Tech Stuff I Love: 2010 Edition

I like to periodically take inventory of the hardware, software, and web-based tools I use on a daily basis and share the results. Because if a few of you find something new and useful as a result, it’ll be worth the write-up. Now, onto the list.

Dropbox

I’ve mentioned Dropbox a number of times, and I will probably never stop recommending – it’s THAT good. Download and install it on Windows, Mac OS, or Linux and you’ve instantly got 2 GB of free storage space that can be used to seamlessly sync files between your computers, backup important files to a secure servers, send download links to others, and more. It’s so well done, it feels like magic.

Google Chrome

I’ve been using the Google Chrome browser since the first preview version was released almost two years ago. It quickly displaced Firefox as my default browser thanks to its unbelievable performance and rock-solid stability. Everyone needs a browser, and Chrome is an easy recommendation.

LastPass

LastPass is a cross platform, cross browser password manager designed to securely keep track of all your online usernames and passwords. Add a new site on one computer, and LastPass will automatically sync it to your phone and any other computers you’re using it on. And since it gives you access to your login information anytime and anywhere you need it, you no longer have any reason not to use long and complex passwords for all your stuff.

And in case you’re concerned about the security of LastPass, Steve Gibson recently did an in-depth review of it on the Security Now! podcast that should remove any doubts you have.

Instapaper

I come across a lot of great long-form writing on the web, and until recently, the articles were usually bookmarked and then forgotten. But now when I see something I’m interested in reading later, I just hit my InstaPaper “Read Later” bookmarklet to have the page instantly sent to my Instapaper account. Once it’s in there, I can read it on the web, on my phone, on a Kindle (if I had one), or – God forbid – print it out on paper.

Readability

When I do have a few minutes to focus on an article in my browser, I use the Readability bookmarklet to strip the page of everything but the content and format it beautifully for easy reading. Sometimes I try to imagine a world where Readability wouldn’t be necessary to read websites, and then I cry.

Twitter

Find and interact with all sorts of fascinating people, including me.

Mint

Mint has slowly earned its way into my heart over the years. Having used various versions of Quicken, Microsoft Money, Wesabe, Moneydance, and Mvelopes over the last decade, none of them come close to Mint for how little time it requires and how easy it is to use. Sure, it’s still missing a feature or two, but now that Quicken Online will be gone within the month, Mint is the only real game in town.

Markdown

Sure, I’m an HTML expert, but when it comes time to craft blog posts and other content that requires formatting, I like to use something that flows better. Enter Markdown, a lightweight text markup language that lets me create documents that are readable as text, but get automagically converted to HTML when it’s time to publish. In WordPress, I use the excellent PHP Markdown Extra plugin.

Google Voice

Google Voice has come a long way since its early days as Grand Central. The core idea is the same – a single phone number that can ring you at any number of phones – but Google has added so many great features that it has become indispensable. For example, the Google Voice mobile apps, Chrome extension, voice mail transcription, and free text messaging.

Still, I’d love to see a Google Voice API available for programmers.

Google Docs

While I’ve yet to move everyone at the office over to Google Apps Premier Edition, Google Docs has become indispensable to me at work and at home. I haven’t found an easier way to collaborate with Casey on our meal plans or our household budget. Sure, none of the Docs web apps match Microsoft Office feature-for-feature, but I learned that I rarely need most of those extras anyway.

WordPress

I switched from running this blog on Movable Type to WordPress back in early 2009, and I haven’t had a single regret yet. WordPress is improved on a rapid schedule, and its wide selection of themes and plugins mean you can do practically anything you want without touching a line of code. And, it’s free as in beer and speech – can’t beat that.

Tumblr

While I love WordPress became I love being in complete control of the experience, I know it’s not the right fit for everyone. Today, if a friend wanted to start blogging for the first time and asked for my advice, I’d recommend starting off with Tumblr. It’s well designed and makes it dead simple to share quotes, photos, and videos you find on the web. You can find my link blog – hosted on Tumblr – at tumblr.berbs.us.

89.3 The Current Live Stream

OK, this one is a web audio stream, not software or hardware, so it’s a stretch for this list. Still, I wanted to squeeze it on here because I cannot recommend The Current enough. Minnesota Public Radio’s non-commercial, The Current is hard to pin down to a single genre. Their about page describes it the best I know how:

The Current brings listeners the best authentic new music alongside the music that inspired it, from local to legendary, indie to influential, new to nostalgic.

While I love Pandora and my music on iTunes and my iPod, it’s refreshing to hear such a wide range of music I’d never pick for myself, from a single radio station.

Logitech M500 Mouse

We had to replace iMac’s bluetooth mouse a few months ago, and I went with the
Logitech M500 Corded Mouse because I had no interest in another wireless mouse for a desktop machine.

Anyway, the M500 is the best mouse I’ve ever used. It feels great in your hand (at least for this righty), and the ability to unclutch the scroll wheel for frictionless scrolling is unbelievable.

Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000

After Mr. Coordination here spilled a beer on the iMac’s factory keyboard last summer, we replaced it with the Microsoft Natural Ergo Keyboard 4000. I’m a fan of ergonomic keyboards, and this one is the best I’ve tried. My hands don’t fatigue nearly as fast on it compared to a regular keyboard. It’s got lots of extra navigation buttons too, which is a nice bonus, but the Ergo 4000 rocks for fast typing.

Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS Receiver

I received the Forerunner 305 as a birthday gift last September, and I quickly became an evangelist. I had been logging my runs with Nike+iPod for a couple of years, but the amount of data captured by this GPS watch dwarfs the simple time and distance recorded on my iPod Nano. Yes, its great to have accurate times and distances, but being able to take your historical running data to craft a personalized training plan changes the game.

The Forerunner 305 isn’t the newest or smallest GPS watch you can buy, but its inexpensive, has a ton of features, and does its job perfectly.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Nice list Jason, I’m going to check out a few of these. Namely Mint, Readability and Markdown. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu