Welcome to 2016! I'm pretty excited about this year. 2015 was an awesome year for tech and gadgets and I have high expectations of 2016. So let's get into it. My 2nd annual list of what I use in life. This will mostly be an update of the What I use 2015 post. I'll note what's new and IN and what's OUT.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 - This is my workhorse ( Core i5 / 256GB). My daily carry. It's also my only PC. I have a Surface Pro 3 Dock and a LG 34UM95 34 inch ultra-wide monitor that I use. I love this PC. It's the best PC laptop on the market (well the Surface Book is pretty awesome too, but a bit heavy for me). I don't use it much at all as a tablet, but I love the form factor, the weight, the battery life and the performance. At work I dock it and it's what I use at my desk. At meetings and on the go, this is what I use.
iMac with 5K Retina Display - the iMac is handling year 2 of ownership like a champ.
MacBook 12 Inch (Space Gray and Gold)- My wife and I both got these absolutely amazing, small, light and powerful MacBooks (1.1GHZ / 256MB). They last for 6-7 hours on battery, are feathery light and charge using USB making travel easy.
I'll admit. Having devices that let you read and reply to your SMS messages, do handoff between phone, tablet and PC is delightful. What's not delightful are the $100 in dongles you have to purchase to present and connect the Mac to various devices.
In 2015 Apple dominated. I seldomly used the Android Nexus tablet I had at work, and it seems given the App ecosystem iOS is the tablet bet. No big changes in my daily phone carry in terms of form factor. But lots of experimentation this year with different size devices.
iPhone 6s Plus - You can read my review. I upgraded from the iPhone 6 Plus to the 6s Plus. I love this device. It's my daily workhouse. These days I can do most of my job on my phone using a variety of apps like Slack, Outlook, Trello and all the Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive)
iPad Pro - I have not reviewed this yet, but we got a few of these at work and I've been experimenting the last few weeks to see if this can replace the MacBook 12 for most tasks. I also got the Apple Smart Cover after ditching the horrible Logitech Create. The good news is that the after the first couple of shocks over the size, it's quite a promising device. More later.
iPad mini 4 - I picked this up after selling the bigger iPad. I got it with LTE. The new mini is quite small and powerful. This is my "bedside iPad" and I use it almost every night. When I travel it doubles as a wireless hotspot for other devices in the family that need it. I really don't need so many iPad in my life, and I'm in this experimentation phase right now so next year might be different. Most of my reading is short form (blogs and Pocket). I generally read long form on vacations and flights.
Apple Watch - You know, I like my watch. I know it's not for everyone, but I've been thoroughly impressed more than 6 months after I posted my 60 day review. I've managed to dump more money into bands than I care to think of (Black sport band, Milanese band, Blue leather loop). I find that I change bands at least once a week, although the new Blue leather loop might be a default for me as it strikes the right balance of weight, adjustment and comfort.
Kindle Voyage - on my first trip to the Amazon Bookstore, they were offering substantial discounts on the Kindle Voyage and so I thought I'd give it a try. There are some very specific situations where the iPad is unbearable to use. These tend to be the places I want to read, such as on the beach (in a hot and sunny place) - the Apple devices tend to get so hot they are hard to touch. Also in bed, in a dark place and so on. The Voyage represents the state of the art in e-readers and curious as I am, I picked one up. So far I like it, but again, the proliferation of devices in 2015 needs to be reigned in. Lora started to borrow my Voyage to read in bed and so we'll see how things go with this device.
iPad Air 2 - I sold this device after deciding to get the iPad Mini 4.
After publishing my review last year, I realized that I omitted this important category. This year I've settled on 3 headphones for various uses.
Bose QuietComfort 20 Noise Cancelling Headphones - I discovered these late into 2015, after most of my friends. Embarrassing. I picked these up in Canada in one of those Best Buy vending machines out of desperation because Air Canada told me I could not use my Bluetooth headphones on the plane. After purchasing these I've wondered why I had been carrying around bulky head phones for so long. These headphone are comfortable and the noise cancellation is great. An added plus is that you can sleep with them.
Bose SoundLink On-Ear Bluetooth Headphones - Everyone I know that has picked these up loves them. I keep them by my bed and I can easily grab them and turn them on in the dark if I want to listen to a video or something in bed without disturbing my wife. I got some for my father for Christmas and he loves them.
Beats Tour2 In-Ear Headphones - While visiting the Apple Store I noticed they were offering a substantial discount on these and I wanted some headphones that I could keep in my backpack 24/7 in case I stopped in at a coffee shop to crank out some emails. These headphones are small and comfortable. They don't fall out like the Bose QuiteComfort or bother me like traditional earbuds.
PC & Mac Software
CrashPlan - Been using them for 6 or so years to backup my PCs, and everyone in my family. I’ve restored data a bunch and I can’t recommend them enough. They never delete your data even if you do unlike some other backup companies. I’ve gone back in time years and been thankful that missing photos could be restored from a backup (usually because I accidentally deleted). Crashplan serves as my offsite backup. I have a local TimeMachine (Mac) and FileHistory (Windows) backup as well.
OneNote - I've used OneNote for years. It's a digital notebook. It's what Lora and I use as our family notebook. We also use this a lot at work.
OneDrive - Cloud storage for all your stuff. This is what I work on. It powers Office and a whole bunch of Microsoft experiences. It's also our enterprise cloud storage offering. I'm pretty biased here and think OneDrive is awesome, but I'll admit, Dropbox is a great product and there are reasons you'd use one over the other.
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom & Photoshop - If you shoot photos, and you consider yourself an amateur or pro, then you have probably heard about Lightroom and or use it. It's the standard in photo workflow and I've been using it since version 1. Each year I learn more and more about it and am more impressed. What you may not know is that Adobe now has a subscription for Lightroom that's $9.99 a month and includes both Lightroom and Photoshop.
1Password - I've used various password management programs over the years. eWallet, RoboForm, LastPass, Dashlane and now 1Password. In terms of Mac/PC/Mobile software the 1Password guys have the most polished and user friendly experience. Their iOS and Mac apps are really their best, but their PC and Android versions are really good too.
You Need a Budget - I recently wrote about this. Our budgeting software. Go read that article. On Dec 30, 2015 a web based version of You Need a Budget (YNAB) was launched. It features direct import from your bank, doesn't require Dropbox any more, and has a bunch of slick new features like Goals. I've migrated over and am pretty excited about this development.
Evernote - In addition to using OneNote, I also use Evernote. It's the tool that I use to clip things on my mobile device, and on the web. Really more of a personal reference of digital stuff. I also use it so that I can continue to have pretty deep insights into what they are doing. However, I will likely stop using Evernote this year. Having my notes fragmented across two or three apps (also the Notes app on iOS). OneNote is a lot more capable now with clippers and other integrations that have me thinking hard about dropping this app.
Google Chrome - I have a love / hate relationship with Chrome. It's gotten rather slow and is the #1 source of battery issues on my devices. On iOS and Macs I've decided to live in Safari and use Chrome on my PC. It's not a great situation.
Pocket - my "read it later service". I use this a ton. Any time I see something I want to read... on Facebook, Twitter, work email, personal email... I save it for later and read it in bed each night on my iPad.
Feedly- Since Google Reader was shutdown I've been using Feedly to consume the sites I like to read. I have over 200 sites I subscribe to and I do most of my reading on the iPhone.
LaunchBar (mac) - this is a super handy launcher that’s better than Spotlight.
Moom (mac) - replacing Better Snap Tool, Moom is easier to use.
popCalendar (mac) - If you miss the little calendar in the Windows task bar, then this is a good substitute for the Mac. Lets you see the entire year too.
Soulver (mac & iOS) - this is an awesome twist on Excel. I love the long form style calculations. I use this a lot to work out costs of certain things for budgeting purposes.
Arq (mac and Windows) - I added another online backup this year to Amazon Glacier. I get a silly bill every month for $4 for a ton of data.
Office 2016 - I spent more hours in Office 2016 than anything else, and that now includes Mac Office. It used to be that getting Office was something you did every 5 years or when you got a new PC. These days you are crazy not to get the Office 365 Subscription. There are two versions, Office 365 Personal for $69.99 a year which gets you Office for PC, Mac as well as Office on your Mobile device. Office 365 Home is $99.99 and gets you the same thing except for up to 5 people. Both of them come with 1TB of OneDrive storage. Enough for every single photo and document on your PC. This is a pretty insane deal if you ask me and the only reason to avoid this is if you are living on Google Docs and find it good enough for your needs. If you do any kind of work that requires you to produce a Word Doc or use Excel and want to move to the cloud, and get killer tablet / phone versions of Office, look no further. If you are a student, check out Office 365 University, $79.99 for FOUR YEARS!
Slack - an incredible workplace collaboration tool. We use this on OneDrive to keep conversations flowing across floors and hallways. It's helped us really reduce the volume of email and signal to noise. The integrations are nice ways to pull in things like App Store reviews, UserVoice and other data sources.
Wunderlist - I migrated from Todoist to Wunderlist shortly after Microsoft acquired them. For a period of time I used Wunderlist in 2014 and was underwhelmed by some aspects of it. However, they have invested a lot in the app and it's pretty comparable to Todoist. I decided to move over to use what we make, and have been really pleased as a result. I've successfully gotten Lora to use it as well.
Deliveries (mac) - This is a lovely Mac and iOS app for tracking packages. It has push notifications and is super easy to throw any tracking number at.
ReadKit (mac) - A great app for reading RSS feeds on Feedly and Pocket articles.
MailPlane (mac) - An awesome Gmail app.
Better Snap Tool (mac) - If you love Windows-Snap (I do) you can have it on your Mac as well.
Todoist - This is what I use to track all my tasks. Lora and I use it for family ask management. They are on every platform and every device.
Some of the items I use on my phone and tablet are really an extension of what I use on PC and Mac. So where I've already covered something above I won't cover again. I have over 250 apps on my phone, and this post would take all week to write if I covered them all, so below is just a sampling of the salient points I wish to make.
- Amazon - Need I say more?
- Weatherline - I love how this weather app lays out the weather info. Uses http://forecast.io/ which provides accurate and local forecast hour by hour. Dark Sky is another popular variant.
- Seattle Frwys - if you live in Seattle you need this. One of the first iOS apps I ever installed.
- Waze - Waze has saved my but so many times. If you need to get somewhere and there is any kind of traffic this will get you there the fastest possible way
- Nextdoor - Facebook for my neighborhood. Way less sketchy than craigslist
- Uber - I use uber quite a lot in Seattle and when we are traveling out of town
- Shazam - what's that song playing? Also one of the first iOS apps I ever installed
- Sonos - more below. Sonos is probably one of the best devices I've ever used
- Alarm.com - Our home alarm system. One of the first companies to make your alarm "mobile first". I can remote arm and disarm, get alerts when doors are left open, when the alarm goes off, assign codes to individuals, check of the garage door is open, get notified if there is a flood (true story, happened under our kitchen sink while we were traveling).
- August - Digital lock. See my article. Lots of improvements since I wrote this.
- Ring - my doorbell.
- Deliveries - great package tracking app. iOS and Mac.
- Nest - Our thermostat and smoke detectors
- DayOne - journaling app that Lora and I use.
- Workflow - an app that lets you do interesting things on your iOS device. Things such as “when I take a screen shot, upload it and delete it"
- IFTTT - Similar to Workflow but more mature and more “service oriented”. I have a few recipes that I love such as Saving all Instagram Photos to OneDrive
- Apple News - It's a decent news aggregator and to save space on my home screen I've resorted to using it vs a bunch of apps
- Wunderlist - already covered
- Scanbot - Incredible app for making multi page PDFs using your phone camera
- ecobee - my thermostat app, HomeKit support, and remote sensors. Check my review.
- New You Need A Budget - already covered
- Wink - I have yet to write about Wink, but it's essentially my home automation hub
- Lutron Caseta - I've slowly moving all the switches in my house over to Lutron as their switches are great, setup is easy, and it integrates with Apple HomeKit / Siri.
- Tweetbot - a bit better than the default Twitter client, and I like to support Indie developers
- Reeder - my new RSS reader. This one has been around for a while, and is on version 3. I find it easier to use and navigate (and more stable) than Feedly.
- Trello - awesome tool for managing projects, meetings, planning
- Inbox - I'm pretty much a fan of how the new Google Inbox email service works helping me triage emails across personal, updates, purchases, transactions and so on.
- Dark Sky - The app I use above, weatherline, uses the data (forecast.io) that the company that made Dark Sky produces. Both apps are great and I use both
- Outlook Groups - if you are using Office 365 and have Outlook Groups, this is a must have collaboration app
- Office Delve - Delve is another service in Office 365 that helps with document / profile discovery. It's pretty amazing technology
- Slack - already covered
- Reminders - I have started to use this app a lot due to the ease of telling my phone "Remind me to put the check in the mail when I get home" - I love contextual reminders based on location all driven via voice.
- Notes - The Apple Notes app gets the most improved award in iOS 9. It's handy and with an iPad Pro it's a show case app for the Pencil.
- App in the Air - my new travel update app. It integrates with TripIt and has an Apple Watch complication for viewing flight status. It also have amazing insights and telemetry on your travel.
- Munchery - we probably order dinners from Munchery 3x a month
- Instacart - A great stop gap for getting items from Costco and Whole foods. What's cool is you don't need a Costco membership!
- Square Cash - Used a ton to send cash and split bills with friends
- Highball - Recently discovered cocktail app. They also sell some great cocktail making essentials
- Swifty - One day I will have enough free time to use this app to learn how to program in Swift and write my first iPhone app. I have a few ideas. One is coffee grams / water ratio, another is electrical (watts to cost per year) and maybe an app for my solar panels
- Outlook - was Acompli and is even more awesome than last year
- Dropcam - is now Nest, and has become a hot mess. The dropcap app has stuck around cause Google hasn't migrated all the features to the Nest app.
- NYT Now - using Apple News to read
- Quartz - great news site I've written about and now using Apple News to read
- Drafts 4 - dropped
- Kickstarter - I gave up browsing Kickstarter in 2015 with two exceptions. I backed a card game and a thermos for my Ratio 8 Coffee machine
- Feedly - I use the service but use the Reeder app to consume
I'm not a huge gamer, but there are some games that I think are incredible. I find that on flights I'll indulge in the occasional game.
Sonos - Sonos is a product for distributing music in your house. It's simply the best most advanced piece of technology I own. Ask anyone that owns a Sonos and they will tell you how magical they are. I have 3 AMPs, 1 Receiver and 1 S5. I'd love a Soundbar and Subwoofer some day. If you work at Microsoft you get a 20% discount on Sonos gear, and if you hire an installer to install Sonos for you then you'll also find that they usually get a 20% discount. Their stuff is expensive, but they upgrade it constantly. My Sonos from 7 years ago has all the same capabilities of the stuff they sell today.
Alarm.com - our security monitoring software. Been using them for 6 years now. Fantastic. I wish they had HomeKit integration though.
Apple Airport Extreme 802.11ac - Apple's wifi routers are the gold standard. They never need to be rebooted, they don't crash, and if you have an iOS device, everything you need to manage them is built in. The wifi performance of these new ac models is amazing if you have compatible hardware (Surface is). If you want to set up your router and never think about it again, this is the one to get.
Microsoft Xbox One - runs our basement entertainment system. TV, games, Amazon, Netflix.
Amazon Echo - My review. The Echo is going to be a big device in 2016 based on how many I think Amazon sold over the holidays. My parents have one and our kids love it. I can see every hotel room having one too. It's just so darned useful. The possibilities are limitless here.
Logitech Harmony Home Control - I got another one of these, but the updated model that can control my Lutron Caseta lights in my home theater. Turn on, lights dimn. It's awesome.
Chamberlain myQ Smart Garage Door Opener - smart home retrofit for my garage door
Wink - Cheap hub that can control and automate my garage, thermostat, dropcams, lights. Doesn't have HomeKit support and doesn't support all of the Lutron Caseta products yet
Lutron Caseta - The front runner in simple, home automation lighting
Microsoft Xbox 360 - replaced with an Amazon Fire TV.
Nest - Google has a way of buying something and doing very little for the following few years. Nest is an example of this. I got an ecobee and could not be happier. It's better in every way.
Google Chromecast - no reason to use any more as Fire TV is much better.
Fujitsu ScanSnap ix500 - This device is a workhorse in my house. It’s an expensive device but it’s an incredible investment. I am paperless. Yes, not a single file in our filing cabinet. It all gets scanned either as soon as I get it, or paper goes in the “to scan” pile and gets gobbled up by this machine. Can’t recommend highly enough. This is my second Fujitsu scanner in 10 years. This one has WiFi support and scans very fast.
Doxie Flip this is my additional scanner for tasks that the Fujitsu is not great at.
Brother HL-2270DW - You can’t beat a networked laser printer for fast and easy printouts. I’m pretty happy with this printer except that it doesn’t support AirPrint which is a bummer. Super easy to configure from a Windows 8 or Mac device.
Canon PIXMA MX922 - this is our color printer. It supports AirPrint and has a duplex scanner with an automatic document feeder. This comes in handy when we need to make copies of something, or print photos. It has two paper trays, one for regular paper and one for photos. We always keep it loaded up with some Canon Semi Gloss Photo Paper Plus which is pretty dammed impressive for an at home printer.
LaCie 2big Thunderbolt 2 - I have the 6TB model (which in RAID mode is effectively 3TB). This is where all my photos live. Backup wisdom suggests you have 3 copies of all your data and one should be offsite. This is my onside working copy that’s redundant.
Doxie Wifi - I never ended up using much
Photography has long been a hobby of mine since I was 10. In 2015 I made significant investments in new equipment and spent time on long exposure and took my first star trail photo. You can see some of my work on 500px.
2015 was a big year for digital photography and specially full frame mirrorless cameras. Both Sony and Leica had some big intros and have captured the hearts and minds of many professionals and prosumers.
I sold all my camera gear and got a Sony A7RII which is a full frame monster, along with 3 Sony lenses (wide, portrait and zoom) as well as a Leica Q, which is Leica's first full frame automatic camera. Both cameras are highly rated by DXO, the nerdiest site for reviewing camera performance and optics.
I love both these cameras for completely different reasons. I've never owned a full frame sensor camera till this year, and the results have been more than I ever imagined.
Leica Q - My 'carry everywhere' camera. Takes incredible pictures.
Sony A7RII - what I use for photo workshops, travel, sports and kids.
Fujifilm X-T1 - sold and replaced with the Sony
Fuji film X100T- sold and replaced with the Leica
Sony RX100M3 - sold and now use iPhone
Kids Devices & Software
I get asked a lot about what our kid device setup is. I’ve spent a few years perfecting this and it’s totally dialed in now. Our 2 kids have duplicate identical devices. This ensures no fighting.
Apple iPod Touch - super portable, light and has the full ecosystem of Apple software. Can be used to control things like Miles little bluetooth robot. Each device is locked down so the kids can’t install apps, browse the web etc. Sarah has Facetime and iMessage set up so that she can message her grand parents (and parents) when she is home. She loves this. We have the 16GB version.
Surface 3 - Our daughter, now in 3rd grade has a bunch of computer work to do. Scratch programming, math, reading and of course she wants to do Minecraft on the PC. The Surface 3 is an awesome computer for a kid.
Apple iPad mini 2 - I had some major issues with how Amazon was dealing with Prime content, purchased videos and Kid's Free Time content. Getting these devices set up for travel was a royal pain, and so given Amazon's recent investments in their iOS Video App, I decided to go back to iPads for the kids. They are simple, easy to restrict, charge using lightning connector, thus simplifying travel and our kids don't jam the micro USB in the wrong way at the wrong angle. So far, this has been a good / easy transition.
Amazon Kindle Fire 7” HDX - sold these. Amazon has really confused things with Prime and Kid's Time. It's confusing and whacky how you have to manage offline state for videos and streaming content. After these reached replacement age (2 years) we moved the kids to iPad mini 2.
New for 2016 are the bags I use. Another obsession of mine.
Côte&Ciel Rhine Flat Backpack - I've tried a number of daily driver backpacks over the years looking for a high quality, slim pack with the right pockets. Based on this review on Carryology (bag review site) I picked this up at Baby & Co in Seattle and love love it. It comes in a variety of materials at different price points (fabric, canvas, evernote edition). The Cocoon Slim backpack is another amazing alternative for a lot less dough.
Porter Shoulder Bag - this is a collaboration between the famous Japanese Yoshida and Company and Monocle Magazine. It's a super simple case / bag to carry up to a 13 inch MacBook.
Kenti F-stop camera backpack - this is what I take on photo trips and vacations. It holds 2 bodies, 3 lenses, and an iPad, MacBook with room for accessories. Best camera bag I've owned. I have it in black, and they are always out of stock of this color. Carryology review.
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