Tackling readers’ queries with tons of gadgets

JD Biersdorfer. Image courtesy twitter.

JD Biersdorfer. Image courtesy twitter.

How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? J D Biersdorfer, The Times’ Tech Tips columnist and a Book Review production editor, discussed the tech she is using.

As the Tech Tips columnist, you sift through lots of reader email about their technological woes. What devices and apps do you use to answer reader questions on tech?
I personally test my answers to questions, so my desk often looks like an electronics store that’s having a used-equipment sale.

I have laptops running the past two versions of the Windows and Mac operating systems, as well as an ancient ThinkPad with Ubuntu Linux. I have an Android Nexus 7 tablet, an iPhone 6, an iPad Air and some old iPods. I have a couple of TV streamers, the Amazon Kindle and iBooks apps, two e-readers and multiple cameras — the Sony RX 100 is the one I usually have with me, since it’s tiny and takes great photos in low light.

I use a ton of software and services, but mostly Microsoft Word and Google Docs for writing. If I really need to focus on a long-form thing like a book, I go to Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom app with the 1980s-era ‘WarGames’ terminal green-on-black colour scheme.

Among those products, which is your favourite and why?
Smartphones have wiped out my need for most other gadgets, so I have a symbiotic relationship with my iPhone. I knew that I was on the hook when Steve Jobs announced the product back in January 2007, because there was so much obvious potential.

I got my first iPhone the day the product was released. I also took a pretty deep dive into the App Store back in 2010 when I was writing a book on iPhone apps, and that really opened my eyes to the device’s versatility. I still have more than 240 useful apps on my phone because of that book — a document scanner, a banjo tuner, the complete works of Shakespeare, a guide to interstate exits, BBC News with live radio, and the list goes on.

I especially like some of the photography utilities, namely Tap Tap Tap’s Camera+ and Pro HDR X from eyeApps.

What could be better about the iPhone?
As I’ve had my current iPhone 6 for a couple of years now and the battery is starting to wear out. I wish it had a removable power cell. I’m curious about the potential bells and whistles that may be part of the new iPhone that may be announced this year, since it’ll be the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. Since I have such a considerable iOS app investment, I don’t think I’d jump to an Android phone anytime soon, but never say “never.”

What was the last electronic gift you bought?
I got my partner a print/digital subscription to The Economist and — because we were planning some space-saving renovations earlier this year — HGTV’s Home Design software. If there aren’t any new must-have gadgets at the time, I tend to give books or home furnishings as gifts instead.

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