With the New Year, it is time to start putting together my wish list for 2012. Anything goes for this list – new hardware or software for work, changes to procedures or offerings from vendors, geeky gadgets, and future tech.
- Standardize on one USB plug size
I have dozens of portable devices including phones, mp3 players, still cameras, video cameras, portable disks, and the list goes on; and it seems like no two of them use the same cable. I want to see the industry standardize on one plug type, and whether the device is data capable or not, make every rechargeable device work on that one plug. The micro USB looks like the one to go with, but I’m dreading the next round of gear with yet another plug type.
- USB power ports in cars, airports, and hotels
I rented a car the other day for business travel, the Chevy Sonic. It had a USB port in the dash box and a grooved channel to run the cable through so I could charge my phone easily while it was on the center console and the door to the dash box was closed. That one little feature was the smartest thing I have seen in a car in years, and enough to make me consider it for my next purchase. All cars should have USB ports for power (and to play music through the stereo), hotels should have USB ports instead of dead analog phone ports in their desk lamps, and more airports should add the charging ports that are starting to crop up in places like San Jose, Dulles, SEA-TAC, and others. Instead of eight travelers all jockeying for the two open A/C adapters to plug their chargers into, have a bank of 5V USB ports and everyone wins.
- Put all the plugs on one side of the network equipment
There’s simply no good way to do all your cable management since no two pieces of gear seem to have all their cables set up the same way. Some have all the Ethernet ports on the “front” and power and console on the “rear” but others just seem random. Pick a side and put all the connectors on one side!
- Smaller bricks
I see why we call the A/C adapters for our computer equipment bricks – the adapter for my work laptop is larger than a brick and weighs as much as a cinder block. But my personal laptop, which essentially has the same hardware, screen size, processor and graphics, has an adapter less than half that size. Let’s get bricks down to a manageable size.
- Reversible fans
Another important point is to make fans reversible so we can rack gear based on our cabinets and cable management. In this way we can keep everything pulling cold and pushing hot without having to completely redo cable management.
- A “personal” server
Whether you are a fan of Hyper-V, VMware, Xen, or VirtualBox, having a small form factor machine with a pair of processors, a ton of RAM, and some decent drive space would make home labs much more functional. The price, size, and noise of a ‘real’ server just won’t fit under the desk well, but you also don’t need that kind of capacity when your user count is at most four or five.
- USB 3.0 for all
It’s the standard – nothing should come out with anything but USB 3.0 ports anymore: desktop, laptop, tablet, or server. Make sure there are lots of ports, and don’t go stingy on the current either.
- SSD Drives
With capacities climbing and prices falling, it won’t be long before I can swap out that old 5400 RPM drive in my laptop for a shiny new, wicked fast, completely silent, and power sipping solid state disk drive. I don’t know which will be better, the extended battery life or the faster performance, but either way, I’ll be happy.
- More RAM
For my laptop, my netbook, my tablet, my servers; there’s never enough memory to go around, and RAM intensive applications and the desire to run more virtual machines on practically any kind of hardware means this isn’t going to change any time soon.
- Gadget USB drive
Every admin likes USB drives. Whether it looks like a Lego brick, a banana, or a piece of steam punk jewelry, unique USB drives with massive capacities will make any admin smile. Just make sure you scan them when you switch between computers.
- A Wi-Fi NAS
Combining a Wi-Fi access point, wired switch, router, and up to 2 TB of storage, the LaCie Wireless Space has something to offer for everyone. There are various offerings in this space, but the LaCie seems to be the one to beat.
- Ergonomic keyboards
Most people hate these split keyboards until they use them for three days; then they never want to go back. Ergonomic keyboards are much better for long term computer use and should be the default.
- Better chairs
Odds are while you are reading this, your posture is terrible, and you’re doing your back no favors. Ergonomic chairs are frightfully expensive, but vital for people who sit at a PC all day.
- Standing desk
Of course the best way to avoid bad sitting postures is to stand up. I once worked at an office that had desks with pneumatic adjustments, and chairs to match; you could sit normally at your workstation, elevate everything like you were at a bar, or stand up and work. Adjustments were as easy as pressing a lever, which meant you could adjust throughout the day. I never went home sore and have looked for an affordable desk like that ever since.
- Touchscreen monitor(s)
A mouse or a trackball may seem like the way to interact with images on a screen, but nothing quite beats touch. If you have an iPad or other tablet, you know exactly what I am talking about.
- HD webcams that pivot or have both front and rear
One decent thing no laptop, smartphone, or tablet should be made without, is a good camera. Whether it pivots so it can face fore and aft, or comes with both a front and a rear facing camera, the growing prominence for video conferencing, picture taking, and video making means that you never want to be without a camera, or have to choose between being on screen and seeing the screen.
Not so much an issue for smartphones as it is for laptops, this is the other thing none of those devices should be made without. I don’t know what shocks me more, that a manufacturer offers it as a $20 option, or that someone thinks that is $20 worth saving and opts not to include it. No mobile device should be without Bluetooth, and I’d just as soon see it included in desktops too.
- Diablo III
Though not as delayed as Duke Nukem Forever, development on Diablo III started in 2001, and I cannot wait for the latest addition to the series.
- Patch management software
This one should be easy to justify and get on this quarter’s budget. I want a package that can deploy operating system and third party application patches, deploy new software, run audits and reports, and do as much of that automatically as I can possibly desire. Patching should be routine, not a monthly disruption of “real work”.
- Simple federation between IM platforms
Sure, federation is supposed to be easy, and XMPP might make it so, but have you ever tried to federate your Lync system with someone else’s Jabber system? IM either needs to move to a single unified standard that supports text, voice, and video, or gateways need to make it easier to hook tab A into slot B.
I want two factor authentication for everything; my personal email, my bank account online, my credit cards, my VPN, my webmail, and anything else that might require authentication. SMS messages to cell phones seem to be the most universal way to go, and I want vendors to start embracing that. Sure, phones are hardware, but a 2FA solution using them is software only.
- Voice controlled smart home software
Combine the voice recognition capabilities of Siri with the total home automation of SARAH from the television series Eureka, and you have the perfect home companion. Imagine being able to simply talk to your house to turn on or off lights, create shopping lists, or to take out the recycling. Nirvana!
- Cloud synced profiles
Early reports on Windows 8 indicate that your personal settings will be stored with your Live ID in the cloud, so that if you log onto a friend’s Windows 8 PC, all of your personal preferences will be brought down, making the experience as seamless as possible. If they include file access (like an automatically present Skydrive mapping), the only thing we’ll have to adapt to is our friend’s different chair height. Until then, synced settings across web browsers are a nice feature.
- Windows 8
Speaking of Windows 8, 2012 will bring us the latest version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system. While Windows 7 is still new to many XP holdouts, Windows 8 promises to be as radical a change to the desktop paradigm as 95 was to 3.1. I’ve played with the CTP and an early beta, and one thing I want to make sure of is that my next laptop has a touchscreen.
The IPv4 address space is essentially exhausted. The industry has been clamoring for IPv6 for years; it’s time ISPs and hosting providers make IPv6 available as part of the standard offering.
I have the highest speed connection available within 100 miles, and I am in a metropolitan area of over two million people, and yet, there is never enough bandwidth. There’s a 144 strand fiber running through my front yard, but no ISP is willing to light it up. It’s time to get high-speed out to everyone.
- No more batteries that cannot be changed by the user
I’m looking at you Apple. You’re not the only one, but you made it acceptable and even expected. Sealed units with integrated batteries are planned obsolescence and that’s just not right.
- Geek Wisdom by Stephen Segal
A collection of geek quotes from film, television, and literature, this book needs to be on the reading list of every person who has ever quoted a sci-fi movie during a meeting.
- Community Wi-Fi
The nearest Starbucks or Panera isn’t always near enough, and not everyone has a Mi-Fi device or 4G built into their laptop. Having Wi-Fi everywhere would be awesome.
Toys and tools
- A new laptop
Admit it, unless you got a new laptop in the past two months, you are drooling over the current crop of ultra thin, ultra light, ultra large, or ultra fast laptops on the market today. Road warrior or desktop replacement, some of the newest machines are awesome, and we all like them shiny.
- A new bag
You have to have a good home for your new laptop, charger, tablet, smartphone, assorted nick-necks and cables, and new bag is like a new car to geeks. I want one that can go from backpack to messenger bag, has a retro look, and is TSA friendly.
- Bluetooth headphones
Whether you are a road warrior or a desk jockey, a set of headphones is essential, and being tethered by a cord is no fun. Bluetooth headphones that can handle music, VoIP, and my smartphone, with good battery life and the ability to shut out noises around me, are just the ticket.
- Anything Doctor Who
Here’s a tip, any admin worth his or her salt is a fan of the Doctor, and whether it’s a sonic screwdriver, a Tardis USB hub, the complete collection on DVD, or a Dalek plush, you can’t go wrong with Doctor themed swag.
- A Paladin PowerPlay PT-525
The ultimate geek multi-tool; it’s like a Leatherman but with tools specifically for the network admin on your shopping list, including a 66/110 punch down and UTP stripper. Just don’t try to take it through airport security because it does have a nice blade too.
- Waterproof dock for your MP3 player
It sounds silly at first, but having a waterproof dock and amplifier for the tunes on your iPod, smartphone, or any MP3 player, would be awesome whether you’re in the shower, at the pool, or on the beach. Better make is sand-proof too, and solar powered!
- Universal cordless recharging
I love the cordless charging mats, but the special cases you have to use are thick, ugly, and proprietary. Develop a standard and get manufacturers to adopt it so we can just buy the mat and throw anything we own on top of it.
I know it’s out there, you know it too, but it seems like a lot of other folks don’t. Let’s get all the browser vendors to jump on board the bandwagon, and start getting sites updated now.
The iPad has been around for a couple of years, and tablets aren’t exactly new, but 2012 should be the year of the tablet. iOS, Android or Windows 8, a tablet is one of those pieces of tech every admin longs for.
- TV media players
Here’s a relatively new device that is starting to crop up from vendors like WD and Roku; a small box that connects to a normal television and a Wi-Fi network, and can stream media from a local server, from attached USB drives, internal storage, or popular services like Netflix and Hulu. These inconspicuous devices have all the features of a media PC and are no larger than a paperback book.
- Toshiba’s no-glasses 3D
Toshiba recently debuted a 3D TV technology that promises the 3D experience without the need for those silly glasses. Three of the four people in my family wear eyeglasses, and the need for additional eyewear to view 3D movies has made that a non-option for a home purchase, but this tech may just be what it takes to bring 3D home for millions.
- Dual monitor setups
If a computer makes you more productive, a computer with dual monitors makes you more so. Embracing this concept, there are laptop prototypes with dual monitors coming out, and a growing selection of dual monitor stands
This last group should strike a chord with many of the admins out there. They are some of my most personal wants, but that doesn’t mean they won’t appeal to you too.
Nothing bothers me more than when a vendor talks about how standards compliant they are; yet when I test something it works a little differently on that version from another. Standards either are, or they are not. There is no middle ground.
- Stop redefining the word “unlimited”
If you have to put an asterisk next to the word unlimited when describing your service, you’re doing it wrong.
- Biometrics on smartphones
Put a simple fingerprint reader on every smart phone, so you can swipe to unlock it. It’s only then that I will trust things like paycard functionality.
- Press zero to reach a human
ICR and auto attendants are the bane of my existence. I will go out of my way to avoid calling a vendor or store because I hate trying to maneuver the 86 levels of hell that make up their phone menu. If I press zero, put me in the queue to speak to a human. Don’t ask me for more information; don’t tell me that many questions can be answered on your website. Just let me speak to a person. While I am waiting, give me some decent music on hold, and do NOT interrupt the song every ten seconds with the same insincere “your call is very important to us” drivel.
- A decent cellular phone
Smartphones, camera phones, phones that play media and can download at the speed of light – that’s all well and good, but let’s face it, cellphones as telephones suck. I would like a phone that offers voice quality approaching the $10 landline phone I bought at Radio Shack ten years ago, and that I still use today. Is that too much to ask?
- A decent smartphone keyboard
The best phone I ever had was one with a flip design and a real physical keyboard. Smartphones with touch style keyboards still have a long way to go, hiding the punctuation you need behind three or four transitions, making them very hard to use with stronger passwords, or as viable replacements for laptops when you have to remote into a server while out of the office and away from the house.
- A digital pocket watch
Here’s a wish – I want a pocket watch form factor device that tells time and temperature digitally. Purely geek, and not terribly practical, but that’s what I want.
- Using a cellphone while driving made impossible
If I had a dollar for every time someone with a phone held to their ear nearly ran me off the road, or failed to pull out when offered the chance, or did some other fool thing they wouldn’t have done if they hadn’t been holding a phone while trying to drive, I could afford my own driver. Phones shouldn’t be able to make or take calls unless they are on speaker mode or paired to a Bluetooth device when they are moving faster than a person can walk.
- Smudgeless screens
You can always tell a developer; they are the ones with fingerprints all over their screens. You can also always spot the borderline OCD geek; he’s the one that constantly wipes the screen of his phone off with his sleeve or shirttail trying to get the screen smudge-free. I want glare-free, diamond-tough, and smudgeless screens that repel fingerprints effortlessly, and I want them on smartphones, laptops, monitors, and flatscreen TVs.
- Computer setups like you see on just about any TV show on the air today
NCIS, CSI, Hawaii 5-0… the list goes on and on, and if you have seen more than a single episode of any one of those shows you know exactly what I’m talking about. I want a Microsoft Surface desk that ties into big screen monitors on the wall so I can set a phone down on the desk, automatically transfer images from the phone, play with them on the desk and then “throw” them up to the wall. I also want those holographic monitors that you can walk through, see through, and yet still let you manipulate data in thin air. That would be awesome!
What about you? What new tech didn’t make it on this list, but has place of pride on your own personal wish list? Let us know what you are looking forward to in 2012.