Technology and Me – It’s a Love/Hate Thing

Technology. I both love it and loathe it. There was a time when I was the poster boy for Gadget Geekdom, even when I couldn’t afford to be. I almost always had the latest and greatest doodads or, more often, built my own.

But times change.

These days I seem to find ways to move away from tech. I’ve become much more of a minimalist both in my “needs” and in my “wants,” and the results have been interesting. Professionally speaking, I “need” to become much more cognizant of emerging technology and versatile at utilizing that technology. On a personal front, however, I “want” to become less reliant on technology, but I recognize that there are specific technologies that would make my life much more efficient and far less cluttered. What follows is a breakdown of how Tech currently fits into my life, and what plans (if any) I have at modifying how I utilize it. I’m actually borrowing the format from a post by John Scalzi because, well… it works and works well. A few things I’ve left off because I’ve decided to focus on hardware (I’ll tackle software some other time). Also, he’s apparently a bigger geek than me and has more “stuff”, but that’s ok.. I’m taller and I just might have more hair.

Desktop Computer
The PC I built myself is most definitely a secondary computer and is used almost solely for gaming. I don’t see that changing in the future, but it might as I haven’t played a computer game in over three months. In fact, I haven’t even taken the PC out of the box and installed the new video cards since I moved to TX back in August. It’s on my to do list, but whenever I seem to have the time I always end up taking off on the motorcycle for a ride. I’ll get around to it one of the days, I imagine.

Laptop Computers
I have 2, a PC and a Mac. The PC is a 15″ Dell something-or-other and sits in my office at school. It’s an assigned laptop, so it really isn’t “mine” per se (especially since I can’t install anything on it – something that renders a computer infinitely less usable). The Mac is a 2009 13″ MacBook Pro and sits in my office at home. Neither has moved an inch in over two months.

The MacBook I see changing within the next 2-3 years (assuming it lasts that long – its starting to freeze up and make funny noises which worries me), and I’ll likely end up with a Mac Mini or iMac (depending on where my research takes me and what Apple decides to do with their desktop solutions). The reason for this is threefold. First, Google Drive, DropBox, and other solutions make sharing files between home and work a non-issue. There is simply no need to be carting a laptop around for work purposes. Second, for personal purposes, the primary reason I went with the 13″ was that it traveled so well. This was a big concern for me, as I take off on the motorcycle every summer for weeks at a time and I needed something light and compact with more “oomph” than a netbook would provide. My purchase of an iPad last spring (which I’ll get to in a moment) negates this entirely, and, third, I am now able to do almost everything on the iPad that I can on the MacBook. Yes, there are limitations, but the reasons I went with a small MacBook instead of an iMac in the first place have been largely nullified by the iPad. A switch back to a desktop solution for a primary computer makes sense.

Printer
Yes, I still use a printer – a Brother HL-5370DW wireless. I use it primarily for teaching, but I still prefer to do any proofreading and editing of my own work by hand. That’s slowly changing, however, because its “wireless” functionality is pretty much craptastic. It will likely be the last printer I ever buy, as I am slowly but surely moving (or attempting to move) to a paper-free lifestyle. More on that when I get into software in another post.

Tablet
I finally splurged and bought an iPad – the one with the totally f’d up name that everyone just calls the iPad 3. I held off for a long time because I just didn’t see how it would benefit me, my work flow, and/or my way of life. But I kept tabs on it and decided that, with the 3rd version, it was finally worth exploring. Suffice it to say that it is probably the single best technology purchase decision I’ve made in the last decade. With the addition of a bluetooth keyboard, I’ve almost reached the point where it is a replacement for the MacBook. Almost. There are still a few things I need to work out and it is still much more comfortable working at the MacBook or Dell (especially with the external keyboards and larger monitors I have hooked up), but it is a much more robust device than I had imagined (and I don’t think I’m even utilizing it to 75% of its potential). I’m intrigued by the new smaller iPad, but I won’t be switching devices for at least 2 years, hopefully more. I just don’t have that kind of cash to throw around.

Phone
I finally dumped the first-gen Droid I was using. Or rather – it dumped me. The damn thing stopped making/receiving calls with no indication that it wasn’t actually functioning. Having both the MacBook and the iPad, the choice was a logical one. I picked up the iPhone 5. Verdict: It’s a phone, and while I don’t regret the purchase, it wasn’t necessarily a smart one. It’s capable of far, far more than I ask of it, and in the end I just don’t need to ask much of it. I have the iPad for that. Most frustrating, however, is something that didn’t trouble me with the Droid at all – I have difficulty reading the screen of the iPhone. I’ve been waffling back and forth for a couple of years now whether or not I actually “need” a smartphone or “want” a smartphone. For my usage patterns, I just don’t see the “need” any more. The iPhone 5 will, hopefully, last me several years (unless I go blind trying to read the damn thing, in which case I won’t need a smartphone at all). I’ll enjoy it. Eventually it will prove to be a valuable device, but for now it seems exceedingly redundant considering the capabilities and my usage of the iPad. If it died today and I had to get a new phone, I wouldn’t bother with a smartphone at all. I’d get a cheap thing with no data plan and save $100 a month on my cellular plan.

I haven’t had a land line in almost a decade.

TV/Audio/Video
I no longer own a television. Well, I have a little 11″ Hitachi with rabbit ears, but that doesn’t count because I don’t have a digital converter for it. What TV I do watch is done through the iPad or MacBook (usually iPad). Will I get a TV? Probably, but not in the next 6 months. Hell, probably not even in the next 12 months. And when I do finally get a TV, I certainly won’t be getting cable. Because, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, cable sucks and does not provide an acceptable return on investment. I’ll end up with some combination of Netflix, Amazon Prime, TiVo, or something else. I’ll also probably build a media server of some sort. But honestly, it’s so far off I haven’t started looking at potential solutions. As for audio, I primarily listen to the radio these days or through one of the Apple products. Again, a media server would be handy and certainly more convenient, but meh… I’m a teacher and have better things to spend my money on.

Cameras
More often than not I use the iPhone these days, but I also have a Sony DSC-HX100v that I really need to get more proficient at using. I want to practice and become a much better photographer, but, again, there’s that whole “time” thing. I do have a colleague at work who is a much more proficient photographer than me, and I hope to take advantage of that relationship soon (yes, David, I’m talking about you).

GPS
Again, more often than not I am using the iPhone. I’ve heard that their maps are horribly broken but they’ve never steered me wrong. Being new to Texas I’ve used them quite a bit in the last couple of months, so I find it hard to see what the fuss is all about.

I also have a Garmin Zumo, which I use on the motorcycle, and that will not change in the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t go so far to say as I love it and can’t live without it, but I certainly wouldn’t travel without it, even if I do carry a stack of paper maps with me. It’s linked via bluetooth to both the iPhone and a set of speakers and microphone I installed in my helmet (a Sena SMH10) and has the ability to make/receive phone calls and play music. I’ve used the telephone functionality exactly once, but the music I use quite often. It’s not a great MP3 player, but it does the job. I think I can use the iPhone’s music capabilities through the bluetooth as well, but I haven’t figured that out yet as there doesn’t appear to be any way to have “remote” control of the library without adding yet another mount to the bike – something I am trying to avoid.

Also in the GPS category is the SPOT Satellite system, another piece of hardware I won’t travel without. But it’s not made it’s way into my daily usage, and I doubt it ever does.

 

That’s about it for hardware items that see regular use. I no longer have a functioning console gaming system, as the xBox 360 developed it’s 4th Red Ring of Death last spring and I said to hell with it. It’s currently sitting in an unpacked box somewhere in the garage. I’m not even sure why I moved the damn thing down here from NY since I don’t have  TV anyway. Personally, I’ll never, ever buy another Microsoft gaming system. I do have a scanner, but it needs to be replaced (especially when I start converting my physical file storage to digital in support of my quest for a paperless lifestyle) so I’ll talk about that some other time. I think I’ve only used it 6 or 7 times in the last 6-12 months anyway, so it’s hardly an integral piece of equipment in my life at this point regardless of how I see that changing in the near future.

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