A Day In Technology: 2011

I’m a technology nerd, and I’ve come to embrace and enjoy it. One of the ways I like to document and look back on my life through the years is by considering how I use technology daily. A couple of times before (2007, 2010), I’ve written about the typical tools I use, as well as my comments on how well they do or don’t work for me. I find it fun to read about others’ setups on The Setup, a blog dedicated to posts like this one.

In the morning:

  1. Fight the snooze button on my smartphone – for the last 17 months: an HTC Droid Incredible in an OtterBox Commuter Series case. I’ll probably be upgrading to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus soon.
  2. Commute (hopefully by bike, weather permitting) with my Rocketfish RF-MAB2 Bluetooth Headphones. I’ll listen to music on Rdio or Google Music, a podcast from TWiT.tv, or an Audible.com audiobook. If I’m listening to some embarrassing pop star on Rdio, I’ll make a bet with myself about how many people will have made fun of me on Facebook when they see those songs posted live to the Ticker.

At work:

(Notable as of last year’s “Day in Technology” post, I’ve been working as a Web Developer at One Tribe Creative.)

  • In general, my productivity is fueled by two things: Evernote for basically everything I need to keep track of that isn’t bound to communications, and Google Apps on our company domain for everything that is.
  • In meetings, I like to use my iPad 3G (1st-gen) because it’s a more social computer: it doesn’t obstruct the view across the table, doesn’t make distracting clicky noises, and lets me pass around examples for others to hold and interact with. I take a lot of notes using the Evernote for iPad app.
  • My main workstation hardware consists of:
  • 2011 Apple MacBook Pro (13″) – I sized down to a 13″ this year and feel like it’s the ultimate portable that packs a serious multithreaded punch. I love the unibody, tolerate the glossy 1280×800 display.
  • 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7
  • 8GB RAM (aftermarket)
  • Crucial C300 128GB Solid-State Drive (root filesystem) – solid state drives are, hands-down, the best way to improve computer performance.
  • MCE OptiBay replacing the DVD drive (a waste of space) with the original Apple 500GB HDD (holding symlinked directories for ~/Pictures, ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Media, and GarageBand’s big library. )
  • 1993 IBM Model M Keyboard via PS/2-to-USB converter (my favorite “new” toy.)
  • Apple Magic Trackpad – Initially an experiment, I’m surprised by just how much I love it. I’ve gone completely mouseless now and use multi-touch gestures all the time. (It also rocks drawing selections and slices with my fingers.)
  • A good, employer-supplied Dell 24″ Widescreen Monitor that serves as the main external monitor. I put my OS X dock on the left side of this screen, and the notebook display sits to the right atop an aluminum Griffin Elevator stand.
  • My most-used software consists of:
    • OS X Lion. I love developing on OS X because it’s my favorite Unix-based desktop workstation.
    • A web browser. Most days I use all of them for testing, and one for development. I switch my defaults every few months not out of intention, but necessity, as either Firefox or Chrome is bound to have some little bug in their released-every-6-weeks “stable” version that drives me nuts.
      I make heavy use of the WebKit inspector for most of my CSS work.
    • Coda for code editing and file management. I’m tempted to try a more command line-based workflow with bash and Vim.
    • WordPress is the basis for most of my development projects. I’ve been on it since 2005 and love making cool stuff with it for my clients. For the last year I’ve been developing child themes on the Genesis Framework, which adds a bit of power for site administrators, and an awesome hooks and filters API for theme developers.
    • Hosting totally depends on the need:
    • Linode hosts my own virtual private server, which runs Debian 6 and services I administer myself.
    • I have my important work stuff on a managed Media Temple (dv), which basically serves the same purpose as my Linode, but has smarter people responsible for its uptime.
    • I usually host smaller clients on Media Temple (gs), and larger ones on either (dv) or a Liquid Web VPS. If someone has tech skills and a low budget, I highly recommend NearlyFreeSpeech.NET, and if you don’t have tech skills and still need to host a site for $5 a month, I’ll tell you, “You get what you pay for,” and then smirk when you ask me why your site is down and who can help restore your stuff.
  • Git with gitosis for version control. Currently on a private git installation, but I’m looking into BitBucket now that it offers free unlimited private repositories. (GitHub is neat, but not cost efficient for small businesses who need a lot of private repos.)
  • Rdio to stream my jams, and Facebook to publicly shame myself for referring to them as “my jams.” I wonder how I’d like Spotify instead.
  • Sparrow for my email: this is an awesome native email client that is purpose-built for Gmail, instead of just a weak IMAP interface. It unifies my personal and work email (which for some reason I think is a good idea) and lets me reduce the window down to one narrow column like my Twitter and RSS feed apps.
  • 1Password for all the passwords I can’t keep in my brain (Mac client, Browser client, iOS client, Android client… It’s everywhere I am.)
  • Dropbox for my “Documents” folder (on all my devices.)
  • Reeder for my Google Reader RSS feeds.
  • iChat for Instant Messaging – I hated iChat until the updated Lion version.
  • VMware Fusion 3 for my web test environments of Windows Server 2008 R2Windows XP, and a sundry of fun new Linux distributions.
  • Out and about on the smartphone:

    Since so much of my work and play is tech-related, usually any place outside work and home is a return to the “real world,” so I accordingly dial the tech down to just my smartphone. (Just a smartphone?) I even don’t walk around with earphones in very often any more. (But when I do, they’re V-Moda Remix Remotes, which are hands-down the favorite of 50+ kinds of earbuds I’ve tried over the years, a search which I hated the need to do.)

    I do all my communication through Google Voice and don’t even give out my real cell number. Google Voice rocks, and support for it is the one thing that has dedicated me to the Android platform (though Sprint’s network-level GV integration makes the iPhone an option again.)

    If I’m at a café alone, I might bring along my Amazon Kindle (Third generation, WiFi + 3G, no ads).

    At home:

    I finally got back to a setup I’ve had once before and really see as necessary: separate spaces for sleep, work, and play. Having different rooms for each is such a psychological help for me to focus on working – or relaxing. The kind of things I do with tech at home are a bit more casual and passive – I’ll watch Netflix on my PlayStation 3, and do my various Web feed or Readability reading on either my MacBook, my iPad, or my smartphone. I find that I still prefer the MacBook for any task that isn’t just reading books or feeds- it’s just the most flexible and fast way for me to get to what I want. I think tablet devices like the iPad have already bested PCs for normal folks’ home computer use needs, and might eventually be so for me as well.

    For audio work or extended listening, I use Sony MDR-V6 over-the-ear headphones. They’re comfortable and have excellent sound. They were purchased last year with birthday money from my grandparents, one of whom passed away a couple of months later, and thus I’m reminded of her every time I put them on.

    Trends and reflections

    The transition from university to professional web development definitely created a need to separate work and play. The iPad came along and helped a lot with that; I consider it to be a “lean-back laptop,” or a device which makes leisure activities a lot less “computer-y” or absorbing.

    At the same time, the way I get work done has, by necessity, gotten a lot more intense and multitasked. Developing web front ends means testing everything in multiple browser and OS combinations. Caring about fonts means triple-checking rendering everywhere. But as this stuff has gotten a lot more broad, support for web standards has also grown immensely, so I find myself needing to fix far fewer browser rendering glitches.

    Apple took mobile apps to stratospheric heights in 2008; now Android is a major player, and the struggle between native and web-based apps has matured but not resolved itself. I find that I actually use only a couple of third-party apps on my smartphone, since almost everything is done through either a browser or an app bundled with the device.