A journalist’s toolkit

One topic of conversation that keeps coming up, over and over, between journalists is “what equipment do you use?”. Now remember, I mainly work as a technology writer so my kit is heavily titled in that direction.

Here’s my list.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch: This machine is over a year old now but I recently swapped the original hard drive out for an OWC solid state disk. This has given it a huge speed boost. I use the MacBook Pro when I’m travelling for more than two or three days.

iPad: I bought the iPad before its local release as I was able to sell a bunch of stories about it to publishers before all the other local writers had theirs. I wasn’t expecting it become a regular part of my kit but for business trips where I’m away for only a day or two it’s far lighter than the MacBook Pro and just as capable for writing a story, blogging, keeping up with email and the like. If I’m on a plane, I use to to watch movies and TV shows and read books using both iBooks and Kindle. I’ve also accessorised with the Rubata Keyboard Case from PADACS and Apple’s Camera Connection Kit.

iPhone: In case you’d missed it – I’m an Apple user. The iPhone is my phone, mobile diary and email system and entertainment system. When I’m in the car, it’s my GPS as I’ve stopped using my old TomTom unit as it was just another gadget. And the sound recorder, camera and video camera are great for when you need to capture a moment and don;t have the entire kit on hand.

Zoom H2: Zoom’s audio recorders are simply brilliant. It’s able to record to an SD card, making it a snap to import content into iTunes. The H2 can record using two separate microphones in either mono or stereo.

VoIP: As my office is separate to the rest of the house, getting a second phone line connected with Telstra was simply too hard and was going to cost too much. I was fortunate enough to win a VoIP package from MyNetFone and am very happy (easy to say when it’s free but the service really is very good). I’ve got a Cisco IP phone and pay as I go. I rarely spend more than $10 per month for all my calls.

Canon MP640 printer: When I last needed a printer my requirements were simple. I needed a multifunction that could print to CDs and DVDs, duplex, had two paper feeds and WiFi. The MP640 ticked all those boxes. It hasn’t missed a beat in over a year.

iMac 27-inch and Magic Trackpad: When I’m in my office, I like to have a big screen so that I can have my current work and a web browser open side by side. The iMac is perfect for this. I used to use a mouse but find the Magic Trackpad far more comfortable. It also uses less space on the desk and makes it easier to drag the mouse from one end of the large display to the other.

My office network: As my house and office are separate buildings, I had to set my network up woth two routers. One’s an older Linksys WRT310N and the other is a Netgear N600 that I modded with DD-WRT. I’ll post the full story of the LAN set up shortly but if you plan to move files between machones on your LAN you need to make sure you get a router thay supports 802.11n for wireless and Gigabit ethernet for cabled connections.

Storage: With the increasing storage capability of computers and the vast quantities of data it’s simply too risky to not have a properly considered storage and backup strategy. In lieu of that, I’ve cobbled together something that works for me. I have a Thecus N5200 NAS (network accessible storage) that can hold 4TB of data. That’s the main data repository. I also have a second NAS, a smaller DLink DNS-323. I have a scheduled task on my Thecus NAS that copies my iTunes library to the DNS-323 so that if one NAS dies i don;t lose my iTunes library as that represents a significant investment.

The iMac and MacBook Pro each have an external drive connected to them for Time Machine backups.

I also keep my current working files synced to Dropbox and iDisk. Yes – I’m paranoid about data loss.

Cameras:  I have three cameras I use regularly. For “serious” photography I have a Nikon D80 with 18-55 and 70-300 lenses and a SB-600 flash. Most of the time I use a Panasonic TZ10 as it can shoot great photos, has a manual mode and can capture excellent HD video. Camera number three is the iPhone.

Hardware I’ve stopped using: As a tech journalist, I often buy gear that I’ve reviewed that i think would fit my working life. Occasionally I buy something that I use for a while but falls out of use. One is my netbook. The iPad has replaced it.

The other is my video camera. It’s a great unit that shoots great video to tape but it’s not HD. I could replace it but the iPhone and TZ10 fill its purpose for me. If I was shooting professional video I might change my mind but that’s not something I currently do.

Software: Software is a very personal thing. What one person loves, another can loathe. But these are the apps I use just about every day.

Bean is a word processor for the Mac. Its free and gets rid of all the clutter that larger, commercial products include. As I file stories as plain text I like that it provides me with a word count and basic find/replace and spell check.

Saasu is a cloud-based accounts system. I use it for all my expensing, account managements, tax statements and invoicing.

Microsoft Office – I don’t use it often but as I often receive files in the Office formats I have to have it. Also, I sometimes do corporate work and I have to work with other Office users. I know Apple has iWork but I really can’t be bothered with the iWork to Office export process.

Parallels and VMware – From time to time I have to run Windows apps on my Macs. These programs let me run Windows within a virtual machine so I can run Windows on my Mac easily.

For FTP I have Filezilla on my MacBook Pro and Cyberduck on the iMac. I could use the same program on both but I like to share the love!

Evernote is the bomb for note taking and sharing. I can take notes on my iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad or iPhone and have them magically sync between devices over the cloud. It’s a must have application.