Literally, we’re sitting around waiting for something to happen. We can’t plan any outings, or date nights, we can’t even travel too far from home. We just sit here, watching TV, playing with Ben, and waiting for something to break… literally.
So to pass the time, here are some geeky gadgets we’ve recently acquired or fallen in love with.
This is our new monitor: a Dell SP2008WFP. Its not an Apple monitor, although its hooked up to our Mac Mini, but that’s OK, because the equivalent Apple Studio Display is $350 more, and nowhere near as nice.
This guy has a gorgeous 20” glossy screen, wide-ratio, of course. Has a 2000:1 contrast ratio 4 USB ports, and a built-in webcam. For those of us not rich enough to have an iMac, or with employers not cool enough to spring for MacBooks, this Dell monitor is perfect. Couple it with an adjustable height stand and its ideal for video conferencing.
Speaking of which, if you don’t have Skype, get it now. It’ll probably never completely replace our other IM clients, but its unimaginably cool being able to have a video chat whenever you want, with people all around the world — regardless of what kind of computer they’re using. We use Skype to talk to my parents in Malaysia and Nic’s parents in Ontario, chat with friends in Colorado, and maybe soon, my brother and sister Alberta.
Skype lets our friends and family see Benjamin as he grows up, and eliminates the miles between us and the people we care about. And its dead simple to use.
This was my Christmas present from Nic’s parents. Its worth about $60, but in one use saved us $150. Its an ODBII code reader.
The automotive industry has almost as many acronyms as the computer industry, and honestly I have no idea what ODBII stands for. But its the standard that all modern car manufacturers are required to adhere to for diagnostic reporting. Simply put, you hook this thing up to your car and it tells you whats wrong.
Most car dealerships charge and arm and a leg to “diagnose” a problem whenever your “Service Engine” light comes on, but in most cases all they do is hook up their own ODBII computer and the car reports the problem. Couple this device with a table of car codes, and you can probably eliminate most trips to the dealership. For example, last time my light came on, the car was telling me that my emissions were 20% below top-performance standards. Since it was 0 degrees outside at the time, I figured that was OK and cleared the code myself. Had it been a more significant problem, at least we’d have the information we needed to decide if and when we wanted to take it in.
And finally a round-up of software that is the new hotness:
Plaxo has been around for a very long time, and has, at points in its history, been somewhat evil. They seem to have cleaned themselves up lately, though, and they happen to be the only game in town that will let you synchronize your address book between multiple Macs and multiple Windows PCs. They even support Thunderbird.
It can’t be that difficult to exchange vCard data, but for some reason neither Microsoft nor Apple (nor any other third party) has stepped up to the plate to make this happen (although Kerio does a good job, if you can afford to run your own server). So despite my aversion to giving anyone my contact data, Plaxo does the trick.
Mozy is one of many automatic online back-up systems. But its got a tiny footprint when running, works seamlessly on both Mac and Windows, and gives you up to 2GB of free online storage.
Mozy runs continuously on our Mac at home, and between that and a small partition for limited Time Machine use, we never have to sweat about losing our day-to-day files.
We have other solutions for backing up the bigger stuff — including our 13GB music library, and 7ish GB photo library. But for our finances, e-mail and other personal documents and correspondence, Mozy is elegant and worry-free.
FolderShare was recently bought-out by Microsoft and became Windows Live FolderShare — but not before they rolled out a decent Mac client. I’ll likely move to DropBox once they let me into their Beta, because it looks pretty sweet, but until then FolderShare does the job.
Our useage for it is pretty limited. Multiple computers end up with an assortment of files on the desktop — notes to ourselves, URLs to check out later, spreadsheets (Nicole makes a spreadsheet for everything), and we usually end up mailing them back and forth to ourselves, just to get them on the computer we wanted to use.
FolderShare eliminates that by setting up a sync folder on each of your machines. Whatever you drop onto that folder is instantly copied over to all your other computers. And when you update a file on any one of them, the updates are pushed to all the others. Its simple, its fast and its mostly invisible (save for the annoying and pointless dock icon in OS X… why?!)
Well… still no baby yet. I guess I’ll go back to watching TV.
Our new favorite show is Firefly — an old school western series… except its in space. Totally under-rated. Joss Whedon is a genius.