Lately, friends, knowing me as a Tech Freak, have been inquiring AND wondering what kind of hardware and software I must have running around at home.
Since giving up my shop in Fgura, I have naturally been left with loads of stuff, but what is of interest to all is the hardware I use at home. Sadly, I seem to err…have grown a bit, and my games needs have flown out of the window.
So does that mean that I’m using a bog-standard vanilla PC to get by with my computing needs? Not on your nelly!
Let’s describe my set-up. My main PC is an Athlon64 with 6Gig Ram, 500Gig of internal Hard-Disk, and a recently purchased 1.5 Tb external Hdd. The PC is connected via Wi-Fi to a router providing access to the outside world. A DVD-RW, multi-card reader and of course, a cordless notebook-style keyboard/mouse combination complete the set. The video card is an nVidia8600 1Gb Ram unit, connected to my 50inch Samsung Plasma TV via HDMI cable. The sound goes to a ‘classic’ NAD60 amplifier, delivering beautiful playback to a pair of huge Sony NSW-D350 speakers. These, my friends, are the bees knees! I want to be buried in one of these speakers when I die and am cremated. Naturally I also have the media centre remote-control…
The PC case is a beautiful set-top box, designed like a hi-fi system. Friends have difficulty in understanding that this is a computer and not a stereo system…but there you go.
All this stuff is complemented by a Samsung BDP-1500 Blu-Ray player and cable TV, arguably the weakest link in the system.
The software driving this system is extremely cheap and cheerful. I tend to go for freeware and open-source software. About the only thing I have paid a high price for is WindowsXP. The reason I use XP (in a dual-boot system) is to ensure compatibility with my kids’ learning environment at school. Otherwise I use Ubuntu as a free, solid, operating system.
For Office work I have two options. First is OpenOffice, by Sun. It’s fast, free, and offers all I need. The other is AbiWord, an oldie but goodie. I have no intention of ever installing Microsoft Office. The latest incarnations are hideous, to say the least.
For internet browsing, I am a Google Chrome man. Sometimes, but vary rarely, I fall back on Firefox. IE is a no-show on my system. Facebook and the free Live Writer are my main items for keeping in touch with friends, and now, blogging.
I have Calibre installed to transfer my files to my SONY PRS500 ebook reader. As an Acrobat reader I use Foxit, and for PDF creation, OpenOffice provides native PDF documents. Needless to say, the above programs are all FREE! As in 0 Euros. Not free by pirating. Legally Free!
For my guitar playing I have GuitarPro, another software that I purchased. This is by far the best music-creation software I have ever seen.
Image editing is next on the list. Photoscape (free) is my choice of quick and dirty image editing. However for serious creation and manipulation I use Paint Shop Pro exclusively. My purchases stopped at ver9.0 since it more than provides me with all the tools I need. I cannot understand the craze here in Malta for Photoshop… probably because it can be found for free on various torrents. 90% of people use 5% of Photoshop’s capabilities…silly really.
But why am I writing about productivity software when this machine is connected to some seriously cool hardware?
So let’s go to that bit. I use the free Media Player Classic (utilising the Combined Community Codec Pack) for watching videos (mainly mkv), and Winamp for playing music.
FFDecoders translate the data to images and sound, and I can tell you, watching a movie on this beast is nothing short of spectacular!
Sometimes, but very rarely, I hit the Windows Media Center software, but not enough to make an impact. I have ripped all my DVDs onto my hard-disks, together with my one thousand CD albums. I have not purchased a ‘physical CD’ for ages. I usually get them from Play on a download basis.
So just lie back on the nice comfy leather sofa, prop-up your legs on the coffee table, and turn that volume up!
(PS…I’m not going to mention all the gadgets I use from day to day… my iPhone, without which life would be unbearable… my PSP, or the GPS which is brilliant, saves me looking for addresses on errands. Or my lovely Inspiron1545 notebook… as well as the kids’ MSI Book PC and Acer Travelmate notebook. Should I include our iPod nanos? My younger daughter strangely favours my little 10inch Macbook laptop. For games I have a Sony Playstation 2, which is enough for me.)
As can be seen, most of the software used from day-to-day is absolutely free. I purchased XP, GuitarPro and PaintShopPro and Microsoft Flight Sim 9. And that’s about it!