What We Use

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Both Paul and Brad have been talking about the hardware, software, and services they use for a while. It’s great to see what professionals use in their day to day lives, and take that information to determine what might work for you. But we have a ton of other people on these forums who also use technology on a day to day basis who may have items they use that would be of interest to the rest of the community, so I thought I’d make a thread to see.

Consider this an open thread of sorts to talk about items you use that you think others might find of interest. I’d love to hear what everyone’s working with, and why it’s awesome.

Comments (24)

24 responses to “What We Use”

  1. 8585

    Computers:

    Work Laptop: Company issued Dell Latitude E6530 with i7, 8GB RAM and 1TB spinning hard drive running Win7. Company is just starting W10 migration.

    My Home PC: I built a PC several years back and it still does the trick for me. I don't play PC games very often anymore so I don't need bleeding edge. It is an i7 (2600K) with 16GB, 512GB SSD, several larger spinning hard drives. One older HP 25" monitor and an even older Dell 21". I use this for work quite a bit too.

    Wife Laptop: Old Dell D6410 that she refuses to give up. Running Win7. i5/8GB/500GB spinning disk.

    Server: Old Core2 Duo PC that used to be my main PC. Win2k12 SBE with multiple hard drives 8TB of storage for music, photos, software, TV, and videos. I actually store backups old school on removable drives stored off-site. Running Plex for streaming media. 

    Tablets: I retired my Surface RT when the Surface Pro 4 came out. I use my Surface quite a bit around the house (typing this on it) and a ton when I travel. i5/8GB/256GB.

    Wife Tablet: Surface Pro 3 that she doesn't use very often. Much to my frustration. i5/8GB/256GB

    Home Network gear: 

    Asus RT-AC88U home router. Damn fast with a strong 5GHz signal. 8-ports all 1GB.

    TP-Link AV1200 Powerline adapter works great for devices that I don't want or can't access Wi-Fi.

    Home Theater:

    Samsung UN55KU6600 4K TV: No HDR but still a nice set. Only three HDMI ports so we have an HDMI switcher.

    Vizio 55" 1080P forget the model. This is our bedroom TV. Wall-mounted.

    LG 42" 1080P TV. Older unit that I use in my home office. Rarely used.

    Harmon Kardon SB16 soundbar. Avoid! Signal interferes with 2.4GHz Wif-Fi.

    TiVo Premiere: We have used TiVo for years. This is a couple generations behind, but works just fine for us.

    TiVo Series 3: Used on my office TV. Again, rarely used.

    WDTV Live Plus: Still probably the best media streamer I've tried. We connect to our server to stream media. I have an older unit that I use when I travel to connect to hotel TVs and stream from a USB drive.

    Xbox 360. Still use for older games. One on my living room TV and another on my office TV.

    FireTV (stick): Got it when they first came out. Never really had a use for it. Sitting in a drawer now.

    Xbox One S: We don't use this all that much, but I had to have it. Bought a couple games over the holidays so hopefully I will use more. Right now we primarily use it for NetFlix or Amazon Prime (TGT!)

    Chromecast: We one one on our Living Room TV and another on our bedroom TV. Use it for streaming YouTube and HBO Now. Sometimes NetFLix, but not usually.

    Roku 3: Use this on our bedroom TV for media streaming. No TV tuner connected. Strictly Roku content.

    Phones:

    Google Nexus 6P: This is my daily driver. Had this just over a year and noticing the battery is fading.

    Lumia 950XL: Bought it when they were announced. Used it for about 1-2 months before switching to the 6P. I had used WP7/8 since it was first available (Focus, Titan, 920, 1020, 520, 635, 640XL). Have multiple wireless chargers, 128GB microSD.

    T-Mobile DIGITS: Just got this a few days ago. I now have a SIM for my 950XL that is tied to my SIM in my Nexus 6P. So when someone calls me, both phones ring. I can use data on either phone. Take and make calls on either phone. Texts are mirrored to both units. Very cool so far.

    iPhone 6s: Wife's phone. I want nothing to do with it.

    Other services:

    Dropbox and OneDrive

    Google Play Music. PLEASE MSFT add a family plan.Play Music is horrible and I loved Groove. I miss Zune software.

    Amazon Prime

    NetFlix

    Office 365

    Audible

    NordVPN I use it all the time on my home PC and my Surface.

    I think that is enough for now!

  2. 180

    I guess I'll go first with something I don't think a lot of folks know about. Leo actually mentioned on Windows Weekly a few weeks back something he thought no longer existed while talking to Paul about Pocket:

    Instapaper and Kindle

    Instapaper still exists, and was recently purchased by Pinterest. For those who don't know, it's a "read it later" service that allows saving articles so you can pull them up at a later date for consumption. It also still supports sending a digest of articles you've saved to the service to the Kindle, either on a daily or weekly basis, and it's something I use a lot. Instapaper is not as good as Pocket at dealing with media heavy items, but it works well with text heavy articles. I use the Instapaper app on iOS or Android, the Windows Store "Share to Instapaper" third party app, or a Chrome extension depending on what I'm doing to save items, and then they get sent to my Kindle every Friday. This gives me a collection of non-urgent items in an easy to read format that gets me away from computer/tablet screens, and it's a great experience. The digests contain links at the end of each article that can be tapped which will archive items straight from the Kindle after you've finished reading them, and overall it's a great experience.

    If you have a Kindle and enjoy reading on it, I'd really recommend taking a look at the Instapaper service and whether it would work for you.

    • 230

      In reply to Polycrastinator:

      I'll step in here.  Being Canadian, we had a made-in-Canada solution before the Sony Reader died, and before the Kindle was really available here given that we are an "International Market".  The product is called Kobo, and was originally released by Chapters/Indigo (our B&N), but is now owned by Katuken.  They are great readers, they compete on every front with the ones from Amazon.  I love my water/splash resistant one, you don't have to worry about sand/water/etc. when at the pool or on vacation.

      All that said, one of only default "apps" you get with their e-ink readers is a Pocket app.  I absolutely love that - it was already part of my workflow, and it syncs automatically to your reader whenever your reader does a sync, normally overnight every night.

      That alone was worth the price.

      Kobo was once available through one of the US Book Stores (again, B&N I think?), but you can see more at http://www.kobobooks.com - they have the latest titles, etc., are e-pub based so there's no futzing around, and you are able to use Overdrive e-books from your local library with no problem whatsoever.  I don't think that's available on the Kindle as yet.

      A great company, and a great e-reader.

  3. 4567

    Great thread! 

    *Work*

    I work with VMware & Citrix Virtual Desktop technologies at work.  Cisco UCI.  Delivering Windows 7,8, 10 VDI to end users.  Current work machine is an HP Zbook G2 with i7, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD.  Ok machine but still screams corporate bean counter special. Fans blow constantly.  As a health care related company laptop security is prohibitively strict so doing anything non-work related is practically impossible.

     

    *Personal*

    I like Apple's mobile products for my personal use and I make no apologies for it.  

    iPhone 6 Plus: still no compelling reason to upgrade other than it seems to be getting sluggish with each update

    iPad Air 2: honestly this is the "computer" that probably gets the most use around the house - wherever I am, it likely is too. Mini's are too small.  Love the Air 2 form factor and screen ratio.  Have never understood 16:9 tablets. 

    Macbook Pro (2015) 15" Retina:  I've tried Windows laptops, I really have.  Most recently, back in early 2016.  HP Spectre X360.  I really wanted to like it.  Went back to MBP.  I guess I just like MacOS and I still don't understand the need for touch screens or flippy-foldy designs in a laptop.  Apple touchpads are still the best.  

    Wife's Machine: Macbook Air (2013) that we up-spec'd to Core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD.  She still loves it and does everything she needs.  It will need to break for her to consider buying something new.  Had her try the Spectre X360 for while. She hated it and secretly plotted my assassination for taking her MBA away.

    I am a longtime Gmail user.  Luvs me the Gmail.

    Wife likes Dropbox which means so do I.

    Apple's integration across iOS and macOS is a compelling selling point to me.  It does just work.

    Use Panic Software's Coda for maintaining a couple of websites and a blog.

    VMware Fusion for running virtual machines, connecting to vCenters. 

     

    *Displays*

    Two ASUS PA248Q 1920x1200 Displays mounted on adjustable display arms.  Use them with either my work laptop or the MBP.

     

    *Home Lab in the Basement*

    Four NUC5i3MYHE Intel NUC's to use as VMWare ESXI Hosts.  Run a variety of virtual machines - mostly VMware management & operations VM's and an Active Directory PDC.  Each has 16GB RAM and 256GB M.2 SSD's.  Don't need much computing power in my home lab as I'm mostly focused on programming and using VMware's API's.  After years of old servers or big towers I'm really liking this more distributed-low-power-consumption solution.  

    Plus Intel NUC's are just the cutest little things.

    Synology 1815+ NAS with five 4TB drives and two 256GB SSD caching drives.  Absolutely don't need it, but I won it at a VMware VMUG event last March. Yup, won it.  I also use it for a host of functions since the DSM OS has so many features: Plex, VPN server, Torrent client, iTunes server, etc.  Everything goes on the NAS.

    Raspberry Pi's and Arduino's for dinking around.  Purely dinking.  I'm no "maker"

    *Entertainment*

    Two Apple TV's

    One Chromcast (hardly ever gets used)

    One Amazon Fire TV (how else you gunna watch Man in the High Castle?)

    *Networking*

    Recently "invested" in an Eero Mesh System for our home.  It works really well.  Unsure if worth the price though.

  4. 1959

    This is a longer list than I thoughts:

     

    Personal Technology:

    My Main PC: Desktop (Core i7 6700k, 32GB RAM, 500GB SSD+3TB HDD, GTX 1060 (3GB), Windows 10 Pro), 2x27" 1080p Monitors

    My PC for playing older games: Desktop (AMD Phenom 9550, 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD, GT 640, Windows 7 Home Premium) ASUS 24" 1680x1050 Monitor

    My Tablet: Surface 3 (Windows 10)

    Other Tablet: ASUS T100 (Windows 10)

    My Phone: Lumia 950

    Partner's Main PC: Desktop (Core i7 6700k, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD+1TB HDD, Windows 10 Pro) 27" 1080p Monitor

    Partner's Tablet: iPad Air 2

    Partner's Phone: iPhone 7

     

    Utility:

    Server (Media, DVR): Desktop (Core i7 2600, 8GB RAM, 3TB HDD, Windows 7 Ultimate + HDHomeRun Record Engine + Plex Media Server) + HDHomeRun Prime Cable Card Tuner (Headless... managed remotely)

    Networking: ASUS AC88U + Wired Gb ethernet through 2nd floor + various switches + MoCA adapters for wired Ethernet to first floor

    Philips Hue Hub + 15 Hue smart lights of varying styles

    Ecobee 3 smart thermostat + 3 remote sensors

     

    Entertainment:

    HTPC + DVR: HP Stream Mini (upgraded to 6GB RAM + Windows 10) w/Logitech K400+IOGEAR Red Point Pro gyroscopic mouse + 70" Vizio E-70 Television (TV/DVR through HDHomeRun app, other media through Plex)

    Xbox One S + 55" TCL 4k TV (TV/DVR through HDHomeRun app)

    Xbox 360 + 40" (Cheap forgotten brand) 1080p TV (TV through Windows Media Center extended from server (rarely used))

  5. 49

    Love this thread, keep it going!

  6. 1285

    I have a Surface Book (I5, 256 GB storage, GPU) that I use as my daily driver.  I have a ThinkPad T450s that I use for testing Windows Insider builds and other preview software.  This is my test machine.  When in doubt, I load it on that one first.

    I have a Corsair K70 mechanical gaming keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches in my office.  Typing on mechanical keyboards is the best.  I haven't found any keyboard I like more than a good quality mechanical one.  I have a Logitech MX Master mouse.  It's really good.  It's a comfortable size.  Not too small.

    I have an iPad Air 2 I use for reading mainly.  I travel with it and my Surface Book.

    I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.  I would not buy another Edge again.  I wouldn't buy a smartphone with no side bezels.  Too many touches along the edge.  I'm also having performance and display problems.  It hasn't been a good experience using this phone.

    Here is the software I use on a regular basis:

    Scrivener - good creative writing tool and they fixed the scaling issue last year.

    Visual Studio 2015

    SQL Server 2012 and 2016

    Office (of course)

    OneDrive - I switched to Dropbox last January out of frustration with OneDrive's problems.  I switched back later in the year and it's better.

    Google Photos - It's free for me to use and is another photos backup.

    Tweeten

    Nextgen Reader UWP - I use for Feedly.

    Lastpass

    Windows 10 Mail and Calendar apps are useable now.

    I use Edge and Chrome.  Bing for web searches.

    Notepad++

     

  7. 4964

    Home: All Windows 10, Desktop (i5, 8gb ram, 960GTX from local assembler PB Tech), Samsung ATiV Hybrid (i5, 4gb ram, 128 SSD) purchased before Surface was released here in New Zealand. Both mainly use OneDrive but also back up to local MyCloud with 3TB 

    Work; Windows 7 (not my choice!) HP600 CAD Workstation (i7, 32gb ram, Quadro Card), Windows 8 Surface Pro 3 (i5, 8gb ram, 256gb SSD) for mobile/meetings etc. Use Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop set, love the separate number pad used on left hand for distance entry in CAD (saves stretching and keeps r/h on mouse).

    Mobile: was on 950XL until dropped in recently and could not replace (out of stock everywhere). Now S7 Edge refugee also used as BYOD work phone

    Services:

    Home: Office 365, Outlook.com, OneDrive primary, accounts on Google, Dropbox for limited collboration

    Work: Office 365 Enterprise, Autodesk 360 (cloud CAD collaboration)

  8. 1581

    *PC*

    I use a Dell Inspiron All-In-One 2350 PC at home. It's rather good and I like it. Key specs:

    - Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4710MQ CPU @ 2.50GHz
    - 16 GiB RAM
    - 1 TiB WD WD10JPVX-75JC3T0 hybrid hard disk
    - AMD Radeon HD 8690A and Intel(R) HD Graphics 4600
    - 23" touchscreen
    It cost me CHF 1264.01 (around £800) in October 2015.
     

    I'm an IT professional, but I don't work at home. I use it for learning about IT stuff, a bit of programming, playing games, tracking our finances and bills, and keeping in touch with family and friends around the world.

     

    I recommend one of these if you want to play 90s/2000s games, run a virtual machine lab, or do some programming. Overkill if you don't. If you want to play the latest AAA games, you'll need something with a bit more graphics oomph.

     

    *PC Accessories*

    I use a Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop set. Actually I have 2, I keep one at work. If you use a computer a lot, invest in one of these. You shouldn't be taking chances with your health.

     

    I have an additional Dell S2240T 22" touchscreen. It's OK, but it makes a tiny high-pitched sound when it's on. I hate that, but not enough to throw it away and get a new one. I don't know if this is inherent to all of them or if it's just mine. Not recommended (I'll update this if it turns out I just have a dud).

     

    We also have a Epson Workforce WF-2360 printer/scanner. It's fine, nothing special. The main attraction is that it has a sheet feeder so I can scan lots of stuff at once - I hate paper and try not to let it build up.

     

    *Games Console*

    I have an first-generation Xbox One with a 500GB hard disk. I use it to play games, mostly Halo and Star Wars. It's awesome but I would swap it for a Xbox One S in a heartbeat. I've recently expanded it with a 2TB Seagate hard disk, which works great and is highly recommended.

     

    *Tablets*

    I have an iPad Mini that I take to work with me. If you want or need a tablet, get an iPad Mini.

     

    If you just want something to read and write email and maybe a bit of Facebook, then get an iPad Mini.

     

    I also have a Surface RT, which I use occasionally when I'm travelling and need something slightly more useful than an iPad. This is an old device, and whilst it still works I wouldn't recommend you go and buy one of these.

     

    *Laptops*

    My girlfriend is an aspiring author. We bought a HP Pavilion x360 her. It's a well-made laptop and works well for her. I recommend one of these if you want a reliable, lightweight laptop suitable for writing or if you do too much typing to put up with an iPad Mini.

     

    *Phone*

    I have a Microsoft Lumia 950. If you've never used Windows Phone, then don't bother, stick with what you know. If you're "One of Us", then this is the phone of your dreams: top-end specs, incredibly light, Windows 10… but still that same app gap.

     

    *Raspberry Pi*

    I have a Raspberry Pi Model B+ that I use as a DHCP and DNS server for the home. I also have a Raspberry Pi 3 that we use as an ad-blocker (it acts as a DNS server that points ad domains to itself, then an Apache web server responds to all requests with a smiley face).

    They're great. If you want to tinker with IT things, I heartily recommend these.

     

    *Network kit*

    I use a Ubiquiti Universal Security Gateway to protect my home network, and a Ubiqiti UniFi AC Lite wireless access point. Their stuff is slightly pricier than regular SOHO kit, but worth every penny and highly recommended.

     

    *The Graveyard*

    I have a Late-2007 Mac Mini 2,1. It runs OSX Lion, but only just. I'm planning to wipe it and install Raspbian Pixel instead.

    I have a Seagate GoFlex Home 2TB NAS. I haven't even plugged it in for at least a year. I', thinking about setting up OwnCloud as a "backup" for OneDrive.

     

    *The Lab*

    I use Hyper-V on my Windows PC to run VMs.

    I have an Ubuntu VM that hosts the Unifi controller, but otherwise I use CentOS for DNS, DHCP and any other Linux workloads.

    I use Splunk to collect and analyse data from the home.

     

    *Software and Services*

    I use Groove for music. Combined with OneDrive, I'd say it's the best all round service if you have a large legacy collection of MP3s... but it does annoy me that some artists only release to iTunes.

    I use and recommend Kindle for books.

    I subscribe to Netflix and now, Amazon Prime Video (but only for the Grand Tour).

    I use HideMyAss VPN to protect my browsing privacy when on untrusted networks.

    I subscribe to Office 365 Home, and also Visio Pro for Office 365. I wish there was a cheaper option for Visio Standard.

    I have outsourced my memory to OneNote.

    I keep all my files on OneDrive. I use Boxcryptor where an extra layer of privacy is needed.

    I use LastPass to manage all my passwords.

    I use PuTTY to connect to the Raspberry Pis and Linux VMs.

    I use Steam and EA origin to buy PC games.

    I use Fitbit and wear a Charge 2 tracker to remind me to get off my backside.

     

    • 180

      In reply to DaveHelps:

      Do you think there are any advantages to using the Raspberry Pis over a decent router, DNS service, and in browser ad blockers? I use OpenDNS, and uBlock Origin/Adblock Plus (Adblock in Edge, given there's a dearth of choices there), and it works pretty well. Any real advantages to your configuration?

      • 1581

        In reply to Polycrastinator:

        I guess the main advantages boil down to:

        1. The ad-blocking is transparent to the clients. For sure, if I just had my PC I'd probably go with a browser extension as it'd work fine. However we also have a smart TV, my Lumia 950 and a few other things that don't have browser extensions available.

        2. You can use it for more than blocking adverts. If there are any other domains that you don't want to allow access to, you can add zone records for them as well. I've been working on building up a threat list from open sources so that I can add an extra layer of malware defence.

        3. As it all runs on a Raspberry Pi, you can take it with you on vacation.

        Quick rundown of how it works:

        1. The DHCP server on my ISP's router gives out a Raspberry Pi as a DNS server.

        2. That Raspberry Pi is running Bind, Apache and a script that downloads a list of ad domains from from yoyo.org once per week. Every ad domain is resolved to local the IP address of the Raspberry Pi.

        3. When my PC, phone, TV or anything else in the home requests content from doubeclick.com or wherever, they are directed to the Apache web server on the Raspberry Pi. This is configured to answer all web requests with ":)"

        If anyone wants more details I do have step-by-step notes, but you can also refer to the following guides that inspired me.

        https://learn.adafruit.com/raspberry-pi-as-an-ad-blocking-access-point/overview

        https://box.matto.nl/dnsadblok.html

  9. 124

    Nokia 830 phone

    HP 750-124 Desktop Intel core i7-6700 CPU @3.4GHz 16 GB Ram 64Bit Windows 10 Pro 2.0GB Hard Disk Dual 21" Dell monitors Intuos 4 Pro tablet.

    Surface Pro original Intel core i5-3317U @ 1.7GHz 4GB Ram 128 G Hard Disk docking station with external 20inch monitor.

    Surface Pro 4 i7-6650U @2.2GHz 16GB Ram 250 GB Hard Drive 200GB Micro-SD card for backups Touch Keyboard cover.

    MyCloud with 6TB storage.

    Lots of software mostly graphical in nature (ART).

  10. 5172

    2015 HP Spectre X360 laptop - Love it to bits and now couldn't be without a touchscreen convertible laptop.

    2016 HP 550-256na Desktop - Wasn't expensive, came with a large-ish boot SSD and a 2nd large HDD - a surprisingly difficult combo to buy off the shelf.  Its only an i5 but its handled everything I've thrown at it without complaint.

    2016 Oneplus 3 Smartphone - It "just works" - I've had zero problems with it.  Would prefer it to be slightly thicker with a better battery though.

    2 x Dell U2412m monitors - which I think Paul recommended years ago - superb together, and better still neither is widescreen or reflective!

    Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic mouse at work - great to use all day long - no RSI at all.

     

    Software and Websites :-

    Expression Web 4 (still haven't found a good cheap replacement)
    Filezilla
    Readly (magazines)
    Edge and Chrome with some Firefox
    Office 360 and Onedrive


  11. 5664

    My main squeeze is a Late 2012 Apple Mac mini Quad i7 model. I've converted it to running Windows 10 in native UEFI mode, no Boot Camp crap required. Runs like a champ along with Macs Fan Control, since Apple's own drivers for Windows are Class A shit. Seriously, fuck those assholes.

    I use an iPhone 6S and an iPad Mini 2 and a NuVision 8" Windows 10 tablet for other stuff.

    I have a like... 8 year old Gateway minitower with a piss-poor AMD Phenom x4 CPU in it connected to my roomie's 60" 4K TV. Of course the video card that advertises 4K won't push higher than 1080p on that TV.

    OF FUCKING COURSE.

    I've got several broken lappies. I'm not allowed to keep a notebook-class machine for more than like eleven weeks.

  12. 7631

    I have a Surface Book as my daily driver. I use it for everything. I am an IT Consultant and run Hyper-V machines on my Surface Book. Apart from that I use my laptop mainly for Internet, Email, Photo organizing and editing and of course for productivity (MS Office + Visio).

    My mobile phone is an HTC 10.

    I do not need any desktop and the Surface Book is more than enough for everything I do.

  13. 5476

    I don't make money for writing, so I think it's okay to post here.  Since moving away from Windows Phone (Lumia 1520 was last) and SurfaceRT as my tablet I really have been getting into iOS more and more.  I wrote a pretty long post (actually wrote it on my phone) showing off what I use on it. 

    https://darrencohen.me/my-iphone-homescreen-as-we-enter-2017/

    • 180

      In reply to RealDarrenCohen:

      Workflow and Drafts were new to me, thanks for that. How do you find Authy? I've kept all my 2-factor to Google Authenticator so far, but I keep wondering if I should move over to Authy as I switch mobile devices on a semi-regular basis, and it's always a hassle to have to rescan 2FA tokens.

      • 5476

        In reply to Polycrastinator:

        I like Authy a lot as it stores the codes so when I get a new phone I don't have to go through the whole setup process again.  It is tied to phone number + password, so secure. If you use Chrome it has a nice extension as well. 

  14. 906

    Surface pro 4 is my most used machine. i-5, 256 gb, it's as fast as I need for most stuff.

    For work that needs space, I still use an old 23 inch Sony Vaio all in one -- also i-5, but waaaay earlier version. I put an SSD in it a couple of years ago. I have Dragon 14 loaded on that one, and use it for lots of report dictation. I also like the larger screen for photo editing and layout work. I lust over the Surface Studio, but so far the old Sony still does everything I need. Running updated Windows 10, and have never had a problem since I left Windows 8 in the rear view mirror. This is my truck, my work machine, and I am delighted to have a stable installation. 

     

    Phones in the house are all iPHones. My wife knows how to use it, and there's no sense in changing or mixing up our phone tech. 

    iPad mini for reading magazines (Texture is great.)

     

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