What I Use Update

Jun 2017

 

“Existence is no more than the precarious attainment of relevance in an intensely mobile flux of past, present, and future.”

– Susan Sontag

 

Noun:
low-hanging fruit ‎(plural low-hanging fruits)
(idiomatic) Easily obtained gains; what can be obtained by readily available means.

 

3 years ago, I was asked this question in an interview:

What software and technology do you depend on, use and work with everyday?

I thought about that again today. And realised something interesting. Nearly all of the software is still exactly the same as 3 years ago. Minus the companies that went out of business, of which there are a lot.

The major additions are my development now happens in Sublime Text 3 and I use 4K Video and Audio Downloader for downloading songs and videos I like. Document, spreadsheets and presentations are now done in LibreOffice. And my desktop now uses Glary Utilities for managing the PC.

The biggest addition on my phone is WhatsApp and Messenger for talking and making Voice Over IP Calls and my phone now runs on a combination of Gravity Screen and Button Saviour, so it turns off and on without me doing anything. And I use the Good Time Pomodoro Timer for productivity measuring and Pass2U Wallet for keeping track of flights and tickets.

Browsing is still done with Chrome, videos are still watched with VLC. Photos are viewed with Picasa. Music is still done with Itunes. Most of my development still happens with the same tools as a few years ago.

But Chrome is now supercharged, with 10 different plugins I depend on. My favourites being Momentum, which is my tab home screen and To Do List and Right Inbox which helps manage all of my emails, Honey for online shopping discounts, Betternet for a free VPN service, Awesome Screenshot for screenshots, Rapportive for professional networking. All of my scheduling is also done with X.AI, a virtual artificial intelligent scheduling company.

It’s indicative of a sort of levelling out of software services. I think a lot of the low hanging fruit of what could be improved has now been picked. I remember 3 years ago when it felt like every few months some new thing was being created that would become essential to my life. But in the last 3 years, it feels like very little has been created that became really essential to me.

The only major software change from 3 years ago, is I was on the free tiers of everything. Now I’m on the paid tiers. With my favourite being Dropbox Pro. The only major addition to software I use is HelloSign which is the most useful signature service I’ve ever seen. And Uber for getting around. And Netflix with the Chromecast for streaming tv shows on a tv. I also use 4K Youtube to MP3 and 4K Youtube Downloader for downloading files and Plex for a media sharing server. I love Plex, it’s like having our own private Netflix. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever used.

The notable exception is when it comes to video games and entertainment. 3 years ago, I didn’t have any accounts. Now I have a Steam, Uplay and Origin. Mostly because the games force you to use them. When it comes to tv and movie watching, there is Chromecast. The TV has stopped being a tv, now it is just a bigger screen for watching shows that sits in the living room. The channels on the tv never get used.

But there are some very noticeable behaviour changes. That of the news, apps and mobile devices. Now, majority of my emails are answered on my phone. For the most part. I use my phone for all tasks that can be completed within 20 minutes. And my computer for all tasks that take longer than 20 minutes. I will even go days sometimes without using a computer at all. While 3 years ago, that would have been impossible. Without a computer, I would have felt unable to get anything done.

And the news feels like it gets to me faster. If something important happens, I feel as if I know about it or am reading about it within minutes or hours. You almost never hear about a news story days later. It’s either instantaneously or you never hear about it. It probably isn’t really as dichotomous, but that is how it feels. The corollary is that when I’m with people, they are now noticeably checking their phones all the time.

What changed dramatically though, is all the hardware.

Today I use a powerful Lenovo Y700 Red 17″ main laptop with maxed out specs (1TB Hardrive, 128 GB SSD, 16GB RAM, Intel I7 Processor, NVIDIA GEForce GTX 980) running Windows 10 which never leaves my room. The highest performing laptops tend to usually be gaming laptops.

This thing is a monster with the entire computer running on voice recognition through the use of Dragon Naturally Speaking 15 with a VXi VoxStar UC Bluetooth Wireless headset or a Sennheisser ME3 Microphone with Andrea Sound Boosting Pod when I’m in one place. You can frequently see me walking around my living room talking to my computer.

All of my important files are synced using Dropbox to a portable Lenovo s100 11″ Red Air computer with only 32 gigabytes of space running Windows 10 for working on the go that is extended by a 128 gigabyte Samsung EVO Micro SD card. The laptop is wafer thin and I take it everywhere. It’s my portable PC for use for emails, coding, development, writing, general work. It doesn’t have the capacity to do anything processor intensive and that’s just the way I like it.

The major new addition is I now wear a watch. A Polar M200 heart rate monitor wrist watch. This has a sleep tracker and activity monitor. I like to think it keeps me healthy as the watch literally tells you what to do to stay healthy. This all syncs to the Polar Flow app which gives you detailed analytics on your activity in life. It’s incredible. Much of my day to day activity has changed since I started using it. I’m much more active.

All of the other hardware I used got an upgrade. My primary phone is now a Oneplus 5 Midnight Black with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of Storage running Android 7.0 and my secondary phone is a Samsung Galaxy A3 running Android 5, I use a Kindle Paperwhite, a Samsung Galaxy Tablet S2 and a Product Red 6th generation Ipod Touch. All files are backed up using a Western Digital 2TB wireless hard drive which is fantastic. And my laptop bag is a Numanni multipurpose laptop bag and backpack.

The ancillary hardware I use is a Logitech wired optical mouse, a LapCare portable slimline keyboard, a Sennheiser HD 380 Professional Over Ear Headphones for listening to music interchangeably with the standard Apple in ear headphones. Both Phone and Tablet have black leather flip cases and the Ipod has an armour case. Interestingly, among the portable devices, the Ipod is the most expensive device i own. It’s even more expensive than the secondary Lenovo S100 laptop.

Nearly all of the hardware is different. As is the file architecture.

Previously, I would have all my files stored on one computer and then work on it from there. When I needed to transfer files, I would use a USB. But now, Dropbox has taken a central role in my life. As a sort of hive mind for the files on all my devices. To move files between computers, I just add them to Dropbox and use the Sync settings to determine what gets synced to which computer.

Because of this, at any moment, I could throw away all of my hardware and not lose a single file. And never need to worry. It is much more relaxing to have fallible hardware. To know if anything happened, I won’t lose anything. I used to constantly worry about someone stealing my laptop. Now I don’t even think about it. That mental weight is well worth the Dropbox Pro cost.

So the key insights from the last 3 years are: All of the hardware got better. Software services picked all of the low hanging fruit of easy problems to solve or experiences that could be transitioned digitally. Mobile Devices finally achieved parity with computers for the ability to complete real work and get things done. Computers became less relevant. Phones became more relevant. Gaming became a bigger portion. So did entertainment and TV watching. Everything became more real time.

Looking forward to what I’ll be using 3 years from now.

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