My Favorite Tech Things for 2008

I realized yesterday that it’s been awhile since I’ve written about some of my currently-favorite technology tools, so here are a few, in no particular order. Hopefully you’ll find at least one or two you haven’t used or heard of yet.

Apple iPod Nano

I got my iPod Nano as a Christmas gift from Casey and the boys last year, and it has consistently been one of my most used pieces of technology. I’ve listened to endless hours of podcasts, audiobooks, and music on it, and have watched a few television episodes on it’s small screen, too.

Also, the Nano and Nike+ combo has been a great companion during my runs, and makes it very easy to log all of my workouts automatically.

Amazon MP3 Store

I don’t buy a ton of music these days, but when I do, I always check the Amazon MP3 store before looking anywhere else. It’s as cheap (or cheaper) than iTunes, and everything is 100% completely DRM-free MP3. That means it’ll work on any computer and any portable music device without a worry.

Firefox 3

I probably spend more time in Firefox than any other application on my laptop, and consider it one of the best pieces of software currently available. It’s the best browser out there, with thousands of add-ons and themes available to let you customize your browsing experience exactly the way you want.

My Firefox usage did drop some recently while I used the new and incredibly fast Google Chrome browser, but I’m happy to find that the beta version of Firefox 3.1 competes head-to-head in JavaScript performance and page rendering.

Firebug

When I do get around to working on websites for myself, Casey, or a client, I often turn to the Firebug extension for Firefox. It’s invaluable for creating and troubleshooting CSS styles, debugging JavaScript, and figuring out which pieces of a site are causing the page to load slowly. Not for everyone, but indispensable if you need it.

Twitter & Twirl

I’ve been a Twitter user for almost two full years now, and it’s been fun watching its growth explode. And while there are probably at least 100 different ways of accessing Twitter, the way I use it most often is with the Twirl client. Completely free and using the Adobe AIR technology, it runs equally well on Mac OS and Windows.

Netflix

I became a Netflix subscriber last year after finishing my MBA degree, and it has allowed me to watch tons of movies I had been wanting to see for years. I usually have these movies on while I run on the treadmill, which really helps the miles to fly by.

One of the other great things about Netflix is it’s growing selection of movies and shows in its Watch Instantly catalog. They even include a pretty good selection of kids shows – my boys recommend the Mighty Machines series.

Hulu

Hulu is simply amazing. Consistently high quality videos (some in HD) from many of the TV networks, including NBC’s and Fox’s various channels. Hulu is almost good enough to make me want to drop our cable subscription.

Transmission + VisualHub

Transmission is my favorite BitTorrent client for the Mac OS, with a great interface and plenty of features. If I ever download video via BitTorrent, it’s usually encoded in the Xvid codec, which doesn’t play so well on an iPod. Enter VisualHub (now discontinued), the Swiss army knife of video conversion for the Mac. It gives you lots of control if you need it, but the presets for creating iPod Nano optimized versions works perfectly for me.

If you’re looking for a replacement for VisualHub, checkout the free/open source HandBrake program. Originally just a DVD ripper, it now supports video transcoding too.

Dropbox

Dropbox is as close to magic as any other piece of software out there. Just a small little application you install on your Mac or PC, Dropbox creates a new drop box folder where you can drag and drop pretty much anything on your computer. Then, behind the scenes, it instantly starts uploading/backing up the contents of your drop box to its servers and pushes it out to any other computers tied to your account. Its user interface is the native operating system, so there’s really nothing to learn. A perfect design.

So, there you go. I’m sure I missed one or two other tech things I use and love, but this hits the major ones. Enjoy, and if you have any recommendations of your own, please share them in the comments!

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