My Tech Picks (Spring 2018)

Wow! It’s been a whole year since I did a Tech Picks post! As always, there’s been a few changes but a lot has also stayed the same. If you’re curious about the technology I use on a daily basis, here’s the breakdown:

Computer Platform:  Windows PC – As expected, Windows is still my platform of choice. As much as I miss my old iMac, Apple desktops are just not viable for gamers at this time. Windows remains a solid and stable option, but they continue to baffle me with off-the-wall decisions and wishy-washy business choices. I’ve been both a PC and a Mac owner, and I can tell you without hesitation, the only thing keeping me on the PC platform is upgrade-ability and the level of customization that a PC provides.

OS: Windows 10 ( 64 bit Version 1803) – Just in time for this post, Microsoft has signed off on the latest version of Windows 10. This version, officially known as “Windows 10 Spring Creator’s Update” is very similar to previous version. One of the biggest changes is the introduction of the new “timeline” task switcher, which is very similar to the “continuity” feature Apple offers in OS X. There’s a few UI and cosmetic improvements that some users will notice, but most of the big changes in this release are under-the-hood. While the official release is not until 4/10/2018, build 1733.1 has been signed-off internally by Microsoft as the “gold” release. It is available through the insider channel now, and should be rolled out to most users in the coming weeks.

Hardware: If you’re a frequent reader to this site, you’ll know that I recently built a whole new rig from the ground up. Despite the huge Meltdown/Spectre ordeal, I’ve remained in the Intel camp. My new box is as follows:

CPU: Intel i7 8700k @ 3.7ghz (4.7 turbo)

Mainboard: ASUS Prime Z370-A

Physical RAM:  16gb

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)

Sound: SoundBlaster Z

Storage:  Main:  Western Digital Blue NAND SSD 500GB     Secondary:  Two Seagate 2TB Hybrids “Firecuda”

Media:  External DVD RW &  USB Memory Card reader

Power: 750 watt PSU

Monitor: ViewSonic VX2457-MHD 24″ (2ms 1080p FreeSync Gaming Monitor)

Mobile: Android  – Google Pixel XL 2 (Android Oreo 8.1) – Since my last post I have upgraded from the original Google Pixel to the Pixel 2 XL . Overall, I’m very pleased with the phone, but truthfully, if I could do it again I’d probably have chosen the regular Pixel 2. This phone is just a TAD too big for my taste and the I feel like the screen on the Pixel 2 is a bit better. But, I was able to jump on a deal and I managed to get a couple hundred bucks off on a new phone, so I took the plunge.

Tablet: Microsoft Surface – No change here. My personal needs for a tablet are very limited. I mainly only use a tablet for reading comic books and doing some light searching while in the living room. For my purposes, the original Windows RT surface is perfect.

e-Reader: Kindle Paperwhite – No change.  The Kindle Paperwhite is an elegant and universal option that serves my needs perfectly. Yes, there are newer Kindle options available. But the Paperwhite remains my go to device.

Virtual Digital Assistant: Google – I make full use of the Google Assistant that is available on my Pixel.  This is true both in speech and with the Google Assistant chat bot. I use my phone for 100% of these needs. MS has made some headway with Cortana on this newest release of Windows and even the version of Cortana available on Android has seen some considerable improvements. But at this time, I can find no reason to switch from Google Assistant to Cortana or any other AI.

Web Browser: Chrome– While Microsoft continues to improve Edge with each new version of Windows, it still lags behind almost every other browser available. The newest version of Firefox offers some compelling features, but Chrome continues to be my browser of choice.

Search: Google – Google remains my go-to for searches. I’m not a fan of some recent changes made to Google Images, but I still tend to get the best results from Google compared to other engines.

Email and Calendar: Google/Gmail – Widely supported and extremely efficient. Google works for me and I have no qualm with Advertising ID sharing or any other aspects of Google’s business model.

Office Suite: Microsoft Office 2016 – Nothing beats it. As far a desktop application suite, Microsoft office is the best.

Cloud Storage: OneDrive and Google Drive – As a Windows and Office user, I’ve found OneDrive to be a very convenient online storage solution. It integrates well into both Windows and Office 2016. OneDrive works great with Android and other platforms as well. These days, I use OneDrive mainly for PC Back ups, and I use Google Drive for photos and general storage. But, both are within arm’s reach at any time.

PC Gaming Services: Steam – No change. For PC games, I’m pretty much a Steam only guy. I have recently been making more and more purchases on GoG.com due to their vast catalog of retro games. But nine out of ten purchases are still done on Steam.

Music Management:  MusicBee – No change here either. I have a large digital music library, all tagged and sorted. To manage such a huge collection, I need the help of software. MusicBee is my music manager for the desktop. It integrates with my phone and makes it easy to transfer files to Google Play Music on my device.  For streaming, I use Google Play Music, Sirius XM and IHeartRadio. I still keep and maintain a local MP3 collection, but I enjoy the vast stream-able library that Google Play Music offers – I turn to the other services for live media.

Wearables: Fitbit Blaze–  I’ve recently upgraded from my old Fitbit Charge HR to a Fitbit Blaze. I like the functionality of guided exercise routines and the ability to receive text message notifications. I do predict at some point I’ll have to look into something else. I’m feeling the call the Smart Watch… We’ll see how long I can resist.

Home Gaming Consoles:  Currently at our house we own the following: Nintendo SwitchWii U, PlayStation 3 (First Gen), PlayStation 4, Xbox 360  (and there’s a spare Wii in the closet).

Mobile Gaming: Both my children and I have a Nintendo 3DS. I also have an old PSP.

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