My Gear Bag

So what are my preferred tools you might ask? What gadgets do I use on a day-to-day basis and head out the door with? While my equipment selection does slowly change over time, I've managed to get cozy with a nice selection of hardware. These are things that I use every single day, be it for work or entertainment, that I have gotten to like very well.

Incidentally, the case that I use to carry my gear around in is a Targus CPT401DUS 17" deluxe notebook case - big enough to fit my main notebook when necessary with all it's accessories. When traveling light I take my hand-crafted Italian leather attache that has a pocket big enough to fit my netbook alongside documents and other business essentials. Of course, when I'm traveling really light, all I take is my smartphone and maybe my netbook with no case at all.

1. Notebook

As my primary work tool, my notebook has become indispensable, especially since I am on the move and haven't owned my own desktop PC in close to 10 years. My weapon-of-choice of late was a 17" HP zd7000 which sadly had to be retired after 5 years. My current workhorse? A Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q708 - impressive indeed compared to what I had previously, and a worthy upgrade.

2. Netbook

Realizing their capabilities in my work, it was only natural that I complement my main machine with an easy-to-grab-and-go, lightweight travel companion. That role over the last two years has gone to my HP 2133 mini note. I can whip it under my arm effortlessly, keeping both hands free for coffee and handshakes. It handles all my software that I need for work when I'm away from home, yet without the bulk and size of my 17" notebook.

More recently, I've moved to a N570 Atom netbook in the form of the HP 210 Mini that I like to tote around in a Solo TCA511-4 netbook case. This $400 gem slaughters slates costing hundreds more in both productivity and entertainment, never mind its all-day battery and easy future upgrades. I can honestly say it's the best $400 I have ever spent.

3. Smartphone

I've been a Windows Mobile user since I got my first iPaq in my hands back in 2003. Since then, I've gone through 2-3 smartphones, with my current phone being the HTC Touch Pro 2. I just love the sliding keyboard for punching out SMS, but it's the connectivity I get that really shines, be it 3G, WiFi or bluetooth tethering. With it's wired remote control accessory, I also have a sophisticated mp3 player that beats anything else on the market.

4. Networking gear

It wasn't that long ago that I got comfortable with wifi and acquired my first wireless modem router. My solution for wireless is currently a Netgear WGR614 wireless-G router, tied to a Netgear DM111PSP DSL modem following my original Speedstream 5100 blow up. I keep my main notebook connected over Ethernet, while using my smartphone and netbook over wifi. It also gives me a guest network to use with evaluation gear. While I do miss out on the USB port, this two-device solution came in priced so ridiculously low (under $55 together) that it will fill my needs nicely until my internet service does change, at which time I can easily upgrade to newer, more sophisticated hardware.

More recently, I have obtained a Buffalo LS-WX6.0TL/R1 NAS daisy-chained via a Netgear GS605 switch. The combination allows me to not only perform fast full-system backups for my netbook/notebook, but host a media server for streaming movies/music over both my wired and wireless networks. Topping off the package, I get to configure my own personal cloud storage server for remote file access, negating the drawbacks of limited-capacity, slow and expensive paid services that would otherwise eat into my internet bandwidth.

5. Audio gear

I must have been only 9 years old when my parents got me my first ghettoblaster, a much-prized and babied Toshiba RT-200S. It's metal tape deck and full auto-reverse made it a great performer, as did it's RCA AUX input for later hooking up an extremely primitive Sanyo CD player looped through a Technics 14-band graphic equalizer. My super-expensive, see-thru TDK MA-XG tapes with the die-cast metal frame and stainless-steel rollers would always generate attention, especially when people felt how heavy those tapes were! Moving on, I then went to a more powerful Sony D715 midi HiFi system complete with a SCMS-free DTC-M100 DAT recorder - an impressive setup for it's time. And as amazing as some will believe, I still have this equipment with me, and everything to this day still works!

As much as I like to reminisce in audiophile nostalgia, today's technology has totally changed my audio equipment from my teenager days. I was blown away when I first saw how a tiny 8.9" netbook with Cool Edit Pro could replicate what used to take up an entire HiFi rack! Similarly, my drawer-full of music tapes now fits on a memory card smaller than my finger nail. In my car, I have a double-DIN JVC KW-AVX800 head unit paired with a 200W Kicker amp, connected to an 8" Kicker dual-voice-coil subwoofer and four 3-way Pioneer speakers. Whether I burn my music to DVD in wma/mp3 format, insert a SD card, carry a USB thumbdrive or use BT audio streaming - it's made both driving and music listening a lot more fun. At home, I use a JVC CA-FSSD550 micro system, it's AUX input handy for routing audio from my Touch Pro 2's cradle. Of course, my smartphone, notebook and netbook would not be complete without my no-nonsense Sony XB700 headphones - an incredible set of cans the likes of which make all other headphones I've ever owned in the last 30 years pale in comparison.

6. Accessories

I didn't have any notebook accessories at all when I bought my previous notebook back in 2004. That situation has changed greatly over the years, and my complement of add-ons has made my current 17" workhorse not only a better performer, but easier to use, more productive and less tiring. Chief among my extras is a Logitech M570 wireless trackball, replacing my retired Logitech Trackman Wheel of 6 years. Other accessories in my arsenal include a Zalman ZM-NC3000S notebook cooler, a no-name 7-port USB hub, a pair of Liteon eNAU108 external burners, and a 2.5" and 3.5" external hard drive - all usable with both my notebook and netbook. As for my smartphone, it's usefulness has been totally transformed since pairing it with an Energizer XP8000 external battery and the HTC RC E100 wired remote control.

7. Software

My main programs include the MS Office suite and Firefox as those are where I spend a lot of my time. Other software that I use are Cool Edit Pro for my audio work and Windows Media Encoder. For video I tend to favor a mixed bag of programs depending on whether I'm creating video (WinDVD Creator), copying (DVD Copy), encoding (WMEx64), transcoding (ArcSoft MediaEncoder) or ripping via freeware utilities. For PDF I use Acrobat Standard, have AVG set up for my anti-virus and maintain full-metal backups with Acronis True Image. My optical drive burning software is Nero, while my preferred choice for DVD movie software remains WinDVD. For mapping I use MS Streets and Trips along with Google Earth. Graphics is again a mixed bag with both Paint and GIMP getting equal use.

Of course, I wouldn't be a PC user if I didn't have any games installed. My collection is mostly older titles, since I've grown a little tired of spending $40 to do the same thing again. My games include Far Cry, Half Life 2, Doom 3, Need for Speed Most Wanted, GTR 2, Sim City 3000, Civilization IV, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006, Hoyle Casino 2008, X-Plane 9 and Microsoft Train Simulator. I like to play a wide variety, since I can easily switch pace if I get tired of any one, although I've replayed some of them more than once. These are all favorites of mine and I get hours of good fun out of them.

8. Future purchases

I'm a big movie buff, so setting up a good HTPC has been on my radar for quite some time. I might also consider a WHS box to use for remote streaming when I'm on the go. Finally, I'd like to go back to the desktop and assemble a performance workstation with all the bells and whistles. Of course, all this could change as technology evolves, and will depend mostly on how my budget and time allows.

Last updated: 11/21/2012