Technology is a wonderful thing when it works. So when you can use it to save money, reduce your carbon foot print, or just complete your daily tasks at work or home in less time it’s even better. Since my first article on upgrading my laptops memory I haven’t written anything else on getting the most out of existing mobile technology.
Well, today that’s going to change. Today I’m writing about how I use my gadgets on a regular basis and how it saves me time and money.
Currently my main use of technology is for communication between my job and personal life. This entails the usual phone calls, email, SMS and organizing of schedules. Some of the other uses are research, blogging, and general organization and let’s not forget entertainment.
The hardware listed below is what I’m using right now. It’s not the latest and greatest but possesses enough power and performance with all the features to fulfill my currently needs.
• HP Pavilion dv9260us Notebook PC
• HP Photosmart C6180 All-in-One Printer
• Apple iPhone (16GB)
• Apple iPod Classic (160GB)
• Sony PlayStation Portable
Most of these devices communicate with each other by some form of wireless technology. I access the internet via WiFi so I can go wherever I feel more comfortable at the time; which us usually the couch. The laptop and printer are connected to each other via Bluetooth which is still within range of the couch. My iPhone although it syncs audio and video via a USB cable only (Thanks Apple); my calendars, contacts and email are all updated wirelessly via Gmail, MobileMe and Microsoft Exchange. If the latter sounds a little redundant let me explain. I used Gmail for personal email long before I purchased an iPhone and have no intention of making all those changes from one service to another. MobileMe like Steve Jobs stated is “Exchange for the rest of us”. It’s not perfect and is still in it’s infancy but so far for me it has done a good job of keeping all my calendars and contacts up to date while also giving me push email. This has also made it super easy for my wife and I to add, change, or update appointments or contacts on the fly from any one of the devices or any PC connected to the internet and updating all the devices automatically. Last, but not least, my job uses Microsoft Exchange for email so I don’t have any choice in that department. Having both the laptop and iPhone always in sync with each other has saved me a lot of aggravation and time over the past few months. This setup also hasn’t given me any problems with either Mobile Me or Microsoft Exchange being on the iPhone at the same time.
Entertainment is the primary function of the iPhone and iPod when I want to tune out all other distractions, so naturally the laptop is also the central hub for all my mobile audio and video needs. To manage and transfer all my media I use iTunes and then run Remote on the iPhone via a WiFi connection to control what’s playing without having to remain in front of the laptop.
For the occasional times that I use the PSP for movies or music, a simple drag drop of the media I want from the laptop to a MemoryStick Duo card is no problem at all.
Then there’s the built-in Windows Media Center software and the included HP Digital Tuner ExpressCard. This combination allows me to view or record digital television for later consumption at my convenience. Currently this setup has proven to be a much better solution for me than purchasing a separate DVR.
Most if not all of these uses are quite common for many tech users. So it should come as no surprise when I say that I create digital photo albums of family, friends, etc. and load them onto my iPhone for showing instead of carrying physical pictures. Photos taken get onto the laptop either when I sync my iPhone or from my wife’s digital camera via an SD card. No more lost pictures or old, damaged photos in my wallet. If I need to make prints I just send the photo to the printer from the laptop or load the SD card directly into the printer. This eliminates 99% of my need to go to a photo shop.
Other than listening to music or watching a movie on my iPhone there’s nothing like reading a good book to pass the time while on a lengthy commute. To fill this need the iPhone has turned out to be a very good ebook reader. I’ve been reading ebooks back since my old Palm OS days so choosing eReader by Palm Digital Media was a no brainer. Carrying my entire library or just the books I haven’t read yet without any added weight or bulk is plus. But it doesn’t end there, I also started listening to audiobooks which has also turned out to be a really nice treat. Being able to listen to a book and still get some work done or merely close my eyes and enjoy the narrator reading is an added bonus. I’ve been able to find many of the classics for free online and most ebooks are cheaper than their printer counterparts.
Blogging is new for me and the inspiration to write usually comes when you least expect it. WordPress for iPhone has really come in handy. The ability to store articles locally on the iPhone until I’ve completed and published them is great for blogging on the go when i don’t have a data connection.
Having a data connection has become a service I can’t live without now. My best example of how convenient it has become was when my wife and I were out with the kids one day. During dinner we decided to treat them to movie. Using Fandango I was able to find and purchase tickets before the food got to the table. After dinner I then used the Maps application to find the quickest route to the theater. Any other means of accomplishing that task would have to have waited until after dinner and taken much longer.
There’s also the sometimes mundane task of general file keeping which has been made easier using my laptop. I try to keep the amount a paper I need to store at home to a minimum. Using the printer to scan documents for long term archiving is a big help. Important receipts, documents, etc are all scanned and saved to the laptop then finally to a CD when it can be filled in one shot. For printed information I may need as a reference when away from my files and to cumbersome for the Notes app is scanned then transferred to my iPhone for anytime access.
Finally, there’s the ultimate flash drive; the iPod. Having 160GB of storage means not only can I store files but I can also keep backups of important software for when things go really bad and then some.
These are just some of the ways I use my gadgets. Nothing new but each one has saved me money and time. For those two reasons alone anyone looking to use technology more efficiently should start by looking to eliminating the use of paper as much as possible. That’s the key area of making better use of any PC and smartphone combination.