As I look around my home office, I thought that this month I would share a few of the cool computer hardware and software products that I use and just cant live without. At first I thought that USB was a painit didnt even support Windows 95. Now that USB has taken off and most of my computers have it, I consider USB support an important feature for any hardware I want to purchase. My favorite USB device has to be the Iomega USB Zip 100 drive. I know they have a 250 megabyte version, but I have a ton of 100 megabyte cartridges lying around. I dont trust tape backups (Ive been burned many times), so the Zip drive is a fast and reliable backup tool. I stopped backing up my operating systems and softwareI just copy my data directories. The USB Zip 100 has another great advantage it works on both Macs & PCs.
Another great USB product is the Microsoft Wheel mouse. I like having a wheel mouse so much that Im considering purchasing one for my Mac. Although I lust after the new Apple mouse, I am much more productive with 2 buttons and a wheel for scrolling.
When it comes to keyboards, Im addicted to the old style IBM click keyboards. At the local computer shows youll usually see me buying one or two. I dont like mushy keyboards, and I love the click that a great keyboard has. I know I should use an ergonomic model, but I feel weird using anything else
A serious luxury I want on all of my new computers is a DVD player. Now that DVD movies are widely available, I can sit in bed or on a plane with earphones and watch a movie, at almost twice the resolution of video tape and incredible sound. I always carry a small set of in-ear headphones for listening to MP3 files or watching a movie. Another notebook add-on I find incredibly useful is a second power adapter. I usually leave one at home and the other at work, so moving my computer back and forth only requires carrying the notebook, not a bunch of cables or adapters.
I always carry a few things in my notebook bag that have proven useful over time. A multi-head screwdriver, small maglite, extra network cable, cross-over network cable (for hooking up two computers with network cards), headphones, phone cord, and a Swiss army knife or multi-tool.
I have a couple of computers
at home, and transferring files between them is easy with a hub
and network card in each computer. A small 4-port hub costs around
$25, cable is less than $20, and network cards about $20 each.
The time I save in transferring files and sharing my Internet
connection (See Aprils Windows 98 article for one technique)
is well worth the $75 or so.
I use a few programs every day, and I couldnt work without Microsoft Office. I use Word and Excel daily these tools have really matured over the years. The products run almost exactly the same on Mac or Windows, so I can be very productive, no matter which computer Im using. I also use PowerPoint, Access, and PhotoDraw. Internet Explorer is my current choice for browsing, but Im waiting to try Navigator 6 to see if it is any better. On the Mac I use Explorer 5.5, a surprisingly great tool for surfing.
I use FrontPage 2000 to edit my Web pages, but Im about to spend some time with Dreamweaver. I wish they had a current Mac version of FrontPage its the one tool I really miss. Microsoft purchased Visio, makers of an awesome diagramming tool. When I need to draw a network diagram or data flow diagram, I use Visio. Im looking forward to seeing how Microsoft improves this very useful tool.
My personal and work life is run through e-mail, and I use the same tool Ive used for the past 5 years: Eudora. Ive always used the lite version in the past, but they recently released a new version that has all of the features for free, but you have to watch the advertising. Its not that Im too cheap to buy it, I just cant justify paying for something that Microsoft gives away (Outlook).
When I set up a computer, I immediately install a couple of utilities. WinZip is a fast and reliable tool for archiving and opening compressed files. ThumbsPlus, now with a brand new Mac version, lets me quickly catalog and organize all of the images on my hard disk.
For graphics, I use PhotoShop, although Im playing with Microsoft PhotoDraw. I create 3D models for my company, and I use Caligari trueSpace for rendering. Although there are many tools for 3D work, I know trueSpace and it is great for creating small Web images.
Transferring files between my PowerBook and my desktop PC is a lot easier now that I have PC MacLan. Installed on my PC, it allows the Mac to see the PC, and the PC to see the Mac. I use the Macintosh Finder or Explorer to copy files back and forth without trouble.
Creating CDs on my PC is a piece of cake with Adaptecs Easy CD Creator. It lets me copy or archive my data to CD ROM, which costs about 75 cents each for 640 megabytes of data.
Im probably forgetting a product or two, but these tools are what I use to get the job done. Let me know if youve found a great program or cool gadget I should know about.
|Mike Kaltschnee is a closet Macintosh user who makes a living from knowing PCs and the Web. You can contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.|