In the Office: Hardware and Software

Summary

As much as possible since my retirement in 2007, I have switched to Open Source or other free for personal usage software, though it has not always worked out. Since my first hands-on usage of personal computers in 1982, I have stuck with Microsoft-based operating systems (DOS then Windows) for both cost and compatibility reasons: the wide range of supported hardware and software that is available for that platform. As a Dell Canada customer since the late 1990s, I find it less expensive to buy a computer with a Windows software license than one without, which makes Windows essentially free.

Current Hardware Preferences

  • Dell computers – I buy when Dell is offering state of the art desktops and laptops for $299-$425; these Canada-only sales are probably a form of (below cost) dumping to keep Dell’s factory running when U.S. sales are slow.
    • OptiPlex 3020 (2015) Tower Desktop
      • DisplayPort support for two monitor desktop display, which has proven difficult to manage:
        • Diamond BVU3500H USB 3.0 to HDMI Adapter as backup connection to either U2414H monitor
        • Power Settings changed to Always On for both processor and monitors
        • Monitors left on 24/7
        • When Monitors do not report a DisplayPort signal on Startup, one or both Monitors are Powered off and on, which usually resolves the problem; otherwise, a hard power off and on is required
        • Slave monitor blinks fairly often
        • Sometimes both monitors go black and return within 30 seconds
    • inspiron 3646 (2014) Small Desktop
      • initially purchased to run Ubuntu as a test web server, but have since switched to low-cost VPS from OVH Canada and Time4VPS
      • redeployed with Windows 10 for a family member
    • inspiron 15 (2013) Laptop for another family member
    • inspiron 530 (2008) Tower Desktop for a third family member
  • Dell LED Monitors
    • U2414H pair using DisplayPort, with HDMI as backup
  • HP LaserJet P1102w Wireless Wi-Fi Printer
  • Epson V500 Photo Scanner
  • Brother QL-570 Label Printer
  • Dell KB212-B Wired Keyboard
  • Logitech M705 Wireless Mouse
  • hitron CGM-2250 Gateway (wireless router/modem combo) provided by Shaw (ISP) at no charge with my current Internet service
  • D-Link DUB-H7 USB router
  • Eaton UPS, replacing APC units as their batteries wear out

Current Software Preferences

  • Windows 10
  • Start10* – Stardock’s Start button for Windows 10, which I have configured to look like Windows 7
  • Webroot SecureAnywhere Endpoint Protection* – replaces VIPRE and includes centralized management of all computers running it
  • ManageEngine Patch Manager Plus – replaces VIPRE’s auto-patch facility, but required its Server be set up on a Windows VPS at VPS-Mart
  • Microsoft Office 365 Home*
    • $99/year (Canadian dollars) for 5 licenses
    • Outlook 2016 replaces Windows Live Mail, which neither works reliably nor is supported with Windows 10 or Outlook.com
    • Excel 2016 and Word 2016 replaces LibreOffice and OpenOffice, neither of which works reliably in Windows 10 (nor are their .ods/.odt documents compatible with each other)
  • BackBlaze* – Internet-based backup
  • B2 – Object storage of the few files of interest that BackBlaze does not save, such as .exe
  • Firefox web browser
  • XnView – graphics editor and viewer – fast and medium functionality, though I have never figured out how to create a graphics file from scratch
  • 7-Zip – though it can do much more, I use it to:
    • correctly unzip large files (Windows cannot handle .zip files over 2GB)
    • both create and decompress Linux .tar.gz files
  • Notepad++ – text editor with wide range of syntax recognition
  • FileZilla – FTP/SFTP client
  • Xshell – SSH client
  • TortoiseSVN – was used for updating WordPress plugin directory
  • TeamViewer – remote access to the computers and smartphones that I support
  • Acrobat Reader DC – to view Adobe PDF files
  • RealPlayer – to listen to airchecks on reelradio.com
  • Java – only installed for my bank’s investment software
  • Acronic True Image – clones hard drives, but only works when a Western Digital hard drive is present
  • Exact Audio Copy – Digital Audio Extraction of CDs
  • Nero* – DVD slide shows (not doing rotation last time I checked) and any video production
  • Readerware* – automatically catalogue CD collection, especially Various Artists

* – not free