This week we're sharing the hardware, software, tips and tricks that make keep our blogging wheels spinning. Today, I'm running through my favourite gadgetry, apps, hacks, and tricks for making said gadgetry bend to my will.
Desktops & Laptops At the end of the day, I'm considerably more interested in software than hardware, but I do use a few different machines, mostly so I can easily access and stay familiar with Windows and Mac. Here's how it breaks down:
- My Current Hackintosh Desktop: This is the build I detailed last October. I love the processing horsepower you can get for next-to-nothing if you're willing to roll up your sleeves and build your own machine. You get the flexibility and expandability of a Mac Pro with the price tag below the iMac.
- My Windows Desktop: Nothing too special to talk about here. It's just Windows 7 running on the hardware of my previous iteration Hackintosh. It's the main file server in my house.
- MacBook Air: A lot of people think the latest MacBook Air's are an absurd price point — like a netbook you pay a thousand bucks for. I upgraded to mine from a 2006 MacBook Pro (pre-Duo), so the processor update, SSD and all-around lightness of the laptop have been nothing short of great for me.
I'm using the same Logitech MX Revolution that I've had for years, and it's still a great mouse. I also just bought the Griffin mini cables pictured at left, which I love. You get the three most popular USB connectors and they're not eight feet long, so you don't have to wrangle cables every time you want to charge. Get a set and keep them in your laptop bag.
Phones, Tablets and Other Mobile Devices
Right now my main phone is AT&T/Samsung's Galaxy S (Captivate) Android phone, though I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I love the Android OS, but AT&T and Samsung have really made a mess of this one. If you want anything from it (including any Android OS above 2.1), you'll have to root it. If you want GPS to work, you'll have to tweak it. Essentially nothing actually works on this phone unless you fix it. (If you're looking for a great Android phone, the Nexus S is, hardware- and software-wise, at the top of the class.)
I've also got a new iPod touch to keep up with the haps on iOS, along with an iPad and a Chrome OS netbook (Cr-48). Two things about the last two: They're great. Forget about the whole Apple part of the iPad; tablets are here to stay, and they're lovable. As for the Chrome OS netbook: Not only do I like it (it's possibly the best guest computer you could ever have, but it also has a wireless data connection for connecting independent of Wi-Fi, syncs everything from Chrome on your desktop, and has a battery that lasts forever), but my father-in-law, who's been visiting, has been using it exclusively and loving it. Google's not chasing a lost cause on this, trust me.
My bag is the backpack version of this Incase bag (instead of the single sling, it's a regular two-armed backpack). My only requirements for my bag was that it was slim and not flashy. Incase hit that nail on the head. I can fit my MacBook Air and iPad in this thing easily, and it's still plenty light.
Desk & Office Essentials
Click for a larger view
Main Browser: Chrome It was a weirdly hard decision, but I switched my main browser from Firefox to Chrome at some point last year. Rather than discuss why, I'll point you to how and why Chrome is overtaking Firefox among power users.
Extensions My must-have extensions include LastPass, SABconnect++ for remotely adding and managing Usenet downloads, and that's about it. I've been doing my best to avoid overloading my Chrome extensions, and I find myself installing fewer extensions on Chrome because there's less about it I want to change.
Web Apps Of course there's all the Google apps everyone uses: Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs (Lifehacker manages more and more writing and editing in Docs every day) and Google Reader. As for the slightly less obvious stuff, I'm very big on Simplenote, which I consider the holy grail of ubiquitous plain-text capture.
These days I do almost everything on the web, so desktop apps are less important to me than ever. The ones I still really love include:
- Everybody loves Dropbox, and you can count me on that list. It's the glue between all my computers/tablets/phones.
- I'm also all about SaBnzbd+, which we introduced you to in our how to get started with Usenet guide. Couple it with Sick Beard and you've got something crazy going on. (Be safe, kids!)
Mac OS X
My two Mac-only favourites are screenshot app Skitch and screencasting/video app ScreenFlow. I realise both are tools that most people don't need on a daily basis, but if you do, I can't recommend them highly enough. I'm also very excited about Kod, an open-source text editor that looks like it may soon be a viable replacement for the beloved (but spendy) TextMate.
I've spent a lot of time on Android and iOS, and some of these are available on both platforms, but since I'm currently on Android, I'll focus on those favourites:
- LastPass (Android/iOS/and a ton more): Whether you're using LastPass' basic or more advanced functionality, one thing's for sure: Typing secure, randomly generated passwords into a phone is a pain. With the LastPass app, I can either log directly into web sites or copy and paste the passwords for various services in a couple of clicks.
- Google Maps + Navigation: This built-into-Android GPS navigation is fantastic, it's free, and it's smart. I used a lot of different GPS apps on iOS, and I didn't find any of them nearly as quick or friendly as Google Maps + Navigation.
- RunKeeper: This app's available on iOS and Android, and while I've tried other tools for tracking my runs, I always end up back at RunKeeper. And now their Pro version is free.
TIPS & TRICKS CLOSEST TO MY HEART
By this point I've already mentioned a lot of my favourite stuff, but I know there are plenty of other things I'm forgetting about because I take them for granted. Here are a couple extras worth mentioning:
- I'm falling in love with the Apple TV. I got one for a gift last month, and while out-of-the-box it's relatively useless to me, I've jailbroken it and installed XBMC on it. It's not the cheapest and smallest XBMC machine in my house (sorry to my standalone nettop XBMC machine). XBMC on Apple TV still has some rough edges, but in a few months I could see this being the best gadget to get up and running with a really solid XBMC setup.
- If you spend any time around Lifehacker, you may be aware of my love for the binder clip. It's like the duct tape of your office supplies closet.
- Like Kevin, I'm also using the devil's horn headhone wrap technique almost daily to keep my headphones tangle-free.
- Say what you will of what caffeine does to your brain, but in the past year, I've developed a pretty serious habit. I don't actually drink more than a cup a day, but when I do, I turn to my Baratza Maestro burr grinder and the inexpensive but incredible AeroPress coffee maker. I know it's easy to go overboard with kitchen gadgetry, but the quality of the coffee I can make with this and some good Intelligensia beans is nuts.
I've got that nagging feeling I'm missing something good, so if you've seen something in a post or I've talked about something at another time that you'd like to hear more about, hit me up in the comments.