My Top 5 In Tech: 2011
Posted on Sunday, January 1, 2012 | No Comments
For the past two years, in an idea that I shamelessly stole from someone else, I’ve put together my top five in tech.
To recap, the top five from last year were as follows:
1. Microsoft Live Mesh
2. Squeezebox Radio
3. Angry Birds
4. Streaming Content
5. Xbox 360
Whilst I would never change my previous lists, looking back at the selections from last year, I could easily put forth strong arguments to ditch most of them; Live Mesh has floundered a litte and took a back seat to the improvements made in Microsoft SkyDrive. Angry Birds has overstepped the line too much this year, cashing in on its popularity with soft toys, t-shirts and even moulded plastic radios. Streaming content has failed to deliver on the promises it made in 2010; I no longer watch TechCrunch TV (mainly because my favourite show was wiped out by the troubles of this year over at TCHQ), and still we have very little selection for streaming in the UK, LoveFilm are still no where compared to NetFlix in the US. Even Google TV and Apple TV have either not appeared or have failed to make an impact.
I intend to right the wrongs of 2010, with my choices for this year. So without further ado;
NUMBER FIVE: Dyson Hot
As the cold winter season has descended upon us again for another year and energy bills being pushed ever higher this year, I looked around for a way to effectively keep warm without the use of central heating costs and the use of a heater seemed the most logical option.
Looking around at heaters though, my eye was soon drawn to Dyson’s latest creation; known as the Hot. It’s essentially one of Dyson’s bladeless fans with a heating element built in, styled to look like a futuristic piece of furniture that we all expect from Dyson, in pure white (similar to an Apple product).
Whilst the purchase price is a little steep – the product will also operate as a fan come those summer months – and the speed at which the Hot works is truly amazing. The only downsides, in my opinion, is the hum of operation and that when you shut this thing off, you suddenly miss that breeze of warm air.
NUMBER FOUR: Microsoft Touch Mouse
At my office at work, I’ve long pushed around a wireless mouse to get things done; the wired variety have never really appealed to me, maybe it’s something psychological around being tethered to the desk? This year, after six years of service, I decided that it was time to retire my Logitech Laser mouse in favour of something a bit more sophisticated.
Having looked around, nothing seemed to appeal, but with my birthday approaching I looked at what was ‘coming soon’ and happened to find the Microsoft Touch Mouse Explorer. The Explorer seemed like a great fit, but without offering anything too radical and just as I was about to place an order for the Explorer, I stumbled across the Microsoft Touch Mouse site and was quickly drawn.
I picked up the mouse a couple of days after its UK launch and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. In order to get the most from the Touch Mouse, you must be running Windows 7 in order for the touch gestures to work. The ability to manipulate windows simply by sliding fingers left, right, up or down in combination with Windows 7’s snap functionality make navigating Windows a interface dream.
The only downside this mouse has is that it does tend to drain batteries rather quickly and it really could have done with a micro-USB port to allow charging overnight. But this is nothing a good set of rechargeable batteries won’t solve.
NUMBER THREE: LaCie Network Space 2
Having moved house towards the end of 2010, I was awoken to just how many DVDs I actually own and therefore have to store. In 2008 I had a similar problem with the amount of CDs I owned and needed to store, so I came up with my plan to abandon the CD in favour of digital downloads into 2009; I’ve still not purchased a CD since this time.
With content streaming still too far away to replace the DVD, there was really one option, to start ripping movies onto my network (Please note that I’m totally against digital piracy, especially movies – I am a huge supporter of cinema). After filling my 500GB network attached storage device rather quickly with movies, music and photos, it was time to look for a bigger device.
That device turned out to be the ‘LaCie Network Space 2’. The design is a basically a piano black box that sits alongside my media centre, with a glowing, but not off-putting blue light which shines from the bottom giving it a futuristic look.
I opted to buy the 2TB unit, because I mistakenly thought my existing full NAS was 1TB in size already, something I later learned not to be the case and now wish I’d saved myself some money and bought the 1TB model and then mirrored it onto a second device.
Where my music is backed up to my Sony MP3 Walkman at all times, my photos are stored safely on my Microsoft SkyDrive as backup and my documents are synchronised to my Live Mesh, I’ve not found a cheap way to backup my movie collection at this time, but having the DVD discs still on hand, albeit stored at the back of a cupboard I’m not too concerned about it at this time, should I lose any data.
But the LaCie device has been a silent and undemanding technology that I have taken for granted throughout this year, all the while it’s faithfully served me and become the hub of my digital media.
NUMBER TWO: Nokia Lumia 800
In 2009 I wrote “the smartphone is one of those essential devices of the day” and I still stick by that prophesy. Having a phone that can keep up with the changing nature of how we live our lives; through social networking sites, service integrations, lifestyle applications and entertainment, is essential.
When my contract expired on my Palm Pre (which made my top five list in 2009), it was abundantly clear that Palm had failed to cultivate and deliver the promise of webOS that I believed it could have. A buy-out of Palm by HP further fuelled my belief that webOS would begin to pick up pace and become at least a contender. A change of leadership at HP gave further promise and the new devices were announced, but something else had already caught my eye; Microsoft.
Microsoft Phone 7 was new and was doing things differently to the other major OS’s and I quickly jumped on board with the purchase of a HTC Mozart phone. The levels of integration between Microsoft products (Skydrive, Xbox, Office), were all seamless and everything made perfect sense, but there were things missing; multitasking and a decent twitter client for two. With the HP Pre3 just around the corner, I returned the HTC Mozart in favour of returning to my beloved webOS when the time for release of the Pre3 came.
That time though did not come. The HP CEO binned the webOS platform and a fire sale of HP Tablet devices was ordered. At the exact same time, Microsoft released its Mango updates for Windows Phone 7, bringing multitasking and a whole host of other features (rumours stated that over 600 fixes and updates were included in Mango). I watched the videos and was instantly spellbound; the problem was which Windows Phone to choose?
Fortunately, Microsoft seemed to have addressed that problem for me too – they announced a strategic partnership with Nokia to release some new handsets that would be considered the ‘first’ true Windows Phone experience. I waited and just a few short months ago, Nokia unveiled the Lumia 700 and 800 devices; I watched the NokiaWorld conference streamed live from my desk at work and knew I had to have one.
A month later and I had bought one and not looked back since. The fixes that Microsoft have put into Mango have worked; the differences are night and day to the 7.0 version that came with the HTC Mozart. Nokia have worked their magic with the hardware – the curved, gorilla glass screen is perfection and the body is perfectly chiselled, with an 8MP camera on board too!
webOS was a firm favourite for me; the interaction of cards and the ability to multitask and swipe those applications off the screen as you were done with them were truly inspirational and has been badly copied by RIM for their Blackberry tablets. But I no longer miss those swipes and interfaces, the Nokia Lumia 800 and Windows Phone 7.5 have brought me back to the Microsoft phone OS that I abandoned for the Palm Pre and promised to return to once the boys and girls at Redmond got their game together and moved away from the development of Windows CE 6.0 and the update that was 6.5.
NUMBER ONE: Amazon Kindle
With my solution to my DVD storage problems solved this year, there was one final piece of the digital/analogue divide left in my entertainment/media switch over – the book.
Now, I’ve always loved books and the decision to switch was a difficult one for me to take – there is nothing like the feel, smell and enlightened magic of words on paper. But having filled one bookcase and the need for a second, I reasoned with myself that just like the demise of the CD (with photographic, artistic covers) and DVDs (with their easily accessed extras), there was no reason that an electronic book couldn’t be replaced and holding onto the notion that books needed to be printed on paper was absurd to a digital supporter such as myself.
Once I was over the hurdles of abandoning paper based books in favour of digital media, the choice was clear – the Amazon Kindle was thee device to have. Tablet computers are clearly for other things beyond reading, they are for interaction and other laptop type features.
The Amazon Kindle is the perfect reading device, supremely balanced, the eInk screen is a delight to read from in all lights and the build quality is exactly what you would expect from Amazon. The book/content delivery system is supreme and the link between your Amazon account and device is just amazing as to how seamless the experience is.
The Amazon Kindle – my number one in tech for 2011.