My Picks – June 2016


Suttle Lake on a cold, clear winter day

My Picks – June 2016

I wanted to start a series showing some of my picks of products that I recommend or use myself. These products range from hardware to software to services. I am not being paid to recommend any of these, and they are all products that I have used and feel comfortable recommending. I have started with my picks for PC/Laptop Computing. Without further adieu here goes the first round of My Picks!

PC/Laptop Computing

Browser: As I wrote previously, I recommend and use Firefox for all my browsing. I love that it syncs with the mobile versions on IOS & Android.

Image Editing: While I tried to use Windows 10 built in photos, it doesn’t have the features I need. Its missing features from Windows Live Photo Gallery, but the best feature it includes is the ability to show images that are stored on One Drive. That being said, I use Adobe Lightroom for all my major photo-editing and organization. For stuff on the fly the Windows Photo App works just fine. For intermediate users that aren’t shooting RAW or anything like that I would recommend Photoshop Elements as my second pick.

Music: I have struggled with this and use multiple apps myself to manage my music collection. I must admit I miss Zune’s software. Itunes is worthless, and Groove lacks a lot of features at this point. Most of the time I use Amazon’s own Music Player to play both my prime playlists and my local collection. I am also playing around with MusicBee and will probably review these in a future blog post.

Antivirus/Security: With Windows 10 I switched both my wife and myself to just using the built in security in Windows 10. It works great for what we need, but for a more novice user I would suggest something like AVG Antivirus or even if you had to Norton Antivirus.

Utilities: I use and highly recommend LastPass password manager. It is more secure than the browser “remember your password” and it also has features to audit your password security, share a password with others, and sync with mobile devices. It is Free for a single PC, but to sync with others and/or mobile devices you must sign up for the Premium. If you click the link on my site you can get a month for free. Another utility that I recommend on any PC is CCleaner. This will keep your system running like new, cleaning up old unused temp files, etc. Its free too!

Keyboard: I have long been a fan of the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboards. I still use the old mechanical one at home but at work I have upgraded to the new Microsoft Sculpt Wireless Keyboard. It has a separate 10 key pad that allows your hand to move to the mouse that much quicker, and without as much movement.

Mouse: I use a 3M ergonomic mouse due to nagging tendenosis, but really with a mouse you just need to find what fits best for you. I have used them all from Logitech to Microsoft. The only thing I can say is get a wireless one, it just makes sense.

Computer Hardware: I have custom built all my machines, but I have always been partial to Dell. The Optiplex line is a great all around business desktop. No frills, and a 3 year warranty. We picked a standard config of one at work and have made very little support calls for them over the years.

Miscellaneous Hardware: I take many photos for fun with my Canon DSLR and as such I needed a good SD card reader to transfer the RAW image files. The Canon camera I have only supports USB 2.0 which is frustratingly slow with 100 20MB+ Files. So I found a USB 3.0 Kingston Card Reader. It is external to the PC and can be used on all kinds of memory cards from SD to CF and Sony’s Memory Stick.

Laptop: I am often asked to help people purchase a laptop for a new grad or their parents, or just for themselves. There is no one size fits all solution for a laptop. But my favorite laptop right now is a Dell Ultrabook (either the XPS for home or the Latitude for business) and my favorite 2-in-1 is the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. The Surface Pro 4 is a fantastic device, but does not stand upright on its own without a stand. The stand is built in but it can be hard to use on one’s lap. The Surface Pro’s are what caused Apple to decide to create an ipad Pro, except the Surface Pro runs real Windows. It can run any regular Windows Applications as well as ones through the Microsoft Store.

External Drive: I am a big fan of the Western Digital Passports. I have owned a couple of them. They now have 1 TB drives for around $60. These drives are perfect for making backups and tossing into a fire safe, safe deposit box, or trusting friend’s house. You can encrypt it via Bitlocker or using Western Digital’s own software. Its cheap insurance. In an age where all our photos are digital anymore, camcorders have gone digital, and music collections are measured in Gigabytes and not cds, you need backup!

Chris Gahlsdorf

I have been a System Administrator for 15 years now. I have been an avid Microsoft fan for over 20. From my first 486 with Windows 3.0 to my latest custom rig with Windows 11. I have gone from tinkering, to programming, to managing servers, and virtualization. I am a Windows Insider MVP as part of the Windows Insider Program.

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3 Responses

  1. Kristen says:

    Hi there, i read your blog from time to time and
    i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get
    a lot of spam comments? If so how do you prevent it, any plugin or
    anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

    • Chris says:

      Kristen, I use and recommend akismet for my commenting spam. They have been terrific thus far in keeping out the obvious spam bots. I can look on my dashboard and see what’s in quarantine and what it’s blocked already

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