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Gizmos and Gadgets for Online Business and Blogging

Gizmos and Gadgets for Online Business and Blogging

By Pat Flynn on

As a blogger who does both video and podcasts, I’ve invested in a number of gizmos and gadgets to help me run my businesses. Below, you’ll get an over the shoulder look at exactly what I’m working with. Also, please note that some of the links below are affiliate links to Amazon.

[Full disclosure – I earn a commission on many of the product links on this page.]

The Desktop Computer

Currently, I’m running a 24″ iMac Computer. This piece of hardware was my very first Apple purchase made back in October of 2006 and I’m extremely satisfied with it. It’s really handy for all of the graphic design and other multimedia stuff that I do on a daily basis. Plus, because I have an iPhone app business, the Apple computer is quite necessary.

For those of you who want the specifics, it’s a 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM, and her name is Betsy.

24inch-imacThe Mouse

I prefer Apple stuff for most pieces of computer related equipment, however when it comes to the mouse I just can’t get used to any type of Apple mouse.

For one, I really need to feel the click, so any type of touch sensitive mouse just won’t do. And secondly, there’s one particular feature in a mouse that I just need to have – a hyper scrolling wheel.

I love hyper scrolling because it allows me to move up and down any page with lightning speed, and the wheel allows me to have more control. In particular, this is very handy when writing blog posts because I usually don’t write my posts straight through from top to bottom – I bounce around a lot and hyper scrolling allows me to easily navigate while constructing my posts.

The mouse I use if a Logitech VX Revolution. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] It’s a wireless laser mouse with an ergonomic design that you can see below (and yes, my mouse pad is a bamboo cutting board. Unfortunately, a laser mouse will not work on a glass table):

logitech-vxThe Laptop

In addition to the iMac, I also have a laptop computer.

The laptop is not used for my business at all, but I thought it was important to add it here to the list because it is what keeps me sane (and my wife sane too).

You see, I wrote a post in mid-2010 entitled, The Most Important Conversation I’ve Had About My Business Ever where I discuss how my wife and I were having a hard time figuring out when I was working, and when I wasn’t.

If you’re an entrepreneur working at home, you’ll understand that it can be very difficult to draw the line (both physically and mentally) between work and non-work activities on the computer, especially with things like Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet. It’s really easy to just jump on the computer at any hour of the day to get more work done, because as an entrepreneur our work is never really finished, and there is almost always more that we can do.

My solution was a second computer – a laptop, which would only be used for personal, non-work related things only. This way, when I’m in my office on my iMac, everyone knows (including myself) that I am working on business related items. When I’m on my laptop, it’s “just for fun” so it’s a little easier for my brain to turn off “work mode”, and it’s a lot easier for my wife to understand that she can interrupt.

You might think that this is just a clever excuse to get a second computer, but almost a year after purchasing the laptop I can tell you it’s been working just like I had hoped.

As far as the kind of laptop, that’s not really important here – but in case you were wondering it’s a 13″ MacBook Pro.

The Pen and Tablet

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about how I create some of my YouTube videos.

In these particular videos I use an electronic blackboard to teach something, but really all you’re seeing on the screen is an image of a “blackboard” I created in photoshop and a recording of myself writing on top of it.

To record what you see on your screen, I use Camtasia for Mac (Camtasia Studios for you PC users), although you could use ScreenFlow here as well.

To actually write on the screen, you could use your mouse, but it’s very difficult to get any decent penmanship with it. That is why I use a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Tablet. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

I absolutely LOVE this thing and often find myself using the pen instead of the mouse even when it’s not necessary.

If you have photoshop, it also reads the pen pressure so your writing looks like actual handwriting, and if you flip the pen upside down it acts like an eraser too.

Bamboo Pen & TabletThe Pocket Video Camera

I’m in Love with my Kodak Zi8 pocket cam, not only because it takes ridiculously sharp HD video, but also because it’s one of the only pocket cams available with an audio input jack, which allows me to use my podcast microphone to get some high quality audio into the vids. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

I picked up this little guy before Blog World Expo in hopes that I’d use it to interview everyone that I met, but of course I only pulled it out to take video of the Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s parked outside of the Hotel Entrance at Mandalay Bay. Lately, however, I’ve been using it in the office to shoot some videos for the blog and some new projects that are in the works, and the quality is just out of the world.

Here are a couple things I’ve learned about pocket cams in the short while I’ve been using my own:

  1. Unless you’ve got the most steady hand in the world, the videos will always come out a little wobbly if you’re not using a stand or tripod. My wife has literally gotten sick a few times watching some of the videos I’ve taken of our son. When shooting videos of myself, I just setup the camera on my desk with a flexible mini-tripod (like this one) to keep it still. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]
  2. Sometimes, I have the camera in the perfect position and when I press the button in the back to record, I move the camera and have to start all over again. To make it easy on myself, I purchased a little Kodak Pocket Cam Remote Control which I can use to control all aspects of the camera from my recording position. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.]

kodak-zi8

The Podcasting Microphone

I think I’ve gone through 3 or 4 different microphones before I finally landed on “the one” – a Heil PR40.

When it comes to podcasting equipment, I don’t know jack when it comes to the technical and geeky stuff behind it. All I know is that I’ve tried a lot of other recommended microphones, and this one by far produces the best sound quality.

It is not a USB mircophone – it has a regular 3-prong jack like you’d see on professional microphones that musicians use, so in addition to the microphone you will need a mixer as well, plus the cables to connect the mixer to your computer. It’s a lot of equipment, but if you’re serious about recording some high-quality audio, this is the kind of stuff you need.

In addition to the microphone and mixer (a Behringer Xenyx1002), I also have:

  1. A wind screen (also known as a “pop filter”), which is placed in front of the microphone so it doesn’t record any breathing or “popping” sounds that can sometimes occur when you say words that begin with the letters B or P.
  2. An arm (which looks like an architectural studio lamp) that allows me to swing my microphone in a position that is easy to record with.

I’m also planning to get a “shock mount”, which holds the microphone and absorbs any vibrations that can happen during the recording to improve the overall sound quality

If you’re going to be purchasing podcasting equipment anytime soon, I highly recommend getting a package from Cliff Ravenscraft of PodcastAnswerMan.com. He’ll set you up with everything you need just like he did for me. Here is an episode of PodcastAnswerMan where Cliff specifically talks about the Heil PR40 microphone and how it compares to others.

Heil PR40 Podcasting MicrophoneThe iPhone

The iPhone is important for my iPhone app business for obvious reasons, but it’s also important for all of my other businesses as well.

It allows me to stay connected to my followers on Twitter and Facebook.

It gives me the ability to upload notes (including voice notes) on the cloud using the Evernote application, which I can later access on my computer in my home office.

It gives me the ability to listen to podcasts and read other people’s content while I’m on the go, because I’m always trying to learn more.

I can use it to take high-quality pictures that I can use in my blog posts, just like in this one.

Peace of Mind

This last piece of equipment isn’t absolutely necessary, but when you think about how much our businesses rely on all of the equipment that we use – that if someone were to take that equipment we would no longer be able to do business (sorry, I’m not trying to scare you, but it’s true) – then maybe it is absolutely necessary.

This piece of equipment is a security camera.

There are a lot of at-home security cameras available, but I use the Logitech Alert 750i Security System and it gives me the peace of mind that I need when the family is away from home. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] Here’s what’s cool about this system:

  • I can view the camera from my iPhone through a securely connected Logitech iPhone application.
  • I can view the camera through the web, through a secure connection.
  • I can set it up so that it can send me an email or text message whenever motion is detected.
  • It records everything and stores it in a mini-chip inside the camera, and also onto a computer.
  • It’s all wireless and runs through a router, so the camera doesn’t need to be setup next to a cable modem – all it needs is an electrical outlet.
  • I can even zoom in and pan around the room a little.

It’s one of those things you setup to hopefully never use for what it’s intended to be used for, but it really does make me feel better that it’s setup and ready just incase.

Logitech Security CameraEquipment That I Am Planning To Get

This post went longer than expected, so I left a few important pieces of equipment out that I just wanted to quickly mention before I move onto what I plan on investing in next. Specially, I’m talking about an office printer/scanner (A Canon MP830) and an external hard drive for backup

There are a couple of major purchases that I plan to make in 2011 to help with my businesses:

  1. The new iPad. I intentionally held off on the first iPad because I knew there was a better one that was eventually going to come out (there always is with Apple, right?). This purchase will be helpful both for my iPhone app business (which we do want to expand onto the iPad platform soon), and for productivity purposes here in my office and while away for events like Blog World Expo.
  2. A green screen. I’ll be shooting some high quality video for some membership sites and courses at the tail end of 2011, and a green screen could be a great way to add some unique touches to the video to make them more presentable and memorable.

We’ll see what happens. Until then, Cheers and have a wonderful week!

So what’s your favorite gizmo or gadget that you use for your online business or blog?

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