This is the second of two articles on the many ways I use computers. In the first article I described my office computing environment and the software I use in my job to develop technical training products. In this article I will describe my home computing environment.
These articles are a response to a comment from someone who couldn’t understand how I use computers at home after using them at the office all day.
I use the home computer for many different things and rather than naming software, I would like to present the various personas or purposes of the home computer environment.
I use a Dell Inspiron machine running Windows XP Service Pack 3. The monitor is a 24 inch Dell and I could connect another monitor if I had room for it! The computer has 4GB RAM and two 500GB disk drives. It is connected to Optus cable internet through a LinkSys Firewall and a wireless router. In the photograph you can see Behringer Studio monitor speakers and a Roland Edirol MIDI controller for my software synthesizers. Both of these were purchased at Turramurra Music – the best music shop in Sydney! I also have an A3 Mustek scanner and a Toshiba laptop computer.
Music Machine. I love music and my computer is now my hi-fi system. I can play CDs in the computer and listen through the speakers or headphones. I have been buying CDs since 1986 and own at least 1,5000 disks. I am converting (“ripping”) all my discs to an external disc drive so I have ready access to my music collection without having to look for the disc. I use WinAmp for playing and ripping CDs, but I was forced to install iTunes to synchronise music to my fifth generation iPod.
Movie Machine. I enjoy watching movies and the computer is perfect for watching movies with the PowerDVD program. I borrow a lot of DVDs from the library as well as occasional hiring. I don’t watch television but occasionally I watch documentaries on the ABC iView or SBS documentary web sites. I watch quite a few music videos on YouTube as well as talks from TED.
Money Machine. I use the Quicken program to keep track of my personal finances. I use the internet for online banking, paying bills with BPay, online shopping (AbeBooks, Amazon, BookDepository, iTunes, eBay and more). I still have a cheque book but rarely use it now that e-commerce is firmly established. Nearly all my bills are received as PDF files, but some organisations (like the local council) continue to send paper.
Photography Machine. I have a digital camera and use the computer to store the digital photos and edit with the GIMP program (effectively an open-source Photoshop) to resize, crop and adjust colour and contrast. Occasionally I take photos to OfficeWorks for printing and sharing with others, but usually the photos are sent by email, shared on Facebook or used in blog articles. Because digital photos don’t cost anything to take, I use my camera regularly as a visual diary to document my daily life.
Communication Machine. I couldn’t live without the Internet! It is such a wonderful global resource, allowing me to communicate with people around the world and access information through the Web. I regularly use email (Gmail) for communicating with friends and business communications. I like using Facebook for sharing photos and stories. Some of my friends prefer using Facebook messages to email and I find it very convenient as well. I also like to chat in realtime using Facebook.
Music Machine. I love electronic music and have always wanted to own a few synthesizers. Unfortunately these machines are way out of my price range, as well as requiring other equipment like multi-track tape recorders, amplifiers and mixers. Now it is possible to have digital versions of these machines. I have several virtual music instruments including the Ultra Analog synthesizer (shown in the photo) and Chromaphone percussion synthesizer from Applied Acoustics. I use the Reaper digital audio workstation software for sequencing, recording and playing MIDI files. This program is shareware and much cheaper than Cubase or ProTools. The MIDI keyboard controller connects to the software synthesizer and the studio monitor speakers which are designed for recording studios give high quality playback. Listen to some of my musical creations on Soundcloud.
Music publishing. The software synthesizers can play MIDI files and I needed a way of creating these files. About seven years ago I discovered the MUP (Music Publisher Program). I could never justify buying the Sibelius or Finale products, but the MUP program ($29 shareware) met my needs. Now I could “typeset” a piano piece, and created a MIDI file as well as a high quality score for printing. Recently I discovered the Musescore program which is Open source and free.
Programming Machine. I used to write software in earlier jobs, but now my job is writing training materials. I still write some programs and I use the Python scripting language. I enjoy graphics programming and use the Processing language which is based on Java. You can view my portfolio and includes a digital piano, analog clock and a speech timer.
Writing machine. The computer is a lot more versatile than a typewriter! I write speeches, blog articles, technical documentation and training materials. I use Microsoft Office for most of my work, although occasionally I write in the Emacs text editing system.
You will notice I don’t have a “Games Machine” section. Some of my colleagues spend a lot of time playing computer games but I have never been interested in games. I would prefer to create music, write, or program.
Read the first article about the Office Computer Environment.