Thursday, January 7, 2010

Things I use (almost) every day

With a new year, the fashion among tech bloggers is to list the things they find indispensable. I love to be fashionable, so here list of technology that I love and depend on.

Canon Powershot S90

This is the point and shoot that the pros carry. It is not particularly svelte, but it takes very good photos, almost on part with entry level DSLRs. Low light performance, a weakness of smaller cameras, is particularly good. It does this by combining an excellent lens (f2.0 for you photo geeks) and very sensitive CMOS with the camera brain of a DSLR. It is not cheap at around $430, but memories aren't cheap either. Originally, I was going to get a new point and shoot and a new DSLR (probably a Canon D7). Now I am not so sure I need the DSLR, except to do great video.

Vibram Five Finger Shoes

These put me squarely into the freaky camp, but they are amazing and I will withstand the withering stares secure in the knowledge that I know something that you don't......millions of years of evolution did a better job than 30 years of Nike. It turns out that humans are the fastest land animal over great distances (why did they omit that in school?). Cheetah? Nope. Horse? again, not over a long distance (look at the Leadville 100 results, where runners routinely finish ahead of horses). We are persistence hunters....we basically chased antelope for miles until they dropped with exhaustion, and then finished them off with a pointy stick.

I have had them less than a month, but here is what I have found. On the treadmill, I get less knee and back pain than with my very expensive Nikes that were fit to me by a specialist. Everywhere else, I get funny looks and a lot of questions. Perhaps I should just print a FAQ card to hand out.


I like taking keeping my notes in a digital format. It makes them much easier to archive and search. I used to use Microsoft's OneNote, which I still think has the best design for notetaking. But, I forsook Windows a long time ago (3 years now), and Evernote is good enough to take its place. Evernote is not quite as good as OneNote in terms of organizing folders and subtopics, but it is better in every other way. A key feature is the synchronization across clients via my web account. I can take notes on my iPhone and they sync up to the laptop, desktop and web. I can access notes similarly while I am on the go. Since I tend to forget or confuse details, it is nice to have the digital archive in my pocket. Best of all, it is free. I pay for the premium version, but only to support the company. The free version is very powerful and more than enough for my needs.

I still carry a small Moleskin notebook for meetings with non-techies. It feels akward in a meeting to be banging out notes on a laptop.


Over the course of 2009, I sunk deeper into the clutches of the Google. I started the year with a gmail account that I used for spammy stuff. Now I use it as my personal server for mail, contacts and calendar on my own domain via Google Apps. It syncs to my iPhone via iPhone just thinks it is an Exchange server.

Over the holidays, I started using Picasa because my iPhoto data store had been upgraded by my Mac Mini's iPhoto 2009 into a format that could not be read by the older iPhoto on my laptop. Apple, take note. You did not sell me an upgrade, you just drove me to a competitor.

The whole Google suite of products is a lot cheaper than MobileMe, and works better for me.

I am starting to use Google Chrome as well for browsing. Faster and not the memory and processor hog that Firefox is. Not quite ready for primetime, but I bet by the end of the year I will not be using Firefox at all. I started writing this post in Firefox, but I got tired of the beachball and flipped over to beachball.

[UPDATE: FF3.6 is dramatically better, so I have stopped using Chrome for now, but I think I will be back in a few versions.]

And, I am using Google Docs for simple spreadsheets and documents where collaboration is important.


I have played with the Droid and Nexus One, and, for now, I am sticking with my iPhone. The Nexus One is tempting, but I want to wait until Android has more apps available, and T-Mobile's network gets better. T-Mo's 3G coverage is pretty limited at the moment, and they don't have coverage in some of the hinterlands that I ride through. Also, a Nexus One inspired gold rush could crush their network as the iPhone did to AT&T. I like the Verizon network, but the Droid is not a compelling device.

I have a Verizon MiFi card, so I can always patch on the Verizon data network if I am in SF and my iPhone is unable to connect.

Motorola BT 715HS headset

I have some fancy bluetooth headsets.....the Motorola H15, a Jawbone, but the one I generally carry is the 715. It's noise canceling is not as good as the Jawbone, but I find that the Jawbone and H15 cancel out my voice half the time. The 715 is $50 and has a rugged design, so you can just toss it in your pocket. If I am going to be in an airport or someplace noisy, I will bring my Jawbone along, otherwise, the 715 does a fine job and takes more abuse.


Dead simple file sharing across devices, including my iPhone.

RSS and Twitter

I consume a lot of news, and filtering can be a challenge. I switched from NetNewsWire to Gruml for a desktop RSS reader because it works better with Google. On my iPhone I am still playing with different options, but will probably settle on Mobile RSS. Twitter is great once you stop following your friends who think people care about what they had for lunch. The addition of lists has made it much easier to filter to what you want to hear about.


I rely on password and form filling software when I browse the web. Roboform is my favorite, but not available for the Mac, even after all these years (WTF, guys?). So I moved to 1Password, which is a decent substitute. Recently, LastPass has appeared with similar functionality. I have tried it and it is fine, but not interesting enough to make a switch. I keep my 1Password repository sync'd across machines with DropBox.


This extension for synching bookmarks and passwords just got more useful now that it supports Chrome. I use 2 different machines, with 2 different the bookmarks are all synchronized across them.

Is that 10? I guess it depends on how you count the Google stuff. That is enough for now, and I will update this post as I think of more.

1 comment:

  1. Hobbs - Happy New Year 2011! I'd love to see an update to this post for the new year. As an early adopter, (admit it, you had one of the earliest cell phones - the ones as big as a phone booth - in 3rd grade) You are my one stop shop for productivity tips.


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