So it’s been a long week for me. It felt like one of those jam-packed “5 cities in 4 days” business trips, but I was home – sort of. Lots of customer briefings, dinners, and kids activities; the fall season is in full swing. So when my wife asked me what I thought we should do this weekend – the answer was simple, sleep!

So, as I was building my thoughts for this Blog, one thing I decided was that it wouldn’t be just about “storage and IT” topics but that it would discuss all technology and innovation in general.  It is in that spirit that I give you the first installment of Mark’s Essential Technology Accessories List or METAL. We engineers love acronyms and I can even create some wordplays like “does it cut the METAL”…. As you will see, these picks will not always be high-tech gadgets. In fact, innovation is most often the marrying of simple technologies or that of putting together a more complete and easy to use solution.

My favorite example is what I consider to be one of the best innovations of the 90’s – pay at the pump gas pumps.  This is a very simple piece of technology that may save me on average maybe 5 minutes a week. But run the number out -- 5 min X 52 Weeks = 260 mins/year - let’s call it 4 hours. I looked, but have no exact idea how many cars fill up each week, but let’s just call it at 100 million. This one idea gives back 400 million hours of efficiency per year! That is innovation.

So onto the list – here is a list of my current 10 favorite gadgets. Not all are about the latest technology. They are just things that, to me, excel at providing a function. In no particular order they are:

Tivo

iPOD

Miele (coffee maker)

Sonos (Music System)

Blackberry

ESPN Phone

One-touch Backup

Harmony Universal Remote

In-Car GPS

Vaio Laptop

…and honorable mention

My Fire Pit

Tivo: I don’t watch much TV but I also don’t watch any live TV anymore. This one is pretty obvious these days.

iPOD: Good music player but the trick here was the “ecosystem” the apple built with the player, iTunes, and the music providers. It’s all about the solution.

Miele (Coffee Maker): A great gadget that grinds a single serving of beans and makes me a single cup of great (European style) coffee in about 15 seconds. A must for my morning routine.

Sonos: A great new gadget for me. Basically it provide wireless music anywhere in the house with remotes that let me control music selection. It has a good interface and uses all of the music I have on my PC and can use any other source. It is a bit expensive right now but it is definitely the right concept.

Blackberry: Obvious – yes. Just a must for me but it has its downsides. Like when my wife catches me reading emails at the diner table – ouch!

ESPN Phone: I got this from a friend of mine at ESPN and gave it to my son to try out. He is hooked. For sports scores and highlights, it beats everything out there. I don’t think I am getting the phone back.

One Touch Backup: OK, I will say up front that this product uses EMC software (which is great). This product is all about simplicity – a hard drive with a built-in backup program from our Retrospect team. Integration and ease of use is great. Everyone with a PC needs backup – most, unfortunately, start using it after they loose all of their data.

Harmony Universal Remote: This was an area that was a wasteland of junk for 10 years. I have maybe 40 universal remotes and it was unbelievable to me that no one took on this problem. Harmony fixed it – done.

In-Car GPS: While there are definitely good ones and bad ones here, moving to Massachusetts 4 years ago would have left me trapped to a 3 mile radius from my house without these gadgets. The roads here seem to be basically paved-over cow trails – and sometimes they are only about wide enough for the cow. I discovered great things like the fact that towns and (maybe even individuals) get to name their sections of these roads. This means that the street may change names 2, 3, or 4 times in just a few miles. Street signs just confuse the matter – they also have roads that will be labeled “North” while you are actually traveling South – still haven’t figured that one out. There are clearly no rules requiring the posting of street numbers on businesses either. I guess when you don’t even know what street you are on, numbers would just complicate things. Since I would rather suffer for 2 hours than ask directions (my wife can attest to that one) I just gave up and got the GPS.

Vaio Laptop: Sony proved to me that Laptops are not yet a commodity with the Vaio. After noticing that, with all of my business trips, my left leg seemed to be getting shorter than my right, I switched to the small Vaio. It is a real PC just half the weight, more features, and twice the battery life – go figure.

And an Honorable Mention goes to my Fire Pit. Yes, maybe an odd choice but it probably has as much utility for me as anything in the list. It is not that complicated; just a special burner I had custom made. When it is the middle of winter in Massachusetts, the temperature is a balmy 10 degrees F, I have spent 23.9 hours a day inside, and I haven’t seen the sun for a fortnight - there is nothing better than sitting outside with a nice cigar and a warm fire.

M ark….

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