Matt's Gadgets for 2012

matthew's picture

Here are the gadgets I currently use on a daily basis:

  1. AppleTV for broadcasting my iPhone/iPad to my home theater system. Great for getting some tunes going to motivate me, and the room-filling home theater over HDMI really rocks even though it's a little cheap. There are equivalents for Android & other systems (RokU et al) but for simplicity that even my wife can use, I'm amazed. And it does Netflix or movie rentals; the HD rentals are a little spendy, but near in cost to a 3-day Blu-Ray rental at your local Redbox.
  2. MythTV for my DVR. Yeah, it's nerdy. Yes, a TiVo might do the job better. But I love having control of what & when I watch and being able to archive programs at will. Means I can sit down for an hour at night and watch a program I want to watch when I want to watch it, and skip all the commercials.
  3. iPhone 4. Yes, I have iPhone 4s envy (my wife has the 4s) but it's not a big enough upgrade for me to really want to change yet. I think I'll wait for the 5 or whatever comes after the 4s. This was a transforming technology, and Androids keep playing catch-up. The Samsung Galaxy 2S is the first Android device I've seen that is innovating ahead of Apple rather than trying to play catch-up. I'm a little too invested in the Apple ecosystem now to want to switch without a compelling reason, but the Galaxy 2S is a damn fine smartphone.
  4. Motorola H17 bluetooth headset. Tiny, reliable, great noise reduction, cheap to replace if I accidentally run it through the wash. About the only thing I want for is reasonable quality stereo bluetooth at a reasonable price (<$40, sounds good on both ends). I make do with earbuds for now; I think a new Bluetooth stereo headset is on the horizon.
  5. A pair of old Macbooks. Mine is Core 2 Duo, Christy's is a Core Duo. She can't upgrade hers beyond OSX Snow Leopard because her processors are 32-bit; I'm running Lion (and soon Mountain Lion) and have spent far less time fixing problems on my laptop ever since I made the "switch". The only upgrade I need is a bigger, faster hard drive to feel like my laptop is reasonably competent for anything barring virtualization; I use a desktop at work for my virtualization needs and just use it remotely via RDP.
  6. An iPad 2. This has totally transformed how I handle my on-call time. With a tethering plan (or an iPad 2 with mobile data), I don't bother taking along a full-fledged laptop when I'm on-call anymore. I just keep my iPad locked up & hidden in a non-obvious place in my car or with me when I go places, and I can handle any reasonable on-call need remotely without needing a WiFi hotspot or laptop to take care of business.
  7. An iPad 2 keyboard case. Doesn't really matter which one. I use one that was pretty cheap and am looking to upgrade. Basically, anything that protects the screen (the "smart cover" DOES NOT do the job except to keep dust off!) and allows me to use a keyboard if necessary gets it done. And if I want the small/light form-factor thing, I just pop it out of the case in a second or two.
  8. An Amazon Kindle Touch. Maybe I'm just getting old, but reading for too long on the iPad screen gives me eyestrain. I'm taking some courses online, and buying my textbooks in electronic form then reading on the six-ounce Kindle is a much better experience than being tied to my laptop in order to study or having to haul around a five-pound textbook. The Kindle also links to annotations from other users, highlighting important passages to study/memorize.
  9. A Timex Global Trainer watch with heart rate monitor & footpod for tracking my workouts (and soon a cadence/speed meter for my bike). This is the next great frontier in personal assistants, I think: integrating one's smartphone with fitness and sleep tracking. The Jawbone Up Band was an attempt -- if a pretty sorry, unusable, low-quality one -- in this arena. The Wahoo Fitness dongle gets the job done for iPhone today, but sucks battery life and the GPS in most phones is barely adequate for running & biking use. The future will be dongle-free, I believe; low-power Bluetooth HRMs, footpods, and eventually power/cadence meters are moving us in this direction.
  10. A USB battery. I usually just toss this into my backpack with my iPad, but if I need juice on the go, I have a 10000mAh battery with a USB plug-in on it waiting to help me extend the life of whatever needs charging. I consider a USB interface a prime requirement for any charger I use so that I can use one charger to charge basically everything.
  11. In the mail: a Seagate Momentus XT 750GB hard drive. I firmly believe that hybrid storage pools -- a write intent log or cache with a giant flash read cache -- are the future of storage in our personal computing devices. Solid state disks are too small and expensive at present, and have a definitive capacity limitation due to electromagnetic interference. In other words, they are a medium with a definite ceiling to how big they can get, and they are too expensive to produce. Hybridizing a solid-state disk with spinning platters offers solid-state performance where it counts -- frequently-used data in a read cache and either an intent log or large write cache -- and additional data reliability.

Things I'm still considering:

  • Which concealed-carry firearm I want to buy. My wife and I aren't interested in collecting guns, but after robberies on our street and the nearby Trolley Square Massacre (we eat there!), both of us feel it's our obligation as citizens to protect ourselves and those around us. Taser and/or pepper spray are also on the list for non-lethal options, but a small firearm is important. I plan for this to become part of my wardrobe, praying I'll never be forced to use it.
  • New Bluetooth headset. The Motorola H17 is great for calls, but I want to be able to listen to music or virtual coaching while running without wires dangling from me.
  • Some sort of audible swim-pacing device. I'm on the fence here. I'm a big believer in the Total Immersion approach, as it took me from a non-swimmer (bad swimmer, but comfortable in the water) to a decent swimmer.
  • A Bluetooth-enabled head-wearable video camera. For when I'm biking, in high-risk area, want to video blog (VLOG), or need a camera for conferencing with my work (think whiteboarding).
  • A newer MacBook to replace Christy's aging system. Some apps already require "Lion or higher" to operate; this trend will only continue, much like Windows XP and Vista are being rapidly deprecated in the marketplace.
  • Some kind of computing device(s) to send with my daughter to college here in a year and a half.

Heh, way too much info. But occasionally people ask, so I'm answering in advance :)


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Sammy G's picture

Sammy G's devices for 2012

DELL XPS14. Although the prominent vogue from digerati media is to pronounce the individual client having eased into subservience of the growing cloud, I still profess a Ptolemaic iCentrism pitting the laptop as the center of the digital lifestyle and all other devices mere swirling sycophants. The ‘computer’ is creation and consumption. Everything else is consumption. I had been looking at upping to the XPSz line but now that Windows 8 will be coming out before the end of the CY I will likely wait until early 2013 (or Win8 SP1, whichever comes first!) to get a new laptop. Protect this item and worship at all costs. I run full diagnostic, scan, sweep and update at least once a week.

EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE. I absolutely do not trust cloud services with my personal data. Once a week I run a backup and then stash the drive in my Wife’s car. All data is encoded in case the drive falls into enemy hands. Also, since you asked, I name my backup drives after devastating hurricanes. But I wonder if the drives get the point? Sometimes it's like they never seem to listen when I'm talking to them.

LG OPTIMUS S 3G. This is my phone. It is junk. Let me explain why. You probably remember during the late 1990s when the first wave of true mobile mania struck. The late 1990s was when, for the first time, regular people not working for a military branch were untethered from a desktop workstation and capable of roaming with a laptop and a phone and receiving email on both! Crackberry was the moniker. The cell phone then went from being called a cell phone (meaning voice communication transmitted via cell towers) to a mobile device. We started putting on our business cards the small case ‘m’ to indicate that we were hip. Since 2000 it’s been an ongoing catastrophe pursuing bigger screens, overburdened media, etc. which all lead to one thing – your battery depleted by 11am. My take on the situation is as follows: industry marketing has done a wonderful job perverting the consumer into believing phone usage is ‘an experience’. I don’t believe in a phone experience. I believe in spending $0 on a junky, disposable phone that makes calls, sends texts, and carries a relatively inexpensive data plan.

WIRELESS ROUTER. D-Link Xtreme N, bought in 2010 for $80 new on eBay, because downloading at 1MB/sec+ in the privacy of your own home is a constitutional right.

IPAD2. Just got this for my birthday. Otherwise I wouldn't have spent the money. Of course I agree that the laptop is physiologically inconvenient in lots of places including bathrooms, waiting rooms, airplanes, mountain hiking trails and jail. Also, the iPad doesn’t konk after 90 minutes of battery use (damn you, dedicated laptop 2GB graphics card!). Currently the ultimate consumption device available on the market.

ARCHOS mp3 player. $30. Plugs into the car and plays music I've transferred from my laptop. Complete frailty. When it breaks I go to Microcenter and buy another one for $30.

DVR BOX. It sits on top of a 20YO rear-projection TV that we inherited from the previous house owners. I just don’t watch that much TV. My Wife and I don’t watch that much TV. Meanwhile, my kids are not interested in sitting still and watching TV. Instead, my 3YO daughter has a stream of music videos organized as favorites in a YouTube queue which she pounds on the iPad while jumping and dancing. The only thing TV is good for is live sports, and this is usually muted and in the background. If I was ever going to buy a fancy new HD I would visit

NO E-INSTRUMENTS. I play a lot of music these days. And regardless of the advances in both hardware and software technology, nothing compares to the stringed thing. The wooden piano is so much better than anything e-board. And the natural physics of the guitar are so incredible that nothing digital really compares as a facsimile. There’s a reason you watch today’s pop culture and artistic music ensembles playing the same instrumentation that was dominant fifty years ago.

NO PRINTER. You can buy new all-in-ones for $50. Blah. I access work printers and rip off there instead of shelling out dollars to refill my cartridges every couple months at home. So I don't even have a working printer anymore.

NO CAMERA. Eh, that's not true. There is an SLR. Wife Unit makes me bring it everywhere.