My Tech Picks (Summer 2019)
My last Tech Picks post was made a little over a year ago, and my have things changed. For those of you who have been here since the beginning, you may have heard me talk about my passion for Apple products. The very first personal computer I ever had any real experience with was the original Apple Macintosh. Of course, during my teenage years, I turned my attention from Apple to the much more customizable PC – where I stayed for many years. Then, in 2007, Windows Vista was released. At this time of my life, I will still working on music occasionally and this release of Windows totally changed the way Direct Sound interfaced with the various digital audio software I was accustomed to using. After months of finding no viable solution, I bit the bullet at bought a shiny new iMac. And yes, just as advertised, it “Just Worked”. Even playing my favorite PC games was no problem, as this generation of iMacs ran on Intel hardware. So I could easily boot to Windows and play all of my favorite PC games.
Eventually, a few years later, with the imminent release of Final Fantasy XIV, I knew that the hardware in my iMac was simply not powerful enough to run the game to my satisfaction. So, I started shopping around and realized that purchasing a new Mac beefy enough to run FFXIV was going to cost me nearly $3,000. Whereas, I could build a PC just as good for just under $1,000. – So that’s what I did. I left Apple, and jumped shipped to the newly released Windows 7. And I’ve been a Windows user ever since.
Over the years, I’ve often entertained the idea of switching back to a Mac. But, honestly, I find them too cost prohibitive. Plus, it had been several years since I owned an iPhone, so I was no longer rooted in the Apple ecosystem. But still, that itch was always there in the back of my mind.
Recently, my wife and I decided to switch wireless carriers. This meant time for new phones. After much deliberation, I decided to abandon my Google Pixel and switch back to the latest iPhone. This, combined with a number of recent bone-headed decisions at Microsoft only intensified my desire to go back to Apple. Which is where my Tech Picks 2019 story begins…
Computer Platform: Hybrid PC – As you might have guessed from the long-winded introduction above, I decided to embrace the world of Macintosh again. When I built this PC last year, I purposefully chose parts that I knew were “Hackintosh” compatible, just in case I ever got the urge to try my hand at installing Mac OS on my personal computer. Well, that time has come. After a couple days of trial an error, I’m happy to say I was able to successfully install Mac OS on my PC and after a little tinkering, it is working perfectly. Now, I still boot to Windows for gaming and streaming. But, my day to day “general use” system is once again powered by Mac OS. I know… it isn’t supposed to be possible. But, trust me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
- Mac OS Mojave (10.14.6) – When I sold my iMac back in 2011, I was running a version of OS X called “Lion”. Since that time, a number of updates have come and gone. Now, on my “Hackintosh” I’m currently up-to-date with the latest version of Mac OS “Mojave”. Of course, there’s a new update just around the corner. But, considering I’m not actually running on Apple hardware, I’ll have to be a bit more cautious when it comes to bleeding edge updates. If I’m not careful, I could easily end up with an unstable system.
- Windows 10 ( 64 bit Version 1903) – For gaming, I still have Windows 10 installed on a second hard drive. Even though it’s not my daily driver, I still keep the OS up-to-date. I should mention, I have no problem with Windows as an OS. In fact, I think it’s great. But lately, there’s been an increasing number of quality control issues and botched releases coming from Microsoft. Also, I personally don’t think the company is under good leadership presently. Whenever a new product is released (like the Microsoft Band for example), they talk a big talk. But unless they have an immediate success, they always abandon these endeavors and eventually let them die. This has been an ongoing problem for years. It’s main reason I’ve decided to jump ship.
Hardware: For the most part, I’m still running the same hardware from last year, with a few notable exceptions. For example, to make my Hackintosh work, I had to ditch the Soundblaster card and go with the onboard solution. This wasn’t an easy choice to make as the onboard sound chip included with the Z370-A isn’t nearly as good as any hardware found on the SBZ. But, this was on sacrifice I will to make. The harder choice, was switching to an ATI graphics card. Even though they always seem to look better on paper, real world results tend to show better performance from Nvidia cards. Regardless, if I wanted to make my Mac OS install work, I had to switch. To accommodate, I went with a card that was a notch better than the GTX 1060 I was running before. So all in all, I’ve actually gained a little performance. Also, I’ve added a second monitor to accommodate the needs of my occasional streaming.
CPU: Intel i7 8700k @ 3.7ghz (4.7 turbo)
Mainboard: ASUS Prime Z370-A
Physical RAM: 16gb
Graphics: ATI Sapphire Nitro+ RADEON RX590 8GB
Sound: Realtek S1220A 8ch HD Onboard Audio
Storage: Main (Mac OS): Western Digital Blue NAND SSD 500GB Secondary (Windows and storage): Two Seagate 2TB Hybrids “Firecuda”
Networking: Integrated LAN and Fenvi 802.11a/g/n/ac/ WLAC + BT 4.0 PCI-E Card. (For Airport support in Mac OS)
Media: External DVD RW & USB Memory Card reader
Power: 750 watt PSU
Monitors: AOS G2460V 24″ (1ms FreeSync Gaming Monitor) & ASUS VG245H 24″ (1ms FreeSync Gaming Monitor)
Mobile: iOS – iPhone XS (iOS 12.4.1) – Since my last post I have switched from Android to iOS. My very first smart phone was the iPhone 3G, which was followed by an iPhone 4. When it time to upgrade again, I was seduced to Windows Phone (which I actually loved) and then eventually landed on Android after Windows Phone’s demise. Now, I’ve come full circle back to iOS. Having experience with both platforms, I can admit that there’s a lot of things that Android does better. But on the other side of the same coin, there’s also just as many things that Apple seems to excel at too. One can only hope that competition continues to improve both.
Tablet: Microsoft Surface – No change here. My personal needs for a tablet are very limited. I mainly only use a tablet for reading comic books and doing some light searching while in the living room. For my purposes, the original Windows RT surface is perfect. I suppose once this tablet finally kicks the bucket, I’ll make the switch to an iPad. But for now, this is more than suitable.
e-Reader: Kindle Paperwhite – No change. The Kindle Paperwhite is an elegant and universal option that serves my needs perfectly. Yes, there are newer Kindle options available. But the Paperwhite remains my go to device.
Virtual Digital Assistant: Siri – Being back in the Apple ecosystem makes using Siri a no-brainer. Cortana is on its last legs, and probably won’t exist a couple of years from now. Google Assistant works just fine, but really only makes sense on native Android hardware. I can’t see using a third party Assistant on the iPhone when Siri works so well.
Web Browser: Safari – When using a Mac, I do prefer Safari. Of course, developing this site, I keep a copy of both Firefox and Chrome installed for testing purposes. But Safari is what I now run for day-to-day use. That being said, Safari is far from perfect. Occasionally, I do encounter rendering issues and I sometimes find myself tempted to ditch it for Firefox (which also is a really great browser).
Search: Google – Google remains my go-to for searches.
Email and Calendar: iCloud– Being back in Apple ecosystem made me dust off my old Mac.com email address and jump back into the iCloud world. iCloud mail can be finicky at times, but for the most part, it’s just as stable as Gmail. I do have to admit, Google does have an overall better experience when it comes to webmail. But since I tend to use my email through apps instead of the web, this doesn’t bother me.
Office Suite: Microsoft Office 365 – Nothing beats it. As far as a desktop application suite, Microsoft office is the best – even on a Mac. A while back, I did ditch the 20XX releases of Office and subscribed to Office 365. This is a subscription service that ensures you are always running the latest version of Office. It also integrates very nicely with OneDrive, which makes saving your files to the cloud easier than ever.
Cloud Storage: OneDrive and iCloud – As both a Windows and Office user, I’ve found OneDrive to be a very convenient online storage solution. It integrates well into both Windows and Office. OneDrive also works great with iOS and Mac OS These days, I use OneDrive mainly for saving my Office files, and I use iCloud for photos and general storage. But, both are within arm’s reach at any time.
PC Gaming Services: Steam – No change. For PC games, I’m pretty much a Steam-only guy. I do make a lot of purchases on GOG and I’ve even ventured into Epic Store from time to time. But nine out of ten purchases are still done on Steam.
Music Management: iTunes & Apple Music – Being back on Mac OS, I’ve embraced iTunes again. I have a large digital music library, all tagged and sorted. To manage such a huge collection, I need the help of software. MusicBee was my choice for Windows, but on a Mac, iTunes just makes more sense. For streaming, I also switched to Apple Music and I’ve never been happier.
Wearables: Apple Watch Series 3 – As you might have guessed, I’m also switched from Fitbit to Apple Watch. To be honest, this wasn’t really an easy choice. In my opinion, when it comes to fitness tracking, FitBit is king. You just can’t beat them. But, these days, my needs for an actual fitness tracker are minimal. I’m now more concerned with the convenience features offered by a smart watch. So, when balancing out those needs, Apple Watch was the clear winner.
Home Gaming Consoles: Currently at our house we own the following: Nintendo Switch, Wii U, PlayStation 3 (First Gen), PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and now even an Xbox One. (There’s still a spare Wii in the closet).
Mobile Gaming: Both my children and I have a Nintendo 3DS. I also have an old PSP.
There you have it! Lots of changes this time. But for those of you that are curious, this is the tech that makes me tick.
Glad to see I’m not the only one that bounces between tech platforms so often! haha I started with Win98 and stuck with Windows until 10 with some brief forays into Linux in between. I was all in on the Apple ecosystem for a couple years and loved it for programming, but like you I found that I was priced out of the Mac line for the level of specs I want. These days I run Ubuntu as my primary on a Dell XPS 13 with Windows 10 in a VM if I need it for something, never been a fan of dual-boot as I hate having to shut my computer down to switch.
Apple won me over from Android with the small iPhone SE a few years ago. I’m really not keen on the direction of either player at this point, but will probably stick with iOS for my next phone. Recently purchased an iPad and the pencil as well for reading papers for my PhD and have been pretty happy with it.
The main issue I run into is my devices are pretty fragmented so I don’t get to take full advantage of either the Apple or Microsoft ecosystem, but overall after some tinkering my setup right now works fine.
Yeah. I’m weird. I’m very much a brand loyalist when it comes to most things. I was all hung-ho Windows since the 3.X days, until Vista. That’s when I made my switch to modern Apple and I stuck with it, until I was priced out around 2010.
Been with windows ever since until now, as my post mentioned. Microsoft seems lost. They start things and never finish them. It’s not a good trend.