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Technology That I Cannot Live Without

Posted by billspaced | 12:01 PM |

I am technology-driven. I use technology every waking hour of my day, it seems. This post is being written to show you the technology that I simply cannot live without.

Mozilla Firefox. I love this browser. It's fast, and it's easy to customize to your own tastes through extensions. One of the most useful extensions is Tab Mix Plus, an extension of the built-in tabs inherent in Firefox.

Another extension that I use is the Google Toolbar. I like the autofill feature and the ability to get to my email fast.

One of my most beloved pieces of software is RoboForm (I've written about RoboForm here).

Gmail is what I use for my email. I like that I can get my email, from all my various email accounts, in one place anywhere I have access to a browser. I use Thunderbird as an offline backup of my gmail email.

I make extensive use of a flash drive. I have portable applications on it that allow me to use applications that aren't installed on the system that I plug into, like Firefox, RoboForm, and Thunderbird. It also has various utilities on it that let me diagnose and troubleshoot system issues. I got most of the apps from Portable Apps.

I also use Google Apps, which allows me to set up gmail to send and receive from my various email accounts, all through Google and all free. For example, through Google Apps, I was able to set up all my blogs on the Blogger platform, use a custom domain, and send and receive email through those custom domains, like

My backup routine is customized for my purposes, again using off-the-shelf open source and/or free software and online services like and Mozy. I backup twice a week, once for my "stuff" and once for my music. I make a full backup one time a month, with incrementals the next three weeks. I use the native NT Backup that is available in Windows XP Pro. If you want to see a sample of my customized batch files, drop me a comment.

I have a tower PC and a Mac iBook, as well as a "work" laptop that I carry to and fro. The flash drive and online services make using all 3 together quite easy.

As mentioned before, I use the Blogger platform for my blogs and I use GoDaddy as my domain registrar. For a few of my web sites, I use WinSave, which is becoming any day now. For web development, I begrudgingly use Microsoft FrontPage. It's an easy WYSIWYG html editor, but I don't think it's being enhanced any more and I'm thinking of moving to Dreamweaver, which was acquired by Adobe a while back.

For phone service, I use Vonage. It's a great VoIP telephony system that offers a ton of features for less than $25 a month. For cell phone service, I've been using Verizon. I love the service but not the price. My effective price per minute using the cheapest family plan is over 18 cents. I'm leaning toward moving to Virgin Mobile's pay-as-you-go plan; I'm skeptical, though, of their network coverage in my area. They use the Sprint network, which looks just like it did 10 years ago when I used, and hated, Sprint.

Don't get me started on AT&T!

I absolutely LOVE my TiVo! Married, with two boys under 3, I don't watch much TV. But when I do, I can watch an hour in about 40 minutes, if I watch the entire show (I skip the commercials). I'm a big hockey fan, but let's face it, there are slow periods. During the Stanley Cup playoffs, I have been able to watch many games in just a few hours. Here's the secret: Fast forward 30 seconds at a time, stopping when there's a scoring chance or a scuffle.

Plus, it's great for storing episodes of Barney, which my 2 year old loves. I can play all my music (about 80 gigs worth, with about that much in the queue) through my TiVo, too, using the built-in Media Player and a little piece of software called DoubleTwist that converts AAC (Apple's proprietary DRM-crippled music file format) to DRM-free mp3 files.

My iPod is a life-saver. At my day job, I put on my Sony headphones (I don't like the ear buds that are in fashion -- they bug me and they don't sound as good as a full headphone) and play my "Everyday" playlist, which is a mix of rock, blues, country, and metal. Doing this let's concentrate on the tasks I've got to get done during my day.

I use iTunes and Amazon for buying digital music online, but I have an extensive collection of CDs and LPs (none of the LPs have been converted to digital, and I'm itching to do it, but it's time-consuming).

However, I don't use iTunes for managing my music. Instead, I use Media Monkey. It offers much more utility than iTunes. It's easy to use, it's much easier to manage music, especially across multiple iPods and other players, and it's highly configurable. It's the BEST music manager I've come across.

I can also attach my iPod to my car stereo and listen to whatever I want on my own terms.

None of this would be possible without my trusty, albeit expensive, Comcast broadband connection. I like the speed and it's reliable, but it's pricey ($45/month with cable).

As you can plainly see, I like doing things on my terms: What I want, when I want. That's very important to me.

In future posts, I'll go into detail about some (or all) of this, in easy-to-digest chunks (unlike this post, which is about as long as Of Mice and Men). Let me know if there's anything you want me to expand on in the Comments. I'll be happy to do write-ups on any topic here.

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