What I Use

I recently caught up on lifehacker and they did a series of "What we use", which I thought was really interesting. For a long time I've had a section on this site about the software and tools that I like but I've decided to restructure it based on lifehacker's articles.



Its been awhile since I've upgraded my desktop (about 2 and a half years) but it's still running along just fine after I stuck an SSD in it a few months ago so I'm trying to hold off for awhile yet.
    NFC task launcher
  • AMD Phenom II X4 965, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce 9500GT
  • OCZ 60GB Force3 SSD
  • Windows 7 Pro 64-bit (Would be Linux but I play Football Manager on this machine and would rather not dual boot so I make do with cygwin)
  • Two 24" 1080p 16x9 Acer monitors 
  • Thermaltake Tsunami Dream Case - Link

The SSD really saved this machine, I hadn't had the time to diagnose it but the machine had been running very slowly. Eventually the hard drive started the clicking and clunking. Ordered the SSD and haven't looked back since. With a RAM upgrade I think I could easily use this machine for another 18 months to 2 years.

The Thermaltake case is also one of the best purchases I've ever made, was over double what i'd previously paid for a PC case but well worth it. Thumbscrews are awesome. This case has lived through 4 different computers and about 7 years.

Work Laptop:

My work also supply me with a Lenovo Thinkpad T520i. Its a bit of a brick of a laptop. No issues with performance the core i3 does a good job and after I upgraded to 12GB of RAM it has no problem running both Ubuntu as the main OS and Windows 7 in a VM at the same time. It still runs with less RAM utilisation then the Macbook pro I had in my last job.

The only issues I have with it other then the size is that I keep hitting my finger on the stupid nubin mouse in the middle of the keyboard and it screws up whatever I was typing at the time. Also what is the useless keyboard light all about, why even bother...

Home Network:

It's rarely in the same state for more then a couple of months but I think I've got everything to a state where its good for awhile.

  • Acer AspireOne Netbook running Ubuntu Server running as a file server, Useless as a PC but this little netbook is making for a nice power efficient and quiet file server sitting in the corner of my living room.

  • Drobo, The netbook obviously needs some serious storage and it comes in the form of a usb drobo v2. I'm not one for spending money when I can do things myself but I've done the roll your own server before and its not a huge amount of fun. The usb drobo was not cheap but as its the old model it accessible enough. Its fast enough to stream 1080p, I don't need anything more.

  • Apple TV2 Jailbroken with XBMC: What an awesome little box this is. smaller then my hand and yet can output HD, ok its only 720p but I don't have much 1080p so it's perfect and for £90 its cheaper then an HTPC and its silent so no Jet engine going off while trying to be engrossed in whatever media your watching. Only downside to it is its very slow at doing library updates but I run them on my desktop and since they both use MySQL for the Library that solves that problem.


I've not got a huge amount of accessorizes but I could be accused of being a Logitech fan boy. I have the Solar powered K750 Keyboard which is great. The keys have enough spring in them that its not like slamming your fingers on the desk all day long which is how I felt using the Apple Wireless keyboard and despite sitting in the dark corner of a room that often doesn't have the curtains opened for days its always had power. My other favorite is the Logitech Performance MX Mouse, This thing tracks on everything and is the most comfortable mouse I've ever used.

I do also have a Microsoft Arc Touch mouse which I use with the work laptop because it clicks flat and is very portable without being so small as to induce hand cramp when used for long periods.

Phones, Tablets, and Other Mobile Devices

I recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S3 and while I don't like the touch wizz interface much the phone is very very good if possibly a little big. I've heard a lot of people say it feels a bit like cheap plastic, While I agree its not as nice as some of the HTC phones it doesn't feel cheap. The interesting part about that is everyone I've heard say it feels cheap had the white version and I have the blue model, I don't know if that actually has anything to do with it though. The removable battery and SD-card slots are major pluses compared to other recent top line phones.

I also have an iPad2 but I really don't use it much

Mobile Apps

I could list over a 100 odd but I'll keep it to the ones I really like that are lesser known.
  • Tasker: An awesome automation app that can create and activate settings profiles or actions based on various conditions.
  • NFC task launcher: Capable of setting various settings when NFC tags are scanned or initiating a tasker task.
  • BeyondPod: This has replaced Google Listen as my podcatcher of choice, the scheduled download in the pro version is very nice and copes better than Listen when you fall behind for more then a few episodes
  • Torque: Connects (via a Bluetooth adapter) to your cards OBDII interface and allows you to create a personalised dashboard on your phone as well as read engine error codes and another diagnostic related info.
  • Any.Do: A nice todo list with chrome/firefox plugins and sync, also has a nice popup when you miss a call gives you an option to call or set a reminder to call later.
  • Shush!: When you set your phone in silent mode shut lets you set a timer that automatically turns the ringer back on, no more missed calls cause you forgot your phone was silent after a meeting/cinema/social thingy-ma-bob
  • Network utilities: Any IT professional/self respecting geek should have these such things - Wifi analyser and Network discovery
  • My Cars: A nice little app to track expenses, refules, MPG etc related to owning a car.

Desk & Office Essentials


Desktop Apps

Server Apps

Tips & Tricks Closest To My Heart

Software i like, oh btw they are all free (although not all open source)

AutoGK - The BEST dvd ripping software i can find

Hamachi - a really cool and easy to use VPN system. It does connect via the logmein servers which, amongst other things, introduces a single point of failure. That said it does mean no worrying about port forwarding and it is really easy to setup.

TeXlipse - LaTeX plugin for eclipse

XBMC - I knew about this for a long time, never thought it would be as awesome as it is

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