Monday, October 22, 2012

What Pogue Actually Bought - NYTimes.com

What Pogue Actually Bought

I get plenty of reader e-mail, and if I had to graph the question categories, "What should I buy?" would be the tallest bar by far.

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If you could hold your finger down on that bar to explode it into sub-bars, "What do you own?" would be a pretty tall one. Imagine, in other words, if your job let you test and try every single brand of camera, tablet, phone, laptop and GPS, which would you buy for you and your own family?

That's why, every couple of years, I write the following post: What Pogue Actually Bought. Hope it's useful to somebody.

Main computer. A 13-inch MacBook Pro. I also have a Windows desktop and laptop, and there's an iMac in the kitchen for the kids, but the laptop is my main machine.

I'd love to get a MacBook Air, which is just as fast and far lighter and thinner. My problem is storage. The Air uses a chunk of memory, a solid-state drive (SSD) as its hard drive, rather than a physical, spinning disk. That's great. Fewer moving parts, faster start-up, better battery life. But SSD's are very expensive, and come in small capacities. The biggest one you can get in an Air is 256 gigabytes, compared with 750 gigs on the traditional hard drive on a MacBook Pro. I traffic in photos and videos; I'd run out of space quickly on a 256-gig drive.

I've been experimenting with other solutions: keeping my main photo and video collections at home on an external drive, for example, and having only the latest on my laptop. For now, though, I'm hauling around two extra pounds and a DVD drive I never use.

Camera. I bought the amazing Canon S100, a tiny pocket camera with the biggest sensor on the market. I wrote about my reasons here. But in two weeks, I'll be switching my allegiance. You cannot believe what's about to come down the photographic pike. Trust me: If you're in the market for a small camera with astonishing photographic results, hold off for a few weeks.

I also have a Nikon D80 with three lenses, an SLR that's showing its age. It still takes fantastic pictures, but I ache for better speed and to be able to capture video. Truth is, I use it less and less in the age of big-sensor, pocketable cameras. But I'm thinking of replacing it one of these days with a D5100, which is just about at my prosumery level.

Phone. I have an iPhone 4S. I'm constantly looking at and testing Android phones, which are just getting better and better  — the imminent Samsung Galaxy S III looks positively juicy — but for now, features like Siri and the whole iCloud thing are keeping me in the Apple camp.

It's a Verizon phone. As an East Coaster, my fondness for the Verizon network's ubiquity led me to overcome my cynicism regarding Verizon, the company.

Phone case. None. I know I'm tempting fate, but the Gorilla glass hasn't yet let me down, and if you're going to buy a phone for its slimness and beauty, why bury it in plastic?

GPS. We own two cars: a Honda Fit and a Toyota Prius V. They're absolutely fantastic cars; I'm so proud of myself for choosing them. They both have built-in GPS.

In general, the Honda's GPS is light-years better than the Toyota's. For one thing, it doesn't lock you out when the car is in motion, so the passenger can program in your address while you drive. For another thing, it's simply better designed. The Prius's GPS weirdly lists my town as being in "NY Metro Region" instead of Connecticut, for example.

But the Prius's built-in GPS has a perk that, let's hope, will soon come to all cars: the ability to speak your destination address instead of painstakingly tapping it in on the touchscreen. And you can do it while you're driving. "200 West Hartley Extension, New Rochelle, New York." Bingo: you're on your way. I've waited years for this.

Software. My family relies upon BusyCal for our calendar, which is just about one of the best programs I've ever used for anything. Fast, crashproof, simple, attractive, and it speaks to all the online calendars like Google's and iCloud's.

The rest of my life is spent in Mail, Word, Excel, Photoshop, FileMaker and this ancient freeform database cards program called iData. My notes, lists, brainstorms, phone numbers, driving directions, recipes, Christmas gift ideas and other thoughts have been happily trapped in that program and its predecessors for 20 years.

I also use TextExpander, which expands typed abbreviations for better speed and accuracy, and a little free macro program called Spark, which lets me open various programs and perform other functions with keystrokes of my choosing. And Dropbox. Wow, I love Dropbox, although I've added SkyDrive (7 free gigabytes instead of 2) to my desktop, too.

Online. Almost every day, I stop in to Twitter (I'm @pogue) to post a link to my latest column, or, if I don't have one, to post a joke of the day. I usually manage a Facebook visit, too, to see what's going on in my social circle.

What else is on my bookmarks bar? NYTimes.com, Techmeme, Google Voice, my kids' school homework assignments site, my blog and the local commuter train schedule site.

I've just moved my online photo galleries to SmugMug, for the reasons I wrote about in the Times today. I'm really excited; I feel as though MobileMe's demise, in this regard, was good for me.

Noise-canceling headphones. In January, I reviewed the latest noise-canceling headphones — a must gadget for anyone who's a passenger in planes, trains or automobiles. I wound up buying my favorite of the lot: the AKG K495 NC. Expensive, but holy fuselage, did I make the right call. These things pack down smaller than the rivals, sit so much more comfortably on the ears (six-hour flight? no problem), and block sound so much more effectively.

Laptop bag. Every time I leave the house, I carry a T.S.A.-friendly Timbuktu bag — meaning that its laptop compartment folds out for the airport X-ray so that I don't have to remove the laptop. I originally raved about this bag, but with wear, I've found that it's become side heavy. And the laptop compartment has lost its shape, meaning it takes two hands to slip the laptop inside. It might be time to move on.

Inside that bag and its pockets, here's what you'll find: laptop, charger and video-output adapter. Camera and charger. Three flash drives. Phone sync/charge cable. Those AKG headphones. Checkbook. Pens. Emergency reading glasses (these cool fold-up ones). Emergency bag of mixed nuts.

And there you go: the 2012 What Pogue Bought list. I know, I know — I'm a minimalist. But I'm working on it.

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