Once again this week the Lifehacker team is sharing the hardware, software and tricks that keep our writing wheels spinning and our life efficient. And since I’m the Australian editor, I get to go first.
I wrote up a list of my most important technologies at this time last year, and when I first sat down to update, I figured there wouldn’t be a lot to change. Shows how much I remember: since last time, I’ve changed my PC, my browser, and a few other things besides.
- My main notebook: I finally got rid of my Portege R600, which was in imminent danger of catching fire, and replaced it with the Portege R830. I briefly contemplated the SSD model, but couldn’t justify the cost difference, especially given that this machine only rarely hits the road, so stuck with the conventional version. For the record: I also spent an entire week working exclusively with a Mac, which was a useful educational experience but didn’t make me want to shift away from Windows.
- My spare notebooks: On the road, I’m mostly using an Asus Eee PC R105 which I picked up as a Catch Of The Day special. I’m very fond of this machine; I can get all-day battery life from it, and it weighs next to nothing. Indeed, I wrote the whole of last year’s NaNoWriMo novel on it. It isn’t super-grunty, but I don’t need to do much super-grunty stuff. My other spare home machines (a Linux ThinkPad and an original Eee PC) are still around, but rarely touched these days.
The device which travels everywhere with my PCs these days is Telstra’s 4G dongle. It works well, it offers good speeds, and it lets me get work done in a lot of places where I’d otherwise be reliant on my mobile phone. I’ll be interested to check out the Wi-Fi hotspot version when it appears (which should be happening soon), but on the whole I’m still happy with a dongle. I usually pack a spare USB key or two, but these days even that isn’t important, since Dropbox happily flings documents between machines for me with minimal effort on my part.
The one unchanging element in my tech repertoire is the BlackBerry Torch, which remains my workhorse phone. Indeed, I proved its worth in fairly dramatic fashion over the course of the year, spending an entire week on the road with nothing but the Torch, not even a change of clothes. Having survived that ordeal, it’s not going anywhere in a hurry.
In my job, I constantly get to play with new mobile phones, but despite a plethora of Android devices and the iPhone 4S, I don’t feel any need to abandon BlackBerry at this point. It worries me that the rumoured next-generation BlackBerry models all seem to dump the keyboard, but I’ll deal with that when I get there.
I’ve also enthusiastically taken up the BlackBerry Playbook and given it some serious on-road testing. It’s a great little tablet, though (like many tablets) it sees its main use these days as I’m relaxing in front of the TV. I’m hanging out for the Android app support to finally happen.
Desk & Office Essentials
I revealed my current favourite wallpaper in our editorial wallpaper roundup. Not much more to say, and I haven’t customised my phone beyond adding a few apps to the Favourite tab.
Last year I was on the verge of moving to Chrome, and a bunch of bad Firefox behaviour tipped me over the edge. Now I’m a happy Chrome user; my only objection is that keyword bookmarks don’t sync, so I have to set them up separately on multiple machines. I also feel like the most recent “stable” update was anything but — it works badly with WordPress and it crashes much more often. However, I’ll give it a few weeks before I contemplate shifting.
I’m a desktop boy; the only webapp I use with any regularity is Google Reader. And while I didn’t like everything that happened when it was redesigned, none of the alternatives struck me as better.
This is the one area where absolutely nothing has changed other than my browser; my go-to list of Windows apps is exactly the same as it was last year, so I won’t repeat myself.
My favourite tips
Three strange tips that made a difference to me in the last year. I’ve focused on small details, since the productivity strategies I have detailed in previous years still suit me well:
- Despite it sounding very odd, I’ve become a semi-regular consumer of the toast sandwich.
- Though I don’t plan on shifting to a Mac any time soon, the knowledge that when I have to work on one I can get a proper screen maximisation function makes me much calmer.
- And I like knowing that I can make my own Big Mac if I want to.