My Favorite Technology

amazonechoI often get asked about my favorite technology, toys and why I selected them.

A note about my feelings about stuff: It is much harder to get rid of stuff than it is to acquire it. I wish I knew this when I was in my twenties! I would have acquired much less and politely declined gifts from family and friends!

My lifestyle is different from most people I know. I am a 'cord-cutter', meaning that I don't have cable TV. I just have an internet connection and a few services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. I don't have a 70 inch TV in the living room. If I want to watch a movie on Netflix, I view it on my 30 inch monitor in my study, running off my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. In fact, the Surface replaced two desktops (one at work, one at home) and two laptops (one at work and one at home) and an iPad. That's five pieces of tech I don't need to worry about any more. And I get along nicely with just the Surface Pro 3 and a smart phone. I like Windows 10. It works well, and can be secured with some effort.

In my quest to 'lighten my load' by getting rid of paper, I had to find a safe place to store documents and gain easy access to them. Find out more about this in Going Paperless and Backup Up to the Cloud.

The "cloud" figures much more into my daily life than ever. My philosophy there is to avoid "free" services such as offered by Google, Facebook and others, and use paid services such as Microsoft Office 365 instead. Why? Read the TOS (Terms of Service) of a free Google account and compare it with the TOS of your Microsoft Office 365 account. At the end of the day, I don"t mind paying a few dollars a month to own what I create and transact to have it be more secure. I still use Google services - for mapping primarily - but I only use it as a totally anonymous user with as little personal data as possible. The data Google does have about me is not exactly accurate. I would gladly pay Google for a private version of their mapping systems, just like I pay Microsoft for a private version of Office. Are you listening Google?

FutureCrimeBookSecurity in the 21st century is a big deal to me. I know most people couldn't care less. I do.  So I have switched from free services to paid services when possible, and eliminated other things such as Facebook, Snapchat, etc. altogether. Life after Facebook turned out to be much better than life with Facebook for me. I recently read a great book called, "Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It" by Marc Goodman. After reading it, I changed a lot of my behaviors to improve my own security. It also gave me ideas about future business opportunities. I recommend this book to anyone who uses technology and wants to understand the security implications better moving forward. It covers a wide range of topics from Facebook to nanotubes, and everything in between. Warning: If you like Facebook, and can't live without it, do not read this book.

There are several issues that security brings up including: 1) Can the NSA spy on me; 2) Can corporations spy on me; 3) Can hackers spy on me and steal my stuff. At this time in our history, I assume the NSA has full access to everything about everyone online and on their smartphones and PCs. I don't think there is any avoiding that. That leaves corporations and hackers. My security efforts mostly focus on keeping the later two out of my business and from stealing my stuff. 

Here's a summary of my top picks and why. 

Made by
Where to find it 
iPhone - PDA Apple Easy to use. Better security than Android by far, because most hardware vendors do not keep the Android OS up to date. If you must use an Android device, get one from Google. They keep their products up-to-date much more than, say, Samsung. Plus, the don't load it down with all the truly terrible software Samsung crams onto their devices. It is worse than the old days of Windows 'bloat-ware'. 

iPad - Tablet Computer Apple Easy to use. I don't use the iPad anymore though. I use my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for all my computing needs.

Full tablet computer Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or higher

This is an awesome machine that does everything you need in a tablet, everything you"ll want in a laptop, and everything you need on the desktop. Get the docking station and you'll have a great desktop setup by adding a keyboard and mouse. The OneNote app is awesome to use in tablet mode.

Sonos - Home Sound System Sonos Easy to use. Wireless. Add as many systems as you need. IOS and Android apps can be used as controllers. Tap into music on Spotify, Amazon Prime and many others and play it through your whole house. This stuff lasts forever. Parts of my system are over 10 years old! Firmware updates keep it all current.

LabelWriter 400 Turbo Dymo Easy to use. Makes labels for almost everything.

Amazon Echo Amazon Just fun and increasingly useful. The Echo is something that I use every day for news, weather, radio, music and controlling stuff around the house. If you are lonely, you'll have someone to talk to. After Amazon sold a billion Echo Dots over the 2016 Holiday season, the news media has taken to the airwaves to tell us that the Echo is a fad and people only use it for a few weeks. Or that it's a kids toy. I gave a Dot away as a gift, and the recipient returned it. I get it -- some people don't like talking to a computer and have no use for an Echo. Still, I love my Echo, Tap and Dot and prefer them to my phone to get news, music, podcasts or control my home. 
Amazon Tap Amazon Echo's portable version. It does most things the Echo does AND it's portable, connects to a smartphone as a bluetooth speaker and charges in a cradle. I really love this device and use it every day. At first, I thought I would miss the always-listening feature of the Echo, but have found that tapping the Amazon Tap is almost as good. 
Amazon Dot Amazon The Echo Dot is the small version of the Echo. It does everything the Echo does, but it much smaller, and has a much smaller speaker. The sound quality is adequate, and it can be connected to a remote speaker if you need higher quality.

Fujitsu ScanSnap - Desktop Scanner  Fujitsu Easy to use. Some models comes with Adobe PDF Standard. Required to go paperless! I have two models, a desktop and a portable. Both are great. I could live with just the portable these days. When I first converted, the desktop unit handled big jobs - like scanning over 100 boxes of real estate files. 

Nextia Home Intelligence Schlage - Nextia Home Intelligence Secure your house and control it from your IOS or Android device. Control your locks, sensors, alarms, HVAC, sprinklers, blinds, lighting, appliances and cameras from anywhere. Feed the dog! Be very careful using this kind of technology. Most vendors have not really secured the devices very well, and they are easily hacked. NexiaHome and Schlage have taken care to do this fairly well, but NOT perfectly. This system is pretty easy to set up. Nexia Home has excellent support.
Content Managemen System Joomla Easy to use. Lots of extensions. Stable platform. Excellent access control. When you need something more than a blog, this is a great tool.


DropBox Dropbox

Easy to use. Cloud storage and backups all in one. Access your files anywhere. Advanced features allow versioning. There are great features for scanning documents from your mobile device and the sharing features have continued to get better.

I will probably move everything to Microsoft OneDrive once they have parity with their features and they have SSO figured out since I already pay for it with my Office 365 account. 

Cloud Computing Office Microsoft Office 365 Somewhat easy to use. Get all your office products via a monthly subscription, your own SharePoint server, Exchange Server, and Lync in the cloud. Very easy to manage and lots of features. Warning: Not for the novice. But if you are comfortable with computers and understand the value of having your own Exchange server, and SharePoint server, you can"t beat the value of Office 365. OneDrive is slowing becoming awesome. OneNote is one of the best apps ever. Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, etc. round out the suite. I added Visio for graphics.


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