For the last few years Michael Arrington has been producing a list of the top tech that he has regularly used in each year and I thought this year I would give it a go. So this is the technology that I used day-in, day-out in 2009 and could not do without.
A lot of my life is spent in a browser and this year I changed over from Firefox to using Google’s Chrome. Why? Because it is fast. In fact it is the faster browser I have used and speed is important to me. I don’t want to be spending time waiting for a page to render before I can get on with my job.
The other thing that I like about Chrome is the independence of the tabs. If there is a crash in one it does not bring down the whole browser – another neat feature.
In Google’s browser I run a number of Google’s services. Mail, Calendar and Reader are the three that I use the most and have them permanently open. In fact I have two Mail tabs, one for my personal emails and the other for my work emails, for which I use Google Apps. I have to admit that I struggled at first getting used to Google Mail having come over from Microsoft Outlook but I really appreciate the ability to access my mail anywhere and there have been some neat extension that have made it a really great service.
Remember the Milk
I am a very task oriented person and previously used the tasks section within Microsoft Outlook. RTM has been a great way for me to be able to manage my working life and ensuring that the things that need to get done, actually do get done. Again I appreciate the ability to be able to get at my tasks no matter where I am be it via browser or on the dedicated iPhone application.
Hand in hand with Remember the Milk goes Evernote, the note taking application. Previously I used Microsoft OneNote but the ability to clip notes from Windows, Mac, iPhone and web is a killer for me. And, once again, the ability to access these notes anywhere is invaluable. My only gripe is that I wish there was some integration between RTM and Evernote.
The first thing on the list that is not a browser based application and that is my iPhone 3GS. I have worked my way through four iPhones this year though faults and upgrades but my current one has never left my side since I picked it up in the summer. The call handling is rubbish and those people who complain about at&t should note that the problems are the same on O2 in the UK. That said it is no longer just a phone. Mine is a complete, pocketable, computer allowing me to work on-the-go. In fact I am able to access all the applications mentioned here from my iPhone and so can be productive anywhere.
The other aspect of the iPhone that I like is the photo and video capability. Already the iPhone has replaced my Flip as the primary quick and dirty video device and the photos it produces are perfectly acceptable for most uses. It’s all about having to carry only one device.
Another web-based application, Unfuddle, is a ticketing system for, in my case, managing software development projects. I like it so much that I wrote an iPhone web-based interface to it that I (and anyone else) can use to access my projects anywhere. The great thing about Unfuddle is, being based in the cloud, it can be easily accessed by all our disparate team members in several locations in the UK and India.
Cloud based storage services Dropbox and my personal favourite Zumodrive have been a real boon this year. Zumodrive I particularly like as it looks and feels just like any other storage on whatever device I choose to access it from. I wrote about it earlier this year. Dropbox is similar but the files get also held on your machine as well as in the cloud. This has the advantage of being available when you are not connected to the internet (how often is that these days?). We use this extensively for file sharing with offshore developers.
Windows Live Writer
Late 2009 I moved from a Windows desktop to a MacBook Pro and found that I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about the two seemed pretty evenly matched to me. However, there was one area where Windows has Mac beaten hands down – and the is in the off-line blogging application space. Nothing, but nothing, can beat Windows Live Writer for shear functionality and ease of use and believe me I have looked. In the end I had to resort to a virtualised version of Windows XP to allow me to continue to use WLR and I haven’t regretted it once.
This year Skype has come into its own for me in both a personal and a professional capacity. I use it extensively to talk to other team members in the UK and India keeping our call costs down and also ensuring that we have been able to chat whenever is necessary which means that problems get fixed sooner. On a personal level it has meant that I have been able to keep in touch with our best friends who have moved to Australia for a couple of years. We also used it to keep in touch with family and friends while we were away on holiday a couple of times this year.
The last one on the list is Zoho CRM, yet another web based service which really does show how things are these days. Zoho have a large number of services, some of which compete with Google’s offerings but the only one I use on a regular basis is their CRM offering. I use it extensively for managing and recording my customers interactions. Of all the ones on the list this is the one that is probably the most precarious – while it is a good service it still doesn’t cover all that I want it to do. For example I cannot seem to integrate it easily with my Google Mail account which means that I have to go to two places to track correspondence. Therefore, I do wonder whether it will still be there next year.
There are some items that haven’t made it to the list that are also worth mentioning the first of which is my Netbook. This has travelled with me extensively this year making it to four continents and has allowed me to blog and communicate for everywhere I have been. The problem is that it has all but been superseded by a more recent purchase in the form of my Macbook Pro. I have no doubt that it is going to be on the list next year.
The two other services that I should mention are Twitter and Facbook both of which I have used regularly but they didn’t make the list simply because I don’t consider them to be essential. They could both shut down tomorrow and I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. That said without Facebook I wouldn’t have got back in touch with quite so many of my friends from university but I guess that we would have found other ways. I wonder if either of them may become more essential to me over the next 12 months.
Finally, what do I think are the things that are likely to make the list in 2010? Well I have already mentioned the Apple MacBook Pro and I will almost certainly be adding the Sony Reader too. As for software and services I have just started to tinker with Google Wave and it will be interesting to see how that progresses.
So that is my list – what tech could you not do without in 2009?