My Top 10 Gadgets

The other day through Twitter @ignacio_valdes pointed me to this post I wrote in 2007 and asked me what computers I was using right now. It’s been almost 5 years and I am still using the Mac Mini I mentioned back then. The interesting thing is that lately more than “computers” to carry out several different tasks, I tend to use devices dedicated exclusively to a specific use or purpose.

I believe that having different devices to perform different tasks is better in order to be able to focus in a specific task. For example, it is difficult to read a book in PDF in your computer screen while knowing that you are one click away from YouTube or your favorite blog, or when suddenly a chat window pops up. If you have a Kindle you realize that when you arrive home and feel like reading it’s much easier to switch on the Kindle and plop down on your sofa than sitting down at your computer and finding yourself endlessly browsing the web just when you were about to open the PDF ebook you were intending to read.

Yes, I know that with an iPhone or an iPad you can do almost anything you can imagine, but as you will see next I am trying to find specific purposes for every gadget I own so that they can improve my “workflow-lifestyle”. Any advice you have is welcome!

These are the Top 10 gadgets/electronic devices that I use the most along with the specific purposes that I give to each one of them.

1.- iPhone 4 – For communication, taking photos (Instagram, Hipstamatic), schedule (Calendar, Wunderlist, Evernote), train schedules

When it was released I thought I didn’t need it but I eventually caved in. I have been using it for a year and a half and, as of now, I wouldn’t change it for any other smartphone.

I am quite a minimalist and I only have apps that I use frequently (if I notice that I haven’t used an app for 15 days to 1 month I delete it). Why do I do this? I am trying to make my iPhone a tool to make my life easier and more fun, while avoiding making it a gadget that makes me consume hours and hours fiddling with apps, games, etc.

These are the apps that I have installed right now, 14 in total, not counting the iOS default apps.

– Instagram: I have been only using it for about a month and I love it.
– Hipstamatic: here you can find my impressions about it.
– Pocket Light Meter: I use it to measure the light when taking pictures with my film cameras Hasselblad +500C/M and Kenko KF-2N
– Kotoba!: Japanese dictionary.
– Jorudan Norikae: app for checking train, planes and metro schedules in Japan.
– Genius Scan: a very useful app to scan documents. You take a picture of the document and it helps you correct the perspective and eliminate noise. I usually use it to store information and save it in Evernote.
– Evernote: not only I use it on my iPhone but also in all my computers and in my iPad. It is the best way to have all my information centralized, organized and accesible from any device.
– Amazon: to buy stuff on Amazon. I usually use it to buy milk and cereals. I buy my books in my Kindle.
– Sleep Cycle: the best alarm app I know.
– Twitter: along with Instagram it is the only social network I use in my phone.
– Skype: Skype on your pocket? Wonderful.
– Skype Wifi: I use it on airports when I am abroad. It allows me to use the Internet via wifi paying with my Skype Credit, very useful if you don’t want to waste money using “roaming”.
– WhatsApp: to communicate with mobile phones from outside Japan.
– Tokyo Amesh: to see rainfalls in real time in the Tokyo region. It is quite useful on rainy days, if you check this app you can see more or less if it will stop raining soon or not. Link to iTunes.
– Wunderlist: until recently I had been using a notebook in Evernote to do my TODO list; but now I am trying to change and start using Wunderlist. The advantage of using Wunderlist is that it allows me to focus visually and intuitively on the tasks that I have to do.

2.- Mac Mini – To watch movies (the old one), to write and retouch pictures (the new one)

I have two Mac Minis. One bought in 2007 and the other one in 2011. I use the 2007 one as a media center plugged to a 42 inches screen and even though it is 5 years old it runs smoothly under Mac OSX Tiger. I bought the other Mac Mini last year with 2Gb of RAM, but I soon upgraded it to 8Gb. Opening up the Mac Mini is easier than ever. I have it plugged to a 24 inches screen, I use it to retouch photos and write.

The Mac Mini is hidden behind the screen. You can easily place it vertically.

This is the old Mini which still works perfectly.

3.- Mac Book Pro 15″ – To code

I also own two. One bought in 2006 and the other one in 2011. I think I will soon retire the old one as I was thinking to use it as a typing machine with IAWriter but I am barely using it. The 2011 model has a SSD hard drive and 8Gb of RAM, it is plugged to a 23” Cinema Display; I use it mostly to code. Php, Python and lately I am learning Xcode/iOS to create iPhone and iPad apps.

I use a Mac Book Pro 15″ to work.

4.- Nikon D800 – To take photos

I had been waiting and saving for years to own this camera. It is my first full-frame camera, a totally new experience for me and a natural evolution after many years learning photography with the Nikon D90 I recently sold. I am still learning how to use it, I will let you know how my learning goes and I will be uploading pictures to my Flickr.

Nikon D800
I’ve had it for a few days and I’m already in love with it!

5.- Kindle – To read

I got it as a present around a year ago and it quickly became an indispensable gadget in my life. Since I have it I almost don’t buy books in paper and the most interesting thing is that… I read a lot more! As it is so small, easy to handle and easy to use (you take it, turn it on and in barely two seconds you are in the last page you were reading) it makes the reading experience so much better and makes you feel more like reading.

Since I own a Kindle I read more.

6.- Nintendo DS – To review my Japanese and play

I use almost exclusively to review kanjis (I forget them easily!) with a software-game:なぞっておぼえる大人の漢字練習完全版 (6.- Learning Japanese with the Nintendo DS). I have been looking for a similar software for my iPad but I still haven’t found anything convincing enough, most I have tried are quite bad at recognizing strokes of complicated kanji. Sometimes I use it to play but not a lot; the last game I played was Dragon Quest VIII and I didn’t finish it 🙂

Nintendo DS
Lately I use it less and less, but I still find some uses for it, like studying Japanese.

7.- Canon S90 – To take photos

My compact camera for almost three years now. I almost retired/sold it when I saw the great pictures I could take using my iPhone 4 but I decided to keep it as it is much better than the iPhone in low light situations and it also gives me much more freedom when choosing the settings I want for the photo. It is the camera that I have used the most during the last six months: these are some photos I took in Panama a few days ago and these other photos in Nueva York.

Canon S90
Almost three years rocking!

8 – iPod Nano – To listen music

I don’t listen to music much, but when I do I use iTunes in my computer or an 8Gb iPod Nano, which I love because of its ease of use.

iPod Nano

9.- Flatbed Canon CanoScan 9000f – To scan negatives and documents

Flatbed Canon CanoScan 9000f scanner
A scanner always comes in handy.

I bought this scanner because it was really cheap and it allows me to scan 35mm and 120mm negatives. I scanned all these photos with my CanoScan 9000f, I am quite happy with it but I have to say that I was expecting to get more information (dynamic range) when scanning 120mm negatives.

10.- iPad – To read news (Flipboard plugged to Google Reader), do quick searches in Google, draw, sketch… I still haven’t defined how I am going to use it, any advice?

I bought the new iPad one month ago and I have to say that… I am hooked to it! It is my first iPad, I always thought that I didn’t need it because I am a person that enjoys more creating information than consuming it. But I was wrong!

Flipboard is the app I use the most on my iPad.

I am still a little bit lost, trying to find how I am going to use it and testing many different apps. Up until now the app I am using the most is Flipboard, which is much better than I could have ever thought. If you are using RSS feeds to read blogs, I would dare to say that Flipboard is a good enough excuse to buy an iPad. In five minutes I had my Google Reader, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, etc. in my Flipboard and I could read everything as if it were a newspaper. The app design is beautiful, it eliminates any element that could distract you so that you can focus on the reading experience.

Apart from Flipboard I am trying different apps but I still haven’t found any app that I use on a daily basis… mmm…. I am lying… I am also hooked to Draw Something ;). I have also noticed that it is specially useful to skype when I am home. Any other app recommendations for my iPad? How do you use it on a daily basis?

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