January 14, 2014

Getting Things Done

To discuss the tools I use to get things done.

Often when I meet a new system administrator, the conversation of tools comes up.  Part of the fun of  being a consultant is learning new ways to get things done.  I have always wanted to collect this information into one place but the the closest thing we have to this idea on sagelike.com is "Windows 2008 R2 on a Laptop".  I have run into posts like this before, my favorite is probably @thurrott's "What I Use".  He updates his from time to time and I intend to do the same.

On Black Friday, I pulled the trigger on a late 2013 Retina MacBook Pro 13" 512 GB.  This is a paradigm shift for me as my whole career revolves around Microsoft Windows.  In the month that I have been using it, I am totally in love.  It is the first laptop that fits in my messenger bag laptop sleeve and I barely know it is there.  The battery life has routinely gone a full work day and the trackpad / gestures have changed the way I interact with applications.

That being said, my favorite computer is my Windows 7 virtual desktop that runs in the SageLike lab.  I have a constantly changing pool of non-persistent desktops of various OSs available but I most often use the persistent Windows 7.  Outlook 2010 is alway running along with Dropbox, ShareFile, and SkyDrive so the second I connect--everything is ready to go.  XenDesktop does a great job of adjusting the resolution to any form factor and I can get to it from any place that has ultranet connectivity.

For over a year, I have been enjoying the iPad 2.  Oddly, I rarely take it out of the house because I always carry a laptop.  There is something really enjoyable about surfing the web or reading email while kicked back on the couch.  My favorite book reader is an older e-ink Amazon Kindle which is an ideal unitasker.

I'm a year into the iPhone 5 and still happy with it.  The power button is starting to go but the rest of the phone is solid.  I want to complain about the battery life but if I honestly look at my typical day I should not be surprised.  My morning commute often involves streaming a podcast (see below) from the internet and then, via Bluetooth, to my car stereo while simultaneously running Waze to avoid traffic issues and speed traps.

They say the best camera is the one you have with you and that is certainly true of the iPhone 5.  It really takes amazing photos for its size and coupled with a variety of apps and internet access it is a total package.  The Canon EOS T3i is my choice for those less spontaneous moments.  I'm also a big fan of using the Patagonia Atom Bag as a camera bag.  It is not meant to be a camera bag which is kind of the point.  Nothing says 'expensive camera' like a big over-padded Canon bag hanging off your shoulder.  Besides being more discreet, the sling nature of the bag allows for quick access to retrieve or store your camera.

Stay tuned for a separate post on this subject.

Windows Software:
I still prefer Microsoft Office 2010 for professional document creation but I do have Office 2013 on some devices.  OneNote, also a part of the Office suite, is an app I can't live without.  OneNote contains five years of my notes, screenshots, white papers, and drawings.  They are organized by vendor and technology but a single search will span all sections.  OneNote does a great job of fitting all this information into 400 MB which syncs from computer currently via with Dropbox.

I also have a host of the typical admin tools like Citrix: GoToMeetingHDX Monitor, Print DetectiveReceiver, Scout, ShareFileXenCenter; Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Manager, Putty, WinSCP, VMware Virtual Infrastructure Client,

Macintosh Software:
There is a lot to be said about the default software that comes on every Mac.  iPhoto is an excellent built-in photo organizer and editor but this summer I standardized on Adobe Lightroom because of its dual platform support (Windows, Mac) and good reviews.  My hope is that Lightroom will give me the tools to organize the rapidly growing personal photo collection.  It has only been six months but I'm very happy with the progress.  On this same note, I've only tinkered with iMovie but managed to make an amusing trailer using photos taken over Christmas in twenty minutes.

I don't have enough storage for my music collection but iTunes Radio is nice to have built-in.  The same could be said about Messages being handy for communicating with my iFriends.  I prefer Google Chrome for browsing on all platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, iPad...).  The Microsoft Remote Desktop app is excellent for remoting to Windows machines.

There are many times when the Mac software ecosystem comes up short.  To solve that issue, I've been using VMware Fusion v6.  It is excellent and the ability to swipe back and forth between Mac and Window has changed the way I work.  I'm not sure if it is an issue with Mavericks or Fusion but it crashes every time I try to close the program--so for now, I don't.

I don't need three file syncing services but unfortunately that is where I am at today.  All three have their benefits and drawbacks.  Lewan Technology's corporate standard is Citrix ShareFile which works well because I like the robust file delivery options it provides.  Microsoft SkyDrive gives everyone 7 GB which is reason enough but the integration with Office Web Apps and the remote PC connectivity make me think that this is the best of breed.  Moving to SkyDrive means migrating everything out of my 5 GB Dropbox.  Besides the time I invested in referring people and building up to 5 GB, Dropbox just works and I completely trust it.

Since the death of my beloved Google Reader, I started using Feedly which is a slick replacement but the idea of pouring over RSS feeds seems old fashion.  My new methodology for keeping up with announcements, blog posts, and documentation is save them to Pocket.  Pocket is available across all my devices and provides a great interface to keep track of what I have read or watched and what I'll save for later.  These various links primarily come from Twitter but it works just as well if something comes in by email or even SMS.

I have tried a variety of task management systems but my current trusted system for getting things done is Nirvana.   It is web based (key for me) and also has an iPhone app.

I'm also a big fan of Amazon MP3 and Prime, Aereo, Flickr, Blogger, Delicious, IFTTT, and Twitter.

I do a lot of driving and podcasts are the key to my sanity.  Over the years it has become part of my routine and my main method of getting tech news.

Brian & Gabe Live - Ad-hoc audio of @brianmadden@gabeknuth, @jackmadden talking frankly
MacBreak Weekly - Apple news, ratholes, weekly picks
Old Tech News - Audio version of @ihnatko's various columns
Radiolab - science, philosophy, and the human spirit
TechNet Radio - Microsoft's highly scripted interview show typically centered around a product
TedTalks - "ideas worth spreading"
Windows Weekly - Microsoft news, software and beer picks

SageLike Post ID: SL0005