What I use

Sometimes it’s nice to hear what tech people use on a day to day basis. It’s useful to pick up hints and tips, and to pick up on cool tools you might not have heard of before.

Here’s my day-to-day kit:

1. Hardware

I have a 15 inch MacBookPro for travelling with, a 24 inch iMac for when I am in the office, and a Samsung NC10 for when I need two machines at the same time (for instance when I am out social reporting).

The iMac has a second screen, the main use of which I will come onto later.

I have a Kodak all in one printer, a Nikon D40 DSLR, a couple of Flip Ultras, a couple of GorillaPods, a MicroTrack II which I never use and an iPhone.

2. Software

In terms of desktop software, those that I use the most are:

  • Firefox – with all the plugins available for it, still the best browser by miles. Maybe when Chrome is out on the Mac I might reconsider, but until then…
  • Tweetdeck – I used to be a Twhirl man, but Tweetdeck has won me over recently, despite the large amount of screen real estate it takes up.
  • Yammer – Yammer is Twitter within an organisation – it’s limited to people on the same email domain. The Learning Pool team use it to keep one another up to date and as the official banter and abuse channel. The desktop app makes it easy to keep on top of it all.
  • Parallels – this makes running virtual machines on the Mac a doddle. Means I can run Windows XP virtually, which is handy for testing in Internet Explorer and other things which have to be done in Windows. On my iMac, it’s Windows that runs in full screen on my second monitor. Sweet.
  • Transmit – an FTP client that rocks.
  • Coda – a great code editor with built in FTP goodness.
  • MarsEdit – a blog post editor. For some reason it just makes writing posts quicker.
  • Photoshop Elements – for image and photo editing. This cut down version seems to do everything I need. Still not cheap, so I only have this on the iMac.
  • Pixelmator – a cheaper image editor than Photoshop, which I have on the MBP.
  • iCal – default Mac calendar app. Does the job for me.
  • Skitch – A simply awesome screenshot programme. So simple and a joy to use.
  • Skype – keeps the telephone costs down. There are more open VOIP systems out there, but the people I need to talk to are all on Skype, so…
  • Microsoft Office – sadly it’s still a must have.
  • MAMP – turns a mac into a web server with a couple of mouse clicks. Great for developing sites locally.
  • Omnigraffle – brilliant diagramming application. Like Visio, but good.
  • iTunes – manages all my music and backs up my iPhone. I use it because I have to, but it’s ok.
  • Internet Explorer versions 6-8 – under Parallels in XP, I use this application to run multiple versions of IE for website testing.

3. Sites and Services

My web based activity is mainly spent using:

  • Gmail – the best email interface, like, ever. I have loads of different email addresses feeding into the one account and managing them all is a dream. I use the Apps version, tethered to my domain.
  • Google Docs – great for quickly typing up ideas and sharing them with people – though I still prefer a desktop word processor for big documents.
  • Twitter – still visit the website now and again, mainly to find and follow new people.
  • Google Reader – at the last count, I follow about 700 feeds. Reader makes it possible, without going mad.
  • WordPress – the online publishing platform of the gods.
  • Ning – even with some of the accessibility issues, it’s still the easiest way to build a community online.
  • Delicious – the biggest social bookmarking community and that makes it the best, in my view.
  • MobileMe – an Apple service that keeps my calendar and contacts synched across all my computers, the web, and my iphone, without me having to do anything. Nice one!
  • Flickr – the only photo sharing site worth using? Possibly. It;s the one I have been using for 4 years or so now, so I am not going to change any time soon!
  • YouTube, Blip.tv and Vimeo – unlike with photos or bookmarks, choosing a video host isn’t quite a no brainer, depending on the length of your clips, the levels of privacy you need or the quality you require.
  • Facebook – despite Twitter’s ascendancy, I still use Facebook most days. It’s mainly my non-geek friends that are there, and it’s important to remember that not everyone is on the bleeding edge…
  • LinkedIn – my network here is growing day by day – but I’m still not sure what value I get out of it. Worth keeping up with though, just in case.
  • Google Groups – a dead simple way of getting an email list together. It isn’t hip, but it does work.
  • Huddle – online project management. Great for keeping groups of people up to date with activity.
  • Basecamp – sometimes Huddle is just too good, and a less feature rich service is needed. Hence Basecamp, which can annoy as much as it delights, but it’s email integration is excellent.

So that’s what I use on regular basis. It would be good to know what other people are up to, to see if I can steal some ideas!

Social reporting kitbag

Last week I covered what online services are good for covering events online – what is rapidly becoming known as ‘social reporting’, thanks to David Wilcox’s evangelism.

It might also be useful to write a few notes about the physical kit need to successfully report an event online – which can be very, very simple to rather more complicated, depending on budget and how large your bag is.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments!

1. Cameraphone

At the very least, this is all you need. A mobile phone that can take photos, and preferably video (hang your head in shame, Apple) and has at the very least email to send stuff is perfectly adequate for social reporting at a basic level.

Using something like Ning to publish social reporting media makes this easy, as it enables you to upload content to the site by just emailing it as an attachment to a special address. If your phone has wireless or 3G built into it, then this is made much easier than using the traditional network!

Using your mobile with other services can make things even easier – such as Qik.com for many phones other than the iPhone (unless you have been naughty and jail broken it…) which enables you to stream live video content to the web, which after ‘transmission’ becomes embeddable just like YouTube, Vimeo et al.

If you have an iPhone you can also use it to make audio podcast type interviews, using the excellent Audioboo service which I also covered last week. David used this at the recent World Entrepreneurs Summit to great effect, as written up by Paul Henderson.

The other advantage of using a phone is that most delegates will have one too – so it is easy to show them how to use it to create online content and get them involved in social reporting.

There are limits to using a phone for this stuff though – you wouldn’t want to live-blog too many events using predictive text, for example!

2. Netbook

The next stage up is to take a little laptop with you. This will help when blogging and will also enable you to perform some basic editing on the content you are producing, without having to lug a big laptop around with you.

I find my Macbook a bit cumbersome, to be honest, and my current favourite machine for this task is a Samsung NC10.

3. Camera

Most times, the quality of a picture taken on a phone is good enough for social reporting. However, you might like to take a dedicated camera along to take some higher quality snaps.

This could be a simple point and click digital camera, or a DSLR if you want even better quality images – it really does come down to budget and how much kit you want to lug around. I use a Nikon D40 which is a fairly basic DSLR but is lightweight and easy to use.

Obviously if you use a dedicated camera, you’ll need a computer to be able to upload your images.

4. Flips

Flips are little video cameras that were made for social reporting. Very, very easy to use, they are also cheap and small. It is probably fair to say that they are also less intimidating that traditional camcorders for recording interviews with delegates.

Flips are so easy to use (press the red button to start recording, press it again to stop and, er, that’s it) that you can also lend them to delegates and get them to interview each other, thus combining some digital enabling with the reporting!

Again, you will need a computer to upload your videos, but at least with a Flip, all the software you need is built in and ready to use.

5. Audio recorder

Mobile phones can be used as audio recorders, as mentioned above, but it might be the case that you want something a little better to record either audio interviews or perhaps to capture speeches and talks that are given at an event.

Dedicated audio recorders come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and prices. You need to make sure that the one you choose can pick up a good level of sound, and can exclude background noise. It might be best to choose one that can offer a lapel microphone or similar.

I have an M-Audio Microtrack II, though I rarely get the most out of it – perhaps I should read the manual. I have also heard good things about the Edirol R-09HR.

If you are recording audio using a dedicated device, you might need some half decent audio editing software on your computer – Audacity is a good option, or most Macs come with Garageband which is ok.

6. Camcorder

You might need something a little more professional than a Flip camera to record some video footage – perhaps if you are live streaming talks or speeches.

Things to look out for are having an external microphone socket – as audio quality is so important with online video; and it helps if the camera records to hard disk or a flash card, so you don’t have to spend ages converting the video before you upload it.

With this sort of video content, you might need some video editing software on your computer – which can get costly. iMovie on a Mac is probably all you need though, or on a PC Adobe Premiere Elements is reasonably priced.

7. Powerful laptop

If you are getting into video and audio editing, the likelihood is that your Netbook is going to struggle power-wise. Not only that, but you might need the Netbook for blogging at the same time that you are uploading video.

So it’s a good idea to have a more powerful laptop around to do the grunt work. You can leave it uploading, for instance, while you go away and do other stuff.

8. Other bits

There are a few other odds and sods which are vital to bring along to make sure everything goes smoothly:

  • Batteries – especially if you have a Flip or two knocking about
  • Extension lead – for when stuff needs charging up
  • Memory sticks and flash cards – so you can upload from one while creating more content on another
  • USB cables – to connect equipment to computers. I usually take two.
  • Card reader – many laptops these days have these built in, but Macbooks don’t, among others

Mini

I treated myself to a new toy today, a Mac Mini. Here it is, next to the rather splendid curtains in our spare room:

Mac mini

To be honest, I really want a nice big iMac but can’t afford it. The Mini is a nice, relatively cheap alternative. Working on a MacBook all the time really isn’t good for the eyes – and with the Mini plugged into a 20″ monitor, that’s no longer a problem.

Mini and monitor

In terms of grunt, the Mini is slightly less powerful than your average MacBook, but seems to be fine with what I need it for. Editing video might be a struggle, though.