The Most Useful Thing: Answers 3 . . .

Other Hardware

My digital camera, but not just for family photos, vacations, and events; I’m talking
about using it for taking pictures of serial numbers, registration numbers,
activation codes, etc.

One nice use is for older motherboards that I’m ripping out of existing
cases and I don’t have manuals on. If the board doesn’t have the
labels for the LEDs or power and reset switches, I just take a photo
it’s in the case and connected.

Also, it’s great to have a step by step disassembly record for when
putting your dash back together after changing out your stereo in your
Not having to worry about printing out on film and being able to review
image right on the camera is great.

The most useful devise i’ve bought this year is my asrock-quad vista motherboard . It is sort of the adjustable wrench of the motherboard world .

It has a agp slot a pci-e slot , sata and pata can run either ddr 1 or ddr-2 and it supports all socket 775’s except the core 2’s with the 1333 fsb .

It’s not the fastest– or the most over-clockable but if you want to test run a bunch of odd computer hardware or want to migrate the old to the new– you can’t beat this MB and the price ain’t bad @$56

The most useful item I have bought lately was not directly for me, but for a parent, aka a sixpack. It was a pentium 4 northwood 3.0ghz and motherboard to match for 30 dollars used, roughly the current ebay price. Throw in 1gB ram for another 40 and for a nominal price I upgraded a very old aging 733mhz p3 system with 128mB ram on the cheap. For many, if not most, of my sixpack friends and family, old finds like this that are 2~4 years out of date are like a miracle to them and plenty fast for virtually everything they do bar getting Vista.

I do video editing and needed two good 20″ color accurate LCDs with an
S-IPS panels inside, so I went to this link.
to see what older more affordable models that had S-IPS panels inside.
I settled on the Viewsonic VP2000s, found 2 on ebay in the $175 range and
bought them. The first arrived and I set it up and was mightily
disappointed. It had a dim and ugly picture. I swapped out my 6800GT
for a spare 7800GT to see if that made a difference, it didn’t.

I then bought
(which I had planned on doing) a monitor calibrator. I chose a
Gretag Macbeth Eye-One Display 2, which is my ‘The Most Useful Thing’. It is a hardware
color calibrator that plugs in to a usb port and after a 15 minute
process spits out an ICC color profile. The result – the Viewsonic now produces
a BEAUTIFUL picture. What I never new was this – the controls on the
front of an LCD monitor actually adjust the data in the video card directly
than brightness which controls the actual backlight), so if you can’t
the contrast/brigtness/RGB levels right with them you could have a crap
picture. I have since color corrected any monitor I an get my hands on
this little GEM.

A couple of years ago I ran across a USB fingerprint scanner and s/w by Microsoft at a big box store for about $30. I bought it and have not had to worry about remembering any of my passwords since. The user I/F for initial fingerprint scanning and setting up new passwords is intuitive and easy to use. I’ve gotten much joy in a 1 second finger scan to log onto anything and everything. A bunch of stars, a 10 out of 10, a four point oh. This thing is great.

Power Supply. I upgraded from a decent Antec 480w to an amazing OCZ 600w unit and the stability it has brought to my computer are outstanding. Powering an Opteron 185 @ 3.0GHz and an X1950XT (675/950) with Quad 12v rails at 500+ watts alone. I use to buy a pretty decent PSU but underestimated what an investment a quality PSU means. Better overclocks, more stability and more future proof (130 watt CPU + 225 watt Video Card). I use to buy exclusively Antec but they are down right pedestrian compared to these Quad 12v monsters.

Living in the florida Panhandle (Pensacola) 1500VA geeksquad UPS’s are a godsend….we can get 25 minutes more play when needed… “Probably monthly we hit that” The VCR has been blinking for 12 years now… if we played games online through the vcr it might get a UPS too.

I could give a ton of answers to this question, but for today I think I’ll choose my Gefen 2-Port DVI KVM Switch. I use it to switch between my desktop PC and my MacBook Pro. It’s kind of pricey, but it works well.

The most useful thing I have bought for my computers has to be a 4 port KVM switch made by CablesToGo. I’ve always had way more computers than I had monitors and keyboards for and with this nifty little box I can put many computers right next to each other (my fileserver, backup, etc) without having a mess of cables and connectors coming out the back. It also helps when friends and family bring computers to me to fix I actually have a way to work on them without tying up my only monitor and keyboard.

Out of the 3,500 dollars of computers related products I purchased over the last 60 days, I would have to say the USB 19 keypad/mouse device (Scorpius N4) I bought for mere 30 bucks for my new laptop gives the greatest Bang for the Buck. Now if I can just figure how get XP Pro on my new Asus G2S, Life would be Great.

This may be totally mundane , but it is a 140 mm, 54 cu ft/min QUIET fan! My tiny micro tower overheated and crashed . I rescued it by mounting the fan EXTERNALLY on the side over the cpu as the case was too thin to mount it inside. Now the top of the case is cold to the touch in an 85 deg room . With the silver fan and blue leds it looks better than ever.

You almost stumped me on this one… but I have to go with the wireless mouse. I always seem to have a constant web of wires running across my desk. With an regular mouse, the wire ends up acting as a spring of sorts… which can be extremely annoying when working in a 3D environment… when you happen to pause to type something the damn thing (depending on the mode you’re in) has a mind of its own! Wandering off and messing up your perspective, or even worse (don’t ask)! ACK!

p.s. I never met a girl with a USB drive that I didn’t like. 😉

The most useful computer related thing I’ve bought recently is a wireless 4+1 port USB print server made by DLink. This thing not only lets me print from my widely roving tablet PC, it saved me the hundred bucks I was going to shell out for a wireless adapter for my kids’ Monoplosoft Xbox360 (works via the unit’s 100base setup port). Cost me $37 after rebate and works great.

Definitely my most useful recent purchase has been a 100ft ethernet
cable. You really can’t beat it for large file transfers or just plain
not having to figure out why the wireless isn’t working when nothing
changed and the remote computer REALLY needs to be on the network NOW.

I build a fair amount of systems and unfortunately have fairly larger hands. This is not a good feature to have when building computers. What I was thrilled to use for the first time was the Asus Q Connector. A simple piece of plastice that allows you to connect all of your HD, Power, Power LED, and Reset leads to the connector out of a case and then plug the whole block into the MB.

Sometimes little things like this that are so simple make my day. I even look at Asus boards more frequently now because the headache is gone.

I am sure I’ll be a minority of one, but the most fun AND useful thing I bought in the past 5 years was a G80 graphics card.. The reason is that I’m a developer and I’m having an eye-opening experience with CUDA programming. It really changes everything! I say “holy sh*t!” a lot!


This isn’t quite released yet, but Microsoft Windows Home Server is awesome! Setup is a breeze and it runs on outdated hardware. 1ghz/512mb/80gb+. I added a couple old 250gb hd’s and now it makes nightly backups of all four household computers. I also store all my media on it and setting up software mirroring for important documents was a breeze. Finally it allowed me to have an easy interface for my girlfriend to remote desktop into her home office system and not worry about ip addresses or port forwarding or any of that garbage. When this is release to the public I think it will be a home run for the MS reliant geek.

Knoppix CD

Lets me shrink and expand NTFS partitions on XP and Win2K3 machines. It’s also saved me many times when I’ve made a mistake on a Linux machine that made it not boot. Boot Knoppix, mount the hard drive, undo the mistake, unmount the hard drive, then reboot. And it’s a quick easy way to isolate a suspected hardware problem by taking the user’s OS out of the equation (as long as Knoppix supports their hardware, of course).

Tools and Gadgets And . . .

PDA stylus with an ink pen at the other end (Product Link).

Before this, I’d find myself needing a pen and not having one at least a couple of times a year. This takes care of that with no extra baggage, since my phone is always with me.

The URL above is one for my particular PocketPC, but I imagine they make these for most any device that has a stylus.

The most useful thing I have related to computers would probably be
something I didn’t even buy; my headphones (Sennheiser HD 595’s). The
only thing that might give them a run for their money would be my
screen. Both of these are output devices, not processing or input.
It’s the output that I use all the time, every day. It is true that I
use the cpu, ram, hdd and so forth all the time, but I don’t use them
as much as they get used. They are processing things that don’t get
appreciated but are expected to sit around and work. Input devices
such as the keyboard and mouse are nice and used frequently but could
be replaced by just about any other version and it wouldn’t make much
of a difference. It’s the output devices that people really notice.
People don’t walk by and say, “nice motherboard battery!” No, they
notice the in-your-face objects like a big monitor and nice stereo (or
in my case I notice my headphones).

Well maybe not completely computer related, but I use it at work all the time. My Leatherman Super Tool 200, along with my Craftsman ratcheting screwdriver.

The Most Useful Thing is my chair.

I can’t keep track on how many hours (days) I’ve spent by my computer, *in my chair*. The chair is by a huge margin the best item I have bought. The monitor is good, the mouse too, webcam, USB memory stick, DVD recorder, etc. etc. but they all pale in comparsion to the chair.

It wasn’t cheap but worth every penny.

This is probably really silly, but the useful thing I ever bought was a ‘MouseKlip’

The thing cost about 3 dollars and I bought it about 10 years ago an game store which I can’t remember the name (had the ‘etc’ in it and I think they go bought by game stop)

It’s a little plastic clip that attachtes to my mouse pad and has a little clip on it that the mouse cord fits into. It does a few things which is really nice.

1. Keeps the mouse cord out of the way

2. Keeps the cord from falling behind the desk

3. Keeps just enough cord between the clip and the mouse itself.

Its very hard to express how useful this thing is to me. I hate using my wife’s PC because reasons 1 and 2 above.

It is probably the one thing on my PC that is over 10 years old and I still use it to this day.

And Last But Not Least

Got a 120 GB external hardrive and put a game on it …
At work the shifts are 12 hours and we have to be available when equipment breaks
down immediately to repair it ..
it gets very boring and tiresome early in the mornings waiting around for work..

with the external hardrive we can use them on the computers to make the time go by faster & stay awake…and still continue the games when we get home…
it does not affect the machines at work and keeps our minds active and not sleepy at 2 in the morning….
it is a win win situation at work because we have to be there wide awake in case of problems with quick response and not off someplace else in the plant talking to someone when we have down time…..we are in the cubes ready to respond to the problem area in the right mind set…

The computer related thing that has made my life so much better is this: the hold button on my work telephone.

I work for an ISP. After talking to someone for 20-30 minutes about why they can’t get online and trying to walk them through troubleshooting something, it’s a nice feeling to tell someone, “Just let me check on something….”, hit hold, and then release some verbal curses. There’s only so many times you can hear, “But I right clicked and nothing happened” or “What does this ‘username and/or password is invalid on the domain’ error message mean?” After a while, you just want to reach through the phone and strangle the moro….customer.

Praise be to the Hold button. It has definitely saved the following two things: my sanity and probably a couple customers’ well being.

Thank again for all the clever ideas! I think we’ll see a few more surveys like this in the weeks ahead.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply