I enjoy reading an interview blog called The Setup. It answers the question: “What do people use to get stuff done?”. It actually answers four questions, but I’ll get to that later. It’s not only designers and developers that are interviewed, but novelists, artists, scientists, students, photographers and self described ‘hacker-philosophers’.
Who are you, and what do you do?
What hardware are you using?
My main machine is an early 2011 iMac 27″ i5 with 4GB RAM connected to a second 23″ monitor. (Writing this just reminded me I forgot to buy that RAM upgrade.) The display is simply amazing and I cringe using any other machine. I’m currently running Snow Leopard, but will upgrade to Lion soon. I like to be a late adopter of OS upgrades to let developers shake out the inevitable bugs and inconsistencies between versions. I use an Apple bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad. I used to have an IBM (Logitech) keyboard that was physically split down the center that I loved since it allowed me to sit with my hands comfortably at shoulder width since I have broad shoulders. It was loud, had great tactile feedback and was all I ever wanted. The Apple keyboard has taught me that I really want the keyboard to be like a good waiter – work well, but barely be noticed. I used to be an avid trackball (thumb version) user, but switched to the Magic Trackpad last year. I’m a big fan of gestures now.
Since you will be ridiculed for taking you iMac to inappropriate places I also have a 2007 white Macbook that I bought when I started freelancing to escape cubicle nation. It is still powerful enough to be useful when I need to be mobile, but is starting to show its age. I use the Macbook at home and on the road.
I use a 16GB black iPhone 4 that I have with me at all times and feel naked without. I regularly ask my wife “How did we live before having an iPhone?”. My carrier is AT&T even though the entire tech world bemoans their service. Since I live in the city of their former corporate headquarters I think the service around here is just fine. However when I travel I do see the shortcomings of the service. Having survived a swim in the toilet and several drops I do believe my iPhone to be invincible.
My desk is an Office Depot “L” shaped glass desk. It looks nice, gets dirty easily, and serves its purpose. At home I work on an Ikea Expedit bookshelf/desk combo. My chair is a “Space Chair” I got from an office closeout store. I’ve also got a small Ikea couch that my wife and I call “The world’s smallest couch”. I use it for reading and afternoon naps.
I borrowed a Doxie to go paperless and will borrow it again to keep up with digitizing all the random documents that I receive right before they get shredded.
I don’t have my own iPad yet, but regularly borrow my wife’s first gen iPad. It has the perfect form factor/battery life/screen size for home and on the go use.
On my desk are some old JBL speakers, a Yeti Blue microphone that I use for recording screen casts and Skype calls, a Canon MP210 printer that is only used for scanning since I hate hard copies, a phone connected to a Vonage VOIP modem that has my business Google Voice number forwarded to it.
An essential in my office is a Honeywell Oscillating Fan. The air movement creates a sort of white noise that keeps me sane.
And what software?
On the mac I use MAMP Pro for local development installs. I have Eclipse and Xdebug installed but don’t use them nearly enough. My day to day IDE for the past several years has been Coda, but I’m planning a switch to PhpStorm. I use Navicat Lite (free version) for database queries and manipulation.
For source control I use a combination of SVN through a paid Springloops (which offers both SVN and git hosting) account with Versions as a GUI, but all new projects are going into git and github. I need to implement a deploy script as easy as Springloops’ one touch deploy to make the final switch. Github’s Mac GUI is useful and free.
I usually have at least one Terminal window open since the command line is still the fasteset way to get things done, especially for a toch-typer.
Productivity software is the multi-device syncing Wunderlist. I tried Things for a while, but no syncing killed that initiative. I manage my money with Quicken for Mac synced via Dropbox for personal finances and QuickBooks Online for business books. I tried a few other services (Mint, Less Accounting, Outright, Freshbooks) but none of them felt right.
Other software and web apps I use for business are: is Harvest for invoicing and time tracking and Google Voice for a phone number (seldom used). Google Docs and Google Calendar for their respective offerings. I have a minimal Basecamp account, but am getting away from running my own projects so this will be going away soon.
I use an old-school (pre Twitter buy out) version of Tweetie for Twitter. Something doesn’t feel right about the native clients, so I stick to 3rd party ones. Adium and Skype keep me connected to clients and friends.
I’ve uses a combination of Mail.app and web Gmail for email, but am now switching to Sparrow on the desktop.
On my iPhone home screen is Echofon (paid) for Twitter, Instapaper for catching up with all those articles I wanted to read, Kindle for books, Flipboard (the absolute best way to consume content on touch devices), Flixster, iBooks, Hipmunk for planning flights that I may or may not take.
What would be your dream setup?
Right now my dream setup would be the top-of-the-line Macbook Pro (for portability) with the largest SSD possible linked to multiple very large Thunderbolt displays. Also, I’d like a Dropbox-style Universal desktop to sync the entire desktop experience – so that when I leave my office and get home (or go to a coffee shop) I open the machine and it syncs with all open programs, all data from those programs, window positions, etc.
I’d love fiber to my home and office.
Finally, I’m a big fan of alternate input devices, and I can’t wait to see what is done with a combination of Siri (for voice), Kinect for (motion), and touch in the coming years. As these technologies become more ingrained in the OS of devices the way we interact with information and with the collective data available on the web is going to be exciting!