirginHub (or any other router) and connect the Hub to the plug via ethernet. Second: Plug the second plug into the wall socket of which ever room you want to extend the network too and plug it in. Lo and behold that’s it, done. I did this from the main living room, to the spare room, upstairs at the other end of the house, and then connected the desktop from there. Hardly any drop in speed on the network. Thanks to the other ethernet ports included on the plugs, means that my other half is able to work from home, also in the spare room from a docking station for her laptop.

Laptop – Samsung S3511, i3 processor 280GB of storage running Windows 7 Home Premium. This used to be in the Travel Tech category, however since the advent (and my acquisition) of tablets, its been relegated to sitting there, being used every now and again….and for some Photoshop work by my other half. It’s actually pretty old, about 3 years I think, but has seen a lot of usage and has been looked after quite well. In fact I only took the plastic covering from between the keyboard keys off last month.

iPad 2 – 16GB, WiFi only. This used to be my staple travel accessory until the Surface was released. Now my other half has it, and it does everything she needs, from media, to games and web browsing.

Home Media

WDTV Play – For years I had a WDTV HD which you attached an external drive to in one end, and to the TV via HDMI from another end. It was simple, and played almost every video file or codec you could throw at it. After six years, its tired and gave up the ghost, so I replaced it with the WDTV Play. Pretty much the same as the aforementioned WDTV HD, but you can also attach it to a network for app’s such as Netflix, YouTube and lots of others… If I lived in the U.S.A. which I don’t, so apps are fairly limited. It does however have two USB 2.0 ports and most importantly an ethernet port, which leads me too…

Western Digital MyBook Live – Having used a fair amount of external hard drives and having them sooner or later give up the ghost, I have invested in a 3TB external hard drive, with a twist. There is no USB port on this hard drive, instead it works via an ethernet port and connects to your existing home network via your router. Set up again, was relatively simple. Plug the ethernet cable into the router/VirginHub, and plug an ethernet cable from the VirginHub to the WDTV Play. Voila!

All that was left was to transfer all my Music and Films via the network (which didn’t take long thanks to the Devolo set up) and presto, WDTV Play read all the files almost instantly (give a take a few seconds admittedly, but there was about 1.7TB of data to sift through) and I was able to watch all my TV seasons, films, listen to music or view my photos on the TV, my computer, and any tablet or mobile phone.

The real added bonus is that any device connected to the home network has access to this drive which is great. All the media is viewable from any room in the house or garden. (providing access is first given to the network of course). In addition Western Digital have an app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that enables users to view all the data stored on the devices from anywhere in the world, providing the device is given access via the web Livebook’s browser-based software. This means that my other half when away on business still has access to the films and Tv shows whilst in hotel rooms around the country on any device.

(NB: The app for Windows RT only currently allows you to view files when connected to the home network, you cannot view files from remote locations yet.)

Travel Tech

Nokia Lumia 900 – Yes I know, it’s a Windows Phone. I have been hooked on Windows Phone since it was Windows Mobile 6.1. Ok, they have taken a few steps backward in general functionality since then, but in order to make relevant advances in other areas. Great phone, great battery, and has nearly all the app’s I need for day-to-day life. The fact it links with my Windows account is also a big advantage for me as I’m fairly heavily invested in the eco-system. (OneNote, SkyDrive, Hotmail, Outlook, Office etc..)

Microsoft Surface RT 32GB – This incredible device comes with me wherever I go. It’s thin, easy to type on, (regardless of which cover you use), and is so much more versatile than either an iPad or an Android tablet. It has a 32GB hard drive (of which around 17GB is taken up by the OS) which I knew in advance, so I bought at a bargain price, a 32GB SD card to increase the overall storage, and I haven’t even come close to hitting the limit, via apps, or external media. The Surface RT also has 2GB of RAM. (NB: I’d love a Surface Pro, but don’t have £899 lying around sadly.)

Surface Covers – Whilst the covers for Surface are really accessories, they are technically, devices in their own right. Fully detachable, and with an accelerometer inside they are pretty impressive pieces of kit. I have both the touch cover and a type cover. I bought the type cover whilst in the US, it was far cheaper that way. My go-to standard cover is the type cover. It’s nice to type on, and is what feels like only a hairs breadth thicker than the type cover. Both covers are black, this is because at launch I couldn’t afford more than a black touch cover, and the type cover only comes in black.

USB Stick – You know how every one used to carry floppy disks around, well now its all about USB. I carry an 8GB Integral USB stick with me, in my bag, all the time. It has several recovery tools on it that I have gradually obtained over the years, and always comes in handy for free digital space aswell.

Portable Speaker – This is one of the best presents ever. Fact. The X-mini charge’s by USB and is LOUD! When it gets loud there is no distortion, the quality remains. Its collapsible, so you can have it with oodles of bass (and it really is bassy for it’s size) or collapsed so that there is less bass, and more of the high end of the sound spectrum. I have only ever charged this once, and I use it in the garden and various rooms about the house when listening to podcasts, and I listen to a lot. I believe, also, that they are only around £6.99. Bargain!

Cables – In my bag I carry the following cables, cause hey, you never know.

  • Micro HDMI to Full HDMI cable for Surface to TV requirements.
  • Plug with USB port embedded
  • Micro USB cable for Nokia or in case someone needs to borrow one.
  • Xbox Wireless receiver for PC – If I know I’m going on a long trip i’ll pack an Xbox pad and connect the receiver to my Surface. I can then play Snes Games via an emulator (approved by the windows store) when bored. The receiver always stay’s in the bag, I pack the pad when I think I’ll need it. Suffice to say Super Mario Kart on a Surface with an Xbox controller in hand got me some interesting looks when on the Ferry to France. Add the fact that a friend was also playing with me. Thats two player Super Mario Kart with two Xbox controllers on the same screen, I’d like to see an iPad or Android device do that!

Microfilliment cloth – Something to wipe the fingermarks off of the many screens in my life. It’s abrasive to the touch, but not on glass, its amazing and cost about £5.00, well worth it. You can even put it in the washing machine, and it’ll come out good as new.

The Bag – Whilst this isn’t ‘tech’ within the standard definition, I feel that with the time and graft that is put into making a quality bag, that it’s only right that it features here, also, I carry all this stuff in it, so it deserves a mention.

I have had this bag years, still looks in great condition, and I’m one of those people who takes a bag everywhere, for really no good reason other than they are handy to have about. The bag is made by Crumpler, whom prior to my purchase had never heard of before. I bought it from TK MAXX for just £24.99, years later I discover most of their bags go for £69.99 and waaaaay up, and I can see why. It’s practically waterproof, really comfy, and whilst its technically made for bike messengers, its fits my daily life perfectly.

Software

Whilst this list isn’t definitive, it does include my general day-to-day software usage. I would image it’s pretty much the same as most people’s.

Firefox – It’s better than IE, but not as simple as Chrome. I like it.

Zune – The best thing about Windows Phone 7.x is that it still uses the Zune software. It looks fairly slick, is ridiculously simple to use and runs in the background without issue. Supports disc ripping, podcasts and pretty much what ever you need from a media player. Shame support for it from Microsoft is pretty much non-existent

iTunes – Ugh, horrible bloated and slow. It’s certainly better since the overhaul last year, but still. I just don’t like it, however in true Apple style i’m stuck with them as their podcast library is great. Tip: Which ever media player you prefer, you can point it to read your iTunes library aswell as your own media. Usually this is in the file section where you tell the program which folder to get music from, just add the iTunes folder as well and all your iTunes content will appear. This may or may not work for certain DRM contents (Digital Rights Management)

Windows 8 Mail – It’s not pretty, it doesn’t have many features, it’s certainly not Outlook, but it is an effective, simple mail client. It supports signatures and folder creation. For a standard consumer what more do you really need? (For the record I have used the Outlook desktop client of Office for the last 7 years, and prefer it, but really only for RSS feeds and the integrated calender.

Windows 8 Calender – This IS pretty, it’s certainly effective and has quite a few features. Again not as many as Outlook on the desktop, but hopefully there will be more after the 8.1 update.

SkyDrive – It surprise’s me that whenever I ask if someone use’s SkyDrive they ask ‘Whats that?’ SkyDrive is 7GB of free online storage that comes with every Hotmail/Live/Outlook account, and as of Feb’2013 there were more than 420 million outlooks users (thats merged from hotmail and live services). SkyDrive is the same as Google Drive, or Dropbox, or the other plethora or cloud storage services that are available, except that 420 million people already have it. You can also download a SkyDrive desktop app which looks just like any other folder and when you put files in it, SkyDrive automatically uploads them for you, no need to even open a browser. I have used SkyDrive for a while now, and frankly, its awesome!

NewsBlur – Since the announcement of Google Reader’s demise, the tech world over has been scrabbling for a new RSS reader to takes it place, for me that hole in my life has been filled with NewsBlur. It’s easy to use, looks nice and has lots of features and options so you can really tailor your experience. There are also Android and iOS apps available. Also, ITS FREE!

So there you have it, whilst not an exhaustive list, it does give you an insight into my current equipment and my day-to-day usage of it. Here’s a picture with most of it bundled on my desk at home, the desktop is under the desk, and the stuff that needs to be plugged in like the Devolo and MyBook Live…well they are, so hence why they are not in shot.

DSC_0656

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