My Gear 2022

You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:

My Gear 2021

there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.

Surface Duo 2 – My ‘Google’ phone. This as a ‘secondary’ or backup phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Microsoft 365 production account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access for certain apps. I’ll need to spend more time with this device as it is quite different from a ‘normal’’ phone. I also have the latest Microsoft Surface pen which I really like. It is probably the best ‘electronic scribing’ device I have used.

I have relegated my Pixel 4XL phone now to the testing bench.

iPhone 12 Pro Max – Is now my main mobile device having replaced the old iPhone XS Max last year. I traded the XS Max in for the full amount on offer (around $600 from memory) and used this as a credit on the newer 12 Pro Max, which I decided to buy outright. With the contract expiring and a re-evaluation of how I use my phone I downgraded my calling plan and purchased the new phone outright. it ended up being much cheaper that way.

After a few years of living the ‘iPhone lifestyle’ I gotta admit I still don’t get people’s fanaticism about it. Yes, it is well engineered, better than most I’ll readily admit, but at the end of the day it is just a phone for me. I have a few common apps I use on it, apart from all the Microsoft ones, but honestly, I just use it as a phone not as a surrogate friend.

Surface Pro 7 – This is my main desktop machine. Being the same form factor, it just slotted directly into my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station I already have in place. This meant that my Surface Pro 6 device has been relegated to my backup or travelling device (which kinda didn’t happen at all in 2021 now did it!).

The only real noticeable difference with the Surface Pro 7 is that it is a little faster, however it is the machine that I use most day to day and has performed flawlessly.

Surface Pro 6 – Moved from being my primary desktop to being my backup and travelling machine. I use it pretty much every day as an adjunct to my main machine. It lives on my secondary Kensington SD3500v docking station connected to a full screen and acts as my onsite backup in case my main machine fails or is unavailable for some reason. It is also a handy way to test things from outside my environment by hot spotting to my phones.

Surface Pro X – I use this machine as a ‘lite’ travelling desktop as well as a whiteboarding machine for demos and training. Give that it comes with the Surface Pen and has a nice large screen and will lie flat it makes the prefect device for scribing. I also use this device for writing note into places like OneNote. Perhaps not the most effective use of the device but it beats the iPad when it comes to scribing hands down in my books.

Surface Pro 3 – Continues to work fine and function as a test machine in my production environment. This allows me to apply policies via Microsoft Endpoint Manager before applying them to my main production machines.

Surface – I have had an original Surface version 1 for many years now. The keyboard has long since broken by the system still works fine, although somewhat under powered with only 4GB of RAM. This machine is now a dedicated device on a separate test tenant. This allows me to test Autopilot and other settings on it regularly. This machine is not suitable for Windows 11.

iPad mini 5th Gen – I decided I wanted a smaller ‘notebook’ size table to use like a paper diary, amoungst other things, so I went out and bought an iPad mini.

I also now use this iPad mini with the Apple pencil, which generally works well. The secret is to get a good case for both the iPad mini and the pencil. My choice was:

Finite Case with Pencil holder

which I’d certainly recommend as it is flexible, tough and cheap.

The only major downside of the iPad mini is that battery life is a lot less than the full size iPad, which is understandable. I have however never run out of juice but you do notice the power levels fall away quickly when compared to the full size version. I like that the iPad mini comfortable fits on my desk, works will with the Apple pencil and is much more transportable than the larger version. I was a little concerned that the screen size would be too small to enjoy movies and read web pages, etc but that hasn’t proved to be the case. I happy use it lying back on the couch to watch a variety of programs and read web sites.

All in all I’m very happy with this devices as a replacement for a paper diary or notebook, although I hope that Duo 2 can take over this role soon.. When you add in everything else it can provide as well I’m happy to say that apart from my desktop PC, this is probably the device I use most.

D-Link Wireless N300 Model Router DSLG225 – to allow connect to the NBN broadband network.

Ubiquiti – I have a variety of Ubiquiti equipment in place including a  Security Gateway. All these have worked flawlessly and I can’t recommend this gear highly enough.

Docking station – I still love my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station. It is a really neat device, that suits most modern Surface Pro devices. It is slim, compact and now all me to have 3 external monitors off the one Surface devices (as you can never have enough screen now can you eh?). I can plug in all my devices, microphones, phones, etc to it and all the cables are hidden at the back. I also like that you can adjust the screen up and down, a bit like a Surface Studio.

Occasionally, one of my monitors goes dark and a few seconds later comes back, kinda like it is doing a reset or refresh. Maybe I need to update some drivers? Apart from that it continues to perform flawlessly.

The original Kensington SD3500v has now moved to work with the travelling PC when it is running in my office and that is also working well, making it a truly ‘plug and play’ experience when I get back from road trips.

WD Sentinel DX4000 – Thanks to the cloud and a decent broadband connection, I have now pretty much eliminated this device, although I still maintain it in a very minor capacity. Unless it completely fails, i doubt I will ever get rid of it and it does make a good place to store back ups of things like photos.

Amazon Kindle – Still have this but it has now largely been superseded by the iPad mini for reading books. I still love my Kindle but if I can have one less device then I’m going to take that option. so for now, the Kindle has been relegated as a backup.

Xbox One S – Still use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon video but now playing more games thanks to Minecraft Dungeons and Call of Duty game.

My major hardware investments in 2021 where:

1. iPhone 12 Pro Max

2. Surface Duo 2

The items that I retired from front line operations last year where:

1. iPhone XS Max

2. Pixel 4XL

2021 didn’t see too many changes overall. I will admit that I have my eye on a Surface Pro 8 replacement for the Surface Pro 7 depending on how things pan out this year. I doubt I’ll be upgrading to the new iPhone 13 as I don’t see any major benefits for the costs. I want to focus on getting the most from my Surface Duo 2 given its price. I also hear rumours of a Duo 3, so hopefully I’ll be able to trade in Duo 2 in if I decide to.

My Gear 2021

You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:

My Gear 2020

there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.

Pixel 4 XL phone – My ‘Google’ phone. This as a ‘secondary’ or backup phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Microsoft 365 production account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access for certain apps.

This phone is becoming a bit old, tired and slow to be honest. I haven’t installed many new apps but it somehow feel slower? Maybe that has to do with the OS updates over the year? Given that my primary phone contract is due to expire in early 2021 I am debating whether to switch to Android? I’d really like to get Microsoft Duo phone but they are not yet available here in Australia. I appreciate the Duo has limitations and is expensive when compared to other phones but I’d like to see how the concept of dual screens works in a business context. We’ll have to wait and see if the Duo is rolled out Australia in 2021 and then I may retire my current Pixel. For now the Pixel will remain.

iPhone XS Max – This has been my main phone for almost two years now. As mentioned, the contact is up in February so I’m beginning to think about potentially replacing it. My main concern with doing that is not to lose my unlimited data contract, which got me out of a major jam last year when my ADSL broadband service failed for over 6 weeks.

After two years of living the iPhone lifestyle I gotta admit I still don’t get people’s fanaticism about it. Yes it is well engineered, better than most I’ll readily admit, but at the end of the day it is just a phone for me. I have a few common apps I use on it, apart from all the Microsoft ones, but honestly, I just use it as a phone not as a surrogate friend.

So when it comes to upgrading after the contract expires shortly, I’m kinda in two minds as to whether the benefits really justify this or whether it may be time to look live with Android for a while.

Surface Pro 7 – With the death of my Surface Pro 4 in late 2019 I invested in a new Surface Pro 7 as my main desktop machine. Being the same form factor, it just slotted directly into my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station. This meant that my Surface Pro 6 device has been relegated to my backup or travelling device (which kinda didn’t happen much in 2020 now did it!).

The only real noticeable difference with the Surface Pro 7 is that it is a little faster, however it is the machine that I use most day to day and has performed flawlessly.

Surface Pro 6 – Moved from being my primary desktop to being my backup and travelling machine. I use it pretty much every day as an adjunct to my main machine. It lives on my secondary Kensington SD3500v connected to a full screen and acts as my onsite backup in case my main machine fails or is unavailable for some reason. It is also a handy way to test things from outside my environment by hot spotting to my phones.

Surface Pro X – I had the opportunity in 2020 to buy a virtually new ARM based version of a Surface PC cheaply, so I did. I was interested to see how it performed with an eye to make it my travelling PC given it was lighter and was less power hungry. I also grabbed it to better understand the limitations that an ARM processor would bring to productivity work.

At the moment this device sits in my offsite  ‘back up’ office which I still visit regularly. The idea with my ‘back up’ office is that if my main office is unavailable for some reason (i.e. no broadband, on fire or under water, unable to access, etc) then I have another location I can work from that has everything I need, including infrastructure.

The major thing I like about the Surface Pro X is the pen. It is far superior to the Apple pencil in my opinion. It feels and operates far more like a real pencil. Given that this style of electronic scribe also comes with a Duo device is one of the major reason I am keen on getting it when it becomes available in Australia.

Can I use the Surface Pro X as a desktop replacement for say my Surface Pro 7? Yes, but with more reliance on the cloud to do things the Surface Pro X can’t do natively. Could others? probably not if they are dependent on ‘old world’ desktop software. However, as that dependency falls away I see a real place for devices like these. Maybe not this one, but something like it in the future. That’s why I’d love to get my hands on Duo device to see whether it is closer to this dream

Surface Pro 3 – Continues to work fine and functions as a Microsoft Teams ‘phone’ tablet on my desktop. Basically, it is now a device I use for making and receiving calls. It sits on my desk without a mouse and keyboard, arranged in portrait orientation. It doesn’t get used much to be honest but it still chugs along and while it does I’ll hang onto it if for nothing else than testing.

Surface – I have had an original Surface version 1 for many years now. The keyboard has long since broken by the system still works fine, although somewhat under powered with only 4GB of RAM. This is why this machine is the machine I use with Windows 10 insider builds. In essence, it is a test machine that I can reformat and reconfigure on a whim.

iPad mini 5th Gen – I decided I wanted a smaller ‘notebook’ size table to use like a paper diary, amoungst other things, so I went out and bought an iPad mini. My older, larger iPad was then repurposed for a family member, so it also still remain in operation.

I also now use this iPad mini with the Apple pencil, which generally works well. The secret is to get a good case for both the iPad mini and the pencil. My choice was:

Finite Case with Pencil holder

which I’d certainly recommend as it is flexible, tough and cheap.

Another reason for going with an iPad mini was that it would be less bulky to travel with but that didn’t get tested in 2020, hopefully 2021.

The only major downside of the iPad mini is that battery life is a lot less than the full size iPad, which is understandable. I have however never run out of juice but you do notice the power levels fall away quickly when compared to the full size version. I like that the iPad mini comfortable fits on my desk, works will with the Apple pencil and is much more transportable than the larger version. I was a little concerned that the screen size would be too small to enjoy movies and read web pages, etc but that hasn’t proved to be the case. I happy use it lying back on the couch to watch a variety of programs and read web sites.

All in all I’m very happy with this devices as a replacement for a paper diary or notebook. When you add in everything else it can provide as well I’m happy to say that apart from my desktop PC, this is probably the device I use most.

Ubiquiti – Towards the end of 2020 I started to have real issues with my ADSL broadband. This last for over six weeks and at times meant that I had to resort to using my mobiles. Luckily, after that NBN broadband FINALLY became available in my location but unfortunately the modem that I ordered from the new supplier decided to take a holiday trip around Australia instead of being delivered to me. I therefore went out and bought a D-Link Wireless N300 Model Router DSLG225 so I could at least connect.

Now thanks to the fact that I already had a variety of Ubiquiti in place I just needed to slap this modem inline, set it to bridge mode, may a few minor changes to the configuration of the Security Gateway and I was up and running.

image

This new broadband connection has made a huge difference to my work, especially have so much more upload speed! However, having the Ubiquiti stuff already in place removed the need for a major reconfiguration of my on premises infrastructure.

One of the items that I am again considering for 2021 (still) will be a Ubiquiti camera like this:

G3 micro

Again, not really a must have but I can see benefits of having one of these device to monitor things when I’m not there.

Docking station – I still love my Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station. It is a really neat device, that suits most modern Surface Pro devices. It is slim, compact and now all me to have 3 external monitors off the one Surface devices (as you can never have enough screen now can you eh?). I can plug in all my devices, microphones, phones, etc to it and all the cables are hidden at the back. I also like that you can adjust the screen up and down, a bit like a Surface Studio.

Occasionally, one of my monitors goes dark and a few seconds later comes back, kinda like it is doing a reset or refresh. Maybe I need to update some drivers? Apart from that it continues to perform flawlessly.

The original Kensington SD3500v has now moved to work with the travelling PC when it is running in my office and that is also working well, making it a truly ‘plug and play’ experience when I get back from road trips.

WD Sentinel DX4000 – Now that NBN has finally arrived I’m beginning to shift most of my production data to Microsoft 365 and Azure. I doubt that I’ll de-commission this device as it is still useful as a backup and a repository for stuff that doesn’t make sense in the cloud. My on premises environment is connected to Azure via a site-to-site VPN so I can readily move files between the two locations.

In the end, this device serves less and less purpose as I move more and more data off it and into the cloud.

Personal fitness device – I am still in two minds about this. Is it something that I will really take advantage of? I am also somewhat concerned about the privacy of them, given that Google purchased Fitbit a while back. My major reason for such a device would be to monitor my sleep and my activity (steps). A heart rate monitor would also be handy. If I went with anything I think it would the Oura ring, but that ain’t cheap. So I am still deciding whether it is worth the investment.

Amazon Kindle – Still have this but it has now largely been superseded by the iPad mini for reading books. I still love my Kindle but if I can have one less device then I’m going to take that option. so for now, the Kindle has been relegated as a backup.

Xbox One S – Still use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon video but now playing more games thanks to the release of the latest Call of Duty game.

My major hardware investments in 2020 where a new Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X and iPad mini. The arrival of NBN is now accelerating the retirement of the WD Sentinel. My major focus will be determining what I go for in regards my day to day phone and I would really love to see the Duo device arrive on our shores.

2020 was a very different year, with greatly reduced travel so we’ll see what this year brings but I kinda feel it is going to be pretty much the same for now.

My Gear 2020

You can take a look back at last year’s gear here:

My Gear 2019

there were/are some major changes happening with my assortment.

Pixel XL phone – In the last few months of the year, this phone died. Basically it would no longer charge no matter what I attempted to do to it. I managed to do a factory reset before it totally died and now won’t even power on. Purchased May 2017, died November 2019

Pixel 4 XL phone – My new ‘Google’ phone. This as a ‘secondary’ or backup phone. It has all the Microsoft apps installed on it and is connected to my Microsoft 365 production account. Most importantly, it has the Microsoft Authenticator app for MFA access. I was pretty much able to restore everything from the dead Pixel XL to here, without too much trouble.

I have shifted my major day to day on a device to being an iPhone XS Max now for no other real reason than wanting to experience the iPhone ecosystem for a period. I don’t use the Pixel 4 XL much but I think that has more options that I have found on the iPhone.

Summary – Old Pixel died, new 4XL model replacement

Lumia 950 XL –  To quote last year’s blog post

“So sometime this year it will be bye, bye Windows phone and hello iPhone (as well as bye, bye many dollars unfortunately at the same time).”

Summary – Retired. Replaced by iPhone X Pro.

iPhone XS Max – I decided to replace the Lumia 950XL with a iPhone 10 XS Max to get the iPhone ecosystem experience. I have this phone on a plan that includes unlimited data in Australia as well as some every generous overseas data limits as well. In all honest, I bought the unlimited data plan more than the phone.

The iPhone X has done the job for me so far. The main trick I learned is that to directly tether to a PC using a USB cable, you need the right (read Apple) cable. On the plus side, I will say that the batter life is really good in my experience. I don’t like the Apple podcasts app at all. Not nearly as good as Podcast Addict on Android, which you can’t get on the iPhone. If someone has a good podcasting app for iOS, I’m ALL ears! Apps like Waze aren’t as full featured on iOS as on Android in my experience and I gotta say that iOS has had lots of and lots of updates since I got this device. See, it isn’t just Windows PC’s people!

The iPhone again, runs all the Microsoft apps for business as well as a few key personal apps.

Summary – Using but not loving the experience. It is all becoming a bit ‘meh?’ now. It is a device that does a job. No more, no less in my opinion. If I really had to choose, I think I prefer the Pixel 4 XL overall but for now I’m sticking with the iPhone X as my primary phone

Surface Pro 3 – This device was ‘retired’ from the job of travelling PC in favour of the Surface 4, which in turn was replaced by a Surface Pro 6. Basically, the hand me down process if you follow. The Surface Pro 3 continues to work fine and functions as a Microsoft Teams ‘phone’ tablet on my desktop. Basically, it is now a device I use for making and receiving calls.

Surface Pro 4 – After deciding on a new Surface Pro 6 as my main machine, I ‘downgrade’ the existing main desktop, which was the Surface Pro 4, to the role the Surface Pro 3 played. That being a travelling machine for demos and remote work. Basically, the hand me down process as I said.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 4 has now started to fall apart as you can see below:

image

Yes that is the front of the screen pulling away from the back case. The case has also started to bulge at the rear, which I believe is an issue with the battery. The screen also has some ‘burn’ style markings on it that also indicates something is wrong there. In short, it is still working, but no longer fit for travel. Thus, it will need to be thrown out and replaced with something else.As I don’t want to go back to the Surface Pro 3 as a travelling PC. I think a Surface Pro 7 may be in my immediate future??

Summary – Had a hard and productive life but is now dying. Considering a Surface Pro 7 as a replacement. Purchased December 2016. Died December 2019.

iPad – Bottom of the range iPad (WiFi only) and an Apple pencil. The Apple pencil is a tad cumbersome and I would prefer something about half the size. I like that it is re-chargable, which the Surface pens aren’t, but that isn’t a huge issue. The Apple pencil does write well but I see no real difference to a Surface pen in that respect but the Surface pen wins on form factor if I was to make an ergonomic choice.

I’m now using this new iPad for anything to do with writing, business and personal. It travels with me, and I use it for both business and personal Tasks (such as watching movies).

I am considering maybe an iPad mini to see if the smaller form factor is a benefit. It is also handy that the iPad mini supports the Apple Pencil which I do use regularly. Starting at AU$599, it is still somewhat expensive to justify in light of the fact that I am more than happy with the current iPad I have. Maybe a bargain will come my way in 2020?

Summary – Basic iPad is now a central part of my daily routine. Considering an iPad mini if a bargain arises.

Ubiquiti – I left my old consumer router in place but disabled the WiFi access point and simply use it as a pass through now. I then connected it to the Security Gateway, connected everything else up behind the gateway and then configured it all from a web interface. Very, very impressed with the results. Super simple install. Easy to update the devices and great metrics on usage, devices and so on. Highly recommended.

One of the items that I am considering for 2020 (still) will be a Ubiquiti camera like this:

G3 micro

Again, not really a must have but I can see benefits of having one of these device to monitor things when I’m not there.

In theory, the Australian high speed National Broadband Network (NBN) was supposed to be rolled out to my location in December 2018 and (unsurprisingly, it wasn’t). Thus, I’m stull stuck on ADSL at the moment. The NBN roll out is planned for my address in June 2020 (yeah right). So, I currently have no other option but to wait. I get so frustrated with upload speeds (thanks to ADSL 2) that I now use my iPhone unlimited data plan to do my large upload, which are infinitely faster. The biggest limitation I face in my business today is the lack of a decent, fast Internet connection. It makes Australia the laughing stock of the developed world in my opinion. Let’s see what 2020 brings on the broadband front but I ain’t holding my breath!

I also now have a Site to Site VPN between my Ubiquiti Security Gateway and Azure, which took a little setting up due to my double NAT configuration, but all working well now!

Summary – Very happy with  Ubiquiti gear, with potentially a camera to be added. Awaiting roll out of NBN to complete project.

Docking station – 2019 also saw me upgrade my desktop docking station to:

Kensington SD7000 Surface Pro Docking Station

It is a really neat device, that suits most modern Surface Pro devices. It is slim, compact and now all me to have 3 external monitors off the one Surface devices (as you can never have enough screen now can you eh?). I can plug in all my devices, microphones, phones, etc to it and all the cables are hidden at the back. I also like that you can adjust the screen up and down, a bit like a Surface Studio.

The original Kensington SD3500v has now moved to work with the travelling PC when it is running in my office and that is also working well, making it a truly ‘plug and play’ experience when I get back from road trips.

Summary – Loving the new Kensington DV7000 and the old Kensington SD3500v is still in service and performing well.

WD Sentinel DX4000 – The plan was, with the NBN roll out I could all the data on this device to Azure and retain the same functionality. Unfortunately, high speed broadband is yet to some my way so this upgrade has been put on hold for now. I have set up a Site to Site VPN from my on premises environment to Azure and started shifting some of the data there, and I will do more in 2020. I’ll also be shifting some of the data into Microsoft 365 as well.

I really want to maintain some form of hybrid configuration just for experiences sake. That is , so I know how it needs to be configured and managed. However, over 202 I’m going to ensure that I have nothing of production value on this box so that it cane be retired at any point. Just frustrating that without enough bandwidth, it can’t happen sooner.

Summary – on the back burner to upgrade or replace. Awaiting broadband upgrade to move to Azure.

Personal fitness device – After the FitBit died last year, I was considering the the Oura ring, which I really like all the metrics around it. The challenge is I need to get my finger measured to find the right size. Oura does ship a sizing kit that allows you to check the size using plastic mock ups before you confirm but you still need to purchase the whole unit first.

Being a few hundred US$ doesn’t make this item cheap. Being that I also REALLY don’t need this item I’ve still in the due diligence phase, making sure that it is the best investment for my money as I know there are other devices out there. So again, probably something I’ll get in 2019 but no real rush as yet and as yet I’m not 100% sold given the cost.

Summary – Still deciding on suitable replacement and whether it is worth the investment.

Amazon Kindle – In use every day, no change. One of the best devices I have ever invested in.

Xbox One S – Still use it to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon video but now playing more games thanks to the release of the latest Call of Duty game.

Summary – Now mainly used for Call of Duty.

My major hardware investments in 2019 where a new iPhone, Surface Pro 6 and Pixel 4XL. I’ll definitely be needing a new travelling PC (looking like a Surface Pro 7) and maybe a few other ‘nice to have’s’ in 2020 depending on how things go. Let’s see.