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    Top Ten Technologies of 2013

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    These are technologies that I actually use, they exclude web tools and services which I do a separate top ten for. They are generally tools that make my life easier, more efficient and more productive.

    Having changed jobs in 2013, this has made the list a little more interesting as the technologies I used over the year did change quite a bit.

    Missing from this list is BT Infinity FTTC which made the list for the last three years, not that it doesn’t exist anymore, I moved in 2012 and am now connected to the only cabinet on my exchange that won’t be upgraded to FTTC. As a result I am stuck on a very slow 1-2Mb ADSL connection.

    Here are my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

    10. The iPhone 5S is a new entry and I’ve only had it a couple of months. It certainly is one of the best smartphones I have ever used. It is a big improvement over the older iPhones, not as much an upgrade over the 4 as I was hoping though. It isn’t perfect and it has crashed on me a fair few times since I’ve had it. I do like the new camera, but the one thing that has taken a lot of getting use to, was the new interface that came with the launch of iOS 7. I found this to be a big change and quite a steep learning curve in changing the way I use to things on my older iPhone.

    9. Another new entry at number nine. I used a Samsung 50” Plasma Screen a lot this year for training and presentations. On a mobile trolley with a Mac mini underneath it was an ideal presentation machine. Air Server on the Mac mini allowed me to use AirPlay to mirror my iPad or the MacBook. It was much easier to use than a projector with small groups, and much brighter and clearer. Moving jobs this was one piece of kit I really did miss when I started my new job.

    8. Sticking at number eight is the iMac. It is my workhorse computer, the one I do big things on such as movie editing, managing my photography collection, writing, large spreadsheets, desk top publishing and so much more. It is very much my truck when it comes to computing, but it isn’t that portable… When I changed jobs in the Autumn I lost my work iMac and started off using an Acer Windows 7 PC with a 17” screen… I can tell you I certainly noticed the difference.

    7. In my old job I had the iPhone 4 and to be honest though I would have liked an upgrade, I didn’t need one, it did a fantastic job and I was sorry handing it back (which is the main reason it drops a place to number seven). The camera was excellent, and great for taking stills and video. The retina display still astounds me in terms of the visual quality. It was fast enough and apps opened smoothly, for a phone that is now over three years old

    6. The Google Nexus 7 is my sixth choice. If I didn’t have an iPad and was ensconced into the iTunes ecosystem of apps, music and films, then it would be higher. I really like the form factor, it just works, in the main as it fits in my jacket pocket. As a result when going out I have access to a tablet device and don’t need to carry a bag, which I would need to do if I took the iPad.

    One issue I have with the Nexus 7, well the version I have, is the lack of 3G, so I need to use wifi; it’s not too bad as I then use the Google Nexus One for tethering or free wifi in coffee shops. I would also have appreciated a rear facing camera. The screen is great and movies, books and apps look really good. The main downside for me is writing on the tablet, as the on screen control buttons are at the bottom of the screen, when I type I find that too often I hit the “home” button and drop out from what I was typing. It is well ensconced into the Google ecosystem, so great for Mail, Google+ and Google Docs.

    5. The 15” MacBook Retina from my old job was an excellent piece of kit, mainly for the beautiful screen, using other devices really showed me how much I appreciated the retina screen on this laptop.

    4. Though I liked using the Apple TV for playing and streaming my iTunes content and showing photographs on my Mac, what I liked more was been able to stream content from my iPad and the MacBook Retina to my television. Having lost FTTC one aspect of the Apple TV I do miss was the ability to stream content I had purchased direct (again) without having to download it again, or move it back into iTunes. I think the Apple TV could do with apps, where is BBC iPlayer for example? Also no 4OD or ITVPlayer. If the Apple TV had these apps then it would be even better than before. The lack of apps does curtail the use of the Apple TV if you don’t have an iOS device, but is almost a critical extra fore presentations if you do have an iOS device. There was a new Apple TV released in 2012 which plays 1080p content, mine is the previous model to this which does 720p content. Not sure if I would notice the difference, so didn’t upgrade. It looks like there might be a new model in 2014, wonder then if I would ugprade?

    3. Climbing four places to number three is my good old Google Nexus One, which is four years old this year! The main reason I like it is the portable wireless hotspot (wifi tethering) that came with the Froyo 2.2 update. It’s not perfect, I do find that the OS is not as stable as I think it should be, it also doesn’t keep time well. However as a phone for making phone calls, it works very well. One of the reasons it has climbed so many places, was that I retired my iPhone 3GS at the beginning of 2013 and started to use the Google Nexus One as my personal mobile phone (I had an iPhone 4 for work and when I changed jobs I got an iPhone 5S, hence the reason for three phones in the top ten).

    I have made extensive use of the phone as not only a phone, but also as a smartphone (using apps) and for tethering.

    I am expecting it to fall apart at some point, but I still get great battery life, decent coverage with EE (better than the iPhone 5S on Vodafone as it happens) and it just works. I keep meaning to upgrade it, but never get round to it. There are some issues, the main one is phone memory, too many apps rely on being installed on the phone’s memory, which is quite limited, and as a result I am unable to install many new apps. It is also now limited to Android 2.3.6 so not KitKat for me!

    2. Dropping a place is the iPad. This device I use every day, from checking that the trains are still running first thing in the morning, to reading books before I go to sleep. It is such a useful and versatile device. I use it extensively for e-mail, calendars and general browsing. There are various apps I use on are regular basis and many more than I use now and again. Airplay is a great technology which I used a lot in 2013 for mirroring and streaming video.

    I do think the iPad is a great piece of technology for conferences and events and wrote quite a lengthy piece on how it could be used to support the amplification of a conference.

    Certainly compared to using a large laptop, an iPad is a much better device for using on the train, more so on those trains that don’t have tables. It is also a great way of doing stuff in a café or on the sofa.

    Blogging on the iPad is still a bit hit and miss for me. There are still a fair few things that I do on a regular basis that the iPad makes it more challenging compared to a device with a regular keyboard. I have used my Bluetooth keyboard with my iPad, but not always an ideal situation, for example when travelling on a train (the iPad keeps falling over).

    When it came out in 2010 it made my top ten for that year, I did ask though “So my number one technology for 2010 is Apple’s iPad, I wonder if it will still be in my top ten next year?” This was a honest assessment, as experience of other mobile technologies I had used previously rarely got extensive use after a while, usually because of too many limitations. I do think that it is indicative of the success of the iPad that it is still in my top ten for four years, but it has dropped a place. Does that say something?

    1. Jumping to the top spot is the 11” MacBook Air, this is an amazing piece of kit and an ideal technology for working whilst travelling. I used an older one for a while in my old job, but in my new job I have the latest version. It’s a really superb piece of kit. It’s fast, well it has an SSD inside, it’s light, the battery still lasts a decent amount of time (the 13” had a much better battery life, but the 11” is a lot more portable). It is the laptop I take with me to events and conferences. I think I probably could survive with the iPad for most events, however on the train and at the events I find I am typing a lot more. One reason for using a “proper” laptop with a “proper browser” is that some websites, including my WordPress blogs, don’t work particularly well on mobile Safari, and I’ve still yet to find an iOS app that works the way I need it to for WordPress. So though I really like the iPad, it doesn’t always do what I need and how I want to do it, for those reasons I use the MacBook Air.

    So what were your top technologies for last year?

    One Response to “Top Ten Technologies of 2013”

    1. Nick Sharratt says:

      For me, last year was dominated by a shift to using the iPad mini as my main mobile device rather than the iPad 3. The ability to fit it in my coat pocket or even back pocket rather than carrying a small shoulder bag gave me a greater feeling of being liberated from the burdon of carrying anything while still being entirely connected and enabled to do anything I needed to do.

      Close 2nd would be the iPhone 5S which fills the gaps when even getting the iPad mini out of my pocket is a bit too much hassle. The larger screen and better speed and ease of use with iOS 7 too has worked great.

      3rd would be the Apple TV – I swapped my earlier 720p model with a 1080p model with someone who wanted to be able to jail brake it to put on the other apps (the old model can still be done where as the newer couldn’t) and I do notice the slight improvement in display on a 50″ screen, but mostly it has been the increased quality of podcasts and YouTube channel conten which I find the Apple TV gives me a very nice experience of and which means I use it almost as much as I watch “normal” TV from Sky HD now.

      4th is the light wave home automation I have put in – for example, the ability to have my bedroom light slowly brighten just before the alarm is due to go off makes waking in the morning nicer, the ability to simulate being home with lights going on and off etc, and the ability to change the mood of all the lights and devices when switching to movie watching (including fading the lights, turning on the surround sound, etc) – all controllable from a recently updated and now much better app on the iPhone.

      5th – a hover bar for the iPad – I mostly use this while watching F1 to have the various iPads positioned just right to be showing the various data feeds in the same eye line as the TV.

      6th – nearly forgot, the various small portable SSD disks I have now which I use when video editing on the iMac which absolutely fly compared to physical spinning disks.

      7th – Blue Yeti mic and swing arm, vibration isolation mount and pop shield which I invested in for the audio recording I was doing a lot of last year gives a really rich quality almost studio worthy sound even when recording in my living room.

      8th – the new apple ear buds which took a bit of getting used to as I found they tickled my ears a bit (and they still fall out of my ears just a bit too easily), give a really nice sound quality while allowing some ambient sound still to be heard which is exactly what I want when walking around listening to music so I’m not isolated from the world and particularly traffic noise when crossing roads etc.

      9th – Magic Mouse and induction charging for te iMac. The ability to have the benefits of a gestures on a trackpad with the form factor of a mouse and the “always charged” benefit of having an induction plate to leave it on has finally met most of what I want from human computer interface (although, I have a couple of things I’ve started using this year which I’ll mention next!)

      For 2014 – I have a few things I’m going to list as things I’m already using and expect to be on the same list for this year:

      1st – Leap Motion – I bought this on a whim in Maplins last weekend and I’m already sold on it. It works amazingly accurately and for the right uses, it’s the most natural intuitive HCI I’ve ever experienced, and with free software which allows customisation however you like.

      2nd – a small blue tooth control I can use to allow me to leave my iPhone in a safe pocket while still able to change tracks/volume/pause etc when walking in the rain and even when carrying things in both hands has already proven itself a delight, especially with all the rain so far!

      3rd – a razor gaming mouse. Yes, I listed the Magic Mouse above as working well, but for game playing, the 10 macro buttons on the side and profiling the mouse mat to have a really responsive experience is working well.

      One tech on my list of disappointments for 2013 – Izon camera. I bought one to allow me to remotely monitor my flat when away from home and every time I have tried to use it, the camera has crashed soon after and wouldn’t reconnect until you physically unplug it, which completely defeats the object.

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