Tech essentials for the office and when on the road
When you think of tech it's easy to think of the big sticker items such as PCs and smartphones and tablets and such. But the small things can also make a huge difference.
Here's a tour of some of the things that I take for granted, but which work hard for me every day, and without them I wouldn't be able to do as much as I do each and every day.
Here you'll get to see some of the tools, batteries, chargers and other gear I personally use on a daily basis.
On my desk I have an assortment of mice and keyboards and trackpads that all take their life-force from AA batteries. Being conscious of my impact on spaceship earth, I'm loathed to power these devices with batteries that are going to get chucked away. That said, I've bought enough cheap rechargeable batteries to know that unless you buy these wisely, they too can end up on the scrapheap.
My current battery of choice is the Panasonic Eneloop Pro. I like these for two reasons:
- They offer plenty of kick
- You can charge them and put them away, and after a year they will still hold around 85 percent of their charge
Unlike other rechargeable batteries that claim you can charge then a thousand times or more, the Eneloop Pro only lasts for 500 charge cycles, but that still means that if I charged them up twice a week, they'd still last for almost 5 years, which is a lot longer than most have lasted me in the past.
Price: Around $20 for 4 x AA
Not only do I have AA and AAA batteries that I need to keep charged up, but I also make use of 18650 Li-ion batteries in my high-powered LED flashlights. Because I don't like doubling up on chargers I've standardized on the Nitecore Intellicharger i4.
Not only can this recharge a staggering array of different batteries, but there's a version that comes with a handy car cord to keep things charged up when I'm on the road.
Price: Around $20
Owning more devices means needing to find ways to keep them charged up when out and about. I recently upgraded my old dual-USB in-car charger for a triple-USB unit from EasyAcc (that link is to an older unit featuring 1.0A, 2.0A, and 2.4A outputs, but if you search Amazon you'll find the updated version) that features two 2.1A output port and one 2.4A port capable for charging up three tablets simultaneously.
Price: Around $16
No matter how many ports I have on a system, it's never enough. Gone are the days when a simple USB hub is enough, I now sport an OWC Thunderbolt 2 dock on my Mac mini, which sports a whole array of ports, all connected to the Mac mini via a single USB cable.
This is a totally awesome piece of kit.
Gone are the days where my desk used to be littered with unlabeled cables and chargers. It takes a few minutes to pop a label on a cable or charger, but that saves an awful lot of time down the line.
I use the Dymo LabelManager 420P for my labeling needs. It does everything I need, plus more! I especially like the fact that it takes industrial quality vinyl labels which can withstand harsh conditions.
My trusty Leatherman Wave is a constant companion of mine. This has taken apart (and rebuilt) everything from PCs to engines.
Splendid piece of kit.
Price: Around $80
Cables… lots of cables
I make sure that I have ample spare cables for charging stuff both at home, in the office, and when on the road. I used to have to shop around for good deals or to find decent quality stuff, but lately I've settled for Amazon Basics cables. They're cheap yet well made and come in a good selection of lengths.
I generally find myself working in less than ideal conditions. No matter whether I'm repairing a PC, fixing a network cable, or diagnosing some other random problem I'm always struggling to get light on what I'm doing.
For a few years now I've been relying on LED flashlights and headlamps. They offer a powerful light and last a very long time. But they have one drawback — the light the LEDs give off has a blue cast and this can make it hard to identify colors. This isn't a problem when dealing with screws and such, but when I'm dealing with cabling or wiring, it can sometimes be challenging to tell some colors apart.
This is why I've made the switch to the ArmyTek Wizard Pro XM-L2 Warm. This ticks all the boxes for me:
- Very variable light output — From a firefly more to one that feels like "Superman's laser beam melt your face off" mode
- Choice of batteries — I can either use two disposable CR123A lithium cells or one 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable cell
- It's hard anodized to take bumps and knocks
- The LED color output is a neutral 4000K which means colors look far more normal
- It features an impact-resistant glass lens with sapphire with anti-reflection coating
- The supplied headband is comfortable
With more and more smartphones and tablets about than ever, there's a good chance that you will need to get inside one of these at some point. But the problem is, most post-PC devices are put together with such tight tolerances — not to mention copious amounts of adhesive — that opening them up without doing more damage is nearly impossible unless you have the right tools. Don't think you can just stick a knife blade into the gap between a screen and the body of the device to lever it apart — you'll end up breaking the screen, the blade, or more than likely, both!
What you need is iFixit's iOpener. This is a kit containing all the tools you need to open even the most tightly put together devices such as Apple's iPad, Microsoft's Surface, or the Motorola Moto X.
This kit contains:
- iOpener – An ingenious pad which you heat in a microwave oven and use to melt the adhesive
- Plastic Opening Tools
- iFixit Opening Picks set of 6
- Small Suction Cup
- Plastic Cards
- Phillips #000, Phillips #00, Phillips #0, Torx T5, Sim Eject, and Magnetic Pickup screwdriver bits and driver
This is an absolutely indispensable kit for anyone wanting to repair smartphones and tablets.