The Setup of 2014


I’m a big fan of The Setup. It’s “a collection of nerdy interviews asking people from all walks of life what they use to get the job done.” So in the spirit of it, I’ve decided to do my own. And plan on doing one each year to keep track of how my ‘setup’ changes. You can see my 2013 one here.

What hardware do you use?

Me and my 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro (mid 2012, 2.6GHz Intel i7, 16GB RAM) shuttle between my University dorm and parents house.

At my desk at the dorm is an Apple Thunderbolt Display, Happy Hacking Keyboard Pro 2, Logitech G500 mouse, Razer Goliathus large mouse mat, and Beyerdynamic T90 headphones.

At home there’s a Apple Thunderbolt Display, Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2, Logitech G500S mouse, Sennheiser HD 380 Pro headphones, Synology DS411j NAS and a Herman Miller Aeron chair. I also have a Mac mini (late 2014, 2.6GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD) which I use as a home server and as a Plex client, along with four Roku 3’s hooked up to TV’s around the house to access Plex. I also have a PS3 (slim model) and Apple TV (3rd generation Rev. A).

There’s an iPhone 6 in my right pocket. Some keys in my left. A Field Notes Pitch Black edition notebook and Fisher pen in the cargo pocket. And a Chrome Soyuz bag on my back.

For photography I use a Fujifilm X100S, Leica M4-P, Bronica SQ-A and a Sony A100.

And what software?

Usually occupying my monitor

Safari for web browsing. Twitterrific for Twitter. And either Rdio or Cog for music, or VLC for TV/movie.

Daily

nvALT for frequently needed .txt’s. Soulver for when I can’t be bothered to go to Wolfram|Alpha. Byword for writing. Reeder 2 for RSS. Chocolat for various text based stuff. Messages for iMessage. MailMate for email. MarsEdit for blogging. ReadKit for Instapaper. Transmit for FTP.

Occasionally

Acorn and Preview for quick image editing, and Lightroom for the more extensive. Final Cut Pro for video editing. PDFpen mostly for OCRing. Pages for when I need to print my words. Steam for gaming. YNAB for finance management.

Background and utilities

Dropbox, Backblaze and Arq for backups. 1Password for password management. Alfred for quickly launching or finding stuff. Caffeine for keeping my Mac awake. DaisyDisk for hard drive space management. Divvy for window management. Email Backup Pro does what it says on the tin. Bartender for organising the taskbar. Fantastical for adding to my calendar. f.lux for the sake of my eyes. FruitJuice for keeping my battery healthy. iStat Menus for spying on my computer. Hazel for automatically moving and renaming files. KeyRemap4MacBook for making my keyboard more Mac friendly. TextExpander for simplifying the commonly typed stuff. Time Out to remind me to get up and out of my seat every now and again. TotalFinder mostly for listing folders above files in Finder. WhatPulse for key and mouse click tracking. Yoink for making drag and drop easier.

iPhone

Twitterrific for Twitter. Overcast for podcasts. Terminology for looking up word definitions. Eidetic for memorising new information. Quotebook for collecting quotes. Plex for accessing my home media files from anywhere. Dark Sky for weather. Drafts for quickly taking short notes. Notesy for .txt. Evernote for all sorts. FastMail for email. Citymapper for getting around London. Launch Center Pro for quickly launching things. Fantastical for my calendar. Rdio for music. Audible for audiobooks. Due for reminders. Wolfram|Alpha for answers. VSCO Cam for image editing. RunKeeper for seeing how far I walk. 1Password for password security. Instapaper for reading saved web articles. Pinner for Pinboard. Dropbox for accessing documents anywhere. Live Football on TV for well, you know. Yahoo Sport for checking live football scores. IMDb for when I wanna know the name of that guy in that film. Amazon for mobile purchases. Watch Tracker (iTunes link) for seeing how accurate my watch is. Pushover for notifications of weather alerts. MX Mayhem for gaming.

Replacements:

Removed:

  • Schiit Magni Amp and Modi DAC as I forgot to set them up in my new dorm room. I must do that.
  • Wedge as App.net is sadly mostly dead.
  • LimeChat as I just don’t use IRC enough and it was taking up valuable screen real estate.
  • OmniFocus as I just don’t have enough stuff to do to warrant such powerful software. I use Evernote reminders instead.
  • Beamer as Plex has removed the need to AirPlay movies to my TV.
  • Mountain as I just don’t plug stuff in and out as much as I use to.
  • Fitted Lifts as it wasn’t a great app, and it’s too time consuming to enter info in between weight sets.

2014 In Review

In 2013 I really embraced the file system for all my documents, photos, music, movies, etc. so that I wasn’t relying on proprietary software to access my own files. However in 2014 this changed slightly. I really learnt the ins and outs of Evernote, and the risk of long term availability of my files was outweighed by the conveinece of a service like Evernote.

But probably the biggest change in 2014 was my discovery of the wonderful Plex. I used to use DS Video on my Synology to play my media on my Roku. But it was slow in both loading the client UI and the video files. So after I purchased the Mac mini I decided to give Plex a try and was amazed. It fetched metadata perfectly, the Roku and iOS clients were beautfiul and blazing fast, and it could transcode anything into a friendly format for the device it was playing on. It also meant easy access to my movies, TV shows, music, and home videos from anywhere in the world and from every device I own.

It also handled all my music well, and with the iOS app being so good, I removed most of my music from my iPhone and now I just stream it via the Plex app.

Another amazing thing about Plex is how friends and family can access my media files. You give them their own username, and what they watch doesn’t effect your account, and you can even restrict what they can access (home videos, for example). Sadly, the limit is my internet upload speed (15 Mbps), which isn’t fast enough for mutiple 1080p streams, so my friends and familys Roku defaults to 720p to be safe and avoid buffering. But still, a Roku with Plex installed and access to 1000+ of my movies makes a great gift to a friend.

What would be your dream setup?

I’m not smart enough to know my dream setup in 10+ years.

But in the shorter term, I want my hardware to be faster, harder to break, more reliable, and have longer battery life.