Staff Picks: The Best Tech of 2010

The Techerator Team, January 2011

The holidays are over and the new year is here, time to recover from your multiple food-induced comas and get back to work (or school). But before the year 20-double-matchsticks gets under way, we here at Techerator decided to take a  look back at what 2010 brought us.

So here it is: our Best Tech of 2010.

Evan Wondrasek

Web-based Applications and Synchronization

Though not a new concept in 2010, it was something I took advantage of more than ever. WordPress, which is the software this website is built on, lets me and the Techerator writing staff collaborate together online no matter where we are. The interface can be used though a browser without installing any software, and I’ve even written articles from my mobile phone.

With applications like Dropbox, I’m able to sync my documents and media across every computer I use. When I was in college this was critical for keeping my homework accessible on the go (especially when I was away from home for 18 hours with my netbook), and now that I’m working full-time, I find it equally useful.

Although incredibly useful, even my Dropbox usage is being replaced with something else – Google Docs. I’m finding an increased need to collaborate with others on documents, whether planning my wedding or simply sharing a document. Google Docs lets you work with others on a document at the same time, in real-time.

Google Docs is available through any browser so I can easily run a complex, macro-filled spreadsheet for Techerator’s finances just as I would in Microsoft Excel, and access it anywhere I go.

New Gadgets in General

Kindles, Android smartphones, netbooks, tablets, iPods, iPads – the better they get, the more similar they become. I can browse the web from all of these devices, send updates to Twitter and Facebook, and they all support apps (in some form or another). With this level of sophistication in gadgets, it makes me giddy to think back to my childhood days when I thought a laptop computer was the most amazing gadget ever.

Android

The Android operating system and its smartphone hardware companions have easily been my favorite tech in 2010. Instead of rambling on about how great it is, I’ll simply leave you with a picture of my desk:

Kevin Ivanca

Instant Streaming

This sort of idea has been building for the past decade, and it really showed in 2010. Things like Netflix, DVR, and Hulu all give people instant video gratification and enjoyment. Gone are the days when one had to bow down to the movie mogul’s schedule and the TV network’s programming. Thanks to instant streaming and video recording, one can gain video enjoyment at their own personal expense and time. Power to the people!

DLNA HDTVs

Speaking of instant streaming, who doesn’t want a high definition TV that can download Netflix movies and connect to your computers via your network? Now that every device is online, it seems idiotic to keep them from connecting to each other and sharing pictures and videos. If you want to see the future of the living room, don’t look at 3D technology. Look at DLNA.

Google

Now this company had quite the marathon year. Enhanced Google Mapping and Navigation, a better organized Gmail via Priority Inbox and spam filters, the continuous expansion of the Google Android OS and its application market; all this and more were graciously given to us in 2010 by the deities at Google.

And what, pray tell, do they have in store for 2011? Tablets that can actually beat out the iPad? Telepathic communication via brain implants? Robots programmed with snarky comments to provide comic relief? I guess that is for Google to know and us to find out.

Jacob Bean

Android Smartphones

2010 marked the year that I switched from the Blackberry Storm to a Motorola Droid. I’ve come to love the Android operating system, and the phone itself performs smoothly. The camera takes great quality pictures, Google Voice integration is awesome, and customization with Android is unbelievable because it’s open source!

Photoshop CS5

In April 2010, Adobe launched their CS5 creative suite which I’ve come to love. Although I’ve used Dreamweaver and Illustrator, I’m more familiar with Photoshop and saw some awesome improvements from CS4 to CS5. The reason CS5 is superior over CS4 is because it has made complex selection easier, improved RAW to JPEG processing, added new and updated filters, automatic lens correction and an easier-to-use user interface that was much easier to navigate then its predecessor.

Kevin Schulte

Android

Android has been around for a while, but 2010 was the year it blew up (in a good way). The original Motorola Droid came onto the scene late in 2009, but in 2010 we saw Android on dozens of different phone models, portable media players, $100 tablets, $600 tablets, and everything in between.

Thanks to my Android smartphone, I normally don’t even bother taking my laptop on short trips. 95% of the tasks I might need to accomplish on the road I can take care of quickly and easily with my phone, without having to lug around a much bulkier laptop. Also, being a giant nerd, having a near constant Internet connection on me at all times is incredibly awesome.

Apple’s iOS

iOS and Android on the same list? Yes, absolutely. Having never owned an Apple product in my life, this August I bought a new iPod Touch to take advantage of some of the awesome content available in the App Store.

iOS is pretty bland out of the box, but once you jailbreak your device (a necessity in my opinion) you can do all the things Apple doesn’t want you to do. Thanks to Cydia (an App Store-like environment for jailbroken devices), you can install tons of awesome applications not approved by Apple that any self-respecting tech geek would want to fully take advantage of their iPhone or iPod. To quote the great Dustin Patterson, after jailbreaking your iPod, “it’s a whole new device.”

PlayStation 3

Sony will look back on 2010 and see it as the year that the PlayStation 3 finally succumbed to every console maker’s worst nightmare – easily accessible piracy. Prior to 2010, the PS3 had managed to avoid something that all other current consoles, both home and portable, had fallen to relatively quickly.

One of the major selling points of the original PlayStation 3 was the ability to natively install Linux, granting programmers, amateur and professional alike, access to IBM’s Cell processor. However, Sony decided to omit this feature in the Slim revision of the PS3, and after noted hacker George Hotz found an exploit requiring the PS3’s OtherOS feature that granted him hypervisor level access to the Cell early in 2010, Sony released a required system update that completely removed the ability to install Linux on all PS3s.

Instead of putting a stop to tinkering with the PS3’s internals, this move drove the hacker community into a fervor, resulting in an arms race between Sony, releasing frequent mandatory system updates containing nothing but “security features,” and the hacker community, quickly bringing down any roadblocks Sony managed to erect. The arms race may have finally come to a conclusion, thankfully, as at the end of 2010 a group of hackers presented a method to sign homebrew applications with Sony’s private encryption keys, essentially allowing you to run whatever you want on your PS3 with no way of Sony easily stopping you, even with system updates.

An unfortunate byproduct of this breakthrough is that it makes piracy on the platform trivial, but if you want to believe the hackers responsible, it was a consequence brought on by Sony themselves when they removed the ability to install Linux.

Bryant Sombke

Microsoft Visual Studio 2010

As a .NET and, more importantly, a SharePoint developer, nothing made my 2010 more joyous than Visual Studio 2010. It comes with many new SharePoint project templates that make developing new web parts, workflows, event receivers, and more, easy as pie. I no longer have to manually write mountains of XML to create a .wsp package to deploy to my SharePoint farms. It also knows automatically which process to attach the debugger to, making SharePoint debugging almost as seamless as a regular .NET web application.

Firefox 4 Beta

I’m really loving the Firefox 4 Beta release. Upon first use, I noticed immediately the influence Google Chrome has had on the browser market, as Firefox 4 borrows the minimalist UI design from Chrome, moving the tabs to the top of the window and hiding the ancient Menu bar inside an aesthetically pleasing “Firefox” button in the top left.

Of course, Firefox 4 has all the customizability that Firefox users have grown to love, but it also runs faster and has a smaller memory footprint, leaving more precious MBs for the rest of your running applications. Look for the release of Firefox 4 in 2011 to reestablish Firefox as a forerunner in the browser industry.

TurboTax

This program not only is easy-to-use and saved me time, it saved me thousands of dollars. As a recent college grad, a newly wed, and owner of my first home, I don’t appreciate many things more than Uncle Sam returning my hard-earned cash. TurboTax basically holds your hand through the entire process of filing your taxes, and it took me only about half an hour to file my Federal return, along with one State return each for North Dakota and Minnesota. You do have to pay for filing State returns, but it’s a ton easier than doing the math myself. I mean, that’s what computers are for, right?

I’m definitely using TurboTax again in 2011 and I would recommend it to any fellow taxpayer.

Reis Pritchard

Internet Explorer 9

I hate to sound like a Microsoft fanboy here, but they are making some smart decisions in my opinion. Address bar + tabs are uniform, the way they always should have been. No unnecessary space is taken up, and pinning websites like Facebook can definitely be helpful to some.

Fii0 e5 Heaphone Amplifier

I got some great studio monitor headphones for Christmas, but I’ve had my Fii0 e5 amplifier for some time now. Unless you’re a big audiophile, this amp is sure to make a difference in your music-listening experience, and will actually pick out sounds and hidden melodies you never knew existed. It’s really the only amp I know of for about $20, and it works.

Looking back at 2009

Want to get even more nostaligic? Check out our 2009 Staff Picks for our Favorite Web Apps and Favorite Gadgets & Tech.

Have we changed? Flip flopped? Descended into lunacy? Share with us in the comments.

  • Raymond

    No one mentioned Kinect, the new accesory for XBOX 360. It is a revolution in so many ways… enlighten us!!