One of the things I get asked a lot (A LOT) is what I use at home tech wise. Enough people have asked that I will now share the hardware, devices, and services I use at home and for work as well when it comes to personal technology.
My primary desktop computer is a 27″ iMac paired with a 30″ HP LP3065 monitor. It currently runs Mac OS 10.7 (Lion). I packed it with a 3.1GHz i5, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD boot drive and 1TB spinning drive for data. This is the family computer I have set up in my home office. It’s general use by and large but I do plenty of specific tasks with it. Namely, on the Mac OS X side, I have an Elgato Hybrid USB TV Tuner hooked up to it so I can watch and record OTA TV on it. More specifically, I record Saturday morning cartoons on it to load onto my daughter’s iPad. It’s a pretty smooth process via the Elgato EyeTV software, which provides TV listings and is also where you set your recordings, presets, etc. Once EyeTV records a show, it converts each program for both streaming on our home network and into iTunes format. It then automatically copies the output into iTunes so that next time I sync my daughter’s iPad, it syncs the latest, newest episodes onto it. It has saved me a lot of money in that I don’t have to constantly buy new TV shows on iTunes. It’s a great Mac DVR solution.
Besides managing children’s programming, I also get work done on my iMac. I run Windows 7 on it via VMware Fusion. I tend to run Windows and Mac OS X on any Mac I use, mainly because I support both OSes as part of my job and Apple’s hardware happens to be the only way to run both without some amount of hackery. When I need to VPN into work or do any type of media editing (Windows or Mac) for myself, friends or family, I am on the iMac.
I also have an HP Pavillion a6120n desktop in my garage. It is also a dual screen setup with a 22″ HP LA2205wg monitor and a tilt mounted 42″ Dell W4200HD plasma display. It has an Intel 2GHz Core 2 Duo chip, 3GB RAM, a 320GB drive and a 2nd 1TB drive for data/media. It’s about 4 years old now so it’s far from the latest and greatest (It came with Windows Vista, yikes). But I still get a ton of mileage from it after upgrading to Windows 8 and using it mainly as my home networked Media Center. More details on that here.
My work laptop is a mid 2012 13″ Macbook Air with 8GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD drive. It’s my primary travel machine when my job takes me on the road. Like my iMac, I run Windows (Windows 8 via VMWare Fusion) as well as Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion). It’s super light, powerful, and versatile thanks to the dual OS setup, all nice things to have when duty calls out of the office.
On both Windows and Mac, I now use trackpads exclusively. With computing moving to more touch and gestured based input, having a trackpad over a mouse has made navigating my computers a little more natural and convenient.
On Mac OS, I use Apple’s Magic Trackpad. Nice thing about it is it supports most gesture movements on Windows 8 in VMware Fusion so I get an equally fluid experience in both. on my Windows 8 only Media Center, I use a Logitech Touchpad T650. It makes moving around in Windows 8 more straightforward, which makes sense now that it’s more touch focused.
Sonos: I use Sonos as my whole house audio system and I couldn’t be happier. It is the most elegant and intuitive way to listen to all different kinds of music around your house. I have 3 ‘zones’ set up including in my garage. I mostly use it to listen to Sirius XM along with TWiT (Leo Laporte’s) shows. The desktop and iPad controller apps make using it painless and fun when you want to channel your inner DJ.
Apple TV: I have a 2nd generation Apple TV connected to my living room plasma mainly so that I can AirPlay content from my iPad when I want to share something on the big screen. I also stream Netflix occasionally as well as stream my iTunes content from time to time.
Roku XS: I also use a Roku XS on the living room TV. I mostly stream Netflix and Amazon Video. I prefer it over the Apple TV when it comes to content selection. There are literally hundreds of channels available on Roku, making it a very versatile solution vs Apple TV.
Logitech Revue Google TV: On my bedroom TV, I have the original Logitech Revue Google TV device connected. We use it for Netflix and Amazon Video along with the occasional YouTube search or browsing the web on rare instances.
Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone: I gave it a glowing review. It’s a fantastic phone and I highly recommend it per what I wrote about it in detail.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: I also keep an Android phone on me for some specific apps both work and personal. My current Android is a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is great. I always like to see how Android evolves, particularly with 4.1 and Google Now leading the way in the world of context/predictive intelligence.
3rd generation 64GB iPad with Verizon LTE: Like most, I use it for mostly consumption of content though I also can get light work done on it like email, VPN, VMWare administration, etc.
Microsoft Surface RT 32GB with black Type Cover: In the short time I have had it, it has quickly become a tool I am using more and more. Having a Windows 8 device with awesome battery life is a huge plus. And so far, I am seeing great utility in the built in apps (XBox Music, Office, OneNote, etc.) as well as what I have found in the Windows Store.
In addition, I can definitely see myself traveling with the Surface in place of my laptop on work related trips even when there will be some deep tasks that need to be done since it has built in Remote Desktop and a USB ports, both big time IT tools.
Nokia Lumia 900: The Lumia 900 was my primary smartphone before the 920. Contrary to what I thought, it has been given new life as my MP3/podcast player. Not happy with my music and podcast support/sync options in Windows 8/Phone 8, I am more than pleased to repurpose my 900 and reunite it with the Zune client on my PC for listening to jams at the gym (via XBox Music Pass) and for organizing and syncing podcasts as well.
Beats by Dre Detox headphones: I primarily use my Beats at the gym, they deliver great sound and more bass than anything else out there.
Bose MIE2i earbuds: I use these for handsfree calls (though they don’t work with my Lumia 920, only my Android phone) and to listen to music/podcasts when I travel. Great sound and the most comfortable earbuds I have come across.
Nike+ Fuelband: I wear a Nike+ Fuelband to track my daily activities. I am very bullish on this type of wearable tech and the sensors they are using to monitor what you do every day. Things like the Fuelband are going to be key factors in this new age of context for sure.
I have a Dell Optiplex 755 that I run Windows Server Essentials 2012 Release Candidate on. Attached to the Dell is a 4 bay Drobo with 4 1.5 TB drives installed on it. I use the Drobo array to store our Music, Movies, Pictures, Home Videos, Media Center Recordings, user shares, and any other data I need to share centrally on my home network.
I’m a big fan of Server Essentials 2012 because it makes all of this easy and mostly painless. It has an easy to use Dashboard interface that gives me the status of the devices on the network and allows me to schedule and monitor backups of each computer, restore files, and install updates.
And from the client side, accessing the server shares is effortless, Server Essentials creates them upon installation so there is no further configuration needed to set them. That means that my Mac, my Media Center, and my wife’s Thinkpad all can connect to the network with zero extra steps.
Software and services:
Some of the apps/software/services I use on a day to day basis are:
Good for Enterprise: Besides my personal Gmail which I generally set up via my device’s built in mail (native on Android of course), I use Good for corporate email on my Android and iPad. I implemented it at work as our standard mobile enterprise mail, messaging, and collaboration platform. I also use it to access our corporate web based systems without the need for a VPN via their built in Secure Browser. I can’t say enough positive things about Good, I generally do via various social media channels. I highly recommend it for any enterprise that is looking to effectively manage mobility and BYOD in a secure manner.
Skydrive: I use Skydrive to store and sync most of my personal files in the cloud and across my computers and devices. Skydrive is deeply baked into Windows Phone, my images and videos from my Lumia 920 auto upload to it. You can view and edit files from your browser (Great Word and Excel web apps) but there are also apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. Plus their desktop apps make it even easier to navigate your Skydrive from your PC or Mac. I used it from the beginning so Microsoft rewarded their loyal users with a bump to 25GB of free online storage. New users get 7GB which is still generous when compared to the competition. You can also buy additional space if necessary. Which brings me to…
OneNote: This outstanding note taking app is part of Office and Skydrive. It has quickly become my ‘Memory in the cloud’. When I need to write down a quick note, archive a work email, or set a fast voice reminder, OneNote is there for me. It’s similar to Evernote (which I also use) in that there are apps on every platform. I prefer OneNote’s deeper filing structure, and it’s built into Windows Phone and Windows RT, making it that much more enticing for me to use for whenever I need to jot a few things down.
XBox Music Pass: I subscribe to XBox Music Pass to listen and discover new music. You can sync and download playlists across your Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phone 8, and Surface devices. Support for iOS and Android is coming soon according to Microsoft.
Google Music: I don’t buy music very often anymore thanks to Xbox Music Pass. But for all the music I bought and ripped in the past, I’ve uploaded it to Google Music so it’s in the cloud and available as I need it. I can play my music via the web player as well as the excellent built in Android Play Music app.
CrashPlan: I use CrashPlan for cloud, offsite backup of our computers. While I already do local backups via Server Essentials, any thorough backup plan must include a remote backup option. I have CrashPlan on each of our computers as well as my server, where most critical data is stored. I prefer them to the competition because they have unlimited space and great apps for managing as well as restoring backups.
This page will grow over time, I am always trying out new gadgets and services. Be sure to check back from time to time.