In these times of austerity, there’s not a lot of scope for new geek toys (some more camera lenses would be great, as would a new MacBook) but there’s no harm in a bit of aspiration, and it’s always interesting to take a look back and see how I thought things would work out and how that compares with reality.
So here’s the tech that I expect my life will revolve around this year…
Car: Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI Sport
My company car was replaced in April (a nice 40th birthday present) and the Volkswagen Tiguan I drive will be with me for at least 3 years. Whilst there are plenty of more capabile 4x4s and the space afforded by a 7-seater might be nice at times, “the Tig” has been great – my family all love the high riding position, my wife is happy swapping between this and her Golf (she should be – they are practically the same underneath the covers!) and, whilst I miss some of the refinement of my Audi, I get a lot more for my money with the Volkswagen. Putting a retractable towbar on this car has created new possibilities too, allowing me to use a 4-bike towbar-attached carrier for family cycle trips.
Verdict 8/10. Hold (tied into a 3-year lease).
Phones: Nokia Lumia 800 and Apple iPhone 3GS
My initial enthusiasm for the Nokia Lumia 800 waned considerably, after Microsoft announced its Windows Phone 8 plans and the handset lost 60% of its value overnight. That means I won’t be trading it in for a new model any time soon and, depending on whether Windows Phone 7.8 ever makes it out of the door, I might consider looking at options to run Android on the (rather nice) hardware instead. Still, at least we got an update a few months ago that, finally, enables Internet Sharing on Lumias (Windows Phone 7.5 supported this capability, but the Lumia 800 firmware did not).
I still have an iPhone 3GS provided by my employer (and my iPad) to fall back on when apps are not available for Windows Phone (i.e. most of the time) and, whilst I’m unlikely to get another smartphone from the company, I am considering a second-hand 4S to replace this as the 3GS is getting a bit long in the tooth now…
(Lumia) Verdict 5/10. Hold, under duress.
(iPhone) Verdict 3/10. Not mine to sell!
Tablet: Apple iPad 3G 64GB
My iPad never replaced a laptop as a primary computer but it’s still great as a Kindle, for catching up on social media content, and for casual gaming (read, occasional babysitter and childrens’ amusement on long car journeys). I was disappointed to have to pay to replace it after the screen developed a fault, but there’s no reason to trade up yet and there’s still nothing that comes close to the iPad from a media tablet perspective (except newer iPads).
If anything, I might consider a smaller tablet (maybe a Google Nexus 7 or an Amazon Kindle Fire) but and Apple’s decision to stick with a 4:3 screen ratio on the iPad Mini means I have little interest in that form factor (it’s almost the same hardware as my current iPad, albeit in a smaller package). If I were to get a new tablet, it’s more likely to be something that could really be a laptop replacement – perhaps a Microsoft Surface Pro? We’ll see…
Verdict 7/10. Hold, although it’s getting old now.
Everyday PC: Fujitsu Lifebook S7220 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 160GB hard disk)
This PC is my main computing device. I’d love a ThinkPad, but the Lifebook is a perfectly capable, solid, well-built notebook PC, although I frequently find myself running out of memory with the number of tabs I have open in a typical browsing session! A recent hard disk failure meant my free space dropped (my 250GB drive was replaced with a 160GB one) but it’s due for replacement soon.
I’ll be looking for a smaller form-factor device to reduce the weight of my work-bag – at least until BYOC becomes a possibility (an ultrabook, Surface Pro, or a MacBook Air would be nice, but not available to me on the company’s catalogue).
Verdict 6/10. Unlikely to be with me for much longer now, although still hoping for a BYOC scheme at work.
Netbook: Lenovo S10e (Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard disk)
Yet again, this device has hardly seen the light of day. Usurped by the iPad, it now runs Ubuntu and is only ever used for tech projects (e.g. uploading software to my Arduino). My kids have one too but even they are frustrated by the small screen and tend to use my wife’s notebook PC instead.
Verdict 2/10. Not worth selling, so keep for tech projects.
Digital Cameras: Nikon D700 and Coolpix P7100
I still love my DSLR and the D700 will be with me for a while yet. Indeed, it’s more likely that I would buy some new lenses and a flashgun before I replace my camera body. Newer bodies offer video but I don’t miss that, and the low light performance on the D700 is pretty good, even 2 years after launch.
The P7100 continues to function as my carry-everywhere camera (it lives in the car), offering entry-level DSLR levels of control in a small package, although it’s not as responsive as I’d like.
(D700) Verdict 9/10. Hold.
(P7100) Verdict 7/10. Hold.
Photography PC: Apple MacBook MB062LL/B (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz, 4GB RAM, 750GB hard disk)
My MacBook is getting old and, although I upgraded to a 750GB disk, I’m struggling with disk space whilst 4GB of RAM is starting to feel a bit light for big Photoshop jobs but new Macs are expensive.
Still too expensive to replace, I think this will last another year, at least…
Verdict 4/10. Hold.
Media: Samsung UE37ES6300 Smart TV
My most recent technology purchase, this replaced an aging (c1998) Sony Trinitron 32″ widescreen CRT and has given us back a lot of space in the living room! I’ve been really impressed with the Smart TV functionality (more on that over the next few days) and Internet-connected television is now an integral part of my media consumption habit.
In time, it may be joined by a sound bar (to improve the experience when watching films) but at the moment the TV’s built in speakers will have to make do.
Verdict 9/10. Hold.
Media: Apple Mac Mini MA206LL/A (Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard disk)
(+ iPad, Lumia 800, iPhone 3GS, various iPods, Altec Lansing iM7 iPod speakers, Samsung UE37ES6300)
No change here since last year – except for the addition of a Smart TV – and I still haven’t re-ripped my CDs after the NAS failure a couple of years ago. I still haven’t bought the music keyboard and this PC’s role as a multimedia PC for the office with Spotify, iPlayer, etc. has been replaced by a Smart TV in the living room.
It may not be the most powerful of my PCs but it may be brought back to life as a media server as it takes up almost no space at all.
Verdict 6/10. Hold.
Gaming: Microsoft Xbox 360 S 250GB with Kinect Sensor
I don’t play this as much as I should to make full use of it but the arrival of BBC iPlayer and the death of our DVD player promoted the Xbox to be our living room media centre, at least until the Smart TV arrived (and the two still complement each other). My sons are reaching the age where they play games too now, so the Xbox is starting to get a lot more use.
Verdict 9/10. Hold.
Servers and Storage: Atom-based PC, 2x Netgear ReadyNAS Duo, various USB HDDs
The Atom-based PC still provides infrastructure services for the home, whilst one ReadyNAS is used to back up my work and the other has still not been recovered from its multiple disk failure a couple of years ago. I recently bought a 3GB Seagate Backup Plus Desktop drive to replace an assortment of smaller USB hard disks and am preparing to supplement this with suitable cloud storage as we become more and more reliant on our digital assets.
Verdict 6/10. Hold.
New toys from 2012: Arduino Uno, Raspberry Pi, Canon ImageFormula P-215 document scanner
At the end of my 2012 post, I mentioned a few potential purchases and I did pick up one of the first Raspberry Pi computers, which is a fantastic hobby/educational machine to use with or without my children. I also started to play around with electronics using an Arduino – which is great fun – and I hope to be doing more with both of them this year (more Raspberry Pi posts; more Arduino posts).
I’m slowly regaining control over my filing with the aid of a dedicated document scanner. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s portable, but the fast duplex scanning to PDF and multiple sheet handling (with very few mis-feeds) is a huge step forward compared with the all-in-one printer/scanner/copier I have in my home office. Mine was an “Amazon Warehouse Deals” purchase (which saved me a few pounds) and the advertised condition suggested it may have a scratch or two but it seems to be in perfect condition to me. It will certainly be a big part of my push to digitise much of my paperwork this year.
(Raspberry Pi) Verdict 10/10. What’s not to like about a computer that costs just £25?
(Arduino Uno) Verdict 10/10. Inexpensive, with loads of scope for electronic prototyping and a thriving community for support.
(Canon P-215) Verdict 9/10. Impressive scanner, although a little on the expensive side.
Potential new toys: Nest learning thermostat, Romotive Robot, Lego Mindstorms
Of course, as a geek, I have my eye on a whole host of potential purchases and these were two that took my fancy in last year’s post, plus one more that I’ve had my eye on for a while (may be something for the kids to get and Dad to play with?). In all honesty, I’m not sure that I’ll be buying much at all this year, but anything I do is likely to be in the general electronics, robotics and home automation field.