What We Use: Kevin Purdy Edition

All this week, Lifehacker’s editors will be sharing the hardware, software and tips and tricks they use to do their jobs here. I’m kicking things off with a heavy dose of Chrome/Android utilities, plus some writer’s tools and productivity basics.

Note: We previously rounded up our editors’ picks in mid-2008, in one giant post, so we thought it was time for a refresh.


Desktops & Laptops

I switch between systems constantly. Not because I’m a professional, or travel, but I like different computers for different things. And I’m lucky enough to have a few to play with and keep fluent in.

  • ThinkPad T61p: Still kicking, more than three years after I bought it. Its motherboard died in the fall, and Lenovo replaced it free on a recall. I also upgraded the memory to 4GB to facilitate an upgrade to Windows 7 64-bit (and 64-bit Ubuntu as my dual-boot option).
  • Google Cr-48: Chrome OS is far from finished, let alone polished. But having experimented in using it exclusively for six days, I like it for what it is: just a browser. And the device itself has a great battery life, and I really dislike doing the plug-hunt in public, and I’m keyboard-focused enough that the funky trackpad isn’t such a deal-breaker.
  • MacBook Pro (15″): My wife’s main laptop, which I borrow from time to time, especially when a there’s a video project or a big screen needed.


  • LogiTech MX 1100 Cordless Laser Mouse: It’s a really great, ergonomic mouse. I don’t use any of the extra buttons, but the hand feel, scroll wheel, and instant dpi sensitivity controls are hard to beat. It lasts the better part of six months on a pair of rechargeable batteries, too.
  • LG 19″ Flatron Monitor (L196WTQ): My primary monitor when I’m sitting at my desk in my office.

Phones, Tablets and Other Mobile Devices

  • Google Nexus One: Originally purchased because it was first to receive Android updates. But now, more than a month after Gingerbread (2.3) hit the Nexus S, I’m running an unofficial open-source build. As for the phone itself, it’s a good mix of decent features: camera, power, hardware design and (especially) standard interface.
  • Kodak Zi6: Used to shoot my Lifehacker videos, along with the occasional vacation capture. It was, at one point, the best cheap-ass camcorder around, Gizmodo said.
  • Sony ICD-PX820 Digital Voice Recorder: Purchased for a freelance reporting gig, but I was due to have one. Hoping to get use out of it for future video projects, as the sound quality is notably better.



Wallpaper: Io sono Fabrrario (“I am February”), from the Italian publisher of Shane Jones’ Light Boxes. I knew Jones in college, and his book resonates strongly for those living through upstate New York winters.

Main Browser

Chrome: Because I switch between systems often, and because I, uh, have a computer that runs nothing but Chrome, it’s my default—as if it weren’t good enough to recommend on its own.



LastPass, Google Voice, and Chrome to Phone are pretty straightforward. The others:

  • Create Link: For doing all the HTML trickery required at Lifehacker—specialty links, Flickr image credits, and list items like, well, this.
  • Aviary Screen Capture: Essential for using the Chrome netbook, and pretty handy for doing stylised arrows and text overlays on images that don’t look crummy (see: Skitch, below).
  • FlashBlock: Always enabled on Chrome Cr-48 and MacBook Pro, sometimes used on the Windows machine, mostly to save battery life and avoid crashes or slowdown.


Pictured above, and mostly obvious. A few worth noting:

  • Simplenote and QuietWrite: I’m phasing out Simplenote, but it’s where I store my feature ideas for Lifehacker. QuietWrite is my favourite writing environment: minimalist, auto-saving, but with a great HTML preview mode.
  • mSpot: I keep only a few albums of music on my main computer at any one time—when the collection gets big, I back it up to a USB drive. So mSpot is perfect for me—2 GB of space to upload my songs du jour, then stream them to any system, or my Android.
  • Desktop Apps


  • Dropbox: It’s where I keep the files I always want on-hand, and it’s also how I install side-loading apps on Android, keep my book’s images in sync, and work from the Lifehacker pool.
  • mSpot: As stated above, I’m a big fan of its upload-and-stream service, especially the 2GB for free part.
  • Texter: Handy for the little HTML tricks and pre-formatted text I’m often writing.
  • GIMP: I’m not too proficient with Photoshop, nor do I want to pay for or pirate it. So I get by in GIMP when I need to smudge out phone numbers or do some levels tweaking or tricky cropping.

Mobile Apps

The full list is synced at AppBrain. Notable among the Android picks:

  • Todo.txt: Gina’s plain-text-based to-do system, which I’m totally down with.
  • SoundHound: The free and much better/faster replacement for Shazam—it identifies songs by audio sampling, humming, or tapping.
  • PicMe & ShootMe: I’m pretty good at setting up the Android SDK and using it to snag Android screenshots, but, boy, what a pain in the rear. Because I’ve rooted my Nexus One, I can use these apps to capture screens from any web browser (PicMe) or directly onto the SD card (ShootMe).

Tips & Tricks Closest To My Heart

Long before I was writing for Lifehacker, I was reading it every day (okay, every 2-3 hours) and using its tips to impress friends and co-workers. These are the tips that have stuck with me, or that I wrote myself and still find amazing:

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