Tools of the Trade

This page serves as a frequently updated list of the computer systems I’m using in and around the house, stuff I rely on and trust for the most part. For more stuff we use around the house, see the pages on computer peripherals, software and web services and other gear. Stuff I’m just messing with is here.

(Last updated November 19, 2012)

The small guy

The Thinkpad X1 carbon

In November, 2012, I got sufficiently fed up with Apple missteps and rather intrigued by Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Carbon, so I officially flipped sides. The X1 Carbon weighs less than 3 pounds, has a 14″ high-res screen and comes wrapped in an absolutely gorgeous matte black carbon fiber shell. The keyboard and trackpad are also top notch. It’s running Windows 8, which is a whole other story, and needed a bunch of software tweaks to get power-user usable. The Thinkpad replaced my 13″ Macbook Pro acquired in October 2009. I blogged about my early impressions of the X1 Carbon on November 18, 2012.

Server on my TV

In June, 2010, I bought one of the latest and greatest Mac minis to hook up to the television for watching downloaded and streamed video from the Internet. It’s the super-powered server versions with 1 TB of hard disk storage. It’s connecting to our Samsung HDTV and has a Logitech diNovo Edge bluetooth keyboard (Mac edition). I blogged about connecting it to the TV on June 22, 2010.

Very small guy

macbook Air

One of Apple’s tiny gems, the 11″ MacBook Air, arrived in our household in December, 2011. Not technically a computer in use by me most of the time but one that our kids use. It’s a marvel of engineering and has great build quality, to be sure. And it’s light as a feather. But there’s not nearly enough screen real estate for my taste. Until some affordable and portable drives come out with Thunderbolt ports, there is no good way to augment the inadequate storage, either. For my work style and personal preferences, the MBA is more of an iPad Plus rather than a full blown laptop. Great for watching movies on an airplane, though.

Another kids’ computer

Three kids and every one is getting older and needing more computer time. Since I have gone all laptop, all the time, I’ve given over my former stalwart to the kids. It’s a mega massive 24″ iMac purchased back in January, 2007, running a 2.16 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor with a 500 GB hard drive and an Nvidia Geforce 7600 GT video card. At the end of 2007, I upped the RAM to the 3 GB max and it’s happily running OS X version 10.6.8. This was without a doubt one of the best Macs I ever owned. I posted a blog review of the iMac on Feb. 16, 2007. I blogged about upgrading to Leopard on December 7, 2007.

A trio of Windows boxes

Three windows computers in a row

Yes, we have Windows desktop computers in the house — plural. We built them all from various new and old bits, mostly obtained from Newegg.com or local retailers’ bargain bins. The oldest of the trio is the Asus barebones box, seen above at the far right. It was built in April 2007 based on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3600+ Brisbane chip running at 1.9GHz. It runs Windows Vista Home Premium.

Then in September, 2010, with the release of Civilization V imminent, we built a barebones Shuttle box running an Intel i5-661 CPU at 3.33GHz. It’s pictured in the center. But – whoops – not just dads and sons want to play Civ. Daughters are gamers, too. So we quickly built a third PC, pictured at left. It’s a slightly cheaper Shuttle box based with an AMD Phenom II X4 945 Deneb chip running at 3.0GHz. Don’t worry. Dad uses the “slow” system. Both systems run Windows 7 Home Premium.

I blogged about the older Asus on May 22, 2007, after trying to justify using Windows Vista on April 18. I blogged about building the 2010 systems on September 8, 2010.