My Life’s Tech – June 2013

I always
find it interesting to see what devices and services people use on their daily
lives.  So I thought I would share a
little bit of what I use on a regular basis. 
As the title suggests I will revisit this topic over time and see what
changes, if any, there are in my daily usage. 
Let us kick this off with the hardware in my life…

Nokia Lumia 928
Windows Phone (in white):

 When I
first began preparing for this article I was sporting the Lumia 822.  Since then I have upgraded its big
brother.  It is also
not a coincidence that my Lumia is at the top of the list.  For better or worse, my Windows Phone 8
handset has positioned itself in the center of my daily life.  Between text messaging, emails, Twitter,
Facebook and the occasional phone call this single device is the central hub of
my communication network.  It has also
become my primary media consumption device with streaming video, podcasts,
music, eBooks and more.  One surprising
result with the switch to my Lumia devices from my HTC Trophy is that I am even
browsing the web more frequently on my phone than I do on a traditional
computer.  With the addition of Nokia’s
Pureview camera technology it is not surprising that the Lumia 928 has become
the equivalent of my point & shoot camera as well.  The image and video quality on this phone is
astounding.  Combine that with Microsoft
Office and SkyDrive integration, it is no wonder that this hand held device has
turned into an integral part of my daily routine.

Custom Desktop: 
My primary desktop is a custom built system that I
assembled back in January 2012.  It is a
triple monitor setup that takes care of my gaming and full productivity
needs.  It began its life as a Windows 7
Pro machine and is now running Windows 8 Pro. While not top of the line
hardware, especially after a year, with the OS running off an Intel solid state
drive it can do a full shut down and reboot in under a minute and is adequate
for my needs.  The general system specs
are as follows:

  • Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5 2500K @ 3.3GHz
  • 8 GB DDR3 1333
  • 120GB Intel Series 320 SSD
  • 1.5TB HDD
  • 300GB HDD (used primarily for multimedia content) 
  • MSI P67A-G45 motherboard
  • XFX Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit
  • Std. DVD-RW optical drive with Lightscribe
  • OCZ ModXStream Pro 600W Modular PSU
  • Three (3) HP ZR2040w 20″ LED-backlit LCD monitors

Lenovo ThinkPad SL510:  My ThinkPad laptop is now
pushing a few years in age but it still gets the job done.  The only problem so far was the original
6-cell battery which has been replaced with its current 9-cell.  Just like my desktop, it originally ran
Windows 7 Pro but is now sporting Windows 8 Pro.  Windows 8 runs very well on this older
hardware. A recent driver update has even added better gesture support like
swiping in from the left to switch between full screen apps.  The specs are not anything to write home
about so I will leave them out here.

Amazon Kindle (1st Gen Fire and Kindle 3):  I am sad to say that a few
days ago my Kindle 3 with keyboard was damaged and no longer works
properly.  As I was getting into bed I
did not realize that it was beneath a cover and kneeled on the screen.  Eventually I will order a screen to attempt
to repair it later as I still believe that reading eBooks on an E-ink display
is a much more enjoyable experience than reading books on LCD screens.  Meanwhile, I still have my first generation
Amazon Kindle Fire. When I do use it, it is primarily to read my Kindle books
and watch Netflix or Amazon Prime videos. 
Occasionally I will play a casual game from time to time.

That about sums up the primary hardware, now onto the
software and services that power these devices.

Windows 8: 
If it was not obvious Windows 8 is my primary operating system of
choice.  Arguably one of the riskiest
moves Microsoft has made with the world’s dominant desktop operating system,
Windows 8 embraces their concept of Live Tiles and the formerly named “Metro”
UI.  This latest release entered the
market with much anticipation, many praises and quite a few naysayers.  Being a previous Zune, Zune HD, Windows Phone
and Windows 8 Preview user, the final release came with no surprises or large
learning curves for myself.  Personally,
I prefer the Start Screen over the Start Menu so no love lost there.  Another plus is that Windows 8 natively
manages multi-monitor systems much better than previous versions.  When I was using Windows 7 I used AMD’s
Eyefinity but have opted not to do so with Windows 8 as I much prefer Windows 8
native controls.  I do however realize
that I am not the average consumer.  One
last note in regards to controls, Windows 8 works perfectly fine with keyboard
and mouse contrary to what many people would have you to believe.  That being said, it does want to be touched
and if you are looking at getting a new system with Windows 8 get one with a
touch screen if possible.

Office 365: or Office 2013, I have completely moved over to the latest
Office suite.  I primarily use Word and
Excel but did occasionally open PowerPoint for school use.  To be specific, I am using Office 365
University edition.  Office 365 Home
Premium gives you five installs for your machines versus Office 365 University
which only gives you two installs.  But
with a price tag of $80 for four years versus $100 for just one year, I could
not pass that up.  There are of course
restrictions, one being the obvious university enrollment, but I can live with
that.  The flexibility and ease-of-access
that I have with SkyDrive and Windows Phone integration really makes this
solution a no-brainer for someone like myself. 
My only wish is that I had this a few years when I had initially changed
majors.  The integration of Office 365
and SkyDrive would have made my experience that much better.

Audacity: free, open source, cross-platform audio recording and
editing software.  Not much to say here
other than it gets the job done.  This is
the software that I use when I am recording my sporadic audio episodes/updates.

Screen-O-Matic: When I need to do some recording of my desktop or screen,
this is my current screen recording solution of choice.  It has some useful features, like scripts,
that I like.  Yes, I do have a Pro
account primarily so I can have a local desktop solution and no watermarks.

Fraps: Along with Screen-O-Matic, I do own a copy of Fraps that
I use to record most of my gaming escapades. 
Pretty straightforward.

Windows Movie Maker (Version 2012
Build 16.4.3505.0912):
 Yes, cringe at the thought of that!  I use Microsoft’s Movie Maker, formerly known
as Live Movie Maker.  Why?  Well, to be perfectly honest, it is free and
easy to use.  It is not very robust and
is quite lacking in most regards but has thus far fulfilled my needs fairly
well.  I may eventually move to a paid
solution such as Adobe Premiere but until then, Movie Maker it is because I do
not have an infinite source of money!

Adobe CS5: Occasionally I need to do some graphic design work or
some photo editing, so I fire up Photoshop or Illustrator.  During my architecture school days,
Illustrator was my best friend for editing my drawings.  Now that those days are gone, I use it mostly
when I am needing to put something together that will be printed.

SkyDrive: 
There is Dropbox, Google Drive,
iCloud and then there is SkyDrive.  With
SkyDrive integration into Office 365, Windows Phone and Windows I look back at
how I use to manage my files and documents on the go and wonder how I survived
it.  Editing and sharing Word documents
on the fly in a browser with Office Web Apps or having near ubiquitous access
from all my devices makes me very happy that I decided to embrace Microsoft’s
ecosystem.  It is a beautiful thing.  The only thing I wish was possible as a nice
backup option, in case you find yourself without any connectivity, is if via
the SkyDrive app on Windows Phone 8 you could save your files onto the phone’s
local storage and be able to access them via USB on a computer as if it were a
USB drive.

Outlook.com: Now
formerly known as Hotmail, the new interface that Microsoft has moved to is
clean and easy to use.  I have moved to
Outlook.com and have not looked back. 
Currently I am in the process of migrating all my hosted email accounts
over to Outlook.com.

The following are services and sites
that I use on a regular basis but I feel do not require much explanation, if
any:

  • Steam (primary source for my PC gaming needs) 
  • Amazon Prime (expedited shipping and video-on-demand) 
  • Netflix (DVD rental and video-on-demand) 
  • Twitter (social media) 
  • Facebook (social media/sharing photos with friends and family) 
  • Pandora One (music) 
  • Nokia Music+ (music)
  • Audible (audiobooks) 
  • Kindle Books (electronic books) 
  • Squarespace (web hosting and design) 
  • YouTube (media consumption/video content hosting) 

This is by no means meant to be an extensive list of
everything I use but I believe this encompasses the vast majority of devices,
software and services that I use.  Any
comments or suggestions or comments on what you use are very welcome.

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