my gizmos

Ask a Tech Person: What Are Sarah Drasner’s Favorite Gadgets?

Overwhelmed by the many options one has for headphones and speakers and streaming devices and laptops, we decided to drill people who work in technology about what they use in their own lives — their gadget diets, if you will. Today, we’re asking about the gizmos of Sarah Drasner, senior developer advocate at Microsoft and Vue core team member.

Anker PowerCore 10000 External Battery
$26 at Walmart

External chargers can be lifesavers if you’re traveling in areas unknown to you around the world. There are a lot of situations where I want to make the most of the day taking photos, looking up places to eat, and chatting to people far away, but my battery just won’t last that long and I know I might need my phone to get home — either by using a map or calling a cab. Chargers like this literally give me freedom when I’m abroad to explore without feeling like I’m wasting the clock.

Logitech Spotlight Advanced Presentation Remote
$84 at Amazon

As someone who presents at conferences and in meetings a lot, this is my favorite new gadget. As the name implies, you can cast a spotlight on the screen to illuminate one certain area, which is great for highlighting a bit of code during a talk. You can also adjust the size of the spotlight, and change the dim quality of the shadow around it. It also has a built-in timer, so you can have it buzz in your hand when your time is up. This is so useful! It’s discreet enough that the audience doesn’t know, but strong enough that you won’t miss it if you’re in the middle of something.

Muse Brain Sensing Headband
$199 at Amazon

This is one of the coolest tech advances in recent years. You hook it up and it gives you biofeedback information, which can be wonderful for things like meditation, focus, and concentration. A few years back, I had bad repetitive-stress-injury issues, and biofeedback sessions really helped me. So this kind of tech can really help you focus during meditation or guided healing.

Bose QuietComfort Wireless Headphones
$349 at Walmart

I travel a lot, and you don’t realize how loud the plane is while you’re on it. We end up turning our headphones up so high to compensate. I love these Bose headphones because I can shut out the sound and save my ears while I watch movies or listen to music or podcasts on the plane. The only problem is, you can’t hear the stewards and stewardesses, so you should watch out that you don’t miss your meals!

Nest Security Camera
$163 at Amazon

I like having the Nest setup because I work from home, and at a glance and right in the browser, I can tell if the person ringing my door is a delivery person who will leave the package anyway, a neighbor or friend, or a solicitor. It helps my productivity to be able to scan quickly who is outside and make sure I’m not leaving a meeting or coding session needlessly. You can also scan backward in time to see who has been at your house, which is pretty interesting.

Dell UltraSharp 34-Inch LED Monitor
$619 at Amazon

This monitor is wonderful because it’s so wide. Usually with monitors, they are either too tall (I don’t tend to stack things vertically, so it ends up being wasted space), or you have to split into different monitors to get the width. This screen is just the right dimensions for someone like me who needs to have multiple windows open for things like my code, the output, my terminal, and chat, without having to break up the space. The pixel density and quality of the image is really nice, I don’t feel like anything is sacrificed for the space.

HTC Vive Virtual Reality System
$599 at Walmart

VR is one of those things that looks ridiculous for the people watching, but when you’re actually using it, it can be the most awe-inspiring, immersive, and gorgeous experience. I got a Vive last year (we did have to set up a whole PC to power it), and it’s been an amazing amount of fun. I have been very into Tilt Brush, where you can paint in three-dimensional space, and a zombies game, which is thrilling when things are actually chasing you or upon you. It can really stoke your creative fires to play in there.

Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-inch Laptop
$1,500 at Amazon

Everyone talks about their laptop, but I would be remiss to exclude it because it’s the gadget I use most. I quite like this version that came before the touch bar, which I believe is now discontinued. I think they got it right with this version — the touch pad isn’t too large where you’re accidentally hitting it, the keys give the right amount of feedback, and … well, I was never a big fan of the touch bar. There’s enough going on in the screen to keep me occupied. I hope they go back to some of the ideas in this model for the future, I think they had it right.

SmartDesk2
$349 at Autonomous

This desk has been wonderful for days when I feel like I might be more productive standing. I usually sit for things like coding, and then stand when I’m in back-to-back meetings. I appreciate the simplicity of the design: It makes the desk feel more weightless and less like a storage facility. The bamboo is quite nice, too.

Ebags Professional Weekender Bag — Lifeboat Edition
$190 at Ebags

My friend and colleague Scott Cate recommended this bag to our organization when he gave a talk about “traveling smarter,” and I love it. As someone who had been lugging around the same pack for the last decade, I knew it was time to give a new bag a try, and I’m glad I did. There are spaces for everything you can think of. I was never thrilled about having my computer charger live in the same place as things like my sweatshirt, given how much it’s on the ground. With this pack, I can store it in its own small compartment at the base of my bag and keep the rest of my stuff clean and germ-free.

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Ask a Tech Person: What Are Sarah Drasner’s Favorite Gizmos?