First, a shout-out to my classic and reliable Dell Inspiron E1505, purchased at the beginning of junior year of college. Still going strong and satisfying all of my computing needs. But beyond needs, there are always wants, and that's where the next three products come in.
One of the best pieces of software on this Dell: Slingplayer. Costing less than $100 for the basic version, my handy little Slingbox connects to any cable/TiVo/whateveryouwatchstuffon box and then sends the signals over the internet. In short, a small box is connected to my cable box at home, and I have a small piece of software on my computer that allows me to control and watch the cable box from wherever I have an internet connection. This even entails turning the box on/off, changing the channel, and setting the DVR to record things. Of course, if my parents happen to be watching the same cable box, it can become a very remote control war from 8,000 miles away. Considering I'm a television addict and ABC/NBC/CBS.com don't allow people outside the US to watch their videos, this software will definitely come in handy. For more info, check out slingmedia.com.
The key piece of technology that allowed me to keep in touch with some of you before I had internet in my apartment is my new cell phone, a Nokia N78. A purchase funded by my brothers to replace my long-broken basic Nokia flipphone, this phone has way more features than I'd ever need (FM transmitter?) but a ton of features that are extremely useful (Wi-Fi!). It also has a 3.2mp camera, which has allowed me to forgo bringing my camera (Canon SD-1000) everywhere. A lot of the lesser-in-quality pictures on the blog have been from the phone camera... I realize these images are not the sharpest, but for quick everyday pictures, it does the job. Anyway, with the combination of wi-fi, a Skype subscription, and a great program called fring, I can use my cell phone to make free calls to the US when I'm near an internet connection. No extra fees involved-- I just use a pay-as-you-go Taiwan SIM card.
Finally, my newest, kind of unnecessary, completely awesome toy: an ASUS Eee PC 8G. This little guy has a 7" screen, a very tiny keyboard (with both "English" and Chinese typing), and a basic Linux OS to become the ultimate in convenience for cheap, portable computing. This "baby laptop" comes with Firefox, Skype, OpenOffice, a built-in webcam/mic, and a bunch of small learning/playing-oriented programs. Who cares if it's made for 12 year olds, this laptop will be able to fit in my purse and go more safely to and from school than my big one would. And to prove to you I'm not a huge weirdo, after I decided to get one of these, three others in my program followed suit-- and a few more are now considering it. Four of us went to a sort of technology district and, after bargaining with a dozen different storeowners, we paid 9600 NTD (about 320 USD) each. A great deal, if you ask me... but on my Taiwan teacher's salary, don't worry, I won't be spending like this very often.
And now, I leave you with a picture of the little technology family. Don't worry, I'll have some stories and pictures of what I've been doing in Taiwan soon enough...
(normal Dell laptop on left, tiny ASUS laptop on right, Nokia N78 in front)