There is a great tradition in technology journalism of writers creating public lists of products that they use every day and can’t live without. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch does it, Paul Thurrott does it at his SuperSite for Windows. And now it’s time for Delimiter to do it.
In the list below you will find the products that I (Delimiter publisher Renai LeMay) use every single day and love using. I’m not being paid by anyone to produce this list, nor does Delimiter have any special relationship with any of the companies included. I’ll produce a new list with joint staff recommendations when the company gets some more headcount.
These are literally just the products that I’ve chosen as the best I can currently find to get my job done of conducting journalism and producing content online.
Gmail (Google Apps for your domain version): I prefer Gmail because its user interface is the best on the market, and it offers myself and other staff the ability to access all of our email (for our entire history of employment) from any device at any time. To be honest, it would be cost-prohibitive to implement the same solution with any other vendor. And I trust Google to back up our data in a trustworthy manner.
Content management system
We use the open source WordPress platform for all of Delimiter’s normal publishing needs, because it is trivial to setup, add new features to and customise, and it has a thriving developer community that will continue to support it. Most importantly, using WordPress means that we minimise the time we spend fiddling around with our content management system and maximise the time we spend actually creating great content. We use phpBB and MediaWiki for our forum and wiki needs respectively, for similar reasons.
We use MediaTemple for our hosting needs for Delimiter, and plan to eventually migrate our other sites across to the hosting provider (some are currently with BlueHost). MediaTemple simply offers better support than we have seen other providers offer, and we’re a fan of its ability to transparently and automatically scale up the server power behind your site as it grows.
I use Windows 7 (x64 edition) for all of my desktop O/S needs. While I like the openness of Linux and the stability of Mac OS X, ultimately Windows provides the best combination of flexibility, openness and stability — as well as being able to run on any x86 desktop PC. Windows 7 is a vast improvement upon Vista and I prefer the x64 edition for its ability to handle more than 4GB of RAM.
I use Digsby for all my instant messaging needs because it’s able to interface with multiple IM accounts with just the one application — MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk and so on — and even handles LinkedIn updates just fine. The platform is stable and just works. I use Adium when I’m on my MacBook Pro laptop.
We use Skype for all of our telephony needs (in and out), because it provides unified communications functionality (click to call, presence and so on) at a SME-level price that we can afford. Plus, many other people that we know also use Skype, so we can call them for free and avoid calling costs altogether.
I use Telstra Next G for mobile broadband, because I’ve found the network more reliable and faster than competing 3G networks run by Optus, Vodafone and 3. If you’re in a technology conference full of thousands of people with laptops, all Twittering away via 3G cards, there really is usually only one carrier whose connection won’t get flooded — and that’s Telstra.
We use iiNet for all our fixed broadband needs, for two reasons. Firstly, they have excellent customer service — much better than Telstra, Optus and so on. Secondly, I like the fact that they are a staunchly Australian company and are investing heavily in technology infrastructure in Australia. I’ve been supporting iiNet with our custom right throughout the period where they were investing in ADSL infrastructure and so on. If we weren’t using iiNet, we’d be using Internode.
I prefer to use Google Chrome as our web browser, because it’s fast and extremely stable when you have dozens of tabbed windows open. Over time I have found that Firefox has grown too bloated, Opera has grown too complicated, and Safari has too many hooks into other Apple software products for our liking. And don’t even mention IE. I like Chrome’s ability to synch bookmarks between the three PCs I use on a regular basis.
I use Photoshop Elements for all of our image editing needs, because it provides most of the power of the full Photoshop suite without all of the cost. I’ve found the package ideal for the sort of lightweight daily photo and image editing that goes on in a web publishing company.
I prefer Winamp as our music player because it just works, has a clean and simple interface and doesn’t have any of the bloated overhead that other major suites like iTunes do. Winamp can play lots of other multimedia, but I like to just use it to play MP3s. It uses minimal system resources and I’ve loved it for a decade now.
Online backup and file sync
I love Dropbox for its cloud storage solution that gives users 2GB of storage free. I use it on a daily basis to transfer documents between multiple computers — between home, the office, and when I’m on the road using our laptop.
I prefer to use TweetDeck for accessing Twitter because it is the best tool for following the conversation as it happens live. Creating new columns for new hashtags is a breeze, as is using multiple accounts (we have three). If you’re not using Tweetdeck for Twitter, you’re not getting the full experience of just how powerful Twitter can be. On the mobile platform I use the official Twitter client (formerly Tweetie) on iPhone.
Currently I use an Optus iPhone 3G to make calls, browse RSS feeds, use Twitter and consume multimedia on the road. However, due to Steve Jobs’ increasingly restrictive policies on what software customers can run on their iPhone, as well as the poor performance of Optus’s 3G network, I am planning to shortly move to the Android platform, likely a HTC Desire, on Telstra’s Next G network.
I have two desktop PCs — one for home and one for work. Both are based on Intel CPUs (because at the time of purchasing, Intel CPUs were the most powerful available), and both have ATI Radeon graphics cards, because of the excellent price to performance rating. Brands of hard disks, monitors and other peripherals vary, but I do tend to prefer cases and power supplies that emphasis a quiet computing environment.
I use a 13″ Apple MacBook Pro for one reason, and one reason only. Battery life. Reviews I have read have shown that Apple’s MacBooks have better battery life than any other full-powered laptops on the market, and I put this down to better efficiency of the Mac OS X operating system. When I’m at a conference for seven hours straight editing text, photos and videos, battery life matters.
I prefer AusPCMarket for buying technology. They’re a little more expensive than others, but their customer service is without compare and they tend to get the newest hardware releases faster than many other outlets. I particularly love the speed of their delivery — several times I have ordered a part after midnight, only to receive it delivered the next morning.
I’ve just started using a Flip UltraHD video camera to record video when on the road. For a good example of the sort of stuff we’re recording, check out this video of the Apple iPad launch in Sydney, or this video of the user interface on Telstra’s T-Box set-top box. I love the Flip because it’s so easy to shoot and upload video — literally, there is only one button to press on the device, and then you flip out the USB connector and plug it into your PC, where it appears as a standard USB device. The audio quality is also great — no need for a specialist microphone.
Although I still use Google’s Apps suite and the open source OpenOffice.org suites for various small tasks, I just can’t go past Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite for usability (2008 on the Mac). It’s been criticised a lot, but I find the ‘ribbon’ user interface friendly and the whole package light and customisable. The exception is Outlook, which I only use for a few legacy PST files, with Xobni to make it more usable. Outlook is still a memory hog with a poor user interface, and I don’t like it for those reasons. I don’t even use Outlook’s calendar — I prefer the one in Google Apps.
And yes, I save our written documents in .docx format. It’s the default and I’m finding more and more businesses use the format these days. Standards in this space isn’t something we have thought a lot about — maybe something for future consideration.
Every other RSS reader has dropped away over the years, and now I — like everyone else — prefer to use Google Reader. It’s quick, light, and accessible across every device. It can also handle the hundreds of feeds that we read on a daily basis, and it’s easy to back up your OPML file.
Do you know of a product which does a better job than one of the products on this list? Let us know!