2007 in review: Gadget Fever

My life revolves around technology. Even the kids are massive geeks. Fiona may be fascinated by ballet and the Barbie fairytale animated films (which aren’t nearly as bad as you might think), but you know what else is pink? Her Nintendo DS Lite.

So what were the significant technological additions to my life in 2007?

  • New 80GB iPod (5G). My old one was a 20GB model, and it wasn’t enough to hold my entire music collection. Now that I work mostly from home, I don’t use the iPod nearly as much as I used to, though, and I have hardly watched any video on it at all. Mostly I use it to shuttle music around the house: we have a few sets of small portable speakers, and I plug the iPod in whenever I want some music in the kitchen or the bathroom. The bad: I have found this new iPod to be slower and more prone to crashing than the old one.
  • MacBook Pro (15″, Core Duo 2): sleek and gorgeous, it is one of the finest pieces of computing machinery I have ever used. (It’s a work laptop, so it’s not really a personal addition. But it’s a major feature on my desk and in my life, so I’m going to count it anyway.) The MBP is light and fast, and I have grown to love being able to pick it up easily and use it away from my desk. Travelling with it is great, too, apart from the way it picks up a charge when going through airport security–I regularly get a shock when I pick it up after it has gone through the scanner.
  • Crumpler Cheesy Disco bag: a good laptop deserves a good bag. The Cheesy Disco comfortably holds the MBP and accessories, as well as a book or two, papers, and all the other rubbish I carry with me. It’s too big for everyday use when all I need with me is a book, a pen, and my wallet, but it’s great for big trips.
  • Griffin Elevator notebook stand: it brings the MBP’s screen up to the same level as my main screen, which is a practical necessity for avoiding neck strain. Also, it gives me space underneath the MBP to put more desk clutter.
  • Samsung SyncMaster 2032BW 20″ monitor: It’s a good enough monitor, but not a great one. Compared to my Dell Ultrasharp, the colours are harsh and vary slightly (but noticeably) from top to bottom, the viewing angle is poor, and it lacks an ergonomic stand for changing its height or tilt. Still, it was cheap, and it gives me a THIRD MONITOR, which was reason enough for buying it. I used to be a multi-monitor skeptic, but I’m fully cured now.
  • Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet: this was a toy buy, because I had never tried a tablet before, and I just wanted one. I’m not much of an artist, but it does make fine work in Photoshop much easier and more natural. Also, it combines really well with Google SketchUp for drawing 3D models.
  • HP C5180 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier: It’s not as good a printer as our old printer, but cartridges are ahout half the price. It’s not as good a scanner as our standalone Epson Perfection, but it doesn’t take up any extra space on the desk. Being able to run off quick photocopies instead of scanning and printing is a big plus, and plugging it straight into our network with an ethernet connection instead of attaching it to an always-on computer is an even bigger plus. Overall: yay. But I will need to keep the old scanner around for occasional dedicated photo work.
  • Playstation 3. Okay, not strictly mine; it was Abi’s Christmas present. But it means that we now have a full complement of current-generation consoles around the house.
  • Roland TD-3 drum kit: total sweetness. I love playing the drums, but–to my detriment–sometimes I forget about that. For a clumsy and performance-shy amateur like me, the best feature of an electronic kit like this one is the ability to plug my iPod into the brain’s external input, and then be able to play along through a set of headphones.

There are a also a couple of software services that are worth mentioning. They’re not strictly gadgets, but I think they fit here anyway:

  • Mozy off-site backup. I have rotten luck with hard drives. Mozy ensures that I don’t have to worry about data loss any more. The initial upload takes a long time, but after that the daily run is painless. I still keep local backups for fast recovery, but I don’t feel like I have to be obsessive about them.
  • Jungle Disk. Jungle Disk is a remote storage system that uses Amazon S3 for its back-end. You can use it as a backup system like Mozy, but unlike Mozy it also gives you filesystem-level integration. This means you can map a drive to your off-site space. This is great for sharing files between different computers, and also between different people.

I’m trying to think now if there are any gadgets on the horizon in 2008. No new games consoles, unless we go retro and splash out on a Sega Mega Drive or something (not inconceivable). The biggie for which I’m going to have to put on my best puppy-dog eyes will be a new big-screen TV when we move house.

Actually, wait–we’re going to be buying a new house soon. Does a house count?