When people find out you work “with computers”, you start getting asked for recommendations for various tools (regardless of whether these tools relate to whatever your “with computers” job encompasses). Here’s my list!

Hardware

  • Dell XPS 15 laptop
  • At desk: Cherry MX-Board 3 keyboard, Logitech MX518 mouse
  • Sony XB550 headphones
  • MacBook Air

Since that is a mechanical keyboard, it is loud – loud enough to get comments from people when I’m talking to them on the phone. I’m close to switching back to non-mecahnical just for that reason, but I do love the action when I’m typing. The Dell laptop is probably more powerful than I need. I love the screen. My major complaint is the placement of the camera - below the screen rather than on top. I love my MacBook Air (I’m using it right now!) but the screen isn’t high res.

Both my laptops cost around $2,000 each. Do you need a $2,000 laptop? Probably not (I probably don’t need one either!) The most important thing when getting a laptop is to (a) back it up, and (b) get a support plan that aligns with your uptime requirements. If something happens to my laptop that renders it unusable, I need it back up and running by the next day. So that’s the support plan I have. If you rely on your computer to make a living, I’d recommend such a plan.

Software and services

  • Dropbox - this does exactly one thing well, which is file replication across devices. I use Dropbox to quickly move files to multiple devices.
  • MS Office suite - we use Word and Excel to produce reports for our clients, so that’s what I use there. Because we often have multiple people working on the same report at the same time, we use SharePoint for document storage and collaboration. I have many complaints about SharePoint, but it’s the best solution given our specific needs.
  • TripIt and Uber - I use these for out-of-town travel, and both services really make me feel like I’m living in the future.
  • Instant messaging - WhatsApp is what we standardized on in our extended family, and I love it. At work we’re using MS Teams now and it’s good, and getting better with every update.
  • Video conferencing - Zoom, no contest. Incidentally, thanks to Teams and Zoom, I rarely have to use my “old-fashioned” VoIP desk phone anymore!