Top Gadgets 2010
Posted by markharrison on January 2, 2011
Every couple of years, I post about what bits of technology I actually use. The last one was Top Gadgets 2008.
I’ll come back to the 2008 list (and even the 2006 one) in a moment, but first, the top things I started using in the last two years.
The 2010 list
1: The iPhone. I held off against SmartPhones for a long time (read my rant in the 2008 post!), but finally got an iPhone 3GS late in 2009. It has, as you’d expect, the Mac-like qualities of “Look, the thing just works”, and “Joy to use.” I got a long (2 year) contract, since I don’t change handsets often. Maybe come the end of 2011, I’ll change it. Maybe I’ll see whether there’s a deal I can get on my monthly charges to stay with it, though I am vaguely keeping an eye on the way that Android is developing, and maybe that will be the best option. Ask me again in a year’s time. The app I most use is the built-in web browser, and it’s that “always connected to the Internet” that has made a difference, but see below as well.
2: GoogleMail. We’ve run our own mail server for at least 8 years. We used a variety of front end software (Outlook Express, Thunderbird.) A while back, however, I registered a GoogleMail account, mainly because I intermittently needed something that I could access from client sites which blocked access to my own mail server. Over time, Googlemail’s front end has matured, to the extent that I now find it better than any desktop mail software I’ve used. So, we each registered GoogleMail accounts, and our trusty server stopped storing all the mail, but got set up just to forward any mail we got to the right Google account. When we got the iPhones (see above), this also meant that we immediately had access to our mail from them.
3: Evernote. Yes, that’s right – two of the top 3 positions are taken not by hardware gadgets, but by web-based software. The old model of “Software” being something that you install on a particular computer, and can then only use on that computer is gradually fading, at least as far as my life is concerned, with the “Software As A Service” (SaaS) model taking over. If the only “installation” required is going to a web browser and typing a URI, then great! Evernote is a “big bucket” into which I’m putting things – photos I snap on the way, articles I write that are works in progress, chapters for my next book, things I see that I need to remember. Yes, there is software that installs on my Mac for the odd thing, but mostly I use the EverNote iPhone app. (There is also an Android app.)
4: Bookcases. There is a quote, which I believe is originally from Brain Tracy, that reads “Poor people have big TVs, rich people have big libraries.” The Mark Harrison quote, which I now have my children saying, is “There’s always room for another bookcase.” In the process of writing this blog post, I’ve run round the house, counting, and made it 50, (which does include custom-bookcases made for specific places, but does not include shelves mounted to the wall, or a window-sill full of books.) The majority are IKEA Billy, representing a lot of bookcase for the money, but we’re gradually moving to custom-made to fit particular spaces. At some point I will write a longer post on the subject, explaining why I’m resisting the move to ebooks. The antilibrary (Google is your friend, but again, another post for another day) is also growing nicely.
The 2008 list (where are we now?)
1: The Mac Mini. It was only going back to this list that made me realise how long I’d had it. It’s the computer I’m typing this on, and I’m still glad I got it.
2: The Drobo. The Drobo is still in use, and storing everything I need. It’s been joined by a DroboShare, that means it connects directly to the network rather than onto a computer (and shared by that.) This we have found great.
3: The ASUS EEE Pc. I’ve not used this for a year. I have found that most of the things I needed it for on the road can be done with the iPhone… and for those that can’t, there’s always a computer witha full sized keyboard somewhere (client office, friend’s house, airport club lounge…)
4: The DVD Duplicator. Still works every time.
5: A normal, non-smart Nokia handset… see iPhone above.
The 2006 list (long term update)
1: The (2006 model) iPod has found a new lease of life in a docking station in the kitchen (we mainly eat in there as well.)
2: The Dell laptop is still in use. As I reported back in 2008, the battery has long since failed, so it’s now in use as if it were a spare desktop PC.
3: The Domia Lite / Bye Bye Standby system. Still working well, still in everyday use.
4: The “Skype headset”. In 2008, I reported that I’d lost it, and now used Skype for text chats, rather than voice calls. This is still true.
5: Desktop software choices… Firefox, yes… OpenOffice, yes…
6: The aircon is an interesting one. We decided to make a concious effort to reduce our carbon footprint back in 2009, and planted up the south wall of the house with a bunch of climbing plants that would cast shade on the front windows during the summer (when the sun is high in the sky), but allow direct sunlight through in winter (when the sun is lower in the sky, and therefore comes in under the level of the plants.) This has worked remarkably well, and while we used the aircon in 2009, it was less than in 2008. In the summer of 2010 (which, to be fair, wasn’t that hot), we didn’t need to turn on the aircon at all! (We’ve taken it a step further over the winter of 2010/2011 and put masses more insulation in the loft, which has had a noticeable effect keeping the place warmer in winter, and hopefully will keep the upstairs cooler next summer as well.)
7: Yet another year with paper diaries – I do use iPhone reminders a bit now, but still paper diaries are that little bit faster when it comes to trying to arrange a meeting and need to scan a bunch of possible dates.
8: Really Useful Company 35 litre crates on custom shelving in the garage. Still there, still holding stuff that either we have a legal obligation to retain for years, or like Christmas decorations that is needed once a year or so.
9: The Satnav. For various reasons, we’re using them less. I think because we work far more virtually now, and don’t visit unfamiliar sites as much.
10: The cars. The LPG Volvo Estate is still a useful thing for carrying around stuff. In December 2009, however, it disgraced itself when the lock broke, and it took 10 days to get the replacement part (from Germany, for some reason.) We took the opportunity to buy another Morgan to replace the one that some fool crashed into in 2007. So, we are back to a three car family – the Volvo, the new 4-seater Morgan, and the 30-year-old Morgan Plus 8 that still runs stunningly, and puts a smile on the face of everyone who sees it.)