Welcome to another installment of "What I Use to Do What I Do," the series in which people talk about how they use hardware and software in all parts of their life -- and what tech they love and hate. Today, we've got someone who splits his time between teaching and blogging -- and splits his use between OS X and Windows 10, thanks to a suite of cloud-based tools.
Who are you?
I'm Joseph Cheung. I'm in Boston, Massachusetts. I teach high school science by day, and when I can find time outside of parenting two little kids, I write and podcast about saving money on travel using frequent flyer miles with a family-leaning bent by night. (And you can follow me on Twitter here.)
Describe your current hardware set-up: What kind of desktop or laptop computer(s) do you work on and what operating system are they running?
At school, I'm using a 13" MacBook Pro (mid-2012) loaner that was issued to me. It's running OS X version 10.9.5. At home, I use a Dell XPS 8300 that a friend built for me five years ago. The machine's had some work done on it -- replaced power source and video card -- and it's running Windows 10.
What desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your job?
For teaching, while I still like to use the Microsoft Office suite, I can operate my entire classroom with a solid internet connection and Google Apps. E-mail, Google documents, and Google spreadsheets basically own my life. I especially enjoy using an add-on called Doctopus which creates copies of an assignment for each and every student in the class. It can also send different assignments to different students if I need to differentiate. Looking into using Google Classroom is on my to do list for this summer.
I run two websites or my travel blog and podcast,. The first is hosted by a family of blogs called Saverocity. I also host a website on my own server space for the podcast which is called the Saverocity Observation Deck. Both sites use Wordpress which has a great online interface and makes blogging fairly easy.
The snipping tool on Windows is probably one of the most invaluable tools I use (it's free with Windows), I need to do a lot of cropping of screenshots for images and the snipping tool does it so much faster. For the podcast, we use Skype to host the call and use Audacity to record our vocal tracks.
Other than that I'll spend a ton of time searching for frequent flyer award space across all the various airlines' websites to help book trips for family, friends, and clients, and I'm also on Twitter as much as possible as it is the best way to keep abreast of hot deals.
Which desktop apps do you absolutely depend on to do your life?
I am pretty sure I would be lost without Google. E-mail, reminders, calendar, photos, spreadsheets - I use them all to keep track of all the different things going on. I'm in the midst of beta testing Pinterest to see if it can help keep me more organized (especially for family trips and the like). I use LastPass to keep track of passwords which is also a lifesaver. Finally, I need to give a shoutout to Steam - zoning out via video games helps keep me sane.
Which desktop app(s) do you begrudgingly use and why? What would you change about these apps if you could?
I use the free version of Newsblur as my RSS reader. It is perfectly functional but I don't have the time to comb through thousands of stories like I used to, and I feel like RSS is going the way of the dodo. Still, Newsblur is the easiest way to keep an eye on what's up with all my various interests.
I also dislike iTunes quite a bit, I'd rather just a simple way to keep track of and play my music - iTunes feels like it has a lot of junk layered on top that just gets in the way. I'm not really a fan of any of the music services (Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play, etc.). Really, I just want my Sony Discman back.
What's your current mobile set-up? How many different devices do you have and what do you use them for?
I use a Motorola X Pure which sounds like a narcotic to me, but it's a great phone. I also have a rooted Nexus 7 tablet that we mostly use on planes for videos for our three year old these days. I also have an old iPhone that we use for white noise for the baby if we're on the go.
What are your must-have mobile apps? Why?
Aside from the obvious Google apps, I use Twitter, Instagram, and Blar (which picks up my Newsblur feed) to kill time, and BeyondPod to listen to podcasts.
What cloud-based services do you use and love? How do you use them and why do you love them?
I think my over-reliance on Google is pretty evident by now. My most loved apps by life area:
Teaching - Google Docs gives me the ability to grade when waiting at the doctor's office -- so it also gives me a great way to steal some extra minutes with my kids at home
Travel Blog - Google Sheets are essential for keeping track of all my frequent flyer balances and credit card reward information
Life - Google Photos and its assistant is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Nothing beats random pictures of your kids being pushed to your phone at the most random of times
What one weird and nonintuitive app or device helps you do your work better?
I use my phone, combined with Google Photos, to take pictures of things I need to remember these days. I basically stole the idea from students who are too lazy to take notes, which is probably a bad thing, but it works.
What other tech in your life or household rocks your world?
I hate to admit publicly that I still pay for cable in this day and age, but I'm in love with Xfinity's X1 system. Which is ridiculous because it basically is just a prettied up cable box that lets you talk to it, but I can now tell my TV to turn the closed captioning on and off. Their phone app isn't too shabby either.
Are you someone who wants to talk about the tech you use for work and life? Do you have strong opinions about the tools you use to get things done? We'd love to feature you -- reach out on Twitter to @lschmeiser or connect with Lisa Schmeiser here.