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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Devil’s horns headphone wrap: I also use the Sumajin SmartWraps, but when I’m helping the wife pack away, or lack my backpack, this is my go-to packing system.
- Quix shortcuts: Because setting up keyword searches and shortcuts on every browser, after every re-install, is quite annoying.
- Plain-text to-do lists: As mentioned above, this is a tactic that my seniors at LH have been using for years, and I’ve just started getting into it.
- Paper towel tubes for long cords: Now I save almost all my tubes for making long LAN cables, extension cords, and other gear easy to put away.
- Three-tier letter tray as laptop stand: To save my neck, and give my laptop a little room to breathe.