Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Technology I Own

In 2008, I wrote about the technology I own to support my work and home life.

Here's an update for 2009.

My philosophy is to purchase the fewest number of devices that meet my computing, media management, and communication needs.


Every device you own creates a maintenance burden. You have to update it, repair hardware failures, ensure interoperability with other devices, and learn to use it effectively. As the number of devices you own increases, the impact on the Home CIO expands geometrically.

Here's the parsimonious set of technologies that comprise my personal tools:

Laptop - I need a single, lightweight, highly reliable, rugged laptop. I've tested just about every available lightweight Windows/Mac OS X/Linux laptop and there is only one that meets my criteria for weight, size, battery life, durability and reliability - the Macbook Air. My Air has traveled over 100,000 miles with me and has met my every need without downtime. Although I do not travel with the external CD/DVD Superdrive, owning one is a necessity because the Remote Disk sharing capabilities of the Macbook Air do not work with Audio CDs or Video DVDs. My application set is simple - my productivity suite is iWork '09 (Office 2008 is too cumbersome for getting the basics done) and my email client is Entourage 2008 for connection to Exchange 2007. However, Entourage is a less than perfect application that corrupts my entire email store every few months. As soon as the next version of Mac OS X, Snow Leopard, is released (possibly June 2009), I will replace Entourage with Apple Mail/iCal/Addressbook which will be Exchange compatible. At that point, my laptop will consist of Mac OS X built-in applications, Apple iWork'09, Apple Aperture (described below for photography management) and nothing more.

Desktop - I do not own a desktop, so the Macbook Air is the only computing device I use. At home, my daughter uses an iMac 20" and my wife uses a Macbook Pro 15" (just replaced and now highly reliable)

Backup - As described in my recent blog about recovering my wife's laptop. I have installed a Western Digital My Book Studio II 2 Terabyte home backup drive, configured with RAID 1 mirroring, to backup all our work and home data.

Mobile devices - I use a Blackberry Bold for all telephone and email communications. The iPhone 3G's touch screen keyboard is problematic for high volume email users. The Blackberry Storm has not integrated its touch screen keyboard into the applications with the same finesse as the iPhone. The Bold is the one perfect Blackberry device with 3G network support (even in Japan), Bluetooth, a great web browser, and seamless Exchange integration.

Printer - At the office, I use an HP Color LaserJet 4700 shared among an entire floor of IT staff. At home I use an HP K5400 OfficeJet Pro Color Printer connected to my home wireless router (ActionTec MI424WR Rev. D provided by Verizon FIOS) for all the printing done in the household. We rarely print anything.

Photography - I use a Canon SD550 camera with a 1 Gigabyte SD card for all my indoor and outdoor photography, including the photos I take at subzero temperatures while winter mountaineering. I manage my photos using Apple's Aperture software, which is much better than iPhoto, enabling me to keep my photos as JPEGs in directories on my hard drive, referencing them in Aperature rather than copying them redundantly into a library (such as iPhoto does).

Video - I have elected not to purchase a Blu-Ray DVD player. I believe the current devices are overly complex and are likely to be replaced by a new generation of media in a few years. For me, DVD is good enough. I use a Sony DVP-NS700H/B 1080p Upscaling DVD Player and a Sharp Aquos 46" Sharp Aquos LC46D62U 46-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV.

Media Management - I use an iPod Touch (2nd Generation) for all my personal media management. My photographs from Aperture, my video files, and my iTunes library are synched from my Macbook Air to my iPod Touch. This year I eliminated all the other audio components in my home (a NAD receiver, amplifier, CD player and KEF 103.2 Speakers) and replaced them with a single Bose Sound Dock II for use with my iPod Touch. I also have a Mini DisplayPort Adapter to DVI to HDMI cable for my Macbook Air and an Apple Component cable for my iPod that enables me to connect these devices to my HDTV.

Although I am an early adopter of many healthcare information technologies, I am not an early adopter of most consumer electronics. I'll lifecycle manage a minimal number of devices to meet the needs of my family and my collaborators. With gadgets, as with many things in life, less is more.


jwh said...

Boy did that posting resonate w me!
I'm the "home CIO" in my house and the number of hours one can spend (especially if the person is not a systems/hardware expert) is profound. Right now my router doesn't work (Linksys) for my daughter's laptop and I'm reduced to having her hardwired until I have the time to figure it out. It makes great sense to minimize the number of devices!

sjf said...

is the HP K5400 a network printer? how do you have it connected to the FIOS router?

John Halamka said...

The HP K5400 is a network printer and it is connected to the FIOS router. I use HP Jet Direct (rather than Bonjour) from the computers/laptops to communicate with the printer.

Christina said...

Thanks for the info! We are looking at Mac laptops for our daughter.

dr. Dubecz Attila said...

What do you think of netbooks as laptops for travel? Do you think a Powerpoint pres w video would work on them? I write my presentations on the airplane ride, and on economy, you cant even open a 15" laptop on the tray.

Michael Kovner said...

How do you play your vinyl albums? Or have you already burned them all to disk?

Are you saying that your Ipod or MacBook connected to the Bose will produce the same sound quality as your NAS receiver/amp and speakers?

If so, I won't replace my broken receiver and CD player.

Unknown said...

I use the X200s 12" laptop as my main machine. I'd recommend it as a "PC alternative" the the MacBook Air. Like the Air, the X200s requires an external optical drive. It weighs a little over 3 lbs with the largest 9-cell battery and lasts about 10 hours with WiFi and has a 1440 x900 higher resolution screen which I prefer over lower resolution screens. I've had Thinkpads since 1999 and they are very durable. This is my only computer and I use it with a 30" Dell 3008 WFP with DisplayPort at both home and at work. I use the Verizon network with the Blackberry Curve and I'm very satisfied with that since I live in NY City and Verizon is the best network there.