What I use these days (updated Apr 2010)

Posted by Minnaar Pieters 29 Dec 2008
Here is what I use on an almost daily basis. It will give you good idea of where my opinion lies and why I use certain things. I paid for all my software and I always have valid reasons for using certain applications or hardware, and I am also a bit of a early adopter.

Computing hardware

I use a few machines every day, but these are my main machines. At home I use the Macbook the most, with VMWare Fusion for when I am in a pinch and need to access Windows. I also use a Lenovo netbook as a secondary machine. When I have a choice I will always buy Lenovo hardware, or Apple. I have had unpleasant experiences with HP consumer hardware. I always use external monitors on my desk, my current being a Acer P243W 24 inch monitor with a lovely 1920x1200 resolution. The resolution makes multitasking a breeze.

At my desktop setup I also use nice and compact Apple Bluetooth keyboard and the new Magic Mouse, which I am still getting used to.

I believe that unless you do very processor intensive work, the age of the desktop computer is over and done with.

MacBook (late 2008)

My pride and joy. A higher end 13 inch model with a 2.5GHz processor, 4 Gig DDR3 RAM and a slow 250GB harddrive. It runs Mac OSX Snow Leopard and I run a bootcamp partition with Windows 7 Ultimate and a VM machine running Windows 7 as well. I want to upgrade the RAM to 8 gig, but DDR3 chips are still very expensive. Build incredibly solid from aluminium, and the display is really nice and bright. Still cost a bit more than a PC but well worth it.

I upgraded the internal drive with a Seagate 320Gig 7200 rpm drive. Much more roomy and also a bit quicker. Highly recommended. Currently I am looking at upgrading to a SSD or more RAM.

Lenovo Ideapad S10e

I bought this machine as a secondary PC and is quite a cute little number. It runs a Atom processor and 2 Gig RAM and a 160 gig hard drive. I was always a little hesitant of netbooks (especially after seeing the first eeePCs), but there is very little trade offs in using this machine. Currently running Windows 7 Ultimate. I want to upgrade the hard drive soon though.

Servers
Windows Server

I currently use a HP Proliant ML110 server to run Windows Home Server which backs up all my machines and also stores a lot of my media. I upgraded it to 4Gigs of ECC RAM, and its currently running four 1.5TB hard drives. I find a Windows Home Server very powerful and I really hope the next version will be even better. I have stated previously stated that I will never buy anything from HP ever again, but this machine I got at such a bargain, I got two.

Gaming

I use Xbox 360 Pro for gaming and media. I use only about 5 percent of the time for games, and use it as a media player connected a nice large 1TB hard drive which has all my media.. I am actually quite disappointed by the hardware quality and I am currently on my 4th Xbox. The last one gave up the ghost after 2 weeks. Luckily they swap them out for free, but it is always a 3 week long ordeal to get it done, thanks to MI Digital’s poor service.

The Xbox is currently connected to Samsung 42inch 1080p LCD, which makes games look incredible. I also connect the Xbox to a nice big 1TB Seagate FreeAgent drive. To be honest I use Xbox much more as a media player than games. Blame high prices of games. I am looking forward to using Windows Home Server with the Xbox.

Portable devices

I have had too many iPods to count. I used to buy a new one each year, and then sell the old model. But I always hang on to my iPod 5G 30Gig which is still my favourite iPod, regardless of model. I keep it in my car or AV dock connected to Logitech Z2300 speakers (which are 4 years old and still work great).

My phone is a iPhone 3GS which is a great device to have with you at all times. Despite its small flaws I still cant switch back to my old Symbian devices. The speed of the new 3GS is great and the current collection of applications are without peer. The apps I cant do without I listed here.

I recenly also got an Amazon Kindle, which I love. It is comparitively low-tech compared to devices like the iPad, but what it does it does really well. I love the long battery life and excellent e-ink screen. I have however started to become disappointed with the e-book catalogue, which I hope will improve.

Software I use:
Operating system

I use both Mac OS X and Windows, but I will always have a softspot for Windows 7. Despite all the marketing hype I am still not completely sold on Mac OS X. Snow Leopard has improved this somewhat. Yes, it is stable and fast, but I miss the tinkering with Vista. I am pretty excited about Windows 7, and now run it fulltime on all my machines. I avoid using Windows XP. Its old and needs to be taken out back and put down.

Digital media
Jukebox: I primarily use iTunes, because I use a iPhone and iPods. I think it is a great music management tool and I stopped using WinAmp the day iTunes came out for Windows. I use smart playlists and rating a lot I am obsessive about things like album art and lyrics.

Online services: Because of a lack of digital music stores in South Africa, I cannot use any legal download services. So I am pretty much forced to buy CD’s.

Digital photos: I use Picasa 3 as a photo manager. Yes, iPhoto is nice, but is not close to Picasa. Why would I want to store my photos in a proprietary giant multi gigabyte file? Let me use standard folders please. I don’t backup my photos online, but I do use Facebook for sharing.

DVD: I rarely use anything other than VLC for playing DVD’s. For backing up DVD’s I use Handbrake (which is way better on Mac than Windows for some reason) which does the job admirably. This makes it easy to take movies with me on my iPhone or iPod.

Digital movies: I don’t really create movies but I must say Apple’s iLife suite has some pretty cool tools. iDVD and iMovie works great, even though it is kind of time consuming to do so.

Internet: I always use Mozilla Firefox, and never Internet Explorer. However, some sites don’t display correctly on Firefox, in which case I use Google Chrome. Safari is a joke, regardless of OS.

Office productivity: I use Microsoft Office 2010 on my work PC (and Mac using VMWare). It is actually a great release of Office and I recommend it. Office for Mac 2008 is an absolute joke. It interface is poor and some complex documents and spreadsheets lose functionality. Even though I still have it installed, I would not recommend it. If I want to do real work, I fire up VMWare Fusion and run Office 2010, thanks.

My primary email is a Gmail account which I use in its standard free guise. I use its IMAP and forwarding abilities to forward to my work email addresses which save me lots of time. Why anyone would pay for a ISP email address these days is beyond me. I use Outlook 2010 and Apple Mail for email management.

My main social networking service is Facebook which I prefer for its uncluttered design. Also, the Facebook app on the iPhone is simply stunning, and should be a yardstick for all mobile apps. I have also recently started using twitter more and more. (@mpieters)

I use Outlook 2010 and iCal to manage my schedule. I use Google Calendar as the syncing service, so that my phone and all computers are in sync, always.

Security: I find Vista and Windows 7 pretty secure, so I always keep my UAC on, even though it can be irritating. I use Microsoft Security Essentials and Windows Defender. On my Mac I don’t use any security software, which I really appreciate. I am curently testing Microsoft's new free antivirus suite, and I will switch to it eventually I guess.

Utilities: On my Mac I use VMware fusion 3 almost daily (this is a Windows world, despite what Apple might tell you). I use Google Talk and Skype as my IM gateways. uTorrent is by far the best torrent manager, but I also do like Transmission on the Mac.

On Windows I wholeheartedly recommend a good defragmenter like Diskeeper or Defraggler. Defraggler is free, quick and does the job. I don’t use a defragmenter for Mac because of the HFS filesystem which does not need it. Cannot wait for SSD to come along and rid us of this.

I always install Adobe Reader because I need to work with complex PDF files often. I use BurnerXP or Mac's own disk utility to burn discs and create disc images. Its free and does the job.
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I am a R&D Analyst in Stellenbosch South Africa who has a immense passion for all things tech related. I embrace technology, open source and web standards, and I participate and contribute to the social web.