The Big Changes to My Tech Life in 2011

| Analysis

Every year, about this time, I get the urge to make changes to my computing life. It’s as if I struggle all year with problems that I don’t have time to fix, then when the holidays come along, I have a little extra time to change my life. Here are some of the things I’m changing for 2011.

MacBook Pro -> iMac. This was already done in October. My 1st generation Unibody MacBook Pro (Late 2008) with a C2D, just two cores and a slow hard disk just couldn’t keep up with all the multitasking and loads I was putting on it. Especially with Parallels. I was waiting on my computer far too often. So I sold it and acquired a new iMac with an i7, 8 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. Now, the computer is no longer the bottleneck in my work flow, and I can work faster. It’s a joy. And I still have an older MacBook Pro from 2006 and an iPad if I have to travel.

Apple Mail -> Outlook 2011. I have never been happy with Apple Mail ever since I deemed it necessary to give up on Eudora back in 2006. Recently, I reviewed Outlook 2011 as part of the Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 suite, and I liked it so much, I’ve decided to switch. But I’m not going to do it alone, and if all goes well, I’ll soon have an exciting announcement to make about that migration.


Safari -> Opera. I have also been taking a close look at the Opera 11 beta for a review, and I like what I see. I haven’t made a final decision, but what’s driving me is that I perceive Safari as a Bobby McFerrin type of browser: “Don’t worry, be happy.” Opera takes security, it seems to me, a little more seriously with respect to the interface with the user, and I like that. I also prefer the tab management in Opera 11.  So we’ll see how I feel after the full review.

Drag Thing -> PathFinder. There are about 20 core applications that I use daily in my workflow. In some cases, I need to be able to drag and drop graphics on them, but the Mac OS X dock became much too crowded for me. So I’ve created a very easy to see Drag Thing pad that showcases my favorite apps and allows that drag and drop. However, it does take up some room, and it’s awfully slow to launch even in the new iMac. So I’m thinking about an alternative. Maybe a special directory in PathFinder with icon view. I have PathFinder always open anyway. I’m still working on this.


Drag Thing

Magic Mouse -> Logitech Mouse. The Apple Magic Mouse is very cool and supports many of the new gestures. Like Jeff Gamet, I use it when I have a MacBook in my lap. However, for everyday use on the desktop, it doesn’t work so well for me. First, it’s too flat, so it doesn’t support my hand properly. I have a Logitech wireless mouse that fits my hand much better. Also, I hate it when I brush a finger sideways on the Magic Mouse and the screen scrolls sideways against my wishes. So I’ve switched back to my trusty Logitech V470 Cordless Laser Mouse.


Earbuds on iPhone -> Urbanear tanto. I use a very light pair of Sony headphones for Skype. But when I use my iPhone in my office, I need a headset with a mic. For awhile, I used an Aerial Chopper 2, but it was too heavy, and people on the other end complained about buzzing. I went back to the Apple earbuds, but I don’t exactly love them either. So I’m switching to the Urbanears tanto that has a microphone and can do double duty with Skype, cleaning up some of the wires on my desk.


Skype 2.8 -> Skype 5. I resisted this change, but finally decided that I didn’t like multiple windows scattered all over. Skype 5 takes some getting used to, but I like it because everything stays together in one Window. Functionally, I can’t find any difference in sound quality or app stability.

Incase Book Jacket -> NuGuard Shell for iPad. When I first bought my iPad, I thought that a book/folio-like cover was best because it would protect the iPad. Later, I found out that for around the home and home office, a cleaner, more minimalist case is better. After I reviewed the Newer Technology NuGuard Shell, I made the switch. I may be reviewing more cases like this one soon.


I am sure these are just some of the changes I’ll be making in 2011. As the technology changes, especially as we move to Mac OS X Lion, I expect even more drastic changes to my apps and workflow. What changes have you made for the better?

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Always look forward to your column John, congrats on the iMac!
Just got one myself, my son’s mini died so I gave him my 2.4ghz and picked up the 21” i3 with the 512 video. The i7 is just more than I need. The 21” is a fantastic machine with a beautiful display. I changed to the new trackpad, love it. Keep up the good work.


Virtually no small/flat mouse is good for the hand. The user rests their weight down on the carpal tunnel and tendons or keeps their fingers in a gripped position.

Ergonomically unsound.

I’ve used the AeroMouse for years since I developed CT and it has solved the problem. Have you seen it John?


A nice list. I also like to do end of year tech updates. A couple of things:

I agree with you on It’s adequate but the more I play with other clients the more limited it feels. We (work and home) don’t use Office so even if I was interested in Outlook I wouldn’t buy Office just to get it, but then I have no interest in using Outlook anyway so that’s fine. I would really like to read your take on Thunderbird. We’re using the latest Thunderbird for Windows at the office and with the Lightning plugin for calendaring it works quite well.

Skype5 I thought that was still beta. I’ll try upgrading and see what it looks like.

I’m surprised you were having trouble with Parellels on the Macbook Pro. I have a late 2008 Macbook, 2Ghz and 4Gb RAM, and it runs Windows in VirtualBox with no problem. I’ve even had multiple environments running simultaneously, 2 - XP and a Win7 in one case and the little marvel just keeps humming along. I haven’t noticed much slowdown or stuttering in videos, and I did all my Win7 Application testing on VB on the Macbook. Now you may be doing more processor intensive things than I was, I’m not doing serious compiling or anything like that.

John Martellaro

Tiger:  Very cool.  I’ll see if I can review it!  Thanks.


I’ve been testing Opera 11 too.  In fact, I am using it now.  I like it: its speed, the sophistication of its tab function, its security.  However, when it comes to security and privacy, Firefox with Noscript and BetterPrivacy installed is still much the best.  It is my hope that the new extensions feature of Opera 11 will permit some third party to bring extensions to Opera that equal the security of BetterPrivacy and Noscript.  Opera 11 does have an extension for controlling javascripts, NotScripts, but NotScripts isn’t as effective as NoScript in letting me control javascripts.  But in a choice between Safari and Opera 11, Opera wins for me.

Also, I avoided the initial iPad, because it lacked certain features.  It looks like Apple will fix all of that in 2011, so I expect to get a second generation iPad, once Apple releases it to the market.

Lee Dronick

iPhoto -> Aperture

I downloaded the demo a few weeks ago and I love it. So when wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas I told her Aperture. I will be without if for 8 days from when the demo runs out and Christmas.


OK, I tried Skype5. It’s beta, you can tell it, it’s terrible. I’ve gone back to 2.8.

My biggest complaint was that they got rid of the little 1"x2” list of contacts that I could keep in the corner of the screen. Now every contact has their photo and lots of space around it. The list took up a 4"x6” box on my screen. It also puts live contacts at the top and the ones that are not online and phone numbers at the bottom. Utterly useless. I want to see all my contacts with a green light or black X in order at one glance.

John I find it unusable. I cannot believe you’re going to upgrade. 15 minutes of fiddling with it to try to get it to act like I wanted and I gave up. It is truly, truly awful.


You obviously like clutter and busy-ness in your life.

John Martellaro

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?”
—Albert Einstein

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